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Reading: Initiate's Trial by Janny Wurts

Oh, you sneaky little thing, sneaking up on me like that.

I will start by saying there are MANY things I loved about the book, and one big thing that I didn't. Unfortunately it's a rather big thing.

I love how awesome Lysaer is now. Seriously, I adore Lysaer. He's aware of the curse and actively fighting back, he's kicking ass and taking names. To be honest, I've always really liked him in Curse when he was a nice guy trying to be friends with his strange little brother. I have to admit, I didn't quite expect the turn where he'd become a womanizer but I can accept that. He gets a nod from me for /simply not giving a fuck anymore/.

I love Dakar. Go on, you crazy bumbling prophet. I want to see you become the diamond Davien said you would be. How far you have come! On the other hand, I am a little sad that nothing changed much in the 250 years interval. He did not loose weight, drop some vices, he did not learn to manage his raw gift. It still knocks him down at the drop of a penny. On the other hand, he seems to be spurting prophecies every two steps. I feel he's very different from the man we knew in Curse, but not that much different from the man we knew in Fortress so this disappoints me. On the other hand, Dakar is one of my favourite characters for sheer /growth/ so I can accept him in any form.

Teylia, the dream daughter. I am reminded of a poem by Evan Dahm's Order of Tales:

Smooth and silver in the night;
Bottle full of starry light.
Blown in ancient, reddest flame,
Sand made glass and given name.
Filled with potion deeply magic
To be held alone in bottle tragic
Of woman-shape and half a life;
Bane of baneless horn and knife.
To evil far from evil nigh,
Made to love and doomed to die.

I find her to be the most intriguing loose thread in this story - a daughter, born without his knowing, solely for the purpose of dying to free him. I feel this is something that will come back to haunt. She is important and yet unimportant. She was the fulcrum that came and went without anyone's knowing. To me, that was far sadder than anything else in this novel. The hidden matyr. The unacknowledged sacrifice.

I love Daliana. What a sweet young woman. I do however find myself yelling "c'mon, just kiss him!" or "Ath above, why won't you two just bang like jack rabbits already!" Somehow I like her more than Talith - although I was quite fond of Talith's caged frustration. Daliana is a younger, dumber version of Talith, without the malice but all the spirit. She has room to grow but right now she just wants to get into Lysaer's pants. On the other hand, it's cruel that the only reason she should succeed is because she looks like his dead wife. That's a bit creepy isn't it?

Isfarenn is still as awesome as ever. I was a bit distressed to see him abandoned like that :( Made me sad, yo. Though I wonder about the significance of his rebirth. Was he always dragon touched? What's his relation to the ancestor Isfarren? It's not the same creature so... I guess I'd like to know about the working of familars. What rules govern them and so on.

I love Havish's royal lineage. Havish is like the only kingdom that's still rocking on solidly. We hardly knew you but you went out with a bang. Good on ya.

Ok, ok. Big thing I did not like about it that may have spoiled my enjoyment of the book overall.

Spoilers ahead and so on.

What the fuck, Arithon. You spend that last 8 books getting OVER YOURSELF and finally kicking some buttock at the end of Fortress and now we are back to sqaure one? I am so OVER YOU ALREADY. I am over the emo. I am over the angst. I am over the existial dread and the WHY WHY WHY MUST I SURVIVE AM I WORTH ALL THIS BLOODSHED bullcrap. I was so happy when you got out from Kewer because you'd accepted absolution and recovered your mage talent. I was overjoyed to see you break the curse and come to terms with your destiny. I was ready for you to rock my world, Arithon.

And no. Nope. Not this time, my dear. Because we just rolled back every bit of character growth you ever had through that little plothole known as amnesia.

Why did you do this to me, Janny?!

And who the crap is this Tarens person and why should I care about him??? I honestly cannot see the logic that drove him to murder a man in coldblood. Yes, he wanted to protect his family, but stabbing a guy in the chest with a poker is a HUGE step for a farm boy. Couldn't he just have... run down and confess his sins first? Played dumb? I really have no idea why he went ballistic and wrecked everything for his own family. The farm needs two adult hands to manage it, right? They needed both brothers up so he got Arithon to help him out. Then he ruined everything by murdering someone in broad daylight in front of witnesses? At what point did he think he could get away with that?

It just makes no sense!

And the other thing.

Koriathan.

What the hell. You know, I couldn't take them seriously at all in this book. This is like what, the 50th time they've tried to captured Arithon? I was waiting for them to fail. I was waiting for someone to come in and rescue him. I was waiting for Deus Ex Paravia. Because so far in my reading, the Koriathan have never won. They are cartoon villians. "If it wasn't for you meddling kids and your dog!"

But this isn't true, apparently! There was a point, 250 years ago when the Koriathan did win and the Felllowship broke to their demands. There was a point where everything looked like it had gone to the shits.

Imagine this. Arithon turns up for the wedding of a friend. At said wedding he is betrayed by his friends and given over to the Koriathan. The Fellowship, desperate to stay Seldie's execution breaks down the wards that protect Athera from the free wraiths on Marak and leads them to the planet, hoping to force her hand. Selidie concedes and stays Arithon's execution until the free wraiths are banished.

This, ladies and gentlemen, what what happened between Fortress and Initiate's Trial.

The Koriathan are jokes to me because so far, they have always lost, they have always been twarted, always been defeated, except for this one time that happened OFF CAMERA.

You know what would have been bloody awesome?

If I actually got to see this event happening.

If I actually got to experience first hand the moment of Seldie's greatest triumph and the Fellowship brought to heel.

What a dark, dark day that would be, my friends. In that moment, I might be like "Ho shit, these bitches are srs bsn." Selidie would rank up in villian level. Arithon, imprisoned and caged. The Fellowship powerless.

Can you imagine reading that? It'd be like some George R R Martin would write.

Sigh.

Also, Elaira is boring and I'll tell you why; she's a Mary Sue. Give me one flaw of hers to prove me wrong. Arithon, you ain't doing a whole lot better either - although luckily I count "being emo" as a fatal flaw.
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That was a fun read, always glad to discover others who like the WoLaS books. Poor Arithon, what chance does he have of being anything but emo considering the royal gift of compassion/empathy he inherited and has now developed to such potency, seems he was born to suffer. But at least Tarens taking care of that Diviner made sure he did not have to suffer the True Sects mercy at that point. Tarens only needed to attack the True Sects minions to cover for his family and take all the blame, he killed the Diviner to protect his black haired friend. We get to see Selidie's moment of triumph in Destiny's Conflict, although no doubt Elaira being let of the hook and Arithon being kept as a prisoner ruined it a bit for her, she probably wanted both dead. The rematch will be interesting.
I don't believe that Arithon has no choice but to be emo - case in point: anything after the Kewar Tunnels. He basically learned "what people decide to do is their own problem, not mine."

My problem is that Janny decided to make him unlearn that valuable lesson, which took him 8 books to discover and through such a flimsy plot device as well! Amnesia. REALLY?

I sort of understand why Tarens stabbed that diviner in the chest now after asking about it on the Forums, but I'm still not pleased about Janny's decision to do a flashback with Selidie's Moment of Triumph. The thing about flashbacks is that there's no emotional investment in them. You know he survived, so the threat is gone - you're just waiting for the past to catch up with the present.

I think the emotional investment will still be there when we find out how Selidie managed to get her claws on Arithon, even though we know he managed to survive. There will also be at least one similar event in Destiny's Conflict and Janny might use that earlier event to advance the story, or our understanding of Arithon and how he has changed. And the splitting of Arithon's awareness would be another essential part of the story, we need to understand why Arithon chose to entrust Elaira with that part of himself, and how it could affect things in the present. There is also a good chance we see the rematch between Selidie and Arithon in Destiny's Conflict, so the wait should be worth it. If Arithon fails in his intentions to protect his one weakness for the rematch, there is always Selidie's oath on the Waystone in reserve. Selidie is bound to want her Waystone present and active when facing the bane of her existence.

As to Kewar, Arithon never lost his empathy for others, what he learned was to forgive himself for being human and making mistakes, that conscience of his was killing him, literally! The lesson seems to have stuck, Arithon is determined not to make the same mistakes again, he will not kill even to save himself. And he learned how to control the curse of course, which was another essential lesson to learn. The empathy/compassion Arithon is stuck with, he still takes on everyone else's problems and tries to resolve/heal them, more so now after redeeming all those wraiths.

You look back through the books it is an essential part of Arithon's nature that those he meets whether enemy or friend he will try to help, compassion has always ruled his life. Lirenda would have long ago been helped if Morriel/Selidie had not kept interfering. Lysaer in the first book was well on the way to a more balanced outlook without overruling hatred before that curse ruined his life. Look at how much Lysaer changed in the short time he was with Arithon. People get to know Arithon, it affects their lives in a positive way, they become stronger more independent and able to find their own way in life. They meet Lysaer the opposite seems to happen, he is like a bright flame attracting the moths to their doom, they become blinded by his light and powerful charisma. That would not have been necessarily a bad thing if Lysaer had better intentions. He achieved a lot of good even while under influence of the curse, and did even better in Etarra while Arithon was removed from Athera.

As to the amnesia, it allows us to see how Arithon reacts to things as he recovers the memories, and leaves us open to Janny ambushing us with an understanding of why it was necessary to obliterate Arithon's memory in order to protect him. The obvious one we already know, since it prevented Selidie tracking him down though an imprint, but there will be more to it. With Janny and her WoLaS series, there is always more to it than at first seems apparent.
I never mentioned empathy! Sorry if that was confusing - Guilt is different from empathy; what I meant was that he learnt to not feel guilty over what others choose to do. He refuses the forced responsibility of becoming someone's cause. This is more obvious in Stormed Fortress where the s'Brydion beg him to defend them and try to guilt trip him into doing it: their clan-blood soldiers are dying for "him". Arithon basically tells them to sod off, they're actually dying for their own pride. I loved how he stuck to his principles and the realisation that responsibility (and subsequent guilt) was all self inflicted. It's a lesson come full circle: Asandir thinks something very similar about Arithon in /Curse/ - reflecting that until he learns this lesson, he's going to suffer because of the conflicting nature of his birthrights.

Arithon never wanted to kill, so not killing or to help others even when detrimental to himself is not my beef with him. My problem specifically is the guilt over Tarens's decision to help him - that is the step backwards for his character.

I also doubt the amnesia as an effective deterrant to scrying because he was barely through the chapter before the Koriathan found him anyway. Sure, if he lasted a bit longer, say the whole length of the book with the Koriathan desperately scrambling around to find him, I'd be like "fair enough". But he was hounded pretty much from the word 'go' and that makes me wonder why did anyone even bother with memory loss in the first place. It turns it into a contrived plot device.

I'm not so naive that I think Janny is the most perfect author ever and she never makes a mistake. Just from my reader's point of view, it might've been better.
I do not think Janny made a mistake there. For Arithon to walk away and let a friend die, who was endangered for the sole reason he befriended Arithon and tried to protect him, would have been out of character. Whether Arithon remembers who he is or not, he would never desert a friend in need. All through Stormed Fortress and the previous books that was shown, Arithon would stop at nothing to save them, or even save others who hated him or tried to kill him.

In Destiny's Conflict Arithon will have the power to save Lysaer, if you thought it out of character Arithon wanted to save the only friend he seemed to have, wait till you see what he will go through to save a brother. Jieret stated the problem, he knew Arithon too well. Despite all the years between books, I doubt Arithon's thoughts on the matter would have changed since the start of Curse of the Mistwraith, everything he has done would have been for nothing if he fails to save Lysaer. Since Lysaer is outcast from the compact, it would not be a physical saving Lysaer needs, Lysaer needs more than just to be freed of the curse. Jieret's was the death Arithon could not accept in Kewar, Lysaer is quiet strong, it is going to take something horrific to be sure he will accept redemption. If you read through the books you will see Lysaer wanted a bit more than just Arithon's death, Lysaer was already warned he would gain what he desired. So Arithon has a bit more suffering to go through yet.

The memory loss meant the imprint Selidie had no longer matched the man, she could not kill Arithon that way. It was very suspicious that the spell worked on Teylia though, but then she did seem to know an awful lot about her father, considering she had never actually met him. We are bound to get an explanation of that eventually. Arithon was always going to be hounded once released, and once he chose to throw away his anonymity Selidie could trace him. But she still has to catch him to kill him. Neither the old imprint from the blood stained shirt nor his old aura pattern can be used to kill him. And Dakar disposed of anything she could use for an imprint of either brother, so no more fetches. There is only that crystal that she can use to entrap Arithon now, Arithon is bound to eventually go looking for the source of the emotion Selidie used to break his cover, and the the other slither of crystal set up as a trap in Deal would be for Elaira. Seems Selidie might be falling back on the one sure way she knows that will deliver Arithon into her hands, since it worked before.