Welcome back to the third week of the readalong for Max Gladstone’s Two Serpents Rise! Let me repeat the schedule for you all. ^_^
1st Post Date: April 13th Book 1: chapter 1-Interlude: Fire, hosted by Dab of Darkness
2nd Post Date: April 20th Book 2: chapter 16-Interlude: Dreams, hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow
3rd Post Date: April 27th Book 3: chapter 29-Interlude: Tea, Hosted by Violin in a Void
4th Post Date: May 4th Book 4: chapter 36-Epilogue, hosted by Little Lion Lynnet’s
As you can see, this week’s questions are courtesy of Lauren from Violin in a Void. And, as always, this is week 3 of a book so there are spoilers galore.
1. After the fight at Seven Leaf, Caleb apologises to Mal and they finally start dating. What do you think of the way their relationship has developed? Do you agree with Mal that Caleb chased her because he needs gods in his life?
I think Gladstone’s way of writing their relationship is one that completely fails to connect with me. Sorry! But I really need characters to develop an emotional connection between one another and Gladstone just isn’t managing it with Mal and Caleb for me.
Since this section is so largely about Mal and Caleb getting together and sorting out some of those differences, the net result is that I just plain don’t like this section as a whole. I’d probably have loved it if they’d been cast as friends, but as romantic partners? It just doesn’t work for me and leaves me cold and indifferent.
And the ending of book 3 before the interlude? Lacks any impact at all because there’s nothing for me to connect to in terms of their relationship. I’m mildly curious, but I put the book down to go to sleep whereas with Three Parts Dead I struggled to stick to the schedule in the third week. (And by ‘struggled with’ I mean ‘failed spectacularly and finished it in one go because I could not put it down’.)
I AM SO SAD! I want to like this book. I liked Mal and Caleb in the first book. I was wary of their relationship, but it wasn’t yet at a point where it wouldn’t work for me at all. (And it’s possible to write lust-based/lust-started relationships in a way that works for me.) I love the action in the second book and the fight at Seven Leaf. I’m thoroughly enjoying the setting. I heart Teo and the way her friendship with Caleb is such a big part of his life. I actually really liked the way he apologised to Mal and the awkwardness with which that conversation happened. I liked seeing how the King in Red was affected by the events in Dresediel Lex/the preparations for the festival. (Though, did we hear about the eclipse happening before now? I forget.)
But this section? Only works for me if I take out the romantic subplot. T_T
2. This section has been quite philosophical. Where do you stand on the debate – gods, no gods, or some kind of compromise? Do you agree with Caleb’s idea of sacrificing your morality because the religious alternative is even worse?
Philosophical is a good way to describe this section, yes. That’s also part of why Mal/Caleb doesn’t work for me. The undercurrent of their emotions in this isn’t strong enough. Anyway! That’s not actually an answer to this question, so moving on.
I stand nowhere on the debate. Well, no, that’s not true. I probably would look at some kind of compromise if it were possible to reach one. One thing we haven’t seen, I think, is an answer to the question of why the gods need blood specifically. (We can infer, I think, that it’s not so much ‘blood’ but ‘life’ and/or possibly something special that only exists from sacrifice. If the latter, we could speculate that involuntary sacrifices are better because they fight back and thus have more life to offer the gods. Or that giving up one’s life willingly strengthens whatever it is the gods get and make that the better option. Or… something.) If it’s not blood that they need, couldn’t they look into alternatives? If it’s life that they need, couldn’t they look at alternatives? Dresediel Lex is a big city. Couldn’t the gods do what they do with souls and take a little bit from all the millions living there instead of everything from a single individual?
Honestly, though, it’s a really tough question to think about because it’s one of those cases where there are no good answers. There’s just a question of which answer is the least apprehensive to an individual. And I have to answer for that.
Mal and Caleb are clearly still on alternate sides of the discussion, but hopefully they understand each other a little better now.
3. Gladstone is still unveiling amazing things in his world, like a sport based on myth, the eclipse festival, walking on water, and a half-dead sea god whose heart is being used for desalination. What interested you the most?
Possibly the sea god, partially because the idea is one that I’d never thought of. It doesn’t come entirely unexpected because Caleb’s alluded to something before, which the eclipse festival did. The myth-based sport doesn’t seem to have much plot resonance at the moment, so while it’s yay world-building and happy-making to see, it’s also not where my attention is really focused at the moment. It’s more Caleb/Teo friendship-bonding and a way to remind us/reintroduce the Hero Sisters before the grand finale. It’s an interesting sport and I really like the way Gladstone introduced it, but at this point I’m more interested in puzzling out the plot. I suspect it’s one of those situations where rereading the book will make it stand out in more detail. The water-walking is similar, except I can see that coming back to affect the characters more easily and it’s a way to get a cameo for Xiltande (Xiltandu?) into the story. Which was pretty neat. And I liked the hints at events in other places too.
4. Mal has noted twice that they don’t have much time, and she apologises to Caleb while he sleeps on the ocean. Then Alaxic kills himself and tries to kill Temoc – the last two priests of the old Quechal. What do you think is going on here? Any speculation about how it might turn out?
Maybe Mal is working for Temoc and what we’ve been discussing over his waiting for something to happen to Caleb is set in motion? I suspect the last section is going to open big and recapture my interest, but plotwise… I’m afraid I can’t really think of anything short of “The twin serpents are going to wake up and cause havoc and Mal knows it and hasn’t done anything much to stop it because reasons”. Oh, and obviously there’d be a grand attempt to save Dresediel Lex and the people in it. Maybe, if the old ways are supposed to die, Alaxic means for the sea god to die too and Dresediel Lex to disappear beneath the sea like those other cities we heard about and saw very briefly. Maybe, the book will end with Temoc and Caleb being the only ones who can save the city because they still know the old Quechal ways. Maybe Alaxic wants the priesthood to be revived under Caleb. His stance would certainly make for an entirely different priesthood from Temoc’s, after all, whilst still having the ability to cling to less gruesome important parts of Quechal beliefs because he was raised in them.
This section has seen Caleb remember bits of prayers he’s tried to forget and that moment when he swears to the gods and didn’t realise it seems particularly important if I’m in any way right with my guessing. And… yes.
I’m actually really late as it stands, so my apologies for cutting it short and running. tl;dr version: Not very impressed with this section on this first read, but I suspect I’ll like it more on a reread and I’m pretty excited to see how everything plays out.