Book Club Discussion - Circle of Skulls - Chapters 16-19

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Well, with the Easter holiday right around the corner and a few days off, I'm hoping to finally catch up to the group and start posting again.  Needless to say, getting a new house in shape and an old one ready to sell is exhausting and I've been falling asleep as soon as I hit the bed every night, allowing me little reading time.

But enough of my whining!  I think someone needs to decorate their easter eggs liks skulls and put them on an egg plate in a circle.  Any takers?

This section will cover Chapters 16-19, pages 213-267.

Looking forward to your thoughts, as always. 
"But enough of my whining!  I think someone needs to decorate their easter eggs liks skulls and put them on an egg plate in a circle.  Any takers?"

I love that idea! Or just hide them somewhere in a circle, having their meeting about Easter coming and the stars being aligned for the bleeding of 'the cotton-tailed one'...B)

Like hearing everyone's responses so far, as always I'm around for any questions. I check in at least once a day to see how things are going, but I've been hanging back lest I spoil something on accident. I can be horrible at that, heh.

James, This is the section of the book that really took off for me--your ability to infuse combat scenes with clear characterization is awesome. The characters reveal more of their personality during fight scenes, then any where else.

And that raises my comments on this section--in this book all of the characters seem to be keeping very important information from each other. They are very gaurded in what they say, how they say it, when they say it. This creates an interesting response in me when I am reading it--mostly frustrated with the characters ['come on! Just Tell HIM']--because I am struggling to figure out the Good Guy's motivation all of the time which leads to the Bad Guys Plans becoming even more of a mystery. I know that the Skulls & the Angel are not working toward the same goals, but because the protaganists are also not working toward the same goals [at some level] trying to figure out what the bad guys are up to becomes even more complicated.

And I mean complicated in a good way!

One thing I really really loved about this section is that when the schemes start to come to fruitiion & we see the Rituals being cast, I was still very unsure of where my alegence as a reader should be--do I want this to work or not? Is fighting this battle really in the best interest of our heroes goals? Those kinds of questions really got me engaged with the book.

When writing this many different, I am not sure of the write words, motivations [maybe] was it hard too keep it all straight in your own head? Did you outline all of this out ahead of time or did some of the plot work itself out while you were writing? 

Thanks, David S.

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game

David S I really appreciate your write-up.  Well done. 

I have actually have gotten a little confused.  A lot is going on, and I can’t quite keep it straight.  I’m still not able to understand exactly what the relationship between Sathariel  and the skulls are.  I understand little bits and pieces, but either I missed the big picture or the reader is meant to be a little unaware of the big picture.  I’m still a little confused about Mara’s motivations, too.

That being said, the rising action is approaching a fevered pitch.  I have to wonder if Waterdeep is going to be left standing at the end of the story??  I’m excited to read on to the end.  Hopefully I'll understand all the details a little better as we reach the finale.

Happy Easter all! 

David: I can relate to your post above - it's definitely been interesting trying to unravel all the threads. It's fairly common for novels to hide information from characters but present it directly to the reader - the suspense there lies in knowing something the character does not. In this novel, the reader has to work alongside the characters to figure things out.

At the start of chapter 16, we get a clearer idea of what the threats are: the skulls desire immortality, but were unable to complete their preparations (they weren't able to kill their bloodlines completely, as they've survived to the present day). I'm assuming the skulls bargained with Asmodeus to gain powers they needed to perform the ritual, then reneged on the deal as they needed their souls to become immortal.

Threat 1: if the skulls finish their immortality ritual, the outpourings of magical energy will destroy the Sea Ward.

Threat 2: Sathariel finds the skulls' hidden souls and completes the deal with Asmodeus; at that point, Asmodeus is able to make his presence felt in the world directly (the 'First Flensing').

So, all the good guys (well, the not-outwardly-evil but perhaps-morally-questionable guys) need to do is to stop the skulls from finding and killing the remainder of their bloodlines, and stop Sathariel from finding the skulls' souls. Simple!

Having tricked Sathariel, Jinn discovers where the ritual is to occur, but is surprised by Rilyana's betrayal (as, I guess, is Tallus). Quessahn is surprised to discover the skulls' souls are hidden below the street they manifest from, and the skulls are surprised that Tallus forced them into revealing their hiding place whilst leaving very little time for them to finish off their bloodlines before the immortality ritual completes. On the other hand, Mara doesn't seem at all surprised by the skulls' souls' location, and on the contrary seems very well prepared - pulling a very nice split-the-party routine on the skulls as she leaves half of them to battle Briarbones.

So, yes, there's a lot going on, and as David points out, it seems all the characters have their own goals that don't necessarily overlap. That takes a fair amount of effort to parse - I found myself re-reading sections to try to spot clues I'd perhaps missed, and to confirm who knew what. However, the amount of action in this section and the very visual descriptions keep things clipping along; this section is particularly cinematic. I especially liked the idea of peering into Sathariel's future, and the descriptions of the way the immortality ritual built up to a climax. I was a little surprised at how calmly Mara deals with the skulls, but as she says, she's survived the wrath of Asmodeus himself.

Phew. Soon we should have all the answers
>>When writing this many different, I am not sure of the write words, motivations [maybe] was it hard too keep it all straight in your own head? Did you outline all of this out ahead of time or did some of the plot work itself out while you were writing?<<

The majority of the plot I had planned from the beginning, but I always leave room for the characters to surprise me as the story plays out, so some of those details and conflicts 'popped up' and just started happening so I ran with it! I truly enjoy writing characters that seem simple on the surface when underneath they're confused, conflicted, and not entirely sure if what they're doing is the right thing. Eventually they are forced to choose a path and suffer the consequences or reap the benefits, but the longer they dither the stakes are getting higher. I generally assume that the villains, from the beginning, have already chosen their path and believe they are doing what is right for them (making them villains, from an outside perspective), but I also like seeing a bit of that transformation in the story (which was fun playing out in The Restless Shore). In Circle of Skulls I wanted to show that internal conflict reflected externally, like when things get so bad in your life it feels like the world is just going to end, so what if it that were actually a possibility?

Tsukimasu: the answers are on the way for sure! Well, not all of them, but all of the important ones! Well, important to this story anyway, I always like to think that no matter how bad things get, no matter how high the stakes can rise, there is always room for worse...yeah, my characters hate me.

Also! Don't forget to check out Speak of the Devil, which is kind of an extended ending to Circle of Skulls crossed with what would have been the beginning of Jinnaoth's true story (rising stakes, things getting worse). So, if you enjoy the characters, there is a bit more, but I can't promise a continuation of the tale in novel form, that decision is all up to Wizards of the Coast. Here's the link:


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