A lot has happened

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Last May, I injured my head. The whole of the right half of my head became numb and if any of the right half of my head was touching anything, including my pillow, then more blood would be cut off and the right half of my head would become even more numb. This rendered me stuck lying on my left side constantly while I tried to manoeuvre my head into weird positions in order to start to feel blood trickle back into the blood vessels in the right half of my head. It only ever partially got some feeling back and I could never get blood back in the specific area on my head where I’d been injured.

Unfortunately, since the end of December, the situation suddenly worsened and my WHOLE head and neck became affected instead of just the right half. Ever since then, if I have anything touching any part of my head or neck, even my pillow, the circulation to my head gets more and more cut off and my head becomes more and more numb until my vision starts to go and I have to jerk my head up quickly off the pillow and prop myself up so that my head and neck aren’t touching anything so that I don’t pass out.

Due to all of this, out of the 24 hours in a day, I now can only lie down flat with my head on my pillow for 2 hours. It’s a big change for my body to be semi-sitting up most of the time; my heart is failing and constantly deteriorating from not being fully horizontal. It just can’t take it; there was a reason that I had to be lying flat for 13 years.

Constantly having to hold my own head and neck up (apart from the two hours a night when I put my head down) also means that I’ve had zero sleep since the end of December and the sleep deprivation is horrific and only getting worse. I don’t know how I’m still going and able to semi-coherently write this but here I am.

Even though my heart is too unstable and my body too fragile to be moved, even by ambulance, I had to decide if I was going to risk death by going to a hospital in Birmingham to have a specialist MRI to find out what’s going on in my head, brain and spine. In the end, I had to risk it because I couldn’t carry on like this.

Those of you who know my family will be aware that we also had to move house because we couldn’t afford to rent there anymore. So we timed the MRI and the house move for the same day (8th February) because I knew that I would struggle to survive one trip, let alone two. On the 8th, I was taken by ambulance to Birmingham, had the MRI, then was taken by ambulance to our new house on the return trip. I’m still alive but not without convulsions/seizures and serious heart events along the way.

Everything since then has been a disaster. Not only is there the damage, deterioration (especially re heart failure) and agony from the severe physical exertion of the ambulance journey and MRI, but our new house has been a catastrophe for me. Those of you who know about my illnesses, know that noise is agony for me and that noise is the equivalent of a physical activity, which makes my symptoms more severe. My parents tried to make my room soundproof but upon arrival, we very quickly discovered that it hadn’t worked at all. So it has been torture with the roadworks, busy road, frequent (military?) jets overhead, loud drips from an overhang, as well as being able to hear every movement and footstep of my parents inside the house. It’s unbearable and I don’t know how I’m going to carry on like this.

First we have to focus on the medical stuff though because I NEED to be able to lie down without blood being cut off to my head and passing out.

We got the results of the MRI yesterday. They showed that I have:
• reversal of the cervical lordotic curve (which is probably what is cutting the blood off – I really need a doctor to do a Doppler Ultrasound on a home visit to check but I don’t know if that’s possible)
• instability at cranial cervical junction demonstrated on flexion and extension positions
• translational movement of basion with respect to odontoid process in flexion-extension noticed on T2 W sagital sequence
• degenerative changes in cervical intervertebral discs at multiple levels

It turns out that in patients with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (even in the vascular type, which is what I have), a minor head injury can cause all sorts of consequences, like the ones above, which may have accelerated what the EDS was already doing to my body.

The problem now is that there’s only one doctor in the whole of the UK who specialises in craniocervical instability (CCI) in EDS patients (it’s critical that the doctor treating it has an in-depth knowledge of EDS because EDS affects the type of interventions/treatments that can be done safely). Given that he’s the only doctor in the UK, he’s very busy and has a long waiting list so we’re currently waiting to hear back whether he can take me on or not. In the meantime, I have to carry on in this state, working hard to hold my head and neck up 22 hours of the day. My whole body is falling apart with the strain of it. It’s not bearable. But I’m still here. My parents are looking into finding a quieter place to live but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible. And my body can’t take being moved again.

To end on a slightly lighter note, the only good thing that has happened is that my parents have unearthed my books from childhood and teenagehood. I’m not able to read them but it has made me very happy to see some of them. I doubt that any of you will be interested in them but I’m going to post the pictures here anyway because it brings me joy to see them.

First up are the comics. I have at least 3 stacks of individual comics as big as this:

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(I also have many, many Beano annuals but I wasn’t able to get a photo of them)

I can’t believe I have so many Beano copies from 1992. 1992! They cost 28p back then. This one is from April 1992:

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I loved Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx, Ivy the Terrible, The Bash Street Kids and the Numbskulls. Here are some photos of those comic strips from 1992 to get your nostalgia flowing (you can click on them to get a better view):

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I also loved the comic ‘Buster’. Here are some from 1993-1997 (I remember the free trick pencil and the free joke nail very well!):

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My favourite strip in Buster was probably Cliff Hanger:

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There was also Vid Kid, Chalky, Double Trouble, X-Ray Specs and Sweet Tooth:

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I have a few copies of BVC (the Big Value Comic) too. I remember Fuss Pot, Milly O’Naire and Penny Less, Ivor Lott and Tony Broke, Odd-Ball and Book Worm:

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I don’t have all that many copies of the Dandy. I wasn’t as keen on it. This is the one that I remember most:

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Beryl the Peril was my favourite strip in the Dandy:

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Next up is The Hippo Book of Hilarious Poetry:

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It’s from 1989 so it was probably my first poetry book. I remember loving it but looking back now, some of the poems were a bit…weird. Like these (as always, click for a closer view):

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But my favourite one was about the English language:

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Next up was my favourite of all favourites: the Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton.

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Just seeing the covers of my copies makes me smile. They’re a bit worse for wear because I reread them so many times (and I think Dad accidentally dropped one in the bath a long time ago!) but I love them:

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In the first book, the new girls, including Darrell Rivers, are taken to see the Headmistress, Miss Grayling. Her words to them had a big impact on me regarding the way I wanted to live my life and the person I wanted to be. Here are Miss Grayling’s words:

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Then in the final book, mirroring the experience in the first book, Darrell, now Head Girl, takes the new girls in to see Miss Grayling. What Miss Grayling says to Darrell afterwards is what I always dreamed someone would say to me at the end of my school career. I hope I became that sort of a person anyway. Here it is:

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The next book is the Prime Minister’s Brain. I’m really glad that my parents found my copy of it as I remember it so well and so fondly. They don’t make them like this anymore!

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I vividly remember the illustrations and was happy to see that I’d recalled them correctly and there they all were. They stir so many memories:

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Seeing my old copy of The Dark is Rising sequence was wonderful:

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We also found my GCSE copy of An Inspector Calls, complete with my notes in the margins. I remember trying to make my handwriting tiny in order to fit more in. I last saw it in 2002 for my GCSE exams. Here it is:

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We also found my copy of Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster but then discovered that it had my aunt’s name written inside it so the book must have belonged to her a very long time ago:

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My aunt's name inside the cover
My aunt’s name inside the cover

 
There are lots more but I think that’s enough for now. I’ve enjoyed it, even if nobody else has.

The eternal dilemma of trying to Sort myself into a Hogwarts House

Before I even begin, I’m going to list what I believe to be the main characteristics of each House, for definition’s sake. It’s a bit simplistic but necessary for knowing my starting point.

Ravenclaw: wit, wisdom, love of learning, the ability to think for oneself, logic, original thought, highbrow, independence
Slytherin: ambition, resourcefulness, a desire to accomplish great things, cunning, creating social connections that will advance your prospects
Hufflepuff: decency, fair play, loyalty, kindness, patience, hard work, humility, trustworthiness, friendliness
Gryffindor: boldness, integrity, courage, a strong sense of morality, standing up for what is right and good, daring, determination, nerve, compassion

So into which Hogwarts House would I be Sorted?

Let’s start by discussing Ravenclaw. Due to my own prejudices, I’m always suspicious of anyone who Sorts themselves into Ravenclaw. Rightly or wrongly, this House is usually associated with being intelligent and having a brilliant mind, therefore claiming that you’re a Ravenclaw primarily signals to me either:

1. delusional arrogance in thinking that you are superior in intellect to other people and that this makes you better than them in some way
OR
2. insecurity within yourself that makes you feel like you have to prove to others that you’re clever because your brilliance is not always obvious from the outside
OR
3. pride – it’s important to you to be seen by others as very intelligent and to make sure they know it

I find this concept of Ravenclaw troubling because I don’t think that anyone should ever be judged by how intelligent they are because it has no bearing as to what’s in their hearts or whether they’re a good person. Besides, there are many different types of intelligence, skills and talents.

However, if I put aside my prejudices and look at the main traits of Ravenclaw that I listed at the beginning, I definitely would identify with quite a few of them. At school, I was always very enthusiastic about learning and loved the thrill of academic competitiveness. My curiosity was boundless and I often raised my hand in class to ask questions, to which the teachers didn’t always know the answers. Like Hermione, I also frequently thrust my hand in the air to answer questions that the teachers asked the class. I loved to read but I was very picky about what I liked and wouldn’t tolerate books that I found boring. So although I consider it a Ravenclaw trait to love reading, I don’t have that desire to read anything and everything like some people do. Also, if I had to choose between sitting still or having fun being active and energetic outside, I’d choose the latter, which I don’t think is very Ravenclaw.

Wisdom is another characteristic of Ravenclaws and I guess that I do feel like I have more of it than average, if just through the experience of what I’ve had to endure and learning from it. I also like to think that I have the Ravenclaw trait of being able to think for myself (but I have a feeling that everyone thinks this of themselves).

My brain is naturally very logical but I also tend to daydream and get completely sucked into my own world inside my head and get lost in my thoughts. Having playtime in my imagination is one of my favourite things and I can become so absorbed in it that I don’t notice time passing. My memory can also be freakily amazing. All these things are very Ravenclaw, I suppose.

Overall though, I’d say that I wouldn’t be in Ravenclaw and will always cheekily tend to suspect that Ravenclaws are intellectual snobs who enjoy the kind of things that I find deathly dull: opera, literary fiction, ballet and art galleries.

Moving on to Slytherin. I always was very ambitious and wanted to accomplish great deeds. When I was young, I wanted to grow up to end hunger, poverty, corruption, violence and injustice. Basically I wanted to save the world. I don’t know if wanting to save the world and help others is a very Slytherin trait (I view Slytherins as having more of a tendency towards self-interest and selfishness) but the Slytherin ambition to do great things is there. I had selfish desires for personal accomplishment too though; I wanted to be the best I could possibly be. Whether it was academic subjects, sport or acting, I wanted to get the highest marks in class/tests/exams, run the fastest, jump the longest, throw the furthest, put on the best performance in a play. I was scared of not fulfilling my potential, which is very Slytherin.

However, I hate many things that the House represents. The Slytherin desire to hobnob and network with influential, important and famous people is rather sickening. It’s exclusionary and sycophantic. Using other people to advance yourself just feels wrong. Another thing is that in the Harry Potter books, most Slytherins tend to be bullies and bigots who are obsessed with pure blood and status. Any sane and decent person would therefore want to avoid Slytherin, which would lead me, along with Harry, to chant “Not Slytherin, not Slytherin, not Slytherin” to the Sorting Hat. I definitely wouldn’t Sort myself into Slytherin.

Next is Hufflepuff. I identify with most of the Hufflepuff traits from the list at the beginning.
On my final day of school, when the Upper Sixth were gathered together informally and given a title and a small goodbye gift (for example they gave me a Scratchcard!), the title I was given was ‘the kindest/nicest person you will ever meet’ so that was very Hufflepuff. In my Leavers Book, somebody wrote ‘you never have a bad word to say about anyone’; this made me so happy and proud because I deliberately never talked about anyone behind their back and refused to gossip but I didn’t think that anyone had noticed.

I have another very Hufflepuff memory at the school I went to before sixth form. Once when my closest four friends and I went to the staffroom to ask for the keys to the costume cupboard, the teacher who came to the door with the keys [hi Mrs Smith if you’re reading!], asked us “Who is the most responsible?” and in a split second my four friends all pointed to me and chorused “JENNY!”, which was very amusing. So Mrs Smith gave me the keys to look after and be responsible for and I did so diligently. I think I’ve always been middle-aged at heart in the sense of being very responsible and dependable, which I regard as Hufflepuff traits.

Although I was very competitive, I valued fair play and honesty more. This extended to all areas of life but it’s easiest to give an example from sport. In hockey or netball, if I was the last person to have touched the ball before it went out of play, I would immediately say so to the referee instead of pretending it was the opposing team who knocked the ball out. I wanted to win but not at the expense of integrity; I wanted to win fairly or not at all. These Hufflepuff traits are stacking up.

Another Hufflepuff (or is it Gryffindor?) memory that comes to mind is one time at school when Fruit Pastilles were being distributed to everyone (I can’t remember why), we were each given two. I was given one orange one (I didn’t really like orange ones all that much; they weren’t as bad as green or yellow ones but they weren’t the delicious red and black ones) and one black one (score!). I decided to eat the orange one first to get it out of the way so that I could save and savour the best one for last. After I’d just finished eating the orange one, someone in our year group came down the stairs and saw that she had missed the Fruit Pastilles being shared out. She was so sad and looked so bereft and asked if there were any left. Everyone quickly wolfed down their remaining sweets so that they wouldn’t have to share. I looked down at my precious black Fruit Pastille in my hand and couldn’t bring myself to eat it knowing that the other girl hadn’t had any Fruit Pastilles at all. With a heavy heart, I gave it to her, which she was surprised about because we weren’t in the same group of close friends. I was glad that I did the right thing but oh the disappointment of not getting to eat the black Fruit Pastille. Such a ridiculous, trivial, insignificant thing now but it stuck in my memory for some reason.

However, my pride would prevent me from Sorting myself into Hufflepuff because in the books, the impression is given that a lot of people think that Hufflepuff is a bit pathetic. It shouldn’t matter what other people think but in reality it would bother me; I don’t like to be underestimated or looked down upon. Hufflepuff also doesn’t see a lot of glory and I do like glory and winning (there’s the Slytherin in me raising its ugly head again). So I wouldn’t Sort myself into Hufflepuff either.

And so we arrive at Gryffindor. I’m always aware that lots of people want to be in Gryffindor by default because that’s the House that the main characters are in. My brothers always immediately say that I’d definitely be in Gryffindor because I’m exactly like Hermione Granger (apart from that I was very sporty too) – I don’t know if that’s because of my brains, bossiness (*cough* strong leadership *cough*), my sense of morality, my dislike of breaking rules or always believing in and standing up for what’s right, no matter what the cost. The Sorting Hat very nearly put Hermione into Ravenclaw though so I can’t necessarily use her as a measure for which House I’d be in.

I do think that I’d be a good fit for Gryffindor in a lot of ways in regards to the Gryffindor traits in the list at the beginning and I do love excitement, which I think Gryffindor would provide. However, the core trait of the House is courage/bravery and although with this illness I am forced to be brave to make it through every day, I don’t have any choice about it. If given the choice, I wouldn’t want to have to be brave all the time. If something is important, then hopefully I would choose to be brave but I would prefer to not to have to be. I don’t know if this disqualifies me from Gryffindor.

I do feel that it’s important to have integrity in the small things as well as the big things, which is very Gryffindor, or at least very Hermione. To give a tiny example: at school, we weren’t supposed to walk over the grass as a shortcut from Clough House to the Dining Hall. But everyone used to cut across the grass, even the staff. Except me. I was the lunatic who sprinted down the path all the way around the grass just to arrive at the Dining Hall at the same time as my friends, who had sauntered there across the grass. I think everyone thought I was insane but my conscience wouldn’t allow me to do otherwise – my Dad was friends with the gardeners so I knew how hard they worked to try to keep the grass nice. Everyone cutting across it killed the grass and made it brown and a muddy mess. I couldn’t bear to treat the gardeners so badly. Nobody seemed to care though, no matter how much I told them. I just cared too much about everything.

While I’m in the business of telling self-complimentary anecdotes, I might as well go the whole hog. Solely for the purpose of demonstrating another Gryffindor trait, of course…
I visited the costume cupboard quite often with my friends; it was really fun. You could only reach it by going to the top floor and then climbing up a heavy wooden ladder because it was quite high up above the ground. One time when my friends and I were coming down, after we reached the ground, the ladder fell with an almighty crash against the floor. Everyone except me panicked and scrambled away as fast as they could. The headmaster’s office was directly below, two floors down, so if he was in there he would definitely have heard it. My heart was racing but I forced myself to stay calm and pick up the ladder, slotting its hooks back into the wall and went to sit on the stairs, waiting. I reasoned that none of us had done anything wrong and tried to convince myself that there was nothing to be scared about. Also, I didn’t want anyone who came up the stairs wondering what the noise had been to be worried and not know what happened. Sure enough, soon I heard footsteps climbing the creaky wooden stairs and it was indeed the headmaster’s face that rounded the corner. It was actually quite funny because his eyes widened when he saw me sitting on the step; I was the last person that he expected to see. Anyway, I explained everything and showed him that the ladder wasn’t broken or damaged. He asked me if anyone else had been with me, which I didn’t answer. I think that he sensed my discomfort so he just nodded and said “they were all scared and ran away perhaps?”, to which I couldn’t help my mouth twitching into a guilty smile but I still didn’t say anything. He nodded and left it at that. I was glad in the end that I had stayed behind and done what I thought was the right thing, even though I was scared of getting into trouble.

In conclusion, I think that I could easily be Sorted into any of the Houses but none are the perfect fit. This is probably the same for most people. If forced to choose just one though, I usually say Gryffindor but with a whole lot of caveats. I don’t like to be boxed into one single House because incorrect assumptions can be made. In the future if anyone asks, I’ll just send them the link to this blog post. Which won’t be annoying for them at all…

I’d love to know which House you’d Sort yourself into and why. Let me know in the comments.

Book club: October review

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Audiobook: Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer
Length of audiobook: 17 hours 48 minutes
Narrator: Alison McKenna (Irish accent)
Genre: Fantasy
Audiobook description on Audible:
A high fantasy following a young woman’s defiance of her culture as she undertakes a dangerous quest to restore her world’s lost magic.
Her name was Kimbralin Amaristoth: sister to a cruel brother, daughter of a hateful family. But that name she has forsworn, and now she is simply Lin, a musician and lyricist of uncommon ability in a land where women are forbidden to answer such callings – a fugitive who must conceal her identity or risk imprisonment and even death. On the eve of a great festival, Lin learns that an ancient scourge has returned to the land of Eivar, a pandemic both deadly and unnatural. Its resurgence brings with it the memory of an apocalypse that transformed half a continent. Long ago, magic was everywhere, rising from artistic expression – from song, from verse, from stories. But in Eivar, where poets once wove enchantments from their words and harps, the power was lost. Forbidden experiments in blood divination unleashed the plague that is remembered as the Red Death, killing thousands before it was stopped, and leaving Eivar’s connection to the Otherworld from which all enchantment flowed broken.
The Red Death’s return can mean only one thing: Someone is spilling innocent blood in order to master dark magic. Now poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a challenge much greater: galvanised by Valanir Ocune, greatest Seer of the age, Lin and several others set out to reclaim their legacy and reopen the way to the Otherworld – a quest that will test their deepest desires, imperil their lives, and decide the future.

My thoughts:

[At the beginning of the month, I was taken into hospital for an op (see previous blog post for details). Everything has been a bit of a blur since then and I’ve just been trying my hardest to stay alive. As a result, I listened to this audiobook in fits and starts, which may have affected my judgment about it. I was desperate to put something up on my blog for the first month of my virtual book club but it has cost me a lot and is more like a few scattered thoughts than a review. So, apologies in advance! The thing that I’m looking forward to the most is reading all of your thoughts/reviews and seeing how you reacted to the book.]

I found it interesting that although many of the poets’ songs were thought of as clever and entertaining, it wasn’t until Valanir Ocune sang his unapproved song (the songs of poets have to be approved by the authorities before they’re allowed to be sung) at the Midsummer Ball that we see that the poems/music/stories with real power are the ones that speak truth. His song spreads quickly throughout the city. Although the magic that songs used to possess has been lost, we see that words, story and music have their own power and magic anyway, even without “proper” fantasy-style magic. They can change people and the world. This is a recurring theme in the book and a question that is repeatedly posed: is art a form of magic?

This book reveals its secrets slowly and I found myself impatient for revelations and for information regarding the characters and their pasts. We only gradually find out why characters are the way they are. Unlike the book’s description suggests, the story isn’t all about Lin. We get different chapters from the point of view of other characters. It’s a patriarchal world where women are oppressed and treated awfully. This is highlighted through the personal stories of the different characters and the damaging impact that stereotyping, oppression, sexism, abuse and violence has on them.

I liked Lin and the fact that she was pursuing being a poet, despite women not being allowed to be poets. I found it hard to believe though that no woman in all the centuries before had not tried to change this state of affairs. Usually, where there’s oppression, there are always people rising up to protest and fight it. Lin couldn’t possibly have been the first one. Maybe others were unsuccessful and were imprisoned or killed? Even at the end of the story when Lin becomes Court Poet, she struggles to change things for women and finds, despite all that she has accomplished (and saving the whole world from the Red Death), the Academy is still reluctant to let women in to learn to become poets.

I’ve rarely hated a character as much as I hated Lin’s brother, Rayen (but then, who wouldn’t hate him?). He’s pure evil. Cruel and abusive, he violently beat up and maimed Lin as she was growing up (until she ran away) and he killed her unborn baby in this way. Like many abusive people, in public, Rayen is manipulative and clever and makes everyone think he is wonderful – the very last person who you would expect to be abusive. It was with horror that, as readers/listeners, we had to watch him enter the life of the naïve and sheltered Rianna, and worm his way in. I was silently screaming at her NO, DON’T TRUST HIM. But of course, he fooled her and slowly manipulated her over time to get her to trust him and like him, as he did with everyone else, and it was horrible to watch. It was chilling when later on, Rianna woke up to find that note from him and realise that she had been duped and that Rayen was indeed a monster after all. I’m glad that she got to kill him in the end.

They succeed in bringing magic back into the world. I can’t help but think that this irrevocably changes the nature of being a poet. Before, a poet’s words/songs may have entertained, moved or comforted people; a poet could help people emotionally but could not help them practically. After magic is brought back, their words and songs have the power to pratically help, heal and fight. But this completely changes poets’ roles from makers of art for art’s sake to makers of art for its practical value. From dreamers to soldiers and physicians, in a way. It feels like something has been lost. Maybe this is the price of magic. It also takes away from the power that words/songs have by themselves.

At the beginning of the book, the poets were all competing in a contest to win the Silver Branch, the highest honour. The fact that we find out that the Silver Branch actually represents Edrien Letrell’s cowardice and failure to bring magic back to the world and not his success at finding the Path, seems to emphasise how everything that the poets used to strive for was based on a lie. Poets have a new purpose and role now that magic is back.

Overall, I found the book to be lacking in pace and there weren’t many exciting bits. Again, I don’t know if I only felt this way because I listened to it in fits and starts or because audiobooks always feel a bit slow and boring, no matter how good the book is. But it felt like the pace didn’t ever accelerate and it was a struggle to keep listening at times. It just didn’t grip my attention well and I didn’t find it very enjoyable. Disappointing.

Mark out of 10: 4

Narrator: I love Irish accents so I found Alison McKenna very pleasing on the ears. She was a little bit slow and her pauses were a bit too long but Audible have a feature where you can increase the speed of the narration. I found that x1.25 was the perfect speed to turn up this particular narrator to. Alison is so far the best audiobook narrator that I’ve come across (some are truly abysmal) so she gets a thumbs up from me.

I’m looking forward to reading all of your reviews and thoughts. Remember to leave a link to them in the comments so that everyone can read them. Do you agree/disagree with what I had to say? What mark out of 10 would you give the book?

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A reminder of next month’s book club book: Starborn by Lucy Hounsom

Audiobook review: The Final Empire (Mistborn Book 1) by Brandon Sanderson

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Length of audiobook: 24 hours 40mins
Narrator: Michael Kramer (American accent)
Genre: Fantasy
Audiobook description on iTunes: A thousand years ago evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives in servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash fields. But now a troublemaker has arrived and there is rumour of revolt. A revolt that depends on a criminal that no-one can trust and a young girl who must master Allomancy – the magic that lies in all metals.

My thoughts:

This book started slowly and for the first third of the audiobook (the audiobook is divided into 3 parts), it felt like nothing much happened. I don’t know whether I only got this impression because I was acclimatising to the slow pace of audiobooks. I’m not used to listening to audio without a visual; maybe TV shows and films have spoiled me with their easy-viewing, instant gratification and excitement. So initially, I found it hard to get into this book or be interested in it. The only reason that I didn’t stop listening was because I had paid for it and audiobooks are very expensive.

During this first third, I didn’t warm to Kelsier (one of the main characters) at all but I don’t know how much of this was due to how the narrator did his voice, which made him sound full of himself. His casual attitude to killing people was unsettling. Both Kelsier and Vin (the other main character) felt quite bland and uninteresting, just bog-standard characters that I’d seen so many times before in fantasy books. Thankfully, this did change and I felt very differently by the end of the book. Both Vin’s and Kelsier’s characters grew and developed well.

I’m so very glad that I slogged through the first third. It then suddenly became very exciting and all-consuming. The parts I liked most were the bits when Vin was learning to fine-tune her Allomancy (magic using metals) with different members of the crew who specialised in their different metals, especially when she was learning the subtler ways of using brass with Breeze, and bronze with Marsh. I also enjoyed Vin infiltrating the nobility’s balls; those parts were very fun to hear. It also opened the world up beyond the crew and their plans. I loved the way the crew engineered the House war.

My favourite character was the gentle Sazed (although from the way the narrator spoke, I thought the spelling of the name was ‘Seyzit’), a Terrisman Keeper, who preserves knowledge. I enjoyed every minute with him in it. Each member of Kelsier’s crew though was interesting and I grew to love them.

This is a book that very gradually reveals its secrets (‘There’s always another secret’). I loved that, in the end, you learn that there was much more going on than what met the eye, especially with regard to what Kelsier was really planning. Everything was wrapped up masterfully and excitingly, while leaving a few mysteries for the next two books in the trilogy.

It’s strange because the characters whom I thought were going to die, didn’t. And a character whom I didn’t even consider would be killed off, was. So that was interesting and the latter, shocking. Also, I partly guessed something correctly about the mystery of the Lord Ruler but I was surprised about another part. I don’t want to give away any spoilers though because I ended up loving this book and thoroughly recommend that you read/listen to it yourself.

Overall mark out of 10:
7/10

Putting on my feminist hat:
I was disappointed about the lack of female characters. I reckon that the author could have easily swapped the gender of several characters to make the story less man-heavy. Where were all the women? The imbalance was very noticeable. Also, it was always men who were teaching Vin (a 16 year old girl) Allomancy, which grated. The men were the ones with the knowledge and Vin wasn’t. It would have enriched the story if half the crew had been female instead of all male, thus giving Vin some female mentors too. The only women that Vin encounters at all are the awful noblewomen at the balls. I don’t like the trope of ‘this woman is only ok because she’s not like other women’, which was applied to Vin. Not cool, Brandon Sanderson.

The narrator:
Not the best but not, by far, the worst I’ve heard. You get used to him in the end. Bearable.