Tales From the Mad Monk

I write stuff. You might like it.

Prydain is Better for your Kids than Narnia

Like many of us who read fantasy as adults, I got my start on Narnia. My first-grade teacher read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to the class. It was wonderful. Wardrobes with new worlds hidden in them, talking animals, magic, and a classic confrontation between good and evil where evil wins—what more could you ask for?

I devoured the rest of the books, and while I thought it was weird that they skipped through different characters and different periods, the fact that they were Christian allegory went entirely over my head.

Then I re-read them in junior high and picked up on the fact that they weren’t just an allegory for Christianity, they were an allegory for a particularly loathsome form of Christianity that prioritized obedience to authority and punishment for wrongdoing over being a decent person. I was discomfited.

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All the Greatest Adventures Begin with Paperwork, Right?

All the Greatest Adventures Begin with Paperwork, Right?

When I first decided to do this re-read project, I asked Twitter whether I should start with New Spring or The Eye of The World and Twitter overwhelmingly recommended TEOTW so obviously I did the opposite.

It wasn’t just my congenital inability to do as I’m told. I generally start re-reads with New Spring, and I thought I would take a look at them both to see what might make for a good beginning.

I didn’t get past the Table of Contents.

I’m a bit of a story nerd, and I’ve read more books on story structure than is healthy. There’s a part of every story where the hero is in their ordinary world before they get called to action and everything goes to hell.

That part of the story is often called The Hook and there, sitting in the Table of Contents was a first chapter titled “The Hook.”

The wheel weaves as it will and all that.

The first parts of most stories have the same structure. The hero is in their normal world. Something happens that changes everything. The hero is called to action. They leave their normal world for a world of adventure where they face new dangers.

That’s the first four chapters of New Spring.

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Breaking the Rules to Do the Right Thing

Breaking the Rules to Do the Right Thing

The third chapter of New Spring deals with Siuan and Moiraine in the immediate aftermath of hearing the foretelling about the Dragon Reborn. As such, it deals a lot with their reaction to the news—Siuan is excited and Moiraine is terrified—as well as their relationship. It sets up a scene coming up with Elaida and introduces several ancillary characters we see later in the series.

I’m not talking about any of that.

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He is born again! I feel him!

In the second chapter of New Spring, we see the rebirth of the Dragon as Foretold by Gitara Moroso, and while I was initially planning this post, I was thinking of it as the Inciting Incident for the four-million-plus words that follow.

But that’s not right.

It’s not the foretelling that’s the inciting incident; it’s the rebirth of the Dragon itself. That realization made me question why Robert Jordan would present us the information this way. To be sure, at publication, we already knew the bare facts, and this chapter was all about introducing Moiraine Damodred, Siuan Sanche, and the Aes Sedai.

But there’s more.

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Duty is Heavier than a Mountain

New Spring is not the beginning of the Wheel of Time. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

And it begins with Lan Mandragoran going around waking up sentries which might be the most borderlander thing ever. In the borderlands, they’re overwhelmingly aware of their duty to stand between the Blight and the rest of humanity. Lan Mandragoran is often presented as a distillation, the platonic ideal of what it means to be a borderlander.

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Our World is Shitty. Read About a Better One.

If you haven’t read the Halcyone Space series by LJ Cohen, you’ve made a horrible mistake and you should probably fix that ASAP. It’s YA Space Opera set in a dystopic future that’s much better than the stormy present.

The universe of Halcyone Space can be pretty miserable. Earth has suffered a climate catastrophe that has driven millions into permanent refugee camps where they exist as a permanent underclass. The government of the galaxy is incompetent, corrupt, and utterly uninterested in serving the people.

It’s got problems, but it’s a tremendously immersive world that feels like it still exists when it’s offscreen. Oh, and it’s the setting for a hell of a story.

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