One of the wonderful things about being a bookworm online is that when someone gets excited about a book, we can all pile in and read along. Lovely Lynn of Little Lion Lynnet’s is our ringleader for this week’s discussion of The Path of Kindness (book two of The Tale of Yin). It’s a bumpy ride for Mirra’s daughter as she goes in search of her calling.
1) I know that we all struggled with the Sea Tales short story section. Do you think they added much to our understanding of the world or the characters?
I’m afraid I was rather disappointed by the Sea Tales. I didn’t feel they gave us new insight into Auri or Josh, and I found some of the details in Tea Cups and Scones (light bulbs, Lady Grey) a bit incongruous. However, I did like The Ship’s Voices – I was just frustrated there wasn’t more of it! It’s the closest we get to understanding how people came to this world (unless you consider Kindness’s visions to be real). I also couldn’t help wonder if we were meant to connect Auri with Aurum – I suspect it’s just a coincidence of naming, but…
2) Kindness sets out from home unsure of what she wants. How do you find the beginning of her journey compares to that of Mirra’s?
Kindness is the opposite of Mirra in so many ways. She has a loving home, warm friendships, a promise of love, and she chooses to leave – she is not forced to go. Her lack of magic makes her feel different, but I didn’t really understand her use of heretic and quai to describe herself – this seemed to come from her, rather than others. Perception is everything, of course, but I took it to suggest she felt as outcast in her lack of magic as Mirra was in having magic. Going on a journey to find herself seemed natural, but it rapidly became a self-imposed exile. Kindness felt much younger than Mirra.
3) In a way, Kindness’ journey is a mirror of her mother’s. Both leave their home town, but where Mirra lives in the city and then leaves for the Innerlands, Kindness leaves for the Innerlands and then to the City. What do you think about the way Chng chose to mirror the journeys?
The Innerlands seemed so empty for Kindness – like her mother, she never reached Josh’s homeland and the lands she found seemed very bleak. I think Anya commented last week that she found it odd that people were so welcoming of Mirra and the refugees after the eruption; this played on my mind reading The Path of Kindness as the lands were so inhospitable. But it also made me think about the old adage of you find what you bring with you: Mirra had found compassion and was greeted with warmth; Kindness is very remote, and struggled to settle.
I enjoyed seeing the City had recovered from the eruption and enduring in the face of the ongoing earthquakes. It was also good to meet a character who seemed to accept Kindness (Ibal); but I thought his death was a rather convenient narrative device – it just sort of came out of nowhere to push Kindness on her way.
4) Mirra’s story was one that in many ways centred around compassion. How do you feel that central theme plays out in Kindness’ story?
I felt compassion was hard to find in this one! Mirra shows compassion to Kindness (supporting her going, welcoming her home) as does Ibal; but Kindness leaps from strop and stubbornness to navel-gazing, although she has the compassion to adopt Heart. I found her relationship with Sa hard to fathom. Sa helps Kindness when she is in need, but is very confrontational and sharp throughout their time together – not what I would call compassionate. I didn’t quite understand why they chose to stay together.
To be honest, I think my reaction to The Path of Kindness is also a mirror to Of Oysters, Pearls and Magic – I ended both books with many, many questions, but the first time they were the right sort of questions. This time I feel more frustrated.
A review of The Tale of Yin will follow in the coming days. Or weeks. There’s quite a lot going on at the moment!