I finished reading The Girl with All the Gifts on Monday after picking it up on Sunday! It was intense and gripping and I certainly had no idea what I was in for when I picked it up. I’ll start off by saying that throughout the story the central character, Melanie, loves Greek mythology. She is particularly drawn to the story of Pandora and her box which is very fitting because reading this book was in a small way like opening Pandora’s box. I had no idea what to expect going in and in fact went into this with totally the wrong expectations. (I was thinking the girl with all the gifts must have some sort of super powers for example). To be honest, for the first few pages, as I started to realise what was going on, I had visions of putting the book down, seriously I did! Not because it was badly written but more because I wasn’t sure that I was really in the mood. I read a couple more pages, then a couple more. The next thing I knew the Sunday dinner was burnt and I was half way through the book.
So, basically, I’m not going to give a long account of plot. It would be very easy to give away the story and its much better to have the revelations without any prior knowledge. The story is a post apocalyptic style book and there are hungries (zombies) – but, in case you’re now groaning don’t be misled. Whilst there might be a few familiar ideas playing out here the story is an interesting and compelling read that feels like a fresh visit on this idea. It takes a strong look at humanity and the different depths that people will go to in order to survive not to mention the way that everyone has their own justification for what they think is ‘best’ in any given situation.
The start of the book opens on an army base. The majority of the UK’s population seems to have been wiped out and the remaining few survivors are trying to stay alive whilst attempting to find a cure. Amongst others on the base is Dr Caldwell – an ambitious scientist with ideas of saving the world and being recognised as the saving grace of humanity. A teacher called Miss Justineau and her pupils – including Melanie. Melanie and her fellow classmates never go outside. They spend all their time either in the classroom or in their own cells. Each day follows a pattern that only changes in the type of information they are fed.
On the outside of the base are the hungries. Also, there are the junkers – they’re also survivors – but, they’ve turned a little bit nasty. They’re desperate for food and other goods and quite frankly are not afraid to use force to take it.
I haven’t read this author before and found his writing style very easy to read. He managed to make me feel something for all of the characters - even if it was extreme dislike! The setting was easy to imagine. The zombies were scary – think fast moving and relentless, brutal, bloodthirsty and grotesque – your basic zombie nightmare really. There were a number of twists and shocks along the way and the ending was unexpected.
I can’t say too much more about this without turning into that person, the one who likes to blurt out the ending of a film or the name of the murderer before you’re been to see the film or picked up the book! What I can say is that this was surprising in a good way. The author effectively combines horror, sci fi and dystopia. He provides enough information to give you a basis for what’s occurred but without inundating you with terminology and the need to rush to the dictionary.
Basically, this a damn good read. It takes the idea of Pandora – who was the original girl with all the gifts – and gives it a different twist. The ending reminded me of one of my favourite books – but, unfortunately I can’t tell you because it would give the ending away! Also, it reads like a self contained novel which is quite unusual – that being said, I would definitely pick up more about this world from this author if he chose to continue and I will undoubtedly check out some of his other works having now read this.
My recommendation is to read this – but, if you’re cooking dinner make something that doesn’t require attention, otherwise, once you pick this up, you’ll be eating burnt offerings.
Okay, this is the final week for our readalong and I have to say it’s all been very enjoyable. This week’s host is On Starships and Dragonwings so stop on over and check out the links.
Without further ado lets get to the final Q&A and as usual be careful of ’spoilers’ lurking with intent below:
1. Syl’s true nature as an honorspren has been revealed! She once again asks the interesting question: are spren attracted to their element or do they create that element? What do you think? Do you think there are more honorspren or is Syl unique?
I think the nature of Syl is just perfect for her! I think that the spren are attracted to their element, mainly because I think Kaladin was always that way inclined long before he went into battle. Also, if the spren were responsible for creating their element then why would they ever stop? If you’re a fire spren then you’d just create fires all over, and the same with the others such as wind, pain, etc. Plus, during battle for example, the rotspren appear after an injury is sustained. Oh, I don’t know, it is a chicken and egg question to be sure.
2. The Parshendi had a whole host of reactions to Kaladin’s power, mostly including fear and awe, though they also seemed to recognize him or his power. Why do you think that is? How do you think the Parshendi hiring Szeth plays into it?
I thought their reactions were very interesting. They didn’t just become overwhelmed, they adapted, removing their gems to try and prevent Kaladin from draining the energy. It does make you wonder if they’ve seen the like of Kaladin before and the obvious example would be Szeth, although why they would want to kill Gavilar is still very vague for me – I can only assume that it’s linked to him wanting to learn more of them, and perhaps wanting to unite the Alethi. I suppose alternatively they could have been framed all along…
3. Dalinar makes some pretty intense decisions towards the end of this book, including trading his Shardblade to free the bridgemen and completely changing how he wants to deal with the highprinces. Do you think these were good decisions?
Well, giving away the blade was a shock I must admit, but, it will certainly make Kaladin and his bridgemen respect him more. It almost feels a little bit like a reflection of what happened with the original blades as well. Perhaps Kaladin realises that the blades, to a certain extent cause conflict between people. I was still surprised by it but also at the same time really pleased that he would give something, so treasured by others, away to save all the bridgemen – it gave me goosebumps! I think he will have a struggle to deal with the highprinces because let’s not forget that Sadeas is also included in that number and he certainly won’t take kindly to Dalinar being given this post – or at least I don’t imagine he will. I thought his reasons for abandoning Dalinar were flimsy to say the least. Whether Dalinar’s decisions are good remains to be seen and he’s made mistakes in the past but I think that some of the uncertainty he was experiencing previously has now gone and been replaced by a certain level of conviction.
4. A lot of mysteries surrounding Jasnah are finally revealed! Do you think that she is right and that most Soulcasters do work? Why do you think Shallan and Jasnah both happen to have this soulcasting power? What is Shadesmar really?
I’m a little mystified to be honest. The reveals about Jasnah I never suspected at all and were a complete surprise – and I love that Sanderson can pull that off! In terms of Shallan and Jasnah, again, I’m a bit at a loss! I was trying to think of similarities between the two – they’ve both lost their fathers for example – but surely Jasnah already had this power when her father was alive?? They both seem to be gifted in terms of intellect or art – perhaps that has something to do with it – just basically – I’m clueless! Shadesmar seems to be like an alternate plain – it seems to link to the magic somehow.
5. Szeth is once again on a mission, but this time we really don’t want him to succeed! What do you think is going to happen with him and Dalinar in the next book? Do you think Szeth and Kaladin will recognize each other’s power?
I think that Kaladin and Szeth will meet – it seems that way doesn’t it? Kaladin is now Dalinar’s honour guard (which is just so appropriate) and Szeth has been set the task of assassinating Dalinar. I must say that I really dislike Szeth now – I had a strangely ambivalent feeling about him for most of the book and was puzzled about how he ending up in his position – but, when he was contemplating murdering his most recent master but decided against it because of his ‘honour’ – I just couldn’t help thinking that he has the wrong idea about honour. He’s killing so many people at the whim of somebody else – and, frankly, he could have killed his master and be done with it and save everyone else – now he’s about to go after a very honourable man indeed – perhaps that will stop him in his tracks. I do think Szeth and Kaladin will recognise each other’s power. Whether that will be a light bulb moment remains to be seen. I just hope Kaladin becomes a bit more experienced in exactly what he can and can’t do with his newfound abilities. On a separate note, if Szeth is so honourable then why doesn’t he have his own spren like Kaladin?
6. We finally have a better idea where the Parshmen and Parshendi came from! What do you think the real history is there? How did people possibly enslave the Voidbringers and why are the Parshendi now changing?
Well, we’ve been discussing this whole thing of misdirection and also about potential enemies hiding in plain sight! The thing is though, I’m puzzled by the Parshmen/Parshendi. The Parshendi seemed to act with a certain sort of honour during battle. They’re co-ordinated and clearly not stupid. They’re respectful of their dead. The Parshmen feel, in comparison, like they’re hypnotised somehow. Perhaps it’s the fact that the Parshendi have gems? Or, maybe they’re not the voidbringers – maybe they have similar myths and superstitions about the Alethi? So many questions that I’m unable to even come near to answering!!!
7. The last chapter with the Almighty was pretty crazy. What do you think about this vision? What do you think this means for Dalinar’s future and the world’s (universe’s??) future? What is Odium really?
Well, I wouldn’t want to step out of character at this stage and have a sensible answer. The vision was interesting – it was almost like a recording being played on a loop. In terms of everyone’s future – maybe everyone will now have to unite in order to stop whatever catastrophe is now facing them. It could be that the visions were meant to unite the Parshendi and the Alethi?
Extras: so surprised reading the scene with Dalinar and Elhokar – and, did a little air punch. It felt like Dalinar, in spite of the fact that he is brave, etc, etc, finally came to his senses (and, well, developed a set of you know whats). Elhokar needed a good shake up and he got it. Plus, second airpunch that Dalinar finally came clean about his relationship with Nalinar. Finally, no more Mr Pushover.
I can’t wait to read the next one…
This readalong has been immense. I’ve enjoyed it enormously and it’s really made me ponder the story in a very satisfying way as oppose to racing to the end and then forgetting more than I ever remembered! So, much thanks to everyone.
Just finished reading Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey. Black Feathers is both a pre and post apocalyptic story told by Gordon Black and Megan Maurice. Well, really, it’s the story of Gordon but it’s being told by Megan. Okay, let me start again!
At the start of the story we are introduced to Gordon literally as he is about to be born, under strange circumstances – snow blowing outside and a black crow ominously watching the proceedings from outside the bedroom window. Gordon’s birth coincides, or is the catalyst perhaps, with the earth falling into decline. As he grows in age the world’s descent seems to speed up, bad weather, starvation, disease and the general spiralling downwards of civilisation as a whole. At the same time a large corporation called The Ward have started to control/police everything. They appear out of the blue to question people – who are then mysteriously never seen again. As this story is starting to unfold we learn of Megan. Set years in the future, in a world which has reverted to what feels like a much more primitive era, Megan is, following a strange vision of the Crowman, chosen to become a keeper. Keeper’s walk the path of black feathers, they are used to keep the tale of the Crowman alive and prevent people from forgetting what came ‘before’. I suppose in this way Megan is actually telling us Gordon’s tale. Both Gordon and Megan will face trials and suffer much as they tread their chosen path in this coming of age novel. Both are in search of the truth about the Crowman and whether or not he is good or evil.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel. I had a notion it might be horror but that was definitely not the case. There are certainly parts of the tale that are harrowing but I would describe this more as dark fantasy. On the face of it there doesn’t appear to have actually been a great deal taking place. Gordon is separated from his family by the Ward and sets off on his search for knowledge and truth and Megan is chosen to become a keeper and is likewise separated from her family while she learns the story of the past. And, yet in spite of this there doesn’t actually feel like a lack of action on this journey. In fact it grips you quite firmly from the outset with it’s story time voice. Along the way we meet other characters who serve to demonstrate the hardships that both protagonists suffer. There are still some characters who will help and assist and have kept a sense of moral obligation but these feel to be equalled if not out numbered by the characters who have become much more base as they lost their veneer of civilisation.
You can’t help having protective feelings for Gordon and Megan and wanting to help them in their ordeals although in reality they have both been ‘chosen’ because they are capable of handling such things.
In terms of criticisms there is an element to the story of ‘treat the earth badly and bad things will happen in return’. Frankly I don’t mind that there’s a message in the story as it’s not too preachy and feels more like it uses the possibility of such events taking place as a means for setting the story rather than as a stick to beat the reader with . I did feel like there were a few occasions where the story dragged a little but this wasn’t enough to make me stop reading and in fact for the most part the story did keep me racing along in anticipation of the outcome.
The end of the book of course is not the end of the tale and so you will undoubtedly have remaining questions but No.2 is already available to satisfy that need.
On the whole I thought this was quite a gripping tale. I enjoyed the author’s writing style and thought he made an excellent job of setting the scene for the next installment which I look forward to reading very soon!
Okay, the penultimate readalong week. Let’s face it – if you haven’t joined in yet then you probably want to savour this book all to yourself – and it is worth savouring so please give it a shot. This week’s readalong is hosted by Musings on Fantasia so please call on over to check out everyone else’s replies. Straight to business and don’t forget to stop reading now as spoilers lurk beneath.
1. Andolin has a change of heart, not only about his father, but about how he views the war. How do you think this will affect the story going forward?
I think Adolin is feeling slightly guilty. Truth be told he was thinking a little ill of Dalinar and now it seems that proof will be forthcoming that Dalinar is not going crazy after all. On top of that Dalinar has more than displayed that he isn’t a coward. However, we also got to see that Andolin is very skilled at the art of fighting so perhaps he may have an opportunity to help Dalinar at some point or pick up the reins if Dalinar is not around?
2. Elhokar reveals that he sees figures with symbol heads, which sound suspiciously like the ones Shallan keeps drawing. What do you make of this?
It’s very strange, they do sound similar. Shallan only sees the figures when she’s not concentrating during her drawing – it’s unusual that Elhokar also sees them just in a totally natural way. I was trying to think what they’ve got in common but not really been able to come up with anything – other than they’re both scared about their futures. It’s very odd. I’m not coming up with too much here! *rummages around in dark corners of brain*.
3. What do you make of Dalivar’s most recent vision? Was the king he talked to really Nohadon, author of The Way of Kings? If so, what do you think the timeline is? What happened before and after what Dalinar saw? Were the strange, rock-like corpses really Voidbringers?
Dalinar is taking so much more from his visions than at first. He’s observing everything around him and has also figured out that he needs to try and participate to find out more information. Frankly, I really think that it was Nohadon in the vision, at least it seemed to be fairly clear to me. I’m not sure about the timeline but clearly Nohadon hasn’t yet written his book – although the suggestion to do so has now been sown. Interesting that Dalinar, who is reading and upholding the word of the book quite fastidiously is now travelling back in time to suggest it’s written in the first place! A real chicken and egg situation right there. If Dalinar hadn’t had the vision would the book have ever been produced?
4. Dalivar and Navani finally share a passionate kiss, and then start conducting a covert romance. What are your impressions of the relationship? Has your opinion of Navani changed at all?
Listening back over some of the history I think I was perhaps too hasty about Navani. I assumed she’d married Gavilar for position even though she maybe was more attracted to Dalivar. As it turns out Dalivar practically handed her to Gavilar on a plate with trimmings and sauce! Lots of misunderstandings between these characters it seems.
5. Kaladin’s decoy plan works almost miraculously well. How do you see this affecting the story going forward, and in what way? Address the issue both for Kaladin and his men, and for the war at large.
I have a bad feeling about this! All along I have this horrible feeling that the Parshendi are just playing with the Alethi and it’s all some sort of distraction. Now that Kaladin has offended them so severely I think they may take a different stance. They may wrongly assume that this is a battle tactic and not just Kaladin’s brainwave in which case they will be more determined to win and will up their game.
6. So Moash wants to kill someone out of vengeance. Any guesses who or why?
I can’t begin to guess to be honest. No doubt I’ve missed something crucial along with way or not picked up a strand that Sanderson has thrown out. I must say that I’m prepared to give Moash the benefit of the doubt and think the best of him seeing as how he pledged to protect Kaladin!
7. Why do you think Sadeas abandoned Dalivar as he did? Was this done intentionally? Was it planned in advance? What are your thoughts?
My first thoughts were a big ‘WHAT, followed by plenty of expletives! However, having had time to reflect I don’t think Sadeas would do this deliberately. The two of them seemed to be forming plans together and getting along well. (There is of course the possibility that Sadeas was trying to lull Dalinar into a false sense of security. I’m hopefull that Sadeas had observed the other Parshendi army and is trying a different tactic. Perhaps he’s moving his men to another plain so that they can then reassemble to attack elsewhere! I hope so anyway. OMG – perhaps the Parshendi are now trying to kill Dalivar – perhaps he’s reached a similar point to his brother and they think they need to eliminate him. Also, at the start of this – wasn’t there some speculation about Sadeas being involved with the assassination on Gavilar – perhaps Sadeas is betraying him after all and has agreed with the Parshendi to leave him vulnerable. Way to have two completely conflicting opinions hey! I completely hadn’t thought about the latter until literally this minute as I was typing and then the little gremlin popped into my brain!
Basically, I now need to go and finish this book – quick sharp in a hurry!!! Otherwise I may burst with anticipation…