Wyrd & Wonder Readalong: The Summer Tree, Week 2

Welcome back to one of our two Wyrd and Wonder Readalongs! This week we’re covering chapters 6, 7 and 8, with questions courtesy of The Fantasy Hive. I’ve got Thoughts.

Let’s discuss The Summer Tree.


There was a little confusion last week on whether chapter six was supposed to be included, so let’s explore this one first. We discussed the Pervy Prince last week – would you like to weigh in on his antics across the border?

OK, so. Diarmuid.

*Sigh* It’s… not looking terribly good for Diarmuid seeming likeable, if you ask me. At least, not at this stage. I’m a little uncertain of his motivations and his goals, but this does not paint a picture of anyone who cares much for anyone else’s needs (or respects them either, let’s be real here). We’re talking about someone who went to some literally life-threatening lengths to cross a border, and for what? To manipulate a young woman into sleeping with him? And let’s not forget the production he put on to make sure that happened once he got there.


On the brighter side, I kind of like Sharra – and I am intrigued by her actions in the aftermath of … that. She’s got a ruthless (murderous) streak, and while I am wary of anyone who responds to being done wrong by garroting people in an apparent tantrum, I’m curious to see if she and Diarmuid ever cross paths again…


We’re a sizable step into the story now, so how are we all finding the pacing?

Glad you asked, heh. It’s getting a little sticky, a bit slow, for me. One thing I always tend to struggle with is ponderous pacing vs. Important/Dramatic Events, and there was plenty of both here; I felt like they clashed, and the tempo of this dramatic-turn part of the story suffered a little bit on account of how much time the writer took to get things where they needed to be. It’s all very well to write epic fantasy and build an amazing world and set your scenes but – and Tolkien gave me the same problem – I need things to move quickly when it’s called for. The way some scenes cut from one character in the ensemble cast to another made the overall effect feel a bit jumbled, and the way the pacing suffered frustrated me. And there were mini-scenes (interludes I guess?) between them where I wasn’t even sure whose perspective on a moment we were getting. So, that’s a thing.


Loren continues his mysterious antics, have your opinions about him shifted at all? Or is there a certain other mage you’re now more concerned about?

My opinion of Loren hasn’t really shifted from my first impressions, yet. It doesn’t help that he didn’t really do a whole lot, besides “go somewhere, panic, turn around and hurry back because Magic Instinctive Reasons”?

I’m definitely more concerned with Metran at the moment – I totally bought his act in the opening chapters and I didn’t see this coming! I don’t know what the heck is really going on with the Evildoers he met up with, but I will say that it very rarely goes well, even for the Evildoers, when they decide to join forces. You just know someone will get stabbed in the back before long. The only question is, who’ll do the stabbing?


Between the children’s game and Kim’s dream, not to mention Ysanne’s mutterings to herself, prophecy is a key element weaving through this story. What are your reactions to the various foretellings thus far?

That children’s game got my attention, for sure. That was a nice little nod to children’s nursery rhymes that we’d know, because honestly, those are all kind of dark and unnerving when you really think about them! Jaelle might certainly agree, though I doubt somehow that she’s overly troubled by it. Indeed, she’s more troubled by the way most folks have forgotten the origins of whatever story led to this game! But that’s another topic, I suspect.

Prophecy is an interesting storytelling tool, when it’s used well; I want to say time will tell if it’s being used well here. And by “used well” I mean used to twist the expected direction of the story and surprise not only the people it’s guiding but the reader, as well. The problem at this stage, for me, is that I’m still unclear on a lot of character motivations. Kim mentions a dream about a black swan and Ysanne tells her it’s not good, but beyond this amazingly astute observation *wipes up spilled sarcasm* she’s not going to do anything? At what point will the wise old Seer decide to take action based on what she knows? Or is she already doing that and I just haven’t figured her out yet?


Let’s address the massive sacrificial magical tree in the room – would you have offered yourself in Paul’s shoes?

Heck yes, let’s talk about this, because I feel like Paul is right on the verge of something happening to him which is the opposite of what he expects/what he wants? This is some unsettling reading, for sure, but I’m intrigued by his part in this, as well as what’s going to happen on the third night. Why was Galadan so determined to stop him seeing this through? I’m going to bet that anything an evil werewolf is acting to prevent is a good thing that should happen, actually…

As for Paul himself, and his ‘sacrifice’ … That’s a sensitive topic and no mistake, but it’s hard to say what I’d do if I was in his shoes. They don’t seem like the most comfortable shoes. I suspect this is why I’m hoping that this rite will have a result he’s not expecting – and he is already beginning to get a sense that there’s more to it than what prompted him to offer himself to the Summer Tree in Aillel’s place…

This is a rambling, roundabout answer, I know; I just don’t have a definitive one. All I have right now are speculations. But whatever his reasons were and whatever the outcome is, I do think that Paul barely truly understood what he was offering. The question for me is, did Aillel understand, and did that have anything to do with why he accepted…?


There were two pretty major battles this week. The lios alfar were slaughtered by Galadan, and Paul witnessed a truly moving fight between Galadan and his mysterious canine protector. What were your reactions?

Honestly, all I really took from that battle between Galadan and the grey dog is that someone/something out there is attempting to keep a balance between the dark and the light. I still have no real idea what the grey dog actually is or where it came from, so it’s hard to even speculate further on it!

But the slaughter of the lios alfar is clearly going to turn the tide one way or another, judging by the reactions in court when Brendel reached them with his news. What’s keeping me from grabbing my popcorn and throwing all my emotions into it is that I still have more confused questions than enthusiastic ones, at this point. Who is the swan who took Jennifer, and why did she take her? We know there’s a reason that all five of these people were brought to Fionavar but to all appearances Jennifer seems mostly confined to a background role. Clearly that’s been abandoned, but why??


There’s still no sign of Dave! First time readers – any theories? Revisitors, do you recall if you had any opinions on this before?

I mean. As a first time reader, all I can say for sure is that this has “Dave will turn up again when we all least expect it” written all over it. Right? I mean, he can’t just turn up dead in a ditch. That would be sorely disappointing and a waste of page time. So. Dave is really The Big Bad Reincarnated?

Yes, my wild ideas like to go big or go home, why do you ask?

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