Tower of Dawn, Chaol, and a Mini Essay on What Characters are to Us

It’s that time of year again! No, I don’t mean the schools going back, (though, thank god, because I can go shopping without having children EVERYWHERE) I mean its september, which means  A NEW THRONE OF GLASS NOVEL.

I know, originally, by this point in time, we had all hoped to have the last book in the series and were all expecting to be lying down, quietly sobbing in denial because face it, Sarah isn’t going to let all our favourites survive, but I’m actually glad that Chaol got a full novel and a year to himself, rather than the novella and three months from June to now.

When it was announced he was getting a huge book for himself, I seemed to be one of the few that was overjoyed; many people hate hated Chaol since book two. Many more have hated him since book four. But Chaol… I just wanted to know that he would be alright, because out of every character in the series, he is the one I understand and love the most.

I first picked up Throne of Glass because of Celaena. She was the character I needed back then- at eighteen, I had only just ‘escaped’ from a place that had done me a lot of damage. I was, pretty much, the way they had hoped Celaena would be locked up in the camp; broken down and lost myself. I read her story and I vowed to myself that if she could make it, then I could (I mean, technically I failed, I unlike her, do not have a kingdom of my own and am not a missing loved princess, but hey, we can’t all have crowns, and a lot of beautiful guys and girls around us). But while Celaena was the one character that saved me, it was Chaol, that from the beginning, I understood and identified with most.

Chaol’s most important trait has always been his loyalty. From the very beginning, it was loyalty to the crown and his best friend, and that was always going to be his downfall. Because he was so blindly loyal that he didn’t want to see the bad in his kingdom – despite the fact that the king he worked for was evil, and he knew it. That loyalty was the thing that ripped him apart- the thing that many readers decided was ‘out of character’ for him in previous books (see: when he and Dorian fought. When he had Aelin fought). But loyalty isn’t this black and white concept that you can turn off when you realise someone was evil.

Chaol tried. He turned away from his king and threw his sword into the river and that was a massive turning point in his story arc. That was him realising that his entire time as a captain was wrong, but that didn’t stop him being loyal. That’s why he fought so much with Aelin. Some of it was because he did love Celaena and given her his loyalty – only to find out who she was. But the rest of it was because he had built his whole life on being captain to the king and thrown it away. That sword was symbolic – to Chaol, he was throwing his life away. Like no wonder he was so angry at everyone in QoS. He had lost all he knew and he assumed the girl he loved was his enemy (and to be fair, she did kinda act it).

(Sorry I have a lot of thoughts on Chaol)

Anyway, back onto the new book; I knew that I would love Tower of Dawn no matter the outcome. Of course, I wanted Chaol to be happy, but I knew he had a longggg way to go before that; because not only did he have the war raging inside himself for who he was, and an injury he hated, he had seen too much to even know he could be happy again.

I also knew it was going to be an emotional rollercoaster. Every Maas book is, but this one was meant to be Chaol’s own Heir of Fire, and that book destroyed me enough. And it proved to be just that. In HoF, Celaena went into it hurt and hating herself, refusing to accept who she was and what she had become. In ToD, it was an identical journey, minus the whole finding his own magic storyline. Chaol went into it unable to find who he was anymore, and came out with not only new friends, but new love and himself.

I may have cried like, at least five times. (If I could pluck Chaol from the book and protect him forever, I so would)

One of my favourite things about this book, though, has been the reactions from other people. Chaol has never been a favourite of the fandom, and when people heard about this book, many spent months saying they were not going to bother reading it as it would be a waste (which like, is totally wrong since MASSIVE PLOT POINT AND TWIST) or was planning to read it to take the piss out of it. However, many of the people who went into it hating Chaol have come out, maybe not loving him, but at least understanding him.

Many who went in shipping him with Aelin or Nesryn came out shipping him with someone else (I don’t really understand shipping, not in this fandom I honestly just want them all to be happy).

I think that shows how brilliant a writer Maas is; that she can make so many people care about a character they thought they would always hate, and make them fall in love with his journey.

Out of all of the books in the ToG series, ToD has been one of my favourites, because Chaol has always been nearest to who I am than anyone else, and to see him grow over the book was amazing.

And really, there are people out there that don’t understand how some people have coped through fiction or even survived through it – I think this is the book I would hand them to make them understand. Because fiction, and characters, are not just on the page. I’ve spent five years loving these characters, I’ve been on their journeys through pages, and they have seen me through many of mine.

… and I’m slightly terrified to see what will happen in the last book…

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Friday Thoughts: On the Power of Words

I’m reading a book at the moment (*gasp*), called Letters to the Lost – which, in all honestly, will most likely have a review on here far sooner than this post does (since I write Friday posts weeks in advance) – all about a girl who has lost her mother and a boy who lost his sister years ago and has pretty much lost himself.

The book, to me, is pretty hard hitting. I didn’t think, when starting it, that it would be so bad. After all, I’ve read a lot of books about mental health and self harm and even the terrifying Only Ever Yours, which to this day, creeps me out. And compared to many of them, this book is easy. 

Except this; grief is not an easy thing. Its often pushed away, ignored and underestimated, as shown by the main characters friends, who six months after her mothers death, don’t understand why she still struggles.

And while you know the characters in the book are not real, when you’ve struggled through your own grief and the characters coping mechanism mirror your own… its extraordinarily hard to read. Only a few chapters in, I had to pause and put the book down, because it made me feel like I could barely breath.

And just like the power of grief, the power of words is also often underestimated. Every piece of writing ever read has the power to change us. Look at Harry Potter, for example. A series that shaped an entire generation, and changed the way people look at childrens books forever.

In 1996 – a year before the first Potter book came out – the average childrens book was around 140 pages long. Ten years later, it had increased to 170, and ten years after that (2016) it had gone up to an amazing 290 pages. (information from here)

The theory is that well before Harry Potter, people believed that children would never be able to sit down for that long and just read. So they never bothered publishing long childrens books – since they were apparently less likely to sell. Then along came Harry Potter (whose first few books were relatively  short, but still far longer than the average for the time. The first book was 223 pages- about 75000 words), and suddenly they were seeing that children were sitting down and reading it, and enjoying it! And of course, the series got longer and longer- the height of it being book 5 with a whopping 257,045 words (or 766 pages). And guess what? Children were still reading it. 

Publishers suddenly saw that if the story was good and engaging, then any child would read it, without being too intimidated by the size of it.

Of course, not every long childrens book is good. Its still about quality rather than quantity, but it gave longer stories a way to finally shine.

Staying on Harry Potter for a bit longer (I mean, I am of the Potter generation, can you blame me), there was also research done that showed by reading books such as Harry Potter, it helped you become a ‘better person’ more open minded to things, less judgmental… (here) Because Potter is a story of friendship, love, good VS evil and a whole lot more. Sure, there are the the downright despicable characters (I’ve never seen a fandom like Potter, where you say Umbridge’s name and everyone hates her), but they teach you how not to be, and the lesson learnt is that if you act like Umbridge, you too could be carted off by magical creatures into a giant forest. There are the characters that bring out the arguments. Draco Malfoy, the bully of the story. We all know he was a terrible child, but, as seen in Cursed Child, forgiveness is always important. Snape – who I won’t stay on because I refuse to accept he was ever a good character, because really, a teacher should never ever bully a child. But then there are the characters we all adore. The Weasleys, who show that you should always help others and have your arms wide no matter who you are. Hermione, who for a while was seen as awful, who turned out to be loyal and smart. And Harry – a boy who had lost everything, grew up in an abusive home and still became a wonderful, lovely person.

And talking about characters – did you know that you pick up the traits of characters you identify with? (That explains so much about me, since the Weasley twins and Lila Bard are my bookish siblings…) So next time someone judges you for reading something, find them a book with a really lovely, non judgmental character and it might change their minds! (read stuff about it here)

The thing is… so many people assume that books and words are just that; pieces of dead tree inked with symbols we somehow perceive as letters.

But books well and truly shape us. Think back to your childhood favourites; to this day, I can name many of them, and I still have a whole bookshelf dedicated to most of them. And books more recent; I have another bookcase where I store all my favourites, ones I go back to time and time again, or just the ones I read that caught my heart so much I knew I would never let them go.

Sometimes we read books at the right time; Celaena, from Throne of Glass, came into my life at a time I needed her. I was tired and frightened and lost, and I remember thinking, as I read it, if she can survive then so can I. Books, and their characters and their meanings can make more of a difference to someone than most people will ever imagine.

And then there are the words that maybe the world do not see. Your own words. People say that every person has a book inside them. I disagree. I think people have their own universes inside them, ever expanding and creating and dreaming, and with every book read or written, that universe grows more and more.

But we are taught to push those worlds away. Our childhoods and teenage years are all about education. It’s reading for the sake of dissecting, rather than reading for the sake of enjoyment. Its writing for essays rather than writing for joy.

At school, many of my books would have real school work in the front, then plots and mini stories in the back. I remember having countless arguments with my English teachers, because according to them, I didn’t write correctly. Even at 14, I knew for a fact there wasn’t a correct way. Writing is personal, even fiction, and every one of us has our own style. School batters that out of you. They tell you that even creative writing has it’s own form. That your characters must be identical and your writing all the same, and they grade you on how near to their own you can write. How- how can you grade something like imagination and voice?!

My English teacher from year 10 actually told me never to bother being a writer because I couldnt write. I mean, I dont know if I can, but you can look for yourself if you want. But because I refused to conform to what school taught as ‘creative’ (eg, fitting into the box and not being creative) I was punished and put down.

Her words could have had power over me. If I wasn’t stubborn, I might have believed her and stopped writing. But while education tried to box my universe down to size, I wouldn’t let them, and I let it flourish.

It’s why you should always be careful with those words you wield; often, they have more power and punch than, well, a real punch does, because words – spoken or written – can burrow under the skin and stay there and shape people long long after they were said or the book was closed.

In Letters to the Lost, the main character writes letters to her mother even after she had died. By chance, someone else read a letter and was effected by the words. They resonated in them and he understood the pain the girl felt, even without knowing her.

Sometimes, that is why we write. Even a published author can write for themselves, not knowing who would read their words and who would understand them. Sometimes we don’t write to be heard or seen; we write because our own words can change us too. Everything we read, everything we write, it shapes all of us more than we will never know.

A Bookish Update

So, normally on a Friday, there would be an  ‘On The TBR Pile’ post, and normally on a Tuesday, a review of some kind.

For the past two Tuesdays, I’ve been too busy to write a review- last week, I was up in London for the Worlds Collide Tour, seeing Rainbow Rowell and Leigh Bardugo. (Both of whom are amazing and funny and so talented.) The night was one of Hamilton references and freaking out because ‘I can’t swear in a church!’ (that from Rainbow when they were doing dramatic readings of their books)

After spending over an hour in the queue afterwards, I finally got to talk to them both, and give them both bookmarks I had made (The ‘I can’t draw’ of fanart) and got my books signed.

Then, this week, a less interesting but still funny evening was spent at a poetry slam, where a small group of us shared poetry and I suddenly felt very untalented with my words compared to some of the others there. (my poetry, by the way, can be found here)

So, less time reading books and less time to write reviews means I’ve very far behind on my TBR and mildly panicking because I see no time to catch up.

As well as all this, November is upon us, which means not only is it dark at half past four in the afternoon, the Dreaded NaNoWriMo has decided, and I (along with many other would-be-writers) will be spending the month frantically throwing down random words on a document and hoping a few of them will form understandable sentences. (You can keep up to date with my progress here)

So over the next few weeks, there will most likely be many missing posts on Tuesday, and some probably forgotten-to-put-up ones on Fridays as well. I will try my best, but to review books, I actually need to put my laptop down and read them at a normal hour, and not at three oclock in the morning.

After NaNo, I hope to get back on track with blog posts… and also start thinking of other posts to do each week as well (If anyone has any suggestions, I would love them, since I apparently have no imagination)