discussion questions

  1. Who wields the type of magic called “cordimancy”—and what is its nature? Who is a “heart”?
  2. How do Malena and Toril progress through stages of grief as the story unfolds?
  3. Is Shivi too idealistic?
  4. Why is kavro shilmar called the Ordeal of Names? Did Toril receive any power in the ordeal that he didn’t already have? What is the beginning and ending of the ordeal? Is there any analog to it in the “real world”?
  5. Trust and communication in marriage are an important theme. How do the experiences Toril and Malena bring to their marriage influence their expectations? What do they do well, and what mistakes hamper their happiness?
  6. Why did Gitám say that Toril had been in the ordeal for longer than he realized?
  7. How do rituals and customs in the book compare to those in cultures you may know?
  8. What do you think about Shivi’s definition of forgiveness? How is it different from other definitions you might have heard?
  9. Besides Toril, who else undergoes an ordeal of names?
  10. What loose ends are unresolved? Why?
  11. What do you think about Oji’s assertion that experience, rather than time, is the true measure of life?
  12. How do revelations about Toril’s condition and the sterility of sata influence Malena’s feelings? What does Toril mean when he says he will “unmake the orphans”?
  13. How does the oak connect to kavro shilmar, to Shivi’s heartstone, and to the heartstone that Toril lost? How is the oak like or unlike its familiar counterparts in world mythologies?
  14. What do you think of the parable of bread and ovens?
  15. Does heart magic trump blood magic?
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