Thursday, 19 April 2012

Fantastical Intentions | Mentors

For those of you who didn't see last week's post over on Once Upon a Time (and believe me, you really should have - go and remedy this! :p ), a new reviewer has joined us for Fantasical Intentions - Naithin! I'd like to welcome him to the blog, being a cool fellow - after all, he likes The Way of Kings. That's evidence enough.

Anyway, the topic: mentors. Mentor characters are a favourite inclusion in fantasy - and your mental image is probably of the cliche. But mentors don't have to be traditional, and they've been done uniquely too. And hopefully, our choices will show some of the more interesting examples of this...

And who can argue with Naithin's choice of Elodin?

“It was only then I realized I didn't know the name of Elodin's class. I leafed through the ledger until I spotted Elodin's name, then ran my finger back to where the title of the class was listed in fresh dark ink: "Introduction to Not Being a Stupid Jackass."
I sighed and penned my name in the single blank space beneath.”
There isn’t any pressure quite like the kind accompanied by the thought, ‘If I screw this up, I will likely be attacked before bed by a swarm of aerial piranhas’. You see, Jacob also wanted to do Elodin. But I called dibs first. And now the pressure is on to do the character justice- or else! (If you don’t hear from me for next week’s Fantastical Intentions, we can suppose that I did not rise to the occasion.)
But, yes, Elodin. Such a character. Cracked enough to be institutionalised at the University, clever enough to escape inescapable rooms in said institution. Following which he reclaims his old title of Master Namer as if none of it had ever happened.
Quirky barely begins to scratch the surface, yet for all that there is a vast depth to his knowledge. At times displaying a childlike glee in his mischief, at others more serious than a storm cloud that would like a word with you, personally, at this very moment. Through it all, always trying to provoke Kvothe to think. He is teaching Kvothe – or attempting to, at least – long before it ever becomes formalised.
Elodin isn’t just a favourite mentor character for me, but a favourite character in over all. Reading about him will make you think, will make you laugh and not least of all, make you wonder, just what lies beneath?
...Naithin can rest assured that the piranhas are safe abed for tonight!
Mentors are penny-a-dozen in fantasy fiction, so it's no surprise that it's hard for one to stand out. Nevertheless, a character who's partiularly unconventional to my mind is Cotillion - the Patron of Assassins from Steven Erikson's rather acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen.

We might argue over the definition of mentor, but I think he fits: he's a teacher of a rather darker kind to Apsalar. After he ceases possessing her - in a magical sense, that is... She begins to gain snippets of Cotillion's memories and skills following this, and is taken under his wing. What makes him unusual, though, is that much of the time he is discouraging Apsalar (and Crokus, her frequent companion) from following his own path - and that despite this, he and Shadowthrone (god of, yes, you guessed it - Shadow) both use them as their tools. The Malazan series is known for its intricate gambits and plotting, and the Crokus/Apsalar pair frequently get involved.

He's sympathetic, yes, but as we've mentioned - he has a darker side. And it's this twisted mentorship which makes me appreciate him as a character: a likeable God of Assassins mentoring a young pair, who he is forced to manipulate towards a rather inscrutable goal? Sounds like my cup of tea.

We've said our pieces - but what are yours? Feel free to comment and tell us below!


  1. Cotillion was a great choice, Jacob. I wouldn't even have thought of him, but he fits really well!

    Some other ones I considered doing were Kelsier from Mistborn, which you also thought of, and probably the strongest contender otherwise was the great classic, Gandalf!

    An argument could be made that he wasn't a mentor at all, but I think he taught the fellowship a bunch of things through imparted wisdom.

  2. Thanks! I think he works as one - it's like Gandalf, who you mentioned: I'd definitely class him as a mentor figure, but like you said, it's not quite so overt as him being a straighforward teacher.

    Have you read The Malazan Book of the Fallen, actually? I'd definitely recommend it.

    1. Read the first two so far, Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates. I hear that Memories of Ice picks up things in a bit way and I'm fairly keen to get to it.

      Probably be my first 'new' read once I get out of this re-read binge. Hehe

    2. Memories of Ice is brilliant, yes - lots of readers believe it's the series' best book. :P Not sure whether I agree, but I do love MOI. Who doesn't like the K'Chain Che'Malle? (Even if they do require apostrophe spam)


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