Discussion Post: The Naming (Books of Pellinor #1) – Alison Croggon


Hardcover, 492 pages
Published May 10th 2005 by Candlewick Press

Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child when her family is destroyed in war. She doesn’t yet know she has inherited a powerful gift, one that marks her as a member of the noble School of Pellinor and enables her to see the world as no other can. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true identity and extraordinary destiny unfold. Now, she and her mysterious teacher must embark on a treacherous, uncertain journey through a time and place where the forces of darkness wield an otherworldly terror.

The first book in a projected quartet, Alison Croggon’s epic about Maerad and her remarkable yet dangerous gift is a beautiful, unforgettable tale. Presented as a new translation of an ancient text, The Naming evokes the rich and complex landscape of Annar, a legendary world just waiting to be discovered.

Warning: If you’re not participating in the buddy read and haven’t yet read the books, please note that there may be spoilers in the discussion comments (you know, if I’m not the only person participating…heh…it could happen…) so advance at your own discretion.

If you did sign up to participate in the buddy read or just want to offer your opinion, here is our reading schedule:

Week 1: Chapters 1-6
Week 2: Chapters 7-12
Week 3: Chapters 13-18
Week 4: Chapters 19-24

Let’s have fun!

75 responses to “Discussion Post: The Naming (Books of Pellinor #1) – Alison Croggon

  1. The North Van library has the last three books, but not this one. Why would they do that?

    I’ve never heard of this series, and it sounds interesting. Will have to see if ILL can get me the first book.

    • I hate it when they do that! VPL has the first book in e-format but I don’t know if you read it–I think the book itself is on loan. I hope you find a copy!

  2. SPOILERS IN THIS REPLY!! I own all of the books although mine is an later/different edition where the naming is actually called the gift. Anyway I’ve read the first section – I’m pacing myself and so far find myself really enjoying the reread. I think that the characterisation of Maerad is done well (and hooray for pronounciation guides in the back) she has to, i’m reluctant to use the words “grow up” but maybe mature? quite fast, she goes from being a slave to being a Bard (albeit untrained) and helping Cadvan defeat the enemies pursuing them multiple times in a very short space of time. I’m not the worlds biggest fan of the scrying scene I think that Cadvan was allowing his fear to get the better of him and it shows his privilege in a way because he had no idea (even though she told him when they first met she was a slave) just how deep her pains and scars run (also he knew her gift was deep and powerful and untrained) and yet thought that they’d both be fine… Also does anyone else love the mountain lion as much as I do?

    • “…he says you wouldn’t make much of meal anyways” – Cadvan (a rough paraphrasing by me since I don’t have the book in front of me)

      Yes, I love the mountain lion. And Cadvan. And his sass.

      I’d definitely call what Maerad has to go through “maturing,” but not in the common sense. Yes, she has to constantly argue that she’s “16 summers old!”, but she’s been hardened by circumstance (which is what makes the scrying scene so difficult). As Silvia would say (this is a reread for me too), Maerad needs to allow her Gift to blossom. At this point she can’t even understand the Speech.

      Speaking of the Speech and the pronunciation guide, how exactly do you pronounce “medhyl”? I know it’s the hard “th” in “the”, but I keep thinking it’s pronounced “med-HEEL” so it sounds like “med-heal” because of its restorative properties. (Probably a little too literal :P)

    • Oh man, I’m glad you brought up Cadvan’s entitlement because I felt it odd that someone who is so learned would not realize that a slave girl may have incidents in her past she would not want to ‘re-see.’ But perhaps it is *because* he is learned and experienced that he moves past what he sees to look underneath and ensure that she is not an enemy? Perhaps it is a reflection of the circumstances and a measure of how dire the situation is that he can’t simply take Maerad’s word for who she is? (I’m playing the devil’s advocate, haha.) But honestly, I did find that Cadvan was not as sympathetic a character but perhaps it is because we are mostly seeing him shaded in Maerad’s thoughts.

      • I warmed up to Cadvan very slowly – there are other factors later on which i won’t bring up because spoilers that also made me feel like he has for such a “great Bard” a rather narrow world view even though he’s seen a lot of the Dark and what it can do he doesn’t seem to understand eh i don’t know what I’m trying to say but he’s bugging me rather hugely in this re-read possibly because he’s got a bit of a superiority complex.
        I may have already read all of the Innail section XD I couldn’t help myself, I’d love to visit there if I could jump in a book.

  3. I do love the mountain lion.

    As one who hasn’t read this book before and as one reading it on a kindal I found it a little off putting to have the pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book. Just slogging through that almost put me off

    Once I started reading, though the story sucked me in. Maerad goes from being mature to winny very quickly. Not sure if that is to show her age or what.

    I expected to be bothered by the scrying but wasn’t.

    • Maerad is 16 at that awkward borderline between child/teen and adult – and I think Cadvan would be rather trying to travel with – he’s secretive, used to traveling alone and fast etc. One thing I think the author did well was capture the feelings of foreboding of there being something *more* beyond the story being told. I’m looking forward to the next section ^.^

    • The mountain lion was lovely too. I do find Maerad really interesting and feel that she is entitled her temper because she did go from the frying pan into another frying pan fairly quickly.

  4. Love the mountain lion.

    I was not bothered that much by the scrying though I thought I would be.

    I do fine madras going from being bitchy to mature kind of off putting.

    And as one who has not read this before I sense some foreboding.

  5. So the author’s note is awesome. When I first read this YEARS ago, I was convinced that the story was real. I will respond to comments and stuff once I’m done reading the first six. Sorry guys, still fighting a cold.

    • Hope you feel better soon!

      When I first read the author’s note when I was 13, I was anxious to find out about Annar. Then I started reading the novel and realized…oh, magic. This isn’t real.

      Which is a real shame because I love Croggon’s world building. What’s nice about this first section is that we get both the utter brutality (Gilman’s cot/Landrost) and the kind hospitality (Innail) available in Annar.

      • Definitely. I think Alison captured Maerad’s amazement at the richness in Innail exactly. And oh gosh, the food. I got so hungry reading about their meal and now I want whatever mushroom they were eating cooked exactly as they described it.

  6. My thoughts on chapters 1-6:

    “Freedom was a fantasy she gnawed obsessively in her few moments of leisure, like an old bone with just a trace of meat, and like all illusions, it left her hungrier than before, only more keenly aware of how her soul starved within her, its wings wasting with the despair of disuse.” (chapter 1, page 2, hardcover edition)

    I died over that sentence. So gorgeous.

    A lot of what I want to say has already been covered by the other ladies but I do want to talk about the mountain lion and their journey through the mountains. I wonder if The Bone Queen (which is called the first book of Pellinor) has something to do with that or if there’s another story there somewhere. I’m so curious.

    I’m still ambivalent about Cadvan. He’s an interesting character, no doubt, but I don’t know if I like him. And since this is a re-read for me, you guys know I’m conflicted. I just feel like, extenuating circumstances or not, he can be a bit nicer. Hmph.

    I like Maerad though I remember liking her quite a lot more in the latter books.

  7. I am warming to Maerad. I actually liked her from the start, and I loved how they presented her starting menstruating. This is *so* often over looked in books when it is important. And in this case, it is true, that when you aren’t fed enough, it can start quite late.

    This is not saying that all YA books have to stop and talk about this sort of thing, but I remember when I first learned about Joan of Arc and wondered how she would handle her period, out there fighting the English.

      • What is funny, is that they mention the craps, and the clothes, and then nothing else. She takes a lot of bathes, so i assume they gave her a good way to catch the flow, and oh, by gosh, I can’t believe I am trying to figure out how she caught her blood. I also rather liked to think that her period was over before they had to ride off.

          • I don’t think he was so much scared of the blood, but scared about what to say, as I’m sure he has seen plenty of blood. I like to think that he wanted Silvia to handle it because she knew the right things to say.

            And why does Silvia has a “Anglicized” name, while everyone else has very different names. This seemed odd to me. Or am I reading to much into it?

  8. Pingback: IMR | Definitive Proof That I Was Not a Teenage Shipper | Short Story Long·

  9. Okay, I’m reading ahead so my thoughts are for CHAPTERS 7 TO 12.

    SPOILERS if you haven’t read ahead.

    Okay, first, Dernhill. Is he creepy or well…creepy? I’m sorry! He is clearly meant to be a softer character but I feel no feels and him grabbing her was well whoa. Still, I did feel bad abt him dying. I like Suliman (apologies for misspelled names). You’d think Bards would be above racism, huh. I wonder about Cadvan offering to teach Maerad especially when he was all OH NO YOU ARE SLOWING ME DOWN but I suppose he is an obdurate character. I still haven’t warmed to him but eh.

    I read a review that compared the Pellinor books to Lord of the Rings and I do see the similarities. Would make an awesome comparative paper eh?

    • I too read ahead, so SPOILERS here as well.
      I totally agree that Dernhill was creepy to kiss her like that. I would have reacted the same way. I don’t think she was out of line one bit, and totally sympathized with her at that point. If anything, this made her more real to me, and Dernhill more alien.

      As for comparing it to Lord of the Rings, I did not feel that way, though there is some epic-ness about this, and I’ve been trying to figure out who else is the “chosen one” who denies that it could be them. The only similarity to Lord of the Rings is that it is a ‘journey’ book, at least, so far.

      • Also the abstract antagonist. In LotR the ‘villain’ is the eye in the distance, tangible but intangible while here you have the same sort of abstract quality, the villain is simply called ‘the darkness.’ Maybe it’s just me.

          • I like the idea of comparing The Books of Pellinor to LOTR, especially in terms of the bad guy. Actually, I also compare the Nameless to Voldemort because he cast a spell in order to become immortal. He was afraid of death, just like Voldemort. It’s interesting how villains are so obsessed with their mortality.

    • I’ve also read on so SPOILERS i guess XD

      the chosen one is in a prophecy forgotten by all but a few, someone unlikely to see themselves as a hero, I can draw parallels between Gandalf and Cadvan but idk, I don’t like Cadvan enough to equate him with my childhood’s favourite character. It is definitely about a journey and there’s some epic worldbuilding that’s on par with LOTR imo.

      As for Dernhil, i think he got a short straw, I think that the whole thing felt a little forced, I would have appreciated him more as a friend, a sympathetic teacher to make up for both Cadvan and Indik’s brusqueness. It was just weird though the whole kiss thing – like really? you’ve known her for what? barely a week?

      And who else loves Sylvia? And Saliman? I adore those two characters immensely! She’s such a beautiful mother figure without being creepy, and he’s just so wonderful, his attitude is just! ah i don’t have words but to me he is what a bard should be and he remains one of my favourite characters throughout.

      The whole Nameless thing also works with Sauron – there’s a similarity in the way they came into their power through tricking Afinil/the elves into teaching them and then using the teaching for evil.

      • Also the Hulls reminds me sometimes of Nasguls. Silvia is awesome amd the lone mother figure. I’m reading ahead and there is another mother-ish character who introgues me. Cadvan is more like Aragon than Gandalf.

        • Yes, Aragon is a better pararl than Gandalf for Cadvan. Surly there is another book, out there, we can compare this too. Ah, I know, Book of Three. There is a reluctant hero. Pig Keeper. Not as far down as former slave, but there is that.

        • I don’t know – reading on (SPOILERS AHEAD) I found there to be more similarities between C and Gandalf – G was trapped by the Necromancer and held against his will (I believe that’s in the hobbit) and again by Saruman (why he was so late to return at the start of The Fellowship). They have both been tempted by the dark (Cadvan perhaps moreso), both are regarded as highly learned. There’s a scene later on that really makes a parallel but because its like in chapter 18 I won’t mention it yet. There are other moments of similarities with LOTR in general in the Rachida section of the book but once again I’ve read on perhaps further than I should have I won’t talk about just yet. But you know that’s just my two cents ^.^

          • (I’ve finished the book, hah.) I think he may be a mix between A and C because there are moments when he shows elements of both characters. I did warm up to him by the end though simply because Maerad stepped up and used her voice and he, even though he didn’t like it, respected that. What scene are you referring to?

  10. Spoilers as I have read up to chapter 13.

    I have a question. Why is it when he transformed them into a cobbler and his mute son was Maerad able to see it when she hadn’t before.

    • I’m not sure but I think it might have something to do with the degree of magic used. It’s never quite explained in the text, is it? I think the first is just an illusion while the other one is truly magic, something like the transformation in Harry Potter with the potion and all.

    • pretty sure that’s the spell that he used that can’t be detected by bards because he’s worried about Hulls. – quote from pg 218 of my version “This will last until sundown tomorrow,” he said “And will do well for us, I don’t want to stay more than a night at Milhol. No Bard or Hull will recognise us now…it takes more to fool the eyes of Bards than other people.” He also tells her she needs to remember what he looks like in disguise. Whereas the disguise used prior – when they were a farmer and his wife Cadvan says “You’re Bard-eyed so it doesn’t work on you…It’s only a glimmerspell”

  11. I’m really ahead (I love rereading these books, and I got excited), and I was hoping someone also read ahead and wanted to talk about Rachida? On the thread of comparing to LOTR, they are essentially the Elves, yes? When they get spotted in the Cilicader, all I could picture was Legolas (fair hair, motley green clothes, bowman…) I was wondering what you all thought about that sort of trope in epic fantasy where the ones with resources and power refuse to fight because they want to preserve themselves, or are sworn to neutrality. In The Hobbit and LOTR, it was the Elves and eagles (more or less). Here, it’s the people of Rachida and Lady Ardina.

    • I’ve finished the book and will be happy to discuss stuff with you. Just let me get a good night’s sleep and I shall return to your comment on the morrow. (Haha, now I’m talking like them.)

      • Do you suggest we move on to the next book in the series? I think you said there were four books? Or shall we continue to discuss this book for January.

        • No no, I think there are other people who will be joining in soon so let’s just take it one book at a time. I’m having a lot of fun discussing the books!

    • That is the chapter I am in. I’d better read faster to keep up with you all. Interesting to compare them to the elves. I hadn’t thought of that.

      And yes, it is interesting that villains don’t want to die, no matter what.

    • Okay now that I have slept, haha. I remember Maerad saying something to the effect that Ardina is neither good nor bad–that she is somehow beyond the light and maybe that’s the reasoning behind the trope. It usually frustrates me though because if you occupy the same space, you are going to have to pick a side unless you’re like the elves in LotR and end up leaving the ‘world’ for another one but even then they ultimately got involved. But I feel like Ardina realized that Rachida was not going to remain untouched in the latest iteration of the war.

  12. SPOILER, because I am on chapter 18.
    I find it interesting, and I’m not sure if I am annoyed by it or surprised about it, or not, that EVERYTHING is important. I am sure the little carved cat will be important. I’m sure the things that Maerad is hearing or feelings will be explained, and should have been paid attention to.
    It reminds me, a little, of reading Dickens, where there are no coincidences.

    • I kinda like that though? As a writer, I too endeavour to write only what is important to the narrative even in ways that are not obvious from the outset. It’s a good writer and smarter editor who insures that what is unnecessary doesn’t last in the narrative. :)

      • Oh the best books are the ones that leave little clues, that show up later as being important, but because this is a four book story, I am guessing some won’t show up in this book.

        I am nearly done, and the last few chapters were great, and made me want to rush to the end, if only I didn’t need sleep.

  13. Thoughts on Hem and the way Maerad changes in the latter part and if you’ve not yet read the final quarter stop reading here BUT the scene where she takes Cadvan to task on hiding his darker history from her?

  14. Interesting that she felt there was something to call out, and that he and she finally talked about what he had done. I was glad that she didn’t just walk out on him, when she figured out there was something dark.

    • I think seeing him talking to that dude who reminds me of Saruman except eviller because of his explicit misogyny made her suspect that Cadvan could very well be in league with the devil. I loved that she did call him out because anything else would have been strange on someone who has been as frank as her and someone who is becoming so assertive.

      • Spoilers, as I have finished reading the book, but do you think the author planned out the whole four books when writing this first one? It has a large buildup, and then towards the end picks up steam, with hints of things to come.

        If the author did not have that in mind, I would be very surprised. Also a little surprised that it is a four part book, instead of the usual three part trilogy.

  15. Well…I’m way behind. Got behind in trying to find the book and then couldn’t catch up with school stuff enough to read. But getting snowed in and losing power this weekend gave me an excuse to fly through the entire book!

    Most of you have already brought up the points I thought of, but here goes:
    The author’s note & pronunciations were a bit off-putting. But I think that’s because I’ve read too many recent YA books, which are always super easy and fast-paced. So it took me a few chapters to get into the rhythm of an older fantasy (more description, history, etc.).

    The similarities to LoTR were strong (Gandalf/Strider – Cadvan; Hulls; light vs. dark, the horses, Rachida/Lothlorien, etc.), but not enough to bother me. I thought some of the similarities probably came from similar root legends.

    This is totally out of order, but: Hem’s transformation from distrusting and silent to relatively friendly as soon as he thinks Maerad is his sister seemed too abrupt. Maybe I was just reading too quickly at that point.

    As someone else pointed out, the Dernhil thing was a little creepy, especially when I realized he was previously in love with Sylvia’s daughter–between Sylvia and Dernhil, it’s almost as if Maerad just took the girl’s place.

    Cadvan thoughts: have any of you read “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic”? Just finished it, and Aruendiel really, really reminds me of Cadvan. They’re both serious and moody, have a horrible temper, don’t want students/other people, etc. But Cadvan’s character didn’t bother me much. He makes more sense when I realize the stress he’s under and what he suspects about Maerad.

    So glad she talked about periods, although it did seem odd that Maerad just started bleeding so quickly and so much. Oh well. Talking about it in simplistic terms is better than not talking about it at all.

    Problem: if I read correctly, Maerad dream-saw what happened to Dernhil. But then Cadvan tries to figure what happened and what the Hulls might have learned, and she never says anything. Did I misunderstand that bit?

    Ok, I think I’m done now. Hopefully I’ll be able to participate better the next few months. It was a great read though, and I’m excited about the rest of the series!

    • Yay! So glad you were able to read the book this month.
      1. I read this first when I was much younger and totally gullible so I was convinced that Pellinor truly existed. Hee. I call most YA fantasy ‘lite’ fantasy because to me they lack the worldbuilding and detail that I’ve come to expect in older high fantasy titles.
      2. I enjoyed Hem and I think his transformation is due to the magical sense of kinship they both feel for the other, that is, him and Maerad. The narrative mentions Maerad’s determination to rescue him as though she was being pulled toward the place by some invisible string in her chest and I think I attributed Hem’s transformation to a similar sense of kinship. It didn’t bother me though I can see how it’d bother you.
      3. I have read A Thinking Woman’s Guide to Magic (wonderful book, isn’t it?) and now that you mention it, I do see the similarities. I think Cadvan bothers me more here because Maerad is a child compared to the protagonist of that book and I felt like Cadvan was being unfair in treating her as he would a person who has had the same experiences has him.
      4. I didn’t know Sylvia’s daughter and Dernhill were a thing. Was it said explicitly in the novel? I kinda didn’t get it. But he is creepy. I don’t think he’s meant to be but as a modern reader, he just sets off warning bells.
      5. And yes, I’m totally with you on the dream that Maerad for some reason didn’t mention. Why she didn’t tell Cadvan what she had seen is something I can’t understand either.

      That’s about it, I think.. :)

      • I do like Hem. :)

        About Dernhil: for certain, he wrote a poem “For Clavila” (Sylvia’s daughter). I was able to go back and find that. I want to say there’s a time when Cadvan tells more of Dernhil’s story and says so, but I can’t find it now. His interest in Maerad did seem odd, but it’s increasingly common for age differences in fantasy relationships to be accepted.

        Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic: I have mixed feelings about the book, but thoroughly enjoyed it. Now that I consider, your blog might have been the recommendation that put it on my TBR list. I’ll have to go back and read that post again.

        • I remember the part Cadvan talks more about Dernhill. I think it is when he talked about his own arrogance and his foray into the darker side of magic. I definitely know what you mean about Thinking Woman’s Guide–I just found out that there’s going to be a sequel. It’s a difficult book to recommend because the beginning is all sorts of messed up but I did enjoy it in the end. Especially it’s commentary on gender classes. I found the difference in the way women and men use language and express themselves so fascinating.

          • TWG: I hadn’t heard news of a sequel, but assumed one would be coming, based on the ending. I listened to it on audiobook, which made the beginning especially difficult….there were hours and hours of Nora being duped the Faetoran and I was quite confused. In the end, I most resented the fact that an educated single woman had to go to another world, learn magic, and fall in love with a really old magician to be happy. It seemed at odds with Nora’s feminist rhetoric.

            But the characters and world are fascinating, including all the colliding race, gender, and class expectations.

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