In The Wide and Barren North, Logen must, yet again, fight for his life while semi-trying to protect his new friend. Think you're ready? Then join and Rocky reads The Blade Itself.
Wait. Before I continue with anything, my first thought upon reading this chapter's heading was going immediately to Game of Thrones. Am I the only one? Hm. Maybe it's because I was just reading Game of Thrones earlier this morning, then decided to do some Rocky reading.
So, I have never been more confused about where a character was before in my life. It's been a few chapters since we've seen Logen, so I assumed he wasn't where he was when we last left him-- which is true-- but I spent quite a while being confused. He's waiting around in the wide and barren North, waiting for this Magus to show up, right? Ok, so he's up north. But then, a single paragraph later, he's talking about how he had to move from where he was in the forest to get to this bog/marsh and wait here, even though it didn't seem like a good place. He knew it was where he was supposed to be because, "to the South the spirits had said." What?
It took me nearly half a chapter to decide that he's farther south than he was in this forest, but still in the north. Which means... where has he been all this time? Geographically speaking. He started out by some river, then moved what I assumed was north (where it gets colder) to the mountains, then decided that he had to go south to get somewhere with food. And that's where he talked to the spirits. Who tell him to go south. More south, I assume. But he's still north. Ok. Right? Right. He just started out incredibly far north. But I just. Why is it so warm where he is for being so far north? Maybe it's summer. Maybe I need to just accept things and move on.
Ok, so he's sitting here is this marsh area, foodless (except the meat he brought with him from the forest, which he is currently using the last of to make a lovely stew) and waiting for the Magus to show up. He's got a sad little fire going when a young, sickly, sad sad boy comes upon him. It's not the actual Magus-- that's why it's taken so long for him to find Logen-- it's the Magus' apprentice, named Malacus Quai (which, I don't know if this is significant, but quai means dock in French). They sit and talk for a while about how terrible of a seer and outdoorsman Malacus is, and Malacus is talking about how he hasn't eaten in days, and just sits there staring at the stew Logen made.
So Logen give it to him. Malacus can't believe his generosity, and he checks to make sure Logen has already eaten. Logen hasn't, but he can see how much Malacus needs this food to live, so he tells him he has and then lets him sleep. In the morning, Logen eats the fire's spirit (I'm serious. I don't even know what this means. But he eats the fire's spirit so he can later make a fire again, and really all I can imagine is this thing from Howl's Moving Castle, which is fantastic but probably not correct) and they set off to the Great Northern Library, which is about four days south of where they are. Malacus brought a spare horse with some food and shelter with him as he came to get Logen, but he lost all that in the storm, so there was only the one horse. As he should have, Malacus said he would walk since it was his fault that the extra horse was lost, but Logen takes one look at how sick he is-- burning with a fever, in need of food right now or else he'll die-- and offers to walk himself.
It's really magnanimous of him, really. Especially because his boots are torn to shreds (much like one of my pairs of converse. You should all see them. It's sad. I should just throw them away and get new ones) and he can't even use Malacus' shoes because they're too small. But he doesn't make Malacus feel guilty or anything. He just walks next to him as Malacus talks his ear off, and I really get this sense that Logen like Malacus. He's taking care of him. And I really have to wonder how much of that is because he wants to find the Magus and how much of it is because he misses his family and his boys and just wants to have someone to protect again. It's a nice dynamic.
Oh but wait. The chapter's not over. They're walking, and suddenly they have at least 3 bandits attacking them-- there might be more in the trees and Logen instantly goes into survival mode. He knows the odds are not in his favor, but he fights anyway, with all that he's got. It's brutal. He spits the fire spirit at one of the bandits' faces, burning him to death, and he stabs another through the chest, and just basically demolishes everyone. And then there's a fourth guy who was firing arrows from the trees, and he takes him out as well. He's not really particularly focused on protecting Malacus (which makes it super lucky for him that he's still alive at the end of the chapter), but he fights with everything so he can live to the next day. In the end, all the bandits are dead, the horse is gone, and Logen has a nice cut down his arm, as well as some cuts in his head. And his sword is broken. But he and Malacus are alive, and they resolve to get the boot of one of the bandits for Logen to wear and then see if any of the bandits had food. The end.
This was a really good chapter to get a better sense of who Logen is, what kind of person he is. And I come to the conclusion that, though he's killed a lot of people and was once called the most feared man of the North, he's not a bad guy. He's not a killer or a criminal. He's a survivor. He wins-- thoroughly (as originally used to describe Ender). It's not that he wants to kill all these bandits, it's almost the opposite. The one in the trees who was shooting arrows was just a boy, maybe 14 years old. But in order to continue living, he had to kill all of them. He adjusted to a kill or be killed attitude, and did some terrifying things that shook Malacus up. But even as scared as Malacus was, he also knew that Logen had to act as he did or else he would be dead now.
The prose in this book is really fantastic as well. I'm rather enjoying it. There's a cool image that Abercrombie writes where Logen is looking at himself-- counting the new wounds he's acquired-- then he looks our at the bandits that attacked them, all of their lifeless bodies. And in the next sentence, Logen is both reflecting on all the people he's killed and noting the blood physically dripping from his hands. It's a subtle line, but it's beautiful for that. Time to see how Logen and Malacus get on with life.
His hands were covered in blood. He grabbed one with the other to stop them from trembling.