Today I have something completely different for you. As part of the blog tour for J.M. Frey’s latest novel The Forgotten Tale I’m part of a read-along of the first book, The Untold Tale. This part of the read-along was written by Cal Spivey and covers chapters 13 and 14. You can read the interview I did with J.M Frey last year here.
“I wasn’t any help.” The Untold Read-Along Part 6
Welcome to The Untold Tale read-along! The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey is the first book in the Accidental Turn series, the second book of which, The Forgotten Tale, will be released on December 6th. To prep for book two, we’re sharing a ten-part series that will be part recap, part review, and part discussion of the book that has been called the “most important work of fantasy written in 2015.”
If you want to read along with us and avoid the SPOILERS that will follow, you can pick up your copy of The Untold Tale from major online retailers.
About the book
Forsyth Turn is not a hero. Lordling of Turn Hall and Lysse Chipping, yes. Spymaster for the king, certainly. But hero? That’s his older brother’s job, and Kintyre Turn is nothing if not legendary. However, when a raid on the kingdom’s worst criminal results in the rescue of a bafflingly blunt woman, oddly named and even more oddly mannered, Forsyth finds his quaint, sedentary life is turned on its head.
Dragged reluctantly into a quest he never expected, and fighting villains that even his brother has never managed to best, Forsyth is forced to confront his own self-shame and the demons that come with always being second-best. And, more than that, when he finally realizes where Lucy came from and why she’s here, he’ll be forced to question not only his place in the world, but the very meaning of his own existence.
Smartly crafted, The Untold Tale gives agency to the unlikeliest of heroes: the silenced, the marginalized, and the overlooked. It asks what it really means to be a fan when the worlds you love don’t resemble the world you live in, celebrates the power of the written word, challenges tropes, and shows us what happens when someone stands up and refuses to remain a secondary character in their own life.
Part 6: Chapters 13 and 14 covered by Cal Spivey
In this section, Pip and Forsyth descend into the Salt Crystal Caverns to retrieve the next magical item, the Cup that Never Runs Dry, from its mysterious female guardian. The guardian turns out to be a sylph, a water spirit, who attempts to seduce Forsyth. Pip saves him with a rhetorical trick from classic fairy tales, which Forsyth then uses to force the sylph to give them the Cup.
The next station is the Lost Library, an abandoned archive where Pip and Forsyth seek the Parchment that Never Fills. Again, Pip uses her knowledge of classic tales to get them safely inside. They find the Parchment, guarded by a fearsome magical guard dog–which Pip rapidly disarms with some careful deduction, and a dose of compassion.
Is it just me, or does Pip remind anyone else of Hermione Granger?
It’s not a direct analog, of course. But I see some substantial overlaps worth poking a bit. Most obvious: the outsider’s perspective. Hermione’s Muggle-born status isn’t centered very much in the Harry Potter books except as a way to highlight the prejudice of families like the Malfoys, but at least once it contributes to a major plot point: her quest for house-elf liberation. I’m sure she’s not the only witch to ever fight for that cause, but certainly her Muggle-born background makes her less willing to accept a form of slavery in her new world than those who grew up with it.
Likewise, Pip has a lot of knowledge about Forsyth’s world and the magic within it, but she gained that knowledge by studying it, rather than living it. Being outside the experience actually gives her an edge at several points during this section: the distance allows her to recognize the three-command rule, by which a magical creature can be compelled when an order is repeated three times. She uses this trick to learn how to get down to the Salt Crystal Caverns and uses it to save Forsyth from the sylph’s seduction, and then he uses it to compel the sylph to give them the Cup they seek.
This wealth of study also informs Pip of where to find the actual entrance to the Caverns, as well as how to get past the wall of thorns surrounding the Lost Library. However, here is a point on which Pip and Hermione diverge: whereas Hermione can do magic and is therefore bridging a gap between inside and outside, Pip cannot even hear the primary magic of Forsyth’s world, the Words. She is precluded from ever being the protagonist in the story, locked instead in the role of sidekick at best.
To my recollection, Hermione never voices complaints about being a sidekick–though I’ve heard many arguments that she was the true hero of the series and I would 100% read a Chosen One story not from the perspective of the Chosen One–but I could see her character being part of a tradition that led to the Untold Tale, an exploration of scholarship, heroics, and the intersections thereof.
Hermione is the “clever one” of the HP trio, versus brave (Harry) and loyal (Ron). In The Tales of Kintyre Turn, we’ve got Kintyre as the brave one, Bevel as the loyal one, and Forsyth as the under-utilized clever one. So when we get into The Untold Tale and Pip and Forsyth are off on their own quest…what do we have? We have two clever ones navigating a classic quest built more for the other “types,” and what ends up happening is they get re-sorted. Forsyth has enough skill with magic and a sword to be the hero, the brave one, and that means Pip is left to fill the role of loyal sidekick.
Pip is understandably bitter about this development. When I first reviewed The Untold Tale, I sympathized with her very much because, like her, if I were dropped into a classic fantasy realm, I’d have no relevant skills or experience–just knowledge, from an outside view.
Luckily, this is only the start of a conversation with which this book (and series) repeatedly engages; so we’ll come back to this question before we’re done, I’m sure.
Next Tuesday is the big one: the major twist. Make sure you’re caught up, and join us next week as we learn the truth about Pip and the quest. Part 7 will be hosted by SFF World!
About The Forgotten Tale:
Forsyth Turn has finally become a hero—however reluctantly. But now that Lucy Piper has married him and they’ve started a family in her world, his adventuring days are behind him. Yet not all is as it should be. Beloved novels are disappearing at an alarming rate, not just from the minds of readers like Pip, but from bookshelves as well. Almost as if they had never been. Almost like magic.
Forsyth fears that it is his fault—that Pip’s childhood tales are vanishing because he, a book character, has escaped his pages. But when he and Pip are sucked back into The Tales of Kintyre Turn against their will, they realize that something much more deadly and dire is happening. The stories are vanishing from Forsyth’s world too. So Forsyth sets out on a desperate journey across Hain to discover how, and why, the stories are disappearing… before their own world vanishes forever.
Toronto-based J.M Frey (pronounced “fry”) is a science fiction and fantasy author, as well as a fanthropologist and pop culture scholar who appears in podcasts, documentaries, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. Her debut novel TRIPTYCH has been nominated for two Lambda Literary Awards, won the San Francisco Book Festival award for SF/F, was nominated for a 2011 CBC Bookie, was named one of The Advocate’s Best Overlooked Books of 2011, and garnered both a starred review and a place among the Best Books of 2011 from Publishers Weekly.