Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone, readalong week 3

Today is our third week of the readalong of Max Gladstone’s Two Serpents Rise this week hosted by the lovely Lauren at Violin in a Void – so be sure and stop over there too.  This week the action has certainly increased and I’m keen to get to the discussion so will jump in without further ado.  If you haven’t read this series please beware of spoilers below and if you have read it then please join the discussion!

1. After the fight at Seven Leaf, Caleb apologises to Mal and they finally start dating. What do you think of the way their relationship has developed? Do you agree with Mal that Caleb chased her because he needs gods in his life?

It’s a strange relationship and I haven’t entirely trusted Mal for a while now.  The last few chapters have done nothing to change my feelings in that respect although oddly I don’t find myself disliking her.  Conversely, I didn’t think Caleb had anything to apologise for but it seemed that he wanted the relationship to continue more than Mal did and so did the chasing and apologising – it’s becoming something of a pattern really in terms of Caleb wanting this relationship the most.  Mal is a conundrum – I don’t really know what her feelings are about Caleb but I think their whole relationship is based on misunderstanding.  I don’t think they really know each other at all and what they have together is very tenuous to say the least and based on what they both want to believe rather than what is actually the truth. It’s going to be interesting to see if they have something stronger or not.

2. This section has been quite philosophical. Where do you stand on the debate – gods, no gods, or some kind of compromise? Do you agree with Caleb’s idea of sacrificing your morality because the religious alternative is even worse?

It’s an intriguing debate and I’m not totally sure what the right way forward is really. It seems to me that both ways are flawed at the moment – either an all powerful and greedy God or a substitute system that still requires very dubious moral choices.  It would be better if a compromise could be reached but I’m not really sure that’s possible.  It’s difficult to comment really because in our world people either believe in Gods or not – in Gladstone’s worlds it’s a different thing altogether because clearly there is very real evidence that they do exist – it’s more about what you’re prepared to put up with to live the life you want.

3. Gladstone is still unveiling amazing things in his world, like a sport based on myth, the eclipse festival, walking on water, and a half-dead sea god whose heart is being used for desalination. What interested you the most? 

The walking on water idea brought me to a standstill to be honest – I had to stop and go back a little bit, like, ‘did I really just read that’.  Such an unusual idea that put me in mind of the story of Jesus walking on water!  And the whole idea of using a half dead God to clean up sea water for drinking purposes – it’s a bit horrible really isn’t it? Like you’ll just take the bits and pieces of whatever happens to suit your needs the most.  So, you’re not having a God based system because the costs are still too high for you but you’ll just keep certain parts – I’m not entirely happy with that idea – ties in with question 2 of course.  In terms of jaw dropping – what about the thing with the shark – OMG – not sure I’d want a shark to try and eat me during, ahem, you know!  Talk about coitus interruptus.

4. Mal has noted twice that they don’t have much time, and she apologises to Caleb while he sleeps on the ocean. Then Alaxic kills himself and tries to kill Temoc – the last two priests of the old Quechal. What do you think is going on here? Any speculation about how it might turn out?

Well, it just makes me think that Mal and Alaxic are working together – which okay I’m just being daft as clearly she was revealed as working with Alaxic at the contract signing – I think that was the first major indication for me that Mal wasn’t all she seemed though.  I don’t understand though why Alaxic would try to kill them both.  Maybe he thinks that Temoc will be able to thwart whatever plans are afoot.

I can’t wait to see how this ends and looking forward to all the discussion this week.


7 Responses to “Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone, readalong week 3”

  1. Two Serpents Rise read-along: part three | Violin in a Void

    […] out what others had to say: Lynn – Lynn’s Book Blog Lisa – Over the Effing Rainbow Anya – On Starships & Dragonwings Heather – The Bastard […]

  2. Lauren

    1. I agree – their relationship is very odd, and it’s only now that I’ve even been able to think of them as a possible couple. For Caleb it seems to be based purely on Mal’s beauty and dangerousness. Not sure what drives Mal. Curiosity about the man who’s fascinated by her? Keeping an eye on the “enemy”?

    3. I love your point about using gods even after casting them aside. Just atad hypocritical that 🙂 Seems the Red King didn’t quite manage to replace the gods he defeated.

    • lynnsbooks

      It certainly doesn’t seem like the Red King managed to fully take the mantle! Yeah, definitely a tad hypocritical.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Lynn E. O'Connacht

    I don’t think they really know each other at all and what they have together is very tenuous to say the least and based on what they both want to believe rather than what is actually the truth.

    I think that’s a large chunk of my problem with their relationship too. Thank you for wording it! It’s interesting because they’ve had some deep discussions about what they believe and, obviously, spending time together means they know something about one another at least superficially, but for all that they don’t really seem to know each other, do they? Which makes sense for a relationship that’s just developing, but I didn’t really get a sense of progression in this section.

    And the whole idea of using a half dead God to clean up sea water for drinking purposes – it’s a bit horrible really isn’t it?

    Hypocritical too, as Lauren noted. I wonder if that means the book will have a discussion on euthanasia at some point. It also leaves the question of whether we’ve seen worse at Seven Leaf or not. It doesn’t look like Qet’s aware of what’s happening to him, but we know that the spirits and gods at Seven Leaf are conscious. So does that make what they’re doing to Qet better because he doesn’t know anyway or worse because he’s really got no chance of ever defending himself successfully?

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s actually a pretty nasty system that they have going on when you really get down to the finer detail – in fact really they’ve just replaced one heinous system for another that seems equally so – and why is it okay to abuse Gods. It will be interesting to see if a compromise can be reached. I’m so looking forward to seeing how this one concludes.
      Lynn 😀

  4. nrlymrtl

    Mal s definitely super ambiguous. Is she really interested in Caleb, or just interested in his family connections? She is obviously part of something bigger, but Caleb has been oblivious to that. It will probably hit him upside the head later.

    • lynnsbooks

      I’m really intrigued to see how the relationship between the two concludes tbh. At the moment I’m not really feeling it on Mal’s side, more just on Caleb’s.
      Lynn 😀

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