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Old 05-16-2019, 06:35 PM   #31
Dazrin
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Sorry Dazrin, for crossing posts with you. My memory may be off, but I don’t think Pod explained how it would be safe. Bod could have worked ‘with’ Scarlett, and maybe that’s what they would have agreed to. But then she wouldn’t have treated as a passive bystander.
I'm not saying that she was treated as anything but a passive bystander, she was. (Although I thought there was a quick "you can't help because you don't have the freedom of the graveyard" statement to try to cover that a little.) I just don't agree that he used her as bait. His reasoning for putting her there was clear and I think he fully expected Jack to go after him instead of her. That's where things went pear shaped. Fortunately, his choice of hiding place for her included a last chance option for dealing with Jack in the Sleer.
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Old 05-16-2019, 07:48 PM   #32
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[...] Because as soon as Mr. Frost was introduced, I thought, Oh no, he can't be Jack, can he? Surely Gaiman isn't going there. And then, lo and behold. Also, the other Jacks came later, I believe, and weren't immediately recognizable--I never heard of Jack Ketch, for example.
It's not Gaiman's fault your education is lacking. More seriously, I figured the name Mr Frost was used to make it absolutely clear to the reader who this man was. There was never meant to be a question of whether it was a Jack, you were supposed to know and see what poor Scarlet was letting herself in for.

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[...]So the family was in their sights for generations, but somehow they couldn't manage to wipe out the line a few hundred years back? It all came down to this one family--and yet Jack couldn't kill the baby FIRST, when he was the primary target and the primary threat?
My earlier point was that they didn't know the baby was the primary threat; it could have been the other child; it may even have been an as yet unborn child. I see absolutely no reason for an information download from the Jacks (beyond the small one we did in fact get over the ghoul grave) explaining all the details of why things worked out exactly as they did.

Fairytales don't have to explain where the magic mirror came from or how it knows who is the fairest in the land.

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My issue is that Gaiman doesn't deal with any of this philosphical terrain. He just ignores it. I'm easy; I just want some kind of acknowledgment that the author sees the problem--say a paragraph or two about previous thwarted attempts to wipe out the line, or this specific family. That he didn't do it makes me infer that he didn't see the problem himself, and/or that he didn't respect the reader enough to create a plausible scenario to solve the problem.
I see it the other way: he respected the reader enough to be able to deal with this themselves; to not need every detail spelled out. And none of the past attempts or investigations mattered to this story; they are a given or this story would not exist.

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[...]And there's still no plausible reason for the triple homicide and missing child to have been hushed up. In terms of the story, so what if Scarlett's newspaper search had turned up headlines splashed on the front pages? [...]
Yes, I agree the secrecy seems redundant, although it may be that the Jacks simply prefer it that way. But I don't see that it matters.

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[...] I absolutely agree that Bod using Scarlett as bait like that was completely out of character. It just didn’t fit! Maybe a bit of lazy writing there? Gaiman could have found a better way to handle things, and should have involved Scarlett in the planning. She was treated like a thing instead of a partner and friend.
Here I must quote Bod himself: ‘It wasn’t like that.’

At least not consciously. We might argue whether the Bod had this in his mind unconsciously (even Bod may be wondering that), but the hiding place was chosen as what seemed the best and most secret place in the graveyard.

The lead up to hiding Scarlett went:
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‘Who are you talking to?’ asked Scarlett, staring at Bod as if he had gone mad.
Caius Pompeius said, ‘Inside the hill?’
Bod thought. ‘Yes. Good call. Scarlett, do you remember the place where we found the Indigo Man?’
‘Kind of. A dark place. I remember there wasn’t anything to be scared of.’
‘I’m taking you up there.’
This doesn't sound like Bod making plans to use Scarlett as bait.

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Old 05-16-2019, 08:43 PM   #33
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It's not Gaiman's fault your education is lacking. More seriously, I figured the name Mr Frost was used to make it absolutely clear to the reader who this man was. There was never meant to be a question of whether it was a Jack, you were supposed to know and see what poor Scarlet was letting herself in for.
Why would Gaiman want to signal to the reader that Mr. Frost was a baddie? It should have been a surprise.

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My earlier point was that they didn't know the baby was the primary threat; it could have been the other child; it may even have been an as yet unborn child. I see absolutely no reason for an information download from the Jacks (beyond the small one we did in fact get over the ghoul grave) explaining all the details of why things worked out exactly as they did.

Fairytales don't have to explain where the magic mirror came from or how it knows who is the fairest in the land.
I'm not talking about an information dump, just a bit of clarification. In the "Interlude" section, Jack is told he was supposed to take care of all of the family, especially the baby. Later, Bod is told that Jack was sent to deal with him --Bod--and failed. To me, this is pretty specific that they did know the primary target.

Something else that struck me and I've been forgetting to mention: if the Jacks had just left Bod alone, he never would have know he was destined to be the instrument of their destruction. Instead, they created the means of their own downfall. Oops!

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Yes, I agree the secrecy seems redundant, although it may be that the Jacks simply prefer it that way. But I don't see that it matters.
It matters because it's an illogical detail that the author created, and he needed to make it logical in the story he was telling. He didn't do that.

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Here I must quote Bod himself: ‘It wasn’t like that.’

At least not consciously. We might argue whether the Bod had this in his mind unconsciously (even Bod may be wondering that), but the hiding place was chosen as what seemed the best and most secret place in the graveyard.

The lead up to hiding Scarlett went:

This doesn't sound like Bod making plans to use Scarlett as bait.
My main issue here is Bod's casual, uncaring attitude; his coldness and lack of any sense of the gravity of the situation. OK, he's grown up in a graveyard, so his perception of death isn't going to be normal, but still, he seems unmoved by the horrible fates of the Jacks. Scarlett tells him he's behaving like a monster, and I agree with her.
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Old 05-16-2019, 09:40 PM   #34
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It's too late in the story for Mr Frost to be anything but Jack. Calling him Mr Frost is almost a pantomime wink at the audience.

The secrecy thing is only illogical if you decide to make it so; one sentence from the author could have made up an explicit reason - but why bother? It simply is. And it's one of the least interesting unexplained items in the story.

The self-fulfilling prophesy aspect is - for me - one of those more disappointing aspects of story: it's so much standard fare for prophesies as to be trite or cliche. Like time-travel stories that wrap themselves in a loop where everything happened as it did because of time travel is both cause an effect.

Hmm... I never saw Bod - the boy who had been talking of revenge - as likely to cry over the loss of the men that killed his family. And you're right, death doesn't mean quite the same to Bod as it does to Scarlett. To quote Silas: ‘I am afraid you do Bod an injustice. But you will undoubtedly be happier if you remember none of this. [...]’

This is a story intended to be suitable for younger readers. It is also a story that feels very much like a fairytale. It certainly doesn't feel like "high fantasy" where we might expect The Honour Guard and The Hounds of God to have come with full pedigree as part of a thousand page epic. It's a short relatively sweet fable and I see your expectation for extraneous details as unreasonable in this context.
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Old 05-16-2019, 10:41 PM   #35
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One of the signs of a good book for me is wanting to know more.

How/why did Silas change from being a bad guy to being who he is in this book?

Tell me more of the adventures of Silas, Ms. Lupescu and the others...

Where does Bod end up going and and what does he do?

There are so many hooks here that I want to know MORE!

But I think that is part of the reason I like it so much in itself. While I want to know the answers to those and other questions, imagining them is interesting in itself. Some of those answers, while I am curious, would actually spoil the fun. I don't need to know what Bod does, that he is in a place to DO it is enough. (I do want more about Silas and the others though.)
Bring on the Adventures of the Honor Guard! These are the types of questions that I think are fun for young readers to spark their imaginations. I didn't have to know the answers to these questions while reading, but they would be fun to explore in other books. I agree that I like that we don't exactly know what Bod does next.

It appears he is considering a sequel to The Graveyard Book. Also, he does list Silas as being one of his favorite characters, "the kind of characters who never stand in the spotlight, but who make the book work."
http://www.mousecircus.com/meet-neil-gaiman/

This interview with Publishers Weekly is especially insightful.
https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/...il-gaiman.html

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Old 05-16-2019, 10:45 PM   #36
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Of course The Jungle Book is the main inspiration of Neil Gaiman’s work but I noticed a nod to his interest in Norse Mythology in his description of Ghûlheim with its Nordic sounding name. But there is also a possible sly reference to H. P. Lovecraft with that writer’s description of alien landscapes having “obscene” mind-bending, horrifying angles. Note the following passage:

“Bod see that all of the angles were wrong–that the walls sloped crazily, that it was every nightmare he had ever endured made into a place, like a huge mouth of jutting teeth. It was a city that had been built just to be abandoned, in which all the fears and madnesses and revulsions of the creatures who built it were made into stone.”

Personally, I think that the names of the evil cult have Chestertonian overtones. The Man Who Was Thursday has a series of characters named after days of the week. In a wonderful short story, The Queer Feet, Chesterton creates an evil hierarchy of power called “The Twelve True Fishermen.”

While I am not certain at all that Gaiman was definitely influenced by G. K. Chesterton, I do feel that he has something of the same kind of quirky wit.
The Publishers Weekly article in my previous post as this to say about his influences.

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Do you have a favorite story among them?

Of all the stories in The Graveyard Book my favorite is chapter five, “Danse Macabre,” partly because it’s not quite like the others. And that story is this strange little thing where the dead and the living get together in the middle of the night in this odd, wonderful dance, and then all the living are confused and sort of forget about [it] afterwards. There are two touchstones in terms of authors I’ve loved for The Graveyard Book. The obvious one is Rudyard Kipling, but the less obvious one is P.L. Travers’s Mary Poppins stories. This chapter is just the sort of thing that would happen in Mary Poppins,where everyone in town would be off flying about and then not remember it afterward.
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Old 05-16-2019, 11:55 PM   #37
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I think it takes a very special touch to be able to weave a tale like this, where grief, and loss, and violence and ugliness are so central to the story and yet the story avoids losing itself in any of these things. That, almost as much as anything else, is what makes this feel so much a fairytale; the prose remains mostly light and unaffected and yet the feelings are all there and none of the depth is lost.
I think this is a very important point. The book is much darker and violent than one might expect (so is The Jungle Book). However it doesn't overshadow Bod's growth in coming of age. I don't think that the ugly things transform him into a monster or evil character and they don't consume his good qualities. I think he learns and grows in spite of them. And, I like how Gaiman takes creatures usually associated with fear and evil (like ghosts, vampires, werewolves) and makes them represent the good in the story, who protect and raise Bod and help him mature.

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Hmm... I never saw Bod - the boy who had been talking of revenge - as likely to cry over the loss of the men that killed his family. And you're right, death doesn't mean quite the same to Bod as it does to Scarlett. To quote Silas: ‘I am afraid you do Bod an injustice. But you will undoubtedly be happier if you remember none of this. [...]’
I think it is natural to want revenge and feel angry towards the Jacks. The opening story is very grim and dark. Jack's evil nature is dripping from the page. He took away Bod's whole family and a normal childhood of the living. Bod doesn't even know his name given by his parents. Bod knows that he is protected in the graveyard and that outside are bad people that want to do bad things to him. Jack Frost tricks him into the attic and makes it clear he intends to kill him. Why should Bod not want to escape? They chase him into the graveyard. Bod has to fight back if he wants to live because after all he still has a life to live in the outside world and he's not ready to join the graveyard people. He doesn't rejoice in fighting the Jacks (no wicked cackles here). It's more something he has to do to live.

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My take on Bod's thought process is that he put her there because it was the safest location and because he knew that if something did go wrong there was a chance the Sleer would (possibly inadvertently) protect her. I can see how she would think she was bait given the way things went but I don't see that at all in Bod's behavior.
I share your interpretation. I don't think that Bod was uncaring or cold. I also think that he was trying to protect Scarlett. I think it shows that despite being raised in the graveyard he still is able to have compassionate and protective feelings towards other living people. Scarlett was his first living friend. He really missed her when she left, and he is so happy when she comes back. Scarlett is not part of the graveyard world, and she doesn't understand its rules so she misinterprets the actions. She sees Bod against the Jacks. She doesn't see the other creatures of the graveyard assisting him. Also, look at her judgment that she ignored the "stranger danger" warning bells and got into the car with Jack Frost, and then she and her mom became friendly with him. He wasn't what he seemed to her either.
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Old 05-16-2019, 11:57 PM   #38
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I’m not completely happy with the idea of the “inevitable prophecy” as a way of handling the problem of why Jack leaves the toddler to last. I think that Jack’s own personality has something to do with it. He regards murder as a kind of art form and I believe that in his pride he decides to start with the parents first because they are the source. He then goes to the daughter and finally to the son. Thus, I think he likes the inverse progression of murder as aesthetically satisfying.
No, I didn't attribute any sense of inverse progression, but the simple fact that Bod was on the third floor. He killed them as he got to them, and Bod was on the top floor.
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Old 05-17-2019, 01:32 AM   #39
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No, I didn't attribute any sense of inverse progression, but the simple fact that Bod was on the third floor. He killed them as he got to them, and Bod was on the top floor.
I agree. That makes a lot more sense. The simplest answer is usually the best.
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Old 05-17-2019, 03:34 AM   #40
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The Publishers Weekly article in my previous post as this to say about his influences.
That’s an interesting article. Thanks for sharing it. The reason I think the passage I quoted is a nod to Lovecraft is because Gaiman is interested in him and contributes stories to anthologies which feature stories inspired by the Lovecraft Mythos. For instance, his contribution to Acolytes of Cthulhu was “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar.”

The passage seems a clear pastiche of a Lovecraftian scene. However, Gaiman is a far better writer than Lovecraft.

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Old 05-17-2019, 03:50 AM   #41
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I agree. That makes a lot more sense. The simplest answer is usually the best.
All writers (and most readers) know that openings are critical, none of any experience would make the opening sequence any more complicated than absolutely necessary. Thus we open with the deed three quarters done; the audience doesn't need to details of those first three deaths beyond the entirely eloquent and expressive second paragraph: "The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet."

It helps, of course, that the given sequence makes sense. If you intend to wipe out an entire family then starting with the members most likely to cause problems (if given the chance) is only logical. The author gets to place the family members in ascending order in the house (it's not an illogical order) to further confirm the smooth unveiling of the story. An assassin doesn't really expect an 18month old toddler is going to be able to outrun them even if they wake early, so there should be no rush.

By the time we get an explanation for killing the entire family the story is almost done and a reader involved in the story no longer cares much why it came out this way. That the explanation is left quite vague ("nativities") lets the involved reader continue without unnecessarily complicated elaborations. If a reader is not involved in the story by this time it's too late to satisfy them anyway.
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Old 05-17-2019, 04:30 AM   #42
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All writers (and most readers) know that openings are critical, none of any experience would make the opening sequence any more complicated than absolutely necessary. Thus we open with the deed three quarters done; the audience doesn't need to details of those first three deaths beyond the entirely eloquent and expressive second paragraph: "The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet."

It helps, of course, that the given sequence makes sense. If you intend to wipe out an entire family then starting with the members most likely to cause problems (if given the chance) is only logical. The author gets to place the family members in ascending order in the house (it's not an illogical order) to further confirm the smooth unveiling of the story. An assassin doesn't really expect an 18month old toddler is going to be able to outrun them even if they wake early, so there should be no rush.

By the time we get an explanation for killing the entire family the story is almost done and a reader involved in the story no longer cares much why it came out this way. That the explanation is left quite vague ("nativities") lets the involved reader continue without unnecessarily complicated elaborations. If a reader is not involved in the story by this time it's too late to satisfy them anyway.
Thanks!😊
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Old 05-17-2019, 02:48 PM   #43
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I'm not saying that she was treated as anything but a passive bystander, she was. (Although I thought there was a quick "you can't help because you don't have the freedom of the graveyard" statement to try to cover that a little.) I just don't agree that he used her as bait. His reasoning for putting her there was clear and I think he fully expected Jack to go after him instead of her. That's where things went pear shaped. Fortunately, his choice of hiding place for her included a last chance option for dealing with Jack in the Sleer.
Fair points Darzin - we just read it differently, which I understand happens occasionally here I had the impression at the time that Bod specifically placed Scarlett there because he wanted to lure Jack to Sleer. I returned the book so can’t double check, but thought Scarlett actually used the word bait herself - that’s how she perceived his actions. But ‘bait’ might have just been my own injection .

However as you point out, he was only 15 and in the midst of a catastrophe. I wouldn’t want to give the impression I was down on Bod - I quite liked him. He was an admirable young man, and I REALLY wish we’d had a bit more about how he was making out in the land of the living.
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Old 05-17-2019, 03:20 PM   #44
Catlady
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The secrecy thing is only illogical if you decide to make it so; one sentence from the author could have made up an explicit reason - but why bother? It simply is. And it's one of the least interesting unexplained items in the story.
Why bother? Well, why bother with any pesky little details, why bother with internal consistency and continuity?

Just tell me WHY the author went out of his way to make the murders and the missing child a secret, why he made this event something relegated to the middle of the newspaper as if it were a garden club meeting of no importance. Yes, I want an explicit reason to explain something that should not have happened except for ... whatever the author wants to invent. I don't forgive this kind of sloppiness/unconcern/disdain for the reader--whatever you want to call it. It's shoddy, lazy writing, and it amazes me that anyone condones it and excuses it.

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The self-fulfilling prophesy aspect is - for me - one of those more disappointing aspects of story: it's so much standard fare for prophesies as to be trite or cliche. Like time-travel stories that wrap themselves in a loop where everything happened as it did because of time travel is both cause an effect.
There's also the unexplained involvement of Silas--how'd he know about the Jacks, did he know they were responsible for the murders right away? Why didn't he destroy Jack Frost the first night at the graveyard? This is all stuff that's unanswered--I'm mostly willing to let it slide, but it's more of what made this book unsatisfying; it's a bunch of episodes that don't add up to a novel.

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-Hmm... I never saw Bod - the boy who had been talking of revenge - as likely to cry over the loss of the men that killed his family. And you're right, death doesn't mean quite the same to Bod as it does to Scarlett. To quote Silas: ‘I am afraid you do Bod an injustice. But you will undoubtedly be happier if you remember none of this. [...]’
No, you misunderstand me--I didn't expect Bod to be weeping and wailing, but he doesn't react at all. He's cold--he's like a hit man or an executioner who has no personal involvement; he's like Jack. He doesn't seem to understand why Scarlett is even upset. That's why he seems to have become a monster.

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This is a story intended to be suitable for younger readers. It is also a story that feels very much like a fairytale. It certainly doesn't feel like "high fantasy" where we might expect The Honour Guard and The Hounds of God to have come with full pedigree as part of a thousand page epic. It's a short relatively sweet fable and I see your expectation for extraneous details as unreasonable in this context.
No, I don't need a thousand-page epic, I need for the author to add a few sentences of explanation for things he's inserted into the narrative that make no sense.

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I think it is natural to want revenge and feel angry towards the Jacks. The opening story is very grim and dark. Jack's evil nature is dripping from the page. He took away Bod's whole family and a normal childhood of the living. Bod doesn't even know his name given by his parents. Bod knows that he is protected in the graveyard and that outside are bad people that want to do bad things to him. Jack Frost tricks him into the attic and makes it clear he intends to kill him. Why should Bod not want to escape? They chase him into the graveyard. Bod has to fight back if he wants to live because after all he still has a life to live in the outside world and he's not ready to join the graveyard people. He doesn't rejoice in fighting the Jacks (no wicked cackles here). It's more something he has to do to live.
Does not his experience with dead people teach him that his parents and sister are still probably hanging around in a comfy graveyard of their own, part of an equally interesting community? It's odd that he never thinks of them in that context--they're apart from him, yes, but they're not completely gone.

For that matter, I wonder why Bod never considers looking for them wherever they were buried. That would be an interesting quest.

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No, I didn't attribute any sense of inverse progression, but the simple fact that Bod was on the third floor. He killed them as he got to them, and Bod was on the top floor.
Which, as I pointed out earlier, is pretty crazy--the baby is farther away from the parents than the older daughter is.

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By the time we get an explanation for killing the entire family the story is almost done and a reader involved in the story no longer cares much why it came out this way. That the explanation is left quite vague ("nativities") lets the involved reader continue without unnecessarily complicated elaborations. If a reader is not involved in the story by this time it's too late to satisfy them anyway.
This reader cares about why. This reader read through the whole book wanting to know the reason for the murders. This reader wants a payoff that's not vague and questionable. This reader feels that the ending soured the whole book.
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Old 05-17-2019, 04:08 PM   #45
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Fair points Darzin - we just read it differently, which I understand happens occasionally here I had the impression at the time that Bod specifically placed Scarlett there because he wanted to lure Jack to Sleer. I returned the book so can’t double check, but thought Scarlett actually used the word bait herself - that’s how she perceived his actions. But ‘bait’ might have just been my own injection .

However as you point out, he was only 15 and in the midst of a catastrophe. I wouldn’t want to give the impression I was down on Bod - I quite liked him. He was an admirable young man, and I REALLY wish we’d had a bit more about how he was making out in the land of the living.
She did use the word bait, and as I said before I do understand why she used that word, but she didn't use it till after the fact. After Jack had followed her instead of Bod. I don't think Bod had ever considered using her as bait. He did use himself as bait though and was completely willing to do that. But if he had realized that she would be Jack's target, I think things would have turned out different. He would probably have stayed with her so that when Jack found them both he wouldn't have dealt with the others. Maybe he would have still been able to defeat Jack that way, but the others would have either gotten them afterwards or gotten away. It is unlikely they would have been able to be trapped if he had waited.

As for Scarlett, from her perspective seeing what she could see and not seeing a lot of the rest, I can see why after the fact it looked like Bod used her as bait. If, on the other hand, Jack had followed only Bod as expected it wouldn't have been an issue at all. Although, I'm not at all sure what Bod would have done to get out of that mess. He'd already used the two other traps I can think of in the graveyard.
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