Posts Tagged ‘once upon a time challenge’

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The group read is part of the Once Upon Challenge hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings. This week’s reading covers the prologue through chapter six.  Next week we’ll cover chapters seven through fifteen. To join the group and read other discussions, please visit Stainless Steel Droppings.  

A thousand years of ash has fallen. A thousand years of oppression has befallen a people. A thousand years of rule by a “divine” ruler has gone unchallenged. That span of uninterrupted years is about to come grinding to a halt as Kelsier, bold thief and one of the Mistborn, gathers to himself a group of talented rogues and fellow allomancers to pull off his biggest job yet: the toppling of Lord Ruler’s reign.” Stainless Steel Droppings

1.  This first hundred or so pages was packed!  What things are standing out for you in the story thus far?

I was pleasantly surprised by the author’s ability to pull me into the story in a span of several first pages – and no metals or magic involved! Sanderson strikes a good balance between dynamic dialogue and descriptions, moving the story forward at a good pace, although I stumbled a bit at the scenes that involved the use of allomancy (novel-specific magic). From the very beginning, I was intrigued by the epigraphs preceding each chapter. At first I was under the impression they belonged to one of the main characters, Kelsier, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, which makes it even more intriguing.

2. What are your thoughts on the magic system that Sanderson is unveiling in this novel?

The magic system is quite elaborate, and it took me some time to actually get the hang of it. It helps that there is a glossary available at the end of the book. I am burning tin to know who the Lord Ruler really is – at this point he appears to be some kind of anti-god; I also want to learn more about Steel Inquisitors and what kind of magic they are using.

3.  Kelsier and Vin have held most of the spotlight in these first 6 chapters.  As you compare/contrast the two characters, how do you feel about them? Likes? Dislikes?

These two complement each other nicely and work well together, however, I am growing weary of Kelsier’s constant smiling and Vin’s constant frowning; besides in my opinion more varied facial expressions could add some depth to these two characters. I am yet to be convinced about Kelsier’s motives to overthrow the Lord Ruler. Don’t take me wrong, Kelsier has a great appeal as a character, but in my view he is far less interesting than Vin, whose internal conflict holds a promise of dazzling character development. At this point in the book, she is torn between her almost visceral fear of betrayal and her desire to belong, trust others and find her rightful place within Kelsier’s crew. Beneath her timid exterior, I sense a great curiosity, strong will and determination, which I am sure will play a much bigger role later in the book.

4. Finally, how would you assess Sanderson’s storytelling abilities to this point?

This is my first book by Brandon Sanderson, and I have nothing to compare it to. But so far I’ve enjoyed both the story and the characters. To me it seems like more of a plot-driven novel with a great entertainment value. I like how Sanderson builds the book’s fantasy world, doling out details bit by bit, and I am enjoying the flight of his imagination. In a nutshell, so far so good. If you like fantasy, you won’t be disappointed with this magical action thriller.

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First edition cover of The Country of the Blin...

First edition cover of The Country of the Blind and Other Stories (1911) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells is another tale from the “Bedtime Stories” book that I’ve been reading for the Once Upon a Time challenge. The challenge is a great excuse for me to read more fantasy. I also began reading Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

Once upon a time there was a valley in the Andes that was cut off from the rest of the world by a powerful earthquake. Before the earthquake, however, the valley got inhabited by settlers fleeing the Spanish rule. It was a marvelous place abundant with everything a man needed to survive and prosper save for one grave flaw: all children born in the valley were afflicted with blindness. Gradually, generation after generation, people of the valley adapted to their condition and did it so perfectly that they lost the very concept of sight, while their other senses, such as touch and hearing, had become keener, more developed. They built a set of paths in the valley that served as guides, helping them orient themselves in the environment. Naturally, they developed their own model of the world in accordance with their perceptions and with no room for seeing.

And so they led their contented and peaceful existence in total isolation, until one day, through a falling accident, a man from the outer world stumbled into the valley. His name was Nunez, “an acute and enterprising man,” who was quick to recall that “in the country of the blind, a one-eyed man is king.” But his hosts, or captors, were of a different mind. “Four days passed and the fifth found the King of the Blind still incognito, as a clumsy and useless stranger among his subjects.” As a decisive man of vision, Nunez tried persuasion, so these people could grasp the full measure of their inferiority. However, because the concept of seeing was alien to them, they found his talk of the bigger world and particularly that of sight disturbing and wicked. When all the words failed, the resourceful and unyielding Nunez resorted to force. Yet, although blind, the people of the valley proved capable opponents, and Nunez’s attempt at coup d’état only put the self-proclaimed king in a position of servitude and inferiority. Resigned to his fate, Nunez began to learn the blind people’s way and tried to fit in. He even fell in love and was about to marry a woman. But that would come at a price – his ability to see and enjoy all the wonders that came with it.

Wells wrote two versions of the story: in the original version Nunez ran off into the mountains and died. The second version has a different ending, but I haven’t read it.

When reading the story, I marveled at Wells’s ability to bring to life the fictitious world of the blind through great detail and vivid imagery. It’s one of the stories that I can read and re-read and never get tired of it thanks to Wells’s exquisite use of language and his appealing style.

Herbert George “H.G.” Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games. Together with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, Wells has been referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction.” Some of his early novels, called “scientific romances”, invented a number of themes now classic in science fiction in such works as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon. — Information via Wikipedia

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Photo credit: amandabhslater

The Once Upon a Time Challenge that I recently signed up for includes, among other things, reading of a novel by Neil Gaiman Neverwhere, and I felt it would be appropriate to kick off my series of posts for the challenge with one of Gaiman’s short stories, Troll Bridge.

The story begins when a seven-year old boy walks onto an old bridge inhabited by a troll:

“He was huge: his head brushed the top of the brick arch. He was more or less translucent: I could see the bricks and trees behind him, dimmed but not lost. He was all my nightmares given flesh.”

Even though the troll seems translucent at first, as the boy’s fear of the troll grows stronger, so does the solidity of the creature:

“He became more and more solid to me, more and more real; and the world outside became flatter, began to fade.”

The troll wants to eat the boy’s life, but the boy manages to convince the troll that eating him at this time isn’t a good idea, and he promises to come back when he is grown and has more to offer.

The second chance encounter occurs when the narrator is 15 years old, but this time he is with a girl who he thinks he loves. The scene allows us a glimpse into the narrator’s self-centered interior: he doesn’t even blink to offer his friend to the troll to save his own life. But the creature refuses to take the girl, because she is innocent, and the boy is not. Again, using his power of persuasion and assurance that he’ll be back, the boy escapes unscathed, but his friendship with the girl ends abruptly, and he feels no regret.

The narrator never talks directly about how these encounters affected him, but I think that fear of the troll and everything he represented have become the narrator’s obsession and eventually left his life in a shambles, while unwise choices and lost opportunities added to that. The story ends with a twist that is not completely unexpected, but makes perfect sense thanks to the author’s masterful use of foreshadowing. After reading this story, I will certainly check out Gaiman’s other works.

Troll Bridge was first published in Gaiman’s short story collection Smoke and Mirrors.

“Neil Richard Gaiman is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. Gaiman’s writing has won numerous awards, including Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker, as well as the 2009 Newbery Medal and 2010 Carnegie Medal in Literature. He is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work.”   info from Wikipedia

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