yotg discussion (spoilers)

Philip.Belben at pgen.com Philip.Belben at pgen.com
Wed Dec 13 13:18:52 EST 2000

> Haha! As I am the one who asked about this, I'll start the discussion. And
> I'll put in lots of spoiler space, so don't worry.

Well done Kyla for taking the plunge.  Also well done Hallie for posting most of
my opinions, although it leaves me less to say ;-)

Anyway, I shall try to reply to everyone at once, so sorry if it gets a bit





> enough spoiler space?

Plenty of spoiler space.  Does the phrase "Abracadabra silverware and oranges"
have any significance, though?

But before I start going through people's replies, I would like to say,

Not on a planet, Ven??

I will try and explain my thoughts on that in more depth in another post.  If I
have time...


> I did wonder though if DWJ did the Uni setting as some kind of answer to the
> Harry Potter books?  It the same kind of feel to it as Harry Potter, I
> thought.  But with those delightful DWJ twists.  Just recently read the
> latest Harry Potter book too, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I must admit I too got a very strong HP feeling from the beginning of this book.
I even at one point got a feeling of "Why is DWJ immitating Harry Potter?  She
doesn't need to do that!"  but it didn't take me long to find the answer - so
that she could show what can really be done with such a setting...


> I'd again like to thank whoever it was that put me on track to realize why I
> don't love these books like I feel I should.  It was probably Kyla.  I don't
> remember.  Anyway, again, great book, but I wanted a different perspective.
> This time it was immediately obvious:  in the section where Corkoran is
> reading their first essays, and we get a summary of each one, the
> tantalizing hints about how magic works or could be made to work just
> grabbed me.  I seriously wanted to read those essays.  Failing that, I
> wanted to read a book in which the world's magic system was the most
> important thing.  It's embarrassing to have this feeling about a great

I have that feeling quite often, but I didn't get it here, for some reason.

> author.  It's like quietly saying "hey, it was good, but why didn't you
> write a completely different book?"


> But the characters were wonderful, and the description of the university
> life, and how everyone interacted.  AND MELISSA WAS NOT A COMPLETE MORON.

Well, perhaps not.  But _twenty_ gold for those model essays?  I thought the
going rate was eight!

I'll have to read it a third time and look at her in more detail.

> So there.  And someday I want to look at how _Dark Lord_ and _YotG_ parallel
> each other, or if it's just the coincidence of the endings (Scales/Policant
> appearing to reveal lost knowledge and get things back on track).

I didn't think there was much parallel.  Even the ending - Scales had been there
all along in DL, gradually doing more and more.  And anyway, I liked Scales
almost as much as Lydda did.

Which brings me onto the first of the things about which I was uneasy:  the
_deus_ex_machina_ ending, with Polycant suddenly appearing after all that time.
Was he really necessary?  I think Querida will make a far better vice-chancellor
than she ever was as chancellor, though!

(Hang on - I've just had a thought, and the books aren't handy to check.
Doesn't Querida's loss of authority contradict one of Anscher's prophecies?)

> Speaking of my namesake, that was another gem hidden away in the book--the
> part where Melissa starts going on about why she's at the university, and
> you realize, She isn't a caricature.  DWJ doesn't disdain her.  She has some
> real depths to be explored.  I think what gives DWJ's books solidity is the
> existence of other stories within the main story.  Tolkien did this with a
> world; DWJ does it with people.  I just know that if DWJ had chosen to tell
> the events of _YotG_ from someone else's point of view--even Melissa's--it
> would have been every bit as complete a novel as it is now, though a very
> different one.  All DWJ's books are like this to some degree.  How about a
> short story of _Homeward Bounders_ from Konstam's point of view?  _Dark
> Lord_ told from the POV of the pilgrims in Blade's party (the book it seems
> I really wanted to read)?  Sometimes she actually does it:  _Deep Secret_
> springs to mind as an excellent example of at least two books overlapping in
> a single volume.

I'd never seen it that way, but yes.  I agree with everything except the bit
about DL from the point of view of the pilgrims.  A good idea, but I don't think
it would work for me as well as the DL we have.


> But there were decidedly things I didn't love about the book.  At the
> risk of seeming the grinchiest of meanies, I'll reply to peoples
> lists of things they love with a few things I didn't.

Hallie, it is quite all right to have things you didn't love.  It is _not_ all
right to use the word "grinch" anywhere outside a book by T Seuss Geisel :-)

(Sorry, this is my rant.  And I haven't even seen the latest film.  It's just
that the original film of TSG's book, which animated his wonderful drawings so
wonderfully, was perfect in every respect apart from the Christmas carols sung
by the villagers.  The new film goes OTT on special effects to achieve something
that I don't believe can possibly match up to the previous one in humanity,
charm, or sensitivity to TSG's original.  And all the merchandising and
advertising spinoffs already all over things in the USA when I was there last

> First off, I hated the pop psychology breaking of the jinxes.  I
> hated that it was so obvious and superficial, and I hated the way
> seeing the problem led to instant resolution.  That seemed incredibly
> un-DWJ-ish to me.

I wouldn't have said I hated it, but I know exactly what you mean.  That therapy
session was far too easy.  Even with the magic powers of Kit and Blade to effect
the cure, it was far to easy.

> Secondly, I found the pairing-off towards the end a bit much,
> especially Isodel and Titus.  But then I've a long-standing dislike
> of the very idea of Love at First Sight, anyway, which may have
> warped my reaction to all this.

Yes, I think it would have been a bit much if it had been carried through.  But
it ended with Blade and Flury sharing their burden of waiting, instead.  Which I
thought was a nice touch.

But I agree about Titus and Isodel.  Lydda and Hareck, similarly.  In fact, I
thought Lydda was doubly silly - once for giving in to the impulse to mate with
Hareck as soon as she met him, and again for marrying him without really
thinking about it.  My mother, on the other hand, claims this was entirely in
character - Lydda has always been impulsive and selfish...

Love at first sight is linked in my mind with another literary phenomenon that I
dislike - love based purely on appearance.  For all I may find people's
appearance attractive, that's not why I fall in love!

On the other hand, Bettina may have a point linking this to DWJ's own

> Finally, (and this isn't a dislike, just a faint uneasiness), I found
> the nature of the griffins a little disturbing.  The switches between
> human nature and animal nature - for example, or especially, I
> suppose, the description of Lydda meeting Acker, and the fighting
> flight turning into a mating flight and then they get _married_.

I hadn't thought of that, but yes.  Absolutely.

> Just didn't all seem to mesh any more somehow.  Beside the fact that
> one would think that Derk and Mara's griffins would have to be
> different from the wild griffins due to their human component, and
> yet they don't seem to be.

Hey, that was what I was going to say!  I liked the idea of an entire griffin
civilisation on the other continent, though.  Actually, I don't think the
concept of "wild" griffins fits the griffin civilisation.  Griffins are such
large animals that I think there's room for human intelligence in their
braincases even with an eagle-style head.  Intelligence probably evolved among
cat-birds to produce the modern griffin in much the same way as it did among the
great apes to produce us.

My worry was more along the lines of, How did Derk get his griffins so right,
when he didn't seem to know about natural griffins when he started - and it was
a shock to all concerned when Talithan mentioned the existence of the griffins
on the other continent?  Also a subject that painfully few fantasy authors
tackle - why the heck to the griffins and the humans speak the same language?
There is little or no contact between the species, and the griffin mouth is
unlikely to lead to the same set of basic sounds (although parrots and mynah
birds do suggest that human sounds can be managed...)

And why are Derk's griffins so universally attractive to natural griffins?  Is
this a coincidence?  Is it a sort of "exotic beauty" thing?  Derk got the
griffins so right that it makes me decidedly uneasy.

I liked the idea of an entire griffin civilisation on the other continent,


> Wermacht... [ramble-alert]
> When we were talking about Harry Potter IV, somebody (sorry, I couldn't
> find the mail) assumed that "Durmstrang" was "intrinsically annoying to
> the Germanic reader" (or something like that). Whilst it wasn't, the
> name Wermacht is (at least to me). Well, I don't know whether I really
> should say annoying, but it's certainly distracting. Wehrmacht
> translates as "armed forces" and was the name of the German regular
> army until 1945

[rest of ramble deleted]

Well, yes, although I probably felt that less strongly than you.

But almost all the names made me uneasy!  Seriously.  Wermacht was a bit OTT,
but spelling a name "Corkoran" instead of "Corcoran" grated.  And Polycant is
just close enough to Polycarp to be distracting, too.

> But what I like most is the scene in which Corkoran reads the essays,
> because to me, the metaphoric meaning about what Universities in our
> world should really teach and do as opposed to what they do rang so
> true. It was as if DWJ summed up and put down my thoughts on that, but
> much better and clearer and in so many facets, from so many angles.

I hadn't seen it that way, but Hear, Hear!  It's as if DWJ is saying what so
many of us have been saying for so long - Why does the education system seem
designed to eradicate creativity?  It's like that in England; from what I hear
it's like that in the US, and now you tell me it's like that in Germany too.
Augh!  And, lest you think I may be blaming them, the teachers are complaining
as loudly as anyone...

> learning what happened to the people from Dark Lord. (BTW how old is
> Blade now?) And also the way Titus reacted to Claudias letter.

Two and twenty.  Dark Lord happened 8 years ago, when he was 14.

Oh well, I think that just about covers everything.



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