Shadows of Self

Author : Brandon Sanderson
Preceded by : Alloys of Law
Succeeded by : Bands of Mourning

The second book in the Wax and Wayne trilogy (Not sure if there’s a fourth book to come?) is titled “Shadows of Self” and is titled so, in my opinion, because there’s some heavy introspection that goes on in this book – both on Wax and Wayne’s part. We get some deeper insights into what makes these characters tick in this book. The plot revolves around a rogue murderer that’s going around creating all sorts of mayhem in the city, shaking its very political pillars in the process, starting with the killing of the governor’s brother and it’s upto Wax, Wayne and Marasi to get to the bottom of it. Brandon Sanderson’s magic system itself is somewhat diminished in its use here and the book seems to revolve more around the characters’ interpersonal relationships and how they grow in the process.

Marasi learns how to be more effective in her new role as a detective (having abandoned her original career as a solicitor), traversing the different challenges her office throws at her by way of petty jealousy from her colleagues, Wax and Steris learn to be a little more comfortable with each other, even as Wax is tormented by visions of his old paramour Lessie and even Wayne is shown to have a regretful side, a face we would not expect the playful, impish character to have. There is this amazing flashback-exchange between Wax and his uncle that reveals how Wax was a “lawman” even as a young boy. There is no dearth of excellent dialogues that are very relevant even in our non-allomantic dull real world which suck you into the book the way only Sanderson can. The villian, revealed to be a kandra, plays an important role as well (actually, a-duh-moment), exploiting the weaknesses of Wax and society as a whole.

This book is.. good – the story, the familiar characters, the fights – they’re all very good. I don’t bemoan the time I spent reading it, because I really had fun. But it falls short of a 5-star because the original Mistborn trilogy was still So much better. Let’s see if the next book in the series – Bands of Mourning can change this opinion of mine.

Subjective Rating: 4/5

K is for Kitten

The person on the bike in front of me didn’t move even after all the vehicles in front of him had moved and I thought, “Oof, a stall so early in the morning. Poor guy.”. I made a move to go around him, but he stuck his hand out and I halted. I looked at him and followed his line of sight onto the road where there was a tiny kitten looking very agitated and confused, at everything around it. It all happened within a fraction of seconds – I braked hard and like a daisychain of hands stuck my hand to stop the vehicle on my right, but the person who stopped hadn’t seen the cause yet and the car on his right moved on, in the interval of which the kitten had darted across the road right in the path of this car. I yelled inconsequentially. The car, incredibly luckily moved right over the kitten and it stood there unscathed. Two men on the bike I’d stopped yelled at me for all of 3 seconds before grasping the situation themselves. I yelled back, asking them to help me catch the kitten and release it to safety. One of them jumped to action and stopped the goods vehicle behind him and the other guy and I ran behind the kitten, our vehicles abandoned on the middle of the road. The next minute was a blur, in which the kitten had managed to find himself stuck right on top of the wheel of the goods vehicle Boy ‘A’ had just stopped. With Boy ‘B”s help, we carefully extricated the kitten from under the vehicle and amidst its frantic, clueless struggles to get free, picked it up and dropped it off at a building by the side of the pavement. By now, a longer line of vehicles had assembled, blocked by our vehicles in the way. Relieved and satisfied about the kitten’s safety, we hastily got back onto our vehicles and thanked each other awkwardly.

It was a small thing, but I shudder to think what would have happened if the first biker had been just as carefree and careless as the rest of us. What if he’d been as apathetic as the biker on his left who in fact, scolded this guy callously and moved on even after assessing the scene? What if he hadn’t noticed the struggling kitten in his path and stopped sensibly?

But he did.

And as long as there are people who will stop for a kitten, the world will never be a bleak place.

A Wednesday Evening

I sat down on the pavement facing the sunset and opened up the Parle-G packet. There must have been others who followed the crackling opening of the cover with the subsequent sating of his hunger , for he bounded up to me from nowhere at the sound.

Unexpected but welcome, the visitor padded the ground next to my feet and looked in turn at me and the yellow cover in my hand. I held one of the biscuits out in front of him and he bit at it from my hand pausing right at the intersection between my fingers and the biscuit. He waited eagerly and yet patiently, while I had one as well.

We repeated the activity till the cover had been deprived of its contents entirely. 10 minutes? 15 minutes? 20? I’d lost track. I patted the top of his head gingerly and he reciprocated with a gentle nuzzle against my palm.

The light drowning us by now was artificial. The sun had set.

Leisure – SubbuUnplugged #1

This is a story set in the world of the Subbu Chronicles but doesn’t follow the #A2Z pattern or the chronology of the rest of the stories. This is, quite simply – Subbu Unplugged. Episode 1.

All that is yours is rightfully mine… and mine it will be!”. 10-year old Subbu’s eyes widened in wonder as he gripped the joystick a little tighter and watched The Dark Prince whisper the next few lines and vanish into smoke…so much smoke… the screen had gone black. He waited for a few more seconds before he realised the vanishing had more to do with an external agent than an internal actor. Amma stood by the side of the TV, the disconnected plug in her hand, an expression of impatience on her facing and one foot tapping on the ground with the rhythm of one who has been ignored for a while. “Amma!”, he protested, “I was about to get to an important level!”. “I’ve been calling you for the last ten minutes”, Amma protested in retaliation and with a shriller voice that indicated the victor of this argument even before further sparring could ensue. “Dei! You have your exams in two weeks!”, she continued, “And you’re sitting here playing this useless..this useless..”. “Game”, Subbu completed, a look of resignation and decreasing annoyance on his face, even as he knew the end of the sentence was irrelevant. 

He sighed, got up and went back to his room and picked up his Maths book, placed it on the bed and knelt on the floor, his elbows propped next to the book, a notebook on the side and an Apsara Black pencil in hand; if he was going to study, he might as well start with a subject  with the most syllabus to cover and get it over with. And that was the first paper anyway.

“If Ramu’s gardening plot is 10ft long and 5ft wide, and each flower pot is 1m x 1m, how many flower pots can Ramu place across the plot’s edges?”, Subbu read out loudly. It seemed like quite the predicament Ramu was in and it reminded him of a problem his father had read to him from a story that featured a boy named Swamy. Swamy had been, to quote his father from the book, “an extraordinary idiot”. Subbu could hear Swamy’s father’s words in his own father’s voice and scratched his head in puzzlement. He gave up and proceeded to read the next 20 problems from the page in the text (which were all along the same vein), none of which he felt his skills obtained at school had adequately prepared him for. He felt immense sympathy for Swamy and decided he had made a huge mistake in starting with Maths. It had reduced his morale  a lot. He needed a break to rejuvenate. If nothing else, surely, he’d earned some leisure time for toiling this long? He tiptoed to the kitchen and teetered on his feet as he waited for Amma to turn around from chopping the vegetables. Once she seemed to have reached a logical conclusion, he nervously called out – “Amma…I’ve tried to solve twenty one problems”, he chose his words carefully and gestured with open palms to indicate a measure beyond what his hands could show. “Can I continue my game for just five minutes?”. Amma had heard this request before and she knew what five minutes meant. She sternly looked at him and said, “I’m sorry Subbu but the game will have to wait till the exams are over. You go to Pandi’s house and see if he wants to play with you for 10-15 minutes.”. Subbu groaned and shuffled out the kitchen but by the time he reached the hall, he’d accepted this free-time barter and ran out the house distractedly. Pandi and he were classmates and had also known each other ever since he had moved in. 

“Pandiiiii”, he went chanting even as he reached the 11 year old’s house’s gate. He noisily opened the gate with an air of familiarity and rapped on the door. The Ramakrishnan residence was very well acquainted with Subbu and had come to regard him a part of their family  – well, everyone except the baby of the house that always bit his hand as though indicating disapproval. He didn’t have to wait long at the door. Pandi’s mother, Mrs.Maami (as he knew her), opened the door with her ever-smiling face and greeted Subbu warmly , “Vaa da Subbu.. Padichutiya?” (Come, come Subbu. Have you completed studying?). Subbu rolled his eyes but quickly said with every ounce of politeness he could muster , “Aaan aunty, innum konjam daan irruku” (Yes aunty, only a little bit left to go). Was Pandi at home, he enquired. No, Pandi had gone to his cousin’s place to “group-study”, he was informed. Maybe he should also go back home and continue studying, she suggested. Subbu frowned a little at this unexpected dashing of his plans to have fun and even more deeply at the suggestion that he ought to resume his preparations. Hmph. Didn’t Maami aunty understand the importance of enjoyable activities? Nevertheless, he thanked Maami aunty and shuffled out, contemplating his next actions. His eyes fell on the parked cycle as he stepped into his gate and decided that would be a good act of leisure. 

He took the cycle out and began his new act with renewed vigour, the previous disappointment forgotten. He pedalled despite the midday sun, passing the regular shops he visited with his dad, and the idle shopkeepers who were looking out on the streets hailed him, “Ay Subbu, enga da porai! Paarthu votu ” (Hey Subbu, where are you headed? Ride safely!), (those that recognised him anyway) and he yelled back  – “Hi uncle!”,” Hi aunty!”. Everyone was “uncle” and “aunty” as far as he was concerned. One of these greeters was Paramasivan uncle, the local florist. He went one step further than the rest of the shopkeepers and called Subbu into his store. Subbu’s mother was a regular patron here, being quite the green thumb and Param uncle and she had become good friends (which meant discounts were given without being asked for). Subbu regularly accompanied her on her visits; needless to say, Paramasivan uncle had taken a shine to this charming youngster who stood by his mother patiently every time she chose seeds for what must be quite the forest by now and given him a lot of free methi seeds “under the table” in an attempt to inculcate the interest in the boy as well. Subbu wondered why he was being invited , maybe Amma had said she’d collect something from him and he, Subbu was to be the conduit? Maybe. He went into the shop nevertheless and looked at Param uncle who was surveying the boy with a glint in his eyes. Then suddenly he said, “Subbu! I haven’t even shown your mum this, but I’ve been working on a new project. Come!”, he dashed to a backdoor and beckoned the boy into it. Subbu warily stepped in and gasped. It was a huge greenhouse with a whole bunch of pots with plants huddled at one side of the room. A small portion of the floor had been cordoned off by an array of red bricks. 

“Subbu”, Param uncle called. Subbu felt a strange memory knocking at the back of his mind, even as he looked at all the pots at the corner of the room. 

“Subbu, I have this plot of land here 10ft by 5ft and I want to place pots all along the edges….”

The Republic of Thieves

Author : Scott Lynch
Preceded by : Red Seas Under Red Skies
Succeeded by : The Thorn of Emberlain (Not yet released)

Disclaimer – SPOILER ALERT

If “Red Seas under Red Skies” was a series of waves on a stormy day at sea, “The Republic of Thieves” was nothing short of earthquakes, one after another – some mild tremors, some that make you stand up with a start and a couple that jolt you out of your being and rip apart the very ground you’re standing on. 
The story starts off where its predecessor stops – with a very ill Locke and an extremely patient Jean (Locke doesn’t seem to want to end books in a healthy state). They try to get physiker after physiker to examine and possibly provide Locke an antidote for the poison the Archon left them with, but with consistent failure. When all hope seems lost, they’re approached by the one person they’d hoped they’d washed their hands off of – a Bondsmage. Patience, as she called herself, proposed a deal with the last remaining Gentlemen Bastards; an election fixture at Karthain in exchange for Locke’s revival to health. With no real options, they begrudgingly find themselves accepting the deal with no real idea of what they were getting themselves into.
In all honesty, I Knew they couldn’t Kill off the most interesting protagonist throughout the series with a mere poison, so the introduction of the antidote in this manner was interesting. What Was a let-down though was the manner in which a reunion with their long-lost lady Gentleman Bastard, Sabetha was conducted. She was their rival-to-be in the contest that was the winning of the Election. But this was a minor convenience in the grand scheme of things, so I bemoan it very little. I was left wanting in the previous book, to know more about Sabetha and that was definitely slaked here. Her character despite having received only 33% attention as far as the entire universe (so far) is concerned, has been very fleshed out in this book. 
Anyway, the rest of the story is a chain of tricks, alternatingly pulled in turn by Locke (aided ably by Jean) and Sabetha, to try and benefit the respective parties they’re trying to help win – Deep Roots and Black Iris respectively. The tricks are crafted skilfully by Scott Lynch, in various degrees of complexity – some are elaborate and some are childishly simple, but they never ceased to amaze me, the reader. 
Another thing I loved about the book and something Scott has maintained throughout the trilogy is the seamless shifts between stories of the past and the present. The former is a journey of the Bastards into a theatrical production of a play titled “The Republic of Thieves”, which is, if you’re paying attention, the title of the book. The play itself, with Aurin, Ferrin and Amadin felt like the foreshadowing of the whole plot, a story within the story, if you will. The latter brings into focus the rivalry between Locke and Sabetha, even as they grapple with their feelings for one other. 
And much like how we humans sometimes feel like we’re puppets strung along by invisible forces in this vast drama that is life, Locke, Jean, Sabetha, the parties and the people of Karthain are very much controlled by the all-seeing Bondsmagi of Karthain , primarily ruled by 4 main Archmagi – Archedama Patience, Archedon Providence, Archedama Foresight and Archedon Temperance – and these figureheads have an arc and schemes of their own which we’re slowly led through, the reasons divulged towards the end. 
There are a lot of minor characters introduced in this book, but they serve their purpose as pawns in schemes and they serve it well – nothing more, nothing less. The presence of the Sanza twins, even as characters in flashbacks, was regaling.
The Thorn of Camorr and his Bastard brothers have provided me with a lot of joy and I’ve savored every bit of the story thus far. I look forward to some questions in my mind being answered with the next and possibly final instalment in the series – “The Thorn of Emberlain”.

PS – Look out for the metaphors. Scott loves metaphors.

Subjective Rating: 4.5/5.0.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Author : Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

To,
The Reader of this Review

Date  : 5th June 2019

Dear reader,
Please be warned that there are some spoilers ahead.
That out of the way, I wish to share with you how I felt upon completing this book, an epistolary, and I hope you will not mind the manner in which this review is presented. Reader, please believe me when I say this book found me rather than my seeking it. A dear friend first sent me a link to the trailer for the Netflix movie version late last year and at the time, I remember being charmed by the trailer, although , it quickly slipped my mind. Early this year, someone at my book club meeting mentioned in passing that they’d watched the movie and that it was actually derived from a book and I remember feeling surprised but again, I paid it no further heed and got on with my life. It was only two weeks ago when I was listening to a podcast that one of the speakers spoke about how she’d stopped referring to her Book Club as such and now referred to it as a “Literary Society” after being influenced and enamoured by the book. By now I was very intrigued and on my very next visit to Blossoms, a lovely bookstore here in Bangalore where I reside, I picked up “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and began reading it the very same day.

And I was hooked. 

My dear reader, I tore through the book as though gripped by a monster who craves nothing else but devour page after page of content. At first, Juliet Ashton, who’s something of a protagonist, I will not lie, struck me as something of a bland character, someone who needed crutches upon which to stand; Sidney Stark and his sister Sophie Strachan being the crutches. Her story begins with her bemoaning the lack of a subject about which to write a book. And as fate would have it, a letter drops onto her lap, sent to her by one Mr. Dawsey Adams of Guernsey, an island in the English Channels. He seeks nothing but to thank the previous owner of a book he possesses – Essays of Elia – and to know more about the author of the book, Charles Lamb. It is in this letter that he also mentions the existence of the literary club that he’s a  founding member of, on Guernsey. An intrigued Juliet writes back to him and informs him of an avenue where he can obtain a copy of the biography of Charles Lamb and this is where the tale picks up steam.

In the meantime, Juliet is also the recipient of a large and incessant amount of flowers from what is revealed to be a wealthy American publisher and an eventual courter of Juliet, Markham V. Reynolds, Jr. What follows is story of collaboration of Juliet with a host of Guernsey inhabitants and members of the Literary Society which seems more tightly knit than that can be said for blood-related families today. And in them, Juliet found more than just a topic for a book. She found friends, some who eventually became family, I suppose. I loved most of the characters , Reader – the supportive Sophie, the feisty Isola, the quiet Dawsey, the capricious Sidney , the troubled Remy and most of all, the invisible yet amazing Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the founder of the Society, dear Reader and she, while never featured in the book as a character with a voice was one of the strongest characters written in a story. The reason I say this is because she’s shown to have had a personality of selflessness. When she quick-wittedly thought of announcing to a German soldier that her group that was outdoors after curfew was in fact a literary society, when she got romantically involved with Christian Hellman, in spite of his German alliance, recognising him for the good man he was, when she slapped Adelaide Addison for being horrid to the children at Guernsey , and when she, with no concern for her own life, stood up for a fellow woman being tortured at the concentration camp she was held captive at. I love the authors for being so brilliant in creating this strong character.I found myself thinking about the unfairness meted to her and I remember my jaw clenching when I realised that she never had the life she deserved. But then I remembered she was simply a character in a book. I smiled to myself at the realisation of the effect the authors had had on me.

Well done.

Over time, and with the passing of the story it seemed to me that I might have judged Juliet Ashton’s character prematurely and somewhat harshly, for she matured. She learnt to have a spine of her own and recognised Mark Reynolds for the bully he was and sent him packing on his way when he proposed marriage to her. She came to be a voice for the people of Guernsey and a provider of more than just communication from London and the world outside Guernsey. She adopted Kit, Elizabeth’s daughter and this is one of the things that ingratiated me most to her. And she, like Elizabeth didn’t hesitate once she was sure of the man she wished to marry and spend her life with, and seeked him out. 

Is there anything I didn’t like about the book? Well, Sidney’s character seemed a little off-putting at times and Mark was absolutely despicable. But I suppose they were integral to the whole thing, so I shall harp upon them no further. 

All in all, I say it again, Reader. I loved this book. It made me feel ..warm. I felt like I was travelling with Juliet every step of the way and I guess that’s how Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece, Annie Barrows intended it. And I urge you to read it as well. 🙂  


Yours,
Abhiram

Subjective Rating: 5.0/5.0.

Sky Album

Author : Anusha Sridharan

I loved it! 

People mention the pros first and then the cons normally. I’ve never been much of a conformist that way. So first, the negative –
Language could do with a little more polish, but given that this is author’s first work, this is largely dismissible, considering the larger number of plus points, which are –
A) Lovely pics that give the words surrounding them a pleasant context.
B) I found myself highlighting multiple paras and insightful observations the author made – for e.g how the sky has emotions as well that it demonstrates by way of the different climactic conditions, how people look at the moon in the sky and talk to it while longing for the special someone etc. 
Brilliant.
C) By the time I was done with it, I was filled with a genuine sense of lightness. This was a very calming book.
Kudos to the author on a first book well written. Looking forward to more works! 😊

Subjective Rating : 4.0 / 5.0