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Why I'm Disappointed in the Last Chronicles
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wayfriend wrote:
burgs wrote:
To your list, I'd also add that there's nothing remotely like Lord Mhoram's Victory (yet), and there were two scenes that *could* have had the same or at least similar impact.

Not to argue with this, but just using it as a launching point to add more to what I was saying...

Lord Mhoram's Victory (the chapter) could only have been successful because of Mhoram's characterization up until that point. We needed to know what defending the Land meant to him. We needed to have shared his tears in the Close as he shared his 'secret'. We needed to know how much he invested in Covenant. There would not be any impact if we didn't know what went on in Mhoram's heart as he slew Satansfist.


You're absolutely right. So the two scenes I mentioned

Spoiler:
Linden and Roger/Croyel, Linden and EVERYone


would never have measured up because even though we have, now, 5 books on Linden, we have relatively little (comparatively) that demonstrates her passion or drive. In some ways, she's a more complex character than Mhoram, but Mhoram had the fate of the entire Land on his shoulders, whereas I think that Linden is more focused.

Quote:
He has my son.


Honestly, if she says that one more time....

I'm not a parent, but I've certainly loved people, so can empathize with Linden's despair. But still, it's not enough. And while Esmer is a fascinating character, I don't *feel* for him like I did characters from the 1st Chrons.

You (or someone) made the Mordant's Need comparison. In two books, I was more invested in Geraden and...oh...dang it...the Imager who tried to rape Terisa. And any number of characters from that series. They all seemed more alive.

Donaldson has a habit of starting slowly. Maybe it's the editing that we're missing. Lester DelRey anyone? Twisted Evil

It took two books to bring Spoiler:
Thomas Covenant back. Now we have two more books with him. Maybe Covenant's presence is all that's missing, and when he - if he is back in the flesh - interacts with Esmer, or Kastennesen (sp?), some of the old magic will return. Much of what was successful in the first two trilogies was successful because it mirrored Covenant in one way or another.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 9:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well.. I'll chime in..
I am not, nor will I ever be disappointed with the last Chronicles.

For twenty years, all we had was the last line of WGW. The door was closed and we were left with memories and in many cases a longing for a return.

To take a section from a earlier Wayfriends post and paraphrase it.

His readers question caught him wandering. "Are you a storyteller, Steven Donnelson?"

Absently, he replied, "I was, once."


For twenty years I have waited for Donnelson to become the Land's storyteller again.

I am content and await the next book in this series.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 10:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm content too - VERY.

But you can be content and still note the differences. And be disappointed.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Once again, a great post Wayfriend. And I tell you what, this is brilliant:

Wayfriend wrote:
I think that things such as plot holes or plot contrivances or dislikable characters are not the central issue. Those are side effects of the central issue. Things that we notice because our attention is not consumed with what should be central stage. Like an audience that notices that the music is off-key and the curtains are tattered because the star of the show is hasn't gone on stage to occupy their attention.


What a fantastic analogy!

That said, here's my quick 2c: I agree with what you're saying about the first and second chronicles and the differences you point out between those and the Last Chronicles. But I don't necessarily see it as a bad thing. I think that there is purpose to being so...um...insular in the last chronicles. I think, although I can't be sure, that you're meant to feel these lack of interactions. I think SRD's trying to drive you so far into Linden's head that when she does eventually break/fall/whatever you're going to feel it in a way that is going to profoundly affect you.

I could be wrong; and maybe, just maybe, there was a way of writing it so that people wouldn't have noticed the "tattered curtains" (damn I love that analogy I quoted above!!!!!!)....because there are quite a few people here who have. I, myself, was so caught up in Linden then I don't share the "gripes" other people have.

I love Fatal Revenant and so I might not exactly agree what you've said, but your post is very though provoking. Smile
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It certainly makes one wonder. SRD is an extremely talented, and very creative writer. It's difficult to imagine that those tattered curtains are all that's left to see. Perhaps, as Seareach hinted, those curtains are really an illusion, to be lifted in Against All Things Ending.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 1:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
And while Esmer is a fascinating character, I don't *feel* for him like I did characters from the 1st Chrons.


That is my main complaint: not the plot, since that is still unfinished, but the characterizations. Strangely, SRD did a good job of sketching out the minor real world characters in the Prologue, but once in the Land his people are all shadows. The only one I've felt come fully alive was the Mahdoubt, just in time for her to die. Anele is just annoying, the Harrow still too much a cypher, and Esmer still feels like a plot device not a person. Liand and Stave have become a bit more three dimensional in FR, and Martiir may too (ditto, the Giants whom we just met), but so far we have no one like the people we learned care about and suffer with in the 1st Chrons. The 2nd Chron characters (IMO) were a bit weaker than the 1st, but still more lively than this bunch. Even Foul and the Ravers have been a bit dull, and Roger is entirely too much the one dimensional villain when he really needs to be fleshed out a lot more than he has been.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 2:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

burgs wrote:
Perhaps, as Seareach hinted, those curtains are really an illusion, to be lifted in Against All Things Ending.


I just want to be clear, it's a theory/thought of mine based on absolutely nothing in particular except my observations and interpretation of ROTE and FR. Sorry Burgs, I'm just uncomfortable with how some may translate the word "hinted"...maybe I'm being paranoid but in case I'm not....
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 6:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wayfriend wrote:
I am refining my feelings of the Final Chronicles. I think I understand better and better as time goes on what it is that they lack. (And it would be folly to assume that I won't understand more tomorrow than today.)

So, today, what I think about is the way Donaldson now writes, and how that contributes to the feeling I have that there is a lack. The two have to be connected, it seems obvious to say. But I'm only now starting to see how the two are connected.

I think that things such as plot holes or plot contrivances or dislikable characters are not the central issue. Those are side effects of the central issue. Things that we notice because our attention is not consumed with what should be central stage. Like an audience that notices that the music is off-key and the curtains are tattered because the star of the show is hasn't gone on stage to occupy their attention.

So now, I have to say what I think is missing, don't I? Well, that's harder to do, because I lack the language, really, to do it. But, okay, I'll try.

What is missing is the way Donaldson used to develop his characters by having them relate to each other in poignant ways.

See? Now I have to explain that.

Dramatic events, in the Chronicles, are dramatic because of who the people are that are involved. So characterization was the key to everything.

And Donaldson used to characterize so well, in the first two Chronicles. When he went on to write Mordant's Need, people would say that the best part of the story was his characters.

He never tried to drive us directly into their heads. He never assumed that actions alone made a character. What he did was he had them interact with each other in very interesting ways. In ways that brought out each character's utter essence.

Quote:
Foamfollower's question caught him wandering. "Are you a storyteller, Thomas Covenant?"

Absently, he replied, "I was, once."

"And you gave it up? Ah, that is as sad a tale in three words as any you might have told me. But a life without a tale is like a sea without salt. How do you live?"

Covenant folded his arms across the gunwales and rested his chin on them. As the boat moved, Andelain opened constantly in front of him like a bud; but he ignored it, concentrated instead on the plaint of water past the prow. Unconsciously, he clenched his fist over his ring. "I live."

"Another?" Foamfollower returned. "In two words, a story sadder than the first. Say no more-with one word you will make me weep."


I've run out of words. I'm not an author. All I can do now is point to different parts of the First and Second Chronicles, and say, "Like this", and "like that". Like Hile Troy getting in Covenants face in the hallways of Revelstone, and Covenant giving back a piece of his mind, and then Trell trying to kill Covenant, and then Troy trying to understand it. Like Covenant storming into Mhoram's room and demanding that Mhoram make sense of everything. Like Covenant sniping at Foamfollower as he grieves in the caamora, and Foamfollower somehow loving Covenant instead of hating him for it.

There's nothing like that in the Final Chronicles. Characters don't seem to have any character-defining interactions with each other. As of the Gap, Donaldson doesn't seem to be able to write those kinds of scenes any more. Characters just are, and we are left to judge them by what they do instead of who they are.

"Dissapointment" is circumscribed by what you loved; you can't miss it if you never cared for it, and you can't be disappointed if you don't miss something you were expecting to see. So I can certainly see how readers who are in it for the action might be less disappointed than those readers who are in it for the passion.



Wayfriend wrote:
burgs wrote:
To your list, I'd also add that there's nothing remotely like Lord Mhoram's Victory (yet), and there were two scenes that *could* have had the same or at least similar impact.

Not to argue with this, but just using it as a launching point to add more to what I was saying...

Lord Mhoram's Victory (the chapter) could only have been successful because of Mhoram's characterization up until that point. We needed to know what defending the Land meant to him. We needed to have shared his tears in the Close as he shared his 'secret'. We needed to know how much he invested in Covenant. There would not be any impact if we didn't know what went on in Mhoram's heart as he slew Satansfist.

And the reason we had any of those things is because we watched him suffer helplessly as Revelwood was burned. We were with him when he mistakenly held the other Lords at arms length, rather than embracing them. We watched him as he let Covenant go, and then reminded all the Defenders of Revelstone that they owed the Land only their best, but nothing more, lest it give wayt to dispair. Those POV chapters, oft-discussed in the context of the Land's reallity, were critical to the buildup of that chapter.

There's nothing like that in the Final Chronicles. For example, when Liand learned how to use orcrest.... I didn't really care. Liand is merely (yet) a guy following Linden around. I mean, I know what he is supposed to represent. But I have no empathy for him, really, and so his achievements are dry reading. Liand has not had any character-defining moments so far.



The above two posts,and a few others from last year on ROTE,by another poster put into words well,some of the things I feel are wrong with the
Last Chronicles.Well said.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 6:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

burgs wrote:
I'm content too - VERY.

But you can be content and still note the differences. And be disappointed.


That sounded rather wafflish of me. Hmm.

I still think it's possible. Smile I'm happier with the Last Chrons than without them.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 2:34 pm    Post subject: Why I'm Disappointed in the Last Chronicles Reply with quote

Wayfriend wrote:


What is missing is the way Donaldson used to develop his characters by having them relate to each other in poignant ways.

Dramatic events, in the Chronicles, are dramatic because of who the people are that are involved. So characterization was the key to everything.

He never tried to drive us directly into their heads. He never assumed that actions alone made a character. What he did was he had them interact with each other in very interesting ways. In ways that brought out each character's utter essence.

Quote:
Foamfollower's question caught him wandering. "Are you a storyteller, Thomas Covenant?"

Absently, he replied, "I was, once."

"And you gave it up? Ah, that is as sad a tale in three words as any you might have told me. But a life without a tale is like a sea without salt. How do you live?"

Covenant folded his arms across the gunwales and rested his chin on them. As the boat moved, Andelain opened constantly in front of him like a bud; but he ignored it, concentrated instead on the plaint of water past the prow. Unconsciously, he clenched his fist over his ring. "I live."

"Another?" Foamfollower returned. "In two words, a story sadder than the first. Say no more-with one word you will make me weep."


I've run out of words. I'm not an author. All I can do now is point to different parts of the First and Second Chronicles, and say, "Like this", and "like that". Like Hile Troy getting in Covenants face in the hallways of Revelstone, and Covenant giving back a piece of his mind, and then Trell trying to kill Covenant, and then Troy trying to understand it. Like Covenant storming into Mhoram's room and demanding that Mhoram make sense of everything. Like Covenant sniping at Foamfollower as he grieves in the caamora, and Foamfollower somehow loving Covenant instead of hating him for it.

There's nothing like that in the Final Chronicles. Characters don't seem to have any character-defining interactions with each other. As of the Gap, Donaldson doesn't seem to be able to write those kinds of scenes any more. Characters just are, and we are left to judge them by what they do instead of who they are.

"Disapointment" is circumscribed by what you loved; you can't miss it if you never cared for it, and you can't be disappointed if you don't miss something you were expecting to see. So I can certainly see how readers who are in it for the action might be less disappointed than those readers who are in it for the passion.


beautifully illustrated point Wayfriend; you've zeroed in on a hard-to-define shortcoming of the final chrons; as someone else pointed out in another post in another thread; the characters have been reduced to chess-pieces, the humanity, dignity and tragedy of characters like Triock, Elena, Atiarin etc is sorely lacking.
This is in part due to the plot itself; the people of the Land have been made ignorant as to what is important and vital to their environment due to the influence of the Masters.. yet that's only part of the problem ..

the character interactions you've sited explicitly define a big part of what made the first 2 chrons so amazing - I can't think of many, if any, scenes from either ROTE or FR which I could point to that give off the same emotional resonance.

Interesting that all of the scenes you specifically invoked featured Thomas Covenant; Linden Avery just doesn't have the same provocative interactions with the Land's people that TC had .. and the people of the Land themselves don't have the same conflicted responses to Linden that they did with Linden; they're either with her %100 or determined to undo her - counter that with some of the relationships TC had in the Land : Atiaran and Triock both had reason to detest TC, yet witheld their enmity and declined to judge him absolutely ... Baradakas, Prothall and others had reason to doubt TC, yet chose to place faith and hope in him.. The Bloodguard, who were seemingly bodyguards/servants to the Lords, chose to regard TC with a level of distrust .. Linden is either served or opposed absolutely .. perhaps the Esmer and Humbled are the only exception to this point ..

it saddens me to recall the scenes you've sited and to acknowledge that there have been no truly jaw-droppingly amazing moments in the final chrons to rival them ..
Troy and TC arguing the merits of Unbelief was amazing stuff.
TC beseeching an empathatic Mhoram for guidance and understanding was amazing stuff.
Foamfollwer poking gentle fun at TC's morbidity was amazing stuff.

Perhaps it comes back to the question of Unbelief; someone in another thread pointed out that the removal of any question of the Land's reality has deprived the story of a lot of it's tension .. Linden's plight is all about problem-solving and nought about the philosophical ramifications of partaking in the adventure in the first place ..
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 2:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Why I'm Disappointed in the Last Chronicles Reply with quote

SleeplessOne wrote:
Interesting that all of the scenes you specifically invoked featured Thomas Covenant; Linden Avery just doesn't have the same provocative interactions with the Land's people that TC had ..

Well, I wasn't trying to be exhaustive. And I have to say, there were a lot of such moments involving Linden in the second chronicles.

... Linden standing on Covenant's porch and trying to figure out what he's got that she needs. (five stars, that one)
... the damage Linden did to Covenant and herself at Crystal Stonedown.
... Linden and the Raver in the cell of Revelstone.
... Linden trying to comprehend Hamako's sacrifice
... Linden vs the doubt of the Haruchai
... Linden and Pitchwife; Linden and Seadreamer; Linden and Kevin

(Still, not attempting to be exhaustive.)

Even Linden, in the Final Chroncles, is getting short shrift.

--------

After ROTE, we claimed this would all be fixed in FR. Now we're already seeing people claiming it will all be fixed in AATE. I don't think it will be fixed. I think it is the way this one is written.

Others claimed that this was a temporary device to make Covenant's appearance, when it happened, seem more profound. I think that, after half the series has been consumed, it's not temporary any more.

If the series continues to shy away from Covenant's POV, which I see every indication of being the case, then I'm not expecting Covenant's character to subsequently be flushed out any more than anyone elses.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hold faith.

I have felt moved by a lot of moments in the Last Chronicles - By the Ramen and Stave - by the plight of the Ur-Viles and Demondim - and have felt familiarity in the darkness that encompasses LA, and her inability to adequately express gratitude to her friends.

Unfortunatelty the Land is not inhabited by the Lords, Stonedownors and Woodhelvinnin of old, whom I loved. The Masters have prevented the inhabitants of the land from being Lore-wise, from knowing the history of the Land, thus their relationship with LA or TC is comprtomised, where in the first chrons TC was immediately regarded as a hero.

It's obviosly a damn hard story to write, and for all its faults I've loved it so far. It may not be what I'd want to happen, or written from the perspecive of my favorite character (but how could it, considering he has been dead for millenia), but it's the only way the 3rd Chrons could have started.. And only one man seems to know where it's going.

But all I wanted to say was that for me there has been the character interaction that has moved me.. I know it's often precluded by the cloud of Linden's selfishness and her constant focus on only one aim, but it's there. And I can only imagine how that's going to to continue with the challenges that face tha Ramen, the confrontation that await the Masters, the conflicts that Esmer will have to deal with and the efforts the Waynhim and ur-viles will attempt to serve Linden / achieve their redemption.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with all Wayfriend has said. But I would add that the problem here for me is the failure of the PoV character to engage the reader or to interact with the other characters in order to create those moments we are missing.

And that's perhaps because Linden herself doesn't really appear to care about these characters. They're first and foremost a means to an end - the recovery of her son. In that sense the plot undermines the characterisation.

Having said which it's still a good read for fans. And a repetition of past glories would be pointless. SRD is trying to do something different. He's not doing the greatest job at the moment but it's still better than recycling past story dynamics.

For me the fundamental problem is still the pacing. Too much is happening in each chapter. It makes the plot creak and threaten to fall apart, and it drowns out any hope of good characterisation.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is the plot
from the beginning of Runes and all the way up to the end of Fatal Revenant
which has practically demanded that Linden be the POV character, and that she have very limited interaction with all the other characters.

The upside is that this necessity ended with the end of Fatal Revenant.

That is very good reason to think that more POV's and real character interaction are about to happen. Twirl Dance

Donaldson has been upfront in saying that series would be very difficult to pull off. It is easy to suppose that he was talking about the nature of the plot in Runes & Revenant, which has placed these rather drastic limitations on the storytelling.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

native wrote:
And that's perhaps because Linden herself doesn't really appear to care about these characters. They're first and foremost a means to an end - the recovery of her son. In that sense the plot undermines the characterisation.

Well, I'm firming up in my opinion that it is the other way -- the lack of characterization and character interactions leave the reader feeling like Linden doesn't care about anyone else, and is merely using them.

For example, the author went to some lengths to make sure Linden and Liand had a frank discussion before she let Liand join her. She felt contrite when she "used" Anele in the Close. Etc. etc. So, the words say that she cares, but it feels like lip service and cosmetic touches when she does, because we, as readers, don't really feel the connections.

Insanity, it's not a matter of POV. Covenant was the single POV character for 80% of the first chronicles. But the in depth characterization was there, the revealing interactions were there. There's no reason to believe that Linden being the sole POV character is the reason for this --- or that the situation will change if we have another POV character.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wayfriend wrote:
native wrote:
And that's perhaps because Linden herself doesn't really appear to care about these characters. They're first and foremost a means to an end - the recovery of her son. In that sense the plot undermines the characterisation.

Well, I'm firming up in my opinion that it is the other way -- the lack of characterization and character interactions leave the reader feeling like Linden doesn't care about anyone else, and is merely using them.

For example, the author went to some lengths to make sure Linden and Liand had a frank discussion before she let Liand join her. She felt contrite when she "used" Anele in the Close. Etc. etc. So, the words say that she cares, but it feels like lip service and cosmetic touches when she does, because we, as readers, don't really feel the connections.


Might it be that the author is trying to reflect just that self-delusion - that Linden doesn't care but fools herself that she does? Or is that too charitable?
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You might be right native. I'm finding that when it comes to this topic, my thinking is a bit capricious.

Insanity Falls wrote:
Donaldson has been upfront in saying that series would be very difficult to pull off. It is easy to suppose that he was talking about the nature of the plot in Runes & Revenant, which has placed these rather drastic limitations on the storytelling.


The "world" that Donaldson has given us in the Last Chrons could not give us a Mhoram, a Triock, a Trell, or even a Lena. In the Second Chrons, characters like those were possible because the Sunbane directly reflected - negatively - the Land's vivid health in the First Chrons. In the Last Chrons, the Masters have done everything they can to divest people of lore, and of any knowledge or memories that the place they inhabit is remarkable beyond their imaginings. And my god - isn't it? In a very real sense, people who live in the Land, in these Last Chrons have become infected with leprosy. They can't feel.

As a writer, if I were given the choice to write the first, second, or last chrons (just based on what we have so far on the Last Chrons), I'd pick the first. It's a much more fertile environment for a storyteller. At the very least, it certainly is an easier place to start telling a story. That said, an argument could be made that the restrictions placed on the Land in the Second Chrons made a more fertile ground for an exceptional writer...but that's open to debate and depends on interpretation.

Think of it this way. Painter A has a palette with 25 different colors, and a full stock of brushes. Painter B has a palette with 2 colors, and only a putty scraper as a tool.

Painter B is already at a huge disadvantage.

That might be the corner that Donaldson has "painted" himself into in these Last Chrons.

People who don't "know" SRD as we do (as best we can, that is, through his website), think that he's doing this for the money. If he was doing this for the money, wouldn't he be telling a story less difficult to latch onto?

We only have the Covenant series to judge from, but it seems to me that SRD only writes sequels if they follow logically from what has gone before.

Maybe he's bitten off more than he can chew. Who knows? We've seen half of the series, and
Spoiler:
Thomas Covenant
will be around for the second half.

Surely that will make a difference.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

native wrote:
Might it be that the author is trying to reflect just that self-delusion - that Linden doesn't care but fools herself that she does? Or is that too charitable?

Intention can be addressed by asking the question: if that was the intention, would what we have be the result?
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wayfriend wrote:
native wrote:
Might it be that the author is trying to reflect just that self-delusion - that Linden doesn't care but fools herself that she does? Or is that too charitable?

Intention can be addressed by asking the question: if that was the intention, would what we have be the result?


I suppose one answer is 'an enthralling discontinuity between the protagonist's actions and her thoughts.' And I think we do get that. It's just that she's not a strong enough character to hold up the book without (a) an engaging supporting cast and/or (b) a fluent and well paced plot. These are without doubt short-comings.

But I see these as weaknesses in a good read rather than the failures of a poor book. I don't want to overstate the case here.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
It's just that she's not a strong enough character to hold up the book without (a) an engaging supporting cast and/or (b) a fluent and well paced plot.


Add a C) to that: some sort of overwhelming opposition that forces her to question all her assumptions about herself and reality and grow as a person. In the Second Chronicles Covenant's Unbelief was a dead issue, but Linden had her own form of unbelief to deal with: she did not believe in evil, and she kept that unbelief as a shield around her all through TWL and into TOT. It cut her off from emotional conenctions with others just as Convevant's leprosy had isolated him, but with Linden it was self-imposed: by not accepting the possibility of evil she also closed herself off against love. The Sunbane and the Ravers finally forced her to face up to that failing and when she at last squarely confronted and admitted to her own capacity for evil she found herself able to love as well.
Now, where is all this in the Last Chronicles? I don't see anything that life-changing going on for anyone. Linden has learned to doubt herself and see herself as inadequete, yes, but she's still fundamentally who she was at the end of WGW.
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