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The Augur's Gambit Discussion CONTAINS SPOILERS

 
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2015 9:47 pm    Post subject: The Augur's Gambit Discussion CONTAINS SPOILERS Reply with quote

Hi everyone. A place for you to discuss The Augur's Gambit. No need for spoiler tags. Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 01, 2015 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just finished The Augur's Gambit. I read The King's Justice first as I thought I'd like it better, but it turns out that I preferred TAG. There are probably a number of reasons for this: it's longer, there is a richer history/backstory, the characters are more rounded, the central tension/mystery is more intense and the denouement is more dramatic.

Overall the story has the claustrophobia and intrigue of court/castle politics reminiscent of The Mirror of Her Dreams and some of the characterisation will feel familiar to long-time SRD readers. The writing flows smoothly (we even get some old favourite words like 'puissant') and the pacing is good. The story moves along steadily and finishes up in a satisfyingly dramatic way.

I've only a couple of quibbles, both related to threats/mysteries that were, maybe, intensified a bit too much, and when their sources were revealed didn't meet expectations (mine anyway). The 'doom' from the east turned out to be, basically, pirates (if associated with a greater expanding Empire). Anyone with a knowledge of seafaring would tell you that if your ships keep disappearing, send them out in twos and threes rather than separately. And 'chrism' seemed strangely mysterious for something that was at the very heart of the success of Indemnie. How the Queen (with powerfully gifted blood) and her Hieronomer could not know about it seemed very strange to me.

Those aside, I enjoyed the story very much and hope he has already finished the next one!

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to say as well that I liked this story better out of the two.

Mordant's Need comes to mind a little bit; but Daughter of Regals far more so, I feel.

Among things that you can complain about: I thought that there was very little auguring in the story; mostly it takes place before the story begins. It's hard not to contrast that to The Book of the Long Sun, in which the main character is also an augur. Mostly the thrust is about what doom he has seen, not about how he accomplished seeing it.

Donaldson tells us what this story is really about at the very end. I have to paraphrase, but it's something like: You know what it is you fear, and so you can master it; others don't know what it is that they fear, and so their fear masters them. I found this delightful because this notion connects this story to other stories in the Donaldson pantheon, including the Chronicles, while at the same time Donaldson has perhaps found the best (or at least the most succinct) way to deliver on this idea.

The character names are, again, rather "interesting". Especially the barons. They're rather blatantly descriptive in some cases.

I am not quite sure of the purpose of Excrucia, the Queen's daughter. She is, like the main character, of impure blood. Clearly "lineage" was an important part of the plot. I have to wonder if the final gambit required the both of them because in some way two half-bloods are equal to a pure-blood, or something like that. It requires some thought.

[Edit to add] I did not see the final resolution coming. It was 100% surprise. That was one of the best parts of the story.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
[Edit to add] I did not see the final resolution coming. It was 100% surprise. That was one of the best parts of the story.

Agreed! The ending was definitely satisfying. While we had been given some idea how chrism worked we hadn't seen it in action, and when we do it's downright dramatic Laughing

Excrucia's purpose in the story seems mainly to be to connect Mayhew to the world (why he's so disconnected, again seems strange to me) and to provide enough blood for the climactic scene.

The names of the characters are fairly overt alright: Inimica is unfriendly towards her Barons and Excrucia suffers intensely, especially at the end.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finished TAG yesterday. It took me some time, until the last third of the book when I had to keep reading. Yes, the ending was a big surprise.

I too was surprised at how little Mayhew knew about the land he lived in. I would have liked to know a little more about his background. How long had he been the Queen's augor for instance? Perhaps we were told that at the beginning, I can't remember now. How did he know so little about the Domicile except for the secret passages? I'll have to read it again now of course.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My impression is that Mayhew was simply too unimportant to have full access to the Domicile. And perhaps too servile to persue it. He knew of some of the passages - not all, as we have seen - because of the Queens commands.

I think his ignorance of chrism arises from essentially the same reason. It wasn't an aspect of augury, as he practiced it. And he wasn't important enough that someone in-the-know might have discussed it with him -- it's use wasn't general knowledge, due to (I surmise) it's rarity, and the degree it is coveted.

Mayhew is just an unassuming, humble sort.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think there were a number of factors contributing to Mayhew's ignorance about chrism. In order to maintain peaceful prosperity 'looking into the past' was quietly discouraged, and not really practised - remember what a revelation it was to Inimica when she found out that one of the barons (Panderman?) used to have his scribes read him stories from his library. Also, the alchemists were a pretty secretive folk. And as said above, Mayhew led an isolated life, away even from the daily comings and goings in the Domicile.

Intriguing how we get a glimpse into the history of the ancestors' land at the end of the story - just enough to pique one's interest.

Donaldson yet again uses a - by now rarely used - word for one of the central things in his story, this time chrism, it makes one wonder what meanings he wanted to "bleed through" into the story, or whether he just liked the sound of it?
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2015 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

amanibhavam wrote:
Donaldson yet again uses a - by now rarely used - word for one of the central things in his story, this time chrism, it makes one wonder what meanings he wanted to "bleed through" into the story, or whether he just liked the sound of it?

Donaldson's been fond enough of the word 'chrism' to use it one or two ... okay, 13 times in the Chronicles.

Quote:
With an effort, he screwed his gaze closer, and at last found himself staring from a distance of a few inches at a bare shin. In the sunlight, it gleamed as pure and pale as if it had been anointed with chrism. But already it showed a slight swelling. And in the center of the swelling were two small red marks like paired pinpricks.

the water looked black and viscid, like a Satanist's chrism

as if decades or centuries ago the soil had been anointed with a malign chrism which had left it barren.

she drank a few swallows of the musty vitrim and let its potency carry the Staff's warmth like chrism into the depths of her weariness.

in the distance, sudden showers streaked the air, falling like chrism to the reborn ground.

In those cases, Donaldson very consistently uses 'chrism' to refer to some sort of beneficent liquid of annointing.

Oddly, in TAG, 'chrism' seems to be some sort of powder rather than a liquid.

It's application in augury and alchemy suggests to me that this stuff is in some way "a blessing of the Earth". (Didn't they find it in the ground?) Whosever blessing it is, you need it to perform the magic.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Mayhew's name is also an allusion to how he - quite literally - cuts through the Gordian knot of the situation in the climax of events.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2015 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Augur's Gambit was exciting in an SRD way. It was more a typical SRD style than The King's Justice. The King's Justice was written in a more immediate present tense - as it happened and with less of the tone of a Mordants Need. I thought TAG was classic SRD but I liked the novelty of the king's justice for the different 'feel'.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2016 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finally finished TAG. Razz

Definitely had a similar feel to Mordant's Need.

Mayhew ~ Gerridan?

Excrucia ~ Terisa?

Any similarities? Not exact, but the thought came to mind as I was finishing. Razz

And Slew and Vail are dead-on Haruchai.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just finished this story last night, and I agree with others that this is the better of the two new novellas.

The baron's names, such as "Thrysus Indolent" (three times as lazy?) and "Glare Estobate", are rather entertaining!
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2016 5:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
By small increments, I squared my shoulders, straightened my spine. As well as I could, I faced Inimica Plegathon deVry.

"You know this, Your Majesty." My voice was a dry husk in my throat. "Throughout its history, Indemnie has relied upon alchemy. By the transformations of alchemy, we have become what we are. Without it, we cannot become more--a deed which we must accomplish, lest our dooms prove beyond our strength."

Such boldness threatened to unseat my reason. However, my Queen did not respond as I anticipated. Still quietly, though she was rife with wrath, she inquired, "Throughout its history, Hieronomer? I had not known you so learned. Where have you found time to immerse yourself in study? The state of your laborium suggests neglect for the tasks which I require of you."

To this query, I had no direct reply. I could not answer honestly without naming Excrucia, and I had already earned her more than enough of her mother's ire. Fear for her inspired me to a still greater boldness.

"Your Majesty, you digress. The how of my learning is without import. Only alchemy signifies. If we do not grasp its uses, we cannot turn it to our needs, and we will not long endure."

Again my Queen's response mocked my expectations. In a tone of ice and harsh winds, she demanded, "We, Hieronomer? I rule here. Our fate is mine to determine."

Her manner might have cause Thrysus Indolent himself to falter. In Excrucia's presence, I did not.

"We, indeed, Your Majesty. I am your servant. Your needs, and Indemnie's, are mine as well. My scrying serves no further purpose. My best efforts discern no future which I have not previously beheld. Yet my desire to be of service remains. For that reason, I have interested myself in alchemy."

"Enough, Mayhew," she commanded, speaking yet more softly. I saw what I took for a glitter of dampness in her eyes, and for a moment her lower lip appeared to quiver. Ere I could be certain that she had betrayed so much access to her heart, however, she tightened every aspect of herself. Now stone of eye and compressed of mouth, she repeated, "Enough."

While I gazed at her, and feared her, and sought to conceive some appeal that she might heed, she stepped close to me. Gripping my arm, she positively lowered her mouth to my ear. In the barest whisper--and yet distinctly, so that her words could not be mistaken--she breathed, "I have urged you to sacrifice a child for my sake. Do you name yourself my servant? Will you defy me in this?"

Standing as we were, I could not observe her mien. I could glance only at Excrucia's tense apprehension and Slew's cruel strength. For reasons of terror rather than of privacy, I was able to muster no more than a wisp of sound.

"I will. Take my head if you must. I will sacrifice my life for you, and for Indemnie, but I will not shed that of a child."

Briefly Inimica Phlegathon deVry appeared to slump. Holding me with one hand, she braced the other on my shoulder as though she lacked will to stand. However, her lapse was momentary. As self-command returned to her limbs, I strove to ready myself for death.

Still she did not release me. Her mouth remained at my ear. Soft and chill as the exhalation of a grave, she informed me, "Then I will demand more of you. Much more when the time requires it. Do you imagine that I have not consulted other hieronomers? Other augurs of every description? Catoptromancers, astrologists, interpreters of dreams? Do you suppose that I myself cannot scry?" The gift is the gift, and her blood was pure. "You have a gift which others do not, though your inheritance lacks purity. From this moment, you will undertake every effort and perform every deed that your service demands.

"Inform my daughter that my trust in her is absolute."

While I struggled to comprehend her, staggered as I was by the realization that I had been spared, she left me. Swiftly she departed the chamber, taking Slew with her.

Thereafter I gaped at the iron of my door until relief and dismay overcame me, and I measured my length upon the floor.


A tense situation, and it gave me absolutely no clue as to how Mayhew Gordian would resolve the threats facing his country. The climactic section of the story was a real stunner, and this story in general really kept me reading once I had passed its halfway point!
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2016 1:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kevinswatch wrote:
Finally finished TAG. Razz

Definitely had a similar feel to Mordant's Need.


There is indeed a similarity to Mordant's Need, now that I've had time to "reflect" upon it, in that the reigning monarch is feigning political madness (though not necessarily weakness) in order to flush out the traitors in the kingdom! Lord Foul in Disguise Lord Foul in Disguise

(More than that I should not say, as there may be readers of this thread that have never finished reading Mordant's Need, though they have finished The King's Justice. That seems improbable, but not impossible.)
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2016 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found much less to appreciate with this overwritten, boring story than the first tale. As others have noted, it's similar to "classic Donaldson" in tone and language, even resembling other stories of his in character and plot (MoHD and DoR). So what was it about this unremarkable tale that grabbed Donaldson's imagination? Nothing special that I can tell; it certainly didn't grab mine.

As Uss noted, I found it implausible that all the main characters were so ignorant of the vital role of alchemists and chrism. This could have been corrected, perhaps, if the main character had been an alchemist rather than an utterly unnecessary hieronomer (sp?), whose own talent was not only little used and largely irrelevant, but also redundant (the queen herself could see the same futures). Once again, it seems a case of Ignorance as Plot Device. People on the island were ignorant of the vital role of alchemists and chrism because the readers were ignorant of it, and SRD needed a scene where he informed us. Rather than making it flow out of the natural course of the story, we get an info-dump disguised as drama.

To say this story was overwritten might be unnecessary in a Donaldson forum, given his penchant for obscure words and epic tone (things we fans usually like), but this was a short story, not an epic. The writing just cluttered up the prose. Example: "Ornate sconces high in the walls supported ponderous lamps to augment the illumination." Yeah, we know what lamps are for; there's no need to tell us they're to 'augment the illumination.' Obviously, this phrase was tacked onto the end of that sentence to make it more ornate itself, not to relate any unknown information. The prose is packed with phrases like this, superfluous words/phrases that serve no other purpose than ornamentation.

Another example: "Thereafter I renewed my acquaintance with oblivion." In other words, even on the verge of unconsciousness, this Mayhew fellow's internal monologue uses about twice as many words as necessary to convey (to himself, ostensibly) that he has just passed out.

From the overwrought prose to the painfully unsubtle names, this story read like fan fiction of a tale for which there are no fans, something I'd expect from an amateur, not a master decades into his career.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I thought it was pretty weak. I'm getting tired of Donaldson maiming everybody,too. It lost it's impact a long time ago.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2018 5:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My least favourite of the two as well. Too MN, too fairy-tale, and I found the names jarring...what is it with SRD and these naming conventions? Laughing

Like Io, I struggled a bit until the last 3rd or so, and I also didn't like the whole "lost a hand" thing. Couldn't it have been done without them needing to lose hands?

Overall, meh.

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