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Curse of the Mistwraith

Discussion in 'Janny Wurts' started by biodroid, Aug 24, 2009.

  1.  
    biodroid

    biodroid Expensive Gadget User

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    Is it as good as everyone makes out on reviews? To me female authors seem to not really include action and pace in novels or am I mistaken? Is this the case for this book and the rest of her books, does she have pace and action and intrigue etc? I bought a bunch of her books because they were going very cheap so I got the first 6 books for the price of 2 brand new. What do you guys think about Janny as a writer?
     
  2.  
    Clansman

    Clansman Lochaber Axeman, QC

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    Janny Wurts is my favourite active writer, and this from a guy who used to dislike women fantasy writers for the same reasons, and I found they spent too much time on relationships. Not so Janny Wurts, who is the most balanced writer I know of.

    I would caution you against expecting action-action-action, as none of her books are the Conan-type sword and sorcery stuff. They are intelligent, deep and insightful forays into high fantasy that are multi-layered, with a wide range of perspective (mine changes every time I read the Wars of Light and Shadow books), and a plot that twists and turns and surprises like crazy. Is her work exciting? Yes, beyond a doubt, but action is balanced with suspense and intrigue, and character development, and each of these feeds the other aspects of the story.

    Curse of the Mistwraith is the first book of a long, epic series, and it lays a foundation for the rest, so its pace in the first half is not breakneck, but considered. However, from about 2/3 in, the pace is full-throttle and relentless. She balances brutal realism with a sense of wonder and hope.

    A stand-alone of hers is an excellent sample, namely To Ride Hell's Chasm, as it starts off as a mystery/court intrigue, and then a action-packed chase scene (riding Hell's Chasm) for the last half of the book. Great, thrilling read that has you up late at night. The latest in the Wars of Light and Shadow, Stormed Fortress, had me reading late into the night (as did the rest of the books).
    Excellent reading, but because excitement is balanced with intelligence and insight.

    Wurts' big goal is to change your perspective. Keep that in mind as you read, and open your mind to the possiblities. If you do, you'll think its great. If you don't, you will likely be frustrated.
     
  3.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Big Rabbit of Chrons Staff Member

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    I'd been thinking about reading Wurts for a while, but having read a few reviews that complained about the language, I came across this opening paragraph from Ships of Merior:

    Now, I acknowledge that after a couple of readings it is possible to make sense of this fantastically Byzantine sentence, and there are people on here who I like and respect and know are Wurts fans, but ... come on! That is dreadful! And it's the first paragraph; it should have received more polishing and attention than anything else in the story. Unless someone can convince me that it's an aberration and not indicative of her writing generally, I'm going to have to pass.
     
  4.  
    Connavar

    Connavar Well-Known Member

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    You cant judge any writer by a few sentence of a hole book. Even the greatest writer can write a sentence or two.

    Do it like me get a book of hers from the library and read more than a page before you pass on her.
     
  5.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Big Rabbit of Chrons Staff Member

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    A bad sentence in the hurly-burly of a book's middle I can understand, but the very first one? I think it's pretty fair to judge an author on that, to be honest.

    Anyway, I'd already read more than a page. I read the first few pages of Curse of the Mistwraith (using the Look Inside function on Amazon) and thought it was well enough written. But when I read the first few pages of Ships of Merior, the style seemed to have changed, becoming almost a parody. I was hardly aware of what was happening because I was just grinding my teeth at the tortuous language.

    Each to his own, I guess. I don't think she's for me, which is a shame, as it sounded like it had some good things in it.
     
  6.  
    The Procrastinator

    The Procrastinator 1 Candlepower Brain

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    Why do people apostrophise plural's? Is it capital
    Coming from a Janny fan who also has occasional teeth-grinding episodes, not to mention the almost overwhelming desire to rampage through the books with a red pen and send it back to the author with instructions to cut here, here, here and here, and here, here etc, I must say, HB, that the story is worth the frustration. I persevered with that big fat old series, and I don't regret it at all. I would also like to point out, while there are plenty of clangers like the one you quoted above, they are eventually balanced by phrases and sentences that are as good as that one was bad. Some of the writing is sublime. Some of it, as you noted, is tortuous. But on the whole it is good, and like I said, the story is worth persevering.

    I believe that Janny is striving for art in her writing. As an artist I can appreciate that. Like all art, one's reach often outstrips one's grasp. But it is worth it for the moments where she "gets it" - those moments really are superior writing. Unfortunately she can't sustain it all the time, but I find the highlights compensation enough for the mediocrities, myself.
     
  7.  
    chopper

    chopper Steven Poore - Epic Fantasist & SFSF Socialist

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    my own red-button issue with her - although i'm enjoying Ships of Merior in general by the way - is that despite her skill with the english language she still manages to use the word "decimate" in completely the wrong way.
     
  8.  
    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    AH...as in 1/10th destroyed I'm guessing.

    I'm a big fan of Janny's fiction and feel her sentence structure and use of English far outweighs any pitfalls.
     
  9.  
    Clansman

    Clansman Lochaber Axeman, QC

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    Yes, this is the one pet peeve I have (and had forgotten), using "decimate" where "annihilate" would be more appropriate. Decimate was that wonderful Roman punishment, against a Legion that had done particularly poorly, disobeyed orders, had revolted, etc. Kill every tenth man.

    This is a common misuse of decimate, but given Wurts' penchant for accuracy when choosing words, it always surprises me when it appears.

    Hare Brain, persevere. While that sentence might seem awkward, as Procrastinator said, Wurts has passages that will sweep you away, and make the odd "clanger" disappear in the mists. The story is really worth it.
     
  10.  
    biodroid

    biodroid Expensive Gadget User

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    She is human after all :D
     
  11.  
    Boaz

    Boaz Thaphireth!

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    Semi-spoilers:

    I read Curse of the Mistwraith a few months ago. I'd been keen to read Wurts since seeing positive reviews on the Chronicles. But I've got to say that my reaction to Curse is less than enthusiastic.

    There were aspects of the book that I liked. Wurts' writing is solid. Her use of English is fun to read, though I also balked at decimated. I liked her use of world travelling through portals... i.e. points of no return. I liked the concepts of the Mistwraith, dominant genetics, and the political games between the Koriathain and the Seven.

    Curse had enough promise and some payoff to keep me going until the end.

    But I have to say that the Seven were so heavy handed that I wanted to scream. Asandir was a total Ass. His mind games, his condescension, and his omnipresent arrogance made me hate him. I'd rather have Morgoth or Voldemort on my side than Asandir.

    How Lysaer and Arithon could ever work in such a state of deprivation and mistrust is beyond my understanding. Arithon was little better than Asandir. He's just yet another troubled, dark, brooding, wannabe rockstar of prophecy with world altering power. Characters like Arithon are some of what gives Fantasy a bad rap.

    Asandir's and Arithon's combination of self-righteousness, secrecy, conceit, presumption, and overbearing manners drove me to cheer for Lysaer... the obvious villain.

    Since finishing Curse, I've read Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule, Brandon Sanderson's Elantris, Tad Williams' The Dragonbone Chair, and am currently halfway through Stone of Farewell, Russell Kirkpatrick's Across the Face of the World, and Jim Hines' The Stepsister Scheme. By comparison, Wurts' world and story is by far the most believable of the above stories. Her cultures, languages, magic, and plots are good. And even her characters are better (and for the most part better fleshed out) than any characters from the above stories.

    I don't mean for this to be a negative post. Curse is the best thing I've read in the last six months or so, but it's just not as good as I'd like it to be.

    In the end, Wurts' story kept me interested... she just could not interest me in any of her characters.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2009
  12.  
    Clansman

    Clansman Lochaber Axeman, QC

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    Boaz, it is actually the development of those characters that are introduced in CotMW, aside from the intriguing plot and sub-plots and the world building, that I find so compelling about this series. Yes, Arithon is annoying, which is what makes him more real. You see a much more balanced Arithon in the coming books, while Lysaer devolves into an "unaware megalomaniac" with visions of being a God-king. You begin to see more of Sethvir, less of Asandir (who annoyed you so much), and a LOT more of Dakar, who developes and grows in most unexpected, yet perfectly plausible, ways.

    The first book, it must be remembered, is laying the foundation for a multi-book series. Yes, the characters can be annoying, but I find that very real, and it is in their growth that I was originally engrossed. They certainly do not do the things that you would like them or expect them to do. But, you'll just have to take my word for it, or read the rest of the series.;)
     
  13.  
    Boaz

    Boaz Thaphireth!

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    Clanny, I understand that Wurts was laying the foundation, but none of her characters fascinated me. For me to continue, I want/need to be beguiled. Maybe that's too strong... I want to feel connected to characters in a story. Lysaer's victimization by the Seven and by Arithon gave me an attachment to him... but since it appears that he's been set up to be the villain, there is no way I'm going to continue reading and let myself by disappointed by the triumph of evil (good, according to the series) over good (evil, according to the series).

    There are times when I am fascinated by and drawn into a story by a character I dislike. Even if I hate the character, I want to love to hate him/her. In literature, film, or television, here are some characters that I love to hate... Nurse Ratched, Norman Bates, Darth Vader (first three movies only), Mr. Hyde, Kasigi Yabu, The White Witch, Severus Snape, Catelyn Stark, Cersei Baratheon, Benjamin Linus, and Simon Cowell. Through their insidiousness, their treachery, their selfishness, their malice, or just through their antagonistic attitudes, these characters keep me actively wondering about their origins, motives, and future plots.

    Megalomania can be a great plot device and I don't mind Lysaer trying to become Alexander or Ceasar. But he was driven to it by the Seven and for them to pretend their prophetic visions of the future left them no choice is the heighth of true tyranny, arrogance, and amorality, i.e. megalomania.

    I'm not saying Curse was bad. I quit the books that are real stinkers. For me, Curse did not just deliver on an epic level... which is what I was expecting. I respect your position and your opinion of the book, Clanny. I did pick up Ships of Merior last year at my local used book store... I'll probably take a stab at that in the future.
     
  14.  
    Connavar

    Connavar Well-Known Member

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    "The first book, it must be remembered, is laying the foundation for a multi-book series"


    Thats exactly the reason why i dont read epic series generally.....

    I hope I like her characters because that's only time I can read these kind of series.I want to try Wurts when my TBR pile is a bit smaller because of what i have heard of her writing. Not feeling for the characters is why i stopped reading Malazan series whose world i thought was really cool......
     
  15.  
    Boaz

    Boaz Thaphireth!

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    Spoiler Alert for both Dune and A Game of Thrones and the Oresteia.

    Conn, not to put down Light and Dark, but this is exactly how GRRM grabbed me with A Song of Ice and Fire. He basically pulled a Frank Herbert (remember Herbert(who was actually pulling a Homer at the time) axed Leto early on) and I never saw it coming. I knew then that anything could happen and that anyone could die.

    Wurts tells us in the prologue or in prophecies that the Light and Dark have been fighting for five hundred years. (I hope that's right... my facts may be hazy since I just got home from a wedding reception that had an open bar.) So I know that Lysaer (the real hero) and Arithon (the real villain) stay alive for the next five hundred years... Where is the suspense in that???? When an author kills off one of the main protagonists in three hundred pages or less, he/she has my full attention.
     
  16.  
    Clansman

    Clansman Lochaber Axeman, QC

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    MAJOR SPOILER ALERT BELOW

    Yes, but what happens to the Clans in that five hundred years? What new things are built up, what old things are irretrievably lost? What happens to each of these men in that five hundred years, and what impact do they have? And Lysaer, the real hero? After Tal Quorin? All Arithon did prior to that the final confrontation between the Etarrans and the Clans of Deshir was run.

    Lysaer spent a good part of the book bemoaning what he had lost (his kingdom in Dascen Elur), and resenting that Arithon had received mage training, and resenting that Arithon had a kingdom about to be handed to him (Rathain, with major problems in it, to be sure). Arithon does not desire kingship, but would rather spend his existence as a bard, as that is his true calling. Lysaer was not sanctioned for the kingship of Tysan because of flaws existing in his character, which the Curse (Desh Thiere) later exploits.

    How is Arithon the real villain? (I take it that your comments on villain and hero were tongue-in-cheek) He is annoying, and does things that you don't understand. He is unpredictable. However, his underlying goodness is seen in how he shows compassion and caring to the clan children enslaved by the townsmen in Etarra (whom Lysaer supports and allies himself with).

    Wurts' characters do unpredictable things, and they are often far from likeable, but I always found them fascinating and engaging, precisely because of that.

    I would also point out that the Fellowship recognized its error, when they discovered that they should have protected Lysaer at Ithamon against Desh Thiere, not Arithon. They made the error fearing possession of a mage-trained Arithon would be far more dangerous. They also failed to realize that Arithon's mage training would have protected him. They admitted that they had protected the wrong prince. Also, the reasons that the F7 does what is does become clear as the story progresses. They are charged not with protecting humanity, but protecting Athera, where humanity is a guest seeking refuge. If they can't protect Athera from human incursion, then
    humanity...well that is discovered a little down the line.

    As the story progresses, you will see Arithon and the F7 constantly on their heels, in a desperate struggle for survival and preservation of Athera. Also, the characters evolve and change. Where the story is now in the series, I am looking for big changes in Lysaer. Arithon has grown and developed considerably, as have members of the F7, supporters of Lysaer, and the Koriathain. It is perception that Wurts is trying to flip on you. One of the main purposes of her writing is to get you to look at something in a new and unfamiliar way. This is not always an easy thing.

    It is for this reason that I recommend to new Wurts readers to start with the one-shot novel To Ride Hell's Chasm. You get a good feel for Wurts' style, and for her ability with characters. You can't read that book and not love the characters, and it is such a great thrill ride from the mid point to the end. And you are aware that Wurts is demanding of you to look at things from different perspectives. Who is the real villain? Who is the real hero? Who is a bit of both? Also, it is one book, so Connavar should like it.
     
  17.  
    Boaz

    Boaz Thaphireth!

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    Tongue in cheek? That's kind of you to say. It may be more accurate to say that I mix broad generalizations with lies (sometimes white and sometimes outright) to make my points. Your earnest and passionate advocacy has determined me to place Ships of Merior on my short list.
     
  18.  
    Ross

    Ross Born For The Greater Good

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    He got you too then? All these lovers of Janny have persuaded me to read her work. I have to say I'm very, very grateful.
     
  19.  
    Pedro Del Mar

    Pedro Del Mar I am content

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    I'm considering reading these but need a bit of advice before taking the plunge....

    I enjoy reading the following authors - George R. R. Martin, Tad Williams, Joe Abercrombie - and I enjoy epic fantasy. However, I like it to be written for adults not teenagers. By this statement I mean that I like the books to include realism, be quite gritty, have swearing, sex scenes, etc as I'm now a bit bored with "young ostracised boy becomes king" type scenarios. I also enjoy horror fiction - Stephen King, James Herbert, Clive Barker.
    I'm currently going through Abercrombie's "The First Law" series and have Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy waiting on the book shelf which I believe is a good read. I've also asked the wife for Erikson's "Malazan" series for my birthday as this has been recommended recently.
    So my question is.......... Is the Light and Shadow series written in a manner you think I would enjoy?
    Any advice appreciated :)
     
  20.  
    Clansman

    Clansman Lochaber Axeman, QC

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    WoLaS is a story that is adult, no question. It deals with heavy moral issues, and very human ones, and also with the notion that war does not solve any problems (as you will see if you study human history, or read this series). There are some sex scenes, but they are quite few and far between, and they only exist if they advance the story in this series. Some authors are a bit gratuitous with sex, after all.

    No Dark Lords, no farmboys finding magic swords, no deux et machina.

    I am a big fan of Martin, of Erikson (once I got three books in), and of Tad Williams. WoLaS easily belongs in the adult epic fantasy category with these authors. This being said, you won't know if you like it until you try it. The style is very dense, and this is on purpose, as Wurts is trying to slow you down as a reader and make you look at things differently (she has said so several times in interviews). Be prepared to alter your preconceived perceptions and notions, or you will be doing battle with these books. Open your mind, and you will really, really enjoy them.
     
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