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Book Club Questions

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The Heart of the Stone | The Call of the Stone | The Lament of the Stone | The Curse Giver

Discussion Questions for Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone

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  1. In Stonewiser's fantasy world, the stones are the last reliable repository for memories, information and truth. Do you find any parallels and/or contradictions between the concept of the stones and the means and ways that we use today to disperse, gather and understand information?

  2. What do you think would happen to our sense of self, to our culture, to our institutions, if we didn't have any reliable ways to trace our past? What would happen to our society if our history was erased, if we had to recreate an existential framework for ourselves, relying on fragments of uncorroborated knowledge?

  3. When the story begins, Sariah is a slave of her own beliefs, a lease of the Guild. What are the key elements that drive Sariah away from slavery? What are the elements that help her to define her personal concept of freedom?

  4. Sariah has often been described as the ultimate reluctant heroine. In Dora Machado's own words, the heroine of Stonewiser "is a flawed person, a bundle of contradictions, a tough cookie with lots of baggage, a troubled soul." With all those tags associated with her character, what is it that makes Sariah such a compelling heroine?

  5. The New Blood's oath, "From the rot we came and to the stone we shall return by way of hallowed land," is the central belief of a marginalized, persecuted people. How does the oath shape the thoughts and actions of the rebel leader Kael? How does the oath influence his decisions regarding Sariah? Do you think that the oath limits or frees his people to overcome poverty and oppression?

  6. What does "the rot" represent? Symbolically it could be interpreted as greed, power, materialism, or money, but it also could be interpreted literally. Do you believe that the human race is neglectful of our environment and ecological system? How much of "the rot" is literal? How much of it is interpretive?

  7. Being a stonewiser implies some very specific biological characteristics, dangerous and highly specialized training, a very complex set of skills and practices, and enormous responsibility. Do you see the original need for a Stonewisers' Guild? Where did the Guild go wrong? Can you think of some ways in which the Guild could transform from an instrument of oppression into an instrument of enlightenment?

  8. Dora Machado grew up in a third world country. Which themes, subjects, scenes and/or characters do you think might best reflect her experiences and heritage?

Discussion Questions for Stonewiser: The Call of the Stone

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  1. When the story begins, Sariah is taken prisoner by the executioners, a tribe of people who make a living by executing criminals sentenced to death in the Rotten Domain. Do you think that a tribe of executioners is a useful or detrimental element for the Domain? Do you think that every society has a role/place for people such as these?

  2. What do you think are the main differences between the people who live in the Goodlands and the people who dwell in the Rotten Domain? What are the similarities? Do you think that the ecological differences between the Goodlands and the Rotten Domain account for the differences?

  3. One of Sariah's most unique skills is her ability to wise not just stone, but also people's emotions. What can she learn from wising people's emotions that she can't learn from the stones? Is this a skill you would like to have? How do you think our world today might be different if we were able to read each other's emotions?

  4. A reader's favorite, Delis's relationship with Sariah evolves throughout the story and generates a lot of questions. What do you think the donnis relationship entails? Is it mastery or service? Is it submission or friendship? Do you think that being a donnis to Delis is beneficial or harmful to Sariah? Would you like to have a donnis? Would you like to serve as someone's donnis?

  5. As Sariah progresses in her quest, she goes to the Bastions, where she meets the Hounds, a fierce, mysterious people who protect a sacred secret and speak only through their ancient sages' Wisdom. What are the advantages and disadvantages of communicating through an old established set of sayings? What aspects of the Hounds' culture surprised you? What aspects repelled you?

  6. What do you think of Sariah's goddess, Meliahs? Is she indeed a fickle goddess? Do you believe that the goddess's prohibition to create life is wise, silly or selfish? Do you think that "labor and sweat," the goddess's favorite offering, is a fair expectation or a punishing demand?

  7. In the story, Sariah is trapped at the Mating Hall and submitted to the prism's terrors. What do you think Grimly and her allies were trying to accomplish? Do you think the notion of making better stonewisers warranted her methods? Is the idea of a better/stronger/faster human being attractive to our society as well?

  8. What is the call of the stone and how is it relevant to us today?

Discussion Questions for Stonewiser: The Lament of the Stone

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  1. How do Sariah's early experiences with the Guild shape her views of her world? Do you think that humans are defined by their earliest experiences? Do you think a person can overcome their early challenges and grow beyond their childhood experiences?

  2. When Sariah arrives at the Bottom Islands, she experiences a people and a culture different from those she has known before. How are the people of the Bottom Islands different from Sariah? Have you ever experienced a culture different from yours? What aspects of that culture were familiar to you? What aspects were new? What aspects were shocking?

  3. At the end of the story, we learn more about Mistress Grimly's motivations. Do you think her beliefs justified her actions? Are there times and circumstances that require the loss of personal freedom and the manipulation of justice to protect and/or defend society? When is repression an acceptable option?

  4. Throughout the story, we see Sariah struggling with her faith while Kael stands fast by his beliefs. What do you think is the difference between them? Why is Kael so faithful to the goddess? Why is Sariah so suspicious of the goddess? What brings two people as different as Sariah and Kael together? What can bring them apart?

  5. What do you think are the basic differences between the concepts of divinity and humanity? Based on your personal experience and beliefs, do you think that a human being can become divine? What aspects of the human experience are valuable to you? What aspects of your concept of the divine experience would be attractive to you? Given the choice, would you consider becoming a divine being?

  6. Throughout the story, Kael faces some very difficult choices. Given a similar situation, would you have chosen as Kael did or would you have made a different choice? Do you think of choice as a burden or a privilege? Is it an obligation or an opportunity? Is it easier to choose for the self than to choose for others? Or is it harder for you when you have to choose on behalf of others? In your view, is there a correlation between choice and freedom?

  7. Even as Sariah and Kael strive to find a cure, the rot continues to ravage the land. Do you think humans today face a similar scourge? Do you feel humanity's impact on earth is always detrimental to the environment? Do you see ways in which humans can be of benefit to the environment?

  8. Why do the stones cry? What does the word "freedom" mean to you? Do you think our global society treasures freedom? How is the concept of freedom relevant to our society today?

Discussion Questions for The Curse Giver

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  1. How do you think that Lusielle's experience in her marriage and as a citizen of the Kingdom living under Riva's harsh rule shaped the way she behaves in the story? Do you think human beings are a product of their experiences? Do you think human beings can grow beyond their experiences?

  2. In your view, is Brennus Lord of Laonia a tragic or heroic character? Why? Confronted with a situation like Bren faced, would you have made the same choices? What would you have done differently? What would you have done the same?

  3. Do you think that Hato was loyal to Bren? How do you define loyalty? Do you think loyalty is an old-fashioned concept? Do you think that loyalty is still relevant today?

  4. What is Strength? Do you recognize the concept of Strength outside of the fantasy world created in The Curse Giver? Have you ever experienced Strength in your life?

  5. After reading the story, do you think the curse giver was evil or not? Can evil cause good? Do you think that good can sometimes spawn evil?

  6. In The Curse Giver, the purpose of Teos and its entire bureaucracy was to maintain the land's peace. Do you think that peace is more important than truth? Do you feel that peace is more important than freedom? In your view, is it fair to suppress freedom or truth in order to preserve peace?

  7. Do you think the curse giver was human or divine? Do you agree with Lusielle's assessment that whatever the creature was, her own existence was similar? From your perspective, what's the difference between being human and being divine? What's similar?

  8. The theology of The Curse Giver draws on universal creation myths. Can you recognize some of those universal myths? Can you give some examples of other creation tales that share in some of the ideas fueling the cult of Suriek and the Triad? Are they different or similar to the creation stories that fuel your personal beliefs? Are they different or similar to the creation stories that prevail in your culture?

  9. In The Curse Giver, people are divided into two distinct social classes. What's the difference between being highborn and lowborn? Can you think of any examples in our society or our world where people are put into specific categories according to birth, race, income level or any other differentiating characteristics? Have you ever experienced a defined social hierarchy in your life? How did it make you feel?

  10. Dora Machado grew up in a third-world country. Which themes, subjects and scenes do you think might best reflect her experiences and heritage?