Janny Wurts fantasy series is a very compelling read, with a rich, detailed world and complex characters. I’ve read all of the books produced thus far and they definitely stand out from most fantasy genres. However, I had a few issues with the books,that kept getting in the way of me enjoying the series. I mean no offence by what I write and it doesn’t change how much I enjoy the series; even if it is morbidly depressing at times. Lot of text by the way, sorry.
At the start of the first book, the author goes into a description of why she decided to write the book, claiming that she was influenced by studying the Battle of Culloden, and how history is always written by the winners, and that most real actions are morally grey. As a University student studying history I found this an extremely intriguing premise, letting the reader judge the actions of the antagonists rather than the usual black and white. Now, in my opinion, Janny Wurts does not live up to this promise at all.
Firstly, the manner in which the characters are portrayed is designed to create the readers sympathy for one faction over another. Very rarely do the clansmen do anything reprehensible that isn’t given a colossal amount of justification delivered by some character as to why what they’re doing is necessary. By contrast, she takes a deliberately cynical portrayal of the Alliance and Koriathen. They are portrayed as being driven by ego, selfishness, vanity, mean spiritedness, tyranny and intolerance. By contrast, the weaker party are freedom loving, honourable, noble savage, egalitarian, pacifists who are forced to fight because the stronger party wants their blood. It isn’t enough for her to suggest that the Alliance soldiers are driven into what they do because they’ve been misled and because their society will be destroyed if the Clansmen prevail; she has to make them outright sadistic. This would be fine if there are similar instances among the clansmen, but every reprehensible act they commit is apparently committed as the rational expression of self defence and survival. For example, Fion Areth becomes the critic of Arithon and as a character is portrayed as ungrateful, ignorant and stupid. Clansmen on the other hand, are ALL immensely strong willed individuals who have a brusque attitude to morality which often comes down to. You are the aggressor, you’re being childish and naive, you’re ignorant of the cosmic forces of the universe and with the exception of the last it would be very easy to accuse the clans of the same. They aren’t just living in the woods peacefully, they are bandits, they do want to dispossess the merchants and reinstate themselves in power. They do threaten the town born way of life, it is a cultural war of annihilation for both sides and with both sides epiclly beliggerent and stubborn. Yet Jenny Wurts does not explore this aspect at all, she is simply content for us to damn the alliance for not having the moral courage to admit that what they do is wrong; a trait that apparently every citizen in the alliance shares. Whereas the clansmen accept that what they do is wrong, and claim their actions are forced. There is no attempt by the author to argue that the alliance has ANY genuine grievance against the clansmen that you don’t have to read between the lines to infer. How is this meant to be morally grey? We might interpret the bad guys as having ‘reasons’, but Jenny goes out of her way to make it difficult to sympathise with why the alliance does anything (with the notable exception of Lysaer, who is insane and thus can’t be held responsible for what he does). There is a painful dualism that cuts like a line through the entire series and there is never any crossover and I just felt disappointed that she reneged on what she claimed to do at the beginning.
Secondly, the core reason why the dispute between all factions exists makes any moral argument trite. The Paravians, the planets original inhabitants decreed that they had a natural right to the planet of Paravia as the guardians of universal goodness. Out of compassion they let human refugees settle and allowed limited human expansion as it disrupts the natural order; leading to chaos and mutation on the planet. When the paravians disappeared, the townsmen rose up as they argued the compact was void and they had every right to let humanity occupy those lands and then exploit them. Since a natural right is inalienable, the clansmen are automatically in the right by trying to prevent the expansion of town society. This is given ultimate expression in the Alliance, an aggressive nation state, driven by a human centric religion and funded by merchantalist interests; which is anathema to such notions. The Koriathen, whose order compromises free will by its vows, is equally anathema to this, and also desires advance humanities interests. But, Janny Wurts doesn’t seem to realise that such a contrived situation makes moralizing pretty pointless if one faction is clearly in breach of the grand order of the universe and threatens disaster by following their course. The clansmen could thus take any action and it would be just if it achieved such an end, whilst the Alliance, regardless of its reasons, will always be in the wrong. Since Jenny hasn’t given any indication that the Paravians were mind controlling people when they beheld how beautiful they were (as creatures of pure goodness), this means that the only way to peace is for the Townsmen to back down; it really is that simple. Without this moral crutch, the clansmen are just a bunch of dispossessed nobles and their families who are quite bluntly; fanatics. They will not compromise on what they are and whilst such strong principles invite respect; they are just as responsible for war on Paravia.
Thirdly, the way the battles are portrayed between clansmen and the alliance is just ludicrous and I have to describe it in those terms. Even Space Marines in 40k aren’t portrayed as being as invincible as the clansmen. We’re led to believe that all clansmen are super soldiers capable of standing in plain sight of the enemy and being invisible; even when they’re firing arrows at them and would have to be at the treeline. Also, most clansmen are described as firing directly at the enemy as individual targets (not into the air to create a shower of arrows), this would hugely shorten the range of the arrows making the attacker more vulnerable to being counter attacked by infantry. Also, to fire an arrow in that manner at a moving target, at the rate of fire typical for such a weapon, is not like a machine gun capable of physically preventing the enemy reaching your lines. It might, cause confusion in the enemy ranks as men trip over their dead and struggle to come to grips with the enemy thus making the inevitable attack much easier to take. Here, the Alliances number would tell, as outnumbering your opponent by fifty to one usually gives you an advantage. Also Janny Wurts seems to offer hugely misguided praise for the skirmish tactics of the headhunters and guerrilla tactics of the Clansmen; whilst casting a disparaging opinion of massed infantry in ranks as though this is a redundant form of warfare. For a medieval setting, it is not, in fact skirmish troops would be massacred and swept off the field by cavalry as they would rarely have the rate of fire to stop the enemy getting to grips with them. Remember, even at Agincourt, the French did reach the English lines and came close to breaking it despite a terrible choice of battlefield (muddy field+heavy plate=very tired men). Going into packed ranks meant you could absorb the charge of the enemy and protect yourself from being stabbed in the back by a lighter opponent. If we had guns in this setting, then I wouldn’t object to the sort of Lexington –Concord style battles that seem to plague the alliance and generally makes them out to be idiots instead of disciplined soldiers. In addition, whenever the alliance are shot, that shouldn’t result in an instant kill. Mail armour could be penetrated by longbows, but the big tower shields they carry would not and there is no reason why the alliance wouldn’t use a testudo to just ignore the clansmens attacks. I understand that the town armies are being poorly deployed, that the clansmen would be cut down if they fought a pitched battle and that Lysaers madness makes him easy to bait by Arithon. Despite this, it becomes extremely predictable that the Alliance will get most of its troops massacred by colossal blunders and the Paravia Marines; which just breaks the suspense of disbelief for me.
In summary, Jenny Wurts, in putting forward her moral tale about the dangers of being driven by violent emotions, not having an objective sense of individual morality and reason completely goes against her stated aim of making the book do away with black and white distinctions. Everything is defined by this: the alliance loses battles because of it; the metaphysical backdrop confirms it and the characters are treated accordingly with the more vulgar traits belonging to those who do not have moral courage. If the authors going to impress her own moral convictions upon us like this, then I find it very difficult to understand how she can also claim to leave it up to us to decide who’s in the right.
On a final note, I should be clear, I’ am addicted to this series, some of the characters, especially Lysaer I find extremely compelling and everything is well written. Jenny Wurts is an amazingly talented writer, I just had objections her making alliance bad, clansmen good and the same goes for the other organizations. I felt as though I was being forced to like Arithon and co at every turn in the series, and got tired of him always winning with effortless ease against Lysaer. It got so annoying that I often found myself willing Arithon to fail and for the Alliance to kill Artithon just to end all the senseless violence. Yes, that is the whole point, that Arithon would gladly kill himself if the Fellowship would let him, but it’s too tragically contrived for my tastes and it doesn’t make me like him. Lysaer, indeed, is in a similar situation, but I always felt I had the option of refusing sympathy to the character when his actions became outright disgusting (and they often are)and it was never the same with Arithon. I often found myself despairing when Lysaer fell into a fit of madness and the Stormed Fortress story arch for him was especially rewarding at its conclusion on the siege tower. On a lighter note I’am really looking forward to Initiates Trial and how Sulfin Evend’s ancestor is going to get into a relationship with Lysaer; for better or for worse.
Wow. I think I have a few more grey hairs after reading that post. Oliver, welcome here, and thank you for your post. I am going to think about it before I reply, as you have raised some questions that are deserving of a considered response.
Me, too. He hit me at the end of a long day and I'm kinda brain dead.
But just off the top of my head, I have to argue that some of your premises are off base. Not all townspeople are evil. Look at Sulfin Evend, for instance. Look at the people who laugh at Arithon's satire when he sings disguised in taverns. Yes, there are nasty elements - the head hunters, for instance... but I grew to like Talith, and even her evil brother a little (can't think of his name off the top of my head.) And Lysaer's madness attracts the sleazy types, the necromancers, etc., who are looking for power. Those types are always around to hang on anyone successful. And Lysaer's madness isn't recognized as madness for many years, in fact, not at all by the end of Stormed Fortress, and then only by Sulfin Evend and Lysaer himself. The couple in one of the cities Lysaer travels through grumbles about having to get out of bed to entertaining yon 'godling' -- they have quite a hilarious conversation making fun of him under their breaths. I think the townspeople are scared by the power, but that there are many who are skeptical or who get propagandized into believing in the evil of Arithon like your questioning of poor Fionn Areth...You say he comes off as stupid and blundering, but I wonder how any of us would react to having our appearance bent into an exact likeness of someone else. I dare say we might have a bit of trouble figuring out just who we are.
As for the clansmen being all good guys, what about the s'Brydions? The ones taken down after the ending of the stormed fortress debacle. Asindar didn't cut them much slack.
And what about Davien? Why do you think he broke the compact? Have you read the short story, Child of Prophecy? It points out plainly that the trials of who was able to survive the Paravians' presence is too costly. This is pointed out several times. I think Janny very cleverly and subtly puts these things in to see who's paying attention. Why did Davien break with the F7? Is he just a revolutionary, going off half cocked, or does he see a fundamental flaw in the compact? Is there some dark underbelly to all this beauty and goodness of the Paravians? Is there some dark underbelly in the compact of the F7? Is the Koriathain really evil or is it off on a toot because of its insane prime matriarch? In short, I really don't see the good and evil being so easy to sort out here. There are certainly individual Koriathain who are appalled at Morriel's behavior.
As for Arithon getting off too easily, I think that's just damn right unfair. I mean the guy suffers horribly. Were you paying attention in the maze? Were you paying attention when he had to sneak off from the Alliance? The Alliance itself is a sickness, deluded into wiping out evil while they themselves become the evil they are trying to kill.
As for the fighting, I am not an expert. I always loved the battle scenes. The Alliance fought shoulder to shoulder but also with the scouting head hunters as allies. The clansmen had little choice but to try trickery and guerrilla tactics or all was lost for them, as it usually was anyway, except at the mountains where the unstable walls fell. I think Lysaer's troops were doomed by their arrogance, their illusion that might conquers all.
And was Arithon right to fight that way? Wasn't he also under the influence of the curse? He certainly suffered from all the death. He also gets carried away by his compassion all the time. The business of him wanting to die, I can relate to. He was forced into a role he didn't want and yet by honor could not lay aside. He saw no way out. Cry Mercy!
Welcome Oliver Routledge.
I am not thinking the best either, but I think Oliver might have not looked at things with an open mind. I agree Janny has been playing on our emotions a bit, tugging our sympathy in certain directions, but I have not noticed that affecting the way the characters were depicted, most seem pretty grey to me. The prologue said it was up to the reader to decide. Janny has presented the characters showing both good and bad points, apart from the necromancers and wraiths no one has seemed evil to me, and even the wraiths were given a reason for turning out as they did. Janny set out to write the story influenced by studying the Battle of Culloden. The series is not finished yet so perhaps waiting to see how it ends would be an idea before judging whether or not she achieved what she set out to do. I believe we have already seen a hint that the one left standing after the war finished, never bothered rewriting anything.
The clans raid and kill, they protect the proscribed areas the townspeople think they should be able to settle in and use. In the major battles we have seen, although the clans have always been outnumbered, their tactics were hardly sporting. They wanted to survive, they wanted to protect the land, so morals went out the door. The spring traps they lay are cruel, killing thousands with flash floods, tricking them with sorcery, shadows or dropping mountains on them were hardly good actions. Clansmen like the townsmen are equally prone to hatred for past wrongs and experiences, they are still only human. Some of them can hate just as strongly as the townsmen.
And while they might not be supermen, yes clanmen can seem invisible if they want to, they are hardly the equivalent of Scottish clans, these guys have arcane abilities, which they use when fighting. The occasional help from Arithon and Dakar also helped even the odds. Nothing like battles from our history, this society is not medieval. We have seen no mention of plate armour, probably the limits on mining prevent its high usage if it is used at all. Chain mail seems the most protection and most of the infantry would probably not even have that, leather is probably used the most for protection. Numbers alone should have seen the alliance win if it had been a fair fight. They were hardly fools just because they could not win against clansmen, sorcery and shadow bending Masterbards. None of the historic battles of our planet ever had to deal with such problems. The clansmen are hardly invincible either, they die in droves willing to sacrifice their lives for what they believe in.
Yes some of the townsmen like the headhunters do some atrocious things, and yet were they evil? We got to see a bit of Pesquil he seemed a fairly well rounded character who had good points despite being a headhunter. He seemed to think what he was doing was justified. The headhunters took bounties for clan scalps, they were trying to exterminate the raiders preying on their merchants. To the townsmen would not the clans seem to be criminals? The tactics the headhunters used worked and saved lives (theirs) by drawing out the clansmen, rather than looking for them where the clans got to choose the ground to fight on. Long standing feuds can cause even good people to do bad things, war is seen as an excuse for extreme solutions.
Arithon hardly started out all goodness and light, even on Karthan his behaviour caused fear, and sometimes it was intentional. True he was slightly unhinged and desperate at the time but we did not start the series seeing the best of him. First his oath to Rathain involved him in war. Later his oath to Asandir meant he had to survive no matter what, so he was forced to ever more desperate measures, which resulted in thousands dying. What he did was hardly good, can we say the end justified the means? Since Kewar he has been restored to balance, found grace, self redemption and certainly seems to be on track for sainthood, a bright light for the future it seems.
Most of the koriathan are healers, they are hardly an evil order, they do a lot of good work. Sometimes their Prime's orders force them to do things that are certainly not that good, hardly makes them evil. Selidie/Morriel while becoming a bit obsessed with solving what she thinks is the cause of her problem, believes what she is doing is right. The entire reason for the koriathain order existing is in jeopardy. The knowledge she is charged to protect is in danger of being lost. She believes this knowledge to be important enough that she will do what ever it takes to get free of the compact that prevents her using the knowledge she has to restore humanity to the starfaring civilisation they used to be. She will break any rules, kill, even threaten the planet she stands on to get the freedom to restore human civilisation to what it used to be. Does that make her evil? How is her situation different to Arithons?
Arithon's gifts are needed to ensure Paravian survival and the survival of humanity against the wraiths, the Koriani Prime thinks the knowledge she protects is just as important to humanity's future. Should she not fight just as hard to preserve what she has for the future, or to try and get freedom from the compact. Is she evil for fighting for what she believes is right? The Koriathain have fallen into a bit of disfavour since the rebellion, they are not as well respected as they used to be, perhaps Morriel was a bit nuts, certainly the advanced age she was forced to survive to could have affected her judgement. Now she has been forced to survive even past death in order to try and preserve what she protects. Perhaps going more than a shade to the dark side there with the possession of Selidie, but still Morriel is determined she is in the right.
Lysaer, well yes he is cursed so has a fairly good excuse to fall back on. He has many good and noble characteristics, at the moment ruined by a curse and the human failings of pride and vanity. We can hardly say he is evil for just having a few human flaws. He managed to combine the townsfolk and get them to work together and they obviously think he is just divine. A bit of manipulation on Lysaers part helps that misconception. Since Lysaer's gifted geas of justice has been warped by the curse, yes he started out thinking what he was doing was right. He might change direction a bit in the next book, perhaps a bit more sympathy from the readers will go his way for a change. Then what will those quick to judge think?
We could even pick on the fellowship and say their actions have hardly seemed all morally right. Whether it was Davien instigating the unrest that caused the rebellion, or the somewhat underhanded tactics Asandir used to get Arithon to accept kingship it seems they are equally capable of manipulating people to achieve what they feel is right. Probably they were right, but the results of that rebellion were a bit of a bloodbath.
As an FYI, the individual identified as Oliver Routledge apparently deleted his account.
I deleted my account because i didn’t feel i needed to make another response and was a bit embarrassed to be honest.
I agree with a lot of what you say, yes I could understand that Pesqual as an individual could have some rounded characteristics and that he is only human. But, as one of you also pointed out, Janny (sorry about the spelling earlier ) doesn't treat the alliance as something to be liked. It is simply an evil regime that makes ordinary people do horrible things; Nazi Germany is a good historical parallel, many really did believe they were just defending their country because they were fed propaganda. Again, in this situation I can see such people as victims of circumstance, but I can never condone what they do; especially when Janny makes a key theme being dropping such bitter prejudice.
I never said I believed Lysaer was evil, I have immense sympathy for him as a character. Arithons actions are in self defence, as I stated with the clansmen its certainly an argument, but they are also being provocative. If I was a closed mind I surely would have despised Lysaer off the bat.
I never said the Koriathen were evil, despite their characterisation being quite negative, I could sympathise with their resentment of the Fellowship patronising them. I felt a lot of sympathy for its leader's back story and she just wanted to survive when she possessed that woman.
With all of these, yes we get to see people who are just ordinary, ie the townsmen joking light heartedly about Lysaer and people do have human reasons for doing what they do. I didn’t mean the characters aren’t morally grey at an individual level, what I meant was that one faction is treated far more sympathetically than the other. Sulfin Evend is not a good example, we only get to know him as a character once he confronts the leader of Rathains clans and starts to rethink what he does. For the most part though, these people are identified as gullible and therefore victims of a cruel society; which is still a cynical rendition of the alliance. Also, yes I could like a character like Talith, was very sad when she died. But, she was still portrayed as a very petty and arrogant individual until she accepted Arithon was in the right. Elaira, shares no such vulgar traits, nor does any other female good guy, they are all strong confident women. That is dualism, it fosters an immediate preference for one faction over another and prevents the reader from viewing both sides objectively.
Um, how is what the S Brydon's doing, defending their ancestral homes, any different than Althain's clans fighting on the barrons? The fellowship never (as far as I can remember) criticised Arithon for starting his personal war on Vastmark; which he did not need to ight. Also, as Arithon himself points out when fleeing across the wastes, that no Paravian ever used ‘unnatural’ violence to kill trespassers, only moved them. Surely, by that logic, Arithon and every clansmen is in the wrong going about killing for any reason. Which would be a very reasonable thing to desire if we didn’t have the arbitrary metaphysics of this universe, another issue, since I don’t appreciate having environmentalism rammed down my throat. The writer makes it far more difficult to defane what the clans do, offers immense contextual justification for it with the implication that those free from such circumstance are thus in the wrong.
The battle, yes magic is an undeniable factor, but, when have regular clansmen used magic? I thought they had to be introduced to that with the whole ritual. It just smacked me as storm trooper syndrome, can she really not let them win once without breaking the story. Also, the ability to make such a dam in the space of a few days, for nobody to notice it and for the Alliance to walk straight into it is pretty hard to believe. Also, if the curse is meant to make the brothers want to kill each other, then why would its own eagerness make the parasite unable to realise that what it did was hindering its own efforts? On a lesser note, I’ am pretty sure all the alliance soldiers had mail when they’re described in the distance. I meant that this makes it very predictable how every battle proceeds. Arithon baits Lysaer who is over confident with his massive numbers, the valorous plucky Jacobites mow down the soldiers with ease; but Arithon suffers some tragic sense of personal loss. Its designed, as I implied at the beginning of my statement, to be extremely depressing, he can't win no matter what he tries. I don't care for him because I think he believes his conscience is more important than the human lives he kills, when he knows that killing affects the prime balance. Does that make him feel horrible and he's simply too strong willed to show it, perhaps. Also, why have every battle portrayed in this manner. Simple, the writer wants to make a point, that misguided immoral war is always destined to fail and end in shameful bloodshed. Given Americas current involvement in the Middle East that is a very political statement to make. As soon as I felt I was being preached at like this, then the whole fabric of the story, including the battles, just seems like it serves to justify her own message and that weakens my ability to consider it grey. Also, yes I could like a character like Talith, was very sad when she died. But, she was still portrayed as a very petty and arrogant individual until she accepted Arithon was in the right. Elaira, shares no such vulgar traits, nor does any other female good guy, they are all strong confident women. That is dualism, it fosters an immediate preference for one faction over another.
I have no real issue with the Davien storyline, it never really inspired me to be honest. I think he was extremely cruel and petty when he decided to burn off sidhe's arms and make it so that (I forget her name) gets her free will removed.
Okay then, fine, I do disagree with what this book is trying to make me do. Recognise that all morality is just a construct to justify your actions and that we should all be willing to set that aside to embrace peace. It’s a noble statement certainly and she recognises that in order to achieve that humans would have to stop their greed, desire for power and assemblages of power (nation states with their attendant war mongering elites) in order to achieve this. That message makes moral argument pointless, the side that accepts this, Arithon and co, are portrayed as the good guys. Those who do not, are ultimately evil, even with their reasons. However, if you decide to refer to me as close minded for not approving on the use of child soldiers and killing POW then I must take exception to that. Janny Wurts does not portray the clans as bad, she vindicates them at every turn, and if you vindicate that behaviour here; because its ‘neccesary’ (when has anything ever not been necessary?) then you justify in Africa in the real life. If you are not ready to make that leap, then I fail to see how you could accept it in a piece of literature.
As I said, I do love the series, but I really do find that its probing of my moral values difficult and to an extent I resent them. I immediately question this when the writer is able to create her own world that validates such notions and makes you feel like you’re being lectured when she said ‘let the reader judge for themselves’. If thats the case, she makes if very difficult to forgive the alliance and very easy to understand why Arithon and the clans do what they do. There, I said my peace, I mean no malice by what I say and if you disagree with that then you are welcome to do that.
The reason I posted on this site is that after so many days of reading them and investing so much in the characters I felt I had to talk about what I felt with others.
My mate gave up after the first couple of pages when I lent him the book to try to get him interested. He's an avid reader of black library stuff and in his own words was thrown quite early on.
My own opinion is that I wanted to sympathise with the Alliance characters, and I very often did. I felt they were very morally grey in what they did. Arithon isn't, he justifies what he does and damns the alliance. That felt like the favoured faction was demanding I not do something the book told me do at the beginning.Since we're repeatedly informed Arithons in the right, I know where the writers preference lies. But I digress.
I really enjoyed the sections with Lysaer and the Koriathen. They really believe what they're doing is right and its soul destroying to see their talents being spent in misguided endeavors.
You know, I reread some of the comments by Annette and such. Well, you're probably right. Iam probably trying to moralise the characters actions when the books asking me not to do that. Maybe I should try re-reading them with a more objective mind.
I especially agree with what Annette says about the moral line tugging at your heart strings and war making good people do terrible things. I remember last year studying Armenian history and when we came to the genocide. The bitter emnity between religions and the desire of the government to prevent the state being dismembered and create a 'pure' Turkish state had terrible consequences. Neighbours killed and butchered eachother, captured civilian men were massacred and their bodies dismembered or dumped in lakes by the thousand. I actually had to go to my lecturer and ask how I could objectivly describe what the Turks did; the sheer hatred, from ordinary people of sound mind seemed beyond belief. The fact that it was ordinary Turks and Kurds in villages almost made it worse than the holocaust in some regards.Did they believe that what they were doing was genuinely right, probably, but I always feared that such thinking would justify what they did on some level. In Wars of Light and Shadow I felt a similar pressure and Iam still not sure about my feelings on this.
Others have responded with what I would have said, so I won't repeat it in a thread of uber-long posts.
I will say about the Alliance, that it is an historically accurate reflection of the mixture of religion, politics and power. The medieval church owned 1/3 of Europe, had its own armies, had millions of indentured serfs (i.e. slaves), could make kingdoms unstable with the threat of excommunication (all oaths to a king were void if he was excommunicated), was notoriously corrupt, and ordered foreign wars (the Crusades) that were anything but noble and which have political and societal implications in the Middle East a thousand years later. Janny is clearly developing the Alliance in the third story arc as a rough parallel of the Christian church, which by the year 1000 rarely, if ever, followed the teachings of Jesus Christ (I would go so far as to say that they defamed His name by using it to justify their actions (yes, I am a Christian), and that the actions of the Church clearly show its hypocrisy in light of the actual teachings of Jesus Christ). I do not for a minute suggest that Lysaer is the equivalent of Jesus Christ (Hunter and I have already debated that comparison at length), but the parallels of a figurehead for a religious movement that is out of control are obvious. This is a direct parallel with human history. Similar religious control has occurred in the Islamic world, and we have seen some of the effects of this abuse of power in our own lifetimes (surely I don't need to cite examples). I do not know the history of other religious movements (my training was in European History), but I imagine there are other examples.
I wonder if we will see and good mendicant priests of the Alliance in the coming arc, akin to the Friars of the Christian church? That would certainly ramp up the sympathy for people who believe wholeheartedly in the Alliance.
I cannot, and do not, sympathize with the Alliance, as it is a construct based entirely on lies, and is used by its leaders solely as a means of control. Its creation is Lysaer's greatest sin, it is the reason he was cast out of the Compact (see Fugitive Prince), and it is destined to get out of control (predicted by the F7) and get a twisted life of its own. The Alliance, as an entity, is greater in power than all the people that make it up, and the ideas surrounding the Alliance, some of which are noble, are twisted by the Great Lie that is at the center of its existence.
On the other hand, the individuals in the Alliance I can sympathize with. I think that is Janny's point: personal responsibility, actions have consequences, your choices can determine not only your own destiny, but the destinies of millions. This story is not black and white, and I am certain that there is a massive twist coming, probably in Destiny's Conflict, that none of us expect, and it will involve EVERYTHING.
Hmm, fair enough. To be honest that is sort of similar to what I believed with regard to the Alliance and the individuals that make it up.
Actually i think on Amazon it said that fugitive prince had a relgious schism between Tysan and Rathain/Etarra; so you're probably dead on. It'd be good to actually see a pitched battle for a change. it also mentioned the Etarran faction having failed to conquer Havish. Iam really looking forward to that book
Actually I kinda agree with almost everything OR has said. The prologue may invite the readers to make up their own minds, but the author has very clearly made up hers.
It's not that Janny doesn't go to pains to make both sides as 'bad' as each other. She does. I've posted before that this ambiguity is one of the things that puts off many fans of traditional fantasy.
What she also does however is offer justification for the clansmens actions. They are defending themselves, protecting their way of life, forced into it, the only true noble men left in the series.
One other thing to note - what we are reading is intended to be a HISTORY. The victors rewrite history to suit themselves. Is this Arithon rewriting to justify his own actions? Or Lysaer to make his own victory more spectacular after all those early defeats - victories are all the sweeter when you have to come from behind and have been outplayed for most of the game.
I haven't read all the series, and I'm not saying that any of you are wrong, given that you have read a lot more than me, but to me, OR.s point is very clear and well made.
Again, the fact that the 'heroes' might be every bit as bad as the 'villains' is one of the things I like about the series
Oliver, my reaction to seeing this post and finding that the poster had deleted their account was that a 'bomb' had been dropped into the board. I was sorely tempted to delete the thread as I'm not a fan of such things. I'm glad you came back and created a new account and are willing to participate in the discussion. Feel free to defend your position and your opinions. They are as valid as anyone else's.
I really need to object to the idea that Arithon has tried to justify his actions! @Stephen asks if Arithon is trying to morally justify his actions.
@OR says Arithon morally justifies what he does and damns the Alliance.
I have to wonder if you've read the series at all. Arithon does nothing but castigate himself for all the killing. He lost his magical abilities after the battle at Tal Quorin. He goes through the maze, agonizing over the killings he orchestrated at every turn and is only able to forgive himself after the Centaur enfolds him in love and forgiveness. How is that justifying his actions? I think he paid a pretty high price for everything he does.
Also at the beginning of Stormed Fortress, after his pledge to never kill again, he tries to get the s'Brydions to give it over, come away from their fortress and avoid the looming battle. This is what I was referring to when asking how the clansmen are portrayed as all good. I don't think this is so.
I never said that Arithon justifies his actions. I said JANNY justifies his actions
And maybe I should reread my own posts!
What I said "justify" I probably should have said "explain" - like I said, this is a history we are reading.
Sorry I posted my first reply in a hurry on the bus and half asleep.
The end justifies the means IS a justification.
Saying that you continue to do something you know is wrong because you were forced into it or were emotionally traumatised IS a justification.
Continueing, for nearly 6 books with that logic of being the tormented pacifist driven into it by his own compassion to his own people and forced duty;six books before he understood to refrane from killing.The man follows a religon that tells him violence is wrong, as a mage he would know this from day one in that universe. To be honest though, my criticism was more levelled at the alliance/clan and koriathen/fellowship
(davien is not part of them)
Janny justifies everything he did when the Paravian told him his actions did not once violate the prime balance. A pacifistic people, who were not willing to tolerate the inevitable human foibles that lead to humanities self destruction in nuclear fire, go ahead and hand this warlord a moral blank cheque. The Paravians, so we are told, never used violence (excepting the drakespawn and even then they decided to call the fellowship to simply contain them). Of course, I as a reader cannot possibly argue with this verdict, since the Paravians are in the right always as the creatures of pure goodness. I thus felt that it is not a morally grey story. Will they be so forgiving of Lysaer, no, the fellowship threw him out of the compact. Repentence might be a factor there, I have to concede, but I personally thought the fellowship provoked him in that particular instance with some very poor tact.
Stephan, I did read the books, some time ago I confess though I recently started again on the run-up to Initiates trial.I would hardly post something on a forum for the books if I hadn't read them.
I'am not entirely sure why you think the Tier S Brydon are wrong in wanting to defend their ancestral citadel from an alliance warhost. Especially when the only difference between that and the forests where the fellowship put every alliance soldier into a coma is on a legal technicality. I could almost imagine the fellowship sifting through books like lawyers whilst the siege went on for any minor clause that they could use to stop the fighting. 'I got it Asander!' yelled Sethir across the carnage that littered the dining table 'We can declare the ground to be contested until the Paravians come back and make all combatents leave. WIN!'
Considering the fellowship never did the same before in all the other clan battles, or when Arithon manipulated/bought the mountain people of Vastmark to fight his personal war Iam quite confused why they would object to the clans in this instance.
Yes, I could definetly understand where the S Brydon were coming from when they resented the fellowship at their declaration. Could you imagine if the UN demanded all Israeli's and Palestinians vacate Jerusalem? Applying morality to war is difficult, if not impossible the situation and personalities are often too complex to judge. However, to the layman, plucky little guy who worship the one true faith on defensive vs evil empire of religious fanatics whose entire creed is a perverted lie makes it difficult for me to understand the authors call for me to make a moral judgement of both sides. She clearly treats one side in a more positive way than the other. Look at why the S Brydon are fighting and compare it to why the alliance is fighting. Most readers will instinctively sympathise with them, even if they agree the fellowships way out is a rational way of resolving the conflict. Its more that Janny challenged me at the beginning of the book, I never, for example, critisize (except with friends over a healthy amount of caffiene drinks)about how evil the Imperium is in 40k. For the record they believe the only way to stop daemons breaking through psykers minds or stopping the alien is to be brutally repressive and commit genocide (frequently on their own people)to try and stave off humanities enemies. This is because most enemies (tau and eldar being possible exceptions but whose intentions are equally aggressive in nature) are evil incarnate, biological monsters who want to eat people or insane green skins with cockney accents who are bred to know only war. There are occasions in the black library, for example Storm of Iron, where they dwell on the fact that the legions felt they were betrayed by the Emperor and have no option of going back anyway One evil character, called Honsou, is viewed by a captive loyalist marine as a man who could have been just as 'noble' a warrior as he was if he hadnt made the decisions he had and Honsou occasionally gives the impression with his terse responses to questions of why he fights that he isn't entirely sure of himself. I know black library is very low brow compared to Janny's work of course, but its similar in that one side still has the moral high ground if only because its opponents are misguided servents of evil or creatures of evil. If, as clansmen himself stated earlier, the alliance is a cruel mistake and based upon a lie; utter anathema to the mysteries of the unvierse then it makes Janny's request that I judge this situation quite baffling.
I didn't suggest that you hadn't read the books. I am actually mostly on your side.
I am however enjoying the fact that this can be debated in a civilised manner without anyone resorting to name calling.
Sorry, I misread your name with a sleo I think. I just noticed myself.
Sleo here! I'm not sure what either of you were thinking, but what you wrote was that Arithon justifies his behavior. And 'the end justifying the means' is never a part of this tale.
I think if anything, Janny tries to mislead us to think one way, and then she comes along and blows the whole thing apart with a new twist. I, for one, have grudgingly come to think that Lysaer might be redeemable at some point, depending on future behavior.
The reason I pointed out the s'Brydions as an exception to your characterization of the clans as always 'perfect' is that they failed to give up their egocentric desire to defend and fight to consider the longer range goal of stopping the fighting. And I believe it was Arithon who visited them and asked them to leave their fortress; not Asandir. And if they had agreed, then there would have been no attack on the fortress! I doubt even Lysaer is so single minded as to attack an empty fortress. Also, the big reason Arithon wanted to avoid future battles was for clan survival! They are slowly being wiped out, in case you haven't noticed.
Janny has said that part of her reason for writing this is to find an alternative for fighting and bloodshed to solve differences between peoples.
She has also warned that she manipulates the reader to see what they want to see.
Like I said higher up, I'll re-read the series and try to look at it with a fresh perspective.I think a look at the people as characters might be easier than trying to pit either factions goals against eachother. A curse on both your houses might be a better attitude to take. You seem to have confirmed my opinion that the author has the moral of the story set in stone and it seems pointless to argue the point further. But, an alternative that involves magic centaurs, sorcerers, divine right kings, honest aristocrats and people dropping their prejudices for peace? What a utopian fantasy.
I meant 'perfect'as being they always win battles, not their moral behaviour. Defending a castle is hardly dark, not compared to what Arithon did in previous books and not compared to the Alliances motives. Did it really not bother you that you knew the Alliance was always going to lose, that you had to go through the motions with the whole arrogant power=failure for so many books? They might be losing people, but the battles don't give this comparison, non civilain dead clansmen are rarely described and almost never are non headhunters shown as beating clansmen. They don't even shoot back! You know, with those big crossbows they carry around, becuase we only give longbows to lucky guards who kill Khadrim apparetly.
But Arithon does use end justifies the means, all the time, on his homeworld against Lysaers father, he outright decries those who acuse him of doing less, he does it to save clan lives at Tal Quorin and Vastmark' including breaking the prime balance by using magic to kill thus making him lose his magesight. Finally, from this far from comprehensive list, he decides killing several dozen guards to rescue one man, Fion Areth, because it niggles his conscience. He does change by traitors knot, but before then he was not an easy character to care for and even the lighter moments when he's singing didn't asuage my feelings on the matter.
Lysaer always held my sympathy from the off, you seem to imply that I didn't Sleo! ;)
Arithon actually said nothing to justify his one unintentional act that caused deaths on Dascen
Elur, it was never his intention that Amroth's ships destroy themselves, but they did and people died. He never spoke up in his own defence, if Mak had not intervened Arithon would have died, and had been determined to do that since he was fished out of the wreckage.
And who so far on Athera has always won battles? The battle of Tal Quorin no one won, the clansmen of Deshir lost all their non combatants and about 3/4 of their fighters. Lysaer limped home with equally devastating losses. There was no winner.
The fleet burning was hardly a battle, it was an attempt to avoid fighting, and again there was really no winner.
Vastmark had even more devastating losses, and again there was no winner. Lysaer gave up and went home. Arithon managed to better defend the non combatants, but still what clansmen he had suffered losses. He was too ashamed to thank Erlien s'Taleyn for the help he provided so few of his clansmen returned home.
The battle of Daon Ramon hardly any of Jieret's 200 strong war band got to go home, most died. They knew it was suicide before they even tried to defend against Lysaer's forces. Surely no one could say Lysaer won, not after he was tricked into burning his own forces from Narms to a crisp.
Who won at Alestron? No one. The Alliance forces were packed off home, and the s'Brydion and their remaining defenders forced to leave their home and slink off to the woods to survive to fight another day. They would have fought to the bitter end and just plain starved if the fellowship had not intervened.
Lysaer's long standing battle to exterminate or enslave the clansmen of Tysan could hardly be called a victory, the only way to ensure the survival of the clan lines was to send most of them to Havish for sanctuary. And while managing to survive against such odds could be considered a victory for the clans, is not actually winning a war. Next we will see the continuation of that battle, as Lysaer's religious zealots attempt to finish them off by invading Havish.
And it should be pointed out that if Lysaer's forces ever managed to win and exterminated all the clans, they would actually lose. Because the fellowship would then be forced to exterminate humanity in order to try and ensure Paravian survival. So there is no way this situation can be resolved by fighting.
If there is a moral here it is that war solves nothing and there are no winners even if you manage to survive. Whether it is Dascen
Elur, Athera or even the original human civilisations humanity seems to be making the same mistakes over and over again. Which is not that different to what happens in the real world.
I will leave Janny to answer for the Utopian ending when she gets to that bit. Certainly we have seen very little of Utopian fantasies so far. Not even the Paravians seemed to have much peace.
OR, you seem to be quite good at missing the point. Nowhere has Janny Wurts claimed that there is no moral standpoint in this epic. What she said was that she wanted to write a story that shows that war and killing is always the wrong path. And Annette is right. Not one battle in this series is won by one side or the other. Tell me how you think the clan won at Daon Ramons? Do you think Jieret thought he won when they cut off his tongue? Hardly.
What the author has said all along is that this isn't the classic tale of good vs. evil. That is not the same thing as claiming moral grayness.
You are quite right about Alestron and the s'Brydions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with defending one's home. Nothing at all. The thing Arithon was trying to avoid was MORE KILLING! And IN THIS CIRCUMSTANCE, with a 'cause' founded on nothing more than the irrational hatred fostered by a CURSE engendered by the MISTWRAITH, more killing is to be avoided at all costs.
I was not referring to you at all with my comment about Lysaer. I was referring to my own prejudice against him, which ON REREADING I have had to modify. He is as much a victim of the curse as Arithon, and was basically a good man before it got it's clutches into him.
As for the prologue, what it says is "Let each who reads determine the good and the evil for himself." I don't think there's anyway to interpret any of this story as either good nor evil. The wraiths of the mist themselves have human roots. Lysaer is bound by a curse. Arithon, by virtue of his mage qualities, has been able to free himself -- by trying to ferret out and face the truth. Lysaer has been unable to do that so far, not by any good or evil, but merely from the fact that he's human.
And the thing you've said that makes most sense is both sides are wrong. There are no 'sides' here. There is only reality twisted and corrupted by a curse.
quote from Annette: And who so far on Athera has always won battles? The battle of Tal Quorin no one won, the clansmen of Deshir lost all their non combatants and about 3/4 of their fighters. Lysaer limped home with equally devastating losses. There was no winner.
The fleet burning was hardly a battle, it was an attempt to avoid fighting, and again there was really no winner.
Vastmark had even more devastating losses, and again there was no winner. Lysaer gave up and went home. Arithon managed to better defend the non combatants, but still what clansmen he had suffered losses. He was too ashamed to thank Erlien s'Taleyn for the help he provided so few of his clansmen returned home end quote
Really, three quarter losses? I knew about the civilians being killed but my impression on reading was that the clans suffered near negligible losses with regard to their military; thus making Alliances massacre of them appear almost out of embittered spite.
No, Jieret did not win when he had his tongue cut out, but that was more a chase sequence than a battle. The point that I maintain with the battles is, and always has been, that it is STORMTROOPER syndrome. I do not like that. It makes the fighting predictable and reduces the threat posed by the alliance to almost comic. You know Arithon is going to find a way out, a horrifcaly painful one; but he will always do it and make the alliance look like incompetent idiots every single time. The only partial exception's to this are headhunters and when the alliance is under Sulfin Evend in Stormed Fortress. The alliance doesn't win, the clans don't win, its the outragious K/D ratio I can't stand. Its the fact we are NEVER told about mail clad alliance soldiers doing ANYTHING other than being massacered. This is just a minor gripe that I tagged onto the end of my monologue and has little bearing on the main point about moral greyness. If someone could provide me one reference, just one, of a mail clad alliance soldier killing an armed clansmen, not just infered, then I will gladly accept that I'am wrong on this particular prejudice. Honest
quote Annette Which is not that different to what happens in the real world.
I will leave Janny to answer for the Utopian ending when she gets to that bit. Certainly we have seen very little of Utopian fantasies so far. Not even the Paravians seemed to have much peace. end quote
Um, the smiley face indicates a joke. Utopian implies a perfect state, the paravians and the brotherhood of Ath represent ultimate moral enlightenment and goodness. No such force exists on this world, you can believe there are religions/philsophy that embody that; but that is a matter of faith. To create that moral rock in your universe, however difficult it is to achieve for the individuals in question, is a MASSIVELY utopian conception and implies that the world can be brought to perfect harmony with the nature and an idealistic world introduced. Which existed, BTW, before the revolts and the mistwraith arrived. The Paravians only had wars because the dragons are capable of reshaping reality if they're in a bad mood and could create monsters, thats not really any foible of their own.
I said it was a miserable series in the first few sentences of this book and is generally depressing; I meant that.
quote Slio OR, you seem to be quite good at missing the point. Nowhere has Janny Wurts claimed that there is no moral standpoint in this epic. What she said was that she wanted to write a story that shows that war and killing is always the wrong path. end quote
Then you completely agree with me good sir!
By producing a moral tale of this sort she can't tell us to make up our own minds. If we cannot judge between the factions, even if we can sympathise with the individuals then ultimately we can only accept what the author is telling us. When she incited Culloden and how History is manipulated; I as a historian understood that to be IMPARTIAL, or morally grey. It seems I was wrong to make that insinuation from her statement, but to my mind it seemed very close to declaring that. If Iam supposed to scream a curse on both your houses, then I do find it difficult to understand why she made one considerably more in the wrong and further away from the moral arbiters of this universe. Having a moral standpoint negates the reader making up their mind as the writer can shape the universe to fit their standpoint.
But OR, history and the recording of history is NEVER impartial. I, too, am a trained historian and depending on the perspective of the historian, different events can be recorded in totally different ways.
As I have said, the series is a history, but we don't know, for sure, who is recording it
Quote from OR above: "Really, three quarter losses? I knew about the civilians being killed but my impression on reading was that the clans suffered near negligible losses with regard to their military; thus making Alliances massacre of them appear almost out of embittered spite. "
You need to reread Curse of the Mistwraith. The clan had no 'military' arm separate from the civilians. Women and children fought with the men. Do you remember Arithon arguing against this? And do you remember Pesquil and Lysaer attacking unarmed women and children, slicing them up and then Lysaer burning them to a crisp? And do you not remember that the clan was decimated? There were fourteen boys left the age of Jieret after that battle.
And I am a woman, not a 'sir'.
And of course an author has the prerogative to write the story he/she wants. Why are you arguing against that?
CotM pg 785 (mass market pb latest edition)
Of Strakewood's complement of nine hundred sixty, scarcely two hundred men lived, half that number wounded; fourteen boys of Jieret's generation were all that survived Etarra's campaign against Arithon.
CotM pg 764 (mass market PB latest edition)
The facts were given quickly after that, starting with Steiven's response to Arithon's first warning of disaster, orders that his war
captain had begged on his knees to be released from: to gather and withdraw from the fighting by force if need be three hundred hand-picked
young men. Steiven s'Valerient had then led the rest into ill-fated vengeance at the grottos.
CotM pg 764 (mass market PB latest edition)
Snapped past the memory of the brutalities beside the Tai Quorin, the scout shrugged a shoulder and resumed. "The three hundred circled wide and approached the melee from upstream. As well they did. Jieret and two wounded scouts could hardly have pulled you out alone." Quiet, Arithon absorbed this. If he had done nothing else, his final intervention with shadows had spared most of those clansmen Steiven had selected to survive.
Laughs. Sorry about that Sleo, I did initially think of writing sir/madam but was in a rush so it slipped my mind. Sorry.
Oh very true, history is never impartial and much history is trying to get an agenda across. Which is what you're supposed to be wary of. Total impartiality is an impossible thing to achieve. I won't cite a modern example but for example Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a massive attack on christianity,effectively blaming it for the empires fall along with the decadent luxury and totalitarian milierism destroying democracy. All of which was refering to his own eighteenth century Britain as much as Imperial Rome. Janny's work, the moral it spins, can very much be taken to refer to modern political events; I believe I read several on this forum. It's not that it's wrong, but as I said in my last post, as i read it then, that was at odds with a statement that approached what I considered to be a declaration of impartiality. Which is quite a thing to claim.
Of course the author is allowed to write what they want. As I said, to my mind, asking somebody to make up their own mind is at odds with that. If she hadn't said that, I wouldn't have minded, it would have been just a typical violence is wrong moral tale; which is her prerogative.
They take massive losses, relative to their numbers, and I never disputed that. But they punch far above their weight, even when magic is removed. I know what the book is trying to tell me about non violence, I get the whole arrogant might thing, I get that nobody really wins and hence the book series being morbidly depressing.The fact that they lose is irrelevent, to suggest a similar example is Ghosts of Oynx in the Halo series (which I have no good will towards) where the heroes lose but kill such an astronomical number of covenant that they have no concievable way of killing because they're the weaker party out teched and facing aliens considerably stronger than them. Yet that was not how the books went and so I resented that ASPECT of the book. The same goes with light and Shadow, i dislike that ASPECT of the books.
(honest question) Stephen, when you say its a history, do you mean the seers writing down what they are seeing and being selective? Because I always thought the seers had the argument with the priests of light over the truth and so decided to look into the past. Thats a bit different from a history IMO.
Oh I remember the buthcery at Tal Quorin well. Yet the only thing I recall the non head hunters doing in that battle was being shot down in shadow or having their throats cut as they lay wounded or running in panic from the deluge. Janny's description does not give the impression that they do ANYTHING other than get mown down like stormtroopers. Annette, you quote some good passages, perhaps the alliance did crash into the clan lines or get a few with lucky crossbow rounds if 600 out of nine hundred were dead before they fought the head hunters and lost another fifty. But thats my point, its mentioned so much in passing.
I get the impression that Iam aggrevating several posters here, so I think I need to put some perspective on where Iam coming from. Just because I dislike a few minor aspects of the novel, or I don't care for certain characters, doesn't mean I don't love other elements of the book and I indicated as much when I wrote. But I would be here for an eternity if I had to put the good in with the bad, Dakar and the brothers in the beginning of COTM, Arithon and Dakar wandering Vastmark, Arithon the bard, the brilliant moments between Lysaer and Sulfin Evend and Talith. I could go on and on. Nor does it mean I don't 'get it' with certain themes the book addresses or that I crassly deny that a writer has no right to write what they want; that would be silly. My criticisms are pretty specific in nature and don't undermine my reading of the text. They are just minor facets of a complicated series and quite minor ones at that.
Iam not sure if I should continue with this thread, I cannot imagine why several posters would come back to address what I posted if you weren't interested; except out of some kind of Masochism. I've already accepted much, if not all of what the other posters have written. So, if anyone else posts then I'll respond to it. If not, then Iam fin.
I doubt the sages wrote anything down, even in the third age visions can be recorded in crystal, or viewed in a scrying basin, Just like a magic video recorder capturing it as it happens, before it happens or even it seems ages after it happened. The Fellowship went back and had a look at the distant past at Meth Isle. Why would the sages not be able to do a similar thing?
I did not really find the series that depressing, although I am never going to be reading Peril's Gate any where but in the safety of my own home. Bit too much for the emotions that one, but it had an uplifting ending that made it all worthwhile.
If we had finished with the first book, Arithon finally had his chance to devote himself to music, and Lysaer a chance to find love and happiness with Talith. And there was peace for a while. Seemed a reasonably happy ending.
The second arc ended with Arithon given his freedom to explore the oceans looking for the Paravians. Vastmark survived and had prospects for improvement, Athera another time of peace. Lysaer reinvented himself as the Divine Prince, which seemed to be what would make him happy.
The third arc Elaira and Arithon seem to be getting a chance to be happy for a while. Lysaer has a chance to try and build a better future for himself and his people. Athera again has a bit of peace. And the s'Brydion well they get to commune with nature and the other clansmen in Atwood. That might not have suited some of the s'Brydion. Still it seemed an uplifting ending full of hope for the future.
Yes we went though depressing bits, but the ending of each arc seemed to resolve some things and provide hope, they are all still striving to get what they want, and changing with each new book. And there were good moments throughout the series.
And OR, we love having the place livened up a bit, please forgive us if we seem a bit over enthusiastic with our responses. You are entitled to your opinion, and we obviously would just love to change it. Does not mean you have to, or that you are wrong. You would not be here if you were not a fan of the series. I at least appreciate you being willing to share your thoughts about the books with us.
OR, I'm from Northern Ireland - selective remaining of history is what passes for education round here!
Actually I do believe the sages are being selective especially in the way they record what they see