Monday, July 12, 2010

The Dog of the North - Book Club Questions

The Dog of the North is sometimes discussed at at book clubs (don't you have anything better to read?) and on occasion I'm asked to suggest some questions.  Since I hate to disappoint an audience, I've suggested a few questions you might want to ask when thinking about the book.  If you haven't read the book yet, they do contain some spoilers.  In the unlikely event that your book club disdains fantasy literature as adolescent claptrap, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

By any normal standards Beauceron is not a "good" character.  Did you sympathise with him despite that, and if so, how did the author persuade you?

The story is driven by Beauceron's desire for revenge, but achieving his goal brings him little satisfaction.  Why do you think that is?

The story unfolds over two different time periods which only come together at the end.  Did you like that approach or was it confusing?

The Dog of the North is stocked on the fantasy shelves of bookshops.  Did it meet your expectations of fantasy fiction, or do you think the genre label limits its potential readership? What purpose do you think genre labels serve? 

Given that most of the trappings of conventional fantasy are absent, the book could very easily have been written as a historical novel set in the Renaissance.  Why do you think the author chose to write it as fantasy?

The book has a lot of strong female characters.  Which did you like most and why?

Lord Thaume is a strong and decisive leader throughout the book, but his actions become increasingly arbitrary.  Is the author telling us something about the nature of power?

The author has said that he imagined Mettingloom as a "frozen Venice"?  What did you think of this way of reimagining real-world locations?

Mettingloom is ruled for half a year each by the Winter and Summer Kings.  Did you believe that such a system could have worked in practice and if not, did you mind?

The author gives us a very detailed description of the Battle of Jehan's Steppe.  Did you find it convincing?

The male characters are consistently outwitted by the female ones.  Is the author suggesting that women are more manipulative by nature, or that in a male-dominated society they can only succeed by their wits?

Political intrigues are at the heart of the novel, but all of the characters seem to be motivated by self-interest rather than principle.  Do you find that a convincing depiction of the political process?

The characters in the story tend to use a very formal style of dialogue.  Did that help to create a particular atmosphere for you, or did it grate on you?

At the end of the book Beauceron has the chance to avenge himself on Siedra, but lets her escape so that he can rescue Isola.  Why do you think he does this?

The novel's ending implies that Arren and Eilla will never be together.  Do you think that's true, and was it an appropriate conclusion?

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