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aglarien moon

Review of By Stars' Light by Erfan

Posted on 2008.08.22 at 23:37
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
By Stars' Light by Erfan Starled

I want to thank erfanstarled  for writing my Ardor in August request.  She took the idea of "the past is a beautiful, cruel country" and wrote an epic tale of the flight of the Noldor from Finrod's point of view, full of the sadness and beautiful language of the Silm.  The story begins at the ending, in Sauron's dungeons where Beren, Finrod and his lover Calyaro await the werewolf. From there, it jumps back in time to the battle of Alqualonde,  which changes the main characters forever.  Through most of the story, Finrod struggles with his anger towards the Feanorians, directed often at Feanor's minstrel, Calyaro.  Finrod must forgive and Calyaro must atone through love.  This personal story plays out over a long stretch of time with the backdrop of the great events of the Silmarillion.

There are so many wonderful touches in this.  The story beautifully weaves in the canon events, even more impressive since Erfan told me she hadn't read the Silm before getting the assignment.  The description of the kinslaying is horrific and felt very real to me, and her description of  the crossing of the Helcaraxe is nothing short of stunning.       

"Even with its surface waters frozen by Morgoth's ancient blight, the Sea far below still moved and the Ice with it, grinding in constant torture. Fantastic shapes rose in ridge after ridge, carved by the wind and alternately smoothed and gouged by flying ice. In the troughs between these, frozen waters stretched from fissure to fissure, with fragments small and large all moving one against another. The air was filled with unearthly groaning that sapped the ability to hear even their own minds' thoughts above its noise."

Here's another example that is just heart-breaking to contemplate: "Sometimes, after the Ice swallowed someone and they could not thread rope down the contorted channels, they could still hear the lost one's weakening cries. Finrod heard them still in nightmare. In the killing cold it had been gross foolishness, but two or three always stood vigil, offering words that carried uselessly away on the wind, while the rest went slowly on."

There are also some wonderful characterizations.  Here is Glorfindel's assessment of Finrod:
“Because I haven’t seen you relax since you came out of Alqualondë’s gates looking like a ghost. Because you were going to marry Amarië and you haven’t mentioned her name once. Because you’re too quiet by half, and when you think no-one is looking, you are tense as a strung bow. The rest of the time, you put on a show for us.”

Or here is Finrod's disgust at having to wait so long to engage Morgoth: "He was under no illusions. Even their triumphant arrival at Thangorodrim had been daunting. Nothing in his life had remotely prepared him for seeking battle in cold blood. What were they to do against an enemy hidden away in such a fortress? Wait and watch, said his uncle. Naively, he had imagined the Vala, one against so many, might be quickly brought to a fight, even if it cost them dearly. The anticlimax had been appalling."

I love the scene where Calyaro risks creating a political incident by playing a song recalling the kinslaying.  Erfan wrote the words to various songs he plays and they are just beautiful.  Malinorne translated one into Quenya and the result is equally beautiful when spoken aloud.

The story is also sprinkled with lovely, original language that sounds very appropriate to the Silm - formal and graceful.
Some examples:
*long shadows sprouted from their feet
*Colour blazed all around them as this late-born twin to the silver elder climbed high.
*Their most precious possessions now were not jewels but axe and saw, chisel, hammer, and spade: the means to find ore, smelt metal, and work wood.
*Finrod stared after the retreating figure and hoped the moon would rise soon. Silver-bathed, his dreams would be less vivid. He did not want to dream of Hlapo staring at him over Fingon's shoulder, or watch a nightmare sword pulled free, leaving a boy dead who should have been flying on the wings of the wind.
*the long rays of the sun over the Ethel Wethrin hunted out the last lingering tendrils from the trees
*He turned away, but not before Finrod saw his tears spill and fall, unmistakable even merged with the spray from the falls.

 It is a long story but well worth the time.  I really enjoyed it.  Thanks Erfan for a lovely gift.    

By Stars' Light can be found on the Ardor in August site  or on the LJ site here:



chaotic_binky at 2008-08-23 17:55 (UTC) (Link)
Erfan is a brilliant writer. I am saving the story for when I have a free afternoon so that I can read it in one go.

Hugs Binky xxxxx
elfscribe5 at 2008-08-23 19:53 (UTC) (Link)
Hi Binky. I'm sure you'll enjoy your afternoon read.
Hugs back.
erfan_starled at 2008-08-24 13:31 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for such a warm review! You put a lot of effort into it. I really appreciate the trouble you have gone to. I find these touching and generous compliments hard to answer, but - thanks, okay? :D

Thanks hugely also to Keiliss, Oshun and Malinornë who I feel deserve a lot of kudos for what you have said. Having people to talk to such as Keiliss and Oshun means all sorts of Silm gaffs were removed, and conversations with them permitted the use of details I would have to stay clear of otherwise.

I feel touched that you have picked up on things that spoke strongly to me while I read Silm and pondered your prompts. Your ’the past as a beautiful/cruel country concept’ hooked me into the Ice and into Aqualondë. The story really came from your prompts and the Silm. Only the dreams and the music came from the characters to me. It's been - strange.

I loved having a prompt for music and felt self-indulgent to write the character as a singer/player but… didn’t resist. Malinornë was quick and enthusiastic when I approached her for the translation. She indulged me with dialogue galore about names and the poem. I love how she opens doors to the language.

There is a lesson I take from the (*g* embarrassing number of) quotes you picked – that simplifying time is always worth it. Almost every one of those examples is a heavily edited passage, and ones I needed to come back to before I could shorten them. It’s fascinating how you unerringly pick last minute changes. As in other places, Finrod /Thangorodrim benefited from a beta comment; I pruned.

Once again, thank you very much indeed for all your time is reading and offering fb – and concrit! – and then in doing this review, too. I especially appreciate it because execution and conception felt so far apart while I wrote :|

:) :)
elfscribe5 at 2008-08-24 22:39 (UTC) (Link)
You're quite welcome. All much deserved. It's great to have these talented and generous friends to help us. I've learned so much from all these folks. Mal played a big part in my story too through her discussions with me about the meaning of names and other things elvish. Your songs are so good. I really admire people who can write them. I've made attempts and they don't come out so well. lol.

With writing, both processes are critical, the initial braindump of material and then scrupulous editing afterwards and the willingness to prune material that doesn't work, even if it sounds good. Where did I read some writer whose advice for editing was "kill all your darlings." My problem I think is I want the initial process to be too tightly controlled and it shouldn't be. It should be wild and crazy. Then one should bring in Edit Mode. I enjoy the editing process more than the initial wordspill as I find it easier to work on what's already there than trying to create out of the air of thoughts.
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