Maybe you remember, maybe you don’t, but I talked a little bit about Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton’s collaborative series The Halfblood Chronicles last Fall when I was doing the 30 Day Book Challenge. The first book (The Elvenbane) was one that I read and re-read several times during early high school. This month, I’m re-reading again with Nrlymrtl and a few others – my first time reading this as part of a group and attempting to have an intelligent conversation about it.
I think attempt is the key word there.
Sue has been kind enough to start off the first round of questioning (you can see her first post here), so I’m glad I don’t have to think too hard…especially since I forgot to draft this post last night and haven’t had nearly enough coffee yet today.
To give a bit of book history so you’ll know what’s going on (and, yes – there will be spoilers) – The Elvenbane takes place in a world where elves consider themselves to be HIGH LORDS OF ALL, humans are slaves and dragons are shapeshifters that try not to involve themselves too deeply with either species (but they aren’t above playing the occasional prank).
We start off following Serina, a pregnant human concubine as she struggles across the desert. She’s been cast out after catching pregnant by her elf lord (cos halfblood babbies are a major no-no), and should count herself lucky that she’ll just die in the wastes instead of being executed.
She manages to make her way to an oasis of sorts, a pool in the middle of the desert where Alara (a dragon shaman) just HAPPENS TO BE meditating in preparation for HER upcoming birth (of her second dragonete).
Serina dies in child birth (cos, y’know – of COURSE she goes into labour right when she comes across someone/thing else), but not before we’re treated to memories of practically her whole damn life – up to the point where she was cast out and trudging through the hot sands.
Alara takes the human baby back to her dragon home, ALL THE DRAGONS WANT TO FIGHT ABOUT IT, but Alara nips that discussion in the bud by going into labour herowndamnself and the baby is given to her son, Keman – because he keeps a bunch of other wild animals as pets, so…sure. Same diff, right?
Okay – the questions.
- Serina gives us our first glimpse into not only elven society but also the upper echelons of human society. What stood out for you? Probably the same things that stood out for Alara. How brutal existence is for the humans that are enslaved by the elves, and that they have NO CHOICE but to fight to the death if their Lord wills it. I can understand that Serina was jaded by it all, but that didn’t make it any less horrifying to read about these gladiators going at it with clubs.
- Alara, our first dragon of the book, has no qualms at all about playing pranks on the elves and smaller ones on the humans. What pranks would you pull on the elves & men if you could get away with it? I’m terrible at pulling pranks, but I did love how she humiliated…erm…that one elf whose name I can not remember right now. The one she set up the whole proposal with and then disappeared? Yes, I liked that one. Hee! Really, I’d probably just come up with a way to steal the most valuable books and make them mine. FORGET TREASURE, if I was a dragon, I’d have piles and piles of books.
- The elven Lord Dyran is one of the ‘good’ lords. *shudder* What do you think the bad lords are going to be like? Far crueler and with less interest in keeping their slaves alive. A high turnover rate, much like many places of big business that no longer see their employees as people.
- Do you think being able to walk another’s memories as Alara did with Serina’s increases or decreases empathy? I can see that it would increase empathy, but would also probably be horrific in practice. The ability to read minds is not one I’ve ever wished to have. I really think I’m better off not knowing. FFS, I’m SO GLAD people don’t have access to the Big Ball o’ Crazy in my own head.
- We met and heard about several of Keman’s pets. Do you enjoy the idea of dragons having pets? What has been the most interesting pet so far? It makes me giggle to think of Keman keeping pets, but he seems to be an aberration. I love that he has otters and lizards, but am TERRIFIED of the One-horns – with good reason. I thought the story of how the One-horns came into existence was super interesting, I love that they were described as having eyes too large to allow much room for brains. Hee!
- Shana is a kid by the end of this section and she thinks she is really a dragon stuck kin human form. How do you think that this misconception does and will affect her place in dragon society? This question makes me a little sad, because I know how this plays out. NO COMMENT.
HOLY CRAP, HOW DID I FORGET HOW INFODUMPY THIS BOOK WAS AT THE BEGINNING? I think I just glossed over it before when I read, but parts of the back story totally made me cringe. I think the necessary background wasn’t allowed to happen organically, so we were treated to a lot of flashbacks in the form of memories which were supposed to set the stage. Not a fan of that, and I can’t believe that didn’t bother me before. I expect better worldbuilding from these ladies.
I love Keman and Shana’s relationship, but Alara kind of starts to bug me as we get further into the book. Is that on purpose?
WHO THE HELL IS THAT DRAGON ON THE COVER?! He/she is the WRONG COLOUR for anyone we’ve met so far! Hmph.
I’m really looking forward to reading the next section.
If any of you are interested in playing along and want to catch up, you can find our reading schedule here.