Readalong Week 3/4: The Tale of Yin

Posted March 3, 2016 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books / 0 Comments

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Readalong Banner: Tale of Yin by Joyce Chng

Hi, everyone! Welcome to the last week of the Tale of Yin readalong. This week we’re smushing together week 3 and week 4. Because this happened unexpectedly, post from fellow readalongers may not all appear on the same day.

My sincere apologies to everyone about this! Hopefully you’ll continue to enjoy this last half of the book, tackling several related short stories and The Path of Kindness, a story about Mirra’s daughter and her attempts to find herself in the world.

The Revised Schedule

Week 1: February 15th, Book 1: A Sea Of Waves, hosted by Lynn from Little Lion Lynnet’s (that’s me)
Week 2: February 22nd, Book 2: A Tree of Branches, hosted by Imyril from x+1
Week 3/4: March 3rd, Sea Tales and The Path of Kindness, hosted by Lynn from Little Lion Lynnet’s (me again!)

The Questions

1) I know that we all struggled with the Sea Tales short story section. Do you think they added much to our understanding of the world or the characters?

I really likes The Ships’ Voices and the introduction to Kindness, but I was a little less enthused about Auri and Josh’s stories about why they came to the City. I would have liked to see a little more meat to both of them, especially Auri’s tale. It was so short and focused almost entirely on how she was almost raped rather than on the travels she’d mentioned to Mirra. I was hoping for a stronger focus on her travels and why she finally decided to settle down again.

2) Kindness sets out from home unsure of what she wants. How do you find the beginning of her journey compares to that of Mirra’s?

I actually liked the way they differed and mirrored one another. Mirra left because, after using her magic to save people, she’s actually even more of an outcast to her own people. She’s almost driven out by their hostile feelings. Kindness, meanwhile, leaves willingly, but we can also see hints that she’s leaving because she’s afraid of how people will react to her once they realise she doesn’t have the same magic her mother does and, perhaps a little, of being loved and finding herself tied to one place. Both are leaving because they feel like they have no other choice, but the motivations differ.

3) In a way, Kindness’ journey is a mirror of her mother’s. Both leave their home town, but where Mirra lives in the City and then leaves for the Innerlands, Kindness leaves for the Innerlands and then to the City. What do you think about the way Chng chose to mirror the journeys?

I loved that. I loved the way it tied the two stories together narratively and turned the whole into a circle. Well, a set of circles. I liked that where Mirra settled before being forced to relocate and travel around, that’s Kindness’ starting point. And where Mirra ends the story pregnant, Kindness soon finds herself taking on the role of parent to an abandoned baby. There are patterns to these two stories and beats that I might not recognise enough to comment on them properly, but I appreciate that they’re there.

4) Mirra’s story was one that in many ways centred around compassion. How do you feel that central theme plays out in Kindness’ story?

Again, I think what we see here is a kind of mirror to Mirra’s story, except here we get something a little darker. Neither Sa nor Kindness are really able to move past the way that Kindness loses control of her magic and the way that Kindness refuses to learn how to control it.

Yet, whereas Kindness is less inclined to contemplation and compassion, she’s definitely not devoid of either. It’s just that her idea of compassion centres around healing and medicine. She’s a more physically compassionate person than Mirra is and she may be struggling, as well, with the legacy of her name. ‘Kindness’ is perhaps not the kind of name that makes you expect defiance and fire, so part of her story is rebelling against the way that people want to see her so that they see who she really is instead of ideas conjured by her name and to balance her desire to be herself with her capacity for her namesake. After all, she didn’t have to rescue and adopt the baby.

I wonder, too, if the way this story is less happy and doesn’t have as good a resolution as Mirra’s isn’t part of that mirror, though. A caution against how too much individuality can affect the social fabric around us, perhaps, as shown in her relationship with Shu.

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