The Book of Lost Tales Vol 1. by J.R.R. Tolkien

Sorry for the silence on the book blog, my friends. I’ve been working very hard on my own manuscript, editing it to get it to betas and working on reading some friend’s manuscripts. I haven’t been reading much. This may continue for a few weeks, as I have two books to beta for friends and I’m far from finishing my edit. Please be patient with me. I’ve got so many great books to read!

book of lost tales 1

My last read was The Book of Lost Tales. Here is the link to Goodreads, and below is the blurb.

The Book of Lost Tales stands at the beginning of the entire conception of Middle-earth and Valinor, for the Tales were the first form of the myths and legends that came to be called The Simarillion. Embedded in English legend and English association, they are set in the narritive frame of a great westward voyage over the Ocean by a mariner named Eriol (or AElfwine) to Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle, where Elves dwelt; from them he learned their true history, the Lost Tales of Elfinesse. In the Tales are found the earlies accounts and original ideas of Gods and Elves, Dwarves, Balrogs and Orcs; of the Silmarils and the Two Trees of Valinor; of Nargothrond and Gondolin; of the geography and cosmology of the invented world.

I’m sorry. I’m starting with a major rant. After a few of the tales, I quit reading the notes. As usual with these Lord of the Ring Prequels, the editors and compilers  abandoned their  job for a painful obsession with minutiae. Christopher Tolkien treats Middle Earth like a history subject instead of a world filled with stories. I hate to tell him this, but his father, besides being a professor and creator of an amazing world was a STORYTELLER. Christopher Tolkien doesn’t give a flying frak about storytelling. He interrupts the beginning and middle spot between tales to tell us how they were connected, what kind of a notebook they were written in and all abut the original form of the story before J.R.R. Tolkien revised them – known as the first draft, and totally unnecessary to present to the reader. At the end of each story, he gives an endless list of name changes the characters went through during the story revision process (in paragraph form). He also compares the stories you just read with stories you know nothing about (stories that come later and the tales or the Silmarillion, which I have read but have not memorized.) It. Is. Painful. The tales should have been edited, given forth as they were in their final edited form, with MAYBE a footnote here and there to say “If you’ve read the Silmarillion you will realize that A and B have changed after revision.” In the case of multiple versions, they should have chosen a fricking version and stuck with it, rather than giving us  multiple paragraphs written in multiple  ways. I mean, he has footnotes to make note of changes to sentences. He does the same thing with poems – in one case listing three different versions of the same poem.

Sorry. Rant over. On the tales themselves. We meet our main character, Eriol, who is traveling in Tol Erresea, the land of the elves. Did you know Tolkien originally called them gnomes? Eriol comes across the Cottage of Lost Play – the singular best name ever given to a house. Even better the Wellinghome (Treebeard’s house) or even “the last homely house east of the sea” – which is more of a description than the actual name, but Imladris or Rivendell might be a better name… anyway. He meets all kinds of magical folk and hears the stories of the creation of the Ainur, a few of whom  became known as the Valar (who became like gods) when they went to Valinor (kind of the garden of Eden) on Earth (our planet) after Iluvatar (THE God) creates it. The gods bop around for awhile, mucking around with the raw materials Iluvatar has left them, and trying to overcome the treacheries of Melko (a fallen Ainur who is pretty much like Satan) Then come the awakening of the elves, and long after, men. After awhile, staying among the elves and hearing their stories, Eriol wants to drink the magic drink, limpe and stay with them forever. He is told to be patient, to wait; that he has not been among them long enough to make that decision. Because once he drinks the limpe, he cannot leave. He needs to hear the long sad tale of the darkening of Valinor and the decline of the elves.

It is a sad story. And a bit of a confusing one, as the story kept changing and Christopher Tolkien keeps pointing it out. In short, Melko, who is like Satan with a little Loki thrown in, is jealous of the elves. Especially when they start making pretty stuff out of twinkle-light and the mists off the water, and the light dripping from the magical trees. He pretends  he wants no part of it, but in his jealousy, he wants to make the elves unhappy. He tells them they are being kept captive by the Valinor, and peppers in some lies and half-truths about the outside world. He even teaches them some things that only the gods should know, which lessens their happiness. Some of them listen, some don’t. Then some of the elves decide to go to the big god, Manwe, and ask him for permission to leave. Melko knows this is going to come back on him, as the elves aren’t supposed to know some of the things Melko has taught them. So Melko goes to Manwe first and tells him that the elves question his rule and judgement, and that they have been saying they should be held equal to the Valar, being first of Iluvatar’s beings awoken on the earth. Manwe, who should know better in my opinion, is not in the mood to listen to the elves when they come. The elves go away with their bums stinging from a paddling, and their discontent continues to grow.

The story gets sadder from there. For all their beauty and ability, the elves are doomed, as we know from Lord of the Rings. The coming of men only muddies the waters further. There is more treachery, kinslaying, jewel-stealing, love, death, etc. I really enjoyed the tales, but I strongly suggest you either don’t read the notes after the stories, or just skim them. Reading them is like trying to learn German while hearing nothing but French. And you only speak English.

Mr. Darcy’s Obsession by Abigail Reynolds

Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge for 2013**

In celebration of two hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I’m taking part in the Austenprose Bicentenary Challenge for 2013. Here is the original blog post if you are interested. The idea is to pick a challenge level (Ie: how many Pride and Prejudice inspired books, be they prequels, sequels, non-fiction, fan-fiction, etc., or movies or miniseries) then post our review on your blog. This month’s review is Mr. Darcy’s Obsession by Abigail Reynolds. Here is the link to Goodreads, and below is the blurb:

m darcy's obsession

The more he tries to stay away from her, the more his obsession grows…

What if … Elizabeth Bennet was more unsuitable for Mr. Darcy than ever.

Mr. Darcy is determined to find a more suitable bride. But then he learns that Elizabeth is living in London in reduced circumstances after her father’s death robs her of her family home.

What if … Mr. Darcy can’t stop himself from seeking her out.

He just wants to make sure she’s alright. But once he’s seen her, he feels compelled to talk to her, and from there he’s unable to fight the overwhelming desire to be near her, or the ever-growing mutual attraction that is between them.

In this re-telling, the unfolding of events hits a snag. Elizabeth’s visit to Rosings is cut short when Mr. Bennet falls ill and dies. Mrs. Bennet’s worst fears have come to pass and they are homeless. We pick up the story after this point – Elizabeth has had to go and live with her mother’s brother and wife, the Gardiner’s, in Cheapside. She is essentially the governess to their children. As lowering as this may be in the eyes of society, she knows she has the better deal of all the sisters. Jane has been married to a shopkeeper, just so that she may have a home, and Mrs. Bennnet, Lydia and Kitty are living in Aunt Philip’s crowded dwelling in Meryton. I think Mary went to go live with another relative. So Mr. Darcy never got to make his ill-fated proposal and never wrote his beautiful letter. Lizzy does not know the truth of Wickham’s lies.

When we join Darcy and Bingley two years later, Bingley is still smarting from missing his chance at marrying Jane. He has learned of his sister’s deception, of not telling him she was in London. He has never gotten over her. Bingley tells Darcy he has seen Elizabeth and learned of the family’s unfortunate circumstances. This puts a bug in Darcy’s ear and he just can’t ignore it. He goes to London, convincing himself he is not going to see her, just to make sure she is in comfortable surroundings. He pays an urchin to bring him intelligence of her… which includes that she takes walks in the park. And so begins our story.

Ms. Reynold’s does a wonderful job with setting and tone. She doesn’t bother trying to sound like Jane, she writes in a nice, straightforward style and has a good understanding of the regency period. She widens the character base to include Darcy’s really horrible family. Jane Austen never wrote a scene that was just a conversation between gentleman – she claims she had no idea what such a scene would entail, having never experienced it. I hate to think they were so crass and vulgar, but you know what, they probably were. There is a scene where Darcy’s Uncle, his cousin Fitzwilliam’s father, is talking about Georgiana getting married (bear in mind she is only seventeen and not even out yet) that left me fuming. The treatment of women of the lower classes by the aristocracy is accurate, just upsetting. I know it happened, but I don’t like to read about it. I found it a bit jarring, because most Regencies I read are soft, gentle things, and that is what I like about them. They are a kind of fantasy of their own, where we ignore the horrors of the lower classes (for the most part) and go to fancy parties and wear poofy dresses and visit manor homes. Judge me if you will. Don’t get me wrong – the plot is amazing, I just wasn’t quite ready or expecting these subjects in a Jane inspired story. It is still very excellent. Georgiana plays a much bigger part in the story this time. And I loved Aunt Augustine. She’s a treat.

There are, of course, misunderstandings, long separations, letters, visits… all the good stuff of a regency romance. The only misstep I feel was at the very end. I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. There was a very public scene where some very horrible family secrets were thrown around inside a church. It never would have happened. No one would so forget themselves, especially not a member of the aristocracy. However, the ending is more than fabulous and well deserved after many twists and turns. I would gladly read other books by this author.