“The Broken Eye” – What Middle Book Syndrome?

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It’s no secret reading is my favorite hobby. Day and night, shine or snow, it doesn’t matter. My preferred genre of books is fantasy, and to be specific epic fantasy. There’s nothing better than four to six thousand words focused in one world, with characters evolving every step of the way. It’s a glorious journey. There is, however, a drawback to this format. The middle books are almost always the worst of the bunch. The story drags or there’s no growth to the characters. The pacing may be off. Anything could go wrong. When you write such an ambitious story, over x amount of books, there will inevitably be garbage in the middle. It’s certainly not always the case, but there is a sample size. Personally I can think of The Wheel of Time, Mistborn, The Lord of the Rings, Thomas Covenant, the last few books of A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s all personal preference, but there is a stigma out there. I’m glad to inform Brent Weeks fans, this is not the case in his Lightbringer series. Weeks goes three for three as The Broken Eye may just be the best in the series yet.

The Blinding Knife left off with Kip as Zymun’s captive, Gavin now Gunner’s slave, Karris as Mrs. Guile, Liv still with the Color Prince, Andross more powerful than ever, and the after effects of the Battle at Ru on generally everyone. It was a cliff hanger that nearly destroyed me. We catch up with all of the characters except most notably Liv. She only has maybe three or four chapters in the whole book. I was actually fine with this, as I never thought her POV chapters were the most interesting. Scenes with her father were missed, though. We do get one great scene between the both of them, and it’s worth the wait.

Kip is where the majority of the story comes from, though there are about seven different characters who have POV chapters throughout the book. We really witness Kip coming of age. He gets in better shape, accumulates more confidence, and is slowly beginning to understand the responsibility he bears. He realizes how alone he is without Gavin, and at the same time that he isn’t truly alone. That didn’t make sense, but it kind of does. He doesn’t have Gavin to save him from the dangers abound, he is aware of that now, but there are people who care about him. He’s not truly alone, but he is responsible for his life and others. Kip, to my joy, becomes less of an annoying, self loathing  child. He’s no Thomas Covenant on the irritating hero scale, but he was close. He still pokes fun at himself but it is toned down.

Gavin’s role is significantly reduced in book three. Not as much as Liv of course, but we are used to seeing him all the time in the last two installments. And make no mistake, this is not the Gavin of old. As we know, his powers are vanished. Clearly due to the Blinding Knife. He is now just a mortal man. Superman without his powers. It’s the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen him and it’s hard to watch. The mighty has fallen, and oh how far he fell. Have to say though, he was my favorite character to read about in the book. I can’t wait to see his rise back to the top in book four, or if in fact he rises to the top at all.

The character who I would give the “Most Improved Award” if this were a sports league, would be Teia. I ate her chapters up, and there are many. She is a vital part of the story now as we find out how powerful paryl really is. Being able to draft paryl is like hitting the assassin jackpot. And that’s pretty much what Teia is turning into. Her story arc introduces us to one of the more intriguing characters in recent history, Murder Sharp. Yes, his first name is Murder. Weeks did a wonderful job with Teia and she’s just as big a character as Kip going forward.

Overall there weren’t many big battle scenes. Everything happened more on a personal level, save for a long escape scene near the end of the book. Certainly nothing like the Battle at Ru. There’s plenty of politics, though. It’s so much fun to see Kip and The Red go at it. Equally as beautiful are the conversations between Karris and The White.

If I had any complaints, it’s how at times it felt a bit repetitive. All of the Blackguard training specifically. But hey, when you write a book over six hundred pages it’s bound to slog from time to time. Other than that, The Broken Eye was near flawless. As usual, Mr. Weeks leaves us thirsting for more. Get excited for one of the best cliffhangers in recent years. We find out who is the real puppeteer (supposedly), discover a whole new side to a character, and finally, return to an all too familiar place. “Color” me excited for The Blood Mirror!

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LONCON 3 – Thursday

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This year was my first time attending the World Science Fiction Convention. Hell, it was the only time I’ve been to a convention. From August 14th to August 18th I was at the Excel Convention Centre in London, England. After all, this was my opportunity to meet all of my favorite authors. Joe Abercrombie? Check. George R.R. Martin? Check. Rothfuss? Hobb? Haldeman? Lynch? Check, check, check, check. I just so happened to be backpacking around Europe at that time anyways. Having already wandered aimlessly through Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam, the United Kingdom was my next stop.

The day before I was due to fly from Amsterdam to London I happened to come across Brandon Sanderson tweeting about books he was signing in Schiphol Airport. Joe Abercrombie also saw his tweet and asked him to sign his new book, Half a King. You can find Brandon talking about it on his blog. The next day I was sweating bullets, hoping those books would still be there. I NEEDED something for my authors to sign at the convention, plus how cool would it be to already have them signed by Brandon Sanderson?! The stars happened to align. I was by Gate F and there were two Words of Radiance books left. And one Half a King! I tweeted them a picture of the signed books, which lead to a well deserved retweet from the god that is Joe Abercrombie. As you can tell, I’m a bit obsessed.

I get to the hotel on Wednesday night. It’s a quaint place that is literally right next to Excel. Rise early the next morning, chug a cup of tea, throw on my Resident Evil Umbrella Corporation shirt and make my way over. All of the events and panels start at ten in the morning. I get in line to grab my registration around quarter past nine. It took no longer than twenty minutes, but man, later in the day that thing was HUGE. Also, found out that in Europe they call “lines”, “ques”. I’m a fan of their way. Because I signed up so late—literally the night before—they had to write in marker on my VIP Pass. All the other attendees had such professional looking ones, and here I am with “Mattyo” hand written on mine. Great start.

It was still early so I moseyed on over to the information desk. This is where you sign up for all the events for the next few days. You get in line and do a circle around the table, signing up for the event you want. You can only put your name on paper for one thing and then you have to circle (or square) around again. In all honestly, the line was never too crazy, which made it pretty tempting to just go around and around. I didn’t want to be too greedy so I signed up for “Tea with Joe Abercrombie” (Rothfuss and Lynch ones were already fully signed…). That was for the next day and consisted of you plus eight other people sitting around a table with the author talking “bollocks” for an hour. That’s the word Abercrombie used to describe it.

While in line I met a friendly fellow named Robert from Cardiff, which he was proud to inform me was the capital of Wales. Robert himself is an aspiring writer who shares a mutual love for Abercrombie, Lynch, and most of all Patrick Rothfuss. Together we decided to check out the panel, “Does the Future Need to Be Plausible?”. The panelists were no authors I’ve ever read, but the topic did interest me.

Robert and I settled for standing room only as all the chairs were taken. The moderator did a wonderful job of keeping the flow and getting all the authors involved. There was a point where they all started bashing one of my all time favorite “So Bad It’s Good” movies, The CoreAlso under fire were Die Hard 2 and Falling Skies. As they should be. I thought the best point was brought up by Mr. McDonald. He stressed that it depended on how you wrote your characters. It doesn’t matter how strange your devices of the future are, or if they hold up twenty years from now. If your characters are as comfortable with “insert strange new technology” as we are, say when using a toaster, then it won’t matter. The readers will be more accepting of it and it won’t even be an issue.

The last fifteen minutes were devoted to questions, but these things hardly ever do much good. Most of the time one person rambles on for what seems like an eternity and doesn’t even ask a question at the end. It’s more of a comment, or their perspective on something. I was starving so off to the food court I went. As I sat eating my bacon and cheese croissant (and their bacon is not the bacon us Americans are used to), I decided to attend the opening ceremony at noon. It’s in the auditorium so I wouldn’t have to bum rush a room to get a seat. Side note, it was at this point I was able to take out money from an ATM! Let’s just say prior to this I was having some trouble getting money out. A topic for another day.

The opening ceremony was cute. They did a skit that involved the crowd being students at Hogwarts. I wasn’t expecting the amount of props that were used on stage. It was reminiscent of a “Whose Line Is It Anyways” game. They introduced all of the Guests of Honor, none of which I cared much for other than Robin Hobb. One of my favorite segments involved them showing the design of the Hugo award for this year, and how it has changed throughout the years. Really cool stuff. Still I decided to leave early. Didn’t want to get a bad spot in line for the Pat Rothfuss book signing.

Leaving early paid off, as I reserved a spot in the front of the line. Had the chance of meeting a very nice girl by the name of Eleanor. She is from the glorious lands of northern England (I have no idea what that looks like) and had the most beat up copy of The Name of the Wind that I have ever seen. She told a cool story of when she went to a Phillip Pullman book signing. Apparently Neiil Gaiman was there as a moderator or something of the sort. Unfortunately Pullman had to cancel, turning the event into a Neil Gaiman signing. Most of the books though were by Pullman. So it was a bunch of people getting those books signed by Neil Gaiman. This is relevant because I was getting Rothfuss to sign my copy of Half a King—that was already signed by Brandon Sanderson.

Right as I’m next in line, none other than Joe Abercrombie walks up next to Rothfuss at his signing table. As they are chatting I scoot up and slowly slide them my copy of Half a King. They both look at me with looks I’ll never forget and Rothfuss suddenly bursts into uncontrollable laughter. Even more so when he finds out that Sanderson has already signed it. Abercrombie admits he’s happy that I at least bought the book, no matter who I get it signed by. Really cool moment. Afterwards, Eleanor gets Patrick and Joe to sign her notepad that she looks at when she’s going through tough times. Patrick writes “love what you do”, while Joe puts down “The price of success is enemies”. I think that’s a good summary of both their writings. Definitely a highlight of the trip.

Off to grub again. I know, I know. Standing in the que really does make you hungry though. Two sausage rolls and a bacon cheese bite later, I head down to the George R.R. Martin and Connie Willis panel, “A Conversation with George R.R. Martin, Connie Willis, and Paul Cornell”. You could tell that the both of them were really good friends. Connie is a vibrant speaker and had so many good barbs at Martin. There really is nothing like two great writers talking shop, and reminiscing in general. Actually scratch that. There’s nothing better than two old friends shooting the shit. That’s what it came down to. Willis started talking about how she hates when you know the main characters won’t die. She talked about a popular television show from back in the day that I’m totally blanking on. The shows two protagonists were always untouchable, although anyone who was associated with them were as good as dead. She remarked how in one episode, the new bride of one of the characters was killed, right when they walked out of the church! To which Martin dryly replied, “I usually kill my characters in the church”. Safe to say that got laughter and a round of applause. Martin was asked what questions he hates. While he said he doesn’t hate any question, he is tired of the same questions over and over again. Especially from interviewers that think their question is one he’s never heard before (cough Who is your favorite character cough). He gave a shout out to Stephen Donaldson, whom he is good friends with. If you didn’t know, I’m a pretty big fan of the guy. Back when Donaldson put out The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant they were a huge success. Probably the best selling fantasy books up to date. And Donaldson thought, “Okay, I have a lot of Donaldson fans out there”. Then later he wrote the Mordants Need duology and it didn’t sell nearly as well. It was then he found out that there weren’t as many Donaldson fans as he thought as there were Thomas Covenant fans. Martin wonders if this will happen to him once he’s finished with ASOIAF. It was a great conversation between the two and it’ll stick with me forever.

The last panel I attended was “Ideology versus Politics in Science Fiction”. It included authors:

Probably one of the worst panels I attended. Only because the moderator didn’t show. It really does make a difference having a competent moderator, or one at all. The conversation lagged a ton and there were too many awkward silences for my taste. Probably should have checked out another panel. I’d never seen Kim Stanley Robinson so I wanted to at least hear him. Fortunately they kicked out all of us that didn’t get a seat as to us being a fire hazard. I was more than happy to leave, but at this point I was exhausted. Felt like it was a good first day and that I’d go home and read some The Way of Kings. That was Day One of Loncon 3. Next I’ll write about my eventful Friday, including tea with Joe Abercrombie!