The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel Kay Readalong Week One

When we started The Summer Tree readalong, I didn’t expect to find we’d be doing The Wandering Fire within a month of finishing the trilogy’s first book. But we are, to my utter delight.

As ever, our fearless leader in charge of plunging people into perilous situations is the otherwise incredibly wise bookwyrm Imyril, and you can find full details of what we’re doing here – including how to join

Imyril’s also asking the questions for week one, so let’s go answer them.

1) What do you make of Jennifer’s decisions regarding Darien …and what do you think has happened to him?

To me, Jennifer’s decisions looks like her picking the options that go furthest to re-establish her sense of control and self, such as she can. Darien is her choice, hers and no others, and in making the choice to give birth she is making the choice nobody wants her to take – particularly Maugrim. There’s a certain level of “fuck you” in that, which I’m sure has gone through Jennifer’s mind, but I think the main part is Jennifer having some control. Seeing it through, and proving she can control something still (and hearing Paul’s story), gives her a bit more peace.

Although I am perhaps underselling the extent to which it is a riposte, an attempt to wound and alter the war, at least on some level. Maybe 50-50.

As for the second part of the question, it was Colonel Mustard in the library with the lead piping.

2) From tapping the avarlith to tapping a source to the uncontrollable magic of the Baelrath and the erratic blessings of a God – what are your thoughts on the magic systems of Fionavar?

It’s all very mythic, which I approve of.

Half the time I almost feel like magic is the wrong word as it’s less like they’re doing things, and more channels for greater powers to work through. Kim and Paul in particular aren’t the straw that stirs the drink so much as the straw through which it travels. In a way, so too is Tabor’s partnership with Imraith-Nimphrais, although he has a little more control over things there.

I wish we actually saw more of what Loren can do, as it’d be interesting to see what Loren can do compared to our poor old youngsters getting put through the loom. However, I’m more than okay with him doing less magic than even Gandalf, as it helps keep the book quite lean for what it is.

3) Where The Summer Tree established the legends of Fionavar, The Wandering Fire is full of Celtic motifs. How do you feel about the blending of fictional and folkloric inspiration? First time readers – any predictions for what this may mean for the story?

Do you know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do the blend quite like this. Earth myth played entirely as is – not an expy, not a riff on or a reskinning, but the dude himself – with a brand new secondary world is something I’m really totally struggling to say I’ve seen elsewhere.

I’ve never been 100% sure how I feel about it to be honest in that particular sense, the inclusion of Arthur. Because I don’t see this sort of thing that often, it feels a bit strange to me. It’s like listening to an album by a band you love, doing the music you know, and then bang! Random retro-remix or something.

But in general, I’m a sucker for Celtic-inspired settings, and I do love the way they repackage some of the myths. My absolute favourite of the repackagings is just over the page though, more or less, so I’ll shut up now.

…and any other thoughts on our five, their friends in Fionavar, magical winters or other topics – dive in!

I would like to talk Kevin and Dave. Hell, they’re pretty much the first thing we see – Kevin ribbing Dave, Dave saying he can take it, Dave all fancy and Kevin all casual. It feels a step forwards for both men. And both men have changed, but it’s different ways of expressing the same person.

I think that shows most when post-Dalrei battle, they’re jealous of each other. It’s easy to see how. Kevin’s used to being someone who gets stuff done and deserves being the centre of attention. Not being that is shitty for him on multiple levels. Dave doesn’t say he’s jealous but it’s pretty easy to read it in between the lines with his exasperation regarding him talking with Liane. It’s pretty easy to guess at when you know how Dave is, and how he feels about suave types. It’s a really fascinating line of development, particularly when you look at just how like Diarmuid and Aileron they are.

Speaking of struggling with feeling useless, there’s Paul. I think for me his most memorable moment in this segment is wondering around with no coat because he no longer feels the winter. Why? Because to me, that’s Paul acting out. It’s Paul, frustrated at how all the power he can sense can’t be accessed how he wants, in a manner that lets him save people, setting a marker down of how he’s different. It’s the same arrogance and controlling tendencies that lie behind his guilt over Rachael…

… only here we get to see him with Jaelle as a juxtaposition. And yes, he’s still very much given to acting out when made to feel powerless, but there’s a lot more ability to give and take now.

And that’s it. Everyone else seems much themselves and Kim is consumed by the plot. But I think we get more Kim soon.

Now onto week two!

11 thoughts on “The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel Kay Readalong Week One

  1. I do want more Kim. I do like your insights on the boys. I am struggling with Kevin a little.
    Paul is acting out a little. I do like that he is making connections with Jennifer and Jaelle. There are multiple character conflicts about to go down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think one of the tough things about mid-trilogy books sometimes is starting books with characters in fairly dark places, which plunges them into their worse and can make them a bit less sympathetic.

      Still. Yes. Stuff is indeed about to happen…

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  2. …damn, I forgot to talk about Dave and Kevin but that’s okay because you’ve nailed it here. Their roles have shifted – with regards to each other and to where they sit within their broader companies – in a way that at times almost looks like role reversal (Kevin now the one in uncomfortable shoes; although old Dave would never have been Kevin’s torchbearer), but isn’t. Instead, it’s expressing more about who they are and who they are becoming.

    I enjoy that they still don’t really understand each other, even if they’re more comfortable with one another: Dave is so flummoxed at Kevin’s horror over the execution (what’s the big deal, Kev? Oh I don’t know Dave, summary execution should maybe bother you? Maybe?) – for me, while Kevin is portrayed as the deep feeler, he’s also much more of a _thinker_ than Dave. And I like that Dave is learning to keep his reactions in check.

    And oh my yes Arthur whut. It never quite sits right for me, in a way that all the repackaged but perfectly recognisable myths around it do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would propose the theory that most deep feelers are deep thinkers. It’s the only way to make sense of it after all! Although now you mention it, that scene is so very telling of just how much Dave is in his element. He questions what happens there only in the way every other Dalrei does. Which of course highlights just how completely out of place Kevin is.

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  3. I promise I’ll get you your week two questions this weekend!

    I hadn’t thought to compare Dave and Kevin to Diarmuid and Aileron, but that makes a lot of sense! They’re both reconciled people with a history so there’s always a bit of tension there… and now that you say it, Paul wandering around sans jacket in the freezing magic winter is absolutely acting out! Very emo, and I can 100% relate.

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  4. Yeah, I’d like to see what Loren can do too. More out of curiosity than anything, I guess.
    And your Kevin/Dave/Diarmuid/Aileron comparison has kind of blown my mind! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, thanks. I’m mildly obsessed with character dynamics, particularly in the sense of multiple characters having similar traits that shine lights on each other. I did a post on The Fionavar Tapestry ages back, because the Gang of Five have great dynamics and when I dug it seemed startling how many obvious comparables Kay left for the gang around. I’ve been deliberately sitting on invoking them, but it just slipped out with the Kevin-Dave dynamic so prominent.

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