House of Chains highs and lows

About the lows, I’ve rambled a bit on the forums. The summary is that there are some small aspects in this book that are a bit disappointing and that seem to form a pattern since they all have in common the use of the more supernatural/fantastic elements of the plot. Previously I got a similar feel from the Seguleh in book 3, that I consider a rather arid concept that made my suspension of disbelief creak. This third book keeps a very high level that particularly shines when it comes to “down to the ground” characters and plots (all the scenes in Aren and around Tavore) or evocative and cryptic ones (Trull and Onrack in the Nascent), but seems getting a bit dull and dumb when the fantastic elements and badassery show off comes into play. And it seems coming into play more often and more bluntly than in previous books. In particular a scene that had a great potential was kinda wasted and thrown away (meaning that the magic element completely killed the dramatic intensity, instead of enhancing it).

Then I read a few pages further that redeemed the little perceived damage that was done. Not only the “banter” between Trull and Onrack is amusing because of how the two characters clash while yet having things in common (and sometimes think themselves different while they are similar, so a great job with subtle perceptions of both), but the dialogue is revealing and also rooted into something deep and true. I loved the tone and implications, and admire the presence of humor even when the theme is serious, without ruining it.

Some quotes that stay true out of context:

‘It is believed,’ he said slowly, ‘by the bonecasters, that to create an
icon of a spirit or a god is to capture its essence within that icon. Even the laying of
stones prescribes confinement. Just as a hut can measure out the limits of power for a
mortal, so too are spirits and gods sealed into a chosen place of earth or stone or
wood… or an object. In this way power is chained, and so becomes manageable.’

‘Do your bonecasters also believe that power begins as a thing devoid of shape, and thus
beyond control? And that to carve out an icon – or make a circle of stones – actually
forces order upon that power?’

Onrack cocked his head, was silent for a time. ‘Then it must be that we make our
own gods and spirits. That belief demands shape, and shaping brings life into being.’

After a moment, Trull Sengar followed. ‘I imagine you know little of what it is like to
see your kin fall into dissolution, to see the spirit of an entire people grow corrupt, to
struggle endlessly to open their eyes – as yours have been opened by whatever clarity
chance has gifted you.’

‘True,’ Onrack replied, his steps thumping the sodden ground.

‘Nor is it mere naivete,’ the Tiste Edur went on, limping in Onrack’s wake. ‘Our denial
is wilful, our studied indifference conveniently self-serving to our basest desires. We are
a long-lived people who now kneel before short-term interests—’

‘If you find that unusual,’ the T’lan Imass muttered,’then it follows that the one
behind the veil has need for you only in the short term – if indeed that hidden power is
manipulating the Tiste Edur.’

‘An interesting thought. You may well be right. The question then is, once that
short-term objective is reached, what will happen to my people?’

‘The stone has been shaped to encompass them, Trull Sengar. No-one asks the spirit
or the god, when the icon is fashioned, if it wishes entrapment. Do they? The need to
make such vessels is a mortal’s need. That one can rest eyes on the thing one worships
is an assertion of control at worst, or at best the illusion that one can negotiate over
one’s own fate.’

‘And you find such notions suitably pathetic, Onrack?’

‘I find most notions pathetic, Trull Sengar.’

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