Book Group Guides

Book Group Guide for Watersmeet, by Ellen Jensen Abbott

Marshall Cavendish, April 2009

Discussion questions

Ø There are many forms of prejudice in Vranille. Who are the groups that are discriminated against? Why? Who protests against this prejudice? Why?

Ø Why do you think Sina chose not to tell Abisina about her father? Are there things your parents did not tell you until you were “ready” to hear them?

Ø Why didn’t Sina leave Vranille with Rueshlan? Was this a good choice? What factors influenced her decision?

Ø What do you think is hardest about Abisina’s life in Vranille? What is Abisina’s view of herself as she leaves Vranille?

Ø The dwarves and Abisina make assumptions about the other that are challenged as they live together in Hoysta’s cave. How do their views change? What brings about this change?

Ø What does Abisina learn on her way to Watersmeet? How is she changed/challenged by seeing the fauns? meeting the centaurs? eating the mushroom? leading Haret up the cliff? facing the minotaur?

Ø What are Abisina’s impressions of her father before she knows he’s a shape-shifter? What are they afterwards? How much has he actually changed?

Ø Rueshlan says that the Vranians’ hatred is “born of their fear.” Do you agree with him? Are there other reasons for their fear?

Ø Haret accused Abisina of “judging the whole world with [her]self at the center.” Does she? How does the world change when we judge it from another point of view?

Ø How has Abisina changed by the end of the novel? What challenges has she faced to bring about this change? What experiences contributed to her deciding to stop the battle in the last scene of the book?

Ø Are there good reasons for war? What are some of the reasons the folk of Watersmeet offer? Do you agree? Would it have been possible to work out the conflict peacefully? Abisina almost doesn’t go to war. Why not? Why does she?

Ø In the epilogue it says that there is the “possibility of unity [in] the divided land.” What will the challenges be that face the new nation of Seldara after the novel closes? How hopeful are you for peace?

Hoysta’s Root-flour Brownies with Badger-cream topping

An excerpt from Watersmeet: “In the far reaches of the cave, Hoysta bred moles, mice, badgers, and rabbits for food and fur. Now Abisina and Hoysta culled the flocks—smoking what seemed like hundreds of moles in a hollow log; knitting silky rabbit fur into hats, mittens, leggings and under-shirts; piecing various skins into snug sleeping rolls. They baked batch after batch of flat bread made of rootflour, and they mended cloaks—including the one Abisina was wearing when Haret found her. Hoysta chewed leather to a supple softness to make Abisina a new pair of boots.”

Ingredients:

  • 1 C badger butter (substitution: 2 sticks butter)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 C root-flour (substitution: 2 C all-purpose flour)
  • 2/3 C light, powdery soil (substitution: 2/3 C cocoa)
  • 8-10 quail eggs (substitution: 4 chicken eggs)
  • 2 dwarf-size handfuls of walnuts, chopped (2 handful equivalent: 3/4 C)
  • (Hoysta’s recipe does not call for vanilla, but root-flour has a slightly different taste than all-purpose flour. To mimic Hoysta’s recipe, it is useful to add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in 9×13 pan in 300° oven.
  2. While butter melts, mix sugar, flour and soil(cocoa)
  3. Add melted butter and mix well.
  4. Add eggs, vanilla (if you choose to use it) and walnuts. Mix. It will be thick as cold mud!
  5. Bake 1 hour in the pan you melted the butter in.

Serving:

Take warm brownies and top with Badger-cream flavored with sand (substitution: coffee ice-cream) or flavored with gravel (Rocky Road ice cream).

Eat and enjoy!

Related reads:

Many fantasy novels draw on mythology, folklore and legend. Many also address prejudice, social structure and the experience of being an outsider. I really love the whole genre, but some of my favorites are The Farsala Trilogy and Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell; The Faerie Wars Chronicles by Herbie Brennan; Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer; Wolf Tower (and the rest of The Claidi Journals) by Tanith Lee; The Giver, Finding Blue, and The Messenger by Lowis Lowry; The Golden Compass (and the rest of His Dark Materials series) by Phillip Pullman; The Lightening Thief (and all the Percy Jackson books) by Rick Riordan; The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner.

Web-Links:

Women in Greek Myths: http://www.paleothea.com/

Botanical.com: A Modern Herbal: http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/mgmh.html

The Mystery of the Green Man: the Face in the Leaves: http://www.mikeharding.co.uk/

God Checker.com: Your Guide to the Gods: http://www.godchecker.com/

Download this guide as a Word Document.

Download this guide as a PDF.

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