Saturday, May 21, 2011

 

The Second Book of Pellinor

And the third, actually—and we’ll start with that.

When Hem and Maenad were parted in Book I, I had a hunch we were in for a Farmer Boy—you know, having to endure a story about a character we don’t really care about just because the author has an agenda. (I was a dutiful reader of FB as a child, every time I went through the series, and the only thing I picked up was that Almanzo ate a lot. But as an adult, and especially visiting the Wilder homestead, I understood what a huge economic difference there had been between Almanzo’s and Laura’s families, and what pains the author had taken to prove that, socially and aspirationally, at least—all that emphasis on education and correct behaviour—Laura’s family was equal to or even a little better than Almanzo’s.) So I was not surprised that Book III was all about Hem. While I was reading it I was carried along well enough by his motives and desires; but afterward, I judged the plot pretty much a machine to get him into the Iron Tower (well, more-or-less) to receive his part of the Treesong. It was a good ride, though. And the way Hem is forced to grow and mature is pretty organic—he’s ready to be Maerad’s equal now. I especially liked the portrayal of the living earth, not as female (for a change—hurrah!) but as male in a way that feels true; I’d have to talk it out with someone to figure out how. But it reminded me of a male friend who is a deep nature boy with the same odd twist of grace and implacability. The representation of the same as a huge stag at the end was resonant, too. Anyway, by the time the book was done Hem had become an important character.

And as for Book II, well, that was terrific. Totally Journey literature—character is raw and dependent at the beginning; and self-sufficient, tempered and ready for the task at the end. How the author handled sexual desire was interesting, but still a little remote and theoretical, I thought; this is the only part of her maturation journey that isn’t quite complete. But maybe it is, for a YA novel. And for fun, let’s compare Hem’s and Maerad’s romantic (for lack of a better word) experiences.
Hem: is driven to save Zelika, realizing in the process that he loves her (wants to marry her when he grows up); his search (read: pursuit) for her is rash, against his own better judgement, disapproved of by the adults in his life—very Romeo, in its way, except for the absence of the physical. Throughout, in the Bardic way, he is searching for her mind, and when he finds it, it isn’t hers, after all, but her brother’s. Read: he isn’t ready.
Maerad: is hunted by the Winterking, and then downright wooed; her will and spirit are up to the task of resisting him and protecting her growing sense of self and her ambition to succeed at her task, but her body (her desire is described all in physical though not sensual terms) nearly betrays her, and she is saved by the intervention of her spirit grandmother/the Wise Crone—who helps her to exchange her betraying body for a wolf’s (!). How you want to read that is up to you!

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