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Leng
May 13, 2006



Hello Book Barn! Let's hate-read The Blending, a five book series by Sharon Green.


It has a sequel series, The Blending Enthroned, which wraps up the loose ends from The Blending.


Barring Twilight (which I've only read due to chitoryu12's amazing Let's Read), The Blending is quite possibly the worst fantasy series I have ever read in terms of character, plot and writing, and yet I actually bought all eight books (physical copies! And not from the bargain bin!) - and re-read them often - because I still find the world building concepts and the magic system interesting for some reason despite the awful execution.

Judging by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Megathread, it turns out that I'm not alone in my opinion - wizzardstaff's spoilered post below pretty much sums up the books:

Sibling of TB posted:

I have never read a book before where about half way through I decided that I hated all the characters and wanted to see bad stuff happen to them. Any other books like that?

wizzardstaff posted:

The Blending by Sharon Green.

A five-book series that features five protagonists each specializing in a different element of magic. They are brought together from the corners of The Empire to compete in a tournament to crown the next heads of state. The tournament is a Captain Planet cage match in which teams of five coordinate their powers to summon a combined entity. The main antagonists are a team of nobles hand-picked for succession, and you know they're evil because they do BDSM. Meanwhile, in between arena battles the protagonists are forced into a communal living situation which provides no end of soap opera drama and sexual tension. Eventually they sleep together in all possible heterosexual combinations because it strengthens their bonds as teammates; homosexual pairings aren't necessary because they "love each other like siblings".

Oh, and the first two books are actually 1/5 the printed length because they cover the characters individually going through solo trials which are beat-by-beat identical to each other, to the point where it feels like the chapters are copied and pasted with the names changed.


I'm mainly doing this as a writing exercise. I want to figure out why these books are so bad, whether they could be fixed (and how they might be fixed) and just exactly what makes them so appealing even when the writing is appalling. If/when we get to the end of all eight books, I'll wrap up the Let's Read with a summary of what I would do if I were to rewrite the books. Time permitting and if there's interest, I'll start a thread in CC and actually attempt the rewrite.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves! I'll be aiming to post one chapter every 2-3 days though if things get busy I will drop it to once a week.

Sharon Green and her books
Green brands herself as a sci-fi fantasy and romance author but from what I've seen of her writing, she's more of a romance author who often uses sci-fi/fantasy settings (hence Avon as a publisher and also a pretty large list of published books). I believe The Blending was marketed as simply fantasy despite the focus on romance - at least, I choose to believe that it was only marketed as fantasy, because I came across these books in my high school library as a 14 year old girl. It was not something that I personally picked up from the shelves; my best friend at the time had borrowed it and then told me I had to absolutely read it because it had some very interesting bits in it. As I had been mainly focused on reading my way through all of Asimov's books at the time, I thought she was talking about robots, advances in AI, or something along those lines. It wasn't until I hit the first bath scene in Chapter 11 of Book 1 that I suspected she might have been referring to other things (and yep, Chapter 22 of Book 1 definitely confirmed she was indeed talking about other things).

Selachian posted:

I'm amused by the "villains are bad because they do BDSM" thing, because Green's books from the early 80s were BDSM wank fantasies aimed at the Gor audience (although in Green's books, the women were occasionally allowed to get on top).
There are some recurring BDSM themes that were prevalent in Green's other books that show up in The Blending to a degree as well. Mind control/non-consensual/reluctance is probably the main one, though it's generally not in a sexual context for this series since it wasn't marketed as romance. So uh, trigger warning in advance.

Also be prepared for the following:
  • Badly written sex scenes
  • Reading the same thing five times over and over again
  • Lots of drinking tea
  • Lots of riding around in coaches
  • Lots of meetings
  • Meetings in coaches
  • Meetings in bath houses
  • Drinking tea in meetings
  • Meetings about the need to have meetings to update characters who weren't at the meeting on the meeting
  • Blatant moralizing
  • Virtually non-existent character growth
  • Over-reliance on miscommunication/misunderstanding for conflict
  • Cliffhangers! (really terrible ones)

Sharon Green on the premise of The Blending

There is an interview with Green that was done after the first series was finished. It's long, rambling, refers to Green as the "grande dame of fantasy" (uhhh no), and describes this series as a mix of "a strong plot and five fascinating characters" (double no). There's two parts worth highlighting right now:

Green's response on the inspiration for the story

Sharon Green posted:

Well, I decided to look around for something different, something not everyone and their grandmother was already doing. Most fantasy has that "small group" who are able to do magic, so that was the starting point which had to be thought about. What's different compared to the usual? How about everyone being able to do magic?

There are other stories in that same general category, but I don't have the nerve to think about one of them. Doing it would make what I went through with The Blending look like child's play, so let's not go into it.

"I basically put no effort into actually thinking through the supposed premise for my series so this is why it sucks. Please don't compare my low effort work to those of other authors who actually tried to execute on an interesting idea."

Green on using multiple POVs

Sharon Green posted:

It suddenly came to me that it was time to do something different, and The Blending turned out to be it. I had no idea how hard it was to write that many points of view, but the book demanded it so I had no choice.

Yeah, no, the books really don't demand this and it's pretty obvious from Chapter 7 in Book 1.

The Blending universe
Apart from the magic system, Green has done basically no world building for this series. The books are so devoid of description that the only thing I know about the time period is that coaches are the main form of transportation, and women wear dresses and gowns.

Geographically, we get a little more information, though not enough for me to attempt a map. There are three nations: the Gandistran Empire at the center of the continent, Astinda (to the west) and Gracely (to the east, by the ocean). We get to know a few places within Gandistra itself:
- Gan Garee (the capital city)
- Widdertown (a small town at the western edge of the empire, close to the Astindan border)
- Rincammon (a city in the northern part of the empire)
- Port Entril (in the south part of the empire)
- Regisard (a.k.a University, no given location)

The only differences between the different nations are systems of government:
- Gandistra is a monarchy of sorts, ruled by the Seated Blending on the Fivefold Throne. Each reign lasts for 25 years and the new rulers are chosen via a tournament. The Seated Blending has Advisors who are comprised of High Lords and Lords from the nobility. There is a Guild but it's unclear what the Guild normally does really, other than acting as a giant register of all magic users (which is basically 95% of the population)
- Astinda is made up of a number of warring clans, each with a leading Blending
- Gracely is governed by an assembly

The magic system lies somewhere between a soft and a hard magic system:
- It's an elemental-based magic system (uses the Aristotelian elements, substituting Spirit for ether and Book 5 spoilers adds Sight magic as a 6th element)
- Most people are born with some level of talent/ability in a particular aspect (e.g. Fire)
- Strength is rated in three tiers: Low, Middle and High, with further designations within each tier (weak/average/strong, with strong generally referred to as "third level", e.g. "third level High")
- Control over magic is achieved by using different patterns (similar to weaves in Wheel of Time)
- People need to "open to the power" in order to use their talent
- Drawing on too much power can result in burn out - a minor consequence of burn out is loss of ability; in the worst case, you lose your mind and become a drooling vegetable

Spoilers

There are some twists that Green kind of made an effort at foreshadowing a few books in advance, so in case there are any first time readers following along, I will use spoiler tags for anything that relates to these.

Index
Book 1: Convergence

Leng fucked around with this message at 07:45 on Sep 27, 2020

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StrixNebulosa
Feb 14, 2012

You cheated not only the game, but yourself.
But most of all, you cheated BABA



Yesssssssssss

- I've had the first five books since I was a teenager. I've never read beyond the first one but I've reread it like three times trying to finish it this time so I could read the rest and I never did.
- The art on the covers is AMAZING
- I genuinely love the concept of "these people have to team up and save the world", especially if you throw romance into the mix - I don't know if these books get into that but I enjoy reading about poly relationships. (but NOT in real life, I couldn't handle that at all, strictly monogamous for me)
- Elemental powers are cool.

So naturally the author squandered it somehow. I'm looking forward to finding out how/why!

Sarern
Nov 4, 2008


Won't you take me to
Bomertown?
Won't you take me to
BONERTOWN?



Somewhere I have a Sharon Green book that isn't one of these, but I only remember bits of it. Looking back, I think I do remember some of that weird stuff. I'm looking forward to this thread!

Leng
May 13, 2006



Book 1: Convergence



Book 1 opens with a prologue.

quote:

HISTORY AND PROPHECY

Three words in and I'm in for an epigraph that reads like an extract from badly written fantasy high school history textbook. Assuming they have high schools in this universe. And that technology is sufficiently advanced that there would be printing presses to produce mass produce books at a price cheap enough that schools would have books instead of teaching by rote.

I have no idea whether these assumptions are valid or not because Green has done so little work in world building that I can't guess one way or another, even after reading all eight books.

quote:

. . . and so the major error of the past was discovered. In order to have full control of the world around us, there must be a Blending not only of Air, Water, Fire, and Earth, but of Spirit as well. That fifth aspect, so important and yet overlooked for so long, completed the magic necessary for dominance, which in human terms meant rule.

How did this even happen? Like you have five elements in your magic system and you know it's possible to combine elements together. If your society is advanced enough to have coaches and carriages as a main form of transportation, how did people not apply basic logic and just try every single permutation possible? I have a three year old daughter. We bought her four paint colors. Guess how long it took before she decided it would be fun to mix every single color together.

PLOTHOLE COUNT: 1 - three paragraphs into the first book.

quote:

When the first Fivefold Blending, comprised of Elmin Ofgin, Azelin Rays, Widia Almoy, Summia Kamb, and Failin Jarl, came together to defeat the tyrannical Four, our Empire was saved from the dark time of oppression that seemed destined to continue on forever. The Four were each High-level practitioners, and had they Blended with one of Spirit—but they did not, and so met their downfall.

Hello named characters that shall never be referred to again, ever, for the next eight books. Green has obviously put the names in for "authenticity" reasons so this comes off as some sort of historical record. I wish she had taken the amount of time she spent coming up with these names on writing five extra sentences that described her setting, because virtually everybody in a population having magical elemental powers is a cool and interesting idea that would have massive impacts on the development of technology (or lack thereof).

Instead, everything distinctive about her premise is glossed over and we end up focusing on coaches, dresses, gowns, and baths. Am I reading a fantasy novel or a regency romance? Sometimes I really can't tell.

quote:

When the Five took their place as the rulers of our Empire, they were first to speak of the Prophecy and then they announced the laws made necessary thereby. Where the Prophecy came from is unclear, but none doubted when it was first spoken of three hundred years ago, and none doubt it today. The Four will attempt to return to reestablish their tyranny, and should we stray from the laws laid down for our protection, they may very well succeed.

Since Book 5 is titled Prophecy, you would be correct in assuming that the Prophecy is Significant to the plot. Green is using this fantasy trope but can't be bothered following through with how to execute it properly - i.e. GIVE US THE WORDS OF THE CRYPTICALLY WORDED PROPHECY SO WE CAN SPEND THE REST OF THE SERIES TRYING TO FIGURE IT OUT.

Nope. According to Green, nearly halfway through Book 5 is the appropriate point to tell us the actual words of the Prophecy: ‘Beware and be warned. In three hundred years will come a time of greatest crisis, a time when the teachings of wisdom are no longer followed. This will presage the reappearance of the devastating evil of the Four, which nearly destroyed our empire.’ (nope, delaying writing the Prophecy by four books did not make it any better)

quote:

For this reason the competitions are held every twenty-five years, and the strongest of the new Blendings takes over our rule and protection for the next quarter century. No Blending is permitted to compete a second time after having won the first, and no Blending may simply be appointed without having competed and won. During each rule comes a crisis, which cannot be bested without the laws having been followed to the letter. What causes these crises to arise is another question which seems without answer, and yet most believe them linked directly to the Prophecy. The crisis faced by the Second Five . . .

I have no idea why Green thought it would be a good idea to put this exposition up front. It is not a relevant plot point to Book 1 and Gandistra's goverment is explained is Book 2, when this becomes a major plot point and which is subsequently resolved in Book 3. For those who have read the books before, I think this is a very bad attempt at stating the main theme.

quote:

. . . mentioned in the Prophecies. There will be Signs to show that the Chosen Blending has arrived in our midst, but nowhere are the signs detailed. It has been promised that they will spring from all corners of the land, that their might will be seen clearly by all those about them, that they will blend as well in their ordinary lives as they do in the the Blending of their aspects. There will also be "subtle happenings" surrounding them as well as "obvious signs," but many of the more obvious signs are to appear "out of the sight of the Five's enemies." Who those can be is not clear, as the only enemy of the promised, Chosen Five is the Dreaded Four. Therefore . . .

I...what is this use of "quotes" in a supposedly scholarly historical text?! Even assuming it's a high school level text book (unlikely, since she seems to be aiming for an academic style of writing), that's horrid citation. Am I supposed to take this as some sort of cultural indicator that despite having at least five universities, Gandistrans never developed a proper method of citation?

At least that's the end of the epigraph. It's also pretty much all we'll ever find out about the history of the Gandistran Empire, except for the plot twist in Book 5.

quote:

It was the time the Prophecy spoke of, but naturally none of us was aware of it. No one in the whole Empire knew, and if they had, what could they have done about it? But such questions are futile, I'm told, and now isn't the time to dispute that. My purpose is to speak of what happened, as though I had been everywhere at once. I find the idea extremely foolish, but the others insist that only I can do the narrative justice. A more likely guess is that they don't want to be bothered themselves, and so put it onto me.

First person in what should be an adult fantasy novel based on the sexual content. I hate first person. That aside, whoever this character is, I already hate them based on the tone of this paragraph. Spoilers for the next paragraph - it's Tamrissa Domon, one of the five protagonists and arguably the main one based on how Green's written her. The fact that I am stating the fact it's a spoiler for the next paragraph is absurd.

quote:

Well, the choice is made, so I suppose I'd better get on with this great "honor." You must know the people who comprised the two Blendings which came into ultimate conflict not once but twice, but you have no need to meet them all at once. I'll first introduce the members of the Blending I, Tamrissa Domon, became a part of, and the way in which we "happened" to come together. The others will need to wait their turn, until the narrative advances a bit farther. Too bad for them.

Hello air quotes. No foreshadowing here whatsoever, nope, none at all. Also thanks for telling me your story structure. That is very fascinating information that I, the reader, couldn't possibly figure out from reading the book. I so appreciate Green spending all these words on explaining the story structure instead of establishing character, setting, or any of the other things that good authors typically do in the first three sentences of their book.

quote:

We've discovered that the first of our Blending to begin the journey was Lorand Coll, who was born in the aspect of Earth magic. His birthplace was the bucolic environs of Widdertown, located almost atop the western border of the Empire. Widdertown is surrounded by farms and ranches, which supply many of the western duchies with delicacies their own farms are unable to produce. Some of those delicacies have even found their way, suitably protected by preservation methods, to the capitol, but there I get ahead of myself! This is meant to be Lorand's story.

Thanks for the geography lesson Tamrissa. I totally needed it, seeing how this is the last paragraph of the prologue, which is immediately followed by Chapter 1 from Lorand's perspective which is set on a farm, in Widdertown. There is no way I would have understood what was going on if you didn't explain it to me, since Green didn't include a map.

Summary
This prologue is 726 words long and has done absolutely nothing to establish the setting. There is no action to speak of, but based on the epigraph, I suppose there's a pretty blatant signal that the plot is going to be about a change in power regime.

There was an awful attempt at stating the theme, but Green is also so muddled on what her theme is that even after reading the books, I can't tell whether the theme is supposed to be raising your children with love or love solves all problems or something else. If you haven't read the books (or the later books), you're probably very confused at why I'm guessing Green's theme is "raise your children with love" or something to do with love. We'll revisit this as we get further into the books.

Arguably, the only thing this prologue has definitively done is establish Tamrissa as a character. We've had three paragraphs of Tamrissa's narration and she comes across as a condescending bitch who thinks she's very witty. You're not funny Tamrissa. I don't want to read any more of your viewpoints and we haven't even begun Chapter 1.

And yes, the framing for the entire series is that we're reading Tamrissa's journal. It is a super lame device that is not executed well at all so it adds nothing to the story and I have no idea why Green felt the need to use it.

Possible fixes
I would either cut the prologue entirely and begin the book with Lorand, or replace it with a totally different prologue that doesn't involve extracts from pseudo academic texts or a journal framing device.

The overall story isn't really that complicated or nuanced, so I think I'd lean towards cutting the prologue and investing the time into DRAWING A MAP. Even a half-assed one would do a better job at establishing the setting than Green has done in the entire serieses (or whatever the plural form of series is when you are referring to multiple series, and not just the multiple books within a single series).

There's a few possibilities that would be far more interesting as an alternate prologue:
- POV of spoilers for Books 5 and 8: Drees Allovin or his predecessor - either watching the Prophecy come into being or watching Drees get ready to manipulate events to ensure the Prophecy is fulfilled could be interesting, but might ruin the Sight magic reveal in Book 5 and probably require a serious rewrite of the books, because it's so damned obvious that the five protagonists are the Chosen otherwise (I mean, it already is from how Green has written the books, but I guess more so?)
- POV of one of the Seated Blending or one of the key Advisors (High Lord Zolind Maylock or Lady Eltrina Razas could be good)

Unfortunately, doing a prologue from the POV of a young Rion or any of the other main protagonists is out, since I don't think any of them are old enough. I can't remember off the top of my head if Green actually gives their ages, but I had the impression they were all in their early to mid-twenties. Keep this in mind when we get to the kinds of interactions these characters have throughout the books...

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Hurray! I'm glad to see someone picking up my dropped ball of a Let's Read promise. And based on the OP and your treatment of the prologue, I think it's going to be much better than the one I had in mind.

These books have a special place in my heart because of the first time I read them. I was a young teen, I had just gotten a car and a job and a girlfriend. An older friend had just given me half a dozen burned CDs' worth of pirated electronica MP3s, and it blew my mind unlike anything I'd ever heard on the local rural radio stations. My life was bursting with new freedom and potential. And what did I do with it? Drive around to used bookstores and grab random fantasy novels based on their cover art. (As you can see in the OP, these covers are gorgeous.) It was one of the best summers of my life. So no matter how much these books stink, reading them will always take me back to that magical nostalgic time.

If you want the full 90s experience reading these books, I recommend spending some time on the author's website in all its Web 1.0 glory.



Leng posted:

Possible fixes
I would either cut the prologue entirely and begin the book with Lorand, or replace it with a totally different prologue that doesn't involve extracts from pseudo academic texts or a journal framing device.

The overall story isn't really that complicated or nuanced, so I think I'd lean towards cutting the prologue and investing the time into DRAWING A MAP. Even a half-assed one would do a better job at establishing the setting than Green has done in the entire serieses (or whatever the plural form of series is when you are referring to multiple series, and not just the multiple books within a single series).

There's a few possibilities that would be far more interesting as an alternate prologue:
- POV of spoilers for Books 5 and 8: Drees Allovin or his predecessor - either watching the Prophecy come into being or watching Drees get ready to manipulate events to ensure the Prophecy is fulfilled could be interesting, but might ruin the Sight magic reveal in Book 5 and probably require a serious rewrite of the books, because it's so damned obvious that the five protagonists are the Chosen otherwise (I mean, it already is from how Green has written the books, but I guess more so?)
- POV of one of the Seated Blending or one of the key Advisors (High Lord Zolind Maylock or Lady Eltrina Razas could be good)

Unfortunately, doing a prologue from the POV of a young Rion or any of the other main protagonists is out, since I don't think any of them are old enough. I can't remember off the top of my head if Green actually gives their ages, but I had the impression they were all in their early to mid-twenties. Keep this in mind when we get to the kinds of interactions these characters have throughout the books...

I think the prologue just needs to go entirely. I don't know that a map is necessary since the entire series (or just the first series, I never read the final three) takes place almost entirely within Gan Garee. But dripping out little hints of The Prophecy and The Big Competition is wasted this early, when those don't really become relevant until several books later.

Alternate plan: cut down the series into fewer books, a trilogy or shorter. Make it so that we do more in the first book than just meet the characters, and then the prophecy prologue could tie into into some sort of competition-related climax at the end of Book 1.

wizzardstaff fucked around with this message at 21:03 on Aug 7, 2020

fritz
Jul 26, 2003



wizzardstaff posted:

(As you can see in the OP, these covers are gorgeous.)

Appears to be by Thomas Canty who did just a whole bunch of incredible covers back in the day : http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?520155

Leng
May 13, 2006



StrixNebulosa posted:

- I genuinely love the concept of "these people have to team up and save the world", especially if you throw romance into the mix - I don't know if these books get into that but I enjoy reading about poly relationships. (but NOT in real life, I couldn't handle that at all, strictly monogamous for me)

The books do get into it, but like everything else, Green kind of half asses it and we end up with a pseudo polygamy situation. I'm not knowledgeable at all about poly relationships so when we get to those bits, anyone who is knowledgeable please chime in!

StrixNebulosa posted:

- The art on the covers is AMAZING

wizzardstaff posted:

Drive around to used bookstores and grab random fantasy novels based on their cover art. (As you can see in the OP, these covers are gorgeous.) It was one of the best summers of my life. So no matter how much these books stink, reading them will always take me back to that magical nostalgic time.

fritz posted:

Appears to be by Thomas Canty who did just a whole bunch of incredible covers back in the day : http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?520155

What I love most about Canty's covers is the amazing detail in the artwork - not just the main cover image but also the elemental symbols and borders. I've been reading a lot of the self-publishing thread and these books are case in point of how cover and blurb are what gets readers to buy the book. Never mind that the actual content is badly written; a sale is still a sale, at least as far as physical and outright ebook copies go.

What's more interesting to consider is I don't know how this would do in Kindle Unlimited. It'd be interesting to see the abandonment stats on exactly what page people drop out on. Still, somehow every book in the first series has a 3.6-ish rating on Goodreads and bizarrely 4-5 star ratings on Amazon (suspiciously low review numbers though, none of the books have >10 reviews, and it looks like they might be out of print since the trade paperback price is insanely stupid. There's also something weird going on with the Kindle editions - they don't look like publisher editions so I'm guessing Green actually holds the rights to all ebooks (which probably makes sense - given the publication dates, I'd bet that the original publishing contract never even contemplated ebooks).

wizzardstaff posted:

If you want the full 90s experience reading these books, I recommend spending some time on the author's website in all its Web 1.0 glory.



Web 1.0 ness aside, Green actually was pretty ahead of the curve as far as ebooks go - she used to sell them directly on her website, especially copies of her older, out of print stuff.
http://web.archive.org/web/20190112...aron-green.net/

No clue how many sales she actually made. Hilariously, The Blending and The Blending Enthroned are both listed under "Adventure" on her own website, instead of fantasy or romance. The URL https://www.sharon-green.net now redirects to some cybersquatter, so I wonder what happened. Green was born in 1942 so she'd be 78 or so; it's entirely possible that she's passed away (hence broken website) and isn't a high profile enough author for an obituary to appear.

wizzardstaff posted:

I think the prologue just needs to go entirely. I don't know that a map is necessary since the entire series (or just the first series, I never read the final three) takes place almost entirely within Gan Garee. But dripping out little hints of The Prophecy and The Big Competition is wasted this early, when those don't really become relevant until several books later.

Alternate plan: cut down the series into fewer books, a trilogy or shorter. Make it so that we do more in the first book than just meet the characters, and then the prophecy prologue could tie into into some sort of competition-related climax at the end of Book 1.

The first three books are set in Gan Garee, Book 4 has the protagonists travelling between Gan Garee and the Astindan border (passing Widdertown en route), and Book 5 returns to Gan Garee. Books 6-8 are split between Gan Garee and various locations in both Astinda and Gracely.

My instinct is that despite the published works being eight books that run on average between 400-500 pages long, there's probably about 5 books of bloat/filler. Green introduces a lot of additional POVs in Books 3 and 6 and the overall pacing is pretty bad. A lot of the subplots are not handled very well and most of the word count is spent on bad internal monologuing, info dumps and poorly written dialogue.

Realistically, I think you could cut it down to a trilogy of 100k-120k word novels or one long Sanderson length standalone (~350k ish). I'd roughly map Books 1-3 as Act I, Books 4 and 5 as Act II and Books 6-8 as Act III.

HopperUK
Apr 29, 2007

Clear off, fatso, this is a respectable establishment




Fallen Rib

quote:

Some of those delicacies have even found their way, suitably protected by preservation methods, to the capitol, but there I get ahead of myself! This is meant to be Lorand's story.

This is a pet peeve of mine. This is a written account by the narrator! If you're writing for publication and you realise something's irrelevant you don't go 'oh whoops ignore that bit', you *strike it out*. It's cutesy and illogical and it makes me crazy.

Leng
May 13, 2006



quote:

CHAPTER ONE

LORAND COLL—EARTH MAGIC
As a rule, I generally like chapter titles. I like how Sanderson uses them, I like the effect GRRM achieved in A Feast for Crows when Arya's chapter titles became "Cat of the Canals" instead of plain "Arya".

This one, I already hate irrationally. Well, not irrationally. I hate it because we literally just finished reading a prologue where we were told in the first sentence of the last paragraph that the next chapter is going to be about Lorand Coll who has Earth magic. I guess it's kind of irrational because we already established that the prologue is completely useless, so if we pretended the prologue isn't there, then I probably wouldn't be so riled up about this chapter title. But since Green never does anything more with the chapter titles across all eight books other than naming the viewpoint character, it's just taking up extra words and space.

By the way, this chapter is 5073 words long. It does the basics of establishing character and setting and there is action, but it's a very shallow introduction of Lorand and his world. I mentioned in the OP that I would attempt a rewrite at the end of this Let's Read, time/interest permitting. To give you an idea of just how much filler Green writes, I did actually do a lazy rewrite of Chapter 1. My version is 2305 words long and I got a helluva lot more world building and characterization in.

quote:

Lorand stood in the farmyard just at dawn, watching the sun rise like the great ball of Fire magic that it was. The roosters had already crowed and the birds were still calling out their morning welcome, the air was clean and fresh, and life was beginning anew. Lorand, tall and husky with blond hair and mild brown eyes, could remember a time when the renewal of the day had renewed him as well, but that time now seemed long past.

Wait, what? Is this Tamrissa's journal or not? Why is she attempting to write a biography in the style of a fiction novel and using third person limited? I would have thought the logical thing to do would be to transcribe Lorand's story as he told it to her, via interview. Or write it as her memoirs, with her interpretation of Lorand's story based on conversations with him. UGH.

The first sentence actually attempts to do some unique world building - yay! The second sentence is a list of generic "morning on a farm" tropes. The third sentence randomly gives me physical descriptions that doesn't tell me anything about Lorand as a character. In fact, it smacks of "romance description" to me. I suppose the in-world explanation would be this is Tamrissa's journal and she thinks he's hot. The real explanation is probably because Green is a romance writer.

By the way, I'm not bashing the romance genre or saying romance writers aren't skilled. I actually do like some romance in my fantasy novels, but I don't read straight romance so I prefer my fantasy to be fantasy novels first, with romance being secondary or tertiary to whatever's going on. Unfortunately Green's coming off as $2 remaindered bargain bin bodice ripper crappy romance novel in her writing and it's really setting me off.

quote:

"Up already, Lorand?" his mother called from the house, glancing out at him from behind the mild spell of screening that kept insects from entering. "Your Pa'll be pleased t'see ya so eager t'start the day's work."

Generally, I hate written accents. Reading molespeech in the Redwall series definitely did not endear me to this technique and I've yet to come across a book that made me appreciate it. The only series that I've read that uses this technique in a way that didn't bother me was Kate Forsyth's Witches of Eileanan.

Here's Green's second attempt at world building. I am intrigued by "the mild spell of [insect] screening" but it actually sticks out pretty badly in the scheme of things because the term "spell" is never used by characters to refer to magic use. Instead, they typically refer to which elemental talent/aspect was used to do something magical. So technically, Green should have described the spell of screening as "a thin lattice of hardened Air".

quote:

Lorand made no effort to answer her, but that was perfectly all right. Every time she found him standing outside in the morning she said the very same thing, then continued on her way to begin breakfast. Not once had she even commented on how often he'd been out there of late, doing nothing but staring at the sunrise. Or apparently staring at the sunrise.

"Out there agin, Lor?" his father's voice came next after a moment or two, not as wearily uncaring as his mother's had been. "Somethin' botherin' you, boy?"

It's like Green didn't have an editor on this book.

quote:

Lorand watched one of the barn cats jump up to a fence post before beginning its bath, the cat being too fastidious to sit in the dirt of the yard like lesser animals. In a strange way Lorand knew exactly how it felt, and the time had come to speak to his father about it.

"Pa, have you ever wondered which practitioner of Fire magic was strong enough to create the sun?" he asked without turning. "Or what the world would be like if most people couldn't do magic? How would we live and get things accomplished?"

Both the dialogue and the line about the cat is a good attempt at establishing Lorand as a character - but Green uses the second sentence to smash it in our faces. Sigh.

quote:

Lorand heard his father's heavy footsteps leave the house and approach the place where he stood, so he finally turned to look at the older man. Camil Coll wasn't quite as tall as his son, but was just as husky and had the same light hair and dark eyes. He, too, had been born under the aspect of Earth magic, as had the woman he had married. Neither of them were High or even Middle practitioners, which made them suited only for farmwork. Camil's weathered face usually wore an expression of satisfaction that said the condition suited him, a state his second-born son found it impossible to agree with.

So we didn't need that awkward physical description of Lorand at all!

quote:

"Boy, who created th' sun is somethin' we ain't meant t'know," he told Lorand shortly, making no more effort to speak properly than he ever did. "What th' world would be like if'n most folk couldn't do magic's a foolishness question, an' I ain't got no time f'r fantasy. You ain't got th' time neither, since tomorra's when you'll be helpin' y'r brothers an' me Encourage thet field a corn our workers planted last week. Th' day after we'll be Encouragin' the rice bog, but t'day we gotta try our hands at that new crop a fancy furrin beans. Let's us have breakfast, an' then we c'n get started."

His father began to turn back to the house, but Lorand couldn't afford to let the moment pass. He had to say what was needed, and he had to say it now.

"Pa, I won't be helping with the beans, because I'm leaving today." His words stopped his father short, so Lorand hurried to get it all said. "Last week when I went into Widdertown, the guild man told me that I qualified as a Middle practitioner."

His father hesitated for a long moment, then turned back to him with what the older man obviously thought was a smile.

"You know I don't b'lieve in all thet nonsense, but I ain't too mean t'give ya congratulations," he said, offering a large, blunt-fingered hand. "If'n y'mean t' go back t'town t'cele-brate alone, there's no need. Soon's we see t'th' beans, y'r brothers 'n me'll go with ya."

"Pa, I'm not going for a celebration," Lorand said slowly after deliberately taking his father's hand. "I'm going to Gan Garee to test for High practitioner."

"T' th' capitol?' his father demanded, his thick fingers closing uncomfortably tight around Lorand's own. "Whut they been tellin' ya, boy? Thet y'all pass th' test real easy? Thet th' Empire's short a High practitioners, so they'll give ya welcome an' make ya one of 'em? Din't I alius tell ya it don't work thet way? Once they get ya t' th' capitol ya'll be all alone, easy pickin's fer—"

"For those who take advantage of honest countryfolk," Lorand interrupted wearily, freeing his hand with one sharp pull. "Yes, Pa, you have always said that, but what you never said was how you knew it was true. Give me the names of people around here who had that happen to them, and I'll ignore the law and go right now and talk to them."

"You sayin' my word alone ain't good enough, boy?" his father returned in a growl, broad face darkening with anger. "Don't give a drat 'bout thet there law. Whut I wanna know is, you really think y'r big 'nough t'say thet t'me?"

"In other words, there isn't anyone around who had that done to them," Lorand answered evenly, refusing to be drawn off into a different argument. "What you've said has been nothing but opinion. I know you love this farm, Pa, but I don't and that's why I'm leaving. Will you wish me good luck?"

The older man stood stiffly, glaring at Lorand as if trying to change his son's mind through sheer willpower. Lorand could feel the vibration of anger-magic rumbling through the ground under his feet, but that wasn't unexpected. Almost automatically, he calmed the rumbling with his own talent. He'd hoped the effort would also calm his father, but that would probably have been beyond even an Adept's ability.

"Never shoulda let ya go t'thet there school," his father growled, and the ground vibrated again with this new subject causing anger-magic "Shoulda spit on th' law an' kept ya here, an' none a this woulda happened. Filled y'r head with mindless dreams an' barefaced lies, they did, an' you swallered it all right down. Well, if'n y'r thet much of a drat fool, go on, then. Who needs ya here? Get out an' stay out, an' don't never come back."

"Pa, I haven't said goodbye to Ma or my brothers," Lorand called after the broad back stomping away from him toward the house. "It will only take a minute or two—"

"Ya don' have a Ma 'r brothers no more," his father shouted without stopping. "All y'got's th' clothes on y'r back, so get 'em outa here b'fore I claim them along with th' rest. If'n I paid fer it, I get t' keep it. Now, get off'n my land!"

And then the door slammed, closing painfully and finally on the only life Lorand had so far known. Lorand felt as if somebody had taken a stick to his insides, although nothing had happened that hadn't been expected. Camil Coll had never been an understanding man, and didn't take kindly to being balked. And he never changed his mind once he made it up, so there was no sense in standing there hoping that this time it would be different.

We won't see Lorand's father again until Book 5, and he appears onscreen for like, 3 lines. This is 819 words of conversation between Lorand and his father to learn two things: there's laws requiring Middle practitioners to test for High and Camil Coll doesn't approve (Book 5 spoilers: it's because he can't afford to keep the farm if Lorand leaves, because Lorand's talent is the only thing keeping the farm profitable enough to pay the taxes demanded by the nobility). The opening paragraphs already established Lorand as a dreamer who has no interest in farming.

This is such a wasted opportunity to flesh out a more nuanced father-son conflict and the setting. WHHHHHHHHYYY.

quote:

Lorand went to the barn and through it, pausing just short of the doors on the far side to reach behind the bales of hay stacked there. He'd worked on the farm for years without more than token—and minimal—payment, so last night he'd packed the clothes and possessions that were his by right of having earned them. He'd hoped the precaution would be unnecessary, but—

"Lor." Lorand turned fast at the sound of his name, but it was only his older brother Mildon. The two of them were very much alike to most people's eyes, but that was only on the outside. Inside they were so different that they barely knew each other.

"Lor, I can't believe you're really going," Mildon said now, his soft, dark eyes deeply troubled. "Pa didn't mean what he said, he was only feeling hurt. He has such big plans for all of us, and now you've disappointed him . . ."

"And what big plans are those, Mil?" Lorand asked bluntly when his brother's voice trailed off the way it usually did. "To be treated like field workers on this farm until he dies? We do exactly as much work as he does, but how much of a share of the profits have you gotten? Don't you ever want to marry and have a family and place of your own?"

"But this place will be mine, Lor," Mildon answered with an unaccustomed frown. "I know that, and so do you. And as far as a family goes, I'm still too young to need to worry about that."

"Mil, you're almost twenty-five," Lorand said slowly and clearly, for the first time trying to get through to his brother. "Most of the people you went to school with are already married with their families started, and even most of the girls I went to school with are spoken for. When are you going to stop repeating what he says, and start thinking for yourself?"

"That's my Pa you're talking about, and yours as well," Mildon pointed out with mild reproof. "He only wants what's best for us, Lor, and he even agrees about the girls I've been considering. Allia is my first choice, along with Vadra and maybe even Suso. As soon as I'm ready to take a wife . . ."

"Mil, wake up!" Lorand interrupted sharply, more upset than he cared to think about. "Allia was married six months ago, and Vadra even before that. You never liked Suso and she couldn't stand you, but even she's promised. The only ones who might be left are Widdertown girls, and most of them would rather live with their mothers than out on a farm. If you keep listening to him you won't ever have a wife, and you'll have this place as your own in about forty or fifty years, when he finally gets around to dying. But if you don't already know that, you probably never will. Say goodbye to Ma and the boys for me."

"How can you go anywhere without coin, Lor?" Mildon asked as Lorand reached behind the bales for the case he'd packed. His voice was somewhat uneven, as if part of him wanted to think about what his younger brother had said, but he obviously still had his orders. "I know you can't have more than a few coppers, so how do you expect to live? If you were hoping Pa would help out. . ."

"Tell Pa that's something else he was wrong about," Lorand interrupted again, slinging the full leather case under his left arm. "They don't charge you to test for High practitioner, they pay your way because testing for High is something all Middles are required to do by law. And they give you fifty silver dins to live on, which should last a while even in Gan Garee. If I happen to run short, I can always hire out to Encourage someone's garden or litter of pets. There aren't that many who can work with animals, I'm told . . ."

Lorand let it trail off when Mildon looked away. They were supposed to have pretended that Mildon had come out to talk to his younger brother on his own, but that had never happened. Mildon didn't seem capable of doing anything but echoing their father, reinforcing whatever the eldest Coll said by apparently agreeing with him. Lorand had still been very young when he'd first understood that, and it was almost as if the realization had caused Mildon's death. After that Lorand no longer had an older brother to look up to, and at times he still felt the pain of that loss.

"Look, Mil . . . let's just say goodbye," Lorand offered after a long and awkward moment. "If you're comfortable and happy as you are, I have no business telling you you're wrong. I'd just like you to understand that I can't do it your way, and don't even want to. If I wasn't leaving to test for High, I'd be going for another reason. Take care of yourself."

Mildon hesitated before taking the hand Lorand offered, as though he felt he might be betraying their father by doing it. But he still took the hand, shook it soberly, then turned and walked away. Going back to report, Lorand thought with a sigh as he went on his own way.

888 words of a conversation to rehash basically the same things we learned in the previous conversation. Mildon is never mentioned again in the books. The interesting stuff about what Earth magic can do is totally buried, along with important information about what testing for High practitioner involves.

Don't worry about less attentive readers missing out though - if there's one thing Green is really good at, it's repetition!

quote:

The farm road leading to the main road was maintained in good repair, but Lorand felt strange walking it rather than riding. He hadn't walked any real distance since boyhood, not with horses available, but luckily he also hadn't bonded with any of his mounts. He watched the dirt of the road as he scuffed along, knowing it would have been impossible to leave behind a horse that loved him, picturing his father using a charge of horse-stealing to get the horse—and him— back. Or trying to. He'd already bid farewell to the scenes of his childhood, and had the strongest conviction that he'd never be back. He wanted to turn for a final look at the farm, but something kept him from doing even that little. As though some Wild magic had taken over his destiny, and now swept him along before its undeniable strength. . . .

Hello hamfisted attempt at foreshadowing.

quote:

The idea was silly, and Lorand dismissed it with a headshake just as he spotted Hat Riven and his father Phor waiting for him down where the roads met. Phor drove a small farm wagon to take his son Hattial into Widdertown, an act that made Lorand both jealous and angry. Phor Riven didn't want Hat to leave any more than Lorand's father wanted him to go, but the elder Riven had insisted on seeing his son off. Why couldn't his own father have been like that . . . ?

Some questions aren't meant to have satisfying answers, and Lorand knew that was one of them. The question might come back to him again and again on dark and lonely nights, but right now it was early morning and people were waiting for him. He picked up his pace a little, suddenly very anxious to be in Widdertown and really on his way.

"Morning, Lor," Hat called as soon as Lorand got close enough. "Looks like we got the nice day we were hoping for."

"Sure does, Hat," Lorand agreed. "Morning, Mr. Riven. I really appreciate your stopping for me like this."

"Won't mince words, Lorand," Phor Riven answered, his long, thin face cold with disapproval. "No man enjoys seein' his son go off on his own, not with th' world bein' the way it is. But a real man sees that son off with love an' support, lettin' him know he'll be missed. One who don't ain't worth thinkin' about, not by others and not even by his blood. You climb on up here, and we'll get along t' town."

Lorand nodded and put his case in the wagon, then climbed up to the seat. Hat looked almost as angry as his father, and Lorand felt warmed—but also bleak. Sometimes it helps to think you might be wrong, that there might be reasons for someone doing something painful that you just haven't seen. Now . . .

The ride into Widdertown was silent, and by the time they got there things had already begun to come awake. People stood outside of the shops sweeping their brand new wooden walks, proud that the growth of the town now demanded such big city additions. There was talk of cobblestoning the main streets to make them more passable during the spring rains, but so far it was no more than just talk. Laying the stones would require the hiring of strong Middle practitioners of Earth magic, and probably even the services of a Middle in Spirit magic to smooth it all out. The town wasn't quite ready for an expense like that, but one day . . .

"They could have had us laying the stones for next to nothing," Hat murmured to Lorand, obviously thinking along the same lines. "By the time they get around to realizing that, we'll be Highs and beyond menial jobs like that."

"And since we're the only two in the district who even came close to qualifying for Middle, they won't have local talent when they do make up their minds," Lorand agreed. "Some of the younger kids might strengthen as they get older, but there's no way of knowing it now. I wonder how much bigger Gan Garee is than Widdertown?"

"Probably twice or three times the size," Hat answered with a dismissive shrug. "Not that I really care. It's the positions available that I care about, and that's what I mean to check on first. As soon as I pass the test for High, of course."

Lorand nodded and let the subject drop, preferring not to think about Hat's chances of passing the tests for High.

Master Lugal, the district representative of the Guild of Magical Aspects, had let slip that he considered Hat a strong Middle talent, but didn't believe Hat would qualify for High. He'd certainly told Hat the same thing, but Hat tended to dismiss anything he didn't care to hear. Lorand ran a hand through his hair against the beginning discomfort of the day's heat, wondering if Hat might not have the right of it. Make up your mind to do something and then go after it, wasting no time at all on doubts and worries. Being like that would make life a lot more pleasant.

"Master Lugal ain't here yet," Phor Riven observed as he guided his team closer to the Guild building and then pulled them to a halt. "Th' man tends to keep big city hours, but I 'spose he'll be along in a little while. Hat, you take care and don't let 'em fox you none. Lorand, good luck to you, boy. Time for me t'be gettin' back to th' farm"

Phor solemnly shook hands with his son and Lorand, waited until the two of them had climbed down and gotten their cases from the wagon, then turned the team and headed back the way they'd come. Hat looked ready to wave if his father happened to look around one last time, but Phor never did. The wagon moved along the street until it disappeared, and then Hat sighed.

"I wish he'd done this because he really wanted to," he muttered, still staring in the direction the wagon had gone off in. "He told you what he believes, that it's a man's duty to see his sons off, so he did his duty. I still don't know if he'll really miss me, or just resent the fact that I'm gone."

"Well, at least I don't have to wonder about that," Lorand said with his own sigh. "I hadn't thought knowing it would be a benefit, but I guess it is. And I hope Master Lugal shows up soon. The coach to Hemson Crossing will be getting in in less than an hour."

Hat glanced up at the sun to confirm that, then shifted his case to his other arm. Hat's case looked heavier than Lorand's with more things packed into it, but that was only to be expected. Hat had been given regular wages for the work he did on his father's farm, while Lorand—

1011 words, including quite a few spent on Phor Riven, who we'll never see again. If you haven't realized by now, despite writing so many books, Green is still doing the amateur writer thing of writing every single thing that happens to her characters. This can be interesting when done well - see Le Modesitt's Saga of Recluce for "slice of life" fantasy - but Green does not do this well.

quote:

"What in the name of Chaos is that?" Hat demanded just as Lorand began to feel the tingle that meant magic was being worked. "If this is somebody's idea of a joke—"

By then Lorand was staring at the wide ball of flames rolling at them, clearly the work of someone with Fire affinity. Joke or not, that fireball was coming fast, and there was no guarantee it would stop just short of them. Lorand shoved Hat one way and dived the other way himself, preferring to look foolish to standing there and being burned. He hit the ground and rolled, half expecting to hear the laughter of whoever had sent the fireball, but there was no laughter. Nothing but the fireball speeding through the place he and Hat had just been standing—and slowing to come around for another pass.

Shouts came from all around, but Lorand paid no attention to them. He felt blistered from the heat that had passed so close to him, and now the thing was coming back to try again. Most people with Fire affinity could light a lamp or a stove without much effort, but something like that ball—! Someone with strength had formed and sent it, and only strength would stop it—if he could just manage to do it right.

Lorand climbed to his feet just as Hat did the same and started to come close, but he waved Hat back and jumped out of the way again. The fireball roared by a second time, almost acting annoyed, and now it was moving even faster. If he didn't do something just as fast, it would soon be too late to do anything but burn. Blocking out fear as well as the distraction of shouting people, Lorand reached for his Earth magic.

Finally we get some plot relevant action that will show us how the magic works! Pay close attention to the fact that Lorand can sense the tingle of Fire magic being worked. Spoilers for the rest of the series: it's never made clear whether this is an ability unique to Lorand, or something everyone can do, and Lorand himself will never do it again. It's not until Book 4 when we'll see Tamrissa doing something similar, and then both Vallant and Tamrissa do it in Book 7. In both those instances, the ability kind of comes out of nowhere, since the only time we see it before then is in this chapter of Book 1

quote:

Touching it was more than effortless now. For the last few years magic had stopped being something he could do and had started to be something that was part of him. Time slowed almost to a stop as he and the magic glowed together, one entity greater than the sum of its two parts. It was right and it was wonderful, but above all it was powerful— especially when under attack.

The large and hungry fireball roiled toward him, flames eager to consume everything there was. Lorand raised his arms and extended his fingers, fingers made much longer by the magic he had merged with, and thrust into the dirt of the street. Earth, everything of the earth, was his to employ, and the packed earth of the street leaped to comply with his desires. The dirt formed a whirlwind that spun around the fireball, surrounding it more and more until there was more earth than fire.

And then the earth began to close in on the fireball, merging with the flames while giving them nothing to burn. After a moment or two of that swirling, the fireball was denied air. Earth needed no air to survive but fire did, and that was the beginning of the end. The fire struggled and fought, striving to the end to reach living flesh. It died reluctantly but completely, and Lorand's "fingers" held the earth around it for another minute just to be certain. Not a single spark could be left, else the fireball would come alive again from that seed alone.

Action at last! Our first look at how the magic works on the page. Unfortunately, because Green's completely hung up on her core idea of Blending, we will watch this exact scene play out four more times as the other protagonists are also attacked by fireballs that appear out of nowhere in the next four chapters. I'm not even going to bother using spoiler tags for this because the way Green executes these chapters is literally a find/replace exercise for character names, locations and aspect.

The other thing that boggles the mind is just how...inconsequential the fireball seems? Like massive fireballs don't come out of nowhere every day. And Lorand seems to just...deal with it effortlessly. This is why I think this series is really a romance novel in a fantasy setting, because there's generally not a lot of effort that the main characters need to put forward to master the magic. They just kind of...do.

quote:

When it was finally over and Lorand withdrew, the first thing he did was take a deep breath. The air smelled of sifted earth and burning, and was filled with the shouts and exclamations of onlookers. But none of that disturbed Lorand as much as how hard it had been to sever himself from the magic. The stronger he got, the harder it grew, as though he were an adult constantly being forced to return to the life of a child. No one had ever mentioned that happening to them, but Lorand knew the time approached when he would have to speak about it to someone. . . .

For some reason, Green loves to use ellipses to indicate interrupted internal monologue and she does it CONSTANTLY. It's even worse when she combines it with an end of chapter cliffhanger. She does it so much that I'm starting a count.

INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 1

quote:

"Lorand, Hattial, what's going on here?" a voice shouted, and Lorand looked up to see Master Lugal hurrying toward them. Right behind him came Jeris Womal, the town's resident Water talent, which finally let everyone relax completely.

We'll meet Master Lugal again in Book 5. Jeris Womal is never again seen after this chapter. Green does this constantly - it's like she feels the need to name every single character who appears on the screen - so I actually should start a separate count for this and include the names here. Maybe we can do a contest at the end to see if anyone can remember who these characters are at the end of all eight books.

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 3
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal

quote:

"Somebody has a really bad sense of humor, Master Lugal," Hat complained to the Guild man, his voice still shaky. "We were standing here waiting for you, and suddenly that thing attacked us! If we hadn't been able to fight back it would have gotten us, so you'd better find out who's responsible real fast. If they try it again with those who can't fight back . . ."

Hat suddenly seemed to realize he was babbling and let the words trail off, but no one standing around laughed and pointed at him. Being attacked by magic like that was no laughing matter, but it was highly unusual. And Lorand saw no reason to correct Hat's use of the word "we." If Hat had tried to use his own magic Lorand would have felt it, so Hat had just let Lorand take care of them both. It made no real difference what other people thought; only he and Hat had to know the truth, and as long as they did there was no reason to speak of it.

"I should think a Fire talent with that much strength would already be on his or her way to the capitol," Lorand said just to change the subject, making sure the words could be taken only as an observation, not as a criticism. "Is it possible to hide that kind of strength?"

"I don't know exactly how much you're talking about, but offhand I'd say no," Master Lugal answered with a frown. He was a tall, spare man with thinning brown hair and very dark eyes that never gave his thoughts away. He always wore the tight breeches and colorful, wide-sleeved shirts popular in the capitol, and had told Lorand he would have to trade in his loose trousers and drab cotton shirts when he got there, else everyone would know him for a hayseed. He also wasn't quite as large as Lorand, and now looked up at him soberly.

"There hasn't been anyone with a strong Fire talent around here in twenty years," Master Lugal continued, still looking disturbed. "I'll need a little help to do a proper Search, but as soon as I get you two on that coach I intend to get started with it. Get your cases and we'll go."

That last was directed to Hat as well as to Lorand, and they both lost no time in complying. The coach would be there very soon, and only the suddenly building excitement over where they were actually starting to go kept Lorand from being disappointed over having to miss the coming Search. He had never seen those like Master Lugal—rare individuals who had a touch of all five of the talents, rather than just one—spread their senses out to locate a strong talent they'd somehow overlooked. Master Lugal couldn't use any of the five aspects, but he was able to locate those who could.

485 words spent recapping something that JUST HAPPENED ON THE PAGE and telling instead of showing. More physical description thrown in there in a bad attempt at characterization, which could have been done more efficiently either as a direct line of dialogue or as an internal thought from Lorand. The jumping back and forth between the mundane actions and Lorand's internal reflection is just frustrating and results in so much rambling.

The best characterization and world building is in that last paragraph describing "guild talents" like Master Lugal. Green never ends up bothering giving them an actual name, but she does drop this tantalizing hint about their ability to perform a Search. Book 6 spoilers: after the nobility is pulled down and abolished, the Guild end up taking over the bureaucratic duties of administering to a large empire. More about guild talents gets revealed in Book 5, and it's so interesting! Does Green ever do anything useful with it? No!

quote:

The coach to Hemson Crossing was coming up the street by the time they reached the depot, but Master Lugal had already bought their tickets.

"Now, don't forget," he told Lorand and Hat as he handed over those tickets. "Your fare is paid all the way to Gan Garee, but if you lose these tickets you'll have to walk—or dip into the silver in these pouches. If you do dip into the silver for anything but modest meals along the way, you won't enjoy your time in the capitol. The prices of everything there are sky high, even tiny attic rooms in falling-down hostels. Food is even worse, so don't forget what I told you to do."

Hat nodded dutifully as he put the pouch of silver in his shirt, but Lorand had the feeling his friend had dismissed all warnings of danger. Lorand put away his own pouch, but later he would distribute the silver into little pockets he'd painstakingly sewn into his clothing. It had been hard keeping the stitches from showing, briefly making him wish men wore dresses and petticoats like women. But he'd finally managed to do it right, swearing to himself that he would not get to the capitol penniless.

"Well, here it is," Master Lugal said as the coach pulled up, only a single passenger already inside. "Have a good trip, and best of luck with the tests."

He shook hands with each of them, watched them climb into the coach, then waved until he was out of sight. Actually having someone wave goodbye made Lorand feel considerably better, but not so much so that he could ignore the jouncing of the coach.

"By the time we get to Gan Garee our teeth will be loose," Hat grumbled, shifting around on the hard seat. "I never realized these coaches were worse than farm wagons."

"That's because you've never been in one," Lorand pointed out, then gestured to the third passenger. "But it has to be possible to get used to the bouncing, otherwise he wouldn't be asleep."

"He's probably just as tired as we'll be before the week is out," Hat answered, looking out the window on his side. "But I don't intend to be tired once we actually get to Gan Garee. I've heard you can find willing females on just about every street corner, and that's the first thing I'll be looking for."

Lorand smiled, but didn't comment on his own viewpoint. Girls were fine and he'd enjoyed the few private times he'd had with them, but right now he had no interest in women at all. The tests he would face were most important, and after that the position he would find. His father had turned his back on him, and one day he would show that man just how wrong he had been. He would come back to visit Master Lugal and say a proper goodbye to his mother, and then he would turn his back on his father-But first he had to make something of himself, and he would ... he would. . . .

We're just racking up the counts now:

COACH RIDES: 1
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 2
"CLIFFHANGERS": 1

The first chapter and it's such a- oh wait, that wasn't over!

quote:

Well, that didn't go too badly. I think I showed you most of Lorand, at least as he was before he met the rest of us. It was hard to stay out of the story, but I did it because it isn't my turn yet. I expect my turn will turn out to be the best, so to speak, but that's only to be—expected. Hah! I do enjoy playing with words, but it's time to move on. Now you have to meet Jovvi Hafford.

WHY ARE WE GETTING TAMRISSA NARRATION AGAIN. It's like Green's trying to be meta with having Tamrissa break the fourth wall, but it adds NOTHING to the story other than make me hate Tamrissa more.

Pointless Tamrissa narration: 2 - including the 3 useless paragraphs at the end of the Prologue

Summary:
We get some interesting information on the guild, how Earth magic works, that Middles are required by law to test for High and they have to go to the capitol of Gandistra to do that. 8 characters are seen on screen, and the only three are of any importance going forward (Lorand, Hattial and Lugal). The characterizations of all three are flat - Lorand's a dreamer, Hat's an ambitious liar, and Lugal is "city folk" whatever that means. Plot-wise something Significant happened - first time readers, feel free to guess, though I don't think you'll need to work very hard to do so. I feel like not much has been covered in the space of 5000+ words.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 3
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal

PLOTHOLES: 1
COACH RIDES: 1
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 2
"CLIFFHANGERS": 1
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 2

Possible fixes:
The ~2300 word version I rewrote basically stuck to Green's same sequence of events (opens with Lorand and his father on the farm, Lorand catches a ride into Widdertown with Hat and Hat's father, the mystery fireball followed by Master Lugal bundling them into the coach), but ruthlessly cut down on the extraneous stuff: Lorand's mother and Mildon don't appear on the page, and the conversation with his father is streamlined. The speculation about what Gan Garee got moved from the end of the chapter to the middle of the chapter, when Lorand and Hat are waiting for Lugal.

I also changed/added a few things:
- pulled forward the Book 5 info re: Camil Coll's motivations to introduce a more complex conflict from the beginning, which will give Lorand a better character arc
- made the fight against the fireball a lot harder for Lorand, so he ends up needing Hat's help to put it out
- in Book 2, we'll see multiple magic users "linking" together to do things, I pulled this forward for Lorand and Hat when fighting the fireball, to up the stakes
- added some additional characterization for Hat and fleshed out his friendship with Lorand more
- in Book 2, we'll also find out that the use of magic is restricted (the reasons for this restriction are never explicitly stated until Book 6); I've pulled this info forward again to build conflict

Even just looking this over, I think this could be condensed even further. Green probably chose to open the story on the farm, because of the farmboy fantasy trope, which is an awful reason.

Suppose the story opened with Lorand, already in Widdertown, waiting for the coach with Hat. We could have had one really good conversation between the two characters that established the setting (Widdertown - which the main characters will revisit in Book 5, so it's worth spending some time establishing what the town looks like to Lorand at the beginning of the story, so we get a sense of character growth when he returns later), their friendship, their fathers, how differently they each relate to their fathers, Gan Garee, before they get interrupted by the fireball. It'd probably be possible to nail that in 1500-2000 words, then flash forward and cover their arrival in Gan Garee (which is Chapter 6) as well.

Leng
May 13, 2006



HopperUK posted:

This is a pet peeve of mine. This is a written account by the narrator! If you're writing for publication and you realise something's irrelevant you don't go 'oh whoops ignore that bit', you *strike it out*. It's cutesy and illogical and it makes me crazy.

Oh boy, are you in for a treat - Green does a lot of this. I've started a counter for pointless narration in Chapter 1, just for you!

HopperUK
Apr 29, 2007

Clear off, fatso, this is a respectable establishment




Fallen Rib

Leng posted:

Oh boy, are you in for a treat - Green does a lot of this. I've started a counter for pointless narration in Chapter 1, just for you!

You're a friend!

How come Lorand's dad has such a strong accent and he has none? I know it's because he's a real character and his dad is an ignorant country bumpkin but it's annoying.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Lorand sullied his mind with book-learnin' at the local school, apparently:

quote:

"Never shoulda let ya go t'thet there school," his father growled, and the ground vibrated again with this new subject causing anger-magic "Shoulda spit on th' law an' kept ya here, an' none a this woulda happened. Filled y'r head with mindless dreams an' barefaced lies, they did, an' you swallered it all right down. Well, if'n y'r thet much of a drat fool, go on, then. Who needs ya here? Get out an' stay out, an' don't never come back."

(Lorand's brother also allegedly attended school, but seems to have resisted its liberal indoctrination.)

As an aside, Lorand calmly destroying his family members with Facts and Logic is unsettlingly reminiscent of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. (Which has its own Let's Read thread--in the video game forum, I think???--for anyone who wants to dive into that.)

TheGreatEvilKing
Mar 28, 2016



So what we've seen of this seems pretty bad so far, but it seems like you're critiquing it for all the wrong reasons if I 'm being honest. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to defend this work, but I feel like there's more to say as to why this is bad.

Green posted:

When the first Fivefold Blending, comprised of Elmin Ofgin, Azelin Rays, Widia Almoy, Summia Kamb, and Failin Jarl, came together to defeat the tyrannical Four, our Empire was saved from the dark time of oppression that seemed destined to continue on forever. The Four were each High-level practitioners, and had they Blended with one of Spirit—but they did not, and so met their downfall.

Already the book is throwing proper nouns at me that literally reads like it was taken from a Dungeons and Dragons manual ("High-level practitioners"), but naming a character "Failing" is certainly something. I see Tamrissa is falling into the more is better trap, we do not need spewing about how the Tyrannical Proper Nouns caused a dark time that was also oppressive.

Green posted:

Lorand stood in the farmyard just at dawn, watching the sun rise like the great ball of Fire magic that it was.

Huh? What? What does that mean? From the first chapter alone, I can't tell you what that means and neither can you. Not because we're stupid, but because fire magic isn't a thing that exists in reality and if we start delving into real world mythologies we get fifty different ideas. It's just a clunky tautology that you praise as "world-building" for some reason I really don't understand. I'm going to leave the magic insect spell alone, but I literally have no idea what this is supposed to look like and the only thing it contributes is to demonstrate just how banal magic is so far.

Green posted:

"Boy, who created th' sun is somethin' we ain't meant t'know," he told Lorand shortly, making no more effort to speak properly than he ever did.

This is where things get really weird for me. There's a Prophecy that no one questions per Tamrissa and her desperate attempt to mimic a Joss Whedon protagonist, and all we're given is that no one knows where it came from or that no one ever bothered to question it despite it being the foundation of the ancient laws set down by Ray, Lamb, Of Gin, and Failing. Generally prophecies in mythology are tied to the gods somehow such as the Fates or the Norns or Apollo or who have you, but there doesn't seem to be a creation myth around who created the sun. We get some yammering about "Chaos" later, but the idea that some random human created the sun is really weird - especially considering that this is a bog-standard uncreative "farm boy hates farming and wants to be a wizard" and our stereotypical accented farm dad isn't religious at all.

This all ties into the sheer banality of magic in the book - people literally have access to the power of creation and it's common enough that it's used for farming. I don't actually care about how it works, all we know right now is that literally everyone can use what is basically the power of God, they take it for granted, and the book is not going to address what that means other than that protagonists can cast higher level spells when they pay X mana power. Don't get me wrong, this is all insipid dreck, but saying Green should have used a different unrelatable proper noun or we needed explanation as to how much mana you need to block a mysterious fireball wouldn't make this a better or more interesting read.

Leng
May 13, 2006



wizzardstaff posted:

calmly destroying his family members with Facts and Logic

This is the only method of argument we will ever see in these books. If we come across something that actually doesn't fit within this categorization I'll be extremely surprised, because it would be such a rarity that it should have stuck in my mind.

Edit: you just reminded me that "anger-magic" is referenced twice in Chapter 1, but that term is never used again for the rest of the books. It really irritates me, that Green doesn't bother to keep her terminology consistent.

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

So what we've seen of this seems pretty bad so far, but it seems like you're critiquing it for all the wrong reasons if I 'm being honest. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to defend this work, but I feel like there's more to say as to why this is bad.

Other critiques welcome! Please feel free to jump in whenever you feel like I've missed something.

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

It's just a clunky tautology that you praise as "world-building" for some reason I really don't understand.

This part worked for me because I'm used to reading things like Malazan where nothing is ever explained and Sanderson who goes waaaaaay deep into his magic systems. Green's magic system is a basic elemental magic system that is pretty intuitive so for a character to think of the sun as a giant ball of Fire magic feels authentic to the world.

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

This is where things get really weird for me. There's a Prophecy that no one questions per Tamrissa and her desperate attempt to mimic a Joss Whedon protagonist, and all we're given is that no one knows where it came from or that no one ever bothered to question it despite it being the foundation of the ancient laws set down by Ray, Lamb, Of Gin, and Failing. Generally prophecies in mythology are tied to the gods somehow such as the Fates or the Norns or Apollo or who have you, but there doesn't seem to be a creation myth around who created the sun. We get some yammering about "Chaos" later, but the idea that some random human created the sun is really weird - especially considering that this is a bog-standard uncreative "farm boy hates farming and wants to be a wizard" and our stereotypical accented farm dad isn't religious at all.

This is a really good point, and there's an in-world explanation for the Prophecy that does make sense according to the rules of the universe. Book 5 and 8 spoilers: the Prophecy was created by a benign advanced nation of Full Blendings on another continent, with multiple Blendings using Sight magic in concert.

What you have hit upon is the real missing element in the world building is religion. It is never mentioned at all in the books so I'm forced to conclude that there is no such thing in this universe, which is really weird, given that every human society ever has had some form of religion/creation myth.

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

This all ties into the sheer banality of magic in the book - people literally have access to the power of creation and it's common enough that it's used for farming. I don't actually care about how it works, all we know right now is that literally everyone can use what is basically the power of God, they take it for granted, and the book is not going to address what that means other than that protagonists can cast higher level spells when they pay X mana power. Don't get me wrong, this is all insipid dreck, but saying Green should have used a different unrelatable proper noun or we needed explanation as to how much mana you need to block a mysterious fireball wouldn't make this a better or more interesting read.

We'll have to agree to disagree here. Magic systems fascinate me; it's the reason why Sanderson is one of my favorite authors.

Green's magic system as a concept here is pretty close to Jordan's in the Wheel of Time, and I'd argue that in both cases it's not really anywhere close to the power of creation. Green doesn't separate the power into two different Sources but the users a similar concept to weaves (patterns). She introduces an additional limitation of each user only able to access one element, plus the guild talent, while Jordan plays with a few other magics (tel'aran'rhiod, Perrin's wolf powers).

What makes understanding the magic system important is Green does rely on magic to progress the plot and her characters use magic all the damned time to solve their problems.

She definitely doesn't execute this well compared to other authors, but it's one of the things that she does do better in this series. Not that she's set a high bar to begin with but still.

Leng fucked around with this message at 11:57 on Aug 10, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006



quote:

CHAPTER TWO

Jovvi HAFFORD—SPIRIT MAGIC

"Do you promise, Jovvi?" Eldra Sappin begged while Jovvi checked her appearance in the mirror. "Will you really send for me once you've established yourself in the capitol?”

"Of course I will, Eldra," Jovvi answered smoothly, having her reflection send a reassuring smile. Her voice was usually like a warm caress and her smile was said to light up entire buildings, but those things were normally saved for the men. As the most celebrated courtesan in Rincammon and perhaps all the North, Jovvi had a certain image to maintain. And it never paid to make enemies where it was possible to make friends instead. "But don't forget it will take some time before I'm established," she added.

Hi Eldra! I’m torn between whether or not she counts because even though we don’t see her again, her name does come up later in Chapter 35.

quote:

"Nonsense," Eldra came immediately to her defense, bristling with indignation. "Even those people in the capitol will have heard of you, and they may be rich but they aren't entirely stupid. They'll come calling as soon as you've opened your residence, and a week later you'll be everyone's darling, just as you are here.”

Sanderson’s lecture on dialogue had two takeaways for me: 1) he recommended using “said” 99% of the time because that would 2) force you to write stronger dialogue, so the tone and emotion is immediately obvious from the dialogue itself (to avoid telling instead of showing).

We’re 3 exchanges of dialogue in and we’ve already got: begged, answered, added - and what looks like an attempt to use an action tag to reveal character but really isn’t actually action, since Green could have just used “bristled” - or better yet, not used a dialogue tag here at all, since there’s only two speakers and it’s pretty obvious who’s talking, and the word “nonsense” already conveys the emotion. I’m not going to keep a count on this point, or we’ll be here forever.

quote:

"You may be overestimating my ability just the least little bit," Jovvi replied with the part of her laugh she couldn't manage to swallow. "Or at least my capacity, to have me known by everyone in just one week. And don't forget I have those wretched tests to take first, but hopefully I'll fail. And you can be certain I'll be more careful in choosing my patrons from now on."

"An excellent decision," another voice said before Eldra could comment. "A pity it wasn't made soon enough to be of real value. Eldra, dear, will you excuse us, please? I'd like to say my own goodbye to Jovvi."

"Of course, Allestine," Eldra said with a small curtsey, then wiggled her fingers at Jovvi before leaving. She would certainly be there to see Jovvi off, so final goodbyes were still ahead.

What? Why do I need to see the same people say goodbye to the same character twice in the same chapter?!

quote:

Jovvi turned from the mirror, and briefly examined Allestine while Eldra crossed the large room to close the door behind herself. Allestine was no longer young, but neither was she old. Her face was unlined beneath the tasteful touch of makeup she customarily wore, her figure was almost as good as it had ever been, and her dark brown hair was elegantly put up without a single lock or wisp out of place. And yet it was somehow perfectly clear that Allestine was no longer an active courtesan.

For a moment Jovvi thought it might be the demure day gown Allestine wore, a lovely fawn with tiny black embroideries, but that wasn't it. Jovvi herself wore a modest traveling suit of burnt orange with a snow-white blouse under the jacket and no full petticoats to waste limited coach space, but to her own eye there wasn't the least doubt of her station in life. Her golden-blond hair was also put up for traveling, but her blue-green eyes sent the same message they always did. It should be interesting to see what did happen in the capitol.

Allestine is a minor antagonist who will reappear later in a few books, so a description is warranted. Green actually does a half decent job of conveying Jovvi’s character here. The moment Green has to try to describe something other than surface characteristics she taps out and defaults to telling rather than showing. We end up with a pretty bland physical description of Allestine, Jovvi and their clothes.

quote:

"Possibly I should have known rather than you, but that's no excuse for what happened," Allestine continued stiffly once the door had been closed and they were alone. "If you had warned me, I would have been able to take steps to avoid the situation entirely.”

"How could I have warned you when I didn't know myself?" Jovvi countered, unimpressed with Allestine's sharp annoyance. "What do I know about talents and aspects and such? I still don't really understand what happened, or why I'm suddenly being sent to Gan Garee.”

Prepare yourselves for innumerable exchanges between characters just like this one. Green seems to have one template for disagreements: a character asks/makes a (rhetorical) question/statement, then answers it immediately in a way that absolves themselves of any responsibility whatsoever. Sometimes she’ll change things up by having ANOTHER character making a rebuttal, then a direct accusation that it is in fact the first character’s fault.

UNLESS it’s a protagonist, in which case Green TOTALLY CHANGES IT UP by having the first protagonist ask/make a (rhetorical) question/statement, then answers it immediately in a way that makes absolutely anything and everything that just happened their fault. All the other protagonists in the scene must immediately pile on to contradict what the first protagonist said, all the while reassuring them that they are the best person ever.

This is also the format for every single character’s internal monologue. Green’s characters are written like they have exactly 1-2 gears; no wonder they come across so flat.

quote:

"There happens to be a law that says all Middle practitioners of magic—in any of the five aspects—have to go to Gan Garee to test for the position of High practitioner." Allestine's annoyance had grown rather than lessened, so she took a chair in an obvious effort to calm herself. "You happen to qualify as a Middle in the aspect of Spirit, something that Guild man discovered not long after he joined you in your suite. If I'd had any idea, I never would have given him that appointment with you.”

How exactly does this residence run? Does Jovvi choose her patrons or are they assigned by Allestine? Does Jovvi have a right of refusal or something? How would that even work in this business? Am I just over-analyzing here or did Green intend for two characters to contradict each other?

quote:

"But how can I qualify as anything at all when I never tried to qualify?" Jovvi pressed as she took a chair of her own, needing the answer. The last few years had gone exactly according to her plans, but now it was clearly time for new plans. "And that man never did anything every other man doesn't do, so how did he know when no one else did?"

"He's a freak," Allestine said flatly with heavy disapproval. "I asked around afterwards, and found that out. Normal people are born with more or less talent in a single aspect, like mine with fire."

She turned very slightly to point at the fireplace, and flames obediently leaped high among the logs set in place against the cool of the evening. Then she made a small gesture of dismissal, and the flames disappeared again.

"Anyone born with Fire magic can do that, but the really talented can handle a hundred times more than I can," Allestine continued. "That goes for the other four talents as well, but freaks aren't like the rest of us. They're born with something of all five talents inside them, only they can't use any of the five. All they can do is tell when someone else is using one, and they're taught to recognize the level of strength. I was told that your extreme popularity among our patrons stems from the use of a very strong talent in the area of Spirit magic.”

Hello barely disguised info dump! Also: note that it is evening, and Jovvi is dressed for travel. Who leaves on a long journey at night?!

Allestine's comments implies there’s either a very small range on the guild ability (Jovvi’s strength of talent couldn’t be rated until the Guild man was IN HER ROOM) and/or it’s limited to detecting people when they are actively using their talent but that seems at odds with Lugal’s reference to a Search in Chapter 1 and the fact that magic use is supposed to be restricted (which in itself is a contradiction with everything we’re seeing in the text). The most we'll ever learn about the guild talent is in Book 5: "Those of us who are of the Guild are actually able to see the strength of those who practice in the various aspects...As long as one of us is within range of them, they’re rated whether they want to be or not.

quote:

"And that's why my appointments always end so satisfyingly for my patrons?" Jovvi asked, brows high. "I would have considered body a good deal more important than spirit.”

This makes no sense. In this universe, virtually everyone is born with magical talent. We’ve just seen Lorand refer to his Earth magic as extension of his physical body, that even a poor farmhouse has a spell of screening on the front door - and that you have to make a deliberate effort to open to the power in order to use your talent. How do you grow up in this universe and have no clue how magic works on a basic level, including your own and whether or not you might be using it?!

quote:

"You still don't understand," Allestine complained, her annoyance rising again. "I've heard it said that no Blending can be complete without the aspect of Spirit magic, since that's the talent that brings the other four together, makes them a unified whole, and smooths their efforts into successful completion. Without Spirit the other aspects fight each other for independence and dominance, and even when they deliberately work together there's still a whisper of disharmony present. Spirit magic quiets that whisper."

"I see," Jovvi commented, which was in part a lie. She now understood how important people considered her talent to be, but not what they expected to get out of her in particular. She knew nothing about Blendings, and that suited her perfectly. There were enough other things she did know about, like where she intended her life to go.

That is actually interesting information but it’s weird to dump it here - my guess is that this is Green’s attempt at foreshadowing. The cast won’t learn how to Blend until Book 3, and they won’t figure out that they’re going to be formed into Blending until later. As part of that later, we find out that any information about Blending is highly confidential so why would Allestine of all people know anything about Blendings, including what seems to be pretty important information?

quote:

"So now we need to discuss how quickly you'll be back here," Allestine went on, the look in her eyes having sharpened. "The law may demand that you go and take the tests, but most don't come within a prayer of passing. Once your duty to the Empire is done, I'll expect you to return to me on the first available coach.”

Could have just written that last sentence and would have had the same effect.

quote:

"You'd better explain that particular fact of life to Eldra," Jovvi said with an easy laugh, certain Allestine had overheard her conversation with the girl. "She expects me to stay in Gan Garee, set up on my own, and then send for her. She seems to have no idea how much gold it takes to even begin a project like that, so rather than explain I simply agreed with her. Allestine . . . you don't think I'll be gone so long that my patrons forget me? I mean, if I had to start all over, I'd simply cry . . .”

Of course she overheard, she interrupted that conversation.

quote:

"No, dear, don't you worry about that," Allestine replied with a satisfied, assuring smile, leaving her chair to come and pat Jovvi's shoulder. "The testing shouldn't take long at all, so your patrons will probably meet your coach when you get back. You're not quite the most famous courtesan around here yet, but with my help that position will be yours in only another few years.”

Replied, satisfied, assuring, shoulder patting. So much redundancy.

quote:

Jovvi stood so they might touch cheeks in farewell,

No air kisses?

quote:

and then Allestine left. Once she was gone Jovvi turned to the mirror again, but only to check her expression—which was still as innocent and sweet and guileless as she'd wanted it to be. Allestine had been her sponsor for three years, and fully intended to benefit from that position until Jovvi was too old to go off on her own. Not quite the most famous courtesan indeed! Her name was known for leagues beyond Rincammon, farther even than Allestine's name had been known. She'd be a fool to come back here from Gan Garee, and whatever else she might be, Jovvi was no fool.

I'm confused as to why there would be some cut-off age beyond which Jovvi would be too old to go off independently. Being a sponsor of a residence isn't dependent on also being an active courtesan, as Allestine shows. Connections, start up capital and industry knowledge would matter; not being part of the merchandise would set Jovvi back in the sense that she would have to find one more contractor but it wouldn't be the non-starter that she seems to think it is?

quote:

She turned away from the mirror, having already made certain that the gold distributed in small pockets all over her traveling outfit showed not at all. In the past three years she'd put together a good-sized nest egg, lavishly sponging only a tiny portion of what loving and grateful patrons had given her as gifts in addition to her fees. In the beginning Allestine had tried to make her share those gifts, but she'd complained that she had to have something to spend, and then had supposedly thrown away every copper on frivolities. That had satisfied Allestine, since the older woman made quite enough arranging Jovvi's appointments.

Uh, Green? The term "sponging" does not mean what you seem to think it does, so that sentence makes no sense. Or am I being Australian about this? Americans, please confirm.

quote:

"And what she really wanted was for me to be penniless aside from the funds that are supposed to be put away for me," Jovvi murmured as she checked her trunk one last time. "That way I'd have to stay with her, rather than finding a place to set up on my own."

Leaving to do that would have been difficult, but now the fates had accomplished what she'd only dreamed about. She had a reason to leave that Allestine couldn't argue against, and returning to Rincammon was out of the question. In Gan Garee she would be unknown, but not for long. Her gold would rent her a house in the best district, and shortly thereafter her patrons would supply her with enough to buy a house. And all the while Allestine would be picturing her worrying about her position and patrons in Rincammon . . .

Caveat: all I know about the sex work industry is what I’ve read in Memoirs of a Geisha (accuracy debatable), various articles I’ve read on the Moonlite Bunny Ranch and Freakonomics. All of those have distinct business models. For someone who’s determined to get out of her existing employment and start her own business, Jovvi sure spends no time thinking about things beyond her 5 step plan:

1. Get away from Allestine
2. Fail the test
3. Buy a fancy house
4. ???
5. Profit!

This is the fantasy equivalent of real life wantrepreneurs who they blow all their start up capital borrowed from the bank of mom and dad on a logo, website, branded t-shirts and foosball tables then wonder why they don’t have any customers, revenue or profit. If the author was a better writer, I’d say this is intentional characterization; unfortunately, Jovvi is supposed to be the grown up, mature one.

quote:

Jovvi chuckled as she finished the last of her preparations, then called for the serving men to carry her trunk downstairs. She hated having to abandon the rest of her wardrobe and possessions, but her favorite things were going with her and the rest could be replaced. Would be replaced, and with the newest styles as soon as they became popular. That would be another benefit in living in the capitol.

Actually good characterization. Totally unclear what the preparations are - is Jovvi still packing her trunk? Going to the bathroom? It’s evening and you’re dressed to leave, so what else did you have left to prepare for?

quote:

Downstairs, everyone in the residence waited to say goodbye, even those girls who hated and envied Jovvi. Allestine's handiwork, Jovvi thought as she exchanged careful hugs with those who really were sorry to see her go. The residence was the closest thing to a real home that Jovvi had ever known, and Allestine wanted her to remember that and miss everyone. Well, she would miss some of the girls, but certainly not enough to come back to that place.

Chapter 2 could have started here, 1761 words after where it actually started.

quote:

"Remember your promise!" Eldra whispered intensely when they hugged, and Jovvi gave her a reassuring pat before gently freeing herself. She certainly would remember her promise, even though there would be no way to keep it. Eldra was only fourteen and was used to run and fetch for the working courtesans, but she was already a beauty and Allestine had had offers for her from some of the wealthier patrons. As soon as Eldra turned fifteen she would begin the life of a courtesan whether she wished to or not, and Allestine would make a fortune. Believing that their sponsor would let her go just showed how innocent Eldra still was.

Underaged sex trafficking. I think this is supposed to further reinforce Jovvi as the worldly and street smart one, but it just comes off as cold.

quote:

"All right, ladies, back to what you were doing," Allestine called with a clap of her hands. "Jovvi must leave now, or she'll miss the coach."

Everyone drew back at the order, freeing Jovvi to leave, which she did with as realistic an air of regret as she could manage. She made sure to keep glancing at Allestine, and once she had been assisted into the carriage carrying her trunk, she looked at the older woman who had come out onto the porch of the residence.

"Allestine, aren't you coming to the coach depot?" she asked in a frightened voice. "I was certain you would come with me . . ."

"Now, Jovvi, you're a big girl and I have things to attend to here," Allestine answered comfortably with a sleek smile when Jovvi's words trailed off "I can't come with you now, but I'll certainly be there when you get back. All you have to do is write first, and you'll find me waiting. You'll like that, won't you?"

"Yes, of course, I certainly will," Jovvi murmured, pretending to hide the defeat and fear she had produced for Allestine's benefit. "I'll see you then . . . and I'm sure you won't forget me . . . will you?”

Another exchange intended to make Jovvi look like a deft operator/good actor but instead comes across as Allestine being dumb. A big part of why these books suck so much is that Green doesn’t write any competent antagonists.

quote:

Allestine simply smiled, then stood waving a moment as the carriage began to move away from the residence. After the moment Allestine turned and went inside, but Jovvi sat turned and watching the residence until it was out of sight. Only then did she face forward, but still kept her expression under tight control. She would not be truly free until Rincammon was far behind her. Rincammon and Allestine's servants.

Two of those servants sat on the driver's seat, two men called Ark and Bar, who had worked for Allestine even longer than Jovvi had been at the residence. Now and then girls had been silly enough to say the wrong thing in front of one of them, and then had found out it wasn't possible to bribe them into silence. It had been suggested that the two were in love with Allestine and that was why it wasn't possible to reach them, but Jovvi couldn't believe it. That sort of love was a myth, not something that actually happened to people. In fact all love was a myth, and the wise courtesan simply used that myth to her advantage.

The residence, being in the middle of town, wasn't far from the depot, and Jovvi spent the ride pretending to be upset and miserable. The relaxed way in which Ark and Bar ignored her said her act was probably working, but there was no sense in taking chances.

More hamfisted foreshadowing! Note that the depot is not far from the residence. Also “it wasn’t possible” and other variations like “it simply isn’t possible” etc is one of the most frequently used phrases in the book, by any and every character.

quote:

When the carriage stopped at the depot, she simply sat there until her trunk was on the walk and Bar came to offer a hand. Then she hesitated for the briefest moment before accepting his help, as though reluctant to leave her last tie with the residence. Bar showed no expression at all, but Ark's faint smile told of his amusement and satisfaction. This one will be back, she could almost see him thinking, no need to worry about her.

I think I’m supposed to be developing sympathy for Jovvi’s plight and liking her because of competence; instead she’s just coming across as manipulative.

quote:

But that didn't mean she was rid of them yet. Ark moved the carriage to a place around the corner from the depot and out of the way, then came back to join Bar in waiting with her. That Guild man was supposed to meet her there with her coach tickets to Gan Garee and fifty silver dins in coin, and then they would all see her safely onto the coach. Allestine didn't want her bothered by casual admirers before she left, so her two servants would stay to make sure of it.

It was a cool and comfortable morning, really pretty,

What? Allestine lit the fire in her magic demonstration during the evening. Jovvi finished her last minute preparations, whatever they were, said goodbye to everyone and got in the carriage in the evening. Somehow during the short carriage ride between the residence and the coach depot, a whole night passed. These books were definitely not edited (at least, not by a competent editor).

quote:

but Jovvi was in no state of mind to appreciate it. In a matter of minutes impatience arose to demand where that Guild man could be, and a hint of fear followed over the possibility of the coach arriving before he did. If that happened she'd have to go back to the residence to wait until the next coach came in tomorrow, and that would be intolerable. It would give Allestine the chance to learn of her plans and ruin them, and the thought of that was more than intolerable. She simply couldn’t—

I swear everyone in these books just wanders around lost in their thoughts all the time.

quote:

At that point Jovvi noticed the shouts and screams suddenly coming from the people around them, which made her abandon her frantic thoughts to look up. At first there didn't seem to be a reason for the hysteria, but then Jovvi noticed the giant fireball rolling toward her. It was just beginning to pick up speed, and the people jumping and diving out of its way were the ones who were screaming. Bar's hand came briefly to her arm, as though he meant to pull her out of harm's way, then he changed his mind. The way that thing was picking up speed, she'd never be able to move fast enough.

Bar, what the hell? If you had time to make contact with Jovvi’s arm, you definitely had time to yank her out of the way. You just witnessed your employer to whom you are eternally loyal to make a point of trying to retain her most valuable cash generating asset. You’re a massive hulking thug, just pick Jovvi up like a sack of flour and run.

quote:

Real, true fear wrapped itself around Jovvi, the sort she'd grown all too familiar with while growing up. The world had been her enemy and tormentor, and it hadn't been possible to avoid that world for long. So she'd learned to . . . handle it instead, in a way she still didn't fully understand. But she could do it without understanding it, even while frozen still with terror-Bar and Ark had run to save themselves, but Jovvi paid no attention to their scrambling escape. All her attention was on the ball of fire, so very much more than the few sparks Allestine had produced. The thing stood as tall as Allestine did, which meant taller and wider than Jovvi. Small spurts of dust came from between the cobblestones of the street, and tiny streams of water rose from the nearest horse trough. Some of the onlookers were trying to fight the fireball with Earth and Water magic, then, but weren't able to affect it in any way that mattered.

This internal monologue is either deliberately disjointed to reflect Jovvi’s mental state or Green being bad at writing monologues. I’m voting for the latter.

quote:

So that left Jovvi to take care of herself, just the way she'd always had to. She gathered her inner strength in mental fingers then threw it out, making sure it spread as it went, aiming it at the fireball the way she usually aimed it at men.

You just literally said one coach ride and public farewell ceremony an hour ago/yesterday evening that you had no idea that you were using your Spirit magic on your patrons or how magic even works! But now you're referring to your talent with the same "mental fingers" imagery Lorand used in the previous chapter.

quote:

The fireball was almost close enough for her to feel its crackling heat, but when the leading edge of it met the strength she'd spread, it stopped dead in its advance. Its flames ravened against her invisible wall, trying to consume it, but it wasn't that kind of wall.

It was, however, a wall that did more than just stand there. Every lick of flame that touched it was . . . gentled and quieted, a state that fire couldn't bear. Even the smallest and most pleasant fire needs to rage and consume, otherwise it becomes something else. As soon as the edges of the fireball began to become something else, Jovvi's wall moved forward and spread around the rest of the fire like a blanket. Peace and quiet turned fire to ash just as it changed a patron's rougher intentions to concern, and the fireball was no more able to resist her than men were. She smoothed the furious ravening until it flickered in hesitation, then completely died out.

Jovvi just used Spirit magic to calm a fireball into nothing, which is a super cool application of her talent! Of course this means we will never see Jovvi or any other Spirit magic user do this or anything similar, ever again.

quote:

People were still screaming and shouting, but Jovvi knew it was all over, so she let herself begin to tremble with reaction. It had been so horribly frightening that she didn't know why she hadn't fainted, but she certainly knew she couldn't afford to faint now. It would probably mean being taken back to the residence, and that was out. An arm suddenly came around her shoulders and helped to keep her on her feet, then it began to urge her toward the bench in front of the depot. Going back to the residence was out, but sitting down might be a very good idea.

Hey Green, you know that saying something is frightening and having a character say it was frightening doesn’t actually make it frightening right?

quote:

The arm helping her was attached to a man, Jovvi knew, but it wasn't until she'd settled on the bench that she discovered the man wasn't Bar or Ark. It was that Guild man she'd entertained, finally there and looking terribly concerned.

"What happened here?" he demanded, but gently in an obvious effort to keep from upsetting her even more. "When I turned the corner a minute ago, I thought the entire world had gone mad. And you look as pale as a ghost. What's going on?"

"A ball of fire appeared out of nowhere," Jovvi answered while fighting to pull herself together. "It came right for me, but at the last instant something stopped it. Someone must have used stronger magic, but that doesn't explain why it was here to begin with.”

Yes, let’s keep recapping things that just happened on screen for the benefit of minor characters who were offscreen when the event happened.

quote:

"Someone's twisted idea of a joke?" the Guild man suggested, sounding as though he couldn't even make himself believe that one. "And you say someone stopped it with magic? What kind of magic, and who was it?"

"You're asking me?" Jovvi countered unsteadily, one gloved hand trying not to shake as it checked the position of her hat. "You're supposed to be the expert in this field, sir. Maybe you can tell me."

The Guild man, whose name Jovvi couldn't quite remember, didn't respond, but an odd look in his eye aroused her suspicions. That fire thing could have been a test aimed at her, something to confirm his decision to send her to the capitol. It made sense, but he'd never be able to admit it, not after all the trouble that fireball had caused. Some of the women on the street had fainted, and one or two of the men looked as though they'd come close to doing the same. Using magic so recklessly was against the law, and if anyone found out that the Guild man was behind it, he'd be in it up to his ears.

For a supposed master manipulator and savvy person, Jovvi is bad at redirecting attention and reasoning. He already has to send you to the capitol for testing, he doesn’t need to test you any further.

quote:

"Well, all that counts right now is that you're safe," he said after a brief hesitation, showing her a deliberate smile. "And I believe I hear the coach coming, so let me give you your tickets and pouch of silver. Watch them both very carefully, and your trip to the capitol will be a pleasant one. I've arranged to have the coach guards watch over you, so if anyone tries to bother you along the way, tell one of the guards and they'll take care of it."

"Thank you, sir," Jovvi said, putting the pouch of silver into her purse first. The coach was coming, and that made her heart beat even faster than the fireball had. In a matter of minutes she would be on her way, and without the company of one of Allestine's people to watch her. She'd been afraid that either Ark or Bar would be sent with her, but no one traveled without at least one change of clothing and the carriage had held nothing but her trunk. She would soon be free. . .

. . . and she was willing to do anything she had to to keep it like that.

…what is the point of those ellipses?

quote:

Well, that wasn't quite as good as Lorand's introduction, but it should do for firsts. We all got to know each other a lot better later on, but at this point we hadn't even met. I sometimes wonder how things would have gone if it hadn't been for . . .No, that should come later. The hardest part of this task will be to decide on what to tell you when, but so far it's still relatively easy. The next of us you need to meet is Rion Mardimil, who still tends to put on airs.

TAMRISSA!!!

Summary:
We learned why Spirit magic is crucial to a Blending (information that won't be plot relevant for another 7 books - no I am not kidding) and saw Spirit magic being used in action for a really weird application that we'll never see again in the rest of the serieses. Jovvi is a cold, cynical manipulator whose main motivations seem to be propagating the sex trafficking industry that exploited her. Allestine is whiny and controlling, and too dumb to be an effective antagonist. Plot-wise we covered the exact same beats as Chapter 1 and have made no forward progress on the overall storyline.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 3.5
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin

PLOTHOLES: 2
COACH RIDES: 2
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 3
"CLIFFHANGERS": 1
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 3

Possible fixes:
Chapter 2 really hammers in just how repetitive these books are; we will need to endure Chapters 3-5 which will cover the exact same plot beats from the POVs of Rion (Air), Tamrissa (Fire) and Vallant (Water) before we circle back to Lorand. There's only one fix for this, and that would be to just pick ONE POV out of all of these five and move on with the plot. In my initial rewrite attempt, I picked Lorand for a few reasons:
1) familiar farm boy seeing the wider world for the first time trope;
2) his friendship with Hat which has potential for much more character development than Green actually ended up doing;
3) Earth magic is easy to visualise and has the widest applications in the books (in fact, to the point of being overpowered, honestly);

Once we get to the end of Chapter 5, it'd be interesting to debate which character would be the best to start off with and see what the thread consensus (if any) is.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Leng posted:

Uh, Green? The term "sponging" does not mean what you seem to think it does, so that sentence makes no sense. Or am I being Australian about this? Americans, please confirm.

As an American: "sponging" can mean leeching/mooching/living off someone, but it's usually written as "sponging off (whoever)." "Skimming" would be a better word to use here.

I should also note that "lavishly sponging only a tiny portion" makes no sense at all no matter how you twist it. Is she taking a lot ("lavishly") or "only a tiny portion"? It can't be both.

I have to wonder who the hell edited and copy-edited this book, because that sort of poo poo shouldn't get past the manuscript stage.

As a general note: I do enjoy quite a few fantasy writers who do not have the Gift of Names (hello, Steven Erikson), but so far the names in this book are some of the most low-effort, grab-a-handful-of-Scrabble-tiles stuff I've seen in quite a while. Failin Jarl? Jeris Womal? Eldra Sappin? Hat Riven? Come ON.

Selachian fucked around with this message at 13:25 on Aug 10, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006



Selachian posted:

As an American: "sponging" can mean leeching/mooching/living off someone, but it's usually written as "sponging off (whoever)." "Skimming" would be a better word to use here.

I should also note that "lavishly sponging only a tiny portion" makes no sense at all no matter how you twist it. Is she taking a lot ("lavishly") or "only a tiny portion"? It can't be both.

I have to wonder who the hell edited and copy-edited this book, because that sort of poo poo shouldn't get past the manuscript stage.

Yep, that's what I thought. I think what she intended was to say "spending" instead of "lavishly sponging", and then got mixed up with telling us Jovvi had put on an act of frittering away most of her money in order to make Allestine believe she was financially dependent on the residence.

Sometimes I wonder if these books have good reviews because most readers aren't really reading but skimming the books - in which case you actually get most of the idea Green's trying to convey if you kind of let your eyes glaze over the exact words. I refuse to believe this book ever made it through a developmental edit because surely no editor worth their salt would have allowed this through in this condition. Unless it was actually WORSE in manuscript form, in which case this gives me hope for myself as an aspiring writer.

Selachian posted:

As a general note: I do enjoy quite a few fantasy writers who do not have the Gift of Names (hello, Steven Erikson), but so far the names in this book are some of the most low-effort, grab-a-handful-of-Scrabble-tiles stuff I've seen in quite a while. Failin Jarl? Jeris Womal? Eldra Sappin? Hat Riven? Come ON.

Names are hard. I thought I would try and make it easier on myself by using Google Sheets to create a random name generator based on pre-defined syllables. Instead, it churned out some truly awful combinations that had my husband in stitches. After about an hour of watching me hit "refresh" to try and get less nonsensical combinations, he told me to stop messing around with distractions and start writing with placeholder names.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




I think the very first editing/publishing mistake with these books was right at the beginning. It was clearly pitched on the appeal of a five-book series with an unsubtle FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE!!!!! motif, not based on the strength of any actual manuscript. (If I recall correctly, the first book actually ends midway through a cycle of five identical viewpoints with no climax or cliffhanger--Tamrissa just says "oops, it's time to end the book!")

Someone should have sat down with Sharon Green and asked her how much story she had to tell before handing her a word count to fill out.

TheGreatEvilKing
Mar 28, 2016



Leng posted:

Green's magic system as a concept here is pretty close to Jordan's in the Wheel of Time, and I'd argue that in both cases it's not really anywhere close to the power of creation. Green doesn't separate the power into two different Sources but the users a similar concept to weaves (patterns). She introduces an additional limitation of each user only able to access one element, plus the guild talent, while Jordan plays with a few other magics (tel'aran'rhiod, Perrin's wolf powers).

I really don't understand where you're coming from here. The Wheel of Time has the True Source driving the titular Wheel of Time, which is foundational to the world and the cycle of reincarnation and fate and blah blah blah, and the Dark One's goal is to smash the Wheel and remake creation in his own image. Your examples of other magic are literally just the dream world (the wolf dream IS Tel'aran'rhiod) and that's just Jordan getting abstract to play with the human psyche. It's not a coincidence that the most manipulative of the Forsaken (Moghedian and Lanfear) are strongest in the dream world. The Wheel of Time has flaws, sure, but the point of the weaves in Wheel of Time is to echo the greater weaving of the titular Wheel that drives the fate of the world.

In Green's case one of the first pieces of information we get about the setting is that the sun is just another form of fire magic and that a human could conceivably be powerful enough to create it. If the power to create the sun isn't the power of creation then I don't know what is. Yet every description we get of the magic is incredibly banal and delivered with the emotion of a Magic: The Gathering player tapping two islands to play Counterspell. It's yet another example of modern fantasy ripping all the fantastic out and writing for the engineering students so you can give them the fantasy that if they had these powers they could combine them into a wombo combo and do over 9000 damage.


Anyway, on with the actual critique!

Green posted:

At that point Jovvi noticed the shouts and screams suddenly coming from the people around them, which made her abandon her frantic thoughts to look up. At first there didn't seem to be a reason for the hysteria, but then Jovvi noticed the giant fireball rolling toward her. It was just beginning to pick up speed, and the people jumping and diving out of its way were the ones who were screaming. Bar's hand came briefly to her arm, as though he meant to pull her out of harm's way, then he changed his mind. The way that thing was picking up speed, she'd never be able to move fast enough.

Notice anything weird about this description? It sucks! You mention telling and not showing Jovvi's fear, but the actual fireball is completely minimized and we get more awkward passive voice about the screaming people. The only description we get is that it's a "giant fireball" but the description of something going fast could be replaced with literally anything else. Watch.

TheGreatEvilKing edits Green posted:

At that point Jovvi noticed the shouts and screams suddenly coming from the people around them, which made her abandon her frantic thoughts to look up. At first there didn't seem to be a reason for the hysteria, but then Jovvi noticed the toy zamboni rolling toward her. It was just beginning to pick up speed, and the people jumping and diving out of its way were the ones who were screaming. Bar's hand came briefly to her arm, as though he meant to pull her out of harm's way, then he changed his mind. The way that thing was picking up speed, she'd never be able to move fast enough.

The passage implies that the fireball is threatening not because its going to burn poor Jovvi to death, but because it is very fast as the people try to escape in dull passive voice. This is a deadly assassination attempt described in a dull, clinical tone. Green is unable to write a paragraph without repeating herself (she uses "pick up speed" twice) and is incapable of conveying any kind of emotion as opposed to dull description. The result is that despite the supposedly fantasical events of magic battles the book comes across as horribly dull. This is further made worse by the "magic system", as the protagonists don't need to use any cleverness or showcase any virtues other than having a class that lets them tap two spirit mana to use "Calm" on the fireball.


I'm really not sure why you think this series deserves a rewrite to be salvageable. The prose is bad, the characters are two dimensional, nothing has happened except Tamrissa assuring us how special these protagonists are for presumably future sexy times. Our protagonists are a generic farm boy who is a powerful wizard, and a prostitute traumatized from sexual abuse who manipulates men as a result who is being set up to lead our team of generic fantasy people. There are no stakes, there is no antagonist, there is a vague mention of some prophecy that laid down the law but has no impact on day to day life, and the best that can be said is that there is a bunch of minutia you can put on a wiki. I gave Robert Jordan a lot of poo poo, but his works have the occasional effective passage (for instance, Rand trying to get help for the wounded Tam in the first book) and actually try to be about something. This just squanders any mildly interesting potential it has to be a mediocre formulaic fantasy bad even by the low standards of the fantasy shovelware publishing industry. It has no soul. Even the magic system is just ripping off Wheel of Time but without the spiritual overtones and ties to the Wheel which tied into the work's greater symbolism. It's a stunning failure of imagination.

Kchama
Jul 25, 2007





wizzardstaff posted:

I think the very first editing/publishing mistake with these books was right at the beginning. It was clearly pitched on the appeal of a five-book series with an unsubtle FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE!!!!! motif, not based on the strength of any actual manuscript. (If I recall correctly, the first book actually ends midway through a cycle of five identical viewpoints with no climax or cliffhanger--Tamrissa just says "oops, it's time to end the book!")

Someone should have sat down with Sharon Green and asked her how much story she had to tell before handing her a word count to fill out.

I dunno why they didn't do it like Everworld or Animorphs and just have each POV be a book in and of itself so you actually have time to get a good feel for their inner character.

Leng
May 13, 2006



wizzardstaff posted:

I think the very first editing/publishing mistake with these books was right at the beginning. It was clearly pitched on the appeal of a five-book series with an unsubtle FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE!!!!! motif, not based on the strength of any actual manuscript. (If I recall correctly, the first book actually ends midway through a cycle of five identical viewpoints with no climax or cliffhanger--Tamrissa just says "oops, it's time to end the book!")
You are correct - she attempted to end it on a cliffhanger when the gang are in the midst of attempting their first level masteries. Book 2 is the same: they're in the middle of reconnaissance at the masked ball at the palace.

The fact that her pitch was successful doesn't surprise me; what does actually surprise me was that the books ended up being published in this state - and not just one book, but eight of them. There's a fairly typical fantasy narrative underneath all of the bloat and bad writing that could be polished up after a deep structural edit. It's not going to be ground breaking or win any prizes, but it would be serviceable.

Kchama posted:

I dunno why they didn't do it like Everworld or Animorphs and just have each POV be a book in and of itself so you actually have time to get a good feel for their inner character.

I think it's a writer attempting multiple POVs for the first time syndrome and feeling like they have to show everything that happens to every POV character. Combined with the amateur writer mistake of going blow by blow rather than focusing on key moments that reveal character or advance the plot, it creates a lot of repetition.

Sanderson released The Way of Kings Prime as part of the recent Kickstarter and it is indeed a flawed book (not to the level that The Blending is, but still flawed nonetheless). By his own admission, the problem was that he tried to do too many POVs at once with too many plot lines, hence why he ended up breaking the Stormlight Archive into ten books, with a focus on a particular character's flashbacks in each tied to each Order.

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

In Green's case one of the first pieces of information we get about the setting is that the sun is just another form of fire magic and that a human could conceivably be powerful enough to create it. If the power to create the sun isn't the power of creation then I don't know what is.

I didn't take that sentence so literally to be honest, I took it at face value of trying to characterize a young farmboy as a bit of a dreamer by having him wonder about who created the sun and drawing an analogy in his mind to Fire magic, which makes sense in his world and is an appropriate way of characterization (even if it's takes the "head in the clouds" vs "grounded" spectrum a bit too literally). If we wanted to nitpick on this, then yes, it's probably a question that would be more appropriate coming from say, five year old Lorand rather than late teens/early twenties Lorand who should really know by now that no human is that powerful.

But yeah, like I said, there is no deep world building here and to your point, even the magic system (which is the only thing Green has done any attempt at world building) isn't very deep. Like I said in the prologue, there is so little description about the setting that it's really hard to even pinpoint what level of technological advancement this society is in.

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

I really don't understand where you're coming from here. The Wheel of Time has the True Source driving the titular Wheel of Time, which is foundational to the world and the cycle of reincarnation and fate and blah blah blah, and the Dark One's goal is to smash the Wheel and remake creation in his own image. Your examples of other magic are literally just the dream world (the wolf dream IS Tel'aran'rhiod) and that's just Jordan getting abstract to play with the human psyche. It's not a coincidence that the most manipulative of the Forsaken (Moghedian and Lanfear) are strongest in the dream world. The Wheel of Time has flaws, sure, but the point of the weaves in Wheel of Time is to echo the greater weaving of the titular Wheel that drives the fate of the world.

...

I'm really not sure why you think this series deserves a rewrite to be salvageable. The prose is bad, the characters are two dimensional, nothing has happened except Tamrissa assuring us how special these protagonists are for presumably future sexy times. Our protagonists are a generic farm boy who is a powerful wizard, and a prostitute traumatized from sexual abuse who manipulates men as a result who is being set up to lead our team of generic fantasy people. There are no stakes, there is no antagonist, there is a vague mention of some prophecy that laid down the law but has no impact on day to day life, and the best that can be said is that there is a bunch of minutia you can put on a wiki. I gave Robert Jordan a lot of poo poo, but his works have the occasional effective passage (for instance, Rand trying to get help for the wounded Tam in the first book) and actually try to be about something. This just squanders any mildly interesting potential it has to be a mediocre formulaic fantasy bad even by the low standards of the fantasy shovelware publishing industry. It has no soul. Even the magic system is just ripping off Wheel of Time but without the spiritual overtones and ties to the Wheel which tied into the work's greater symbolism. It's a stunning failure of imagination.

OK, I think I understand better where you're coming from now and what you feel is missing. I'll be honest - I'm an accounting/finance major with an interest in fast-paced genre fiction so I'm really not qualified or able to do this type of analysis for the Let's Read. I love what you're doing though so please keep on posting your critiques!

And to answer your second point, it's a writing exercise for myself where I can focus on the mechanics of establishing setting, character, plot and overall narrative structure. I don't have to spend time doing a lot of world building, coming up with ideas for characters or plotting, because that's all been done. Green's output is obviously bad, but all writing is bad to begin with, so I can basically treat these books as a super detailed outline.

In my mind, the difference between churning out a terrible first draft of my own unoriginal idea and then either abandoning it or going back to edit/revise it versus rewriting someone else's bad writing is I save all of the time I'd need to spend coming up with an idea, etc. I'll probably still come out the other end a better writer either way since the process is the same.

Leng
May 13, 2006



quote:

CHAPTER THREE

CLARION MARDIMIL—AlR MAGIC

"But it can't be raining," Clarion said very reasonably to the fool servant, striving valiantly to hold his temper. "I can't possibly put the trip off any longer, and I was assured that today would be a nice day. Even here in the East, very few people consider rain to be part of a nice day."

"Nevertheless, Lord Clarion, it does happen to be raining," the nasty servant replied, his bland expression certainly hiding the pleasure he undoubtedly felt over contradicting his betters. "And the time grows short for when you must leave."

"I intend to speak to my mother about this," Clarion announced, then took his hat from the table. "We'll soon see, my man, we'll just see."

Three dialogue exchanges in and I already hate Clarion (a.k.a Rion). He is supposed to start off as an unlikeable character who eventually becomes liked for ??? reasons and presumably his dramatic function is to provide us with an insider view into what the Gandistran nobility are like. It's not a bad idea, except for the fact that Rion isn't the sole noble POV since Green adds POV chapters from the antagonists (other nobles).

There is more telling instead of showing. We get adverbs ("reasonably", "valiantly"), outright statements of emotion ("temper", "pleasure") and labels ("nasty") instead of being able to come to these conclusions based on what the characters are thinking, perceiving, saying and doing.

The "let's ignore facts that I don't like" attitude Clarion displays here is going to be the hallmark of every single antagonist in the rest of the book. Because as wizzardstaff pointed out in Chapter 1, the protagonists' main super power is destroying people with Facts and Logic (never mind the actual magical talent).

quote:

The servant bowed without saying anything else, predictably ruining Clarion's chance to laugh by refusing to ask what they'd see about. All the servants in the house were the same, vile creatures who refused to stay quietly in their proper places. Mother never hesitated to dismiss the worst ones, but that left so many of the peasants still there to bedevil him. . . .

A reminder that this classist rear end is supposed to be a main protagonist. I get that Green's trying to start him off from a low place and have his nobleman's upbringing as a character flaw that he needs to overcome as part of his character arc. Usually some sort of "save the cat" moment would have happened by now, so at least I start out LIKING this character.

In Sanderson's 2020 lecture on characters, he discussed how you could break down a reader's care factor about a character into three different facets: likeability, proactivity and competence. We're zero on all three scales at the moment.

quote:

Clarion brushed gently at his suit as he made his way to his mother's apartments, a suit he was very pleased with. Pale yellow silk trimmed with tiny amounts of black and orange, it was the height of current fashion in the capitol. The tailor had told him how nicely it went with his blond hair, how tall and broad-shouldered he looked in it, and that he would have to fight the ladies off.

Women wear gowns and men wear suits. I still have no idea what time period we're in. Also that clothing sounds horrid, which will be important to Clarion's character arc (such as it is).

quote:

Clarion hadn't said so, but for some foolish reason the ladies never had seemed interested—at least not here. At Court it was a different story, and if Mother hadn't been there a time or two . . . Clarion sighed and realized he hadn't been to Court in almost a year, but he still kept in touch with the important things like clothing styles. And he would have been delighted to see Gan Garee again—if not for the circumstances.

One of his mother's maids answered his knock, and he was shown directly to her bedchamber. She'd taken to her bed when word came through that she was absolutely forbidden to accompany Clarion, a decision that came directly from the Court. She'd laughed at the Guild man when he'd first told her that candidates for High were required to appear alone. She'd countered that the laws were for the masses to worry about, not people in their position, and she would travel with her son just as she had for his entire life. The Guild man hadn't argued, at least not with her. . .

This will be both the first and last time that "Court" is ever really mentioned in the books. I think "Court" is supposed to refer to the Seated Blending, their Advisors and other highly placed nobles (as you would interpret it if this were a regency romance).

quote:

"Oh, Clarion, the tragedy of it all!" she wailed as soon as she saw him, raising one hand for him to take. "It's unlikely that I will survive this, but you mustn't concern yourself with thoughts of me. Go and take their foolish little tests while life ebbs slowly from my body, and I will simply pray that you find it possible to return before the very last spark is extinguished. I'll try to hold on, really I will, just for your sake . . ."

She let her words trail off with a sigh, as though her meager strength had failed her. Clarion, as alarmed as ever he had been, held her hand more tightly.

Clarion's mother is an overwrought drama queen. All of the antagonists in this series are bad, but I think I might hate Hallina Mardimil the most, simply because she is the whiniest of them all.

quote:

"No, Mother, don't speak like that," he coaxed, brushing back a stray wisp of hair from her smooth, alabaster brow. "You'll be just fine, and I'll be back before you know it. Public transportation may be terribly rough and uncomfortable, but it does have the benefit of being much faster than a private coach. They change horses and drivers at regular intervals, I'm told, so if you sleep during the journey and stop only to eat during the change overs, it's possible to get to Gan Garee in much less than the usual two or three weeks."

"Oh, my poor baby!" she exclaimed, her lovely face filled with pity. "Needing to use public coaches because they insist! But you must insist on being tested immediately, so you can start home again as soon as it's done. I'll never forgive myself for causing this horror, never!"

Don't know about you guys but I don't normally think of my own mother in terms of "her smooth, alabaster brow" or "lovely face". That's kinda...Oedipal. Male goons, please enlighten me - do you find this as weird as I do?

We also now have a DISTANCE between where Clarion is (in the East, in a city called Haven Wraithside which is named a little later in this chapter) and Gan Garee (two to three weeks by private coach). Googling "how far can a horse drawn carriage travel" brings up results of something like 40 km/25 miles per day assuming there are OK roads and weather conditions. That's probably not an unreasonable assumption, since we learned in Lorand's prologue that "big cities" had cobblestone roads and that road building involves Middles in Earth laying down stone and Spirit to smooth it all out. There might actually be a reasonable network of well maintained roads.

That puts Haven Wraithside and Gan Garee about 560 km/350 miles apart assuming there's seven days in a week and using the lower end of Clarion's estimate of two solid weeks of travel on the basis of ideal conditions. So...a little bit closer than driving from Pittsburgh to Manhattan. We have no indication how far it is to Widdertown or how long it takes Jovvi from Rincammon to Gan Garee.

One (amongst many) of the big problems with this book is I get serious white room syndrome when reading. We get so little description of what each physical location is like that I honestly couldn't tell you what the climate or surroundings are like in Widdertown vs Gan Garee vs Rincammon vs Haven Wraithside.

quote:

"Now, Mother, there was no way you could have known," Clarion soothed, patting the hand he held. "Lord Astrath was brought to your party by someone else, and he is a legitimate member of the lesser nobility. No one had any idea that he's also a Guild man without any proper sense of class distinction, but now we know. Once this is all over, we'll certainly have to speak to one or two members of the Blending. After all, they are the rulers of this Empire, so they should have some say in how it's run."

We will never get any clear picture of what makes someone lesser nobility compared to other levels of nobility or the games of intrigue played by the nobility, despite an increasing number of viewpoints from characters who belong to the nobility.

quote:

"My sweet baby, how delightfully strong you are," his mother said with a faint, amused smile. "And yes, darling, the Blending does need to be told how terrible it was for us that one of them supported that dreadful Lord Astrath. As soon as you're home I'll try valiantly to regain my strength, and if I succeed then I'll have a word with the Blending. I won't have you putting yourself out, not when that's what I'm here for. Call one of my ladies, dear, and tell her we'd like a bite of brunch to share, just you and I."

Green's favorite expression for her characters is "a faint, amused smile". It's Green's equivalent of:



but for everyone.

quote:

"If you insist, Mother," Clarion agreed smoothly, remembering the rain outside. "I am supposed to be leaving to catch that coach, but one more day more or less shouldn't—"

"Rot them!" his mother snapped, suddenly looking a good deal less delicate as she sat up. "This is the last day you were allowed, so you must go now, or—Rot them! They won't get away with this, you have my word, Clarion! I will find out who is behind this outrage, and when I do ... ! Kiss me goodbye, darling, and then be on your way."

"Rot them" is the most interesting curse that Green can come up with.

quote:

Clarion was disappointed, but he'd learned years ago not to disagree with his mother when she got into this kind of mood. Obediently he kissed her cheek, then glumly made his way out of her apartment. For a moment he wondered what she could possibly have been threatened with, to make her follow their schedule so scrupulously. It had to be something really extreme, and on second thought he might be better off not knowing. He knew his mother well enough to be certain there would be trouble once the testing was done, and no one in his right mind could want to be in the middle of that.

Hallina Mardimil sounds like a wonderful mother.

quote:

"Your trunk has already been taken down to the carriage, Lord Clarion," that same miserable servant told him as soon as he stepped out into the hall. "The staff wishes you a pleasant journey and much success."

Clarion paused to put his hat on, pearl gray with a band matching his suit, rolled brim, medium-high crown, and only one modest feather in yellow. While he adjusted the hat he ignored the servant, the man and the supposed good wishes of the staff together. The truth was they would all be glad to see the back of him, the louts, but not as glad as he was to be leaving. He'd hated that house and its servants ever since he was a boy, but for some reason Mother loved it. Maybe because the servants didn't spend half their time watching and laughing at her …

Maybe because you're an insufferable pompous unfashionable peacock of an rear end?

quote:

Clarion made a silent departure past what seemed like every servant in the house, but once he stepped outside his spirits immediately rose. It had been raining, but now the rain seemed done and the sun struggled to break through the clouds. Perhaps the Prime Aspect had taken pity on him after ignoring the balance of his prayers, and would at least give him a decent day to begin his travels. Possibly if he'd had even one sibling or friend to play with while growing up, he would not have made a game of his ability with Air magic. And had he not played that game so often, he probably would not have developed the strength that now forced him to travel to Gan Garee alone. Yes, the Prime Aspect did owe him a nice day at the very least. . . .

Oh, here we go - this happens so infrequently in the text that I actually forgot it exists. @TheGreatEvilKing, this is the closest that we get to any reference to a religion or deity. Not that Clarion is praying or anything, because this is a seriously disjointed internal monologue. We will actually get the full back story about making a "game of his ability with Air magic" later in this book where it will be plot relevant.

quote:

Once he had settled himself in the carriage, Fod shook the reins to get the team moving. Fod had driven Clarion often enough to know better than to attempt conversation, so that was one annoyance Clarion would not have to put up with on the way to the depot. Instead his thoughts dwelled on the fact that he had never traveled anywhere alone before except for an occasional drive in the country. He hadn't even gone alone to parties at the homes of those of his class here in Haven Wraithside. Mother had always been there to accompany him, even when she herself, because of the age group involved, had not been invited to the party.

But she'd always gone anyway, and when invitations had stopped coming for him, she'd taken him to the parties she was invited to. They were usually dull affairs, with no one even close to his age attending, but his going had pleased Mother so. And after the way she had given up her time to play with him as a child, refusing to force him to make do with other children as most parents did, she was entitled to be repaid with pleasure. That she had been too busy with her own affairs to give him a lot of time that way was a tragedy she had always regretted, and was certainly not something she should be blamed for.

I think Green is trying to build empathy here, but all I feel is pity. Yeah, this is a horrible childhood and his mother is horrible but Clarion himself still isn't somebody I actually want to spend time with, nor is he interesting so I have zero investment in this character.

quote:

Nevertheless, Clarion was now in the position of having to travel alone for the first time in his life. The prospect was daunting if not downright frightening, and at first Clarion had flatly refused to do it. Mother had spent the usual amount of time talking him around, but then a strange thing had happened. Rather than sulking over having to do something other than what he wanted to, Clarion had begun to think about being on his own—and the concept had held an odd appeal. As though it were something he'd wanted to do for quite some time, but hadn't realized he wanted it.

Again, this guy is in his twenties. We have a literal man child as a protagonist.

The other thing that sticks out here is Green's phrasing in "...but then a strange thing had happened...the concept had held an odd appeal. As though it were something he'd wanted to do for quite some time, but hadn't realized he wanted it." Usually when she phrases things in this way, it's her attempt to indicate that somebody with Spirit magic is manipulating things in the background. Book 8 spoilers: the advanced nation of Full Blendings turns out to have sent people undercover to watch over Rion the whole time, and they are the ones behind all of the signs in fulfilling the Prophecy, including the fireball attack that's about to happen. I can't make up my mind as to whether Green did this intentionally or accidentally through poor writing.

quote:

Clarion sighed as he looked around, noticing that they were almost to the coach depot. He hadn't noticed leaving the neighborhood of elegant homes which was his class's part of the city, but getting to the depot was taking his attention. If Mother had heard that she would have known at once that there was something wrong with him, and there certainly must be. Imagine, ignoring the proper for the highly irregular! What could he be thinking of?

We literally just read what Clarion was thinking of. Clarion's internal narration is completely inane; worse than Lorand or Jovvi's and even Tamrissa's written journal narration!

quote:

Fod brought the horses to a stop in front of the depot, then saw to unloading Clarion's trunk while Clarion took his time getting his tall, fairly well-built body out of the carriage. That Lord Astrath was supposed to be meeting him here with the coach tickets and a trifling amount of silver, as though he couldn't afford to buy his own tickets even without their silver. Clarion had agreed to ignore the insult when he'd been assured that the law demanded the tickets and silver be provided, but ignoring an insult didn't mean forgetting about it.

Male goons, do you often think about and describe your body to yourself as tall and fairly well-built when you are just going about your business? Help a girl out here, because this comes across weirdly for me. It screams "female romance author trying to write from a male perspective" and totally failing.

quote:

Fod touched his cap respectfully before climbing back into the carriage, and a moment later he and the carriage were off back to Mother's house. Clarion had considered ordering the driver to wait at least until Astrath arrived, but then had thought better of it. Every servant in the house knew he had never gone anywhere alone, and having Fod wait with him would have been an admission of fear the whole staff would have gotten a good laugh over. And now that the thing was actually beginning, there was more than a slight taste of anxiety in his throat—

Here we go again! Is everyone ready for the super exciting repeat instalment of the fireball attack that we've already seen twice? However will Green keep things exciting? (spoilers: she doesn't)

quote:

"Look out!" Clarion heard in a shout from behind him, along with screams and the sound of people running. Wondering what the peasants were up to now, Clarion turned— then had to move faster than he'd ever thought would be necessary. Someone had created a fireball, and if Clarion hadn't jumped out of its path, it would have rolled—and burned—right through and over him.

I think Green got TheGreatEvilKing's editorial note about the fireball in the last chapter. She actually had Clarion point out that it would have burned him! (though the way she structured that sentence still doesn't make much sense?)

quote:

People were still running and screaming as the flaming thing stopped short and then began to come back again, but Clarion was too angry to notice. Having to jump aside had mussed his suit, and even worse, his hat had tumbled into the dirt. Just on the day he most wanted to look his best, some fool came along and played tricks with a Fire talent. Whoever it was must be the sort to enjoy watching people scurry, but Clarion Mardimil scurried for no one! This time the wrong victim had been chosen, a fact he was perfectly ready to prove.

Oh no, not the hat! Also I know Clarion said that the journey to Gan Garee would be faster by public coach, but surely it'd still take a couple of days. Who dresses to look their best when traveling (ignoring the 1950s when air travel was a glamorous exciting thing that people got dressed up for), especially when your outfit is sure to get all rumpled?!

quote:

Just as the fireball began to come back toward him, Clarion reached out with both his hands and his mind. Air was the aspect of his talent, which made his reaching hands doubly foolish; if Clarion had cared enough about the opinions of others, he might have pointed out that he'd developed the habit as a child while playing alone, and had never felt the need to do otherwise. But Clarion didn't care, and no one asked in any event. He simply reached out with two hands and the talent of his mind—and the fireball was stopped in its tracks.

WHY DO I HAVE POINTLESS NARRATION DURING AN ACTION SEQUENCE?

quote:

Manipulating thickened air to stop the thing pleased Clarion, but not for long. As soon as he allowed the air to thin again the fireball would be free once more, and even beyond that no lesson would be taught to whomever had formed it. The raging fire needed to be permanently stilled or the "game" would continue, an eventuality Clarion had no patience for.

So he immediately began to destroy the annoyance that had caused him to become rumpled. Using the thickened air as "gloves" for his mental hands, he formed a very tall cylinder around the roiling flames and then began to press inward. The narrowing cylinder forced the flames to narrow as well, making them very tall and thin rather than thick and round. They rose higher and higher as they were compressed more and more, but Clarion didn't need to see the top of the flames to keep them encased in thickened air. He knew where every inch of that blazing column was, through its contact with the air around it.

Ugh. Either this fireball is a deadly threat, or it isn't. I can buy that it would be a deadly threat to Lows but not to Middles, since all three protagonists so far have been able to stop it easily without breaking a sweat. So why does every single chapter we read have this attempt to build up the dread of "oh noes a deadly fireball" (and failing in every case) and then have the viewpoint character basically shrug it off (except for Jovvi, who actually ended up shaken, even though she calmed the fireball down just fine)?

quote:

In no time the column was compressed so completely that it would have looked like the dot of an i from above or below. That was when Clarion began to use tiny ribbons of air to separate small sections of flame, then he sent a quick breeze across the areas one by one to blow out the tiny fires. In its original form the fireball couldn't have been extinguished with a breath even if it had been a giant doing the blowing, but all stretched out like that ... As the column shrank it even became possible to see the sparks go out one after the other, an amusing touch that quite lightened Clarion's mood.

It actually took almost two minutes, but at the end of the time there was nothing left of the fireball. Clarion relinquished his hold on the magic that was his oldest and dearest friend, brushed himself to rights, then went to see what condition his hat was in.

Magic system geekery talk: I assume what Clarion's doing is increasing the air pressure in a localized area of his choice to use compressed air as a way of manipulating other objects. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around this concept since atmospheric pressure is created by gravity (right?) and compressed air is created by shoving a high volume of air inside a small container that is made of a material strong enough to withstand the forces of the gases inside trying to expand to their natural volume. Since Clarion doesn't have a container of any sort, what exactly is Air magic? Is it the ability to control gas molecules or is it more like some sort of force field ability?

I never studied beyond high school physics and chemistry so anyone who did, please chime in here.

(and yes I know Green likely wasn't thinking about any of this, I just find this interesting to theorize about)

quote:

"Lord Clarion, what's been happening here?" a voice demanded as he frowningly inspected his hat, somewhat relieved to find it dirty but otherwise unharmed. "Some of those people seem to be hurt. Are you all right?"

"Apart from being thoroughly annoyed, Astrath, of course I'm all right," Clarion replied, finally looking at the other man. "Although I must say it's no thanks to you, not when you obviously took your time getting here. Perhaps, after all this, it isn't beyond hope that today's coach has been canceled."

"The coach is coming now," Astrath replied, glancing over Clarion's shoulder with his own frown. "I have your tickets and silver here, but you haven't yet told me what happened. Everyone looks positively harrowed, but you—“

"But I am a noble of family and breeding," Clarion interrupted with a faint smile. "Superiority lies not only in the title, but in the doing, you know. I would love to stay and chat, but I'm afraid the coach personnel might take a dim view of such a pastime and simply leave me standing here. Do feel free to question anyone else in the vicinity. I'm sure they'll be able to tell you everything you want to know."

Clarion put his hand out then, and with the coach actually pulling up beside the curb, Astrath had no choice but to hand over both tickets and silly little purse of silver— without asking any more questions. The look of frustration in the man's eyes almost made that whole wretched situation worthwhile, and Clarion was able to climb into the coach with a smile after he directed the depot man in loading his trunk into the boot.

Clarion's still an rear end but I kind of like him being an rear end here because at least we don't get a THIRD recap of something that just happened on the page for a named character we'll never see again. Lord Astrath would probably be an interesting character to follow since he in theory should have conflicting loyalties to both the nobility and to the Guild, but of course since this has the potential for a complex character arc this is never explored and we will not see Astrath again; he's only mentioned much later in Book 5.

quote:

The smile remained on Clarion's face until the coach pulled away from the depot and there was no one about to watch it disappear. The journey had begun, then, with no miracle occurring to save him from it. Now he really was completely on his own, and by the time he reached Gan Garee he ought to know if he hated the situation—or actually loved it.

Is this supposed to be a cliffhanger? I still don't care about whether Clarion likes being independent or not. If I'm honest, I'd prefer it if his coach was attacked en route to Gan Garee and someone tried to hold him hostage in order to get a ransom out of his mother. Oh wait, that would actually involve stuff happening and we don't do that here.

quote:

Do you understand now about my comment concerning Clarion's habit of putting on "airs?" With his aspect being Air magic, how could he do anything else? I was punning, you see—Oh, all right, so I'm not doing this simply to amuse you. You want me to get on with the narrative. That's probably because you missed the pun and now you 're annoyed, but that's all right, I'll let you go on simply pretending you're sophisticated. . . .

I'd intended to introduce Vallant Ro next, but for some reason everyone insists the turn should be mine. I'm delighted I'm the one writing this narrative all alone, otherwise people might feel free to come by and tell me how to do it. . . Oh, very well, if that will keep them from pestering me for a while. This is the story of me, Tamrissa Domon.

Sigh. I can only hope in vain that this pointless narration goes away in your own POV chapter Tamrissa.

Summary:
If you felt like this chapter dragged less, you'd be technically correct since it's the shortest so far at 3107 words. The only new thing we got about the setting is a demonstration of Air magic. Clarion is a pompous manbaby with a slight Oedipal complex and Lady Hallina Mardimil is an abusive mother and absolute diva. Exact same beats as the previous two chapters and no forward momentum on the story.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 5
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 2
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside

PLOTHOLES: 2
COACH RIDES: 3
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 4
"CLIFFHANGERS": 2
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 4

Possible fixes:
Same comments as Chapter 2. Nothing new to add here.

Edit: oops, messed up my counters for plotholes and "cliffhangers".

Leng fucked around with this message at 01:39 on Aug 12, 2020

TheGreatEvilKing
Mar 28, 2016



Well, if you're gonna quote me in your Let's Read posts I guess I can keep contributing!

Leng posted:

Male goons, do you often think about and describe your body to yourself as tall and fairly well-built when you are just going about your business? Help a girl out here, because this comes across weirdly for me. It screams "female romance author trying to write from a male perspective" and totally failing.

You should take another look at that interview you linked - Green admits she doesn't get men at all, and explains that the reason Jovvi is a prostitute is so that she can get on her sandbox about how the world needs more prostitutes everywhere to discourage men from being rapists. Really. It's kind of insane!

Then again, I suspect Mother Dearest doesn't actually let Clarion anywhere near women, and he's certainly not hooking up with the maids despite being...a rich 20 something year old noble. Sure. Let's go with that.

Leng posted:

Ugh. Either this fireball is a deadly threat, or it isn't. I can buy that it would be a deadly threat to Lows but not to Middles, since all three protagonists so far have been able to stop it easily without breaking a sweat. So why does every single chapter we read have this attempt to build up the dread of "oh noes a deadly fireball" (and failing in every case) and then have the viewpoint character basically shrug it off (except for Jovvi, who actually ended up shaken, even though she calmed the fireball down just fine)?

I'm rereading the endless fireball sequences and I appreciate that Clarion realizes the fireball could burn him, but it's still fairly abstract.

Green posted:

"Look out!" Clarion heard in a shout from behind him, along with screams and the sound of people running. Wondering what the peasants were up to now, Clarion turned— then had to move faster than he'd ever thought would be necessary. Someone had created a fireball, and if Clarion hadn't jumped out of its path, it would have rolled—and burned—right through and over him.

"Heard in a shout behind him"? It's just so sedate. You rightly complain about the droll internal narration hurting the action scene, but this is just dull. We're told Clarion moves super fast but this prose doesn't convey speed or action. Green also seems to be using the Fantasy Prose rule of never using a word where a sentence will do ("through and over him") but that's honestly par for the course for genre at this point.

What also gets me about this whole setup is that none of these characters considers the possibility that someone wants them dead. Jovvi apparently has to deal with abusive men on a regular basis and assumes everyone is out to get her, but her reaction to an assassination attempt is "eh, whatever, I have no idea what you're talking about officer" when as a manipulative woman in distress she could have half of the army out searching for the culprit. Clarion is a rich noble who has never faced any real challenges in his life. Yet when he's pushed into a life-threatening situation, instead of panicking he calmly identifies the threat and eliminates it only mildly annoyed that his clothes have gotten singed. Is this really the reaction we expect from someone who has spent his life hiding behind his mother's skirts and being carefully separated from life's problems? If we're being fair to Green she seems to want to characterize Clarion as someone dumb enough to think this was an accident because he can't conceive of anyone wanting to kill him, but would that really be true for all of our PoV characters?

The magical vacuum fireball is just weird - no one stops these people who might have been the target to interrogate them about whether they pissed off a fire mage, no one is concerned about a massive fire raging in a pre-industrial city which has the potential to set the city ablaze, the local law enforcement isn't bothering to investigate, no one shows any signs of stress from being nearly burned alive, nothing actually caught fire from proximity to the rolling fireball, et cetera. If anything Clarion's mother should be absolutely furious at people trying to hurt her baby and demand investigations and prosecutions and punishments. Hell, the fireball doesn't actually give off any heat despite these characters having to jump out of the way in the nick of time! It's nuts!

Leng
May 13, 2006



TheGreatEvilKing posted:

You should take another look at that interview you linked - Green admits she doesn't get men at all, and explains that the reason Jovvi is a prostitute is so that she can get on her sandbox about how the world needs more prostitutes everywhere to discourage men from being rapists. Really. It's kind of insane!

A timely reminder! I found that part of the interview was awful and came across as a bit "men are from Mars, women are from Venue" to me. The only other works of hers that I've read are Argent Swords and Brat (and for the love of all that is good in this world, do NOT read those books, they're badly written erotica masquerading as fantasy) - and ALL of the characters are just as bad. She keeps writing "Strong Female Characters" and they're always only slight superficial variations on one archetype without any sort of distinctive voice of their own.

quote:

Sharon Green: It just so happened that Jovvi was a courtesan, but the matter is one of my soapbox topics. That means something I consider an important point, but one which most people disagree with me about. The point in this case is the matter of sex outside the marriage, and the existence of prostitutes in our own society.

People yell and scream if there are prostitutes walking around in their neighborhood and work hard to get rid of them, never once stopping to think that maybe their little daughters -- and possibly their wives and sisters and mothers -- are safer because those prostitutes happen to be there.

If a man with the wrong upbringing comes into a neighborhood and wants some sex, there's a good chance he'll pay a professional woman and get his jollies that way. If the lady of the night isn't there, though, what's to keep him from grabbing the first female he considers attractive no matter what she wants? Lack of imagination has caused more trouble in this world than all the "evil" you care to name.

This was a bit triggering for me. I don't know how widely this news made the rounds globally, but back in 2006 a certain high profile religious leader in Australia referred to women who didn't conform to his standard of modesty as "uncovered meat" and said that it was their fault if they were sexually assaulted, because men were simply animals who couldn't be blamed for being tempted and taking advantage. It was a big deal in Australia at the time:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...tralia.marktran

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

What also gets me about this whole setup is that none of these characters considers the possibility that someone wants them dead.

...

The magical vacuum fireball is just weird - no one stops these people who might have been the target to interrogate them about whether they pissed off a fire mage, no one is concerned about a massive fire raging in a pre-industrial city which has the potential to set the city ablaze, the local law enforcement isn't bothering to investigate, no one shows any signs of stress from being nearly burned alive, nothing actually caught fire from proximity to the rolling fireball, et cetera. If anything Clarion's mother should be absolutely furious at people trying to hurt her baby and demand investigations and prosecutions and punishments. Hell, the fireball doesn't actually give off any heat despite these characters having to jump out of the way in the nick of time! It's nuts!

The worst thing about these characters is that they're intended to be brilliant, clever people and they're just...not.

Some of the issues are due to structural problems in Green's narrative in using the prophecy trope as well as her actual magic system:
  • Prophecy related spoilers for books 5 and 8: The fireballs were intentionally nerfed, because their purpose was to be the first of the "obvious Signs" and guarantee the main Blending support from the Guild, so nobody was ever in any danger. Instead of having the protagonists think that hey, this fireball is really odd and doesn't feel like an assassination attempt, it's played as some dangerous event in an attempt to highlight just how competent these protagonists are in their magic.
  • World building book 5 spoilers: Sight magic is her big "twist" and it's an interesting premise that's poorly thought out. When you try to analyze the idea that an entire secret community of Sight magic users could have survived unknown by the general populace, it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. There's hints that talent (specifically which aspect you get) is genetic but also hints that it's completely random. Books 5 and 7 spoilers: we'll later get POVs from two Sight magic users who don't know that they are Sight magic users, and it's just like, how are you both confusing an obvious magical talent with a mental illness
  • Because Green didn't actually write a proper prophecy, it's bleeding obvious that the main characters are the Chosen from the get go. But because they're good, humble people, Green has them all deliberately elect to try and forget about the fireball until Book 5
At times Green seems to want the fulfilment of the prophecy to be a big mystery; at other times I feel like she was working to make it bleeding obvious. Either way, it gives me whiplash when she flips back and forth and I wish she had just picked one or the other and stuck to it.

Others are world building deficiencies:
  • The whole Gandistran Empire is extremely poorly fleshed out. I'm no history expert, but I would have expected an empire to be some sort of melting pot of what were once smaller independent countries that were united by force or diplomacy
  • As a follow-on from that, there's no peace keeping force of any sort across the Empire, other than references to groups of "guardsmen" or "guard forces"
  • There's an official group of guardsmen who are employed by the Seated Five, but there are also private guardsmen employed by nobles or merchants. All of these groups seem to operate more like mercenaries than anything else
  • We'll learn later that different sections of various cities and regions belong to different nobles who generate income via rent and taxes
  • Book 3 I think takes a look at the criminal justice system briefly but that's about it

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Leng posted:

A timely reminder! I found that part of the interview was awful and came across as a bit "men are from Mars, women are from Venue" to me. The only other works of hers that I've read are Argent Swords and Brat (and for the love of all that is good in this world, do NOT read those books, they're badly written erotica masquerading as fantasy) - and ALL of the characters are just as bad. She keeps writing "Strong Female Characters" and they're always only slight superficial variations on one archetype without any sort of distinctive voice of their own.

The last time I tried to read through these books, which was about five years ago, I came across another interview with Green that I can't find now. She went even deeper into territory and came out the other side. I recall her asserting that men dying in wartime leads to booms in male births because "nature finds a balance".

Leng
May 13, 2006



I've seen that one before as well, managed to find it here:
https://fantasyworlds.wordpress.com...h-sharon-green/

Sharon Green posted:

Did you know that after a war, the birth rate of male children goes up? It’s an established fact, and shows that Mother Nature is trying to replace the males who were killed in the war. The trend continues until the population is balanced again. Now, think back to how long it’s been since we had a war “ ON OUR OWN SOIL. That, I think, is very much a part of the need for a change. We haven’t had a war in this country in many years, so Mother Nature thinks we need fewer fighters – and therefore causes less of them to be born. That leaves much too large a preponderance of nonfighters, which explains why our reps in the government are trying to legislate everyone into safety instead of doing something more direct – and more effective.



Good grief. It's a long interview as well, with loads more messed up stuff. I'll come back and pull out some more choice bits later when I'm not phone posting.

Edit: Okay, here we go.

Green on world building

Sharon Green posted:

My answer to this question is going to be very unsatisfactory. I’ve heard the term “world-building” quite a lot during the past years, but have never engaged in the practice myself. I usually start with a character and/or a situation, and then think about the circumstances the two would fit into. That gives me the kind of world my characters and situation need, without having to sit down and visualize a world. The world comes with the package, so to speak.

"I'm too lazy to do the bare minimum of work in writing fantasy, a genre in which building the fantastical world is pretty damned important. I have no idea why so many people disagree with me."

Green on writing characters and character arcs

Sharon Green posted:

The most important thing to me is the people who are caught in some kind of situation. How they interact with their world is more important than what the world is; the nicest or most horrible of worlds can be the worst or best environment, depending on what’s expected of you in those places. Humans have the ability to cope with and overcome the most trying of hardships, and then trip and fall over something some would never even notice. Most writers seem to use the idea of an ordinary person being thrust into a situation where he or she has to strive to become a hero. I prefer to use a hero who runs into something he or she can’t handle, something that an ordinary person might have no trouble with. If you’re really good and know it, you also know, on a subconscious level, that you’ll never find a situation that you can’t handle. If you *do* find a situation like that, you just aren’t prepared to cope with it. Makes for an interesting story, I tend to think.

What? Can anybody understand what she's on about here? I've read this a few times now and I keep second guessing what she means. Is it:
  • Someone who has what we would consider to be super powers learning to overcome a character flaw that is a pretty basic human ability? (e.g. Clarion)
  • A hero failing to deal with their weakness? (e.g. Superman trying to find a way to deal with kryptonite)
  • A conceited protagonist who overrates their own abilities getting their comeuppance? (a farce?!)

Sharon Green posted:

I have to say that my personal taste in characters is tired to death by the “young, inexperienced beginner” too many people use as major characters. That kind of character also seems to be part of the trend toward using the helpless as role models, and I’m afraid I can’t connect to it. I like to see people who already know what they’re doing tackling a bad situation, not someone groping through the time making it up as she/he goes. The second *can* be entertaining and riveting, but most writers don’t seem to be able to handle the crossover. Does that make any sense?

Okay, so she just described the James Bond/Sherlock Holmes kind of stories, where the character doesn't grow, but the fun is reading about cool and/or interesting people doing awesome/badass things. I can respect that. If this is what she's trying to pull off in The Blending books though, I think her cool-o-meter is hella broken.

Green on her soapbox about violence

That quote I initially posted isn't the only one. I snipped out the key bit but this next thing is worth posting in full because

Sharon Green posted:

I think people will just go back to their old ways of looking at things as September 11 fades in their memories. Too many people still think that trouble will disappear if you ignore it, which is what made the trouble to begin with. But fearful people don’t understand that point, and truthfully they shouldn’t have to. It’s something that fighters ought to be facing, not non-fighters, but we have too many non-fighters around these days due to the lack of wars in our own country. Are you aware of the fact that after a war more boy babies are born than girl babies? It’s an established fact; nature is trying to correct the imbalance that death in war brings. It’s my theory that the same happens with fighter and non-fighter kids. If there are wars, more fighter babies are born. If there are no wars, more non-fighter babies are born. Since we’ve had no wars in our country in a very long time, the number of fighters in our population is way down. September 11 will likely change that, but not in time to do much good. Seeing tv commercials against “violence” gets me very upset. The various stars come on and state that there’s never a need for violence. Excuse me? What world do they live in? You might want to hope that violence will never be necessary, but in the real world violence is always there and waiting to pounce. The only way to cope with that is to be prepared, not pretend it will never happen. I raised my sons (fighters, like me) with the attitude that’s proper for fighters: you don’t start it, but if someone else does the starting you do your best to finish it. One more comment and I’ll get off the soapbox. Isn’t it about time that people were told the truth about school – and “otherwhere” – bullies? Bullies aren’t fighters; they’re non-fighters who are being hurt elsewhere, probably at home. If you hurt a fighter kid, that kid will get even with you even if he or she has to wait until you sleep or he/she grows up. If you hurt a non-fighter child, that child is too afraid of you to do anything to you, so he/she looks for someone weaker to pass the hurt along to. A true fighter will never pick on a non-fighter; there’s no challenge in besting someone who doesn’t want to fight in the first place, and the only name you get from that isn’t a nice one. If we make sure to raise our fighter kids in the proper way, no non-fighter will have to fear them. Right now our fighter kids are being penalized for being what they were born to be, and that’s a recipe for trouble if there ever was one. As far as my writing goes, it will stay the same as it’s always been. I’ve been on this soapbox for quite some time.

Leng fucked around with this message at 11:07 on Aug 12, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006



quote:

CHAPTER FOUR

TAMRISSA DOMON—FIRE MAGIC

My mother said, "Stop being stubborn, Tamrissa. You will marry again, since your father means to find you another suitable match as soon as you're home again. Which will probably be in less than a week."

"Meaning you don't expect me to pass the test for High," I responded without turning. "And what do you mean another suitable match? The first was a disaster, and I refuse to go through something like that again."

Alright, I'll give you this one, Green. Tamrissa's a survivor of domestic violence and an abusive marriage.

quote:

"The first was a matter of business, girl," she said slowly and distinctly, clearly speaking to someone she considered unfortunately simple minded. "Gimmis wanted you badly enough that he was willing to leave his business interests to your father as long as there were no offspring from the match. It took gold to buy the information from the man's physician, but we did find out that there would be no children from the marriage, nor would it be long before we had our legacy. It all worked out just as it was supposed to, and now your father is probably the most well-diversified merchant in all of Gan Garee."

"Well, good for him!"  I said with very false enthusiasm, finally turning to look at her where she sat. "And all it took to make it happen was throwing me to the wolves. But let's not forget I'll be rewarded for my sacrifice. Now that Father has what he wants, I've earned the privilege of letting him do it to me all over again. Well, guess what? You two may be ready for seconds, but I refuse to participate. This house belonged to my late husband, and since it isn't part of the business interests it now belongs to me. You and Father can find some other fool to sacrifice to his ambition."

"Why, Tamrissa, why do you refuse to learn?" my mother demanded wearily, briefly rubbing at her eyes. "This house doesn't have to be part of the business interests for your father to claim it, which he fully intends to do. This is an excellent neighborhood, and the house will bring in a tidy sum in gold when he sells it. That means you can't stay here, and we won't see a daughter of ours living on the street. You will come home to us, and I won't hear any further nonsense."

"Oh, won't you," I said in a growl, interrupting her preparations to stand. "To you it's all nonsense, and you don't care to hear any more of it? What a shame, since I'm really anxious to show off what I learned during the two years of this 'marriage.'"

"Why do you always insist on making a scene?" she began in exasperation, light eyes clearly showing her annoyance. "You know that in the end you have to obey your father, the law says so. You tried to refuse the first time, and how far did that get you?"

Remember when I said I think Green's theme for these books is probably "raise your children with love" or something like that? This is why. 3/5 of the protagonists had abusive childhoods, and the vast majority of the antagonists are the same. The grand question that's posed at the end of Book 8 is "how do we ensure we don't damage our future generation in the same way as the nobility" and it is literally answered "with the power of love which is required to achieve the state of Full Blending".

quote:

"It got me to the point of thinking," I countered, a response that startled her. "I found myself wondering why the law was on Father's side even without his paying a bribe, so I looked into it. What the law really says is that I'm required to obey Father as long as I live under his roof. And since that doesn't happen to be the case any longer, we now understand why Father intends to claim this house. I'm sure it would bring him a tidy sum in gold, but even more to the point it would bring me back under his roof. Well, the two of you can forget about that, because it isn't going to happen."

"And how do you intend to keep it from happening?" she asked, back to the usual calm she showed the world. "Your father and I had children for a purpose, not to give in to their every wish and whim. You'll do exactly as you're told, just as your sisters have, or you'll find out what true suffering is. This wasn't the most profitable match your father could have found for you, but concern kept him from accepting any of the others. If you give him even one more bit of trouble, the next time that concern will be absent."

"Concern," I echoed, almost beyond speech—and starting to feel chilled. "You two don't know the meaning of the word. Which is why I've already arranged to put in my own claim to this house. If Father tries to do the same he'll have to plead his case in court, where I'll get to have my say. The law is clear there too, so tell him to save his bribes. The judges won't be able to find against me no matter how much he pays them."

"What an innocent you are," she said with the vilest amusement I'd ever seen, then she rose to her feet. "The law first supports the good friends of the court, one of whom is your father. This house will be taken away from you, and then you will be destitute. When your father offers to take you back into his care, the law will insist that you go. There are enough paupers on the indigent rolls that keeping someone off them is considered a public service. My advice to you is to withdraw your claim to this house as quickly as possible, and then apologize to your father and me. If you refuse, don't complain about what happens."

And with that she sailed out of the room, heading for the front door. In two years' time this was only her second visit, the first being when she and Father came as guests to my first anniversary party. Gimmis had still been fairly active then, so they hadn't enjoyed the party or stayed very long. Now that my husband was dead, their mood had improved considerably.

Other remarks aside, the whole conversation (979 words) is written like a transcript of an argument where both characters only have one gear. There's no arc to the interaction. We start in the middle of the argument, with Tamrissa wielding Facts and Logic and her mother Avrina Torgar (who is not named until Book 5 despite appearing several times on screen) wielding Guilt Trips and Threats. There is no subtext in the conversation and neither character attempts to use different techniques to achieve their aims. This is how most conversations between every parent/surrogate parent figure and adult child will go for the rest of these books.

In the middle of this conversation we get a random info dump about how the (corrupt) legal system and the social security system works. None of this information is unique to the world, nor does any of it reveal character. It will eventually become plot-relevant and re-explained in Tamrissa's second chapter (Chapter 9) so there's no reason to introduce it here.

Brace yourselves for another 902 word conversation that will basically recap the same points above, by having Tamrissa explain her thought process out loud:

quote:

"She's gone," Warla hurried in to say, obviously having waited until the door closed behind our "guest." "What are you going to do, Dama?"

I walked over to the chair my mother had been in, smoothed my skirt, and then sat. The chair had belonged to Gimmis, and was the only really comfortable one in the whole sitting room. What a surprise that Mother had made straight for it as soon as she entered the room.

"I refuse to simply roll over and play dead," I muttered, rubbing at my arms to chase away the cold trying to cover me. "I'd rather be dead than give in to them, so what have I got to lose? I'm going ahead with the plans just as I told her I would."

"But how can you?" Warla protested, wide-eyed and all but wringing her hands. "You heard what the Dama your mother said, you won't win. Why make things worse by fighting if you know you can't win?"

"But I don't know that," I countered, forcibly pulling myself together. "What my mother said and what the truth is don't necessarily have to be the same thing. A successful merchant always acts as if he's telling the truth, and most customers will take his word for it without finding out for sure. That's what my father says, and my mother has been hearing it for much longer than I have."

Hearing it and following it, I added to myself. Father had always chuckled and called Mother his best student, but I'd never really understood the comment until a few minutes ago.

"What if she is telling the truth?" Warla ventured, still looking frightened and unsure. "You could end up being sent back to them, and then you'd have to obey."

"Now, that's something that isn't true at all," I said, reaching for the cup of tea my mother hadn't even glanced at when Warla served it to her. "Two years ago they talked me into believing I had no choice, but I could have refused to obey. It would have meant a lot of trouble and pain, but I got those anyway. I saved myself nothing by obeying, so I won't make the mistake a second time. Even if it comes to that."

Our first instance of tea drinking on the page! Also, it would have been a lot more interesting to have Tamrissa confront Avrina with these points in the previous conversation instead of talking about it to Warla.

quote:

"You're still hoping you'll pass the tests for High practitioner," Warla said after a moment, a fairly safe guess on her part. "The Dama your mother never said anything about that, even when you asked her."

"That's because she knows how these things work," I answered sourly after sipping at the tea. "Now that someone has noticed that I qualify for Middle strength, I have to test for High. But they send people here from all over the Empire to do the same thing, and there are only so many positions as High awarded. You have to be absolutely tops, and even then you might have to wait until a position is vacated. But if you are waiting, there are certain protections you enjoy until you move into the position—as long as no one comes along to knock you out of line."

In this world, the majority of the populace are magically talented to varying degrees to the point where the magical talent is basically equivalent to any other ability (e.g. artistic, athletic, etc). Taking any of those real world analogies, it doesn't make sense that you would be testing your entire population for their level of ability. Assuming the presence of a free market, people will naturally self select into their level of ability anyway, and the market will pay them accordingly. The only reason testing is done is to confirm that people actually meet minimum ability requirements (e.g. licensing, auditioning, competitive tryouts/qualification races, basic fitness requirements for the armed forces, etc). Besides, there are guild talents whose entire ability revolves around rating how strong normal talents are just by sensing them. What does the testing prove in addition to the guild rating?! (by the way, we'll never find out what the distribution of magical talent in the population is like)

The other thing that doesn't make sense here is Tamrissa's belief that "there are only so many positions as High awarded". The stronger your talent, the more you can accomplish with it. Lorand was speculating about all the money he could make as a Middle just because he has a versatile talent. Running with this logic, a High would be exponentially more valuable to the Empire than a Middle, so they should want to find as many Highs as possible (which is the only reason for making testing of every Middle mandatory). Also, a High practitioner is a descriptor of how strong someone's ability is, not a position that is awarded?!

Spoilers for Chapter 24 and Book 4 because the above issues could be the result of poor structure and world building: the cast finds out that the purpose of testing is to enslave High talents and use them in the secret Gandistran army which is merrily invading, looting, pillaging and raping its way through Astinda and Gracely (which is stupidity in itself - what Empire is dumb enough to initiate open war on two separate fronts at the same time?!).

On that note, I can't figure out whether Green was attempting to shove a mystery into these books or not. If I squint very hard and look at this sideways, I think you could make the argument that there are some elements of a mystery plot here. I'm using "mystery" in the sense that Sanderson describes Mistborn as containing a mystery sub-plot (The Lord Ruler's secrets).

quote:

"It all sounds so . . . conditional and uncertain," Warla fretted as she came over to freshen the tea in my cup. "If so few positions as High are available, why do they keep sending people here from all over? Wouldn't it be better to just leave them where they are?"

"And risk leaving some supposed Middle out there who's actually stronger than their seated Highs?" I shook my head with a very unamused smile. "They're not that stupid, not when there are people around who don't like the way this Empire is run. One of those unhappy people could conceivably put together a Blending that would cause serious trouble before it was stopped, so why take the chance?"

OK I need help with this one. What does "a very unamused smile" look like? Is it one of those fake smiles that doesn't reach the eyes, a grimace, a smirk, a pulling back of the lips, a quirk of the corner of her mouth? I don't know about you guys but I (and other people I interact with) do not smile when we are not amused.

We'll see the Seated Highs (one for each aspect) in action in Chapter 16 and in Book 3. Despite this, I still have no idea what duties they have for the Empire and how those differ to the Seated Blending.

quote:

"That means they're doing it for themselves rather than for the people involved," Warla observed with a frown. "That doesn't sound very nice, but—What happens to the people who don't qualify for High? There must be an awful lot of them."

"That's something I don't know," I admitted, having already worried at the question myself. "I tried to find out, but people talk around the details or simply refuse to answer. The worst of the applicants are allowed to go home, I think, but the rest? There's a good chance I may find out firsthand."

Hello not-so-subtle foreshadowing!

quote:

"And you still intend to try?" Warla exclaimed, back to being really upset. "I don't understand you, Dama. Wouldn't it be so much easier just to apologize to your parents and do as they tell you? Maybe this time your father will find you a husband you really like."

"Of course he will," I agreed dryly. "Unless there's another old sadist who wants me as much as my father wants the man's business interests. A lot of them won't even care that I'm no longer a virgin, just as long as they can do anything they please to me. Warla, go and find out if dinner will be served on time tonight."

Warla parted her lips, probably to remind me that dinner was always served on time, then she got it. I wanted no more conversation from her, and hadn't simply ordered her to leave because I don't believe in treating innocent people like that. She smiled tremulously, curtsied her agreement, then left without another word.

This last exchange is a complete waste of space, since we already know this from Avrina's earlier threats.

quote:

Once she was gone I took a deep breath, needing it to free myself from the tendrils of helplessness Warla always spun all around herself—and around those near her. If I hadn't known better I would have thought it was a talent, but none of the aspects covered such complete readiness to surrender to anything at any and all times.

Um, actually, manipulation of minds and emotions is the realm of Spirit magic, so...

quote:

Warla's born aspect was Water, which helped to make her a good companion and lady's maid. The baths she drew were always the perfect temperature, a pot of tea never grew too cold to drink, and ice was always available when it was wanted.

Note the comment about the pot of tea. Spoilers for Water magic in the rest of the series: we will see Vallant conjure ice several times; we'll even see him sense that water is hot enough enough to boil people alive, but we will never see any Water magic user on screen increase the temperature of existing water (something that appears to be the province of Fire magic users only)

quote:

But there were servants with other aspects able to do the same things, and Warla had been engaged originally by my husband rather than by me. He must have wanted her to teach me the right attitudes, and her plainness had kept him out of her bed and saved her from what I'd gone through-After my husband died everyone in the house had expected me to send her away, but that was the last thing I'd do. I needed her horrible example constantly in front of my eyes, to show me what I could become if I ever let them have their way again.

Them. I'd learned from acquaintances that most people don't think about their parents like that, lumped together without personality and always on the opposite and enemy side of the line. No one quite understood why I had trouble controlling my temper whenever it became necessary to discuss them, but I found it equally impossible to understand other viewpoints. Your mother came to tend your house and children when you were sick in bed? Why? What did she expect to get out of something like that? She didn't expect to get anything? She did it because she loves you? Sure, right, tell me another one.

I hate this journal device so much, because it lends itself way too easily to telling instead of showing. This is actually something that Tamrissa would probably write in a journal. It sticks out because the rest of this chapter is written as a first person narrative, not as a journal. Ugh.

quote:

I got out of the chair and began to pace, more disturbed than I'd admitted to Warla. I don't need a mirror to tell me what desirable merchandise I am, with reddish-blond hair and violet eyes, an incredibly beautiful face and a lush figure. Every man I meet seems to want me from the first glance, especially the old, rich ones with no conscience or sense of right and wrong. At almost twenty I was getting on in years, but even aging didn't seem able to kill the attraction. My parents had no intentions of letting me out of their clutches until I became really useless to them, so it was either give in at once and completely, or get ready for the dirtiest fight of my life.

Here's our first in-text confirmation of how old these protagonists are - it looks like I had aged them by a couple of years in my previous post, oops. Tamrissa is nineteen at the beginning of this book. From Chapter 6 onwards, I'll start including timeline indicators as well once the main cast have assembled in one location. If you're curious, Book 1 (not counting the first five chapters and the prologue) takes place over 6 days. Yep, you read it correctly. 6 days. Green tells us every single thing that happens to all five protagonists during those 6 days.

Tamrissa's own description of herself is also cringeworthy. I hate it for two reasons:

1) I always hate characters trying to describe themselves (Tamora Pierce, an author that I normally adore, wrote the entire Beka Cooper trilogy using the same journal device. I was incredibly turned off by the chapter where Beka describes herself for reasons, not in the least because she kept referring to her breasts as "peaches"). I feel like people generally don't make a particular note of their own appearance or physical features unless there's some event that's causing them to be extra conscious of it - people mostly notice how OTHER people look. I don't think that applies here; it's just using Tamrissa's past trauma as an excuse to tell readers that she's super hot.

2) No nineteen year old girl I have ever known would describe her own face as "incredibly beautiful" or her own figure as "lush". You think about your specific features and - if this fantasy world has the same body shaming and body image issues as our world - your brain runs a constant commentary on how the shape/placement of each feature does or does not conform to your understanding of society's ideal standard of female beauty (or someone else you know/a celebrity). This applies even to girls and women who other people would see as an embodiment of female beauty! This is a description that's clearly been written for the male gaze.

quote:

So I had to think about the fight, since giving in was completely out of the question. I did have a couple of weapons I'd never had the nerve to use, but two years in the hands of a brute either kills your nerve completely or toughens it to the point of iron. If Gimmis hadn't become incapacitated when he did, I wouldn't have just stood there letting him die in his own good time. I'd been no more than a step away from doing it myself and at once when he fell to that final illness, and the memory of my state of mind still haunted my dreams. If anyone ever pressed me that hard again. . . .

Just casually dropping the fact that Tamrissa was plotting murder. Because the only options were either "stay in an abusive relationship" or straight up homicide.

quote:

The house abruptly became stifling, and I just had to get out for some air. The street would be almost empty at that time of the afternoon, but the possibility of meeting even one person I knew was more of a chance than I cared to take. I couldn't have handled polite conversation if my life had depended on it, so I left the sitting room and hurried all the way to the back of the house and out to the gardens. Our gardens weren't as large as some, but they had a ten foot stone wall surrounding them.

This is the most boring description of a rich person's house and I don't care at all. I wish Green had just stuck to something like "I hurried to the gardens in order to escape the house and the stifling weight of its unpleasant memories."

quote:

It was possible to make myself slow down once I'd gone a short distance along the flagstoned path, but not because I'd managed to calm myself. On the inside my emotions still raged around, which meant it was a good thing Gimmis was dead. The agitation kept me from paying attention to the thorns on the bushes, and the catches and pulls they caused in my skirts would have had my husband reaching for his belt. A girl too fuzzy-headed to care properly for her clothing needed to be taught better, he'd always said.

And that brought on all the other memories, mostly of the times I'd run into the garden to hide. That had been right at the beginning, when I'd still thought it would be possible to avoid whatever my husband wanted to do to me. Once I learned the futility of that hope I stopped running, and simply crept out to be alone once he was through doing whatever he'd decided to. The time came when I also got past the creeping stage, and then I used the garden to brood in. It was also where I first decided to kill Gimmis. . . .

Gimmis was a wife-beating bastard and you're suffering from PTSD, we get it. I am not emotionally invested enough in you to want to explore this much of your inner turmoil in your first viewpoint chapter. Save it for later in your character arc, please.

quote:

When my breath started to come in harder and harder gasps, I finally admitted it had been a mistake to come out here. Even having to engage in polite conversation with a neighbor wouldn't have been as bad as that, so I turned around to go back. I couldn't have taken more than two steps when I felt the sudden stirring of magic . . . my kind of magic . . . and then a really large fireball appeared. It hovered between me and the house, and then it stopped hovering and began to move toward me.

Round 4...ARE YOU GUYS READY?!?!??!?!?

quote:

"What sort of stupidity is this?" I demanded out loud, certain that whoever had created the fireball could hear me. I also stopped it before it could reach me, of course, but the mental command I gave for it to disappear wasn't obeyed. Someone with a good deal of strength had created the thing and set it practically in my lap, and banishing it wasn't going to be possible.

And that managed to focus every bit of anger and fear and hatred and uncertainty inside me onto the latest intruder into my life. This whole thing could very well be something done at my parents' urging, to show me how futile my hopes were in regard to passing the tests for High. You'll never escape us, the crackling flames seemed to say, not until we've burned every bit of use and humanity out of you. Even your talent won't free you, not ever, never, never. . . .

"I'll show you," I whispered, so lost to insanity that I actually spoke to the flames. "I will get free, I will, I will!"

And then I reached to the fireball with my own talent, causing a second fireball to come into being around the first-Fight fire with fire the old adage advised, and that was exactly what I would do. But not in any ordinary sense, oh no, nothing ordinary for this girl. Brute force combined with exquisite finesse, yes, that's what would do it.

I seem to remember muttering darkly to myself while I spread my own flames completely around the intruder flames. Encasing someone else's creation wasn't supposed to be possible for two people using the same aspect, but I was in no condition to remember that. Half the time it was my husband whom I surrounded with flames, and the rest of the time it was my parents. I was intent on showing them all, proving that they would no longer be allowed to do as they pleased with me.

And once the intruder flames were completely surrounded, I caused my own flames to burn hotter and hotter and hotter. Only a crazy woman would try to burn flames, but there was something else I did as well. With my flames using up all the air around the intruder, there was nothing left for it to burn in. The hotter my flames grew, the fainter its became, until there was nothing but a shrunken shadow left inside my inferno. I waited until even the shadow had disappeared, extinguished my flame and the small fires my efforts had started in the surrounding garden, then stumbled to a nearby stone bench. Once I'd collapsed onto it I began to shake, buried under the memory of what I'd done. The madness had disappeared with the intruder, and all that was left was unadorned terror.

And here's the leap into crazy. Does this mean we're getting the story via an unreliable narrator? Or are we just supposed to buy that Tamrissa only experiences a one-off fit of insanity? Because for the rest of the books, she's pretty much the "strong fiery redhead" who of course is a Fire magic talent and her anger issues are a source of strength and not mental instability.

Sidenote: the bit about "encasing someone else's creation wasn't supposed to be possible" is emblematic of how Green handles writing magic. She just introduces random limitations and then immediately shows one of the characters breaking said limitation. There's no rhyme or reason for the limitation, nor the character's ability to get around the limitation, they just do and even they don't know how they do it or why it works.

quote:

"And that's what you can look forward to if they manage to get possession of you again," I whispered from out of the terror, knowing it to be the truth. "You'll go mad and use your talent to kill them, and then you'll be sentenced to the Demon Caverns for the rest of your life. Everyone left alive in the Caverns is mad, and no one ever escapes. You have to stay out of their hands, so you have to pass those tests."

She's narrating to herself now? Also, in the rest of this book, this terrifying destination is referred to as the "Deep Caverns" and the term "Demon Caverns" is never used again.

quote:

A lot of have-to's for a woman already half crazy, but what choice did I have? None that I could live with, none that anyone else involved would live through. I had to stay free no matter what, had to . . . had to. . . .

Uhhh, you said you were full crazy before.

quote:

That was harder than I'd thought it would be, and I'm glad it's behind me now. I'm not usually that intense, not out where others can see it, at least, but I'm supposed to tell the truth in this narrative. The others insist I was as biting as my flames when we first met, but I'm sure they're just exaggerating. Or mistaken, which is perfectly possible. You see, it all began with a plan and a misunderstanding, when—

You couldn't resist you could? Also, you're interrupting your own pointless narration now? You've established that you're an unreliable narrator, and your personality is downright grating so I'm pretty sure you're wrong.

quote:

Oh, yes, I have forgotten somebody, haven't I? The last of our five, the arrogant Vallant Ro. Well, if you insist. . .



Summary:
We get a glimpse of Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, which I can only infer is large as its staffed with servants, has gardens and would sell for a large sum of gold, because there is no description of the actual house or its interior. Tamrissa herself is a mentally unstable survivor of domestic violence suffering from severe PTSD as a result of two years in an abusive marriage on top of an abusive childhood and has not just "anger issues", but "murderous rage issues". Exact same beats as the previous two chapters and no forward momentum on the story.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 5
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 2.5
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 3
COACH RIDES: 3
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 5
"CLIFFHANGERS": 3
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 5
TEA DRINKING: 1

Possible fixes:
Same comments as Chapters 2 and 3. Nothing new to add here.

StrixNebulosa
Feb 14, 2012

You cheated not only the game, but yourself.
But most of all, you cheated BABA



This thread might be the push I've needed to sell my set of these books. The art is great but I don't need to own it.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




quote:

I got out of the chair and began to pace, more disturbed than I'd admitted to Warla. I don't need a mirror to tell me what desirable merchandise I am, with reddish-blond hair and violet eyes, an incredibly beautiful face and a lush figure. Every man I meet seems to want me from the first glance, especially the old, rich ones with no conscience or sense of right and wrong. At almost twenty I was getting on in years, but even aging didn't seem able to kill the attraction.

"Describe my body while looking in a mirror" is a straight-up amateur porn trope. She hit every note except stating her cup size.

Also, isn't Warla (book 5 spoilers) a Sight talent faking her confidence issues and low ability in Water? Or was Rion's girlfriend the only one to be hiding in plain sight like that?

StrixNebulosa posted:

This thread might be the push I've needed to sell my set of these books. The art is great but I don't need to own it.

Does reading this thread count as a completed book on Goodreads?

Leng
May 13, 2006



StrixNebulosa posted:

This thread might be the push I've needed to sell my set of these books. The art is great but I don't need to own it.

I wish you good luck!

wizzardstaff posted:

Also, isn't Warla (book 5 spoilers) a Sight talent faking her confidence issues and low ability in Water? Or was Rion's girlfriend the only one to be hiding in plain sight like that?

Close. Warla is actually a Water talent who was raised in the hidden community - they use Sight magic to identify the non-Sight magic talented children born to parents in that community who wouldn't be willing to live in secret and give them up for adoption. She is deliberately faking in front of Tamrissa. Naran's mother was an Air magic user and forged a guild certificate for Naran classifying her as an extremely weak Air magic talent.

Edit: that probably could be a way more interesting story. That or a prologue from Naran's perspective, a year before the main events begin.

Leng fucked around with this message at 14:37 on Aug 12, 2020

StrixNebulosa
Feb 14, 2012

You cheated not only the game, but yourself.
But most of all, you cheated BABA



wizzardstaff posted:

Does reading this thread count as a completed book on Goodreads?

I'm going with a no as it's too much of a grey area for me, but also I don't care if anyone else wants to do it - I can't throw stones, quite a few of the "books" I've read this year have been 100 page novellas or garbage paranormal romance novels that barely count as books (but are SO much fun and good for when I need to turn off my brain and let the stress go).

TheGreatEvilKing
Mar 28, 2016



How was this guy abusing Tamrissa if she was constantly setting him on fire?

I disagree with your take on worldbuilding as I find modern fantasy gets too deep into it rather than actually focusing on the world and characters. No one cares about the currency exchange system or whatever, the world is only important insomuch as it enables the story. Tolkien had a developed world, sure, but really only so he could tell the story he wanted to tell. We don't get Elrond infodumping on elven anatomy or whatever.

Leng
May 13, 2006



TheGreatEvilKing posted:

How was this guy abusing Tamrissa if she was constantly setting him on fire?
It's a nonsensical plot relevant point and is specifically called out as her character flaw by the antagonists later in the early books - basically she never tried to set him on fire and never even threatened to do so. The in-world explanation is that there are laws against magic use/harming others with magical talent.

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

I disagree with your take on worldbuilding as I find modern fantasy gets too deep into it rather than actually focusing on the world and characters. No one cares about the currency exchange system or whatever, the world is only important insomuch as it enables the story. Tolkien had a developed world, sure, but really only so he could tell the story he wanted to tell. We don't get Elrond infodumping on elven anatomy or whatever.

I don't think we disagree? Maybe I should have elaborated more in my previous post. By definition, fantasy is set in a universe where the fundamental laws of existence are different to what we believe those laws are in our universe. It follows then that because the fundamental laws are different, they will impact the setting (physical, cultural, etc) and therefore also have an influence on the characters, and therefore the story.

There's a bare minimum of world building that needs to be done so that I, as a reader, feel like I have escaped into a different universe (because if that isn't actually important to the story, then why aren't you writing in some other genre?) and that I don't get kicked out of the story. Tolkien is clearly overkill, and Sanderson and Erikson probably are too. Sara Douglass, JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyers, Cassandra Clare, Will Wight are a level down again, where they've done enough world building that their worlds feel unique and have a reasonable amount of depth. Melanie Cellier (self published author of "girl holding magic in her hand" Spoken Mage YA fantasy novels) is probably where I'd put the baseline.

Green on the other hand hasn't done any thinking about her world whatsoever and it shows. It feels so flat and thin that any time you blink, or read the next sentence, or turn the page, you get thrown out of the story immediately. She has made one fundamental alteration to the laws of existence ("everyone can do elemental magic") and if she had spent just an hour brainstorming the implications that would have had on the development of human society, it would have made a noticeable difference and improved the reading experience.

TheGreatEvilKing
Mar 28, 2016



I think where we disagree is that I don't actually value escaping into a different universe as long as the underlying story is good and well written and your examples really aren't that. Sanderson has a problem where most of his conflicts feel less like a clash of ideas or people and more like a D&D party triumphing because they carefully read the Player's Handbook and found the revised spell rules (redrawing the sigils in Elantris, Vin's realization that the Lord Ruler multiclassed Mistborn/Feruchemy) and the end result is to take the fantastical out and stake it.

I don't remember much of Erikson besides people with Proper N'o'u'n based magic powers fighting over...something that was vaguely implied to be puppets by the Gods a la Homer. I remember feeling distinctly unimpressed by the edgelord crap like the Children of the Dead Seed and waiting unsuccessfully for Erikson to get to a point that never arrived. I would criticize it by comparing it to a D&D game put to paper, but that's exactly what he did!

I think your most meaningful criticisms of Green's work come when you ask what the story is supposed to be about and you just kind of awkwardly conclude that maybe Green meant to talk about how child abuse is bad?

Leng
May 13, 2006



That's very interesting! Out of curiosity, what are your favorite fantasy novels/authors? I'm curious to understand what you consider to be a good underlying story that is well written. And I'm curious as well what it is about fantasy that is appealing to you if escape to another world is not one of the draws for you?

Based on what you've posted so far, I'm guessing you like deeper, more literary stuff? How do you find Janny Wurtz for example? I really loved the collaboration she did with Raymond Feist on the Empire trilogy (I have the trade paperback books which I have read so often the spines are starting to go) and I cannot wait until she finishes her massive epic, The Wars of Light and Shadow. I've also loved all of Trudi Canavan's Kyralia books and The Age of the Five trilogy. I hear J.V. Jones is back in action working to finish writing the last book in the Sword of Shadows series - I've also loved her books as well. The world building in all of these books are excellent as well.

Sanderson's earlier works were definitely rougher than his recent ones, but his entire philosophy is to tell stories where the characters use the magic to solve problems. According to his own principles, that means he needs to explain enough of how the magic works, otherwise the way the problems are resolved aren't satisfying. He probably takes this to an extreme, in that Sanderson writes magic as science. Sanderson owns that the way he writes magic means there's less of a sense of wonder because the rules are very clear. For the record, that's something that I really like personally (I'll confess to being a min/maxer when playing games), though I can understand how it would be a turn off for others. You mentioned your beef with Elantris and Mistborn, and everybody complains about the Szeth prologue in Stormlight - I am really curious to get your thoughts on his Stormlight Archive books, Emperor's Soul and Skyward, which are probably my favorites.

Erikson had quite a few key moments in Malazan that hit me pretty hard (Tavore's arc for me was a killer) - my main complaints about him were that he had way too many characters and the focus abruptly switched from one set of characters to another half way through the series in a way that was pretty frustrating. But I loved that it was hard work to read the books because he just dropped me right into a fully realized world and went straight into it. The magic system was never explained; you had to try and piece it together from clues in the context and to this day there's parts of it that I have no idea what the rules are, but I've figured out enough of it for the pay offs plotwise to be satisfying.

PS: since you like the thematic stuff, I will make of point of trying to address that more in the Let's Read posts - be warned that because Green herself is totally unclear, there's really not a lot to unpack here. I may end up talking about what I would have dug into if I were writing it in the "Possible fixes" section instead.

Leng
May 13, 2006



quote:

CHAPTER FIVE

VALLANT RO—WATER MAGIC

There weren't many people in Port Entril—or any other Southern port—who didn't know the Ro family and their fleet of transports, and most of the ones who didn't were either drunk or children. Neither description fit the group on the dock, so Vallant wasn't surprised when they made a beeline for his ship as soon as the Sea Queen was docked. Then they got close enough for individuals to be recognized, and Vallant cursed under his breath. The man in the lead was his oldest brother Torrin, which had to mean trouble.

Torrin was first up the gangway, but the group behind him wasn't far behind. The deck was, as usual, a madhouse, with seamen trying to batten down for port and getting the cargo offloaded, and passengers clutching their belongings while trying to debark. Torrin and his escort made an effort to ignore it all, but they were swimming upriver against a stronger current than they knew. Vallant leaned a shoulder against the deckhouse, folded his arms, and watched their approach with open amusement.

Is it just me, or is Green finally getting better after 5 chapters? This is probably the best opening paragraphs she's written so far. The prose isn't great and the two paragraphs could have been condensed into a single succinct paragraph but I get a sense of who Vallant is as a character: he's the captain of a ship, the Sea Queen, and he's the annoying troublemaking younger son in a famous (and therefore rich) shipping family. Well done Green for finally doing something right!

If you couldn't tell by the pointless Tamrissa narration at the end of Chapter 4, Vallant is her love interest. Obviously with Tamrissa being the main protagonist, Vallant is supposed to be super valiant and there was obviously also no way you can tell that from his name, not at all.

quote:

"I'm glad you're havin' such a good time, little brother," Torrin growled when he finally fought his way close enough to Vallant. "Too bad the fun has to end—and so abruptly— but you can't say you didn't ask for it. Get your things together and start movin'. Captain Vish will take over from here."

Green's habit of writing too many words in dialogue continues. Only the last two sentences are needed here.

quote:

"The hell he will," Vallant answered, no longer amused as he straightened. "The Queen is my vessel, and another man captains her over my dead body."

"Right now I wouldn't much mind arrangin' that," Torrin countered, his expression showing he wasn't joking. "And Daddy would probably name me sole heir if I did. He's been chewin' walls for the past week, which hasn't done his health any good. He wanted to come down here to meet you, but none of us would let him. Havin' the head of your family arrested for murder can be embarrassin'."

Is it weird for anyone else that a grown man calls his father "Daddy"?

quote:

"What in hell are you talkin' about?" Vallant demanded, so out of patience that he forgot to watch his tone. The Master-of-the-vessel snap that made him a captain no one talked back to caused Torrin and the others to flinch, even that fool Vish. Vish the Fish, most seamen called him. "Why in every blazing blue hell would Daddy be angry at me? I think you're tryin' to cod me, Torrin, and if you are—"

Oh wow, both of you do that. Right. Moving on.

quote:

"drat it, watch your mouth, Val!" Torrin hissed with a glance at the gaggle behind him, and Vallant finally noticed that there was a woman in their midst. She wasn't bad looking, especially with that faint blush now in her cheeks, but this wasn't the time for women.

Vallant, you rear end. Stop objectifying women. I know, I know, this was written in a different time period. Still!

And Torrin, seriously? Don't be a patronizing dick to women. I know there's a stereotype about sailors having filthy curses but "blazing blue hell" doesn't exactly qualify as one, and even if it did, I'm sure she's heard a lot worse.

quote:

"Answer my questions, big brother," Vallant ordered, this time using the tone of command deliberately. "Tell me what's goin' on, and why you're trailin' a pack of lubbers."

Vish bristled up at that and jutted out his bearded chin, but everyone managed to ignore him.

White people with siblings, how often you guys refer to each other by your relationship rather than using first names (or nicknames)? I'm Asian so if this were an English translation of Asian characters (or characters whose fictional culture is inspired by Asian culture) it would make perfect sense. But after a decade or two of living in a Western country, I'm pretty sure this is not normally the case for Caucasians/Americans.

quote:

"Vallant, you're supposed to be on your way to Gan Garee!" Torrin answered with exasperation, but without any more bush-beating or hesitation. "It's the law, little brother, and you know how Daddy feels about the law. No child of his will ever break it and stay a child of his, not while there's an ounce of breath left in his body."

"You can't be serious," Vallant said with a frown, finally understanding. "I have no interest in testin' for High, and I told those fools that. I'm a seaman and captain of my own vessel, and that's all I want to be. Now take this pack and get off my deck."

"Val, you can't refuse to test!" Torrin said slowly and forcefully, clearly ignoring the way some of his followers started to turn away in obedience to Vallant's orders. "It doesn't matter whether or not you want to be High, the law says every confirmed Middle has to test for it. There's a coach leavin' on the Gan Garee circuit in less than four hours. If you aren't on it voluntarily, you'll be arrested and put on it with an escort. And Daddy will have to pay expenses for the escort."

So glad to be getting all of this extra exposition about the law. It's not like we're already heard three variations of this already (well I suppose two, since Clarion's chapter implied it was for political reasons rather than a legal requirement).

quote:

Vallant immediately looked around at the people behind Torrin, and the way the two biggest men avoided his gaze said they were the ones who would be arresting and escorting. Or trying to do those things. That they weren't at all eager to be about it showed how wise they were, but that had nothing to do with the most important point. He hated the idea of leaving the sea even temporarily, but he'd rather die than bring trouble down on his family and disappoint his father.

This is a really roundabout and vague way of trying to characterize Vallant as a big man whom other big men don't want to mess with because he's badass. Why couldn't Vallant just have done something badass on screen? Oh, right, because in a Sharon Green book, we do telling, not showing.

quote:

"Tell Daddy I apologize, and that I didn't understand," he grudged at last in a growl without looking at Torrin. "I'll pack my belongin's and be on that coach, but get Vish off my deck. You supervise the offloadin', then put Palafar in temporary command of the Queen. He's been my second long enough to be in line for a captaincy of his own, and I can trust him to take care of the Queen until I get back."

Well that was anti-climatic.

Imagine instead, if we had gotten some description of the Sea Queen from Vallant's perspective, showing his deep love for the sea, his crew and his vessel. Then imagine if Torrin was either cut from the scene completely or combined with the character of Vish, and he started by trying to commandeer the Sea Queen, threatening Vallant with exaggerated tales of his father's wrath and the law enforcement goons. Or suppose Vallant is actually focused on doing captain things (finishing the last entry in the ship's logbook, musing about his next voyage, looking forward to being reunited to Mirra who we'll meet later in this chapter) and is interrupted by the sounds of a fist fight between Palafar and Vish. Vallant emerges from his cabin to see Palafar getting his rear end whipped, executes some flashy rope swings and fancy leaps over various railings to break up the fight. He discovers the facts, makes Palafar captain and leaves on his own terms.

This would establish Vallant as a badass fighter whose crew is stubbornly loyal to him, we would see him being commanding instead of being told he has a "Master-of-the-vessel snap", and we would also see that he feels a great deal of responsibility of holding up his family's good reputation and the drive to please his father. We won't see Torrin or Vish ever again, so nothing in the rest of the narrative is broken but Vallant ends up as a stronger character. If we wanted to make it even more complex, we could switch around the birth order for Vallant and Torrin, make Vallant the sole heir and Torrin the envious younger brother looking to prove himself enough to be made heir instead. It's pretty typical and not ground breaking but at least the characters would feel less flat.

Except if Green did introduce a serious conflict between the two brothers, a large part of what Vallant represents thematically would be lost because he's the only one from a stable, loving family that he wanted to be a part of. Sigh.

quote:

"Now you're bein' reasonable," Torrin enthused with a smile, then lost his smile as he looked around. "But if you don't mind, I'll put Palafar in charge of the offloadin' as well. It's been years since I last stood on a deck, and I haven't missed it. Not to mention that I never captained and everyone knows it. You go ahead, and I'll see to what needs seein' to."

Another hallmark of Green's writing - a character has already made a decision and then more words are spent having another character affirm that decision for no reason.

quote:

Vallant nodded and turned away toward his cabin, noticing that the woman seemed to want to say something, but he ignored her. Now he really wasn't in the mood for women, or much of anything else. He would be land-bound for weeks, and that was his version of a fate worse than death.

Vallant is a sexist drama king. If it's really a fate worse than death, then you should have stayed on your ship, your father's displeasure and the risk of being disowned be damned.

quote:

Not to mention the fact that he also had to collect a few things from his rooms above the tavern in town. And pay his quarterly rent. And say a temporary goodbye to Mirra. Mirra would hate seeing him rush off again right after getting in, but she would understand. She'd know he'd miss her as much as he'd miss the sea, and that he wasn't leaving out of choice.

Hang on. Is Port Entril not your home town? If you're a sailor in a pre-industrial world, do you not just take all your belongings with you and leave the rest at home? If you're a scion of a powerful and rich shipping family, shouldn't your patriarch have an expensive town house or a mansion somewhere near by where you would have rooms? Why are you even renting a room in a tavern, when you're always away on long voyages?

quote:

Torrin and his flock were gone by the time Vallant got back to the deck with his seabag, and Palafar had everything moving smoothly. Most of the crew came over to say goodbye, and Vallant made sure they understood that it was a temporary farewell. He would be back even if every blue demon in the universe tried to stand in his way. They seemed to know that already, so he left the Queen feeling slightly better.

Not so spoiler-y spoilers: he won't be back.

quote:

More than the usual number of people stopped him on the way to the tavern where he lived when in port, and he had to be polite for the sake of future business. But that meant there was less than two hours left to coach time when he finally reached the Roaring Sailor Tavern. Realizing that darkened his mood again, so much so that when he went upstairs and walked into the first of his rooms to find Mirra lounging in a chair, he barely glanced at her. Stomping on through to his bedchamber without a word seemed more to the point, but that didn't keep her from following.

Who are these random people stopping him to do business on the street? Doesn't Torrin look after all the merchant relationships since a) he's older and b) it's been years since he's actually been on deck on a Ro owned trading vessel?

Also are you permanently renting a suite of rooms at a tavern rather than just a room? How much does a captain's wage pay so you can afford leaving this expensive suite of rooms vacant for long periods of time? Is this meant to be a characterization thing, in that Vallant is such a Daddy's boy that he gets an additional allowance on top of his captain's wage and therefore the cost is insignificant to him?

quote:

"Vallant Ro, how could you just walk past me without a word?" she asked, sounding mortally wounded. "I've been waitin' here for half the day, waitin' for a gentleman, but if this is the way you're goin' to act, you can find another girl to wait for you. If you think you can find one to match me, that is."

We're supposed to find Mirra annoying, immature and grating, but I'm on her side at this moment. He's a sailor who's just returned home from who knows how long away and doesn't even acknowledge his fiancé when he sees her for the first time. Jerk. She's calling him out on this behavior and asserting her own self-worth - I think we're supposed to find this very self-absorbed and conceited but all that's going through my head is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EwViQxSJJQ

quote:

Vallant stopped pulling things out of a chest and took a deep breath, understanding that he'd made another mistake.

Damned right you did.

quote:

Mirra Agran's father had almost as profitable a shipping business as his own family did, but where he had four brothers and two sisters, Mirra was an only child. That had spoiled her to a large degree, but she'd never been able to walk all over Vallant the way she did with other men and she seemed to like that. She would force him to be stern with her, and then she would let him take her to bed—where she gave him an experience much like being in a skiff in a rainstorm. He probably never would find another woman filled with as much passion, not to mention one with the sort of business connections his daddy had suggested he encourage. . . .

Thanks for reducing a woman's value as a person entirely to her ability to give you sexual pleasure and her connections to wealth and power.

quote:

"Mirra, I really must apologize," he said as he turned, making no effort to smile at her. "Somethin' has happened, and I thought it best to spare a lady like you the weight of my mood. If you choose to leave at once, I'll certainly understand."

Or you could, you know, treat your partner with respect and consideration, and communicate with her so that you can support one another as a couple. But sure, you do sexist pig instead.

quote:

"What's happened?" she demanded, immediately dropping the great-lady-wounded attitude. "My daddy can probably help even if yours can't, so tell me right now."

"No one can help," he returned, just short of a growl. The idea that her daddy could do what his couldn't was usually amusing, but today ... "I have to go to Gan Garee to test for High, the law insists on it. If I don't make today's coach under my own power, they'll arrest me and put me on it. But it shouldn't be long before I'm back, so don't you worry your pretty head. And don't let any of my brothers move in on you while I'm gone."

Wow. So your dad thinks Mirra's got great connections and she brings up a legitimate suggestion that it's possible her father could help even if Vallant's father couldn't (plausible, since otherwise Vallant's father wouldn't be viewing her connections so favorably), and you laugh at her in your head the whole time. You have zero respect for your fiancé as a partner. You then follow this up with two insults regarding her intelligence and her depth of affection for you.

Mirra, you should immediately. Maybe Torrin would treat you better.

quote:

"No chance of that" she assured him with a sound of scorn. "They may all be as big and broad-shouldered as you, with the same platinum hair and light blue eyes, but none of them is like you on the inside. But I do recall tellin' you not to show off so much with your talent, and it seems I was right. If you hadn't brought yourself to their attention—"

Thanks, Green, for awkwardly shoehorning in a physical description of Vallant in there. Guys, I think she has a thing for blonds: all three male leads are big, broad shouldered men who are blond and blue eyed.

quote:

"Nonsense," he denied, turning back to his packing chore. "I said almost the same thing when that Guild fellow first mentioned goin' to the capitol, and he set me straight. Guild people check everyone on a regular basis until the age of twenty-five, since no one has been known to develop significant strength past that age. They don't have to find you doin' somethin' complicated, even waterin' a garden with your talent can be enough. It has somethin' to do with the feel of the strength you put into the smallest effort. . . None of us can tell, but Guild people can. And they do."

Okay, I'll give you that one Green - you actually answered a question I had from Jovvi's chapter.

quote:

"But this is awful!" Mirra wailed, suddenly projecting a sense of tragedy. "Your bein' away will delay your promotion from that awful boat to a proper office position, and that in turn may delay our weddin'. You told me yourself your daddy won't do anythin' for his sons that he doesn't do for his other employees, so—"

This is a legitimately good reason for Mirra to be upset. I don't know how military spouses do it. It is totally reasonable for a daughter of a shipping magnate to want her husband to be running the shipping business rather than risking his life on the sea and constantly away on long trading voyages.

quote:

"Mirra, where on earth did you get the idea that I mean to give up my ship?" Vallant demanded, turning back to her again. "The one time we discussed the idea, I told you I had no interest in takin' a promotion to the office. You seemed to understand, but now—"

"Oh, Vallant, don't be silly," she interrupted, peremptorily gesturing away what he'd said with a shake of her auburn-haired head. "You have no idea what's really good for you, but when the time comes I'll make sure you do the right thing. And the first of those things is that you can't take the coach today. I couldn't possibly be ready to go with you so quickly, but the day after tomorrow should be fine. You just tell them that, and then we can enjoy the rest of today the way we planned."

...oh, Mirra's just as bad as he is. Look Mirra, if you were intending to be secretly wearing the pants in the relationship when clearly Vallant thinks he does and he's a big strapping manly man who would not be okay with anything else, you need to be a little more subtle about it - you do not straight up pat him on the head and tell him to sit like a good dog.

quote:

Her smile had turned inviting with its usual promise and she stepped forward to press herself against him, but Vallant was suddenly repelled. She'd been playing a game with him all this time, pretending to obey him while planning their life together to suit only herself. Any number of people considered him high-handed, but he'd never once tried to force a decision on her about something that concerned the two of them. That was the reason he'd told her he'd be remaining at sea right from the beginning, to keep from hiding things. Apparently she hadn't felt the same . . .

This is a legitimately good reason for Vallant to be upset.

quote:

"Mirra, stop it," he said, gently but firmly pushing her back away from him. "Listen to what I'm sayin', and try to make yourself understand. I have to take the coach today, or I'll be arrested. It isn't a matter of choice, but of necessity. One thing, however, is a matter of choice, and that's the fact that I will not give up my captaincy for a place in an office. Since that doesn't agree with what you want out of life, I suggest that you see other men after all. You'll never get what you want from me."

This is also a legitimately good attempt at communicating your non-negotiables clearly in a relationship.

quote:

"Oh, Vallant, you keep sayin' these silly, childish things," she told him with a sigh and a pout. "You're the man I've decided on, so why would I bother with anyone else? And once we're married you'll change your mind about that stupid boat, I promise you will. Right now I'm leavin', but only to go and speak to Daddy. He'll talk to those Guild people, and then they'll understand that they can't arrest you. Miss me while I'm gone, but have that special present waitin' for when I get back."

You are both as bad as each other and I've changed my mind. Mirra and Vallant should stay together and make each other miserable instead of inflicting themselves on other people.

Also hello, completely unsubtle reference to

quote:

She blew him a kiss, her smile now radiant, and then she left. Vallant stood staring after her for a moment, feeling almost dazed. How could he have missed seeing what she was really like all this time? He must have let her beautiful face and lush body blind him to the truth, a blindness that could have trapped him for the rest of his life. He shuddered at the thought of that, then quickly went back to his packing. Like other men, he'd always been attracted to the most beautiful women, but he felt cured of that now. If he couldn't find a plain woman to suit him, he'd visit courtesans.

Will Vallant be able to overcome his sexist attitudes and see women as themselves? Who knows?! Surely he's not going to fall in love with yet another woman who is also a protagonist who was self-described as having "an incredibly beautiful face" and "lush body" because he's learned his lesson!

quote:

He finished the rest of his packing morosely, then went back downstairs. He had just enough time to have a meal before he'd have to leave for the depot, so he took a table and ordered. He'd put his packed seabag on the floor beside his chair, and that had brought him curious stares but no questions. If Jako, the owner of the Roaring Sailor, had been there it would have been different, but Jako was away and his current crop of serving girls didn't know him well enough to ask.

You're in the dining room of a tavern called the Roaring Sailor in a port city and, I assume, still dressed in your captain's gear. There is no reason why anyone would be looking at you weird for having a packed seabag.

quote:

Which, in a way, was too bad. Questions might have distracted him from the hurt he could no longer deny, the unexpected pain of finding out that Mirra wasn't the joyously abandoned companion he'd always considered her. Being the center of a beautiful woman's universe was always pleasant for a man, but when she joined him there and teased him in that very special way ... He hadn't realized how much he'd been looking forward to having that for the rest of his life, the togetherness, the sharing, the fun . . .

Your own internal monologue did not indicate you cared about any "togetherness" or "sharing"; unless you are using these words as euphemisms for sex, which is what I assumed the "fun" and "join[ing] you there" and "teas[ing] you in that very special way" was all about.

Also I don't think Green understands what the phrase "joyous abandon" really means and how it's supposed to be used in a sentence.

quote:

But she hadn't really felt any of those things, not in the same way he had. She'd marked him out as her private property, complete with deciding his entire future, just the way you would do with a pet you valued and were fond of. He wasn't a person to her, just another someone she could manipulate into giving her what she wanted, and that really hurt. She might well love him, but only as his "owner."

We already saw this happen on screen. Yes it is very depressing and hurtful but I don't need another paragraph of wallowing in the same facts again.

quote:

His food began to come, so Vallant forced away the brooding and applied himself to eating and planning. It would take about a week to get to Gan Garee, and the same coming home. How much time he would have to spend in the city itself was what he didn't know, but surely it couldn't be longer than a week. From what he'd heard it would be best if he were eliminated from the contests early, and then he'd be free to leave. And he would be eliminated early, he'd make sure of that.

I don't care about reading Vallant Ro eat dinner; in fact I am more excited about the fact we have a distance for Port Entril relative to Gan Garee. A week's travel by coach (using the same average 40 kms/25 miles per day as we did in Chapter 3) places Port Entril roughly 280 kms/174 miles south of the capitol - so about the drive between Sydney and Canberra.

quote:

"Excuse me, Dom Ro," a woman's voice said, causing Vallant to look up. "Since we have some business to take care of, I'm sure you won't mind if I join you."

"That's Captain Ro," Vallant corrected, watching the woman take a seat without waiting for permission. She was the one who had accompanied Torrin onto the Queen's deck earlier, and she was prettier than he'd realized. Considering his most recent resolve, her presence was one he would have preferred to do without.

STOP OBJECTIFYING WOMEN.

quote:

"Merchants like my daddy are addressed as 'Dom,'" Vallant continued, "not people like myself. That probably means whatever your business is, you'd be better off takin' it up with him. I'm gettin' ready to leave the city in just a little while."

"I know," she responded, a certain satisfaction hidden in her eyes. "You've learned that you won't be allowed to disobey the law no matter how rich your family is, or how big and strong you are. I'm the one who was put in charge of getting you to Gan Garee, and finally it's almost done. I've brought your tickets and spending money in silver, and all that's left is to bundle you onto the coach."

I'm on her side here. She's probably spent the last two weeks running around trying to track this jerk down and put his rear end on a coach so she can tick this off her to do list.

quote:

She put the tickets and pouch of silver onto the table between them, then smiled at him with pretty, white teeth. The smile was probably supposed to look friendly, but all that enjoyment behind it turned it into something closer to a laugh. He was twice her size and could probably buy and sell her entire family without needing his daddy's help, but she'd still bested him and was now laughing about it. Vallant held his temper with fists of steel and tried to simply continue eating, but she wasn't through crowing—or pushing—yet.

Vallant's rear end in a top hat-ry has no end.

quote:

"Actually, you weren't all that hard to handle," she commented, clearly trying not to drawl as she leaned back in her chair. "If I'd gone directly to you about the problem, I'm sure you would have smiled your very handsome smile and then tried to talk me around. So I went to your father instead, and explained how you would not be allowed to break the law simply because you were his darling boy child. I was surprised when he saved me the trouble of having to turn down a bribe, and simply agreed to take care of the matter."

Vallant looked up quickly at that, but he wasn't mistaken. The woman was deliberately insulting him and his family, hoping he'd—do what? Obviously she wasn't terribly fond of people with money, but she'd already gotten what she wanted. What else could she possibly be after?

And then he had the answer, which was really rather obvious. She had gotten what she wanted, but not quite in the best of ways. She would have been happiest if he had had to be put on the coach in chains and under arrest, so she'd decided to provoke him into doing something to make it happen. Like forcing him into blowing up and refusing to go after all. He didn't know the cause of her hatred and couldn't fully understand it, but that was hardly the first time he'd ever seen it.

You can't understand why the poor suckers stuck with trying to enforce the law don't hate people who constantly think they're above the law?

quote:

"Yes, you were one of the easy ones," she went on when he stayed silent. "No trouble out of any of you, and now you're going to the depot like a little lamb. I'll really have to mention in my report what a good boy you are."

Under other circumstances, that would have done it for Vallant. He would have blown up with a roar, thrown the table across the room, and then would have sent her on her way with a smack to the bottom and his refusal ringing in her ears. But since that was exactly what she wanted, he smiled at her instead.

She's made a few verbal jabs at you and you've suddenly gone from depressed to violent anger?

Also, spanking references! I believe it will not be the last one that we see. I normally wouldn't even remark on it except for the fact that it's central to Green's Brat series:
  • There are two books, Princess Brat and Queen Brat, and they are both terrible erotica about how a strong manly man puts the female protagonist in her place by spanking her in painful and humiliating ways.
  • The theme of those books (as far as I can tell) is "if you're having wife problems, it means she's in need of a good spanking, so beat her rear end with anything you like. It's particularly important that you spank her extra hard if she doesn't consent to any spanking in the first place; she just doesn't know what's good for her. She'll thank you for it and be massively turned on, to the point where she'll be absolutely obedient to your will and ask your for a hard spanking if she ever has a flicker of an independent thought".
  • This is reinforced because every single female character who appears in those books is spanked by her male partner with the same lack of consent as the female protagonist
  • Spoilers in case for some bizarre reason anyone wants to read those books: the antagonist is obviously evil because she's a *gasp horror* woman who dares to spank her man! That's so clearly against the laws of nature that it's practically a perversion of all that is right and good in the world.

No shame and nothing against anyone who is into spanking - whatever two or more consenting adults do with/to each other with consent is their business - but I am not cool with this "no consent" business.

quote:

"I'm glad you noticed," he drawled, letting his eyes move over as much of her as he could see. "It's too bad we don't have the time for me to show you just how good a boy I am, but that can be seen to when I get back. Since I'm sure you'll still be hangin' around, just come up and remind me. I won't make you wait too long."

Okay, so she's stupid for gloating and trying to poke him into doing something stupid. But instead of being the mature adult, he resorts to this, dialling up the objectifying male gaze to over 9000. Can I just say for the record how utterly creepy and gross it is when a guy does that to you? Ugh.

quote:

The arrogance of that speech turned her first pale and then flushed, as though she couldn't quite decide how to react. She parted her lips to say something, blushed even harder when she probably realized he'd turn anything she said into more of the same, then she gave it up. She stood and marched away without a single glance back, and Vallant was able to finish his meal in peace—while seriously considering the idea of giving up women entirely. Disillusionment had really set in, making him wish with all his heart that he was back at sea.

I wish you would "give up women entirely".

quote:

Vallant paid for his meal and left the tavern, having more than enough time to stroll to the depot that was only a few streets away. He intended to use the walk to take a last, remembering look at Port Entril, to make sure he had what to think about while he was away. He no longer had a woman to fill his thoughts, and memories of the Sea Queen would be almost as painful. Home port was a place he'd long since gotten used to leaving, though, not to mention thinking about without a sense of permanent loss. He could—

FINALLY. Once we get this over with, we won't have to read any more about stupid mystery attacking fireballs! Until we get to Book 5.

quote:

Screams suddenly came from some of the other people on the street, and Vallant turned fast to see what the trouble was. For an instant the sight of the raging fireball confused him, but then he realized what it had to be. That Guild female, looking for a more effective way to delay his reaching the coach. He would be so busy keeping himself—and others—unburned that he would lose track of time, giving her the perfect excuse to show up with those two bully boys and a set of chains.

Vallant, you are bad at logic. You literally explained earlier in this chapter how the guild talent works - they can't use Fire magic.

quote:

But that wasn't the way it was going to happen. The woman had obviously forgotten what his talent was, which made her stupid as well as vindictive. Sending fire after someone with Water magic . . . Vallant snorted and put his seabag down, then began to reach for every bit of moisture around. The horse troughs, the clouds in the sky above, the very air of a port city only a few streets from the sea.

It was all his to use, in any way he cared to use it. The fireball had begun to roll at him, threatening to burn him down where he stood, but it was the one that had to veer off. He'd hung a fine curtain of mist in its path, but not so fine that the curtain hadn't begun to put out the leading edge of its flames. The fireball drew back and started to circle, trying to reach him, but it was already too late for that. By then he'd surrounded the thing with a ring of water, and the more water he called into the ring, the faster the fire began to shrink.

It took no more than minutes before the fire was completely drowned, and then Vallant was able to free the water to return to where it had been, retrieve his seabag, and continue on his way. He kept his eyes open for the woman's appearance with her men, but oddly enough the coach arrived before she did. Or maybe not so oddly. She must have seen her latest plan in ruins, and finally got smart enough to give up. About time, too, before he really lost his temper.

We've already complained so many times about how badly the fireball attacks are written, that I'm not even going to bother. Instead, I'm just gonna geek out about Water magic.

Here we clearly see that the way Water magic seems to work is that Vallant is like a super condenser or something - he cools down water vapor/moisture in the air into liquid. So the law about conservation of matter applies, though who knows whether the law about conservation of energy also applies (it probably would if Vallant is powering his magic with his own energy, except for the fact we know can infer from Lorand's POV that you have to open to the power in order to use your talent).

We also see Vallant "free the water to return to where it had been". The water from the horse troughs is easy; I'm just picturing a giant stream of water rushing back to settle in the trough. The water from the air is a little harder - does he just vaporize it immediately? Does that mean contrary what I had assumed from Tamrissa's chapter, Vallant can actually adjust the temperature of water? Or is he actually breaking the bonds between the oxygen and hydrogen atoms (in which case they would simply be gases and not water vapor).

I'm pretty confused by this to be honest. If I were writing this, I'd be making the rules about what all of the magical talents are a lot clearer. Even if I never explain it in text, I'd have them written down in my notes so at least it makes sense.

quote:

Vallant handed over his seabag and then climbed into the coach, grimly determined not to think about what he left behind. Soon it would be what he was headed back to, and then he could think about it. Now he just had to concentrate on making the interval in between the shortest it could possibly be.

I. Do. Not. Care.

At. All.

quote:

All right, now you've met all of us. Of course, things didn't start to happen until we met, or at least not much of anything. We all knew what we wanted and intended to have, but the prophecy had already begun to enter our lives to make certain things inevitable. And then there was what our ruling class wanted, and what our friends and relatives and enemies wanted, and what our ultimate opponents wanted. And let's certainly not forget about the Ancients and what they wanted.

Casually referencing "the Ancients" like we know who they are. Is this supposed to be the first Fivefold Blending or Book 8 spoilers a reference to the advanced nation of full Blendings on the other continent?

quote:

Goodness, it's a miracle we accomplished anything at all, not to mention survived. There were all those times we were sure we wouldn't, especially after we really got together. That was a time, let me tell you . . . All right, all right, I'll show them. It all began shortly after the others reached Gan Garee, where I already was . . .

Tamrissa is not going to show us anything in her journal that is a weird mix of third person limited narrative, first person narrative and actual journal writing, because Green is incapable of doing "show, not tell".

Summary:
We don't really see much of Port Entril though we meet Vallant, a sexist assholic melodramatic "daddy's boy" (Tamrissa's not wrong when she describes him arrogant), and his vapid fiancé Mirra. There's a tiny tidbit on guild magic which answers the question raised in Jovvi's chapter and a ho hum on screen demonstration of Water magic. Exact same beats as the previous two chapters and no forward momentum on the story.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 7
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish",

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 3.5
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril

PLOTHOLES: 3
COACH RIDES: 4
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 6
"CLIFFHANGERS": 3
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 6
TEA DRINKING: 1

Possible fixes:
Other than the one I discussed above in this post, same comments as Chapters 2, 3 and 4. Now that we've been through all the protagonists, let the voting commence: whose perspective should stay?

I would still go with Lorand, despite the tired farmboy trope. While every protagonist has had a related minor character introduced (Hattial Riven, Allestine, Hallina Mardimil, Avrina Torgar and her husband Storn, and Mirra Agran), Hat is the only one who is not actually set up to be an antagonist in the plot (spoilers for the first series: Lorand makes it, Hat doesn't, Lorand spends most of the books trying to rescue Hat who rejects his efforts, Hat gets captured by the ultimate antagonists and then sacrifices himself to save Tamrissa's life in Book 5) and has an actual (very shallow and poorly written) character arc.

Despite all this, Green never uses Hat's character to full advantage - the way Green has written the story, you could literally replace Hat with a large hound of some sort and the story would still sort of work. Sticking with Lorand as the primary viewpoint during Act I of the story (roughly Books 1 through 3) would allow his friendship with Hat to be developed a bit more and give Lorand an actual character arc.

---

The weekend is here so Let's Read posts will resume on Tuesday! To date, we've spent 6 chapters (20493 words) failing to clearly establish key theme(s), an interesting setting and compelling characters, and we haven't begun the main story.

As a point of comparison, Will Wight has a collection of short stories set in his Traveler's Gate universe (The Traveler's Gate Chronicles volumes 1 through 3). Volume three's short stories are 8622, 4940 and 3944 words long each or 17506 words in total.

Just gonna say that again. Green's used more words than another author's short story collection and 90% of her words were ineffective in establishing theme, setting and character, or advancing the plot.

Leng fucked around with this message at 15:11 on Aug 14, 2020

Dirt Road Junglist
Oct 8, 2010

There's a ghost in me
Who wants to say I'm sorry
Doesn't mean I'm sorry






Leng posted:

White people with siblings, how often you guys refer to each other by your relationship rather than using first names (or nicknames)? I'm Asian so if this were an English translation of Asian characters (or characters whose fictional culture is inspired by Asian culture) it would make perfect sense. But after a decade or two of living in a Western country, I'm pretty sure this is not normally the case for Caucasians/Americans.

This actually came up in a creative writing class when I was in high school. Only child, raised white and in the US, for context. I had written two siblings for a short story who used a lot of bro/sis when referring to each other, and got told that’s not how siblings talk by pretty much everyone. That paragraph of Green’s actually stood out to me before you mentioned it, because now I’m hyper aware of that particular tic.

HopperUK
Apr 29, 2007

Clear off, fatso, this is a respectable establishment




Fallen Rib

I am a white English woman of Irish descent. Calling your father Daddy is completely usual in Irish families and would not raise an eyebrow. I have never called my siblings brother or sister though.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Not to pigeonhole myself as "makes multiple porn jokes on every page guy", but...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxnJcZvuRK8

In my experience siblings don't really call each other that but I wouldn't say this is unique to siblings. "Bro" and "sis" are just nicknames, and people don't use nicknames (or regular names) in conversation as much as you might think. On the page it can seem like a useful device to indicate who is talking but in actual speech it's just clumsy.

The same goes for awkward dumps of exposition like this:

quote:

I said almost the same thing when that Guild fellow first mentioned goin' to the capitol, and he set me straight. Guild people check everyone on a regular basis until the age of twenty-five, since no one has been known to develop significant strength past that age. They don't have to find you doin' somethin' complicated, even waterin' a garden with your talent can be enough. It has somethin' to do with the feel of the strength you put into the smallest effort. . . None of us can tell, but Guild people can. And they do."

My degree (for all the good it's done me) is in linguistics and my favorite topic was conversational principles. Basically there's a model that says everyone who is "cooperating" in a conversation is earnestly attempting to engage with their partners by providing sentences which have an appropriate topic, relevance, detail, politeness, etc. Flouting these maxims can be its own form of communication (for example, to be humorous or to make a rhetorical point) but it mostly sounds weird. So when a character makes an "as we all know..." infodump it's violating one of those principles.

quote:

Casually referencing "the Ancients" like we know who they are. Is this supposed to be the first Fivefold Blending or Book 8 spoilers a reference to the advanced nation of full Blendings on the other continent?

I have been generally trying to avoid spoilers for the later trilogy but I couldn't help myself on this and I am actually kind of excited by that concept.

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TheGreatEvilKing
Mar 28, 2016



Leng posted:

That's very interesting! Out of curiosity, what are your favorite fantasy novels/authors? I'm curious to understand what you consider to be a good underlying story that is well written. And I'm curious as well what it is about fantasy that is appealing to you if escape to another world is not one of the draws for you?

I feel like going back to The Lord of the Rings is the stock answer here, because unlike most modern fantasy The Lord of the Rings is about something and pulls from actual good mythology. Despite Tolkien claiming to hate allegory and blah blah blah there's a lot more going on than "man journeys with wizard, fights the supernatural". Sauron is a 20th-century authoritarian reinterpreted as an enemy of the heroes of the Old Norse sagas. The Ring is symbolic of they power of tyranny - at its weakest, it lets the bearer do whatever they want with no repercussions for their actions like Plato's Ring of Gyges, and at its most powerful wielded by Sauron it can command and enslave others (much like Wagner's Ring which is its own bundle of symbolism).

Moving past that however, Tolkien's prose actually reads more like a myth than the standard modern fantasy author tropes of putting modern characters and dialogue into D&D-land.

Me Opening The Lord of the Rings to a Random Page posted:

There was a silence. At length Celeborn spoke again. 'I did not know that your plight was so evil,' he said. 'Let Gimli forget my harsh words: I spoke in the trouble of my heard. I will do what I can to aid you, each according to his wish and need, but especially that one of the little folk who bears the burden.'

'Your quest is known to us,' said Galadriel, looking at Frodo. 'But we will not hear speak of it more openly. Yet not in vain will it prove, maybe, that you came to this land seeking aid, as Gandalf himself plainly purposed. For the Lord of the Galadhrim is accounted the wisest of the Elves of Middle-earth, and a giver of gifts beyond the power of kings. He has dwelt in the West since the days of dawn, and I have dwelt with him years uncounted; for ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin I passed over the mounts, and together through ages of the world we have fought the long defeat.'

Compare this to Sanderson writing dialogue in his epic fantasy saga.

Words of Radiance excerpt on Tor's website posted:

“Breasts,” Lift said, pointing. “See, like a lady layin’ on her back. Those points on the tops are nipples. Bloke who built this place musta been single for a looong time.”

It might be fair to point out that I'm comparing Galadriel's grave warning with obnoxious comic relief character Lift, so I guess we can look at Kaladin's dialogue?

Words of Radiance, page 477 posted:

"Then something has to be done."
"It does," Kaladin asked. "But what? You think I should go to the authorities?"

Much of Sanderson's dialog comes across as modern people being dropped into a fantasy world and given wacky superpowers. Tolkien goes out of his way to use archaic dialogue to show that these are not modern people - for the most part, they do not think as we do, they don't act as we necessarily would, and they value things a modern reader would not (despising technology, valuing bloodlines and nobility, etc).

Having wasted all these words I'm going to point out that Moby Dick does 99% of what the fantasy genre wants to do but better in everyway. It's not a coincidence both authors were inspired partially by Milton.

Leng posted:

Based on what you've posted so far, I'm guessing you like deeper, more literary stuff? How do you find Janny Wurtz for example? I really loved the collaboration she did with Raymond Feist on the Empire trilogy (I have the trade paperback books which I have read so often the spines are starting to go) and I cannot wait until she finishes her massive epic, The Wars of Light and Shadow. I've also loved all of Trudi Canavan's Kyralia books and The Age of the Five trilogy. I hear J.V. Jones is back in action working to finish writing the last book in the Sword of Shadows series - I've also loved her books as well. The world building in all of these books are excellent as well.

Haven't read any of these but I'll give them a look? I vaguely recall reading a bit of Canavan but it didn't leave a strong impression.

Leng posted:


Sanderson's earlier works were definitely rougher than his recent ones, but his entire philosophy is to tell stories where the characters use the magic to solve problems. According to his own principles, that means he needs to explain enough of how the magic works, otherwise the way the problems are resolved aren't satisfying. He probably takes this to an extreme, in that Sanderson writes magic as science. Sanderson owns that the way he writes magic means there's less of a sense of wonder because the rules are very clear. For the record, that's something that I really like personally (I'll confess to being a min/maxer when playing games), though I can understand how it would be a turn off for others. You mentioned your beef with Elantris and Mistborn, and everybody complains about the Szeth prologue in Stormlight - I am really curious to get your thoughts on his Stormlight Archive books, Emperor's Soul and Skyward, which are probably my favorites.

I remember reading Stormlight book 3, but I couldn't tell you what happens in it aside from the humans discovering that they colonialized the Voidbringers and brought Odium, who's motivation apparently is that God made him bad or something. If you asked me what the Stormlight Archives was a story about and I couldn't refer back to the plot, I guess I would have to say it's about how racism is bad? We had an argument in the Genres Ablaze (full disclosure: I am the OP) thread over whether the eye thing was racism or classism, and it seems like he wants to tie that in with the human/Parshendi conflict and how the only winner is literally hatred, but that might be a stretch? Like I said, it's been a while.

I remember liking Emperor's Soul but it's been a while. Skyward just felt like Spensa was a modern internet nerd (Doomslug? Really) transplanted into a society in a total war for survival that...never really felt like a society in a total war for survival.

Don't get me wrong, I min/max the poo poo out of my characters in RPGs too, but if I feel in the mood for that kind of storytelling I'll boot up Baldur's Gate II again or something.

Leng posted:


Erikson had quite a few key moments in Malazan that hit me pretty hard (Tavore's arc for me was a killer) - my main complaints about him were that he had way too many characters and the focus abruptly switched from one set of characters to another half way through the series in a way that was pretty frustrating. But I loved that it was hard work to read the books because he just dropped me right into a fully realized world and went straight into it. The magic system was never explained; you had to try and piece it together from clues in the context and to this day there's parts of it that I have no idea what the rules are, but I've figured out enough of it for the pay offs plotwise to be satisfying.

I just didn't feel that there was a payoff to stay invested to be honest. Looking at any place where people are discussing the books, the discourse seems to be around things like "HOW CAN JAGHUT TYRANT USE FIRE SPELLS IF WARREN IS ICE" and my reaction is "why do I care about a Jaghut Tyrant at all, especially if he seems to be tyrannizing nothing?" If we apply the "what is this story about" test to Malazan, I would have to say "nothing." Now I stopped after book seven, but...

quote:

PS: since you like the thematic stuff, I will make of point of trying to address that more in the Let's Read posts - be warned that because Green herself is totally unclear, there's really not a lot to unpack here. I may end up talking about what I would have dug into if I were writing it in the "Possible fixes" section instead.

Honestly don't sweat it, when things are this garbage it's hard to pull out a thematic core. Not to shill myself again but I'm having this same trouble in my Stygian LP: the game is such a mash of incoherent jumbled garbage its hard to tell what the story is supposedly about.

Green posted:

The Master-of-the-vessel snap that made him a captain no one talked back to

Ow.

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