I have three books that I’m currently reading. I have to read more than one at a time — usually a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Once I really get into a fiction book, I’ll stop reading the other fiction ones, but continue slowly going through the non-fiction.
So, as I just finished La Chiripa (which is fracking amazing, by the way — when it’s out in stores in October you have to pick up a copy; it’s just so incredible, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t usually like fiction set in the here and now — ie, non-speculative fiction), my current fiction book is Jane Eyre. I actually started reading this a while ago, and put it down, and put a bunch of stuff down on top of it, and forgot I was reading it…I do that a lot. This is also why I need to read several books at a time. However, I’m diving back into it now that LC is done.
The Harry Potter series is full of character deaths. Perhaps not so many as other fantasy series, but a fair whack. They’re all written well enough to bring at least a tear to the reader’s eye — who didn’t choke a bit at Cedric Diggory’s death (especially in the film, with Amos screaming in anguish “That’s my boy!”), or sob like crazy when Sirius went beyond the veil in the Department of Mysteries? These characters were unequivocally seen as good guys, so their deaths hurt.
Not as much, however, as Snape’s death in the final book.
Many of you didn’t trust Snape after the ending of Half-Blood Prince, which I suppose is understandable — myself, I always trusted him, and knew the reasons behind his actions would be revealed and he would be good at heart. I was pleased to see myself vindicated, even as I cried out every drop of moisture my body possessed.
In Snape’s final moments, he gives Harry all his memories, and in a single chapter JK Rowling tells a devastating love story: that of Snape’s hopeless passion for Lily, how every action on his part was to protect her only child. She shows Snape’s pain in following Dumbledore’s orders to the very last — to have to kill the only man who had granted him his trust, his only real friend. And his refusal to accept that Harry Potter’s fate is to die — that they’ve been raising the child like a pig for slaughter, that soon all that remains of Lily in the world will be snuffed out, extinguished like a candle not allowed to burn out its full life.
Had Snape not been bitten by Nagini, had he not died giving Harry his memories, we never would have known all this. He never would have been vindicated. Harry would never know the truth — that Snape had grown fond of him, had grown to view him like the son he never had.
And so it is that Snape’s death is not only the saddest I can think of, but also the most satisfying — it’s only in death that he is redeemed, only in death do we see the true Severus.
Harry Potter was my first series obsession. Which, I mean, is weird, because usually I’m pretty damn scary when I obsess over things, but I was less so with Harry Potter. Perhaps I just didn’t feel the need to go all bugfuck nuts in my expression of joy with each new page, or perhaps this was an obsession where I could actually see the flaws of my object of affection. Whatever the reason, my obsession with Harry Potter was mild by my standards.
This does not make it any less an obsession, for Harry Potter is and continues to be a central key to how I interact with the world, how I see things, and how I grow. Dumbledore’s words of wisdom reached more ears than just Harry’s, I can tell you that.
In fact, you could say my obsession got bigger as time went on — the more adult I became, the more engrossed in the world of Hogwarts I became, clinging to a world I didn’t want to graduate.
Well, graduation’s over, and I’m ready to face the world head-on. I should hope so, for I’m 25 now and if I’m not ready at this age, I never will be. The lessons I learned at Hogwarts will help me with that — I have an arsenal of spells at my disposal, courage and luck guiding my hand, and friendship to keep me strong.
And eternal fucking gratitude that it was not a bugfuck obsession with Twilight that shaped my adolescence, because otherwise I’d be wailing about how I need a boyfriend to continue to live (I can tell you that if I were a twihard, my boyfriend would not be with me — thank the gods for that; it shows he has strength of character) and probably still living in my mother’s house, provided she hadn’t killed and eaten her own young by this point.
I suppose something I am truly a sucker for is a sense of myth in the story. Kushiel’s Legacy is a very good example of this; not only is there a very rich backdrop to the story, filled with different cultures and myths based loosely on ones from Earth, but the story of Phedre and Joscelin has its own mythic quality — these characters are true heroes on the hero’s journey, and their deeds will be talked about in centuries to come.
Other examples of this mythic quality, not limited to books:
True Grit (the recent one)
The Fifth Sacred Thing
Lord of the Rings (though, I will admit, I did not finish reading the books — it’s the films I have a true love for)
Green Grass, Running Water (by Thomas King)
The Tir Alainn Trilogy by Anne Bishop
The Black Jewels Trilogy (same)
The Snow Queen, by Joan D. Vinge
anything by Ursula K. LeGuin, the First Lady of Fantasy
Bellica, by Katje van Loon (why shouldn’t I shamelessly plug my own awesome stories, I ask you)
It’s the sense of myth that truly gets my heart racing, that makes me cry for the characters (yes, including my own), that wraps me up so completely in the story that when it’s over I am bereft for having lost a part of myself.
However, that’s the beauty of myths — once I am done mourning, I can read or watch and experience them again, and allow myself to fall in love many times with the same, heart-rending story.
OMG WTF? OR most irritating/awful/annoying book ending
The Epilogue, Harry Potter.
JK Rowling said (somewhere; I don’t have a quote) she wrote the epilogue before she wrote the rest of the series.
The ending of the book was really satisfying. And then you read “Nineteen years later…” and your entire evening is ruined. It’s so trite, so contrived, so fanfic-ish — wait, that’s unfair to fanfic writers, because I’m pretty sure most of them could have written a much better epilogue.
Where was the rebuilding of the Wizard World after the fall of Voldemort? Where was the extreme PTSD the Golden Trio must be suffering? Where was the real, gritty storyline?
Instead we get ALBUS SEVERUS ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.
It was such a disservice to the characters, to just make everything happily ever after and so normal. After an adolescence like that, Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s lives would never be any sort of normal again.
Give me an epilogue where Harry has a drinking problem and Hermione doesn’t read anymore, where Ron is suddenly responsible because his wife has gone off the deep end and someone has got to keep things together. Neville is a chronic pot smoker because herbology has to come in handy in some way, Ginny has said “fuck you” to Harry’s bullshit but we all know she flies Quidditch that hard so she can forget everything, being dangerous on the field because it’s much better than trying to take care of herself — how can she, when her family members and friends are dead?
That’s much more believable.
(Don’t get me wrong, I love the series and it means a lot to me. But I wouldn’t be a real fan if I couldn’t look at its flaws and talk about them without evasion.)
Oh my goddess, we have so many contenders for this post. I simply can’t list just one, unless I wanted to be funny. Contrary to my usual nature, I wish to share quotes that actually mean something to me.
So, from the very talented Jacqueline Carey and her quite astounding literary masterpiece, Kushiel‘s Legacy, my favourite quotes from the Phedre Trilogy.
We are all of these things […]. Pride, desire, compassion, cleverness, belligerence, fruitfulness, loyalty…and guilt. But above it all stands love. And if we desire to be more than human, that is the star by which we must set our sights.
We pay for sins we do not remember, and seek to do a will we can scarce fathom. That is what it is, to be a god’s chosen.
It’s the same questions we ask of our existence, and the answer is always the same. The mystery lies not in the question nor the answer, but in the asking and answering themselves, over and over again, and the end is engendered in the beginning.
All knowledge is worth having.
That which yields is not always weak.
See what I mean when I say I can’t just choose one?
Not so much annoying as frustrating — Vernon Dursley, Harry Potter’s uncle. Every book he’s coming up with new and exciting ways to torture Harry, and he stokes the ire of every kid who’s ever been brushed aside so casually by an adult. (So, every kid, pretty much.)
He was meant to embody that character we all know and love so well — the one who disregards everything you say simply because you’re too young/old/inexperienced/too experienced, have black/red/blonde/green/purple hair, are a certain person’s offspring/not a certain person’s offspring, have special abilities that provoke jealousy and, possibly, fear/don’t have any special abilities at all. This person might go farther than mere disregard and punish you for being, well, you.
I’m not sure if I’d necessarily call that annoying. It gets to a point where you don’t allow yourself to feel anything more than annoyance, because there’s no point. But at the beginning, the feelings this treatment arouses are definitely more akin to rage.
However, I can’t think of an actual annoying character, so this is what I’m writing about.
Lina Mayfleet/Doon Harrow, The City of Ember (and its sequels, presumably, though I’ve yet to read them).
Obviously the relationship is non-sexual; Lina and Doon are only 12 or 13 (can’t recall exact ages), so having their relationship involve sex would be…creepy, honestly. And completely unnecessary for a good romance.
Because that’s what their relationship is — a romance. Or will be, once they get older. It has the same quality of being forged in hardship as the previous relationship I talked about. You can tell, reading the book, that someday they will have an awesome life together on Earth’s surface. After they, you know, finish their heroes’ journeys.
(I really hope I’m not proven wrong in the sequels because I will feel like an idiot.)
I would classify them as a romantic relationship between a sexual and asexual person. Yes, they make love, and yes, Joscelin enjoys it — but he’s still pretty asexual. You can be asexual and enjoy sex. It’s just…not necessary for life.
Sexual people (like Phedre, and the writer of this blog) need sex. It is a physical need. Phedre needs something a step further — she needs BDSM sex, because she’s an anguissette. (This is [part of] why she becomes Namaah’s Servant again in the second book, and why she continues to take patrons — only a few each year, but still — throughout most of the series.)
The two types can work out in a relationship, though it is difficult.* Phedre and Joscelin make it work, but not without difficulties (and a terrifying moment when you think they’re not going to make it). There is true, deep love and devotion in their relationship, however — the type of love that can only be forged under extreme hardship and duress (running for their lives in Skaldia, the millions of other things they go through). They are, for lack of a better term, “lovers in arms”, though neither one is in the military.
It is exactly the sort of relationship I cannot get enough of in literature and film (the type forged in duress/with undying devotion/etc, not necessarily the asexual nature of one or both of the parties, though that is awesome too).
*(Personally I’d never be able to make it work with an asexual person, but I’m a freak of nature with an abnormally high sex drive.)