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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 2:43 am 
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No one else is posting in this thread any more (:() so I shall respond to myself.


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When the man with thistledown hair cast a spell to take Stephen and himself to 'their greatest enemy,' it took them to Vinculus. I never figured out why he was their greatest enemy. Do you have any ideas about that?


I did some more thinking about this, and just reread the chapter because it was very puzzling. First, the question that the gentleman with the thistledown hair asks is who in ENGLAND. Jonathan Strange, who might be his greatest enemy since he is the one who figures out what's going on and leads to the downfall of the GWTTDH (no?) isn't in England at this point: he's in Italy. Thus, the spell doesn't bring the gentleman and Stephen to Strange. It doesn't bring them to Norrell because he wouldn't do anything against the Gentleman on his own - it took Strange's urging to get him to do anything, and Strange is in Italy so that left both of them out.

Their exchange by the hathorne tree doesn't reveal much. I'm guessing that Vinculus is their greatest enemy because he set events in motion. Not because of what he will do, but because of what he has done. But I'm not really sure. :)








END SPOILERS

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 3:57 am 
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You prick my conscience, Mossi...I owe you a post on this. :P


I'll probably go into further detail later, but at the moment I'll just say I'm about a quarter of the way through, and really begining to enjoy it...



TtBk


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 4:49 am 
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Mossy, what a clever analysis!

Actually, something you said earlier was just as interesting, about the meaning of Vinculus' name, but I haven't had time to think it through carefully.


*** MORE SPOILERS TO END OF POST ****















Yes, Vinculus does 'bind' something, and he is 'fettered' himself ... the prophecy is written on to his body, so he loses his personhood in a sense to be the carrier of the prophecy. And as long as he lives, I guess, the prophecy written on him must come true, so he binds England's future to the will of the Raven King.

After I read what you had written, I thought about the relationship between regular England and faery, and the fact that the faeries were the servants of the magicians and not the other way around. So if the prophecy comes true, then the man with the Thistledown hair would become a servant ... and it is the prophecy that causes his death, because Norrell and Strange are the spells of the Raven king, and the spell they cast is what empowers Stephen ... and it is on the body of Vinculus that the spell of the Raven King is written ... I guess the implication is that if Vinculus could have been killed, magic would not return to England. But John U. would not allow that to happen.

Jn

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 10:46 pm 
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***SPOILERS****





















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As for the prophecy, your comment on its specificness got me thinking. The Nameless Slave clearly refers to Stephen, but Uskglass was also the Nameless Slave. Stephen becomes a King in Faerie, while Uskglass becomes King in England. The Raven King has a black bird for his emblem, while Stephen is black. They are both out of their element where they grew up. I wish I hadn't lost those posts, there were so many more similarities that I can't recall. I feel like I should be going somewhere with this, but I'm not sure where.


Its quite obvious; Stephen Black IS the Raven King. :) (And yes, I am serious)


Edited to add: Now that I finally finished the book, I feel like there is a big empty place in my life. I definitely will look forward to her next book.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 5:10 am 
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Voronwë, I know exactly how you feel. It's like there's something missing. I brought my copy back to school with me because I like having it around. But still. . . I miss reading it. (But I am still so glad you read it because I am looking forward to reading your thoughts on it.)

TTBK, you don't owe me a post until you've finished. Then I'll start poking you to post. :P



****SPOILERS! LOTS OF SPOILERS!****









Jn, interesting analysis of Vinculus' name! I hadn't thought of it like that at all. He is both fetter and fettered. How intriguing. If Vinculus had not lived (for instance, if the the Gentleman had succeeded at the hathorne tree), would the prophecy still have come true? The Book hadn't changed yet, so it doesn't seem like the prophecy has been fulfilled yet. It was almost entirely fulfilled at that point, so what if that one player had exited the stage? Uskglass (John U. sounds like a university :P ) may not have allowed it to happen (and didn't), so it's just a hypothetical but still perhaps interesting to ponder on.

Voronwë wrote:
Its quite obvious; Stephen Black IS the Raven King. (And yes, I am serious.)


Do you still think so after finishing the book?

It's a really fascinating idea, whether it's true or not. They're clearly very closely connected. Stephen Black certainly becomes the Raven King during "Yes."

Please explicate more! I'm intrigued.














***END SPOILERS***

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2006 12:43 am 
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You people have convinced me, I HAVE to get this book, and as soon as possible. Will report my impressions as fast as I can.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2006 1:13 am 
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MaidenOfTheShieldarm wrote:
Do you still think so after finishing the book?


I didn't think so until I HAD finished the book. Now I am not quite so sure, one way or the other.

Quote:
Please explicate more! I'm intrigued.


I'm afraid I'm finding it impossible to explicate further. (One reason why now I am not quite so sure.)

To give an idea of the esteem that I hold for this book, the book that I most compare the experience of reading this book to (though the subject is quite different of course) is The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.

What I would really like to do (maybe in six months or so, when enough people have read through the book for the first time) is to do a group close reading of the entire book, chapter by chapter. This would take a long time I am sure, but I am equally sure that we would be able to mine so exquisite nuggets out of it that some of us missed the first time through.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2006 4:22 am 
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*** ALL SPOILERS *****















Mossy: If Vinculus had not lived (for instance, if the the Gentleman had succeeded at the hathorne tree), would the prophecy still have come true?

My take on that was that the Gentleman did succeed at the Hawthorne tree and Vinculus did die. Uskglass brought him back to life. I mispoke earlier when I said, "If Vinculus had died," because I was thinking of earlier in the story ... if he had not lived long enough for magic to re-enter England, not just in the person of Norrell and Strange but in the general awakening that Strange brought back with him, then the prophecy could not have been fulfilled. But it had already been fulfilled by the time he was killed. The Raven King resurrected him specifically for him to carry the new prophecy.

Voronwë, I don't think that Stephen was the Raven King. When Norrell and Strange do their summoning spell, they see the 'blip' of the Raven King while he is resurrecting Stephen and then they lose it again. But Stephen is still there and he is the one their spell flows into because they address it to the Nameless Slave, which also by luck describes Stephen.

One thing that I thought intriguing was that Childermass did not recognize the Raven King when he met him.

Also, I'd love to do a chapter by chapter group reading of this book!

Jn

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2006 7:24 am 
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I'll respond in full when it's not 2:30 and I don't have a ton of work to do, but for now . . .

Lacemaker, YAY! I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Voronwë, nothing would please me more than a group reading of this book. :)

Jn, nice to see you around. I hope all is well.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2006 7:28 pm 
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Because of this thread, I just picked up this book. Wheee! I can't remember when I was last so completely and delightfully drawn in. So often a wonderfully written book requires concentration I can't easily summon these days, whereas an easily readable book turns out to be hollow. . . .

<toddles off to read some more on the comfy couch in the sunshine>

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 5:33 pm 
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Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, Primmy!

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2006 4:34 pm 
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Finally bought the book. Wow, what a meaty and entertaining read! I am not very far along yet, my husband has hijacked the book and seems quite fascinated. So far, am enjoying it very much.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2006 6:59 pm 
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I actually read it through a second time. :shock: Its a long time since I've reread a book less then two months after finishing it the first time. Of course, I have had more time on my hands recently.


SPOILERS
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I still think that Stephen Black is some kind of alter ego of the Raven King's. There are just too many references to them by the same name (e.g., the Black King, the Nameless Slave, etc.) And the words of the prophecy to seem to refer to both of them alternatively (I don't have the book in front of me, so I can't quote exactly). I recognize that they are two separate men, but it seems clear to me that Stephen is somehow a reflection of or extension of John Uskglass.

Another comment that I've been meaning to make is to mention a number of themes or ideas that seem to be taken from Tolkien's world, or at least parallel Tolkien's world. One is the explicit mentioning of the placing of one's power into a Ring as was done by Sauron. The second is the idea of the "everlasting darkness" which Tolkien mentions in the Oath of Fëanor and his sons, but a form of which is actually described by Clarke. Finally, the theme of "the Return of the King" is fully as prevalent in Clarke's story as it is in LOTR, though it takes a different form, to be sure. There are others that I noticed while reading, but those are the ones that I can recall as I sit here right now. Any other parallels to Tolkien's work that anyone has noticed?

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 14, 2006 4:09 am 
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A book of Susanna Clarke's short stories is being released this October. It sounds like they will be in the same vein as JS&MN in general and will be about magic, Faerie, etc. Strange and Uskglass even make appearances, apparently!

Prim, I also look forward to reading your thoughts.

Voronwë, wow! I'd love to do the same this summer. How did it hold up to a second reading? I hope you're feeling well, by the way, and that recovery isn't too arduous.



****SPOILERS**** Till end of post.











































Quote:
still think that Stephen Black is some kind of alter ego of the Raven King's. There are just too many references to them by the same name (e.g., the Black King, the Nameless Slave, etc.) And the words of the prophecy to seem to refer to both of them alternatively (I don't have the book in front of me, so I can't quote exactly). I recognize that they are two separate men, but it seems clear to me that Stephen is somehow a reflection of or extension of John Uskglass.


He was some sort of alter ego, but maybe that was all part of the spell. Vinculus only mentions Strange and Norrell as being part of the Raven King's spell, but I think that all of the major plot points were part of John Uskglass's spell. Although the Gentleman was also a king in Faerie, he wasn't stronger than Uskglass, but maybe Uskglass needed to get rid of him for some reason but was unable to do it himself. Thus, he could have engineered it all: Stephen's namelessness, being caught by the Gentleman, etc, so that when the day came that JS and MN cast their ultimate spell to find Uskglass, his powers would transferred to Stephen and the rest would follow. That's probably a bit far fetched and if it isn't it's probably glaringly obvious. The prophecy was written by Uskglass, after all. He just needed some way to bring it about. Where am I going with this? I don't know.

(It just started thundering outside! And there's lightning outside the window! Completely unrelated but very exciting.)

Stephen Black and John Uskglass certainly are an interesting pair to look at. They are so very alike. Maybe Stephen is some sort of placeholder? He is like the the Raven King, the nameless slave, etc. Even his name - Black, like a raven. He is also described as being very kingly. The trees and sky and rocks confuse him for Uskglass, maybe providing a portal or gap for the Raven King to enter and return to his proper place.

I noticed quite a few parallels with Tolkien as I was reading, but of course I can't remember them know. Didn't she paraphrase the Ring verse at one point?

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 14, 2006 6:20 am 
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Mossy, it held up very well on a second reading. It completely held my attention and much that seemed somewhat murky the first time through was much clearer to me the second time.

As for the rest, I'll have to give it more thought. :)

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 14, 2006 8:06 am 
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**** SPOILERS, I guess, though not very revealing *****

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Interesting thoughts, Voronwë. You're convincing me!

The theme of a King returning from obscurity is fairly traditional ... also the theme of the King who is unrecognized but whose 'nobility' cannot be concealed. In that sense, Black is much like Aragorn - all that is gold does not glitter - but I feel that both writers are leaning on a common tradition rather than Clarke borrowing from Tolkien per se.

Mossy, yes, the ring verse is alluded to in the spell that Norrell and Strange cast to summon the Raven King. Here, too, though, I felt that it was a deliberate allusion. Clarke expected her audience to recognize the echo of Tolkien in the spell.

We've spent so much time discussing the importance of free will in Tolkien - that seemed to me the one thing that was missing here. The Raven King seems intended to be perceived as good, but his subjects are all predestined by his prophecy.

Jn

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 14, 2006 10:00 pm 
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Jnyusa wrote:
We've spent so much time discussing the importance of free will in Tolkien - that seemed to me the one thing that was missing here. The Raven King seems intended to be perceived as good, but his subjects are all predestined by his prophecy.

Jn


I didn't perceive him as 'good', any more than chaos is 'good'. Chaos is necessary, as the opposite of stasis, so it is a dichotomy but not good vs evil.

And I saw the magic as chaos. So the Raven King's role is to prevent stasis, stultification, but returning magic - chaos, change - to England.

But you are right in that much is predestined by his prophecy, so free will is not allowed rein.

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Oh, that's an interesting perspective, Imp. Yes, now that I think about it, the way the status quo is presented at the beginning, with all the stuffy old men from Parliament, overturning stasis is a strong theme in the book.

Jn

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 2:16 am 
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Yes, I almost think the Raven King is somehow beyond good and evil, much like God Himself. Oh, maybe I shouldn't go there. :scratch:

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 2:22 am 
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Vinnie, you can go there...but you'd be lonely. =:)

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