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Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Lorand stood outside the tailor shop with the other men, trying not to show how fascinated he'd been with the experience just past.

Oh thank goodness we don't have to read about all five men getting fitted as well!

quote:

He'd actually had clothes fitted to him, by a professional who did nothing but produce clothes. All his life his mother had made his clothes, and if they hadn't fit quite right, well, at least they were too big rather than too small. During his growing years the clothes had usually become too small too fast, so his mother had gotten into the habit of making things too big to be outgrown before they were worn out. And the material that was supposed to be so cheap ... he hadn't the nerve to admit the clothes would be the best things he'd ever owned.

"Is thet whut you gotta go through if n yore a rich man?" Pagin Holter asked everyone in general after letting out a very sharp, deep breath. "If'n so, I gotta think agin 'bout tryin' t'be one. Don't like bein' mauled around like thet, I surely don't."

Actually good characterization.

quote:

"Then you ought to make a very successful rich man," Clarion Mardimil told him with the heavy annoyance that wasn't aimed at their group. "Those people were quite impossible, treating us like so many cattle from a nearby field. My personal tailor would have screamed in horror had he been here to watch them."

To be fair, you guys ARE cattle from their perspective. I still have no clue why they are getting tailored uniforms at all. This seems like an unnecessary expense for a group of people that - from the perspective of the nobles running the show - are going to be eventually killed off during the course of qualifying/the competitions and/or Book 4 spoilers enslaved in the army.

quote:

"Even my tailor would have been outraged, and he's normally a very calm man," Eskin Drowd agreed, his tone dry and almost as annoyed as Clarion's. "Not to mention what they charged for the rags they'll be delivering tomorrow. All I have left is a single pair of silver dins."

What kind of academic are you? Most academics don't have a lot of money!

quote:

"That's all I have left as well," Vallant Ro put in with a frown. "Did they leave any of us with more?"

Lorand shook his head along with everyone else, momentarily surprised, but then he understood.

"They must have had a clerk with Earth magic and metal affinity go over us," he said, drawing everyone's attention. "I knew someone like that back home, and even learned the trick myself. I know how much silver, gold, or copper goes into a penny or din, so by feeling how much of each metal a man has on him, I can tell exactly what coins he's carrying. Do they usually use that talent to rob people here in Gan Garee?"

I'm having trouble imagining any other reason why you would learn this skill. I suppose it'd come in handy if you were told to open/close the shop till at the beginning/end of the day but who carries so much petty cash float that it'd be a serious enough chore to count it such that you require employing people with this specific talent?

quote:

"I have a feelin' this was done especially for our benefit," Vallant Ro said with a growl, glancing back at the tailor shop with an angry glare. "If I thought they were doin' it on their own I'd go back in, but somethin' tells me it has to do with those people runnin' the tests. They don't want us havin' money, but that's too bad about 'em. As soon as I get to the bank, I'll have all I need."

Vallant:


quote:

"And I," Clarion agreed with matching satisfaction. "If today and tomorrow weren't rest days I'd go straight there right now, but since they are I'll simply have to wait until the day after. In the interim I'll need to think of myself as penniless, for what can one do with just two silver dins?"

"Plenty, if'n y'know where t'spend 'em," Pagin Holter said, interrupting the muttered agreement of Ro and Drowd. "I got th' same two silver and nuthin' more I gotta spend it on—'cept a real good time. 'Pears t'me like I earned one."

"As did the rest of us," Drowd said firmly in support, finally dragging his attention from Lorand.

If you were not smart and brought all of your money, at this point you guys can't even afford meals for the next week. Clarion's not wrong when he says that they're basically penniless but now they're gonna go hit the town in a law abiding way. This is very Bad With Money. Also what is with Lorand constantly referring to everyone in his head by their full name? He's just spent the entire day with these people; we should be beyond full names now.

quote:

The way he'd stared for a moment had been odd, as if he were trying to swallow down some kind of jealousy. "We all passed those wretched tests, and I for one would enjoy celebrating rather than returning to the residence for another early night. Are we all in agreement about that?"

Sloppy foreshadowing!

quote:

"I think I might be best off not joining you," Lorand forced himself to say amid the general happy agreement. "Two silver dins are a lot better than none, and for me going to the bank would be useless. Why don't I just walk back to the residence, and—"

Lorand is the only fiscally responsible one here.

quote:

"Nonsense, man, I won't hear of it," Mardimil interrupted, actually looking outraged. "Your efforts were no less than those of the rest of us, which means you're entitled to the same good time. When I visit the bank I mean to withdraw gold, therefore allow me the privilege of pledging to replace your dins. That should allow you to spend your own now with an easy heart."

The others all added their own words of encouragement, which quickly ruined Lorand's resolve. He did want to celebrate with them, and Mardimil had seemed sincere about replacing the dins. It was even possible he might not need anyone else's silver, since there would soon be bonus money in gold to earn . . .

"Thanks," he said to them all with a smile. "I guess I'll be going along after all."

A half-teasing cheer went up, and then they were calling over the driver of their coach along with his vehicle. It turned out that the coach was theirs for the rest of the day, so another problem was neatly solved. Holter said he'd ride with the driver to direct him, but then turned back to those about to enter the coach.

"I know we wus told t'wear these here idents all th' time, but it might not go over so good where we's goin'," he told them in a low voice. "Mebbe it might be a good idear t'sorta slip 'em inside our shirts, like . . . after we leave this here place."

Since Holter had become their guide and mentor, they all nodded agreement before continuing on into the coach. When they were settled the coach began to move, and once they left the tailor's courtyard everyone began to look out eagerly for the first glimpse of where they were going.

I'm just picturing four white guys leaning out of a car coach in the most uncool way possible.

quote:

"I must admit that this will be a new experience for me," Drowd said, absently slipping his tag on its chain inside his shirt. "My friends and I often met to drink tea and discuss any number of fascinating ideas and facts, but never to . . . carouse. In my circle it simply wasn't done, but I've always been curious."

"Then let me give you a word of advice," Ro said amiably, the only one of them simply enjoying the idea of what was ahead rather than brimming over with eagerness. "Carousin' is a lot more fun if you keep one eye on your purse, one on what you're drinkin', and never agree to gamble with the friendly stranger sittin' next to you. Especially if you think you can beat him at his own game. You can't, and the lovely lady whisperin' in your ear tellin' you you can is most likely his partner. And be especially careful with all the lovely ladies. Get the price firmly set before you go with her, and don't drink any thin' she might offer includin' tea."

Lorand felt a slight warmth in his cheeks at the mention of lovely ladies, since he'd only been thinking in terms of drinking with the others. Drinking had usually been a pleasant pastime on the few occasions he'd indulged, because his talent was able to neutralize strong drink no matter what it was made of. The degree he neutralized it to depended on whether or not he needed to be completely sober, or could allow himself to be pleasantly relaxed. But getting involved with professional women . . . that wasn't an approved undertaking with the people he'd grown up among. . . .

"That's another practice I've never indulged in," Drowd said, nodding thoughtfully to what Ro had said. "Paying lovely ladies for their favor, I mean. The established courtesans were too expensive for a young man who had yet to make his mark, and Regisard is a city which discourages droves of street-strollers. Only the occasional amiable female acquaintance was available, the sort who indulged for her own pleasure and curiosity rather than for gain. That means I have no idea what a fair price would be."

"Here in Gan Garee, I don't either," Ro said with a shrug. "There's usually a big difference between what the traffic will bear and what the lady will settle for, so you'd do well to ask Holter. When you're on another man's stampin' grounds, always follow his lead."

"I hadn't expected to follow Holter's advice about anything, and yet here I am," Drowd said with a small laugh.

Bet Green was super excited to kick off this sequence!

I've had the fortune of being able to visit Amsterdam a few years ago - which means obligatory gawking tourist visit to the red light district. All of the negotiations took place on the street - the sex workers generally stood in provocative poses in their glass boxes and people would walk up to the doors and signal their interest. At that point, the sex worker would open the door just enough to begin verbal negotiations. Most people seemed to be fairly respectful of both the process and the sex workers, though I did see one drunk stoner roaming around with a posse make a lowball offer. The door slammed shut in his face so fast that I would have missed it if I hadn't happened to be looking in that direction.

Minor spoilers for magic in Book 3 relating to sex work: Jovvi later tells Tamrissa that Spirit and Fire are the two most desirable aspects for courtesans. Personally, I'm not sure why Earth magic isn't ranked up there as well; you'd be able to tell whether your customer is carrying enough money to meet your price, you'd be able to control their body (good for customer experience and for personal safety) and you'd have healing powers over yourself, so you could probably prevent unwanted pregnancies and cure any STIs. That sounds like a no brainer to me!

quote:

"I feel like a small boy on holiday in a sweets shop, determined to enjoy myself until I'm too stuffed to move. It's amazing what a strong sense of freedom one acquires when one first escapes strong parental restrictions."

"That's why my Momma and Daddy made sure my brothers and I weren't restricted at home," Ro said, now gazing sightlessly out the window. "They raised us to know right from wrong and how to make our own decisions, then turned us loose. When we first left home there was nothin' out in the world that we were crazy to try because we couldn't try it sooner, so we got into a lot less trouble."

"Your parents sound like wise and wonderful people," Lorand ventured when Drowd simply lifted one brow and remained silent. "You must miss them quite a lot."

"Yes, it so happens I do," Ro answered, his gaze still directed out the window. "I'm used to leavin' home on voyages, but somethin' tells me this won't be any ordinary voyage. We'll have to get past a lot of jagged rocks and sharp reefs before we reach clear sailin' to home."

That time no one commented, since even Lorand was thinking about home. It occurred to him to wonder how dedicated he would have been to making good during the tests if he'd had a home like Ro's to return to. Possibly not having a pleasant fall-back position gave him an edge over most of those he would compete against, but it was an edge he would have preferred not to have. What must it be like, to know that there were people at home waiting to greet your return with love and laughter . . . ?

These guys are being forced to live together after they each went through individually life endangering trials that they are not allowed to talk about, and have known each other for a day. Uniform fitting is not so terrible an ordeal that they should have developed any common bonds as a group; the only people who have any sort of rapport are Lorand and Clarion (in their budding broship), and Clarion and Vallant (on their mutual agreement to escape the situation).

I know Green's just trying to keep coming back to her theme here, but who actually talks like this to people they barely know?

quote:

"I believe I shall also admit that I have no experience with this thing called carousing," Mardimil said abruptly into the thickened silence. "Those of my class never indulge in such things, of course, so I find myself curious to know what will be involved."

"Surely you're joking," Drowd said, examining Mardimil where he sat beside Lorand in a way that suggested the young noble was an amusingly odd insect. "Those of the nobility indulge in carousing more often and more thoroughly than any of the so-called lower classes ever do. How is it you don't know that?"

"It could be he and his group of friends don't believe in that kind of behavior," Lorand suggested when Mardimil simply colored and didn't answer. He couldn't help remembering Mardimil saying he'd never had any friends, which could well mean he lacked experience in other areas as well-But just how far did those lacks go ... ?

It's going exactly where you think it's going.

quote:

"I've never met a noble yet who didn't believe in indulging himself," Drowd said with a snort for Lorand's suggestion. "They tend to believe that the world and all the people in it are theirs for the taking and using, and most often they can prove the contention.

How about showing us this instead of telling us lazily via dialogue?

quote:

Not that I'm really complaining, of course. When I become one of them, I mean to do the same myself."

Drowd is despicable.

quote:

"So you've decided the game is worth your full effort?" Ro asked , finally turning from the window to examine Drowd. "I thought you considered the life of an academician the best a man could strive for."

"I believe I said I would have to find something of more interest to change my mind," Drowd corrected with a cool smile for the man sitting beside him. "I've discovered that the very strong possibility of becoming a member of the new Blending provides that interest, at least for me.

Why couldn't we have had this conversation last night?

quote:

I take it the situation holds no attraction for the rest of you?"

He looked around at all of them then, and not even Ro spoke up to agree. Lorand realized they were all thinking the same, no matter how farfetched the prospect really was.

So far the only reasons any of these characters are interested in being part of the ruling Blending are power and security - there is no difference between the protagonists' motivations and the antagonists. This is how shallow Green's characterization is.

quote:

"What about Mardimil's earlier objection?" Lorand found himself asking, just to hear Drowd's view of the matter. "Every Blending I've heard about for the last century or so has come from the ranks of the nobility. What makes you believe that things will be different this time?"

"What can there be beyond a belief in your own ability?" Drowd countered with an easy wave of his hand. "If the competing Blendings from the nobility are less able this year, those from the lower classes will have their chance.

Why didn't you raise this point last night, Mr Logical? You would have saved us from having to read a lot of internal monologuing over this stupid line of reasoning.

quote:

And how do you think the people who call themselves noble got that way in the first place? At some point in time, their ancestors were just as common as everyone else—until they found it possible to prove otherwise. It was their efforts which gave their descendants the free ride they now enjoy, so why can't I do the same for my descendants?"

"Now you're the one who must be joking," Mardimil said, looking downright scandalized. "Members of the nobility have nothing to do with commoners, not to mention starting out as one of them! Where could you possibly have gotten such a ridiculous idea?"

"The idea—and the indisputable facts—come from studying history," Drowd replied with his own ridicule. "It's possible to research every one of the noble families, and discover in what year they were ennobled. If that doesn't mean they were commoners before that, I'd like to know what it does mean."

Mardimil looked at Ro and then at Lorand, apparently waiting for one of them to say Drowd was either joking or lying. When Lorand shrugged to show that he'd been taught the same thing, Mardimil's expression turned stunned.

"You can't mean you've never heard that particular truth before?" Drowd said to him with a short laugh. "My dear boy, you have led a sheltered life, haven't you?"

The whole point of this is to make us like Clarion. It's working. Sadly, none of the other attempts to make us sympathize with the other protagonists will work as well as this.

quote:

"Some people do," Ro commented, looking out the window again. "And I think we've arrived."

Lorand glanced around to see that they'd all put their identification into their shirts, and then he joined the others in looking at the destination they'd reached. The street was narrow and its cobblestones uneven, but there was a good deal less refuse than other neighborhoods had contained. They'd come to a stop in front of a dirty brick building on the left with a swinging sign showing a horse in front of it, a pair of unlit lanterns hanging to either side of the sign. A short way down the street was what looked like a stables, presumably where the coach would wait for them.

We're so far up the pyramid of abstraction that I couldn't pick this tavern out of a line up.

quote:

Holter had gotten down from the box and come around to open the door, but Lorand had to nudge Mardimil when it was the lord's turn to leave the coach. Mardimil seemed really upset, and Lorand couldn't understand that. No noble wanted to admit that his ancestors had been commoners at one time, but they certainly all knew it. All but Mardimil, apparently, who looked like the sky had fallen on his head.

What, no Earth magic analogy?

quote:

When Lorand finally made it out of the coach, the others were already following Holter through the unpainted wooden door of the brick building. Inside it was a lot dimmer than the late-afternoon sunshine, and it took Lorand's eyes a moment to adjust. Then he was able to look around to see a place that seemed little different from the posting house the men in his home district gathered in on rest days.

I had to Wikipedia what a posting house is.

quote:

The area they'd come into was one large room, with hearths to both the left and the right separated by scattered tables and chairs. The hearth to the right was unlit and the benches near it unoccupied, but the one to the left had the usual workers preparing for the upcoming meal. A good-sized pig was spitted above the fire, and the way two of the workers kept glancing at it while they prepared salads and such said they were the ones turning the spit. Air magic was useful for that sort of thing, letting the workers turn the spit without actually touching it. And usually there was one with Fire magic, who oversaw the cooking fire to be sure the animal on the spit roasted evenly.

The pleasant, homey feel of the place told Lorand there was probably more than one worker with Spirit magic present, and the comfortable temperature of the room said both Water and Fire magic were being used to adjust the air-Near the back of the room, where the long bar stretched, a boy was using Earth magic to freshen and smooth the wood shavings covering the floor. Lorand could feel his efforts to separate clean shavings from fouled ones, a harder job than one might expect. The clean shavings "felt" different than the dirty ones, but you needed to pull in a good deal of the power to make the difference instantly obvious. The boy didn't seem able to reach more of the power than any other ordinary user of Earth magic, which made the job both difficult and time consuming for him.

At last, a description of the setting that I actually find interesting because Green's followed through on her premise and thought about how it would impact the world building! The implication is that because everyone has magical talent and it's very commonplace, things we would normally develop mechanical solutions for don't necessarily exist because people in this world simply use magic instead. Logically then, technological solutions would exist when:
1) it takes too much magic to construct/maintain/pay for a magical solution; and/or
2) it's too complex to be easily handled with magic; and/or
3) economies of scale are required

Green will explore this in Book 6; sadly the secondary character involved decides to do something else for plot reasons.

quote:

"Hey, Holter, you cur, where you been?" a deep voice boomed out from behind the bar. "We ain't seen you in almost a week, an' some been sayin' yer too good now t'mix with yer old friends."

"Too overworked an' too tired's more like it," Holter answered with a laugh, now leading the way to the bar. "I done it, Ginge, I passed the first o'them tests, an' now I'm on my way to th' big 'un. Wouldn't stop now if'n I could, but I did bring sum friends by t'help me celebrate. Don't know when I'll be gettin' back here, so I came t'say a proper g'bye jest in case."

"Never goodbye, Pag, boy," the big florid-faced man behind the bar corrected seriously. "Jest say til th' next time we meet. An' now I'd like t'meet these here gents."

Holter introduced everyone to the tavern owner Ginge, but Lorand noticed that neither man went into details about who Holter's friends were. Ginge looked to be a shrewd businessman behind the open friendliness of his facade, so it wasn't likely that he'd missed guessing they were all there to test for High positions. But saying that out loud might have made all of Ginge's tavern guests uncomfortable, especially the already-respectable number of ordinary customers scattered throughout the room. Best for everyone to say nothing, and just let them all enjoy themselves.

Lorand being observant for the first time in his POVs!

quote:

Ginge came out from behind the bar to personally lead them to a large table to the right, far enough away from the cooking and preparing that they wouldn't be disturbed by it. He also gestured to a boy standing behind the bar, who then came out to take up a complex-looking stringed instrument.

The music the boy produced with the instrument was marvelous, but Lorand was willing to bet he used more than his two hands to do it. With all those strings, easily more than a dozen, the incredible chords had to have more than four or five fingers producing them.

As a musician, I am FASCINATED by this application of magic and yes, I would totally choose Air magic to be my aspect. Rachmaninov's piano works would no longer be unplayable for one! (that man had gigantic hands and wrote his music requiring hands that can span ten notes at a time on the keyboard which is physically impossible for me )

quote:

Holter interrupted their appreciation of the music by demanding the silver dins each of them had been left with. Once he had them he went to the bar where his friend had already returned, and engaged in a brief, low-voiced conversation. At the end of it he handed over all the silver including his own, then returned to the table with a very satisfied smile.

"This's gonna be a night we don't soon ferget," he confided with a small laugh. "Ginge'll keep us in brew long as we're still staiyiin', an' he'll even feed us some. Th' girls is upstairs awready an' fresh as posies in a field, an' Ginge swore t'make sure they do us right. Let's have us sum brew b'fore we start visitin' 'em."

Ro and Drowd agreed with that as quickly as Lorand did, but Mardimil had to come out of distraction before adding his own agreement.

It is a cardinal rule of Green's books that we count how many people agree with a proposed course of action every time.

quote:

Lorand had the distinct feeling that the young noble had more than one thing upsetting him, which meant he'd have to find the opportunity to speak to Mardimil alone. Lorand could believe that Mardimil had never had any friends, and he'd all but promised to be the first. It was enough that he'd let one friend down, if only by forgetting about him when he was certainly dead. Lorand now needed to be a friend as badly as Mardimil needed to have one.

Bros before hoes, literally.

quote:

But the first cups of brew served turned out to be really good, almost as good, in fact, as the music. Lorand sat back and decided to wait a short while before looking for a chance to talk to Mardimil privately. That was mostly because he now knew the time with the ladies was really going to happen, and the thought of visiting the girls upstairs had warmed him a bit. It still felt faintly wrong, but being in Gan Garee also made it oddly acceptable. Nothing a man should do at home, but here in the wicked big city . . . which was supposed to end up being home. . . .

Note how blasé Lorand is being about paid casual sex right now. We'll dig into it more when we get to Chapter 27.

quote:

Lorand took another swallow of brew, which helped him to ignore the confusion his thoughts were turning into. Tomorrow he'd sort out which was what, but tonight he'd have a wonderful time, if only to honor the memory of Hat.

If it weren't for this closing line, you wouldn't be able to tell that Lorand is in deep shallow mourning kind of sad for about Hat at all.

Summary:

Day 2
After an angsty, silent breakfast where everyone is stewing in their own thoughts, and a lunch with boring small talk, everyone is taken to be fitted for their Grown Up Magic Not-School Uniforms. Jovvi deliberately alienates Eskin and Beldara so Green can establish the best friendship of Jovvi and Tamrissa. Clarion outs himself as a literal man child on the way to a tavern.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 14
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 6
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 4
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

PLOTHOLES: 16
COACH RIDES: 12
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 16
"CLIFFHANGERS": 8
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 2
BLATANT MORALIZING: 11
BATH SCENES: 5
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 4
MIND CONTROL: 5

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)

Possible fixes:
One of the better chapters we've had in a while! There were a few nice character moments and two paragraphs of decent world building. This tavern sequence (Chapters 21-23) is trying to achieve three main things:
1) set up Lorand's discomfort with paid sex work for his romance arc with Jovvi
2) give Lorand a big brother moment to build on his budding broship with Clarion
3) establish a general fear of High talents

Assuming the sequence doesn't get nixed as a result of bigger changes to character arcs, I'd combine the three tavern chapters into a single chapter. The scenes with the group musing at the tailor's shop and the coach ride can be skipped in favor of opening with the men already in the tavern, beers in hand, engaging in serious locker room talk (assuming I don't while trying to write it). That's maybe 2-3 pages of dialogue, max.

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there wolf
Jan 11, 2015

by Fluffdaddy


I think cutting the sex mechanic is fine because it's not like there isn't enough going on in the rest of the plot that you must have a romance subplot.

But good romance is about relationships between people above all else. Human interaction is the plot so if you can write a compelling friendship than you're more than halfway to writing romance because they rely on the same questions. Why do these people like each other? What brings them together? Why do they trust each other, and how do they rely on each other?

So with that in mind, the way to accomplish 3 is to do what Green did and group the romance subplots by their function so you then figure out how much time you need to devote to them. You've essentially got three groups, the primary romances, the friends with benefits hookups, and then the necessary balancing out of the Blending. The Primary romances are your heavy-hitters plot wise. It's the emotional buy-in that's going to eventually lead to this group coming together and shows how each person is as member of a relationship and sexual partner. The other two show how the transition from friends to polycule is done. FWBs cover the people that just naturally click and it's easy, while balancing is the ones who need a little motivation or are actively struggling with the idea.

So to make that work with even more pairings you'd want to 1. Make it a world where gay and bisexual identities are already to some degree known and accepted so you don't have to deal with a fundamental change in everyone's perspective to get them to see and accept sex with partners of the same gender. 2. Make at least two characters bisexual already. I'd recommend Valant and Jodi since they're the more worldly ones who've had multiple relationships. 3. Don't start with everyone in a primary monogamous relationship. Have some overlaps to drive the characters towards open relationships that will eventually lead to the full polycule.

-Jodi wants to start her own whorehouse and either out of custom or personal preference she wants a female partner which makes her pursue Tamrissa.
-Tamrissa is coming out of an abusive marriage with a man and is intrigued at the idea of having a relationship with another woman, but she's also got this hot-and-cold attraction to Valant.
-Valant shares the hot/cold thing, but wants to swear off all women after his bad breakup and so has a casual thing with Rion because why not.
-Rion is a naive virgin but it also means he does not have a lot of hangups around sex, so takes to easy pansexual FWB really quickly. He also hooks up with Jodi early because why not, and Tamrissa because she trusts him to have a casual but safe sexual experience as part of healing from the trauma of her abuse.
-Lorand's conservative upbringing means he has a lot of hangups which leave him pining after Jodi and get in the way of him having any romantic relationships until later in the series. Make him the one that hooks up with Naran at first since he's the one who has to go outside the group for sex.
-Naran is experienced and sexually confident in a way that makes her eventual integration into the polycule smooth and easy. She should have a positive interaction with each member of the group individually from each other so everyone can be like "oh, that cool chick I'm already predisposed to like" when they need her to round out the floating energyball thing.

So your primary romances are the Jodi/Tamrissa/Valant love triangle, and Lorand's one sided thing for Jodi. FWB is Rion/most everyone else and Lorand/Naran, and balancing is Lorand/most everyone, Valant/Jodi, and Naran/someone/multiple someones however that works out. Include group sex and you can compress it all further.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


there wolf posted:

So your primary romances are the Jodi/Tamrissa/Valant love triangle, and Lorand's one sided thing for Jodi. FWB is Rion/most everyone else and Lorand/Naran, and balancing is Lorand/most everyone, Valant/Jodi, and Naran/someone/multiple someones however that works out. Include group sex and you can compress it all further.

This is awesome and I bow down to a master. It shall be done, even if my execution is terrible. Nobody improves without critique, right??

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Here's the chapter you've all been waiting for!

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CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Clarion sat and listened to the music filling the sleazy tavern, distantly surprised that it wasn't all that bad. Neither was the drink they called brew, a distillation far superior to the one of the same name once given to him by three of Mother's carriage drivers and grooms. The three had laughed when the very young Clarion had thrown up from the vile taste of the liquid, but Mother's sudden appearance—and immediate dismissal of the three—had ended their laughter-It was now becoming possible to hear laughter among the patrons of that tavern, and Clarion nearly marveled at the experience of not being the cause of the amusement. He was instead a part of one group contributing to the laughter, which was an even more unique experience. For the last several minutes he had been using that to distance himself from the shock of what he'd been told—and the increasingly greater disturbance he felt over what lay ahead.

And that, of course, was the heart of the matter, not knowing what lay ahead. His companions had all spoken of "visiting the ladies," but Clarion was certain they had more than just visiting in mind. He'd nearly asked what that was, but some vague instinct warned him that admitting ignorance in that area would be far different from the supposed ignorance Drowd had admitted to. That Drowd fellow was a liar, Clarion knew it in his heart, but separating out the lies from the occasional truth the man spoke was difficult.

Poor Clarion. You've already outed yourself in the previous chapter, you just don't know it.

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". . . sure you two don't mind?" Clarion heard the words from quite near, and came out of his thoughts to see that it was Ro who spoke, mainly to Coll but also to himself. "I'd be more than willin' to wait a while if you or Mardimil would rather go now."

"No, I'm perfectly willing to hold the table while you three visit the ladies first," Coll answered him, then looked toward Clarion. "You don't mind keeping me company, do you, Mardimil? We can have our turn with the ladies later."

"Of course we can," Clarion said, hopefully not too quickly. "I'd be pleased to stay and keep you company, Coll."

"Then it's settled," Coll said with a smile and a shrug. "You three have a good time, but make sure you don't wear them all out. We do want something left for us."

Said the guy who has massive hang ups with paid sex work. We'd never know it if we hadn't just had Lorand's POV.

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Holter, Drowd, and Ro laughed as they stood, each man solemnly promising not to "wear the ladies out." They then made their way toward a staircase to the left of the bar and the right of the cooking area, and quickly climbed out of sight. Clarion returned his attention to his brew, but stirred in faint annoyance in his chair rather than simply drinking. What were they going to be doing up those stairs?

"Mardimil, I think we need to talk," Coll said slowly with a good deal of hesitation. "I waited until we could have privacy, because the topic is a delicate one."

"You should have told me sooner that you wanted to speak with me privately," Clarion said with a smile, remembering with gratitude how Coll had defended him in the carriage against that odious Drowd. "Where conversations are concerned, privacy is easily had."

And then Clarion thickened some of the air around them in that special way he'd developed. Sounds became as muted as a thick door would make them, and even heavier odors were excluded. The remaining air inside their invisible bubble also began to circulate, constantly refreshed by what drifted through the delicate barrier he'd established.

This ability would sure be handy right now, in the time of COVID-19.

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"The first time I did this, I made a small error," Clarion confided to an amusingly surprised Coll. "I also turned the air of my barrier opaque, so that no one could see inside. Unfortunately that meant I was unable to see out as well, so I had no idea that everyone in the house was frantically trying to 'rescue' me from the unexplained horror that had swallowed me up. When I finally dispersed the barrier and reappeared, Mother was in the midst of hysterics. I had to promise never to do that again before anyone was able to calm her."

More proof of Hallina Mardimil's idiocy. Unless it's possible to self-suffocate. Who knows if people can actually affect themselves with their own talent? We will only ever see people accidentally burn themselves out. We'll get a Lorand POV in Book 4 where he attempts to use his talent on himself but it's actually not too clear whether or not he could have done it unassisted.

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"Some mothers do tend to overreact," Coll said with a chuckle of appreciation. "My own mother had a fit once when she came out of the house and discovered how high I'd climbed into one of the shade trees. I'd seen my older brother do the same thing, you understand, so I couldn't comprehend why it was so terrible for me. The fact that he was seven while I was four wasn't a point I considered important."

"I wasn't permitted to climb anything at all," Clarion said with a sigh after sipping more of that brew. "In fact I wasn't permitted to do anything but behave like a gentleman, even at the age of four. Mother was usually too busy with society matters to play with me very often, but she was somehow always there if I wanted to try something forbidden. It didn't take long before I gave up on trying."

How the hell do you train a four year old to act "like a gentleman"? Toddlers gonna toddler, they don't care what you want. Though I suppose it's at this point that I guess we are supposed to realize that Clarion was probably beaten into submission. It'd have to be by a servant or somebody, because there's no way he'd be able to form the kind of attachment he has to his mother figure if she personally beat him or were connected to the beating in any way, shape or form in his mind.

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Clarion took another swallow of the brew to wash away the taste of depression. Mother had only been trying to protect him, of course, but because of that most of his life had been sheer monotony.

"I . . . take it then that you had . . . very little chance to do things most boys do," Coll said, looking faintly embarrassed but also determined. "Things like . . . getting together with girls very often ... or even at all?"

The question was as delicately put as anything Clarion had ever heard, but it told him Coll had penetrated to the secret he had meant to keep private. Clarion felt tempted to be angry, but the opportunity to learn what was going on was too good to be missed.

"You're quite correct," Clarion admitted, finding it impossible to keep the stiffness out of his voice. "A gentleman such as myself is required to have very little to do with women beyond occasionally speaking to them politely. Even that was an extremely rare occurrence, as most of the ladies seemed reluctant to speak with me when Mother was there. A rudeness, Mother said, which proved them completely unsuitable for me."

"And a rudeness they always showed, I'll bet, because your mother was always there," Coll said, for some reason looking very sympathetic. "Didn't you ever . . . feel a need to be near women without your mother? To be alone with them somewhere private, and investigating the . . . urges you began to feel when your body changed and you became a man? Didn't you ever have to ... do something in private when the women weren't available and the . . . urges became too strong to bear?"

"But no young man should be abandoned to privacy with his mother around," Clarion protested, automatically repeating what Mother had said from the time he was very, very young. "When my body changed I did feel certain odd but unimportant urges, and Mother stayed with me almost constantly while I learned to ignore them. A real gentleman does ignore them, you know, but most often has to struggle alone. I was fortunate in that I had Mother's help and support."

"Fortunate," Coll echoed, for some reason now looking faintly ill. "Smothered to suffocation, and I have to figure out how to get around that. But maybe there's a way . . ."

This is some weird stuff. Did Hallina just watch Clarion 24/7 and smack his hands every time he tried to ? It's also funny that Green thinks this only happens when puberty occurs.

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Clarion understood nothing of the muttering Coll was doing, but he'd just emptied his cup of brew. That was a much more important and immediate problem, but one that was quickly solved when Clarion spotted the pitcher which had been left on the table. He wasn't used to serving himself with anything, but critical situations called for unusual solutions. Pouring more brew into his rather nice pewter cup was actually very easy, and when he sat back after the satisfying accomplishment, Coll was apparently ready to abandon his muttering.

In addition to not knowing where babies or noble families come from, Clarion has never poured himself a drink in his life. I call BS on this, since Lorand clearly saw Clarion serving himself breakfast that morning.

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"Mardimil, I'm about to tell you something you obviously don't know," he said quite clearly, proving the point. "It will come as a shock, so I'd like you to brace yourself."

"Certainly, braced," Clarion acknowledged after another swallow of that marvelous brew. "Please do go on."

"Mardimil, there are some things about men that women never find out," Coll said, happily speaking slowly enough that Clarion was able to follow him. "Your mother, the dear soul, thought she knew what men do and are and so tried to teach those things to you, but she was mistaken. It was no fault of hers, of course, because men do keep these things secret from women." 

Clarion nodded his understanding, congratulating himself on having discovered that point earlier. Mother did have his best interests at heart, but had mistakenly put him at a disadvantage instead.

"Yes, the poor dear did try her best for me," Clarion agreed with a fond smile. "It isn't her fault she doesn't know about—what?"

Spoilers for Book 5: Clarion doesn't know where babies come from, not because his mother never explained, but because Hallina Mardimil doesn't know where babies come from either. She's a virgin who stole another woman's baby. This is a known fact among most of the nobility hence why Clarion was put through the testing process for commoners.

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"That men are supposed to feel certain urges for women," Coll supplied, leaning forward a bit. "There are certain things a man does when he's alone with a desirable woman, and I'll describe those things for you in detail so you'll know what to do when we go upstairs. But what you must do right now is convince both your mind and your body that doing them is perfectly natural. If you don't, you'll find disappointment rather than pleasure."

Clarion nodded again, then obediently worked on his mind and body while Coll began to tell him what men and women did together in private. Distantly Clarion had the thought that at another time he would have found what Coll said to be extremely embarrassing, but right now it was merely fascinating. He'd never dreamed it was possible to do that, or particularly desirable even if it was possible. Before Coll was through, a hardening and tightening had begun in Clarion's body, and for the first time since he'd started to experience that feeling, he made no effort to ignore and dismiss it.



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". . . so try to remember what I told you," Coll said, apparently winding up his lecture. "It's perfectly acceptable to touch the girl anywhere you please, but you mustn't hurt her in any way. Once you've completed your first experience you may feel the urge to cause her pain, but that will be anger stemming from having been unfairly denied so long. One of the town boys was raised by a mother like yours, and when he finally had his first woman the guilt and rage were too much for him. He beat up that poor girl something awful, and in school they had to take all the boys aside to explain why he'd done it. Just remember that it isn't wrong, only natural, and there's nothing to feel guilty about."

Green?? Are you secretly a goon?! (if you are, please post in this thread!)

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"Nothing for guilty," Clarion agreed with a smile, partly for Coll and partly for the brew. That sleazy tavern must have found the best vintage brew ever made.

"I'm going to keep enough alcohol in your blood to make sure you continue to look at it like that," Coll said, returning his smile. "I'll lower the amount a little when you join the lady to make sure you can perform, but a man's first time ought to be nothing but pleasure. If guilt gets involved, you can deal with it later."

Lorand just gonna be peeping in on Clarion getting frisky with his magical powers. Should we throw an exhibitionist tag on this as well?

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"Later," Clarion agreed heartily, looking fondly down at his cup. Coll was such a fine fellow for a member of the lower class, but now that was completely understandable. At one time everyone was a member of the lower class, and Mother was sure to shriek and faint when he told her. Nobility were now obviously superior, but at one time. . . .

Actually good foreshadowing!

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Clarion lost himself to his thoughts, but was pulled back briefly by Coll to remove the barrier of air he'd constructed. He did that with slightly less ease than usual, then sat back to enjoy the music and the brew. He was part of a group, and although the group was low-class and therefore not good enough for him, he still enjoyed being a part of it. He'd never admit that to Mother, of course, not with her precarious health, but he didn't mind in the least admitting it to himself. . . .

Clarion had difficulty keeping his thoughts on one subject for very long, but when a girl appeared and began to dance to the boy's music . . . Watching her movements took no effort at all, except that his discomfort grew when she wiggled her body in his direction. She was a very attractive young lady indeed, and Clarion wouldn't have minded joining her in that dance. Once the idea came he began to get to his feet to do it, but Coil's hand on his arm kept him seated and then he changed his mind. He would look foolish dancing with the girl, and gentlemen weren't supposed to look foolish.

Why, Lorand, WHY?? That would have been hilarious!

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After a while Clarion noticed that people had approached their table, but not just any people. Drowd and Holter and Ro were back, and all of them looked thoroughly satisfied.

"That was rather different, but pleasantly so," Drowd announced as they all resumed their chairs. "Now you two may take your turns—unless one of you has decided not to indulge after all?"

Spoilers for Chapter 24: Jovvi tells Tamrissa to stay away from Eskin Drowd because he's a sick twisted woman abuser like her dead husband. Makes you wonder what was "different" about this experience for Drowd.

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There was something sleekly ugly behind the man's tone and question, but Clarion couldn't quite make out what. Ah well, it didn't really matter, not when it was now his and Coil's turn.

"You haven't changed your mind about indulging, have you, Coll?" Clarion asked with concern as he pushed himself to his feet. "I mean, I would never dream of interfering with the decision if you've made it, but—"

"No, Mardimil, I haven't decided against going upstairs," Coll interrupted, also rising to his feet. "Drowd seems to have a—strange—sense of humor, but I think from now on he'll work to curb it. Won't you, Drowd?"

"All I did was make the most innocent of remarks," Drowd replied, looking just as innocent, but then he glanced around and shrugged irritably. "Oh, very well, as you all seem to think it was inappropriate. I suppose it is unfair to jibe at a man in his cups, and Mardimil is clearly unused to spirits."

"That, sir, is another untruth," Clarion said as he drew himself up, determined not to let Drowd get away with lying again. "I have been accustomed to drinking wine with dinner for many years, so imbibing is far from unfamiliar to me."

"It's the brew," Coll said hastily as he began to urge Clarion away from the table with him. "Many people have no idea how potent it can be. He'll be just fine, especially after we make our visit upstairs."

"Yes, our visit upstairs," Clarion said happily, no longer interested in remaining at the table and showing Drowd up as the liar he was. "Let us indeed begin our visit upstairs."

There was a small amount of chuckling from the men they left at the table, but Clarion quickly dismissed all that from his mind. His need right now was to stay on his feet and reach the stairway, after which he would concentrate on climbing it. But the floor of that low-class place was so ridiculously uneven, much more so than he remembered it being when they'd first walked in . . .

Green's really on a roll here. Clarion's whole POV chapter so far has been pretty decent.

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"Here, let me help you a little," Coll said from his left, and then the man's hand was on Clarion's arm. Oddly enough Clarion immediately began to feel better, and even the floor became flatter.

"Thank you, but I'm perfectly all right," Clarion said to Coll with a smile, warming to him more and more as time passed. "I may never have been on my own before, but I'm discovering a definite talent for it. Don't you think I have a talent for being on my own?"

"Absolutely," Coll agreed with a return smile. "I can't remember ever meeting anyone with a greater talent for being on his own. Watch your step now, we don't want any broken bones I'd have to help mend."

Clarion looked down to see that they'd reached the stairs, so he did pay careful attention to climbing them. He'd expected them to be rough and splintery, but instead they were worn smooth and even looked shiny. Wood did behave like that, he recalled, although he was far more used to marble stairs. But if he did fall and break something, he wanted Coll to tend him. He'd never liked that Middle practitioner of Earth magic Mother had always summoned to tend them both. The man was a fool who always pretended to be better than he was, as though everyone didn't know the real truth . . .

This will be the first of many times another character remarks on what a wonderful healer Lorand is.

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"Okay, here we are," Coll said, and Clarion raised his eyes from the top tread to look around. This second floor had a fairly wide hall with doors every few feet along the walls, some of which were closed. Lamps lit the area well enough to show imitation Denigan carpeting on the floor, a poor imitation in ghastly colors that were thankfully almost worn away. The walls and doors—and ceiling—could have used whitewashing at the very least, but Clarion lost the chance to comment on any of that when he noticed something far more important.

Is this a tribute Green snuck in?! We will never hear of anything "Denigan" ever again!

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Someone—possibly Coll—had rung a small, tinkling bell, and now the open doors were beginning to show filled doorways. Girls were coming forward to stand where they could be seen, more unaccompanied women than Clarion had ever seen. Small, medium, and big women, young and not so young, dressed in . . . in . . . Clarion's body hardened so abruptly it made him grunt.

Did Green lose track of the status of Clarion's since he was turned on by Lorand's lecture on babymaking?

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"Go ahead and choose the one you like best," Coil's voice urged, reminding Clarion that he was there. "Then you can join her in her bedchamber rather than standing around uncomfortably out here."

"Of course, choose one," Clarion echoed, finding that his fight for a bit more clarity of mind was actually succeeding. Clarion needed clarity and was getting it, and that made him laugh. The whole thing was silly, but he could scarcely wait to begin. First, however, he had to choose a girl.

Clarion was in such a state that he should have settled for the closest girl, but something deep inside refused to let him do that. He'd had to settle for far too many things in his life—like living without friends or a real knowledge of the world—that now he would exercise his first real choice. He walked from doorway to doorway and girl to girl, finally stopping in front of one lovely little pixie with long black hair and dancing green eyes.

Hi Naran!

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"Dear lady, would you do me the honor of—entertaining me?" he asked her with a bow, the courtly words somehow coming effortlessly. "If you agree, I promise to be forever grateful."

"Oooh, I'd love to," the girl answered in a voice as sweet as her smile, offering him her hand. "Just you come with me."

Clarion took her hand and let her draw him into a bedchamber filled with lace and satin and perfume and softness, all in reds and pinks and white. She reached behind him to push the door firmly shut, and then she produced a delightful laugh.

"All the girls will hate me now, but I don't care," she said in that silken voice, looking up at him adoringly. "I'm just glad I'm the one you chose, and I intend to give you the most marvelous time you've ever had."

He's never had anything so it's not a real high bar to clear, Naran.

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"Why would they hate you?" Clarion asked, raising her small hand to his lips. Her flesh felt so warm and wonderful in his hand, but not nearly as good as it felt to his lips. He had no idea that girls could be this magnificent, and was now eagerly looking forward to discovering even more marvels.

Did you forget about the maid you tried to grab when you were younger before Hallina burst in on you?

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"They'll hate me because of what you said," the girl informed him, pressing herself ever more closely to his body. "You were so beautifully gallant, like a real gentleman, not like the rough bulls they''ll get. I know it's what they're here for, but even girls like them need a little niceness every now and then."

It's never really clear what "a real gentleman" is supposed to be, since we are shown plenty of nobles who are horrid people.

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Clarion looked down at her, and it was almost as if he could feel the pain this girl had experienced in life. So small and harmless she was, and yet there were those who would hurt her with blows as casually as he had been hurt by words. Distantly he remembered someone telling him to be gentle with her, but the caution had been unnecessary. He'd never find it possible to harm her ... or anyone even remotely like her. . .

Actually unclear whether Naran's also been a victim of sexual or physical abuse in the past. Book 2 spoilers: Naran does have a stalker and Book 5 spoilers it's Tamrissa's father.

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"Come to the bed," she whispered when he put a hand to her lovely face to experience the feel of her silky skin. "I want to give you pleasure, but these clothes are in the way."

She drew him along to the large bed the chamber boasted, one hung about with gossamer curtains of pink beneath tiedback drapes of red velvet. She parted the curtains to let him sit on the white linen, urging him to lean back against the red and pink cushions scattered across the white. Clarion did as she asked, then had the delightful experience of being undressed by someone who was neither his mother, his nurse, nor his valet.

When she found his identification on its chain around his neck, Clarion expected to have to explain what it was. But all she did was remove it and toss it after his clothing, not even pausing to glance at it. Her lips kissed each part of his body as she exposed it, and by the time she was through, his manhood threatened to burst the flesh it was made of.

I'm somewhat surprised this literal man child actually knows the general term of "manhood" and didn't refer it as his "pee pee". Though since Clarion is the only character so far to have had a reasonable character arc, I think I will stop making fun of him now, because he's now crossed into "likeable" territory.

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"I can see you enjoyed that," she told him laughingly as she joined him on the bed, her fingertips on his desire sending unbelievable flashes and tingles through his body. "Would you like to kiss me first, or would you prefer to be eased?"

Clarion had no real idea what she meant to do to ease him, but that made no difference. He took her in his arms and touched his lips to hers, once, twice, then took them strongly for a good deal longer. Her velvet lips answered his kiss with one of her own, passion bringing a moan to her throat. It felt so good to be doing that, so wonderful and right, even when he left her lips and pushed aside the sheer pink robe she wore to kiss one of her breasts. Her moan grew even louder, matching one of his own. Women were marvelous, and he couldn't imagine ever having enough of them.

When he'd finished tasting both of the girl's breasts, she squirmed out from under him, pushed him flat to the bed, then began to return the way he'd treated her. Only she did it to his desire, which quickly brought Clarion beyond the moaning stage. The pleasure was so intense that he felt he might well pass out, but the idea of missing even a moment of the sensation of her hand, lips, and tongue . . . No, Clarion knew he couldn't possibly allow himself to pass out, but stopping the explosion was completely beyond him.

Romance/erotica readers/authors, please explain what the rules are for how often you need to change up the nouns used to describe genitalia and what the various acceptable terms are. "Desire" screams "bargain bin bodice ripper" euphemism to me and is hilarious.

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He lay panting and throbbing for an unknown number of moments, and just as he felt he was returning to himself she also returned to him. It took her very little time to bring him back to the state he'd first been in, and then she was in his arms again, sharing another kiss.

Clarion wanted to investigate every inch of her, so he eventually pushed her flat and began to remove her clothes. She wore the strangest outfit he had ever seen, a corset which did nothing to hold in her breasts, a very small breech-sex in white cotton over her womanhood, cotton stockings in red held up by— things —coming down from the corset, and a sheer pink robe over the rest. Clarion touched and looked and kissed and toyed as he slowly unwrapped her, marveling at the differences between her body and his, and finally her whimpering and squirming changed to words.

I feel like Clarion would be a lingerie man.

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"Please, love, please do it now," she begged, running her hands over his chest. "You're obviously made of steel, but you've turned me into pudding. Please do it now before I die of wanting you!"

She'd spread herself out as she'd spoken, her legs to either side of his body in an arrangement that brought his blood to the boiling point. Instinct howled in an effort to tell him what to do next, but suddenly Clarion had an idea how to avoid the clumsy gropings of inexperience.

Legitimately good characterization!

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"Guide me, sweet girl. Take me in your hand and guide me." He whispered the words as he kissed and nipped at her ear, making her slender body shiver where it lay beneath him.

If I was Naran I'd have cracked up laughing at this cheesy line and the moment would be ruined. But hey, since she's technically at work, I guess she's probably heard much worse and she's a professional.

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"Show me what pleases you most, and I will return the pleasure you gave me earlier."

Would have been much less cringeworthy if this was his only line.

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"Here, I need you here," she responded in a moan, reaching between them to grasp his renewed need. Then she guided it to the entrance of ultimate bliss, which was the heat and slick moisture of her own desire. Clarion thrust within the incredible tunnel, experiencing feelings he had never even dreamt of, not only grasped tight but also pulled even closer when her legs locked about his waist.

Entrance/tunnel of ultimate bliss? I'm starting a new count.

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"Stroke deep, my fleeting love," she murmured,

And possibly one for endearments as well.

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already beginning to move her hips in the most marvelous way as her fingers buried themselves in his hair. "Our time together will be over much too soon, but for the precious few moments we remain here, make me yours completely."

Foreshadowing!

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Clarion had begun to match her movements with his own, and was so lost to the flood of new and incredibly wonderful sensations that he found it impossible to reply to her. Instead he simply kissed her, loving her deeply for this precious gift she gave with no hint of reluctance.

There's no reluctance because this is work and she's a professional. Spoilers for later in this book we'll actually find out that Naran showed up at this tavern just to shack up with Clarion because and Book 5 her Sight magic told her she'd meet the man she'd fall in love with forever by going there.

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He now knew why the others had been so eager to visit with these ladies, and knew as well that next time he would take his turn with those going first.

Mind blown! From this point on, Clarion proceeds to make up for lost time by having as much sex as possible.

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Their motion went from slow to rapid to frenzied, and after a time it culminated in that indescribable explosion that left pulsing tremors tingling through him. The girl seemed to experience the same, and after they'd rested side by side for a short while Clarion turned to her again. He felt there was more to learn about this wonderful new undertaking, and that conviction led him to a determination to discover the rest. They began again, and this time Clarion asked to be shown the little things that pleased her.

It's hard to hate a guy with this kind of dedication.

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He would learn and learn, and then . . . when he felt a bit more clearheaded ... he would exhibit his knowledge to one whose face had taken to invading his dreams. But not this dream. Only this girl beside him belonged in it, and he would remember it forever. . . .

We will never learn whose face this is!

Summary:

Day 2
After an angsty, silent breakfast where everyone is stewing in their own thoughts, and a lunch with boring small talk, everyone is taken to be fitted for their Grown Up Magic Not-School Uniforms. Jovvi deliberately alienates Eskin and Beldara so Green can establish the best friendship of Jovvi and Tamrissa. Clarion outs himself as a literal man child on the way to a tavern. Lorand has to explain where babies come from so Clarion can have supposedly mind blowingly good sex with Naran.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 14
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 7
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 4
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)


TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)


PLOTHOLES: 16
COACH RIDES: 12
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 16
"CLIFFHANGERS": 8
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 2
BLATANT MORALIZING: 11
BATH SCENES: 5
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 4
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)

Possible fixes:
In the grand scheme of things, this chapter works just fine*. There's plenty of characterization for a mildly drunk Clarion, he completes a small character growth arc within the chapter so we get a clear sense of progress and a plot critical event happens (Clarion meets Naran). There was very little filler and stuff actually happened! I'd say we should go for Clarion as the main POV character because he's more fun than Lorand, except for the fact that he'd just run around trying to hook up with everybody else instead of progressing the main story.

It's telling that the first chapter so far that I would call decently written happens to be a sex scene chapter and why I keep saying Green is really a romance author pretending to write fantasy.

*While the sex scene itself isn't bad to the point of being Bad Sex Award worthy, it's not good either. If I hadn't already cracked up at "sweet girl", I would have lost it at "entrance of ultimate bliss". That said, it is significantly better than Green's other work. Compare the scene we got in Chapter 22 with this one from Chapter 4 of Princess Brat, the aforementioned book that's heavy on non-consensual spanking and humiliation:



(just look at that MS Paint job on the cover!)

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In no time at all she found herself responding to his kiss, startled to find that she actually wanted to respond. The revelation confused her, but for some reason she wasn't up to thinking it through. The way his hands moved on her body their touch seemed to leave a trail of fire in their wake. The fire had begun to flame up through her skin, and she really needed to do something to quench it.

But the beast wasn't ready to do any quenching. He ended their kiss as he moved Elissia to her back, which made her gasp and raise her bottom out of contact with the bed. The ache of the spanking was still very much with her, but once her knees were bent and her feet were easing the problem, she quickly discovered another almost as bad. The beast had lowered his head to her breasts, and the touch of his tongue and lips was fast driving her insane. She moaned as she tried to escape the exquisite torture, but that just caused the beast to chuckle as he held her still and continued with what he was about.

An eternity of time went by, at least five or ten minutes, before the beast took pity on her. His lips slowly moved from her breasts up to her throat, and from there to her own lips. This time the kiss was very brief, and then he was crouched between her knees and touching her most intimate parts with a rod of hardwood. When it began to penetrate her she realized that that was exactly what she wanted, exactly what she most needed. Her body rose by itself to greet him while his arms circled her again and his lips came back to hers.

His kiss drowned her as his desire slowly merged with her own, but his presence inside her inflamed the sensations she'd been feeling all along. Elissia whimpered and struggled to escape being burned alive, but the beast simply held her still and entered her completely. There was the least amount of pain when he did that, due to the fact that there had been only one other man before him, not to mention the still-fresh remnants of that spanking. But then he began to stroke her slowly but with strength, and all thoughts of pain vanished entirely.

Elissia clawed at the back of the man atop her, frantic to stop his kiss long enough for her to ask what she was supposed to do. His stroking gave her the conviction that there was something she could do to increase the indescribable sensations, but simply squirming around wasn't it. She needed desperately to know, hating the idea of missing the unknown thing she was seemingly being promised.

It was a thing of magic and marvel, a thing she wanted above all else to make her own, but she didn't know how to reach it!

And then the beast answered her question without her having to ask it, in a way that worked despite its being rather humiliating. One of his big hands came to her aching bottom, the touch making her raise her hips immediately to escape. But she raised her hips just as he was thrusting into her, and the same thing happened the next time and the next. The beast was using the spanking he'd given her to match her movements to his, and that was just the thing she'd needed to find out. She began to match his movements on her own, and after a moment his hand moved away.

After that there was nothing but frenzy and sensation, the most marvelous sensations Elissia had ever experienced. She screamed in delight while her hands moved over the hard body above hers, even when the strength of his thrusts made her bottom feel as though she were being spanked again. But it didn't matter, since nothing mattered beyond meeting his thrusts as they rose toward the promise of perfection achieved.

It took quite a while, but at last Elissia's body exploded in that sublime, shuddering joy that nothing could match. She hadn't known that anything could be so good, so completely satisfying, and only dimly was she aware of when the beast grunted with his own release. Exhaustion now rode her as strongly as he had, and as soon as he withdrew from her she closed her eyes and tumbled into warm, overwhelming darkness.

It's SO BAD. Here's the kicker: the publication date on Princess Brat is 2010 (by ABCD Graphics and Design, Inc); the publication date on Convergence is 1996 (by EOS/HarperCollins). The writing in Convergence has been bad, but not Princess Brat bad!

Two data points isn't remotely conclusive but since you normally get better with practice and Green has been fairly prolific, I can only conclude that - contrary to our earlier assumptions - The Blending books must have been extensively edited to the point where the editor could no longer cope with polishing things up any longer.

Leng fucked around with this message at 12:58 on Sep 7, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Vallant looked up when Coll rejoined them at the table, pulled back out of his thoughts by the arrival. He'd been reviewing conclusions and decisions—and feelings—since he'd gotten back himself, and was still too deeply enmeshed to notice what Drowd did immediately.

Called her Tamrissa in the middle of it, didn't you?

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"The lordling isn't with you?" the academician said to Coll, the usual smirk in his voice, "What's wrong, wasn't he able to perform? If the ladies laughed him off the premises, we'll have to make an effort to search for him."

Academician? I thought Eskin was just a run of the mill academic. I had to go back and check, and it seems Green is using academician and academic interchangeably. Is this an American English thing?

quote:

"If you intend to search, I can show you which chamber to begin in," Coll returned immediately, paying more attention to the cup of brew he reached for than he did to Drowd. "I happened to be right next door, and as I was leaving, they were starting what sounded like seconds. If you ask him nicely when he finally does get back, he may agree to give you pointers."

Good job on keeping an eye on your new best bud, Lorand.

Also

quote:

"Don't be absurd," Drowd responded with a snort, clearly ignoring Holter's muffled amusement. "The day will never come that that boy can teach anyone about anything. Can't you all see he's completely out of his depth in most things? He doesn't even know the realities of his own class."

What kind of academic are you? You just got a data point that disproves your hypothesis. Time to let it go.

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"He knew enough to pass his initial test," Vallant pointed out, too annoyed with the man to keep silent. "And someone really should have told you the followin' truth sooner, Drowd: anybody who needs somebody to laugh at as badly as you do marks himself as a man who's afraid he's inferior. You talk about other people's lacks and faults just to make sure no one notices yours, but it's a really annoyin' habit that I'm mighty tired of. If you don't have somethin' good to say, just sit there without sayin' anythin'."

Drowd's face had gone red by then, but the growl Vallant hadn't been able to keep out of his voice apparently convinced the man not to argue—along with the way Coll and Holter stared soberly and silently. If either of them had disagreed with Vallant's assessment, their expressions at the very least would have shown it. They were clearly just as tired of Drowd's digging, and realizing that kept the young academician quiet.

That's two put downs in a day for Drowd, without the main characters trying to coordinate. Later on, we'll get to see all of them take turns to pile on people they disagree with, just so you know they are all absolutely agreed on the same points.

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So Vallant was able to go back to his thoughts in peace. It had taken him some effort to get around being called a coward and a quitter by Tamrissa Domon, but once he had he'd been able to really notice the rest of what she'd said— and the way she'd said it. When she'd announced she would not be too afraid to do things the way other people were . . . Vallant was surprised he hadn't been knocked over by what she said she was determined not to feel.

That girl is terrified of somethin' Vallant told himself for the dozenth time, and that could be why she came down so hard on me. She sees givin' up as a threat to her, but why would that be? And why did she sound so strange when she agreed that her beauty always let her get her own way? There was bitterness in her eyes, and some kind of mockin' that had nothin' of amusement in it. . . .

For a worldly guy who's travelled to a lot of different cities, Vallant is very bad at subtext, reading body language and facial cues.

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Those observances had bothered Vallant, so much so that they had even interfered with his pleasure. It wasn't until he found himself calling the girl under him Tamrissa that he noticed he'd chosen a light-eyed blonde, and he'd barely managed to finish what he'd started. That seemed to be because the girl wasn't Tamrissa Domon, a cooling realization he'd never before had trouble with.

Called it!

quote:

The thought of Mirra had never kept him from enjoying himself in other ports, and he'd known Mirra a good deal longer and better.

That's not saying much, since you've known Tamrissa for all of a single day, during which you've had three interactions with her.

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So why had the thought of a girl he barely knew and had never had—and one who clearly despised him—affected him so deeply? It was ridiculous and meaningless and puzzling and disturbing,

Green found her thesaurus!

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and he couldn't seem to stop thinking about it—or find any reasons for it. He wasn't an inexperienced child, after all, falling in love with the first pretty face he saw without knowing anything about what lay behind that face.

I don't think it qualifies as "love" if you don't know anything about the person. "Obsession" is probably a more accurate term.

quote:

Hadn't he learned anything from his association with Mirra, like being wise enough to stay uninvolved? What in the world was wrong with him?

Let me get my list!

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Asking himself useless questions became a rut too deep for Vallant to climb out of, at least not easily. He was pulled out again when Mardimil finally returned, after a surprisingly long passage of time.

How would you know? You've been staring at the wall, lost in your thoughts the whole time.

quote:

"You look like you enjoyed yourself, Mardimil," Coll commented as the young noble resumed his seat at the table. "If you died right now, it would take the burial people a week to get that smile off your face."

That's macabre, Lorand. You guys all had a narrow escape from death yesterday - it's a little too soon.

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"At the moment I feel as though the smile is a good deal more permanent than that," Mardimil replied with a small laugh as he reached for his cup of brew. "That girl was the most delightful creature I've ever encountered, and I couldn't seem to tear myself away. Perhaps I'll return a bit later, once I've restored my energies."

Mardimil emptied the cup of brew down his throat, missing the amused glances Vallant exchanged with Coll and Holter. Which was a lucky thing, since he wouldn't have understood that their amusement was aimed at Drowd, who pretended to be too absorbed in the music and dancing to comment. To say Mardimil had been successful with the lady would have been to state the obvious, something Drowd clearly wasn't prepared to concede. It would have meant losing the butt of his nasty jokes, an end he'd apparently refused to accept.

Drowd is such an unimportant minor character, I can't believe all these words have been devoted to making him unlikeable. But I guess it's necessary to have characters who are more unlikeable than the main cast, otherwise we'd have nothing to cheer for.

quote:

With all of them back at the table, the landlord Ginge sent a girl over to ask if they were ready to eat. The answer was a unanimous yes, so they were supplied with a thick vegetable soup, hot pork sandwiches on fresh, seeded bread, small salads, and generous wedges of apricot pie topped with clotted cream. Not quite two silver dins worth from each of them even with the brew and girls included, but Mardimil asked for and was freely given another sandwich and a pot of tea. The rest of them were told to ask if they decided on seconds as well, which meant Ginge was an openhanded host. He would definitely make a profit on them, but not at the expense of their good time.

They've spent 2/3rds of a week's fancy food costs in the official residence on one night of food, drinks and paid sex. I want to know what Ginge's cut is and how his profit margin would compare to Jovvi's hypothetical one.

quote:

The meal put them all in a nicely mellow mood, and when a group of musicians came out to relieve the boy and his instrument they sang and clapped along with everyone else. The trio played the most popular tunes that were known all over the empire, but Vallant noticed that Mardimil didn't seem to know the words to any of them. He clapped and laughed and even hummed the refrains, but clearly didn't know any of the words. Maybe that was because of the mild drunk he was in the grip of, something that had been true even when he'd come downstairs.

I will admit that I hate it when authors dump entire ballads, song lyrics, etc into the middle of the text. This is too far on the other extreme - give us some song titles at least! Missed opportunity for world building.

quote:

The evening wore on pleasantly, despite the fact that the tavern had long since become full. Most of the patrons seemed to be regulars, and most of them came over at one time or another to greet Holter. The little groom seemed pleased to see them, but even though he laughed and joked with them he made no effort to introduce them to Vallant and the others. After a while Vallant realized that was to keep from having to invite all those strangers to join them, which was very thoughtful on Holter's part. He'd brought them to the tavern so they might enjoy themselves in peace, not to go on display for gawking outsiders.

Vallant heard himself think that, and couldn't hold back on a quiet snort of self-ridicule. Anyone coming over would be a gawking outsider, but he himself was part of the special inner group. Never mind that he knew where every door out of the tavern was located, but still had to fight feelings of confinement almost constantly. He was still one of them, and was obviously considered better than some. He found it ludicrous that even Mardimil, tipsy and innocent as he was, was still doing better than the dashing Vallant Ro. Maybe he ought to ask Mardimil for lessons . . .

PLEASE DO. He's far more likeable than you are.

quote:

That thought pushed Vallant back down into depression, a state which perversely kept him from getting anywhere near as drunk as he would have liked. Why depression kept him sober was a question he'd never been able to answer, but that didn't stop it from being true. He didn't even notice when the trio of musicians paused to take a rest, and no one came forward to replace them.

This is the worst portrayal of depression. Also, we're IN VALLANT'S HEAD. By definition, if he's remarking on the trio taking a break, he's noticed them taking a break. You can't just say he noticed that he didn't notice them!

quote:

But he did notice when the half-dozen customers at one of the tables began to loudly demand that the music start up again. The six seemed to be relative strangers to the tavern, sitting apart from everyone else and doing nothing in the way of exchanging greetings the way most of the other patrons had. They were all dressed in rough trousers and shirts and coats, looking not only well-worn but dirty. That description fit both them and their clothes, and their manners were a perfect match.

"Just keep yer shirts on," the landlord Ginge called from behind the bar when their noise refused to stop. "They'll be back after they get a bite feat and swaller some brew, so

"We ain't payin' fer them t'have a good time," one of the six interrupted Ginge in a loud, belligerent voice. "We's here fer our own good time, so you c'n jest get'm back out an' playin' like they's supposta be doin'."

"They'll be back when they's done," Ginge tried again, obviously working to hold his temper. "You all got full cups t'hold yer interest while yer waitin', so—"

"No!" the same man shouted, wobbling to his feet. "This stinkin' brew needs all th' help it c'n get, so you haul them three on out here! 'R mebbe you'd like us t'do sum enter-tainin'."

With that he took his cup and hurled it across the room, wetting everyone it passed and landing on a table to spill the two cups sitting on it. People all over began to come to their feet with a roar, and that seemed to be what the six were waiting for. The five still seated jumped up whooping and laughing, and a moment later a melee was in progress. Small bits of sand and wood shavings flew everywhere, small clusters of flames tried to set everything on fire, small gouts of water turned everything they touched soggy, and small winds blew the various messes directly in men's faces. Ginge and his people dropped everything and tried to break it up, but after a moment it was clear they didn't have a hope of accomplishing it.

I can't tell if this is supposed to feel scary or not. It's so laughably pathetic compared to the fireball and the death test that my reaction is honestly like, awww, how cute.

quote:

"I'm gonna help Ginge," Holter said over the shouts and bellows, looking around at the rest of them. "If'n any a you feels like doin' th' same, it would shorely be 'predated."

Pagin, I think you got this on your own. You don't need the rest of them.

quote:

That was because more and more of the patrons were being drawn into the free-for-all, Vallant knew. He'd seen the same any number of times before, the exercising of ordinary talents in a way that was designed to let the combatants neutralize an opponent to a certain extent before the fight turned physical. The six who had started it all looked to be really practiced in the technique, which meant the landlord and his people needed all the help they could get.

IN WHAT WAY?! You're the author in the head of a character who knows this technique. For the love of good writing, DESCRIBE IT instead of telling us about it.

quote:

"I'm with you," Vallant said as Holter began to turn away. "But before we start anythin', let's see how much more help we've got."

Coll nodded immediately when Vallant looked at him, and Mardimil apparently took Coil's willingness as a signal to add his own.

This is way too much magical power in proportion to the actual problem.

quote:

They all then turned to look at Drowd, but the academician had somehow left the table without their noticing. Where he'd gone was something they didn't have the time to wonder about, not when the fight was already beginning to go physical.

Telling us that the characters feel the urgent need to do something doesn't make us feel a sense of urgency as readers.

quote:

"Let's work this together," Vallant said quickly, addressing the other three. "Mardimil—do you think you can use air to circle and separate out the six who started this? Good, because that's the most important part. Next comes surrounding them with wood shavings which Coll will do—to let the other patrons know something is happening—and last but not least will come Holter's and my contribution. Let's get started."

Where's that "Master-of-the-vessel snap"? Shouldn't Vallant have jumped straight into captain mode and started shouting orders the minute everyone present agreed to help?

quote:

Mardimil raised his brows, obviously wondering what Vallant meant to do, but then he shrugged and turned to look at the six main rioters. He'd apparently decided that he'd find out Vallant's intentions soon enough, and got down to doing his part.

Sometimes I have so much trouble telling whether Green's being inconsistent with characterization or whether she's intentionally characterizing the POV character as being dense. Clarion's discovered sex and is slightly drunk but I wouldn't have thought that would be enough to predispose a noble, accustomed to a lifetime of leveraging familial connections to the Seated Blending, to take orders from a commoner without making some sort of comment even if Vallant - uncharacteristically - disguised it as a suggestion.

quote:

Vallant watched with a good deal of satisfaction as the six troublemakers were suddenly and forcefully separated from everyone else, most probably thinking some invisible giant was to blame.

Uh, no. They know Air magic is a thing.

quote:

That was pretty much the way it looked, with the defenders being shoved back away from the six, and the six themselves pushed together. Vallant had never before seen a High practitioner of Air magic work, but knew he was certainly seeing one now.

You guys can stop now.

quote:

Once the separation was complete, Coll took his turn with Earth magic. Not only did he use almost every wood shaving on the tavern's floor to surround the men, he also seemed to have used them to separate each of the six from the others. Again, the amount of strength and control necessary to do that was impressive,

Why do the other patrons need this to know something's happening? They were being shoved back by the same barrier of Air magic, so it doesn't take a genius to draw some conclusions.

quote:

but since it was now Vallant's turn he left being impressed for some other time.

Instead he opened to his own magic, and brought down the coldest, most chill water he could reach that was still liquid. Holter chuckled as he followed suit, obviously having waited to see what Vallant had in mind. Together they gave the six men the coldest baths they could ever have had, ignoring the men's howls while they made sure none of the icy deluge ran off onto the tavern's floor. If the six had started that trouble because they were drunk, the treatment they were now getting ought to sober them up to the point of peacefulness again.

Once each of the six had been thoroughly doused, Vallant returned the water to the upper skies. When Holter followed his example,

Still can't work out if this is evaporating the water, or teleporting it.

quote:

Vallant was then able to signal Coll to release the wood shavings. As soon as the shavings had settled back in place Mardimil withdrew the fence of air, and they were able to look at the six again.

The men stood shivering and white-faced, obviously scared sober and calm, which was what they'd been trying to accomplish.

Green is a master at stating the obvious.

quote:

When all six broke and ran for the door, fighting each other to scramble through, Vallant joined Coll, Mardimil, and Holter in laughing uproariously.

Ok, that's kind of funny, but not that funny. And you might want to think about–

quote:

The laughter felt good, but suddenly it came to Vallant that they were the only ones in the large room laughing. Everyone else, patrons, servants, workers—and Ginge— stood and stared as though looking at ghosts. The laughter trailed off as one by one Vallant's companions noticed the same thing he had. The six men who had run out had been terrified, and the ones who remained weren't far from being the same.

Too late!

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"Whut's wrong with th' buncha you?" Holter suddenly demanded into the thickened silence, looking around from face to face.

What's wrong with YOU GUYS? The troublemakers were neutralized the moment they were forcibly separated but you had to keep going.

quote:

"You sayin' you wanted them hungers t'tear this place apart?

Actually, nobody else is saying anything.

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Since we got it stopped, you oughta be thankin' us!"

Not while you're laughing like lunatics!

quote:

"We do thank you," Ginge said after a long hesitation, during which no one seemed to move except for the requirements of breathing. "Leastways I thank you, this bein' my place 'n all. It's jest ... I ain't never seen nothin' like that, or felt it neither. The power you used t'bring that there water down . . . both a you ... it felt like a pair a kicks from a giant! How d'you pull in that much, an' why ain't you all burned up 'cause you did?"

"An' whut you gonna do wiv it next?" a voice whispered from somewhere, a man's voice trembling like a frightened girl's. That seemed to be the question bothering everyone there, even though they all surely knew the law. Using the power to harm someone usually got you sent to the Deep Caverns—but only if you weren't really strong. It was unheard of for a High to be condemned,

...so the penalty for trying to escape the tests wouldn't apply to a High? Right then, show's over folks! Everyone here is a confirmed High talent, so they can just skip the rest of the sessions and disappear.

quote:

and the whispers claimed that that was so no matter what they did. Vallant had heard—and believed—the whispers himself, so their next move was obvious.

"I think it's time we thanked you for your hospitality and said good night," Vallant announced as he rose to his feet, trying to keep his tone light and friendly. "This is surely the best tavern in Gan Garee, and I believe I also speak for my friends when I give you thanks for makin' us welcome here. We'll remember our visit fondly."

By then the others had also gotten to their feet, so Vallant led the way to the door. Men stepped back out of their path without saying a word, and every face showed the same trembling uncertainty. Were they serious about going without harming anyone, or would they suddenly turn around and lash out with furious anger behind the monstrous power they controlled? No one seemed to know, possibly not even when they were all outside and had pulled the door to behind them.

How manically were these guys laughing to make everyone feel like they're on the verge of going dark right after they've saved the tavern?

quote:

"I never expected anyone to look at me like that," Coll said after a moment, sounding somewhat shaken himself. "They were afraid of us, but all we did was help them. Why would that make them afraid?"

Because you guys: a) brought nuclear weapons to a fist fight and b) started cackling right afterwards.

quote:

"Probably because they've never known anyone even as strong as a Middle," Vallant offered when the others remained silent. "I never knew a Middle, not personally, and I remember agreein' with people that you just can't trust the ones with real power. Since I wasn't into showin' off, no one really understood how strong I was. That made me one of them rather than one of the faceless group with power, and I never saw myself any other way. Now . . ."

Did you guys forget the memo that your Guild representative gave you? You were all confirmed Middles, that's how you ended up in this situation!

quote:

Now he and the others had suddenly had the ground cut out from under their feet,

Ground?! Where my sailing imagery at?

quote:

changing their stance in a way that would never let them go back to what they'd been. Realizing that made Vallant feel horribly lonely, and led to another disturbing question: he'd been hoping that something would happen to let him go home, but could he go back? If his own family ever looked at him the way those people in the tavern had . . .

Weren't you the only one with a stable loving family? You were bragging last night and this morning about how awesome your parents are.

quote:

"We better get th' coach an' go back to th' house," Holter said in a defeated voice, giving Vallant the impression that the small man had already been barred from ever going home again. "Wouldn't want Ginge t'look out an' find us standin' here, not after how nice he wus t'us . . ."

No one seemed willing or able to argue that, so they began to trudge along the street toward the stable where the coach was supposed to be. For an outing that had started out so well, the only way it could have ended worse would have been to have guardsmen witness their performance.

Spoilers for Book 4 (I think, might be 5): guardsmen are drawn from the general populace, so therefore they're basically majority Low talents. We just saw Clarion take on a tavern full of Low talents without breaking a sweat. The whole Gan Garee guard force would need to show up before they could do anything.

quote:

Vallant had finally remembered something the others had clearly also forgotten, certainly because of all the brew they'd had. Individuals might be sent to the Deep Caverns for using their ability to harm others, but those of different aspects who tried to act together were summarily executed. Vallant and the others hadn't exactly acted together and all five aspects hadn't been represented, but the fine point of difference wasn't one Vallant would have enjoyed arguing before a court. Not when they weren't yet Highs, just a handful of hopefuls. . . .

This is the "anti Blending" law. I'm unclear as to what constitutes "acting together", because Lorand's whole description of the casual use of magic in the inn surely meets that definition, yet I don't see any of those background characters being hauled off for execution!

quote:

"That reminds me," Vallant said suddenly as they approached the stable entrance. "Drowd is still missin'. If he hasn't already come out ahead of us, we'll have to send the driver back to the tavern to look for him."

Is the only reason this line exists to make Vallant look like a considerate person?

quote:

The others muttered something in agreement without looking overly concerned, and Vallant couldn't blame them. A man like Drowd was usually popular, but only because those flocking around him were afraid of what he might say about them if they weren't his friend. With no one in their group willing to hear barbs against any of the others, Drowd's popularity had taken a severe beating. If he ended up gone for good, it was unlikely that anyone but the testing authority would be upset.

Never mind!

quote:

The large stable doors stood open with a small amount of lamplight pouring a short way out into the dark. Just inside to the left, in a space about three stalls wide and deep, was a sitting area fixed up by and for the stablemen. Old, mismatched wooden chairs stood around a splintery wooden table with almost all of its finish gone. A large stable lantern illuminated the area, showing an old man and two boys along with their driver, all four sipping brew from battered cups and smoking pipes. When their driver saw them he rose to his feet, murmured something which the old man nodded to with a cackle, then proceeded to empty his pipe.

"Thought ya might be" along soon, so I had th' horses hitched t'th' coach," he drawled as he made sure the dottle hadn't a single spark left to it. "That other 'un, he tried t'tell me you wusn't comin' out t'night atall, so I oughta take him back alone. Got mad when I said I'd wait some t'be sure, an' now here you all is. Sure glad I waited."

All that was said without looking at Vallant or any of the others, and then the man ambled back into the stable proper to get the coach. He used a small glow in the palm of his hand to light his way, one that wasn't likely to frighten any of the horses.

Fire magic in a stable when there's a lantern to hand? Bad idea!

quote:

"And you were worried about Drowd," Coll said to Vallant, his air of disgust clearly aimed at the academician. "The man was ready to abandon us here, without even knowing whether or not someone would call the guard down on us. We ought to ask them to put him in a different residence."

"They won't agree," Mardimil said, still showing a bit of that dreamy air that suggested he hadn't yet thrown off the effects of the brew. "Since they don't yet know which of us will win High positions, they won't take the chance of really offending any of us.

this stupid conflation between High talent and High position bugs me no end but I won't repeat that rant here.

quote:

And I meant to ask: why did we have to leave so early?"

"I'll explain it all tomorrow," Coll told him, which made Mardimil smile and nod agreeably. Vallant thought it was a shame that they couldn't keep Mardimil permanently drunk. He wasn't nearly as pleasant when he was sober. . . .

You're no charmer yourself, Vallant. It's a shame you can't keep your mouth permanently shut.

quote:

Their driver brought the coach forward to where they could board without worrying what they might be stepping into before stepping into the coach. A shadowy figure already sat inside in one corner, but that presented no problem at all. Holter wordlessly climbed to the box beside the driver where he'd sat on the way there, leaving just enough room inside for the others.

"Well, I'm very relieved to see you all again," Drowd said in an uneven voice once everyone was settled and the coach had begun to move. "Would you believe that that fool of a driver wanted to take me back alone, leaving the rest of you here? I refused to allow it, of course, and stayed in the coach to be certain he didn't leave with it anyway. We should all report the man tomorrow, to be certain he isn't used again."

Vallant simply looked out his window without replying, leaving it to the others to tell the man what they thought of him. When the others also remained silent, Vallant smiled faintly into the darkness. Drowd would have no idea whether or not they believed him, and that would turn out to be worse for him than simply being told off. Maybe tomorrow one of them would get around to telling him what they thought of him, but right now the pain was still too fresh and intense. As if by the stroke of some magic wand, they had all suddenly become outcasts! Even if he found a way to go home , wouldn't people take to pointing at him and whispering among themselves? They hadn't yet realized how different he was before he left, but now, after they'd had a chance to think about it. . . .

You are the worst drama king. You have a stable loving family, a crew that adores you and an ex-fiancé who treats you like a life sized Ken doll with a vibrating dildo attachment and didn't agree to your break up. I think you'd be fine.

quote:

Vallant sat staring out the window at the dark streets of a dozing city, the tears in his eyes blurring the scene's details but matching the light rain which had started. He hadn't cried since the time he was very young, and probably wouldn't be crying now if he hadn't had so much brew. But he had had the brew, and the pangs of loneliness and homesickness were very strong and painful. Never to go home again . . , how were you supposed to think about that without crying?



quote:

Vallant felt very small and very helpless and alone, almost the way he'd felt once before in his life. Back then he had been small and helpless, and he'd been certain things would have been different if he'd been a grown man. Well, he was a grown man now, and things certainly were different ... so different he almost couldn't stand it. . . .

Book 3 spoilers: we'll eventually get a flashback to when Vallant nearly drowned as a kid in an underwater cave, leaving him with his claustrophobia

Summary:

Day 2
After an angsty, silent breakfast where everyone is stewing in their own thoughts, and a lunch with boring small talk, everyone is taken to be fitted for their Grown Up Magic Not-School Uniforms. Jovvi deliberately alienates Eskin and Beldara so Green can establish the best friendship of Jovvi and Tamrissa. Clarion outs himself as a literal man child on the way to a tavern. Lorand has to explain where babies come from so Clarion can have supposedly mind blowingly good sex with Naran. Vallant spends the entire time moping and pretending he's banging Tamrissa. A bunch of tavern toughs start a fight that is easily broken up by their group minus Drowd. The crowd turns fearful after they start cackling like proto-evil overlords so they leave.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 14
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 7
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 4
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

PLOTHOLES: 19
COACH RIDES: 13
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 16
"CLIFFHANGERS": 8
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 2
BLATANT MORALIZING: 12
BATH SCENES: 5
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 4
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)

Possible fixes:
As far as I can tell, this scene is supposed to make the main cast feel like they've passed the point of no return, but it's an awful lot of words for a pretty anti-climatic "action" scene. If we focus on the tavern sequence in the context of all the changes we've discussed to date, I think I'd go with something like this:
  • Change the opening to be Hat and Lorand reading a proclamation of the upcoming competitions
  • We stick with the "farmboys running away from home for adventure" trope and dig more into the Hat/Lorand friendship. Hat replaces Drowd as Lorand's Earth magic rival going forward.
  • Cut all of the fireball attacks and non-Lorand POVs
  • Farmboys land in Gan Garee and wind up in a brothel because Hat
  • Turns out it's Tamrissa's house! She sold 50% of the ownership stake to Jovvi in exchange for the unconditional right to live there in perpetuity and a profit share in Jovvi's courtesan business. Jovvi agreed on the proviso that Tamrissa would be part of the merchandise.
  • Things get ugly because dudes (Vallant, Lanir) start fighting over Tamrissa
  • Jovvi's Spirit magic isn't enough to calm things down
  • Lorand and Hat band together with Jovvi to save the day; Jovvi hires them on the spot

Not sure how to get Clarion in the mix here. I feel like we don't need another High talent in the mix with this kind of plot structure. Maybe we just meet him later on.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Jovvi felt more rested by the time they got back to the residence, which meant her annoyance was harder to control. Beldara Lant flounced off to her room without a single word to anyone, determined to stick to her beliefs or die trying.

Nobody's done anything with Fire magic at this point, so for all you know, Beldara is right and she is stronger than Tamrissa. Just because you have your eye on her as a potential cash generating asset does not automatically make Tamrissa better at Fire magic.

quote:

And without the men the house sounded almost empty, which reminded Jovvi that they were out having a good time. She would have enjoyed doing the same, but not without a guide who knew which areas to avoid. At least Tamrissa had been honest enough to admit she knew nothing about the city where partying was concerned . . .

Green will never touch on this again, so I'm not really sure whether this is in-text confirmation that Jovvi is bi, or whether there are male equivalents to courtesans (because every courtesan we see or hear of in the books is always female).

quote:

And thinking about Tamrissa, Jovvi saw her heading for the small library after gesturing that Jovvi should follow. The girl had mentioned something about a secret she wanted to share, and Jovvi really was curious. The secret wasn't likely to be anything really forbidden like bramleaf juice or holban resin, not when those two drugs left their mark clearly on users. Tamrissa wasn't a drug user, despite the extreme pain Jovvi could sometimes feel inside her.

World building info that will never be used again! Also, Tamrissa the drug addict would have been a more interesting angle than what we get.

quote:

So Jovvi followed her hostess into the library, where Tamrissa rang for tea. The service was brought rather quickly, and Tamrissa took a moment to ask the serving girl to tell the cook that the men probably would be absent for dinner. Then she closed the door behind the girl, and turned to Jovvi with a smile.

"Let's fix ourselves cups of tea, just in case Cook decides to come by raging and crying," she said. "If it's still quiet once the tea is ready to drink, it will be safe to bring out my hidden treasure."

Jovvi laughed, liking the way Tamrissa was trying to provide an adventure for her, then joined her in pouring and sweetening cups of tea. It didn't take long, of course, but apparently it took just long enough.

"If Cook were coming, he would be here by now," Tamrissa said, turning to give Jovvi a look like an eager child. "The coast is therefore clear, so make yourself comfortable while I fetch the treasure."

Another thing I hate - people referring to the cook as "Cook". No other domestic service position gets referred to in that way - maids, butlers, coach drivers, footmen, hostlers, guards, general servants all get referred to either by name or by position.

quote:

Jovvi took her cup to the table between a pair of leather-covered chairs, put her purse and hat on the table as well, then followed instructions about making herself comfortable in one of the chairs. Tamrissa had gone to one of the bookshelves and removed two of the books, then reached in behind them. What she withdrew was a small leather-covered box in red, the sort which usually held writing paper of good quality. The two books were returned to their places on the shelf, but the box was carried over to where Jovvi sat.

I have no idea why we're getting all this detail about Jovvi's every motion to sit down since none of it is important or reveals character. We could have had something like this instead:

Jovvi kicked off her shoes and burrowed into the nearest armchair, knees tucked to her chest and feet curled underneath her skirts. She watched as Tamrissa withdrew a small writing case that had been hidden behind a bookshelf dedicated to Gandistran histories. What kind of secret was Tamrissa hiding?

quote:

"You must promise never to tell anyone about this," Tamrissa said, not yet opening the box. "I bought it the day after my husband died, using some of the gold he kept in there. If any of the others find out they'll expect to share it, and I no longer have the gold to replace it. It's horribly expensive, but I think you'll agree it's worth the price."

Remember back in Chapter 17 when Tamrissa said she doesn't have any money of her own? Yeah, it's because she blew all of the gold she inherited on this one, extravagant purchase.

quote:

"Good grief, girl, what is it?" Jovvi couldn't help demanding. "Diamonds would fit in that box, but I can't imagine people expecting to share them. Beyond that I can't think of a single—"

Diamonds aren't exactly a secret either. Smartest woman in the room, our Jovvi.

quote:

Jovvi's words ended abruptly when Tamrissa opened the box, showing something that Jovvi had heard about but had never tried. It was something the nobility most often kept to themselves, paying outrageous sums which even many merchants couldn't afford to match. It really was a treasure, and it was—

"Chocolate," Tamrissa said with a smile for the stunned expression Jovvi certainly wore. "Someone brought a tiny amount to Gimmis once, trying to bribe him somehow in relation to some business deal. My husband was rather narrow and uneducated, so he had no idea what it was. After he threw the man out, he tossed the gift into the trash without giving it a second look. I rescued it when he went for his nap, and ate every bit of it myself. He eventually found out what it was and cursed himself for throwing away a small fortune, never guessing it hadn't been wasted after all. Try a piece."

I...don't buy this. Expensive foods are usually expensive because they are delicious and also hard to get. When it's a plant-based food, it all becomes about the yield over time. Saffron is expensive because you need 150 crocus flowers in order to hand pick enough stems to yield 1 g (0.035oz) of dry saffron threads. We're in a world where Earth magic can Encourage plants to grow faster/better than they otherwise could. Not to mention that Air, Water and Fire magic could all be used to harvest and process cacao beans more effectively and efficiently. Yet somehow Tamrissa blew ALL THE GOLD SHE HAD on a tiny box.

quote:

Jovvi hesitated only an instant, politeness quickly falling under the wheels of driving curiosity. A patron of hers had once promised to bring chocolate as a gift, but he'd never returned after making the promise. She'd heard later that he'd killed himself after losing his fortune to gambling and fast living . . .

But the uneven chunk of brown stickiness was now between her fingers, and Jovvi could wait no longer. She brought it to her lips and licked it gently, then took a very small bite. Pleasure exploded against her taste buds as the tiny bite melted along her tongue, spreading indescribable ecstasy all through her. She hummed a little with the delight of it, and the sound came out like a moan. It was marvelous, well beyond anything she could have imagined, and she meant to savor every small crumb and smear of it.

Jovvi just having a foodgasm here.

quote:

"Don't be ashamed to lick your fingers when the rest is gone," Tamrissa said with a laugh, having taken the other chair after helping herself to her own small chunk. "I always do, and I don't care how unladylike it's supposed to be. Letting any of this go to waste would be worse than a crime against humanity."

"Yes, let humanity take care of itself," Jovvi agreed, speaking only after all trace of the first taste was gone from her mouth. "And to the Deep Caverns with supposed ladylike behavior. This is almost as good as being with a man."

Uh, what? You're a courtesan. Are you seriously telling me that you've only ever had good sex during the course of your career (statistically extremely unlikely and Book 5 Chapter 31 spoilers you basically admit you weren't having great sex before you landed in the Blending)? Because most of your patrons aren't gonna be like Clarion was with Naran - they're paying you for a service and whether or not the sex is good for you is irrelevant.

Does this mean Jovvi was mind controlling all of her patrons to get herself off? Like I have some ethical issues regarding mind control in general, but assuming we can get past that, I would have thought that her patrons would only be consenting to the use of Spirit magic insofar as it makes sex better for them.

quote:

"How can you compare the two?" Tamrissa asked with a strange sound, giving most of her attention to the brown chunk she nibbled at. "Being with a man is vile and unending pain. Chocolate is the most marvelous thing ever created. The two can't possibly be discussed in the same breath."

"It's . . . becoming increasingly obvious that you weren't happy in your marriage," Jovvi said, approaching the subject carefully. "Did your husband change after you married him?"

"If at all, only for the worse," Tamrissa answered, now deliberately looking at the chocolate rather than at Jovvi. "My parents didn't care what Gimmis was like, they just cared that he was willing to name my father as his heir if they married me to him. But that won't ever happen again, because I won't let it. I'd rather be dead than be married off a second time."

"That's what you meant when you said you'd be willing to give up your beauty to Beldara," Jovvi suddenly remembered, studying the girl. Tamrissa had that fragile sort of beauty that aroused most men, either for good or ill depending on their individual natures. Jovvi was quite glad her own beauty was completely different; if she'd looked like Tamrissa, she might not have survived.

Despite all of the amateur porno descriptions, I still have no clue exactly how these two are beautifully different in being differently beautiful.

quote:

"It looks like we have something in common then," Jovvi said after a brief hesitation, now studying her own piece of chocolate. "My mother sold me when I was very young, but not into anything as nice as this house. The men who bought me expected to pass me on to one of their regular customers, someone who bought young girls rather often. I learned he bought so many because he tended to use them up, so I escaped before they were able to deliver me. Afterward I spent a very long time hoping they went back to my mother to reclaim my sale price."

"That would have served her right," Tamrissa said with a faint smile, raising those vulnerable violet eyes to Jovvi's face. "I've always wanted to see something of the same done to my parents, but they're much too careful to be caught like that. How did you live when you escaped? If you were that young, who did you find to protect you?"

"There was a family I lived with for a while," Jovvi answered, unsurprised that she told this girl what few others had ever learned. A bond seemed to be growing between them, almost a sisterhood . . .

This is weird and abrupt and the fact that Jovvi is not surprised is weird. If we're still going with Jovvi the ex-street rat turned savvy manipulatress, what would actually be an in-character monologue is Jovvi deciding to strategically use the truth as a means to get close to Tamrissa in order to convince her that working as a courtesan under Jovvi's sponsorship is the best decision ever.

Instead, we get this weird forced "omg we're long lost sisters from different mothers" to the point where I'm actually not sure if it's accidental foreshadowing for Book 8 spoilers someone from the advanced nation of full Blendings discreetly using Spirit magic subtly to influence them. Green's gone on the record to say that the second sequel wasn't originally planned (or at least that's how I interpreted her response):

Crescent Blues: What's on the horizon for Sharon Green? What new marvels can we expect to see?

Sharon Green: ...it came to me not long ago that the story of The Blending has a definite direction to continue in. The first five books tell the original story, but there's a second behind that and I'd like to write it. If Avon decides they'd like to print it, we'll all be happy. If not, who knows?

Source: http://www.crescentblues.com/1_2_issue/green4.shtml


quote:

"The father of the family caught me trying to steal some food, and forced me to sit down and eat it along with more than I'd had the nerve to try for. They weren't rich people by any means, but they said that if anyone saw me leaving their place looking half starved, they'd never live it down. I stayed with them for almost two years, and when I finally began to earn more than coppers as a courtesan, I sent them silver on a regular basis."

An actually interesting backstory that we will never see reflected in any of Jovvi's thoughts when we're in her POV. Once this info dump is over, we'll never hear anything else about these unnamed characters, other than a passing aside in Book 5.

quote:

"You were a courtesan?" Tamrissa asked, raising her brows before wrinkling her nose. "How did you stand it? Oh, of course, you were probably forced into it. Isn't it wonderful that now you won't ever have to go back to it?"

Tamrissa isn't very good at following a conversation. Jovvi just told you she likes sex better than chocolate!

quote:

"My dear girl, I wasn't forced into it," Jovvi said gently with a sigh, knowing she had an almost impossible job on her hands. "You have to understand that not all men are like the one you married, and being with them is pleasure rather than pain. My first man was really a boy, the oldest son in that family I stayed with. He was beautiful and I fell in love with him immediately, but he refused to touch me until I grew old enough to join him rather than be used by him. He taught me what pleasure there was to be had, and then he left home to make his own way in the world."

I'm having timeline issues with this. Based on Eldra, we know that this world seems to consider women to come of age when they turn 15. Jovvi's been a courtesan long enough that she's famous in Northern Gandistra, so let's assume she started right on turning 15.

Jovvi had what sounded like an average childhood up until her father died (when she was 9). From that point on, she experienced abandonment, neglect and being unloved. She escaped being sold into underaged sex slavery when she was about 12. If she started as a courtesan when she was 15, after staying with this family for nearly 2 years, she would have found them when she was around 13. So...13 year old Jovvi "fell in love" to the point of making sexual advances on an older boy who had to decline them because she needed to be 14 before she was "old enough"?

This is stretching the bounds of plausibility for me. I can buy that 13 year old Jovvi grew up a lot faster. I do not buy that the knowledge of sexual power and being confident enough to try to use it means that as a 14 year old sleeping with an older boy that the relationship is equal enough for it to be termed "joining" in any way. At that stage, no matter how mature you are as a 14 year old, the age difference as well as the physical difference is a pretty wide chasm.

quote:

"He left you just like that?" she asked, wide-eyed again. "I knew men were no good, and you're just too nice to understand it."

"He first asked me to go with him," Jovvi said with a fond smile of memory, remembering the night they'd said goodbye. "But I knew he didn't really love me, he was just trying to be gallant about it all. By then I was no longer in love with him, so I refused to go along. He didn't need two mouths to feed while trying to make something of himself, and I had plans of my own. The agent of a courtesan residence had seen me and given me the card of his principal, so I decided to see if I could make a go of it."

I'm picturing Allestine running a pyramid scheme with these agents of hers, à la LuLaRoe. How much of an upline was Jovvi supporting?

quote:

"Obviously you did," Tamrissa said, looking Jovvi over from head to foot. "Your clothes are as beautiful as your face and figure, so you must have earned a lot of gold.

Redundant reinforcement of something we already know by another character!

quote:

But if you weren't forced to be a courtesan and you enjoyed it, then . . . maybe you aren't as glad to be here as I thought. . ."

Jovvi could feel the girl's inner drawing away, and strangely enough it had nothing to do with her being a courtesan. It had to do with wanting to be there to take the tests, something Tamrissa was more than passionate about. Taking and passing the tests was nearly an obsession with her, and Jovvi couldn't bear the idea of ruining the closeness they'd begun to feel.

"Actually, I'm delighted to be here," Jovvi said quickly, to keep Tamrissa from withdrawing to the point of refusing to listen. "Being sent to Gan Garee got me away from my sponsor Allestine, who had made up her mind to keep me in her residence until I grew old and gray. I'd planned to open my own residence here when I failed the first test, but if I'd failed I wouldn't have opened anything.

This is why we would lose nothing by cutting all of the first POV chapters - all of the information we learn from those chapters eventually comes out in later dialogue!

quote:

Now . . . Tamrissa, what do you really think our chances are to become part of the new Blending? I mean, it's just a silly dream, isn't it? We aren't members of the nobility, but if we ever won a place ... no one could try to own us again."

"That's exactly what I've been thinking," the pretty child said with a sigh, her emotions relaxing back to where they'd previously been. Pretty child . . . Jovvi was just about the same age as Tamrissa, but felt decades and centuries older. Her own life hadn't been easy, but she'd learned it was possible to escape things at a very young age, and then she'd had the love and support of her foster family. Tamrissa's twisted emotions said she'd had none of the same, which made Jovvi wonder how she'd managed to stay sane.

Green can't decide whether Tamrissa's a woman or a girl/child. We had Vallant salivating over how "ripe" she is, Tamrissa describing her own body as "lush" and now Jovvi's thinking of her as "pretty child". I think the intent was to characterize Tamrissa as having "child-like innocence" which I entirely do not buy. Nobody coming out of two years of abusive marriage retains an air of child-like innocence!

quote:

"I keep telling myself that thinking about becoming part of the new Blending is foolish, but some bit of me doesn't want to listen," Tamrissa said, idly licking melted chocolate from her fingers. "I can't imagine that any of us here have the least chance, but Jovvi—wouldn't it be wonderful?"

Please don't repeat the speculation that we already covered last night.

quote:

Jovvi was in the midst of tasting her own chocolate again, so she didn't answer immediately. Once it was all down, though, she said, "Being completely free would be wonderful. Being a member of the new Blending would be—what? What do we know about the life they live, or what they're required to do? From time to time I asked some of my noble patrons, but even they didn't really know. They repeated the latest gossip about this or that threat having been overcome, but there were never any details. Do you know anything more about it? Have you ever even seen any of them?"

"Once or twice," Tamrissa said, frowning now. "Two of them came to the inn my parents and I were staying at when I was a lot younger. We were on our way back to Gan Garee, and so were they. Those who had accommodations on the top floor of the inn were put out of them, to make room for the Blending members and their entourage. Mother and father and I were forced to sleep in the same room rather than in the three we'd had, because places had to be found for those who'd been put out. And after all that, we only got the briefest glimpse of the two in the morning when they left. That was actually the closest I've ever gotten."

"So we don't really know what's involved with being members of a Blending," Jovvi said, just about thinking out loud.

Why didn't you guys discuss this at dinner last night so we didn't need to have another chapter speculating on these points?! I know it's because we were in Clarion's POV and he tuned out half way through, but if there was a discussion that was important for your readers to understand, maybe you should have picked a DIFFERENT POV Green!

quote:

"High practitioners, on the other hand, are very visible, and live like and among the highest nobles when they aren't needed for the most important jobs. But come to think of it, I've never seen a High at work, or met anyone who has. Middles are everywhere and doing what has to be done, but you just hear stories about Highs."

How can a High practitioner be very visible and yet all you ever hear is stories about them?

quote:

"The same way you hear them about the Blending," Tamrissa agreed, the beginnings of suspicion clear behind her nod. "I don't like the sound of that, since High is supposed to be what we're trying for. If Highs don't do anything, why do they go to so much trouble gathering us in?"

"Not to simply put us out of the way," Jovvi decided after thinking about it for a moment. "If that was all they wanted, they could have had us killed as soon as we were located. Accidents happen all the time, and if some of them had happened to us before we knew we were candidates for High, no one would have thought a thing about it."

"And they do need challengers for their Seated Highs," Tamrissa pointed out. "The law says they have to win against a variety of challengers, otherwise they're automatically ejected from their positions and never allowed to hold them again. That's part of the law that can't be changed, but it's not likely to be all they're after. If it were, saving a few potential Highs to do the challenging would be the only thing necessary."

So much of the plot is driven by "the law". And there's never been a law written that can't be changed, unless you're talking about the laws of physics, which since we're in magic land, actually CAN be changed as well!

quote:

"So Highs are needed for something, but not necessarily the something we had in mind," Jovvi said slowly, then looked directly at Tamrissa. "If it would do any good, I'd suggest we rethink our plans to participate. I don't like dealing with people who have private objectives in mind, but participating has stopped being our choice. We have to go on with it, but we'll also have to do some serious thinking. Maybe we'll find a way to protect ourselves."

Foreshadowing!

quote:

"And still get what we're after,'' Tamrissa said, the words grim. "Without the protection of this competition, my parents will come after me again. They'll arrange another marriage like the first, I'll refuse, and shortly thereafter, when they realize they can't change my mind, I'll be dead. That's better than going along with them, but dying isn't my first choice of desired outcomes. I'd rather fight to get a place of my own . . . even if I'm not always sure I can do it. . . ."

Is Tamrissa implying that her own parents would have her assassinated? Because that's messed up on the next level.

quote:

Jovvi's brows raised at that strange combination of feelings, so unusual was it to find the two together. When Tamrissa spoke of refusing her parents, her emotions were steel-hard and twice as determined. But when she mentioned gaining something for herself using her abilities, the doubt and lack of confidence turned her determination to water. At first Jovvi couldn't understand how the two fit together, and then the answer became obvious.

"Of course you can do what you want to," Jovvi said, doing her best to project utter conviction without actually using her talent.

Why?! Did Jovvi suddenly gain a conscience? Is it because people can sense when they're being manipulated by Spirit magic? Who knows?

(it's because Tamrissa and Jovvi are now bound as sisters by the power of chocolate)

quote:

"I'd guess that your biggest problem is having no one on your side, no one to occasionally lean on. Standing alone is very tiring, and when the weariness comes it brings memories of the lies you've been told. Your enemies want you weak and helpless, so they've always insisted that you were nothing else. Most of the time you know better, but when you tire you become afraid that they're right."

"At one point they were right," the girl forced herself to say as she leaned back and closed her eyes. "I let them force me into the first marriage, and if I'd really been strong I wouldn't have. If something happens once it can always happen again, even if you decide not to let it."

That's...not how free will works.

quote:

"I repeat, it only happened because you had no one on your side," Jovvi said slowly and clearly, fighting off the waves of defeat coming from the girl without trying to change them artificially. "You now have me on your side, which gives you more than a single choice. If we decide we don't like what those people are up to and there's a way to get out in one piece, we'll take it and set up a residence together. With the two of us in it, we'll soon have so much gold we'll have to give it away to keep the banks from breaking under the load."

3114 words to get to the only relevant character/plot point in the chapter.

quote:

"That's a lot of gold," Tamrissa said with a laugh that broke her painful mood, but then she reddened. "I really like your idea, but me in a residence . . . pretending to be a courtesan ... I wouldn't have the first idea of what to do. Not to mention never being able to stop blushing. I can't imagine many men wanting a woman who looks as though she's fallen into a vat of red dye."

"You'd be surprised what men want and like," Jovvi said with her own laugh. "Most of my former patrons would be delighted with your blush, since it makes you even lovelier than you are. And you can be sure no one like your late husband would be allowed through our doors.

I would like to read more about how Spirit magic users substitute for reference and background checks. Unfortunately, Green will never go there.

quote:

I never have trouble telling that sort, and no longer even bother making the effort to keep them from hurting me. I simply refuse them, and spend my time with men who have no sickness in their minds.

For someone who's been living 3-4 years under Allestine's thumb - a sponsor who is so controlling that you only get like 2 days off per year - this doesn't seem like a thing you'd be able to do. But let's not repeat the rant about whether Jovvi gets to choose her patrons since we already covered that back in Chapter 2.

quote:

And speaking of that sort, stay away from Eskin Drowd. I knew he was one from the moment we first met."

"I'm not surprised," Tamrissa said, no longer quite as flustered. "He really enjoys hurting people with his words, just the way Gimmis did.

Remember how in Chapter 22, Drowd said his time with the girls working the upstairs room at Ginge's tavern was "rather different, but pleasantly so"?

quote:

But I still can't imagine finding it pleasant to be with a man, so I'm going to try to find a way to make this High practitioner thing work. Maybe no one ever sees them doing things because what they do is secret. What I can't figure out is what that sort of thing would be."

"If their work is secret, there are only two possibilities," Jovvi answered, delighted to feel the balance which had returned to Tamrissa. "Either they're working against the enemies of our empire, or they're working against our own people. Nothing else I can think of would require secrecy."

Research into new knowledge about the application of magic? Or maybe what they do is so magically advanced that it's delicate and sensitive work requiring a lot of concentration that could easily be disrupted by an audience? Or maybe that it's dangerous and therefore you need to have a certain level of magical strength in order to be able to adequately defend yourself from any accidents?

That's just off the top of my head.

quote:

"In what way could they be working against us?" Tamrissa asked, looking thoughtful rather than disbelieving. "People would notice interference that strong, and there would be rumors and gossip and guesswork flying everywhere. Have you ever heard anything like that?"

"No," Jovvi admitted with a sigh, forcing down her annoyance over not being able to figure the thing out. "And right now we're the ones flying everywhere, but without solid facts there's nothing else we can do.

Yep, this is all the set up that we get from Green for the main conspiracy plot.

quote:

Let's find another subject to talk about for a while, specifically one you can talk about while I finish my chocolate. It's just about all melted between my fingers, and I want to eat it before I lose any."

"Go ahead," Tamrissa invited with a laugh, watching as Jovvi did just that. "And if you'd like another piece, just help yourself."

Jovvi was tempted to accept the offer, but couldn't quite bring herself to do it. Tamrissa had been more than generous sharing the treasure in the first place, and to take more of it just wouldn't be fair. Maybe another time, after dreaming and remembering for a while. . . .

Tamrissa didn't have a second piece either, but instead replaced the leather box in its hidden niche. After that they shared the tea, rewarmed to the proper temperature by Tamrissa's talent. And they stayed away from important or unpleasant topics, to give themselves a chance to think clearly. Their futures depended on what they would learn or figure out, which made it something they'd be idiots to rush.

Taking more chapters to drag out a conspiracy plot that lacks substance isn't going to make it better.

quote:

Jovvi returned to her room to freshen up just before dinner, taking the opportunity to check on the safety of her gold. It was still just where she'd hidden it, but the place under the loose floorboard in the corner of the room no longer looked as safe as it had. That business at the dressmaker's had disturbed her, leaving each of them exactly two silver dins. If they'd used Earth magic there to deplete the applicants' resources, they could just as well come to the house to do the same thing. She would have to find a better place to hide her gold, one that couldn't be found even by someone with Earth magic. And there might be just the place . . .

By the time Jovvi went down to dinner, she felt a good deal better. The golden statuette on a wooden pedestal out in the hall had been pure gold rather than simply gilded, and the beautifully carved pedestal had been constructed of lacy lengths and sections joined together to make its pattern. That meant there were empty places inside the pedestal, most especially in the almost-solid portion the statuette stood directly on. Putting her savings in that portion and wedging it in with rags brought the gold of her coins close to the gold of the statuette. If that didn't disguise and protect her cache nothing would, short of depositing it in a bank once they reopened. That was something she'd have to think about, but not right away. She might end up being glad her gold was close to hand . . .

We've had three Jovvi POVs obsessing over her gold and it will never end up being relevant to the plot whatsoever.

quote:

Dinner consisted of small game birds baked in a variety of sauces, vegetables with complementary sauces, bread, cheese, and wine. Jovvi took the chair next to Tamrissa's rather than her own, but Beldara Lant sat in her usual place and still pretended to be alone in the world.

A reminder that this is what the table looks like (T = Tamrissa, L = Lorand, B = Beldara, V = Vallant, E = Eskin, C = Clarion, J = Jovvi, P = Pagin):

pre:
     T     
P         L
J         B
C         V
     E
All Jovvi did was move one seat over and sit in Pagin's spot. And she thinks Beldara is a bitch for not moving over to Lorand's spot, even though she's still close enough to have a conversation with them (we know this because Jovvi had an extended conversation with Eskin and Vallant last night, and Clarion heard Tamrissa's comments at the beginning of dinner - including one she muttered under her breath).

Maybe Beldara sat in her own spot because didn't hear your conversation with the driver at the Regensi's shop because she was still upset about how bitchy you were in the morning and the insult from Regensi so she didn't know that it was only you three for dinner. The bitch move would have been if Beldara had gone to sit in Eskin's spot or asked for her dinner to be delivered on a tray to her room.

quote:

Her anger and spitefulness hadn't eased in the least, nor did it seem like it would. Apparently Beldara was someone who never changed her mind once she'd made it up, and telling her about the suspicions Jovvi and Tamrissa had would have been a waste of breath. Ah well, the girl was too singleminded to have been much help anyway. After the mostly silent dinner, Jovvi proposed that they all use the bath house together. Beldara got up and left the room even before Jovvi finished speaking, which made her response perfectly clear.

Yeah, I have no idea why Beldara's not falling over herself to be best buds with you guys either.

quote:

For some reason Tamrissa also tried to beg off, but Jovvi wasn't in the mood to be alone so she insisted. Tamrissa finally gave in and agreed, and the two of them went for lounging wraps and slippers, then walked together to the bath house.

This is not going where you think it's going because only heterosexual relationships are acceptable for Green's main characters.

quote:

"I still think we should have brought clean clothes rather than wraps," Tamrissa said as they reached the bath house door. "We don't know when the men will be back, and they could find us parading around almost naked. Which reminds me . . ."

What the girl had been reminded about was the "occupied" sign, which she found pushed to the wall to the left of the door. She readjusted it to hang directly on the door in plain sight, then led the way inside.

"I hope it works better this time than it did the last," she said over her shoulder as Jovvi shut the door behind them. "That annoying Vallant Ro walked in on me while I was trying to soak the aftereffects of the test out of my poor, abused body, and refused to wait until I was out of the water and decently clothed again. I could feel him staring at my body until I got it covered, and I've never been so embarrassed in my entire life."

"That was obviously because you're not used to being appreciated when being looked at," Jovvi said comfortably, beginning to get out of her clothes. "That makes all the difference, and eventually takes all the embarrassment out of it.

What? Everything we've read up to this point indicates Tamrissa has never experienced anything other than men endlessly looking at her in appreciation of her beauty.

quote:

How did he look without clothes?"

"You don't think I tried to find out?" Tamrissa protested, coloring again the way she had earlier. "I was taught that seeing a man in the altogether is wrong for a girl, unless the man is her husband and wants it that way. Gimmis didn't, which was just about the only good thing in our marriage."

"Are you saying that men are the only ones who should be allowed to choose?" Jovvi asked, working to keep the conversation light. "I happen to feel I have just as much right, which I exercised when I walked in on Lorand Coll. He's not only a darling man, he's also beautifully made. And would you believe he felt as embarrassed as you say you did?"

Not that it matters, because even Jovvi's own description was terrible. According to this website, it quotes an interview from Green's now defunct website on her skill with description as follows:

In an interview published on her Web site, Green noted that she "exploded and hit the ceiling" when she began one of Norman's "Gor" books. "When I sat down to counter him, I also tried to lampoon his style of overstating every description. I didn't quite get that far, but I got far enough to add to my own writing what it was lacking: a decent amount of description. . . . So I can't really complain about that Gor book. I read one of his, and got ten of my own from it."

Green's commenting in relation to her Terrilan and Jalav books which I have never read and have resolved to never read. Has anyone following along read these? And if so, please comment!

quote:

"Yes, I'd believe it," Tamrissa replied, more serious than amused. "He's really nice, and what's more he wants to be here. But what you said . . . about women having as much right to choose as men ... I never looked at it that way before. Do you really think it's a matter of choice rather than a matter of right and wrong?"

"Right and wrong always depend on where you're standing, ' Jovvi said, eager now to be in the water. "Stealing is wrong if you're the one being stolen from, but it's right if your only alternative is to starve to death. Choice is an easier concept to handle, especially if no one else is affected by your choice. That doesn't often happen, but I still believe we're all entitled to live according to what we want rather than what others do. If it's proper for men to look, then it's proper for women."

"I think calling it proper makes it easier yet," Tamrissa said, her brows raised. "I've always thought it was horribly unfair for some things to be proper for men but improper for women. Like being able to refuse the marriage your parents arrange. It's proper for a man to decide he doesn't like the arrangement, but not for a woman."

This is the extent of philosophizing that happens in these books. I wish Green had actually studied some philosophy on morality because this is so painful to read. Contrast what Green wrote to this excerpt from Sanderson's Way of Kings:

"That was horrible," Shallan finally said, hand still held to her breast. "It was one of the most awful things I've ever experienced. You killed four men."

"Four men who were planning to beat, rob, kill, and possibly rape us."

"You tempted them into coming for us!"

"Did I force them to commit any crimes?"

"You showed off your gemstones."

"Can a woman not walk with her possessions down the street of a city?"

"At night?" Shallan asked. "Through a rough area? Displaying wealth? You all but asked for what happened!"

"Does that make it right?" Jasnah said, leaning forward. "Do you condone what the men were planning to do?"

"Of course not. But that doesn't make what you did right either!"

"And yet, those men are off the street. The people of this city are that much safer. The issue that Taravangian has been so worried about has been solved, and no more theatergoers will fall to those thugs. How many lives did I just save?"

"I know how many you just took," Shallan said. "And through the power of something that should be holy!"

<snip>

"Am I a monster or am I a hero? Did I just slaughter four men, or did I stop four murderers from walking the streets? Does one deserve to have evil done to her by consequence of putting herself where evil can reach her? Did I have a right to defend myself? Or was I just looking for an excuse to end lives?"


Now granted, we're comparing a conversation between a young courtesan and a young merchant housewife, versus a conversation between a leading scholar and her talented ward, so the characters are on entirely different levels. But come on! A little more effort would be nice.

quote:

"That's what they want us to believe, but it isn't so," Jovvi said, beginning to enter that marvelous bath. "If you remember that most people have ulterior motives when they tell you you have to do something, you'll find it easier to refuse. And if I happen to fall asleep in here, wake me up when you're ready to leave. I'd hate to come out tomorrow morning looking as shriveled as a prune."

At this point, Tamrissa should be asking herself what Jovvi's ulterior motives are.

quote:

Tamrissa laughed and promised not to leave without waking her, if Jovvi would do her the same favor. The two of them took pleasure in the warm water and swimming about a little before choosing corners to soak in, but Jovvi's pleasure was slightly dimmed. The poor child's body was scarred in one or two places, giving Jovvi some idea of what that marriage had been like. No wonder she was shy about being seen without clothes.

They both enjoyed a nice long soak, but neither of them actually fell asleep. The relaxing warmth made them ready for bed, though, and going back to their rooms was uneventful. The men still hadn't gotten back, which Jovvi found faintly disappointing. She'd decided it shouldn't hurt to get to know Lorand Coll a little better, as long as she didn't do anything silly like fall in love with him. And that she certainly wouldn't do, not when she had so many other things to decide about.

You can't write a monologue where the character spends most of the monologue thinking about inconsequential things and then end it with a decision like this! The point of a monologue is to have the character wrestle with a decision and then come to a decision.

quote:

Would they ever get to the point where they would no longer have to pass the tests to stay alive? That was Jovvi's most pressing question as she snuggled down comfortably in bed. After that came all the other questions she and Tamrissa had discussed, a list too long to be considered when she was half asleep. Tomorrow she'd think about it again, and maybe even discuss it with one or two of the men. It would be a good excuse to get Lorand Coll alone, but not Vallant Ro. Tamrissa actually liked him, although she wasn't up to admitting it even to herself.

Tomorrow, tomorrow she'd think about all of it. . . .

It's like Green has no idea how to plot a chapter tightly so that there's a logical arc to it. All things considered, I suppose we should be surprised that there is an arc at all across all eight books.

Summary:

Day 2
After an angsty, silent breakfast where everyone is stewing in their own thoughts, and a lunch with boring small talk, everyone is taken to be fitted for their Grown Up Magic Not-School Uniforms. The group splits up at the fittings:
  • Jovvi deliberately alienates Eskin and Beldara so Green can establish the best friendship of Jovvi and Tamrissa. Jovvi and Tamrissa continue to ostracize Beldara and share chocolate induced foodgasms and a bath.
  • Clarion outs himself as a literal man child on the way to a tavern. Lorand has to explain where babies come from so Clarion can have supposedly mind blowingly good sex with Naran. Vallant spends the entire time moping and pretending he's banging Tamrissa. A bunch of tavern toughs start a fight that is easily broken up by their group minus Drowd. The crowd turns fearful after they start cackling like proto-evil overlords so they leave.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 14
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 7
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 4
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

PLOTHOLES: 19
COACH RIDES: 13
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 17
"CLIFFHANGERS": 9
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 3
BLATANT MORALIZING: 13
BATH SCENES: 6
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 4
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)

Possible fixes:
Apart from the problems due to pacing, bloat, repetition, etc, this book is dragging so much because every main character's relationships with every other main character is non-existent. Starting the story from a point where some of these characters have a history would go a long way to fixing this. Chapters 20 and 24 are really focused on establishing the Jovvi and Tamrissa relationship - and as per the suggested fixes on Chapter 23, I'd move all of this into backstory for these two characters.

If we needed to see these events on screen in a flashback (and assuming we didn't make the larger scale changes outlined at the end of Chapter 23), I'd condense Chapters 17, 18, 19, 20 and 24 into a single Jovvi chapter. Most of the actual sequence could be kept intact but Jovvi's POV would need to be rewritten so we get a clear sense of Jovvi's motivations and goals. And since the sex mechanic is important to the magic and plot critical, Jovvi is plausibly bi and an experienced courtesan, it should go like this:
  • Jovvi assesses the women in the residence, and immediately latches on to Tamrissa as the more valuable person to cultivate, because she would make a very desirable courtesan
  • Jovvi looks for the first opportunity to get Tamrissa on her side - and jumps at the opportunity to publicly support Tamrissa in response to Beldara's comment
  • Now that Tamrissa is kindly disposed to Jovvi after being "rescued", Jovvi strategically reveals just enough of her past to motivate Tamrissa to be vulnerable as well
  • Next, Jovvi uses her hard earned courtesan skills to seduce Tamrissa
  • Finally, having thoroughly rocked Tamrissa's world, Jovvi can put forward her business proposition
  • This has the upside of spoilers for Book 3 cutting short the stupid drama between the men when they find out that Rion has slept with both Jovvi and Tamrissa

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

Clarion awoke slowly, which let his memories of the night before return just as slowly. He had a small headache somewhere behind his eyes, but lying still seemed to placate it enough to keep it from being a problem. The ache made no effort to interfere with his thinking, which was definitely a blessing; the confusion he felt was interference enough.

Thinking about it now let Clarion appreciate just how much he'd had to drink the night before, which simply added to his confusion. He'd been told that drinking to excess would make him ill, cause him to embarrass himself dreadfully, and then would lay him out as if he were a very small child. Having no wish to encounter any of those eventualities, he'd made a habit of following the advice he'd been given: to drink only the best wines, and no more than half a cup even then. But last night he'd all but swum in brew, and none of the expected had happened.

Is someone using Earth magic on you harder to detect or is it because Clarion was still drunk even after Lorand made him more sober?

quote:

He raised his arms and gently ran both hands through his hair, his thoughts centering instead on the unexpected. He'd decided that if he watched the others and did as they did he'd begin to learn what he needed to know, but he'd never anticipated anything like last night. He felt as if he'd floated through it, half a participant and half an observer, actually performing those acts while at the same time watching it all from a short distance off. That must be because of the way he'd acted, unlike anything someone who knew him would have recognized.

"And I'm still not sure where it came from," he muttered, gingerly touching the memories with his mind as if they were soap bubbles, delicate and apt to burst to nothingness if handled too roughly. "Maybe one of those foolish books. . . ."

The same servant who had taught him how to exercise his body had given him books to read, but not the sort he got from his tutor or Mother. Those were fantastic adventure novels with strong men rescuing beautiful, delicate ladies from peril, and then doing obscure, enigmatic things that they both enjoyed. Clarion had never understood what those things were, so he hadn't been overly upset when his mother had found him reading one and had insisted that he promise never to touch another of that sort again. But now . . .

Shameless plug for romance novels! Because they are such realistic and authentic depictions of how normal, healthy, stable, relationships between mature consenting adults work! Just take a look at any of Sharon Green's works!

quote:

Now he knew what those enigmatic things were, and felt a brief but very intense burst of outrage that he'd been kept from them so long. He'd lain with that lovely, dark-haired girl the way those heroes had lain with the ladies they'd rescued, and the writer's words hadn't been nearly adequate enough to describe the pleasure to be had.

Ok, maybe I should give Clarion a pass on his POV chapter using such awful euphemisms for body parts. Maybe he was reading romance novels with lurid prose and just ran with it. I wonder what exactly he was picturing in his head when he was reading about men entering incredible tunnels of ultimate bliss.

quote:

Men did that with ladies all the time, Coll had said, but before last night he hadn't even known it was possible. And after having had the experience he felt different, somehow, more relaxed and in some obscure manner not the same man. What he'd turned into wasn't clear at all, but there was no doubt about his being different.

But he also remembered something else Coll had said, which still made no sense at all. Clarion sat up slowly and massaged his left shoulder, wondering what Coll could possibly have had in mind when he'd warned Clarion not to hurt the dark-haired girl. After the pleasure she'd given him he would have had to have been a twisted beast to harm her, even if provoked. But there'd been no provocation, only her gentle voice wishing him well just before he left her.

Why are we getting another monologue about this, you already thought about this last night!

quote:

And in any event it was Mother's lacks, not the girl's, which had kept him from learning the truth sooner . . .

For a moment Clarion felt a jolt of shock that he'd considered Mother as someone with lacks, and then a touch of guilt came. Yes, he'd thought of Mother as lacking, and couldn't deny that truth no matter how upset learning of it would have made her. He was less of a man, less of a person, than even his lower-class companions, and the fault was no one's but hers. She should have found a gentleman of their own class to tutor him, not that stiff, elderly female creature who had lived her life in semi-seclusion amid her textbooks.

...oh, Green had trouble finding a segue to this point. Which we covered in Clarion's previous POV chapter, because it was stated outright by Lorand.

quote:

Clarion got out of bed and went to wash his face, needing the touch of cool water when his thoughts reached a point he now understood only too well. He remembered asking Coll why they'd had to leave so early, and Coll had gently put him off. Now, without the floating caused by all that brew, he understood clearly why they'd had to leave. Those people in the tavern had been afraid of them, and all because of what they'd done to stop that roughhousing. At one point in his life Clarion would have-gloried in being feared by others, a condition he'd considered far superior to being laughed at by them. But now that he'd had the experience, he realized how childishly narrowminded he'd been. It wasn't satisfying to be feared, it was depressing, and not only because their excellent carouse had been interrupted.

Clarion buried his face in the hand towel he'd taken from its place beside the wash basin, trying to assimilate and make sense of the suddenly unpleasant situation he now found himself in. His life until today had been a lonely one, but he'd had hopes of seeing all that changed. He'd made up his mind to learn what he needed to in order to be like everyone else, but the cold truth was that he wasn't like everyone else and never would be. Those people last night were certainly low class drudges and meaningless nonentities, but they had one thing in common with the nobles he'd been raised among: neither group contained members even slightly familiar with those who were as much as Middle practitioners. Highs were completely beyond them, aside from rumor and gossip and endless suspicion.

Two steps forward and one step back. I guess it was too much to hope for a 180 on the classist attitude within the space of one transformational life experience.

quote:

"I can't imagine why I never noticed that before," Clarion mused, frowning down at the table. "Everyone talks about Middles and Highs and some even know where practicing Middles live and work, but they never turn up at parties even as novelties. Middles aren't quite good enough even if they're members of our class, and Highs are much too busy with truly important matters to be imposed upon. Or at least that was what everyone always said. . . ."

But now the likelier answer presented itself that his peers were just as frightened of Highs as the lowliest street sweeper. And the unpleasant fact was that he'd already done enough in passing that first test to guarantee that he'd never be allowed to attend a party again even if he were to return home today. They'd been parties where Mother had been invited that he'd simply been dragged to and been bored silly by, but even that would now be beyond him. He would be "one of them," which is never the same as "one of us."

And that is different to your previous life...how? You weren't invited to any parties or considered a part of any of the noble in-groups, ever.

quote:

So Clarion now had some serious thinking to do. Going back to the way things had been would have been impossible for him even under ordinary circumstances, but at least then he would have had the option. Now he had to find an altogether different life for himself, preferably one that involved his power level equals as well as his social equals. That meant staying with this tiresome testing program and doing his utmost best, which should eventually end him among those he belonged with—

As well as secure him that position he'd been thinking about, the one that would make him financially independent. He paused before the room's wardrobe, trying to decide whether to breakfast first or bathe first. He felt badly in need of a long soak, but it wasn't early and breakfast might soon be cleared away. Very well, food first, and then the soak followed by a leisurely shave. He'd never been allowed to come to table without first having shaved, but financial independence would mean personal freedom as well.

Yes, that was definitely the route to go, he decided as he chose just anything to wear. Independence and freedom. . . .

We are covering absolutely no new ground with this monologue.

quote:

With so many people in the house I hadn't expected a quiet morning, but that was just what I got. No one was in the dining room when I went down to breakfast, but I learned that Beldara Lant had been there before me. The men had returned after the rest of us were already in bed, so no one expected them down for a while. Jovvi Hafford had apparently chosen to sleep late as well, so I ate alone except for my thoughts.

And what unexpectedly light thoughts they were, not to mention how odd they felt. After half a day of getting to know Jovvi, I'd grown closer to her than I was with my own sisters. I'd told her things I'd never told anyone else, and I was sure she'd done the same with me. That had to be what people called friendship, something I'd never expected to experience personally. I no longer felt all alone in the world, and the difference it made in my outlook was incredible.

Seriously, on a reread after knowing how the sequel series ends, it's really hard not to read this as someone from a full Blending influencing things subtly from the background with Spirit magic undetected by the protagonists.

quote:

I sat back for a moment with my cup of tea, considering that changed outlook. Before yesterday afternoon, I would have been frantic to realize that something wasn't quite right with the system I'd been counting on to free me from my parents' influence. Now it was just a vexing problem that needed to be investigated, but nothing to get frantic over. If I couldn't become a High I'd do something else, me and the person who was now my friend.

But I couldn't quite accept that something else being my becoming a courtesan. I laughed a little over the idea even as I felt my face warm, the mildest reactions I'd had yet to the suggestion. Even if what she'd said was true and there was pleasure to be had from men rather than pain, I couldn't see myself making that a career. Gimmis had always accused me of being exceptionally untalented in bed, and that was one opinion I'd never found reason to doubt—or particularly wanted to change-So the idea of my becoming a courtesan was ludicrous. I'd certainly cost Jovvi more custom than I would bring in, but maybe she'd be able to use me as a lure of sorts. Men had always been attracted to my beauty, and it would be a definite kind of justice if for once I used the attraction for my own benefit rather than everyone else's. Yes, that was a real possibility. . . .

Yes, this is going to drag out for more chapters.

quote:

I finished breakfast while my thoughts wandered to improbable places, then went to the library and sat down to read. Second rest day was the time I'd begun to insist that no one intrude on my privacy, and the staff had finally learned that that included their problems. They were all quick enough to make sure their own rest days were undisturbed, but mine had tended to be open to the world. Now that I'd managed to get an entire day to myself, I felt reluctant to give it up—although the change in circumstance had to be considered. If everyone appeared for lunch I might have to share the afternoon, but the morning was going to be mine.

And I almost managed to keep that promise to myself. It was nearly an hour until lunchtime when a knock came at the door, and then my steward Weeks appeared.

"Please excuse the intrusion, Dama, but visitors have arrived," he announced in his stiff and distant way. "I attempted to suggest that you were unavailable, but they insisted."

"All right, I'll take care of it," I conceded with a sigh, putting my book aside as I rose from the chair. Weeks was really very good about guarding my private time, so blaming him for one failure wouldn't have been fair. Besides, it was probably some of the people from the testing authority, here to hand out more rules and requirements.

I stepped out into the hall expecting to see complete strangers, and stopped short when only one of the three new arrivals proved unknown. The other two were my parents, and the chills took me so quickly that I nearly shivered where they could see it. My mother saw me and smiled that gloating smile of hers, the one I hated so much, and that made my father turn away from the man I didn't know to look at me the way he always did.

Oh look, the novel equivalent of a "random encounter"! Since Green's written herself into a corner where the protagonists can't actually do anything, she has to manufacture drama by having it show up on their literal doorstep.

quote:

I suddenly remembered how much I'd loved my father as a child, just the way all his friends and business associates loved him. He was a fairly tall man with hair as blond as mine, slightly overweight with a round and jolly face and warm gray eyes. It was extremely rare to see him without a smile, and his voice was never raised in anger. People had always joked privately that they were amazed his marriage to an ice princess like my mother had turned out so well, but apparently even ice princesses weren't immune to his charm.

None of them knew—or would believe—that the marriage had turned out so well because my father was colder on the inside than even my mother could hope to be.

Nice characterization, now how about trying to show it to us instead of telling us?

quote:

"Tamrissa, child, how good it is to see you again," my father said in his warm, friendly baritone, smiling lovingly at me. "Do come closer so that I may feast my eyes. I've let business keep me away far too long, but that's over with now. I promise we'll be seeing a lot more of each other from now on."

More incest overtones.

quote:

"You shouldn't make promises it won't be possible to keep, Father," I said after I swallowed, reluctantly moving to a place about six feet away from them. "You won't get this house away from me without a fight, and even if I lose then I won't return to your roof. I've already told that to Mother, and now I say it to you: you'll never have the chance to sell me again."

"Oh, Tamrissa, your penchant for joking has never failed to amuse me," Father said with a delighted laugh, his eyes sparkling with enjoyment. "You know as well as I do that the proceeds from the sale of this house will go toward your new dowry, so nothing will be 'taken away' from you. And as far as returning to my roof goes, you're absolutely correct. You won't be coming back to your poor old parents, you'll be going to live with your husband."

"My husband is dead," I reminded him, terrified at the way his gentle conversation drained the anger out of me. Without the anger it would be impossible to fight him, and if I didn't fight–

"Your first husband is dead, child," he corrected softly with just the right amount of sadness and compassion. "And since you're much too young to spend the remainder of your life alone, I've done a father's duty and arranged your second marriage. This is Dom Odrin Hallasser, who will take you as his wife as soon as this testing nonsense is over and done with."

He'd glanced at the identification I wore on its chain before gesturing to the stranger, completely dismissing the possibility that I would be in the least successful with the testing. That might have been enough to bring back my anger—if I hadn't followed his gesture and looked at Odrin Hallasser. The man was both taller and heavier than my father, with dark hair, a long, plain face, and sallow skin. His clothes were expensively designed for comfort as well as style, and his fleshy hands were covered with rings worth a fortune. He wet his thick lips as he stared at me, so lost to inspecting the merchandise that he made no effort to acknowledge the introduction. That was bad enough, but his eyes . . .

Those eyes were dead black in color, but there was nothing dead about the expression in them. Cold cruelty swam in their depths, along with a sickening anticipation even worse than what Gimmis had shown. The man couldn't wait to get his hands on me, and in addition he was at least fifteen years younger than Gimmis had been. This one was meant to keep me a good deal longer than two years, and the thought of that brought a shudder I couldn't suppress.

Odrin Hallasser is genuinely terrifying. Also we're just over half way through the first book without any of the primary conflicts being resolved and Green's introducing yet another antagonist (like we don't have enough of them already). Guess it's time to start a counter of antagonists.

quote:

"I won't do it," I managed to get out, tearing my gaze away from the thing in human form trying to capture it and me. "You can't force me to marry, so I won't do it. Find another sacrifice for that . . . that. . ."

"What a silly child you are," Father said with an indulgent laugh, shaking his head in mock exasperation. "Of course you'll do it, just as you did the first time. It's all arranged, so there's no need to discuss it any further. And now you may tell your people that there will be three more for lunch, during which time you and Odrin may become acquainted. He and I have been discussing the possibility of a very large joint venture, but I shan't bore you with the details. And you needn't worry. The venture isn't scheduled to begin until after you return from your honeymoon."

So that was the price he'd sold me for: a business venture he couldn't afford to begin on his own, which meant it had to be very large indeed. And he'd even thrown in the price my house would bring. That told me how determined he was, which in turn spread ice all through my bloodstream. I'd never found it possible to stand up to him before, and fear was beginning to overwhelm my anger. What if he was right . . . what if I did find it impossible to refuse . . . ?

You JUST refused him? so clearly it's not impossible?

quote:

"Ah, Tamrissa, good morning," I suddenly heard, and then Jovvi was stopping beside me. "I don't mean to interrupt, but I've been thinking about the conversation we had yesterday. If you intend to sell this house I'll be glad to buy it from you, and I'm even willing to pay a bit above what others might offer. This is exactly the kind of neighborhood I've always wanted to live in, and you know you'll always be welcome here—for as long as you care to stay."

"Who is this person?" my mother demanded, for all the world sounding like someone who considered herself noble. My father hadn't slipped so far that he actually frowned, but his everpresent good humor evaporated to a large degree before he regained control of himself.

"It really doesn't matter who the young lady is, my dear," he said' to my mother with familiar self assurance. "The courts aren't in the habit of allowing total strangers to outbid their longtime supporters, so the house isn't likely to go to her. And even if by some incredible chance it did, that would hardly affect Tamrissa's marriage. Since it's all arranged, it will go ahead exactly as planned."

"Are there different laws here in Gan Garee?" Jovvi asked with a smile even sweeter than my father's. "Where I come from, all the planning in the world can't change a refusal on the bride's part. Without full agreement you can't have a wedding—and I did hear you say no, didn't I, Tamrissa?"

Why do we need to see Jovvi rescue Tamrissa again? Friendship established, let's move on!

quote:

"What she says or doesn't say is beside the point," my father countered before I could speak, his manner now more sleek and self-satisfied than open and friendly. "This marriage was arranged on her behalf, and Dom Hallasser would be fully within his rights to sue both me and her if anything should interfere. Again, I'm quite certain the courts would insist on having the marriage gone through with rather than allowing me to suffer for having acted out of concern for my child."

"Odd that you should mention lawsuits," another voice drawled as Jovvi and I exchanged a glance of frustrated worry. My father did have a few members of the court on his side . . . "Tamakins had" already agreed to marry me, which as a grown woman she's entitled to do. If you and your friend try to press the matter, I'll have to sue both of you for interferin' with my happiness.

See, this actually advances the Tamrissa/Vallant romance subplot!

quote:

And daddy would certainly stand behind me with every copper he has."

Dude, you just undermined yourself. Badly.

quote:

And then Vallant Ro was standing beside me to my right, his arm coming to circle my shoulders. I had the strongest urge to gape at him after what he'd said, but all that support let me find something of my own to say.

"And on top of all that, you can forget about being allowed to invite yourselves to lunch," I told my parents, delighted to see the way my father fought to keep a snarl from his face. "Even if this house wasn't an official residence for the use of applicants only, you people would not be welcome here, please leave now, and don't ever come back."

"If you're that upset, child, of course we'll leave," my father said soothingly, sparing Vallant Ro a glance that said he knew he'd been lied to. "But as far as never coming back—don't be foolish, my dear. Of course we'll be back, and then we'll get this misunderstanding straightened out once and for all."

No potential matches on the horizon and then suddenly engaged to some random guy your parents have never met? Your father would have to be pretty oblivious not to see through that one.

quote:

He had to put a hand to his "friend's" arm to get his attention, and then all three of them left. The awful man hadn't stopped staring at me the entire time, and I couldn't keep from shivering again. My father had said that he refused to give up, and the thought of having to face him again made me sick to my stomach.

You handled that very well," Jovvi said once the door was closed behind them, putting her arms around me. "And don't you worry. Now that they know they have more than just you to face, they won't be as anxious as he pretended to be to come back again. Aside from us, Dom Ro makes an admirably difficult opponent."

...not really? He's relying on his trust fund and Papa Ro's stacks of gold and lines of credit at the Gan Garee bank to fight a threat of a lawsuit with another lawsuit.

quote:

"Discouragin' them was what I had in mind," Vallant Ro said, having taken his arm away as soon as my "visitors" were out the door. "I've never liked seein' the helpless bein' taken advantage of, so if—'Tamakins'—needs my help again, it will be my pleasure to supply it."

Annnnd you just put your foot in it again.

quote:

"Helpless," I echoed, feeling even worse as I straightened away from Jovvi. "Everyone thinks I'm helpless, but I refuse to let all of you be right. I will be strong, and I won't give up no matter what they do. And for the sake of sanity, don't ever call me that nauseating name again!"

I left Jovvi and Dom Ro looking completely confused, and marched back into the library before leaning against the closed door and shutting my eyes. I'd meant to apologize to Dom Ro for what I'd called him

Then maybe you should have prioritized this!

quote:

and should have thanked him for helping, but instead I'd yelled at him and then had stalked off in insult. And all because he'd gotten even on his own by calling me helpless.

I took a deep breath and opened my eyes, then walked slowly to a chair and sat, feeling very tired. I hated the idea of being helpless, but the condition was so obvious that two new acquaintances had felt obliged to come to my rescue.

Aren't you and Jovvi closer than blood sisters now?

Anyway, this was actually good characterization so I'm not going to include this as a wilful misunderstanding. I'm not sure if Green realizes that Tamrissa's just coming across as a socially inept person who is bad at reading people and extremely thin skinned rather than innocent. To be honest, I'm not really sure what Green was going for with "innocent" and why she would even go down that route because you already have Clarion rounding out the group as the innocent one so this just seems like unnecessary doubling up.

quote:

Maybe I'd been deluding myself into thinking I could win, in the tests as well as against my parents. Maybe I ought to just give it all up, pick a direction, and simply walk away. I'd heard it said that if you wander too far, you can never find your way home again-Even if you actually have a home ... or something to make you want to go back . . . instead of wanting to be dead. . . .

Wanting to be dead is going to be a desire that Tamrissa will never let go of. All the way into the end of Book 5.

Summary:

Day 3
Tamrissa experiences her first random encounter, with her parents and intended second husband showing up on her doorstep unannounced. Jovvi and Vallant come to her rescue.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 15
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 7
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 5
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 9 (I'll only up the counter either when the protagonists recognise that these characters are antagonists or we get explicit in-text confirmation to avoid spoilers. Henchmen/subordinates are not counted separately)
General: Unnamed Chairman and the five Seated Highs in each aspect
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar,
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 19
COACH RIDES: 13
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 19
"CLIFFHANGERS": 9
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 4
BLATANT MORALIZING: 13
BATH SCENES: 6
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 4
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Chapter 25)

Possible fixes:
Clarion's entire POV section in this chapter covers no new ground so it should be ripped up into tiny pieces and thrown into the ocean.

I'm not a fan of the "random encounter" mechanism used by Green to escalate the conflict between Tamrissa and her parents and advance the Tamrissa/Vallant romance subplot. Using the threat of a second marriage to advance the romance is probably ok, but unnecessary just from looking at the various loose ends for Tamrissa as a character:
  • Fighting for her independence/escaping from her parents' clutches
  • Working through her issues as a survivor of domestic violence and rape in an abusive marriage
  • Qualifying for a High position/the next ruling Blending
  • Romance with Vallant
  • Possible new career as a courtesan with Jovvi
  • Rivalry with Beldara
  • NEW: escaping marriage to Odrin

All of these things would probably be ok if Tamrissa was the sole protagonist but we have four other protagonists to balance and they all have similarly long lists. Green would have been better off picking 2-3 things and making those arcs deeper. In that light, I would probably change Tamrissa's arc as follows:
  • Make all of the changes outlined for Chapter 24. This would let us cut the conflict with her parents and Odrin entirely; Tamrissa would simply be estranged from her parents
  • Focus on working through the issues caused by her abusive marriage and how they interfere with/are made worse by her new career as a courtesan (Tamrissa's new A plot)
  • Keep the plot points around qualifying for a High position/the next ruling Blending - this would give her an "out" from her new career and introduce some conflict into her relationship with Jovvi (Tamrissa's B plot)
  • Cut the rivalry with Beldara - it will never go anywhere
  • Her relationship with Vallant can then be integrated into the A plot and potentially the B plot

Leng fucked around with this message at 13:27 on Sep 11, 2020

there wolf
Jan 11, 2015

by Fluffdaddy


Honestly, I don't like the idea of Tamrissa becoming a courtesan. She doesn't have a natural interest in the profession and there's no reason for her to be pushed into it because she's not totally broke in world where there are no other options. What if she turns the house into a temporary boarding house for some quick cash. That means you can still have these characters all coming into town for the testing, and staying in the same place, but you can ditch the needless bureaucratic manipulations. Then you have Tam worrying about what she's going to do for money with the testing is all over, and Jodi has the idea of turning it into a proper tea house (of whatever finer establishment for procuring sex workers you prefer) for her to work out of; Tam puts up the house and Jodi puts up her gold for starting capitol and they start a business together.

As for the testing, it would make more sense if people just dodged on the testing all the time and the authorities know that but don't really give a gently caress. The motivation of the bad guys isn't to build an army of highs to invade (why keep that secret when you could stoke a nationalistic fury over it and have mass support for you imperial ambitions) it's to divide up the powerful so there's no threat to the noble's control.
So they create a testing system and if you're found to be too powerful then you get disappeared into some unknown position of power, and no one ever sees or hears from you again. This makes a lot of people start underplaying their skills because they don't want to be taken away, and people slowly forget what really powerful talent looks like. So in a few generations you end up with a lot of powerful people being ignorant of how truly strong they are because being flashy is discouraged. A few ambitious people deliberately go for testing, or show off when they shouldn't and have to go, and they get brainwashed and sent to the high talent army that's being used to attack a different country that still has common blendings, if flawed ones, because the nobles don't want anyone knowing that you can blend outside the seated high. That way you can diversify people's back stories more, like Lorand volunteered for testing to get out of his podunk town, Valant did something actually heroic which outed him, while Tamrissa doesn't know she's all that powerful at all.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Oof, I just caught up on like a week’s worth of chapters all at once. My mind feels....blended.

I’d forgotten that these scenes happened so early in the series. In my memory Book 1 was an entirely symmetrical POV rotation from introductions to testing to competitions. So I have to give Green credit for breaking it up a little. I actually like the bar fight scene where everyone realizes just how different they are from the rest of the populace, especially Pagin who’s coming to this realization in front of friends instead of strangers. This is a much more compelling way for the characters to demonstrate their strength than the snoozefest fireballs.

Re: polyamory, I think the solution is to go all-in like There Wolf is describing, or else to cut it out entirely. Maybe my memory is just faulty again or else there’s more stuff in the later series, but I recall that by the end of Book 5 they’ve settled into some pretty firm monogamous pairs. The “polyamory” of earlier books is either a) forced drama or b) flimsy worldbuilding contrivance in service of the same. (“Our magic works better if everyone sleeps together! Also, don’t let the dicks touch!”) It seems more driven by external necessity than characters’ desires, and is dropped when convenient.

To really make the poly aspect shine I’d want to see how the characters behave in subgroups bigger than pairs but smaller than the whole Blending. We see how Tamrissa and Jovvi have a budding sisterhood and how Lorand is taking a friendly interest in Rion. But what is the Lorand-Vallant-Jovvi dynamic like and how is it different from Lorand-Vallant-Tamrissa? How do the rest of the characters behave when just one person is missing? Do they get more bawdy when innocent Rion is absent or more fractious when Jovvi isn’t holding them all together?

Magic: the Gathering has a good parallel here since it also deals with the blending of elemental magic. There are 31 possible permutations of the five game colors (counting solo colors) and each of them has a good deal of discussion on the philosophy and mindset that the combination represents. In a 5-person polycule there are that many distinct relationships you could write about.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

I actually like the bar fight scene where everyone realizes just how different they are from the rest of the populace, especially Pagin who's coming to this realization in front of friends instead of strangers. This is a much more compelling way for the characters to demonstrate their strength than the snoozefest fireballs.

Yep! That tavern sequence is legitimately the best sequence in Book 1. Pagin's actually a fascinating character - he's more lowborn than everyone in the main cast other than Jovvi but he's actually smarter and more observant than all of them as well. He's the one who points out that it's a competition year, and later, when they are tackling the mind control stuff, he thinks of something critical that everyone else overlooks.

there wolf posted:

That way you can diversify people's back stories more, like Lorand volunteered for testing to get out of his podunk town, Valant did something actually heroic which outed him, while Tamrissa doesn't know she's all that powerful at all.

So many good ideas! I think you've hit the nail on the head here. While the back stories are superficially different, they all feel too same-y to actually create distinctive characters.

wizzardstaff posted:

To really make the poly aspect shine I'd want to see how the characters behave in subgroups bigger than pairs but smaller than the whole Blending. We see how Tamrissa and Jovvi have a budding sisterhood and how Lorand is taking a friendly interest in Rion. But what is the Lorand-Vallant-Jovvi dynamic like and how is it different from Lorand-Vallant-Tamrissa? How do the rest of the characters behave when just one person is missing? Do they get more bawdy when innocent Rion is absent or more fractious when Jovvi isn't holding them all together?

Another great idea. Green doesn't really utilise most of those possible combinations after the primary relationships are established; instead she either has them discover things individually, as a full group or generally splits them along gender lines. There's sometimes small interactions in non-primary relationship pairs but it's very limited.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

Vallant watched the girl Tamrissa disappear into the library, wishing he'd bitten his tongue. Of all the attractive and charming things it was possible to call a woman, "helpless" had to be at the top of the list.

At least he's aware of his dickish behavior this time.

quote:

"She wasn't really angry with us, you know," a gentle voice said from behind him. "She's horribly frightened of what those people want to do to her, and she thinks her courage failed. It didn't really, but I can't think of a way to tell her so that she's likely to believe."

"Not bein' a quitter is so important to her that even I can feel it," Vallant said, turning to look at Jovvi Hafford. "But she said she meant to be really strong from now on, so I guess I didn't put my foot in it as deep as I might have."

No, you really did!

quote:

"She wasn't telling the truth," the beautiful woman said with a sigh, pain showing in her lovely eyes. "She was feeling despair rather than determination, and I can only hope she manages to pull out of it. That awful man ... I'd kill myself before I'd let him touch me."

Vallant was shocked to see Jovvi shudder as she said that, a reaction he never would have expected from her. He'd met few women who seemed completely self-possessed and capable, but Jovvi Hafford certainly was one.

"Are you talkin' about the prospective bridegroom?" he asked, definitely disturbed. "I didn't get a very good look at him, because he's so unimpressive that he's easy to ignore. Aside from all those rings. I admit he seemed to be smitten with Tamrissa, but—"

Somewhere in Vallant's backstory, is a time or many times when he got swindled as a merchant shipping captain and doesn't even know it (or more probably, thinks it was a huge success).

quote:

"No, not smitten," Jovvi answered quickly and firmly. "He has . . . centered on her as an object he means to possess, an item of obsession that won't let him rest until he owns it. I've come across people like him before, and they never take no for an answer. Her father's a fool for thinking he can deal with someone like that, because the man will use anything including him to get what he wants."

Surprising that Jovvi says something like this, because if her Spirit magic lets her read emotions accurately, she should know that Storn Torgar doesn't care. Tamrissa is saleable merchandise to him, end of story.

quote:

"I think I knew someone like that once," Vallant said with a frown as a distant memory surfaced. "That man wanted my daddy's business, and set about tryin' to ruin it when Daddy refused to sell. I was young then and only startin' to ship out, and the man brought a bunch of paid bullies on board my ship one night. They were supposed to wreck the ship while he came after me, intendin' to kill me to pay Daddy back for refusin' his offer. He said as much before tryin' to throw me overboard near the place on deck where I slept."

"What stopped him?" Jovvi asked, her brows high. "He obviously didn't succeed in killing you, but I can't imagine what would have changed his mind."

"Dyin' stopped him," Vallant said, more disturbed than before but not because of the memory. "He and one of his bullies had Water magic and meant to use it to drown me, but they were both of ordinary strength. They were the ones who ended up overboard and drowned, and then I put out the fires and chased off the rest of his men. He had a bad reputation, so nobody official ever asked any questions about exactly how he'd died. . . .

If Green wanted to paint Vallant as a hero, she should have opened Chapter 4 with this scene instead!

quote:

And you think this Hallasser is one like that?"

"I'd be willing to bet every copper I possess on it," Jovvi answered, her disturbed certainty adding even more weight to the contention. "He's determined to have Tamrissa no matter what he has to do to accomplish it."

"I'm goin' to talk to her," Vallant decided aloud, straightening a bit where he stood. "She won't want to hear anythin' at all from me let alone somethin' like that, but she has to know. I really do appreciate the help you gave her, and I'll . . . talk to you later."

"It was my pleasure," Jovvi answered, now apparently amused about something. "She and I have become friends, so if either of you need me again, please don't hesitate to ask."

Every time I think the dialogue's improved, we get unnatural moments like this. Nobody self announces that they've become friends with someone!

quote:

Vallant nodded his thanks for the offer, then headed directly for the library. If he hadn't been so distracted with worry about Tamrissa, he would have wondered about Jovvi's amusement. As it was, he reached the library door, knocked once, then walked in without waiting for a response.

Look, the knock is an improvement but STOP WALKING INTO PRIVATE PLACES WITHOUT CONSENT. Tamrissa can't even see you through the door, there's every chance she wouldn't have assumed it was you and just told you to come in.

quote:

Tamrissa was in a chair, her beautiful face looking drawn and pale, and Vallant gave her no chance to order him out.

"I know I'm intrudin', but don't let it disturb you," he said quickly, closing the door again behind him.

"I know I'm a massive rear end in a top hat who doesn't understand the concept of personal boundaries especially when you've made it clear that you want nothing to do with me even before I manhandled you in front of your father on the false premise of being your fiancé - but just be cool with that, ok?"

quote:

"There's somethin' you need to know, and then I'll get out of your way again. But first I'd like to apologize for what I said. Somehow it came out soundin' as if I was callin' you helpless, but I really wasn't. It was the situation—"

"You came in here to apologize?" she interrupted, suddenly looking annoyed. "For the second time, when I haven't done it even once? You seem to make a habit of apologizing when you aren't guilty of anything, Dom Ro, but I suspect you don't do it for everyone. Those who aren't helpless undoubtedly have to manage without."

Uh, look Tamrissa, the guy is an rear end in a top hat but you were JUST THINKING that you needed to apologize to him AND you were berating yourself for not thanking him before. The mature, adult thing to do is to say "I'm sorry, I was really upset before and I forgot to thank you, and also apologize for what I said to you the day before. Now please go away and leave me in peace because I need some time to get myself together."

quote:

"I was tryin' to say that that was a misunderstandin'," Vallant replied, swallowing down a flash of his own annoyance as he moved a few steps closer to her chair. "That bunch thought they could make you helpless, but they were as wrong as it's possible to be. Even if Jovvi and I hadn't come along to help, you still would have been able to handle them."

"Only I wasn't handling them, and we both know it," she said, the bitterness clear in her voice. "That means you're lying in an effort to make me feel better, which would be absurd if your reason wasn't so obvious. Helpless women need to have their fears soothed, and men who consider themselves gentlemen are honor bound to perform the task.

It's one thing for Green's characters to wilfully misunderstand misunderstand each other and go on about it in their internal monologue. It's another thing for them to be doing so OUT LOUD in front of the person they're misunderstanding.

quote:

But now that it's been seen to, Dom Ro, I'd like you to go away and leave me alone."

"I'm not in the habit of lyin'," Vallant said through his teeth, frustration adding itself to his increasing annoyance. "You're in a situation so bad I can't even imagine what it must feel like, to have your own parents care about nothin' but how they can use you. If it was me I probably would be helpless, but you're managin' just fine. Jovvi thinks so too, so why don't you ask her."

He probably would be helpless because his entire identity is "daddy's boy", but she's actually not fine, and Jovvi definitely does not think she's fine.

quote:

"Jovvi's a friend, so what else would she say?" the beautiful female mule responded with a gesture of dismissal, a stubborn glint now in those incredible violet eyes. "And for someone who's not in the habit of lying, you seem to do well at it. Or was it my imagination that you said you'd asked me to marry you? No wonder you have trouble with women. Being a Knight in Shining Aspect will do it every time."

Five minutes ago, you put Jovvi on the same level as Vallant, as mere acquaintances. Also Knight in Shining Aspect is hilariously dumb.

quote:

"That wasn't a lie, it was moral support," Vallant stated, now thoroughly annoyed. "You listen to me, little lady, and you listen good. I don't have trouble with 'women,' I have trouble with beautiful females who have too much spirit for their good and mine. You could have agreed to whatever your father said, which you would have if you really were helpless. Instead you stood there defyin' his right to use you like a worthless piece of trade goods, and that took more courage than most men have. It's easy to stand up for yourself when the person givin' you grief is a stranger, but it's damned hard when they're somebody who's supposed to love you. You are not helpless, and I don't ever want to hear you say you are again."

By that time she sat there blinking at him wide-eyed, obviously unsure of how to react or what to say. Men usually jumped to agree with him when he used that tone on them, men often twice the size of the slender female who sat looking up at him without a word of the agreement he'd demanded. Briefly, Vallant wished he himself were female, so he'd be free to scream in frustration the way he so wanted to do. How was he supposed to get through such thickheaded resistance?

Wow. You just referred to her as a :female:, yelled at her, dismissed her own feelings and then ordered her not to feel her own feelings because they're wrong.

quote:

"Now see what you made me do," he grumbled after a moment of useless searching for the right thing to say. "I came in to apologize, and ended up yellin' at you instead. Just for that I ought to punish you by takin' a kiss."

He expected to see her laugh or get angry at that, the usual reaction that could be expected from a woman.

What? That is not the usual reaction. The usual reaction is a RAPE RAPE RAPE warning going off in her head and her immediately looking to evacuate the area. The reaction you're thinking of ONLY happens when you've already had enough flirting on both sides and either an explicit or tacit consent that the relationship is going have a Dom/sub element to it.

quote:

Instead she went pale again, so quickly and completely that Vallant was shocked. And she'd begun to tremble! What in the name of the Five was wrong?

"No, please, I was only jokin'," he said as fast as possible, immediately crouching and reaching up to touch her hand. It was ice cold, and that look in her eyes—! "I'm not goin' to hurt you, I'd never hurt you. Are you all right?"

It took a long moment before she nodded, but Vallant still made no effort to straighten. Looming over someone you'd just frightened wasn't the way to reassure them, and he also reluctantly stopped touching her hand. She hadn't pulled it away from him, but it certainly seemed that she wanted to. It had to be the worst possible time to ask questions, but he simply had to know.

LET GO OF HER and back up a few paces! Or maybe entirely out of the room, since she already asked you to leave.

"What was it that frightened you so badly?" he put as gently as he knew how, watching her face. "I see now that it was a rotten joke, but do you dislike me that much? If so, I'll certainly leave at once—"

quote:

"No," she interrupted, clearly trying to pull herself together. "It wasn't really you at all. I—had an unpleasant marriage, and the ghost of it keeps haunting me. I don't want you to think you were responsible, not when you were just trying to help me. That would be very unfair."

Unfair. Vallant stared up at her without changing expression, but how he managed it he'd never know. If a thoughtless, offhand comment was able to terrorize her like that, it wasn't possible to really know what her marriage had been like. Unpleasant couldn't be anything like a proper description, but she'd pulled out of it just to reassure him. Vallant wished briefly but fervently that it was possible to get his hands on her former husband. If he had still been alive, he wouldn't have remained so for long.

Because visiting physical violence on Gimmis (if he were alive) would solve everything. I wish I could just put this down to Vallant's characterization but Green's gone on and on at length about "fighters" and how we need more of them in society.

quote:

"Tamrissa, I want you to hear me and believe what you hear," he said then, slowly but deliberately reaching for her hand and taking it gently between both of his. "There's nothin' in this world that will ever make me hurt you, and what's more I'll never let anybody else hurt you either. I mean to be there if your daddy comes back with that friend of his, and if I'm not you'd better make sure I'm called. Will you do that?"

"Certainly," she agreed after a short hesitation, her hand unmoving between his bigger ones, a spot of red on each of her fair cheeks. "If that's what you want, I'll be glad to see to it

This is a super uncomfortable dynamic. Green is trying to write "big strong protective hero" and I'm just reading Vallant as controlling.

quote:

May I have my hand back now?"

Vallant would have been much happier if he could have ignored that request, but it wasn't really possible. With great reluctance he released her hand then straightened, wondering in passing why she now looked so reserved. Well, whatever the reason, at least she wasn't terrified any longer. And it would have been heartless to return her to the state by telling her what Jovvi had said about Hallasser. That would have to wait for another time.

Dude, she already knows. You're the only one who was that unobservant.

quote:

"Since it's nearly lunchtime, I think I'll go and freshen up," Vallant said when the silence grew too heavy.

Who the hell "freshens up" before lunchtime when you've done nothing all morning? As far as we know, Vallant woke up late after sleeping off a hangover, in which case he should have done like Clarion and taken a bath before wandering around the house. Unless he had been on the way to take a bath when he saw Tamrissa's unwelcome guests, in which case someone would have noticed him reeking of alcohol, etc.

(I know this is trying to show Vallant being awkward, but it's so uncharacteristic. He's supposed to be some smooth worldly womanizer, unlike Lorand and Clarion. He should be much better at reading people and at extricating himself out of potentially awkward social situations, or at least smoothing them over)

quote:

She sat staring down at her hands, obviously waiting for him to decide to leave. "I'll—see you in the dinin' room."

She nodded without looking up, so he had no choice but to leave the way he'd said he would. The hall was empty when he stepped back out into it and closed the door behind himself, so he crossed it to the stairs and went to his room.

FINALLY.

quote:

There were any number of things disturbing Vallant's thoughts, but one of them kept returning while he washed his hands in the room's basin. She'd said she believed his determination to stand beside her, but something about the way she'd behaved led him to believe she hadn't been telling the truth. She didn't believe him, but why in the world would she doubt—

The answer came so suddenly that Vallant groaned, feeling like an idiot for not having seen it sooner. He'd told Tamrissa he would be there for her, but they'd already established that he would not be there, not at all. As far as she knew, he was determined to go home as soon as he could, so how could she expect him to be there for her? He'd let his emotions speak for him, making him both a fool and a liar.

Sudden perceptiveness!

quote:

But had he been lying? There was something about Tamrissa Domon that drew him more strongly than any other woman he had ever met, maybe even more strongly than the need to go home to the sea again.

We have never seen Vallant pay any attention to anything about Tamrissa that doesn't relate to her physical beauty.

quote:

How he would get around his problem with closed-in spaces he had no idea, but suddenly he wanted to get around it. He had to stay to help her, but the matter still came down to whether his affliction would allow it.

It's not like this world has Spirit magic users who can directly read and manipulate emotions and therefore probably mind healers!

quote:

He'd given his solemn word, but would he be allowed to keep it?

If his fear is that crippling, I don't understand how he manages to live inside a house at all. This selective claustrophobia is stupid.

quote:

Vallant took the hand towel and threw it as far as he could, then had to use the power to dry his hands. He seemed to have picked up the habit of acting thoughtlessly and then regretting it, but maybe things would change. Maybe some-how, in some way, he would find it possible not to be a liar after all. . . .

What, Vallant not be an rear end in a top hat? Nah.

Summary:

Day 3
Tamrissa experiences her first random encounter, with her parents and intended second husband showing up on her doorstep unannounced. Jovvi and Vallant come to her rescue. An upset Tamrissa runs off to the library and is pursued by Vallant. An extremely uncomfortable scene where Vallant yells at her to not feel her emotions and threatens her with unwanted sexual contact as "punishment".

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 15
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 7
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 5
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 9 (I'll only up the counter either when the protagonists recognise that these characters are antagonists or we get explicit in-text confirmation to avoid spoilers. Henchmen/subordinates are not counted separately)
General: Unnamed Chairman and the five Seated Highs in each aspect
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar,
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 19
COACH RIDES: 13
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 20
"CLIFFHANGERS": 9
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 4
BLATANT MORALIZING: 13
BATH SCENES: 6
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Chapter 25)

Possible fixes:
This whole sequence is so extremely uncomfortable that if we're supposed to be moving towards free flow happy polyamory situation that I think it needs to go entirely, or be rewritten so that Vallant is less of a controlling rear end in a top hat.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Lorand had come out to the gardens after breakfast, and even without bright sunshine he had enjoyed the serenity too much to go back inside. His mind kept replaying the events of last night, and he'd needed to be surrounded by vital living things in order to come to terms with what had happened.

Actually good characterizaton!

quote:

Everyone had been upset except for Clarion, who'd been too tipsy to think the thing through. And Drowd, who'd left the tavern—and them—at the first hint of trouble starting.

Which would have been considered nothing but prudence if Drowd had told them he was leaving rather than wordlessly sneaking away.

A whole night of reflection and you still can't see there's a middle ground between throwing magic around like you guys did and being subtle about it, since everybody else there was a Low talent so any single one of you would have been enough to stop them.

quote:

Lorand crouched beside a flower bed composed of jonquils and peonies, an odd combination that nevertheless attracted him.

Anybody from the plants thread or into flowers? Flowers are not my thing so...why is this a weird combination?

quote:

All of the flowers and bushes and mosses and grasses seemed to have perked up only recently, as though something in the soil—or the atmosphere—had recently changed. He'd Encouraged the entire area in general when he'd first come out, and now could simply enjoy being near their happy eagerness to grow.

In-text confirmation that plants and things move around happily when Lorand appears.

quote:

But the pleasure of that wasn't up to taking away all the unpleasantness of breakfast. Pagin Holter had been at the table when Lorand first walked in, but the little man had been so deep in his thoughts that Lorand had decided against disturbing him. Holter had worn a look of grieving since they'd left the tavern, his mind mourning the loss of something he couldn't speak of. Lorand knew he'd realized he could never go back to the places where he'd felt so at home, and he sympathized more fully than Holter would ever know.

We've had so many chapters at this point that I feel like it's been an eternity and a half since Lorand was disowned. We're still in Day 3, so technically that was like...last week for Lorand. And since Chapter 1 Lorand has been entirely, "I expected my dad to blow up and I'm never coming back to this place ever", I don't buy that Lorand understands what Pagin is feeling at all.

quote:

A small amount of sunshine blossomed as the clouds briefly parted, then it disappeared again even more quickly than it had appeared. It took the beauty of the riotous garden colors with it, just as last night had taken the joy from Holter.

Ow.

quote:

He'd had to offer his help, just as the rest of them had had to agree to do the same, and it wasn't fair, although that was hardly a comfort. Even Mardimil had been affected, since he'd done little more than greet Lorand warmly before sitting down with his meal and sinking into his thoughts.

"But at least it did us a favor where Drowd is concerned," Lorand muttered, reaching out to the softness of a nearby daffodil.

At least this guy only fondles plants with their consent.

quote:

Drowd had appeared after Mardimil, and his air of amused condescension had returned as though it had never been gone. He'd talked languidly about nothing as he filled his plate, but once he'd sat down he'd tried to go back to his old tricks again.

"How nice it is to see you returned to us, Mardimil," he'd drawled while pouring himself a cup of tea. "The way you behaved last night, I was certain you'd decided to stay . . . 'under the weather' permanently."

"How would you know, Drowd?" Mardimil had returned with the same sort of drawl, surprising Lorand. "You ran away so fast, it's a wonder you had time to notice anything at all. And then to try to strand us there ... I knew you were a liar, Drowd, but I hadn't realized you were that colossally stupid. Did you really think we didn't know simply because no one contradicted you on the spot?"

Drowd had gone flushed with an appalled look, and when he'd glanced at Lorand he must have seen confirmation of what had been said. For a moment he looked as if he would get up and leave, but then he turned his attention to his food and began eating. His favorite victim had suddenly turned into a predator, but he may have been hoping that after a while the unfortunate condition would pass. And that Mardimil had been wrong about everyone knowing what he'd done and tried to do.

This guy is the worst academic, or is maybe lying about being an academic, because when academics get into verbal fights, they don't clam up speechless. They pick apart logic, bring in both relevant and irrelevant examples, use obscure references, attack other people's credibility, look for ways to enhance their own credibility and status. Most of all, the style of most academics is not to pick verbal fights in the same way the tavern toughs from last night were looking for a physical fight, they generally make comments that are sufficiently ambiguous that it couldn't be obviously said to be an insult, but you know that they're just steadily making subtle digs about you to anyone who's listening so that the cumulative effect drags down your reputation.

quote:

"But it's too nice having him quiet," Lorand murmured to another flower before straightening. "If the others don't do anything to make it happen, I'll have to try my own hand at it."

The attitude was more uncharitable than Lorand usually let himself be, but last night seemed to have changed him as much as it had the others. The values of the place he considered home no longer applied to him, not when the people there would turn from him in fear. And they would, he knew that with more certainty than almost anything else. How often had he heard the townspeople—and his own father—say something like, "He's as bad as one of them misbegotten Highs," or "He's about as welcome as a plague of Highs."

If this attitude was that common in Widdertown, then more of it should have been evident in Lorand's thoughts in Chapter 1, as well as in the dialogue from Camil and Phor. Also Book 5 spoilers by the time they return to Widdertown, Green has forgotten all about this. I'm calling plothole.

quote:

No, the people he'd grown up among would turn their backs if they learned he'd passed the first test for High, but so what? It wasn't as if he'd ever expected to go back there, so what they thought made no difference at all. They and their values could drop into a bottomless pit, and Lorand would do no more than say good riddance.

That's the end of this internal monologue and I'm not sure what we got out of it. Lorand's concluding sentiment was already established way before this chapter.

quote:

He turned away from the garden and toward the house, knowing it should be getting on toward lunchtime. It had only been a few hours since he'd finished breakfast and he hadn't done anything particularly strenuous, but when lunch was served he would be there to eat it.

I would have liked this scene much more if we saw Lorand absently grazing on edible plants from Tamrissa's garden as morning tea and everyone else was like, what are you doing?!

quote:

But then he saw Jovvi Hafford strolling out of the house with a smile of real amusement on her face, and all thought of food suddenly disappeared.

"Well, hello there," she said as soon as she saw him, her smile softening to one of greeting. "I hope you don't mind if I share this beautiful garden with you for a while. If you do, I won't mind waiting until later."

"I wouldn't mind even if I happened to be naked again," Lorand said at once, making her laugh that wonderful tinkling laugh.

Yes, yes, we all remember that horrible lazy bath sequence.

quote:

"I've been trying to find the chance to talk to you again, but life hasn't been willing to cooperate. Until now. What were you laughing about when you first came out?"

"Oh, just something silly," she answered as she reached him, then began to stroll with him deeper into the garden. "Dom Ro and I . . . intervened in a matter where Tamrissa Domon was being taken advantage of. Afterward he thanked me for helping her, as though he and she had something serious between them. He says he knows she hates him and he doesn't blame her, but that's not how he feels. He's really attracted to her, and would love to have her feel the same."

"But he won't talk about it, because he doesn't believe it can ever happen," Lorand said, more aware of her presence beside him than his ability made him aware of the world.

It's been THREE DAYS into the Vallant/Tamrissa drama and we've now had (checks OP) at least 7 chapters on this when counting chapters where either Vallant or Tamrissa or just other characters are discussing their drama. I never watched soap operas or anything, but I did spend my youth religiously watching teen dramas like The O.C. and Dawson's Creek. Green's pacing of relationship drama - like her pacing of everything else - is terrible.

quote:

"I can understand how he feels, and I sympathize. There are some things just too . . . impossible to discuss."

"You men are what's impossible," Jovvi said, pausing to look up at him with a smile. "You're so determined to grit your teeth and take whatever comes like real men, that you miss half the opportunities dancing past. Wouldn't it be much more pleasant if you joined in the dance, and left worrying about what's possible for some other, later time?"

"Join in the dance," Lorand echoed, his pulse beginning to beat faster as he looked down at her. Was she trying to say his advances would not be unwelcome? But what if he was wrong, an she ended up feeling insulted? What if—"To the Deep Caverns with it. Even if you end up hating me, at least I'll have joined in the dance for once."

And with that he took her in his arms and kissed her, something he'd wanted to do from the first moment he'd wiped the soap from his eyes. Her body felt soft and alive in his arms, her scent like the most marvelous flower ever grown, and her lips. . . .

FFS why can't the male characters in this book stop GRABBING WOMEN AND KISSING THEM AT WILL?! Yes, Jovvi is obviously hitting on him but we've seen NO CUES in text of her consent. Flirting =/= consent, Green!

quote:

Silken didn't begin to describe them, especially when they immediately began to join in the kiss. His hand went to her glorious hair as her arms slid around his middle, and then Lorand was lost to an experience more intense than what he'd had above the tavern the night before.

You're just lucky that we know from Jovvi's POVs she's into you.

quote:

It was quite a while before the kiss ended, and when it finally did Lorand had to keep an iron hold on his control-He wanted nothing so much as to lift her in his arms and carry her to his bed, but that, unfortunately, would have been rushing things more than most women cared for.

This does not stop Lorand from rushing things differently later in this chapter.

quote:

"If that's the way you hate, I hope you eventually get to loathe me," Lorand murmured after kissing her still-closed eyes.

Jovvi never said she hated you. You guys were gossiping about Tamrissa and Vallant.

quote:

"And in case you were wondering, the dance was the best I ever attended."

"That's because you're a natural dancer," she returned with a laugh, opening those incredible blue-green eyes to look up at him.

Usually there has to be some sort of actual courtship or sex before you start using this dancing euphemism.

quote:

"I was hoping you were, and I haven't been disappointed. I find you very attractive, Lorand Coll, and I'm glad you find me the same."

"Did you somehow get the impression I was dead?" Lorand asked with a laugh of his own as he released her. Her hand made no effort to smooth her hair, which encouraged him even more. "Only a dead man would have trouble finding you attractive, but not as much as you might think. Do you have any plans for tonight that I might intrude in? After dinner, I mean, before going up to—"

This part of the conversation should have happened BEFORE the kiss - which should have been initiated by Jovvi. This dynamic makes sense for the early stage Jovvi/Lorand relationship - she's the worldly experienced courtesan making the moves on a young farmboy fresh to the big city.

quote:

Lorand stopped to keep from falling into that bottomless pit he'd been thinking about earlier, wondering in passing why his command of the language seemed to have deserted him completely. A man was considered crude if he mentioned his intentions straight out, a lesson he'd learned at an early age. The only kind of girl you behaved that way with was one you paid, another part of the same lesson. He would have to find a gracefully roundabout way to ask his question,


Real smooth, Lorand. Also, unlike Vallant, you technically haven't put your foot in it yet. You just need to finish that statement with "–bed. Because if you don't, would you like to go for another walk in the gardens with me?" Since I'm pretty sure walking in the gardens is the fantasy some time in 17th century/Victoria/Regency era British equivalent of going on a date, assuming Green's just going off Pride and Prejudice entirely.

quote:

but before the proper words showed up they were interrupted by the appearance of Clarion Mardimil.

"Ah, there you are, my dear," he said to Jovvi, nodding to Lorand as he came up to join them. "I've been looking for you, because I have something I'd like to ask you. Would you be so kind as to join me in my bed tonight? I promise to make the time one you'll never forget."

Hahahahahahahahahahaha, beaten to the punch.

quote:

"Clarion, I need to have a word with you," Lorand said hastily, taking Mardimil's arm. "Let's step back a short way toward the house."

A glance at Jovvi showed Lorand that he was more embarrassed than she was, and what's more she seemed to be working hard to swallow amusement. He couldn't understand that, but confusion didn't keep him from pulling Mardimil out of hearing range for her.

Probably because she knew you were just about to proposition her!

quote:

"Really, Lorand, what's gotten into you?" Mardimil demanded with annoyance as he finally managed to free his arm. "You interrupted before the lady was able to give me her answer."

"If I'd waited, you probably wouldn't have enjoyed that answer," Lorand countered in a hiss, trying to get Mardimil to lower his voice. "I realize you know very little about women, Clarion, but surely you were taught something in the way of tact. The only time you walk straight up to a woman and make an announcement like that is if she's the sort you pay, and Dama Hafford doesn't happen to be that sort.

How would you know? You haven't actually spent any time talking to Jovvi and getting to know her as a person during the two conversations you've had in the bath house and just now.

quote:

Any other woman would have gotten terribly insulted, and it's simply your good fortune that she's kinder than that."

Depends on the woman. Because women are people, who are individuals. I realise that is mind boggling, but work with me here Lorand.

quote:

"You're saying it isn't done?" Mardimil asked, his frown now showing confusion. "I hadn't realized there was different protocol for different occasions and situations. Good grief, how complicated does this get?"

"More complicated than I can explain in one or two brief conversations," Lorand replied, feeling sorrier than ever for Mardimil.



quote:

"Were you really taught nothing at all about. . . associating with women? It isn't necessary to sleep with them in order to learn how to behave in their company. Weren't you ever out alone with girls?"

Based on what happened in this scene right before Clarion walked in, I'm not convinced that Lorand has ever done this.

quote:

"Alone?" Mardimil echoed, a distant look in his eyes. "No, not alone. I apologize for blundering so badly, Lorand, and would like to apologize to Dama Hafford as well."

Lorand would have preferred talking him out of that, but not being able to apologize would have made matters worse for the poor fool. Or poor victim, which was nearer the truth. He'd been taught nothing about how to associate with other people, as though his precious mother had simply decided he'd never need to know. What she expected her son to do after she was gone was a mystery, or possibly it was of no interest to her. As long as everything was done her way while she lived. . . .

Last night you took him under your wing like a little lost chick and this morning we're back to "poor fool"? Come on.

quote:

"Jovvi, Clarion would like to apologize for what he said," Lorand began as soon as they'd retraced their steps. "He really didn't mean to insult you, it was just ... a mistake."

"Yes, a mistake in choosing the proper parents," Mardimil said heavily, now the picture of depression. "I was trying to say how attractive I found you, and managed to disgrace myself instead. I humbly beg your pardon, and hope you will someday find it possible to forgive me."

"I forgive you right now," Jovvi told him quickly, interrupting the bow that would have preceded his hasty departure. "I know it wasn't your fault, Clarion, and I certainly don't blame you for giving me what was, in fine, the greatest compliment a woman can receive.

Jovvi, you traitor. The greatest compliment a PERSON can receive is a compliment on WHO THEY ARE, not what other people want to do to them.



quote:

Possibly, if you will allow it, I can return the gift with one of my own."

"What sort of gift?" Mardimil asked, sounding as confused as Lorand felt. "And what sort of gift did I give? I'm afraid I don't understand any of this, I really—"

"Hush," Jovvi interrupted softly again, putting a gentle hand to his arm. "I know how confused you feel, but I promise that one day you'll understand everything you care to. But about my gift. May I give it to you?"

"I would be most grateful for anything you cared to give, dear lady," Mardimil replied, sounding open and vulnerable and as defenseless as a child. Lorand ached for him, more than he had at any other time.

Your internal monologue regarding Clarion has been changing so rapidly that this could be due to a headache rather than sympathy.

quote:

"Thank you," Jovvi said with one of her devastating smiles, her hand still on Mardimil's arm. "My gift is something that I promise will help you—if you decide to use it. If you don't, you won't be any worse off than you are right now. I would like to give you a different name: Rion. In my opinion it suits you far better than the one you have, even though it comes from the original. What do you think of it? Is it possible you may decide to use it?"

"Rion," Mardimil said, tasting the shortened name as if it were a new dish. "Rion instead of Clarion. I do believe I like it. Rion instead of Clarion. Thank you, dear lady, thank you very much indeed."

And then he bowed and walked away, repeating the name over and over with the same slow relish. Lorand watched until the man disappeared back into the house, and then he turned to Jovvi.

"I don't understand either," he admitted without hesitation. "Why did you do that, and what did you mean when you said he complimented you? He really did insult you, and I thought you were just being nice about it."

"Lorand, the poor man was floundering," she answered with a sigh. "I needed something to take his mind off how devastated he felt, and the idea of giving him a different name was pure inspiration. Clarion is the one who blundered so badly that he shamed himself, but Rion is shining and bright and entirely guiltless. It's a new beginning for him, which I'm sure you'll agree he desperately needs."

"More than you know," Lorand said with a nod. "And now that you mention it, giving him a new name was pure genius. I used to think Lorand was bad, but compared to Clarion it's better than gold. He must have been a laughingstock wherever he went."

Jovvi should do more things like this to show us all what a perceptive person and good judge of character she is. If only.

quote:

"Which worked even more against his coming out into the world," Jovvi agreed. "And very frankly, his request surprised me. Only yesterday I had the distinct impression he had no idea what men do with women."

"Yesterday he did have no idea," Lorand admitted, trying not to blush. "We—ah—visited a tavern last night, and I adjusted the alcohol in his bloodstream to make his first— experience—less awkward. Apparently it was an overwhelming success, maybe too much so. And you haven't yet explained about the compliment business. Was that just more of the soothing you were trying to do?"

"Not at all," she said, now looking surprised. "I happen to know men well enough to have learned it is the greatest compliment they can give. Contrary to popular opinion, most men are quite meticulous about who they share intimacies with. Don't tell me you're not like that. Do you feel any woman will do, or do you have certain standards?"

"Of course I have standards," Lorand returned, trying not to feel that the conversation was getting out of hand.

this is setting me off badly in all sorts of ways. I don't care if a guy thinks I'm a whatever on his scale of who cares with who knows what kind of arbitrary conditions and criteria - it's still insulting if he's treating me like a sex object instead of a person.

quote:

"But that's not a subject I'm used to discussing with ladies—even if they do seem to know more about it than I do. And while we're on the point, how do you know so much? You aren't— married?"

The possibility hadn't occurred to Lorand before, and not only because she wore no marriage band on her middle right finger. She didn't act married, but before Lorand could worry over the point, she laughed and shook her head.

"No, I'm certainly not married," she agreed with her usual amusement. "That would make my experience rather limited, which it doesn't happen to be. In Rincammon, my home city, I'm a fairly well-known courtesan. Some insist, if you will excuse the immodesty, the best known. Now, what were you saying earlier about my plans for this evening?"

She moved very close to Lorand again, and although his arms went around her automatically, his mind reeled so hard he nearly staggered. She was a courtesan, one of those women they refused to allow in Widdertown? Everyone had always insisted that the rest of the empire was evil for encouraging such goings-on, morally blighted the way they would never be.

But that didn't mean there were no liaisons in Widdertown, just none that were conducted out in the open. Someone had once suggested—before leaving the area only a year after having moved there—that there was more sneaking around in that supposedly morally rich town than in any of the ones they looked down on. No one had believed that, of course, but Lorand had wondered. And hadn't he decided that the values of his former home were no longer his?

Yes, yes he had. Lorand felt a rush of relief, only slightly tinged with lingering guilt. The old ways were no longer his, and there was no reason not to be charitable. He'd heard stories about how badly used all those girls were, and that none of them really wanted to do what they were doing. They were just never given a way out, but that could be changed in Jovvi's case.

"So you were a courtesan," he managed to say after only a brief hesitation, his smile trying to be warm. "That must have been terrible for you, but it's all over with now. After we get through all these tests, we should be free again to lead relatively normal lives. When that happens we can celebrate by planning our marriage."

Lorand just jumping right off the cliff, into waters filled with hungry sharks, while bleeding from a gut wound here. So much for not "rushing things".

quote:

"Marriage?" she echoed, raising her brows. "Why would I want to get married? And being the most famous courtesan in and around Rincammon wasn't terrible at all. Quite the opposite, in fact, not to mention enriching to the purse. If things don't work out with this High practitioner business, I mean to open my own residence here in Gan Garee. But that doesn't mean I can't have a . . . special patron, one who will never be required to pay. You aren't too shy to accept something like that, are you?"

"No, no, of course I'm not," Lorand got out, melting again to her smile while writhing inside. "We'll just have to talk about it."

"Talk will only take us so far," she responded with a laugh, putting her arms around him. "The rest will have to wait for tonight, but at least you can kiss me again."

Lorand couldn't have refused if his life had depended on it, but even as his lips took hers again his mind worked furiously. She was the most wonderful woman he'd ever met, but she was terribly confused about what was right. He would talk to her, and explain things gently, and eventually everything would work out. But in the meantime, he no longer had to worry about finding a roundabout way to entice her into his bed. . . .

Yes, of course the WOMAN is wrong about what is right for her and her choices when it comes to her body, and all it will take to straight out the mess is for the MAN to tell her so and control what she's allowed to do and think. And by "wonderful" Lorand means "hot" because they've gone straight from learning each other's names while seeing each other naked, to kissing, to an unwanted marriage proposal that was rejected, to a conflicted acceptance of friends with benefits, to foreplay.

I am supposed to be engaged in reading more about this relationship why again?

quote:

Clarion—no, Rion! —walked into the dining room for dinner a bit early. He'd managed to miss lunch entirely, so taken had he been with the wonder of his new name, and now he was starving. Yes, starving, rather than quite hungry, the namby-pamby phrase Clarion would have used. Clarion had been a cripple too twisted even to see straight, but Rion was a man who simply had a few things yet to learn. It had surely been the Rion part of him which had become determined to learn, and now all of him was the same and under the proper name.

I'm picturing Rion just wandering aimlessly throughout Tamrissa's house murmuring his new name to himself.

quote:

No one was at the table when Rion took his seat, which was disappointing even though expected. But the others were fairly prompt, so there shouldn't be too much of a wait. In the interim he took one of the fresh-baked rolls placed on the table by a servant, something else that poor fool Clarion never would have done. He'd been taught not to ruin his appetite by nibbling before a meal, and that no matter how hungry he was. Rion, however, was free to think for himself, not to mention satisfy part of his hunger with a roll.

To be fair, filling up on bread means there's less room in your stomach for more expensive and possibly tastier things.

quote:

Rion had been looking forward to the others arriving, but unfortunately the first to walk in was the liar Drowd. Rion gave the man a cool appraisal as he approached the table, making no effort to avoid the other's gaze. Drowd no longer disturbed him, not in any way at all.

"Well, how pleasant to avoid the boorishness of being first to arrive," Drowd murmured as he took his seat, his previous spitefulness apparently fully returned. "I see you do have your uses after all, Mardimil."

"I find it better to be useful even at something small, Drowd, than to be useless like you," Rion returned with an amused smile. "If I weren't so hungry, having you seated next to me would turn my stomach. Do us all a favor and just sit there quietly. You have nothing to say that any of us care to hear."

"My, my, look who thinks he's actually part of the group," Drowd returned, obviously struggling to keep to a languid drawl. "Your comment makes the situation laughable, Mardimil, because I happen to have something to say that would interest you. A short time before lunch I happened to be looking out a window over the gardens, and saw the most fascinating thing."

Rion gave the man silence for an answer, which would hopefully silence him as well. He must have witnessed the way Clarion had made a fool of himself, and now intended to use it for purposes of humiliation. But Clarion no longer existed, so Rion didn't care.

"I really had no idea Coll had it in him," Drowd continued in spite of the lack of a reply. "He was actually kissing that delightful Dama Hafford before you arrived, and did it again after he'd gotten rid of you. For a muck-footed farmer, he has a certain . . . elan. Another man probably wouldn't have been able to get rid of you quite that fast."

"Stop talking to me, liar," Rion growled without looking at Drowd, suddenly more than upset. Coll was his friend and would never treat him badly, but. . . he'd been kissing Jovvi? Both before and after his appearance? Could that be why his invitation to the lady was so inappropriate? Because Coll had meant to make the same invitation himself?

"Consider me a liar if you will, but you can't doubt the evidence of your own eyes," Drowd said, as if from a far distance. "Watch the two of them during the meal, and then you tell me how Coll feels. He wants the woman for himself, and had no trouble pushing a bumbling oaf like you aside. For a muck-foot, he's really quite facile."

This is the first really effective thing Drowd has done as an antagonist.

quote:

Drowd fell silent then, but that didn't matter since Rion was no longer listening anyway. He now waited for the others with a different purpose, and when Coll escorted Jovvi into the room, a bolt of pain flashed through Rion. From the way Coll looked at Jovvi, there was no possible doubt. He wanted the woman and planned to have her, even though it was Rion she'd given that marvelous gift to. If not for Coll, he would be the one she smiled at so beautifully. . . .

Dude, being nice to you does not mean she wants to sleep with you.

quote:

Rion ate the food put in front of him, but the details of what it was blurred behind his thinking and planning. If Coll were put out of the way somehow, he would have a clear path to Jovvi. Disappointment in Coll let Rion do that planning, a painful disappointment he hadn't expected to experience. Muck-foot or not, Coll had started to be a friend, but friends weren't supposed to behave the way he had. Rion had never had a friend, but even he knew that much.

By the arrival of dessert, Rion had decided what he would do. Once Coll was asleep he would be easy to reach, and despite certain misgivings, Rion was determined to do that reaching. It would be—

Just when I was starting to like Rion as a character, Green just has him casually plotting Lorand's murder at the dinner table so he can sleep with Jovvi.

quote:

"Excuse me," a voice said, cutting through thoughts and table conversation alike. "I have an announcement you all need to hear."

Rion looked up along with everyone else, to see Lady Eltrina Razas standing just inside the dining room doors.

The representative of the testing authority looked as cool and distant as ever, with a gleam of some kind of satisfaction in her eyes that Rion found vaguely familiar.

"Thank you," she said when everyone had given her their attention, then she held up a sheaf of papers. "I have here your first session assignments, which I will shortly distribute to you. Your new clothing was delivered today, I know, so be sure to dress in it and be ready bright and early tomorrow. Coaches will be here to take you where you must go, and I wasn't joking about how early it will be. For that reason you will all go to bed as soon after dinner as you may, so that you'll be well rested. Believe me, tomorrow you'll need every bit of strength you can gather."

This is literally all Eltrina comes to do. Green never goes into what kind of salary or benefits come with Eltrina's job, but this is a lot of menial make work for a suitably high ranked member of the nobility to be doing. If I had to waste a few hours every second evening around dinner time driving around to half a dozen different houses just to drop off pieces of paper and make logistical announcements, I would rage quit on the spot. This is literally work that could be done by messengers.

quote:

With that she came forward to distribute the sheets of paper, leaving Rion, at least, undecided. Tomorrow they would all be tested again, so maybe he would do well to change his plans. It would be foolish to do away with Coll tonight—foolish and hard to force himself to actually do— when one of the tests tomorrow could well do the job for him. Yes, that was the ticket, he'd let the tests kill Coll for him, and do it himself only if Coll survived.
Feeling much happier, Rion accepted the sheet of paper handed to him and left the dining room—but not before taking a last, anticipatory look at the incredible Jovvi.

Who else has whiplash?

I want the alternate story where Rion did try to assassinate Lorand in the middle of the night over Jovvi to play out. It'd be interesting to see how they move past that to happy polyness forever.

Summary:

Day 3
Lorand fondles plants in the garden, is interrupted by Jovvi and starts kissing and fondling Jovvi instead. He's awkwardly trying to ask her to sleep with him when Clarion interrupts them to ask Jovvi if she wants to sleep with him instead. Lorand pulls Clarion aside to say "no, bad, don't do that" and Jovvi renames Clarion to Rion, who wanders away aimlessly repeating his new name to himself until dinner time. Meanwhile, Lorand discovers Jovvi is a courtesan who has no interest in his marriage proposal and would rather make him her number one stud instead. After Eskin clues Rion in on the Lorand/Jovvi relationship, Rion spends the rest of dinner plotting murder before changing his mind.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 15
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 7
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 5
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 9
General: Unnamed Chairman and the five Seated Highs in each aspect
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar,
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 20
COACH RIDES: 13
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 21
"CLIFFHANGERS": 9
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 4
BLATANT MORALIZING: 14
BATH SCENES: 6
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Chapter 25)

Possible fixes:
Stuff actually happened in this chapter to advance character arcs and relationships, yet somehow the feeling of unnecessary bloat is still present. I'd continue with the changes from Chapter 23:

Leng posted:


Possible fixes:
As far as I can tell, this scene is supposed to make the main cast feel like they've passed the point of no return, but it's an awful lot of words for a pretty anti-climatic "action" scene. If we focus on the tavern sequence in the context of all the changes we've discussed to date, I think I'd go with something like this:
  • Change the opening to be Hat and Lorand reading a proclamation of the upcoming competitions
  • We stick with the "farmboys running away from home for adventure" trope and dig more into the Hat/Lorand friendship. Hat replaces Drowd as Lorand's Earth magic rival going forward.
  • Cut all of the fireball attacks and non-Lorand POVs
  • Farmboys land in Gan Garee and wind up in a brothel because Hat
  • Turns out it's Tamrissa's house! She sold 50% of the ownership stake to Jovvi in exchange for the unconditional right to live there in perpetuity and a profit share in Jovvi's courtesan business. Jovvi agreed on the proviso that Tamrissa would be part of the merchandise.
  • Things get ugly because dudes (Vallant, Lanir) start fighting over Tamrissa
  • Jovvi's Spirit magic isn't enough to calm things down
  • Lorand and Hat band together with Jovvi to save the day; Jovvi hires them on the spot

Not sure how to get Clarion in the mix here. I feel like we don't need another High talent in the mix with this kind of plot structure. Maybe we just meet him later on.

From here:
  • Jovvi seduces Lorand right after hiring him - now that Jovvi is Lorand's new boss, it's a very uncomfortable dynamic and he can spend some time stewing over how he feels about the whole thing
  • Maybe we make Rion Jovvi's number one patron and he becomes weirdly jealous with Lorand appearing on the scene. The jealousy comes from his "I'm a noble and therefore I own commoners" angle and "I don't like this guy sleeping with MY courtesan" (maybe he was paying Jovvi obscene amounts of gold to take no other patrons?)

Not too sure about running with Rion plotting Lorand's murder - I feel like that was a weird blip in Rion's characterization from Green - it could be interesting but it would significantly change Rion's character and he's the least awful one of them all.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Jumping straight to murder is pretty weird for Rion. But "she smiled at me, therefore she wants to be with me" is sadly realistic, for both him and Lorand. Especially with the deep swerve into chauvinism/chivalry that they are both taking. That's a breed of masculinity that too many Nice Guys fall for.

Also, according to Google you're not supposed to mix peonies with bulbed perennials that might multiply and crowd out the roots.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

Jumping straight to murder is pretty weird for Rion. But "she smiled at me, therefore she wants to be with me" is sadly realistic, for both him and Lorand. Especially with the deep swerve into chauvinism/chivalry that they are both taking. That's a breed of masculinity that too many Nice Guys fall for.

This is a scenario where I imagine resting bitch face is actually a blessing! I had to practice this a lot when I lived in New York. Though it comes with its own set of curses as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1XGPvbWn0A

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

The following morning wasn't just early, it was also raining. I stood with everyone else in the entrance hall, waiting for the coaches to pull up closer to the front door. I hadn't expected to fall asleep quickly last night but I had, and strangely enough I hadn't even been bothered by bad dreams. I felt well rested and had eaten a good breakfast, and was more ready to face what came than I'd thought would be possible last night. Maybe the nice but useless offer I'd had had done more good than I'd realized. . . .

Or maybe it was actually Jovvi's offer that made the difference, which you're not even thinking about.

quote:

I looked over at Vallant Ro where he stood with the men, dressed exactly the way they were and almost indistinguishable from Lorand Coll and Clarion Mardimil. All three were tall and broad-shouldered and blond,

As an Asian female, I'm pretty resigned to not seeing myself represented in most works of fiction, but I'm thinking even most white men would be complaining about the lack of diversity here.

quote:

but Vallant Ro wasn't really like them. He had no intentions of making the most of the opportunity he'd been given, and would be gone as soon as he was allowed to leave. That was what had made his offer to protect me so useless, but I hadn't had the heart to say so.

Part of what makes the Vallant/Tamrissa drama so aggravating is that you always get BOTH sides of the internal monologue which removes all of the suspense and mystery. Instead, it just makes you want to throw the book and scream at these two idiots to just sit down and talk to each other like the mature adults that they aren't.

quote:

"They do look rather impressive, don't they?" Jovvi murmured from my right, amusement in her voice. "Lorand without those ill-fitting bags is even more attractive than usual, Rion looks positively handsome without one of his costumes, and Vallant looks more like the dashing sea captain than ever.

This, but with three blond guys:



quote:

Did you enjoy how concerned he was about you yesterday?"

"Who's Rion?" I asked, ignoring what she'd said about Vallant Ro. He was someone who would best be forgotten, even though some part of me insisted on remembering how gently those big hands of his had been holding mine. . . .

Wouldn't be a romance novel without a reference to "big hands". Oh wait, sorry, this was marketed as fantasy/action/adventure. Huh.

quote:

"It's Rion rather than Clarion now," Jovvi said with obvious approval. "I suggested the name change, but he was the one who embraced the idea wholeheartedly. It will hopefully take him out of the narrow confines of his previous life, and let him expand and grow as a person should. I take it you'd rather not talk about Vallant Ro."

"Not here, certainly," I answered with a sigh, very aware of the lack of privacy. "And especially not now, with the coaches pulling up."

She turned to look at the first coach, whose driver was climbing down from the box after tying off his reins. He wasn't one of the drivers we'd had previously, and he strode toward us, ignoring the rain which had turned his cape and hat sodden.

"First coach is for Domon, Hafford, Lant, and Mardimil," he announced briskly without coming inside. "The rest will take the second coach. Step lively, if you please."

Beldara Lant made a sound of annoyance, but whether it was because she had to travel with Jovvi and me again, or because she'd been told to hurry, I didn't know. Two of my servants stood ready with very large rain-shields to escort us to the coach, so we four who had been named stepped lively. Beldara pushed forward to climb into the coach first, but neither Jovvi nor I cared. We let Clarion—no, Rion—help us in, then sat back for the ride.

Beldara gets a disproportionate amount of hate, which is naturally her due since she's an ambitious woman defying gender roles. She don't need no man's help to do anything.

quote:

This time we were taken to another part of the city, the one that lies across the Magross bridge in what's considered Noble territory. Most of it looks just like any other part of Gan Garee, but the only people living in the lower-class housing are those who work in the shops and businesses based there. The members of the patrol guard make it their business to know all of them by sight, since anyone they don't know is summarily ejected from the area. And it isn't even possible to claim to be there just to shop. The price of everything is double to nonresidents, and residency has to be proven.

Did we...did we just get an actual description of a location in Gan Garee city? *looks again* nope, it was deceptive and misleading.

quote:

Carriage and coach traffic was, of course, much heavier in that part of town. It would have been fractionally better if it hadn't been raining, but not enough to have made the trip any shorter. The very quiet trip, with Beldara and Rion lost in their individual thoughts, and Jovvi apparently as reluctant as I to break the silence. Logically we should all have been thinking about what lay ahead, but somehow I felt that that wasn't the case. Jovvi might have been considering the coming tests, but I was fairly certain the other two had different things on their minds.

says Jovvi's having group sex fantasies right now.

quote:

We finally turned off the main thoroughfare into the approach drive of two large buildings which stood fairly close together. A stone awning arched across the forty or so feet between them, providing a shelter for the side doors which opened opposite one another over there. Our coach pulled up to the building on the right, and the second coach, filled with the rest of those at my house, stopped to the left. We four were guided out and into the right hand building, then up five or six steps, with our driver leading the way.

"Fire magic, Air magic, and Spirit magic sessions are held in this building," the man said, opening his rain cape against the unexpected warmth of the place. The floor was open all across its length, just like the building where I'd originally gone to register for the first test, but three separate areas contained tables and chairs. All of them were empty of people right now, and the driver pointed to large, draped signs hanging behind the three areas of tables and chairs.

"You can see by the symbols which area is for which aspect," he went on. "Go through the door behind your own aspect, and you'll be told what to do next. The coach will be back to pick you up again this afternoon."

With that he turned and left us, giving none of us a chance to ask how late this afternoon. It was now barely past eight in the morning, which would have made the answer somewhat significant.

Ok, that's a pretty early start. Eltrina did warn them!

quote:

"Well, we might as well get on with it," Jovvi said, and I gave up watching the departing back of our driver to see that Beldara and Rion had already begun to walk toward their respective doors. "Let's wish each other good luck, even if we won't need it. We have skill and talent, which take the place of a good deal of luck."

"You still won't find me turning down the luck," I said with a smile before exchanging hugs with her. "And you'd probably feel the same if you had Beldara sharing your aspect."

"Not probably, definitely," she agreed, then grew serious. "Be certain you watch your back where she's concerned. If she can ruin things for you, she'll do it."

This is such lazy characterization of an antagonist. From what we've seen of Beldara's actual behavior, all she's indicated is supreme confidence in her own abilities. While she did talk down to Tamrissa (which - however patronizing - was coming from "good intentions" of letting Tamrissa know she's no pushover), Beldara's done nothing to indicate she's a sabotaging sort. Except since this is Jovvi speaking (and she can read minds), well, we have to take this statement at face value.

quote:

I nodded to show I already knew that, then parted from Jovvi to follow after Beldara. The woman who shared my aspect acted as if she were all alone in the building, but her pace was faster than your average uncaring stroll. She seemed to want to leave me far behind, but walking wasn't the way she'd be able to do that. I increased my own pace a little, and passed under the flame sign only a moment behind her.

I was able to catch the door before it closed completely, and walked into a fairly large room right behind Beldara. There were four men standing around to the left of the door, all of them wearing the same clothing and identification cards that we did. The room itself was lamplit and separated into sections by walls of what seemed to be transparent resin, with a narrow hall running between the sections both left and right. The area we stood in had been left unpartitioned, and once Beldara and I were in it another man came from one of the sections to the left.

"Well, how nice to see that the newcomers have finally made it," he said, looking us over with very little approval. He wore expensive trousers and coat in a bright green, a yellow silk shirt, and a very red ascot that didn't go with the rest at all. The way he moved said he considered himself quite important, and he obviously expected us to think the same.

"For those of you who don't already know, I am Forum, High rated Adept, and your examiner in Fire magic for the next few days," the man continued, flicking a finger under his red ascot. "Anyone wearing the color of our aspect like this is the same, so I would advise you newcomers to be on your best behavior. If you anger the wrong person, whatever promise you've shown will end a broken vow."

He looked around as he said that, apparently expecting something, but he didn't get it. One or two of the men shifted uneasily, but no one said a word.

"My goodness, you are becoming a promising group," he said with a laugh after a moment, his narrow face wearing a sarcastically patronizing look. "There's usually at least one among the newcomers who blurts out his horror at the idea of someone using their talent to harm someone else. That sort needs to be reminded that the laws aren't quite the same among us as they are everywhere else. But you already seem to know that, so let's get on with getting you started. Watch closely."

What? That's not the message Tamrissa got after she passed her initial test!

quote:

He took two paces back, and then a long rope of fire appeared in front of him. I say a rope, because that's what the section of fire most resembled. It burned as greedily as fire always does, but I could feel the way his talent held it firmly in the shape and state he wanted it in.

"Again for the newest newcomers, the first thing you will practice is achieving this exact shape," Adept Forum said, obviously not straining in the least. "What you want is an obedient length of hemp, and once you have it you must learn to divide it in two. When you have two obedient lengths, you'll then practice twining them about each other like so."

He'd separated his rope into two narrower ropes, with both of them still under perfect control. Then he began to wind the two lengths of fire around each other, but they weren't allowed to merge. They stayed individual lengths from top to bottom, which seemed to shock some of the others. Their gasps gave me the first hint that what was being done was considered unusual, since I'd been able to do the same for years. I didn't know whether or not to admit that, then decided to wait and see how things went.

"Please don't be overly impressed," Forum said then, his tone very dry. "You'll be expected to master that and more before you're allowed to compete with our more experienced applicants, and you must bear one very important point in mind: bonuses in gold are won only with a victory in a competition. If you don't manage to qualify for the competitions, you can't possibly win a bonus. Now follow me."

When do you suppose we'll meet his colleagues Conclave, Assembly, Conference, Convention and Symposium?

quote:

He led the way up the narrow hall to the right, and at the end of it put each of us in a separate area that was rather small, lit by a glaringly bright lamp, and which contained a single chair. The chair was a crude wooden thing that promised to be very uncomfortable, but I'd seen much better chairs in the areas closer to the door we'd come in by. That had to be another way to convince us to do the best we could, along with the threat of holding back the gold most of us needed to pay for food with. They were determined to find out what we were really capable of, but I'd decided to be determined about something too.

This is the lamest way of convincing people to do their best.

quote:

I sat down in the chair inside my little cubicle, but still had no trouble seeing the others through the transparent resin. Even the man in the cubicle opposite mine was behind resin, as the door to his cubicle wasn't lined up with my own. That had to be a precaution against someone losing control of the fire they'd summoned, which made a good deal of sense. Those who lose control also occasionally lose their heads, and I had no desire to need to defend myself.

But that only applied to someone's runaway fire. Where the people conducting those sessions were concerned, I meant to defend myself by hiding in a forest of other applicants. I would never be the first or the last to master some technique, at least until I'd had the chance to look around and maybe even speak to Jovvi. She and I had wondered what these people could be up to, and by remaining as invisible as possible we might find out. I'd have to qualify for the competitions and try to win there, of course, but that would come later. Right now what I needed was camouflage.

So I watched my fellow applicants out of the corners of my eyes, and when two of them had managed to gentle their pillars of flame, I did the same. It took the same two a bit longer to separate their ropes in half and keep them separate, but I followed along with quite a lot of shifting in my chair. And once things began to happen, I discovered I didn't have to hide my looking around. By then everyone was doing it, to see who was doing better and who worse.

About an hour after we started, four more people arrived. They were two men and two women, and their clothing and identification said they were also applicants. Adept Forum put them in another set of cubicles, ones with better chairs, and we soon discovered why. They all began with three strands of fire, and the patterns they wove were fairly intricate.

An hour later two more people came in, both men. When they took their places they began to form four-stranded patterns, and an hour beyond that brought a single woman who practiced with five strands. By then everyone in our original group had two separate strands, and winding them into a coil was the objective. I couldn't wait until we were beyond that point, because I wanted to try three strands. I'd never done that much on my own, and was looking forward to seeing how long it took me to master it.

Annnd that's the game. The main plot as it relates to the competitions will not advance again until Chapter 39. Like every single time Green has had these characters run up against some challenge with their magic, she has to take a minimum of two chapters to deal with it for every aspect.

quote:

About an hour after that, Adept Forum came through with a placard announcing lunchtime. I let my flames die out and got painfully to my feet, wondering if my back would ever be the same. Four hours of sitting in that chair had almost crippled me, and trying to stretch out the kinks hurt even more. I glanced around to see that the others were also on their feet, but Beldara was looking at me rather than trying to twist her body back into proper shape. Her face wore a look of spiteful triumph, and I didn't have to wonder why. She was the one I'd followed directly along after, which apparently had convinced her that she was my superior. Well, if it made her happy, let her think it. Only time would tell both of us the truth.

Spiteful triumph, really? Methinks you're reading way too much into Beldara's expression, which is probably just a smirk, if you were going to impart any attitude to it.

quote:

Our group had to wait until everyone else had left the room before we were free to go, but there were still plenty of empty tables where we could take our solitary meals. I'd hoped to be able to join Jovvi in either her area of mine, but the three aspects were being kept strictly separated. Most of our six stood or walked around their chosen table until servants appeared with trays of food and drink, but two of the men had collapsed into the more comfortable chairs as though they were exhausted. One of those two had only just managed a tentative coil before lunch was announced, and the other hadn't even gotten that far.

Tea was brought to everyone rather quickly, but food was another matter. The lone woman was served first and then the two men, and then there was a delay, as though only small amounts of food could be produced at one time. I poured a cup of tea and sat to drink it, at the same time beginning to rethink my position. It looked as if we were going to be arranged according to ability in everything, and the front of the line was quite some distance ahead.

Which brought back memory of the speculation Jovvi and I had indulged in. Not everyone testing could end up as a Seated High, or even qualify to try for the position, but everyone there was a potential High. One position for those who didn't quite make it was Adept examiner, obviously, but Adept Forum was someone who considered himself a good deal more important than he actually was. Important people don't spend their time with newcomers, showing them how to do beginning exercises.

This is such a fallacy. People who excel at what they do - the ones who are true masters of their field - LOVE teaching and talking about their craft. It's true that there are a lot of incompetent hacks teaching as well, but you can usually tell them apart pretty quickly.

quote:

So the position of Adept was one I had no interest in, for more reasons than simple prestige. I needed real power and standing to stay out of my father's reach, which at times stretched even to certain members of the nobility. That meant I couldn't afford to stay down near the bottom of the group, even if we didn't know what happened to everyone who showed strong ability. Not showing it would doom me as surely as anything the testing authority might do, since there was no doubt that marrying another man like Gimmis would break my mind. The first time Odrin Hallasser hurt me I would turn him to cinders, and then probably not even notice when they sent me to the Deep Caverns.

Spoilers for the rest of the first series: none of this will ever matter. Storn Torgar is completely ineffectual and almost dresses up as a literal clown in Book 4 and Odrin Hallasser gets killed off by Lorand and Vallant in Book 5

quote:

I took a long swallow of the tea to warm the chill from my insides, determined to keep any of that horror from happening. It was a shame that so few people knew those with more than ordinary ability, or fewer women would be savaged. No one tried to rob or attack a stranger, not when that stranger might be capable of anything, but those who were known were another story. If it was understood that even those supposedly known might show stronger ability under stress . . . Well, that was a dream. People knew what they knew, and facts weren't going to change their minds.

A reminder that you spent two years in an abusive marriage and never did anything with your talent, even though you were a confirmed Middle and that would have been stronger than most of the population in Gan Garee judging by that tavern sequence.

quote:

It was quite some time before food was brought to my group, and predictably enough I was the third to be served. Beldara luxuriated in that fact, all but preening herself and laughing aloud. Such spoiled-child behavior really irritated me, and I couldn't wait until the session started again.

Green only has one gear for her antagonists as well. It's like she can't conceive of a likeable antagonist. Maybe she doesn't understand the broader concept of an antagonist and thought it just means people who don't like the protagonists because they are "anti-protagonists".

quote:

Which didn't take long. When you're served last you have only a short time to eat, and I wasn't quite through when Adept Forum appeared to order us back to the room. I knew I should have anticipated that, so I was more annoyed with myself than with the testing authority when I reclaimed that awful chair in my cubicle. If I wanted to be free of harassment, I'd have to use ability to achieve it.

Which was not quite as easily done as decided. I opened myself to the power, formed two ropes of fire and coiled them about each other, then separated them again. That was to show I could do again what I'd done earlier, and was also something of a warm-up for my confidence. I wanted to handle three strands, but a lifetime of being doubted makes you sometimes think your critics might be right.

So I had to prove they weren't. Merging the two original strands and then separating them into three strands wasn't hard, but that was just the beginning. I had to open myself to more of the power to keep control of the three, and then had to concentrate on moving the strands while keeping them from merging back into a single pillar again. Fire must spread to live, and unifying with other parts of itself lets it spread more completely. I was in the midst of denying the very nature of fire, not an easy battle under any circumstance.

By the time I had a simple plait formed, the sweat on my forehead had begun to thicken. But I did have three strands of fire braided together, and only one of the others around me, a heavy man, had done the same. Beldara couldn't seem to keep two of her three strands from merging when she tried to weave them together, and the last three men couldn't seem to produce three strands. One of them was still having trouble handling two, and seemed about as far from achieving a coil as he'd been that morning. I wondered about that . . .

. . . and after a moment had a fairly good guess. The man's face was as covered with sweat as my own, but it was the sweat of fear rather than of effort. He seemed to be afraid to open himself to enough of the power to get the job done, a handicap I'd heard about once. It usually affected those who'd seen someone burn themselves out trying to accommodate more power than they could handle, and getting past the problem took more determination than most people had. Happily, though, that was something I didn't have to worry about; I'll take being burned out over being married off again any time.

Can you guys believe we're going to get like 10 chapters of this drivel? 10 chapters of watching the protagonists grumble about the awful chairs, the food and struggling to braid magical patterns using their control of elemental magic with the ultimate answer being "more power" and the determining factor of whether you can handle said additional power is completely up to the author. Thank goodness I'm interspersing this Let's Read with a re-read of Stormlight Archive in preparation for Rhythm of War.

quote:

Most of the afternoon had gone by while I fought with the three strands, and the woman and two men who had arrived last had already left. But Adept Forum hadn't come by to release us, so I started all over again with the three strands. Doing it a second time proved easier, and by then Beldara had tamed her three strands and had plaited them half way. She'd also sweated with the effort, but the heavy man who'd managed his plait along with my first sat cool and serene. He hadn't tried it a second time, only maintained his first effort, and maintaining is a good deal easier than doing.

Just a few minutes later Adept Forum came through with a placard that said the session was over, so I let the strands go with a lot of relief. The more power you use the more your strength is drained, and the less strength you have, the less power you can handle. Exercising an ability is like someone without Air magic walking a tightrope: one miscalculation can send you falling through empty air, to end broken and dead on the very hard ground below. You tend not to think of that when you're well-rested, but when you're tired. . . .

This will never matter either.

quote:

Adept Forum gathered us in the area near the doors again, then looked around and said, "You will all be here tomorrow morning at the same time, to practice the same exercise. For those of you who have been at it quite a while, let me remind you that this week is your last chance. If you haven't qualified by week's end, you never will."

The exhausted-looking man who hadn't even managed to coil his strands paled even more, but he didn't say anything. Two of the other men showed determined expressions, but the last of them was very upset.

"How can you do that?" he demanded in an unsteady voice. "I'm just about out of silver, and if I can't compete for gold I'll starve! You have to give me more time!"

"More time is not mine to give," Adept Forum returned, the sympathy in his voice so exaggerated that there wasn't a chance of its being real. "The Trials will soon be upon us, and everyone's efforts will be going into that. There will be no more sessions, no more residence for those who haven't qualified, no more chances of any sort. You have until week's end, and that's all there is to it."

No other character will make any reference to "The Trials" again after this chapter.

quote:

The man who'd protested seemed about to cry, but he didn't say anything else. Adept Forum waited to be certain of that, and then he looked at me.

"You, my dear, may ignore what I said to the others," he purred, now more sleek and ingratiating than sarcastic. "If you wish, you may report here an hour later than these others, and you'll no longer be seated among them. Achievement earns many rewards, and your work with three strands has earned you those."

"Why just her?" the heavy man who'd formed his plait along with mine demanded, his round, fleshy face no longer cool and calm. "I did the same thing she did, and at almost the same time!"

"You did indeed," Adept Forum granted, looking the heavy man up and down. "But after that accomplishment you simply basked in its light, making no effort to repeat the performance and gain greater facility. You're like the rest of those left here, content to be just a little better than those around you, and you'll certainly join them in being left behind. This lovely young lady will forge ahead to the competitions, and the rest of you will be obscured by her glow. You are now dismissed."

He turned then and walked away to the left, leaving me with the urge to commit physical mayhem. He'd singled me out deliberately as an object of hatred for the others, someone they would now want to best at any cost. He obviously hoped to provoke them into making more of an effort, and the glares they sent toward me before stalking out said they meant to try. But even if they succeeded they would still hate me, and if they didn't. . . .

None of this will matter either.

quote:

I stretched my back gingerly as I followed them, forcing away consideration of possible spiteful retaliatory actions in order to think about what was really more important. What we hadn't been told earlier was that these would be practice sessions, and that after this week there would be no more of them. Those who had passed the initial test months ago would have had all this time to practice for the Trials, but all we would have was this single week. If I'd thought the testing authority had any sense of decency and fairness, this latest fact would have quickly changed my mind.

You literally just got told that if you can't pass these sessions quickly, you never will. This makes no sense whatever from any perspective but it's just one more of Green's arbitrary rules so her protagonists can progress without having to actually grow as characters.

quote:

There appeared to be less than twenty people left in the large building, but the others were all heading for the front doors rather than the side one I'd come in by, so I did the same. It would be nice if it had stopped raining, but it would be nicer yet if I could rid myself of the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Adept Forum had said the people left in my session were those who would never qualify, and they'd obviously been trying for a good deal longer than a week. What if I turned out to be just like them, and couldn't qualify either? What would become of me then?

Remember how Jovvi gave you an out? And if there's no time limit for how long you can sit in these sessions, so long as you have an independent source of income - like from a side hustle as a courtesan - you'd be fine to just keep rocking up, sitting there without trying too hard to pass and eating free food. And you already got your start time pushed to 9 AM which is a late start to the work day as far as I'm concerned.

quote:

I discovered I'd stopped in the middle of the floor, one hand to my middle to hold back the sickness, so I hurried on toward the doors. I needed very badly to be home, to help me come to grips with the stark truth: in less than a week and in one way or another, my future would be settled forever.

Yawn.

Summary:

Day 4
Tamrissa drinks tea, hates on Beldara and plaits fire into a three-strand braid.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 15
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 8
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 7
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 9
General: Unnamed Chairman and the five Seated Highs in each aspect
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar,
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 21
COACH RIDES: 14
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 21
"CLIFFHANGERS": 10
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 5
BLATANT MORALIZING: 14
BATH SCENES: 6
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Chapter 25)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapter 28)

Possible fixes:
Now is a good time to talk about how Green has messed up the stakes all round in her plotting of the magical challenges across the first two books before the big competition:
  1. Chapters 1-5: Fireball attack
  2. Chapters 6-15: Pass or die
  3. Chapters 28-38: Braid your element into five strands
  4. Chapters 39-43 and Book 2 Chapters 1-5: first level masteries (variations on basic magical tasks) - do not ask me why Green choose to end Book 1 here, it is the stupidest place to end the book
  5. Book 2 Chapters 22-27: second level masteries (even more variations on the same basic magical tasks)
  6. Book 2 Chapters 31-35: individual time trials (based on other slightly more advanced magical tasks)
Taking the whole list into consideration, the boring fireball attack is the closest thing to an action sequence and the even more boring pass or die first test has the highest stakes.



I've already mentioned some changes that I made in the four and a half chapters that I rewrote at the beginning of this year when talking about Chapter 1 and Chapter 14. The biggest change I made was to the first test - I substituted the first part of the basic braiding challenge (forming a rope) under the supervision of an Adept. There was still a "pass or die" element, but instead of that being the default setting for everybody, it was some additional pressure that the Adept decided to apply to Lorand specifically.

After that point, I skipped everything about learning more patterns in one paragraph and made the first level masteries the milestone reached after all the basic patterns are mastered. The second level masteries and individual time trials also got cut in favor of doing all those good things that High talents in service to the Empire are supposed to do for the benefit of all but that Green never shows us in the books.

From that point on, progression in the magic becomes all about the Blending mechanic rather than advancing each individual's magical talent so it got a little harder to plot because it then becomes more about the relationships rather than the magic. The magic aspect is pretty straightforward and we'll dig into it once we get into Book 3. At the rate I'm posting (we've done 28 chapters in roughly 6 weeks, and there's another 16 chapters in Book 1, with 46 more in Book 2 and another 14 chapters in Book 3 before they learn to Blend), we should get there in...19 weeks or so (basically the end of January or early February next year).

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




"Braid stuff, then braid it better" has got to be the dullest possible application of magic. Especially when repeated five times over.

quote:

quote:

I took a long swallow of the tea to warm the chill from my insides, determined to keep any of that horror from happening. It was a shame that so few people knew those with more than ordinary ability, or fewer women would be savaged. No one tried to rob or attack a stranger, not when that stranger might be capable of anything, but those who were known were another story. If it was understood that even those supposedly known might show stronger ability under stress . . . Well, that was a dream. People knew what they knew, and facts weren't going to change their minds.

A reminder that you spent two years in an abusive marriage and never did anything with your talent, even though you were a confirmed Middle and that would have been stronger than most of the population in Gan Garee judging by that tavern sequence.

Pretty sure this isn't intended to be characterization of Tamrissa and her marriage, it sounds more like an author-insert monologue on the Second Amendment.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Not being American, this didn't jump out at me but now that you've mentioned it, I can't read it any other way.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




As an American it is my curse by birthright to be hyper-aware of 2A bullshit.

I may be a little too eager to read this series with Goodkind-level conservative moralizing (especially with regards to gender politics) but given Green's interviews I don't thinks that interpretation is too far off.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

The new Rion Mardimil thought he would take the opportunity of being in the same carriage with Jovvi to speak to her, but once they were all settled in place he changed his mind. What he most wanted to say to her would be awkward in front of two other women, especially when one of them was Tamrissa Domon. She attracted Rion almost as much as Jovvi did, but in a slightly different way. He wasn't certain why that was, but for the moment was unprepared to delve into the question. To go literally overnight from being all but unaware of women to pursuing two of them would have been far too much.

I can't help but think this is where Green falls over in trying to write from a male perspective. Why on earth would Rion think pursuing multiple women at once would have been far too much? As far as his POVs are concerned, he's trying to make up for lost time.

quote:

So Rion endured the silent carriage ride, accompanied the ladies into the building they were brought to, then went in the direction of the banner with the symbol of Air magic on it. The door beyond the banner led into an odd sort of room, large but separated into individual cubicles, all to the left and right of the area just inside the door. In that area stood two women and a man, and a moment after Rion joined them another woman, without the identification the rest of them wore, appeared from the left. "Now that our newest addition has arrived, you may all take your cubicles," the woman said, her tone and manner almost as haughty as that of Lady Eltrina, the testing authority representative. "Go and begin your practice, and I'll see to him individually."

why did the other people have to wait for Rion at all?

quote:

The others nodded and obediently moved off toward the right, making Rion frown. He was the only newcomer, and all the others were ahead of him? The thought of that was an uncomfortable one, but he wasn't given time to consider the point.

"I'm Adept Aminto, in charge of applicants in Air magic," the woman said almost immediately, her pretty face still showing disapproval. "You'd best be courteous to those who wear white ascots like mine, as they are also adepts in our aspect. I'll show you to a cubicle now and demonstrate what must be done, and then leave you to it."

I feel like if we went through these books and tried to identify all the female characters who weren't described as "pretty" or some variation on that theme, we'd come up with maybe a handful.

quote:

"Just a moment," Rion said, stopping her before she might turn away. "I have one small matter I'd like to see to before we begin. This identification card which was given me has an error which must be corrected. My given name is Rion, not Clarion, so your records and the card have to be changed."

"Oh, bother," the woman grumbled, stepping closer to peer at the card hanging against his chest. "How did they manage to do that? Well, no matter, I'll simply have to deal with it later. For now, just follow me."

This time Rion made no effort to stop her, but merely followed as she'd directed. She moved up the hall to the right in the same direction the others had taken, hesitated when she'd nearly reached the end, then went on to enter the cubicle next to one of the women and opposite the man. Her manner seemed to be reluctant now, and when she turned to look at Rion she appeared apologetic.

"I'm sorry, but I really do have to put you in here today," she said, confirming Rion's impression. "You'll find the chair horrible to sit in, but as soon as you've mastered at least two of the basic exercises I'll be able to move you to a better cubicle."

"You're certain then that I'll master them," Rion said, trying not to show his surprise and confusion. "Since we've never met before, what makes you so certain?"

"How could anyone look at you and have any doubt?" she answered at once, then blushed and seemed ready to bite her tongue. "I mean, you do appear extremely competent. . . . Please sit down, and I'll demonstrate the first exercise."

Rion went to the wooden chair and sat, finding it just as uncomfortable as she'd said it would be. But he was too amused to be bothered, as he'd figured out why Adept Aminto had said what she had. The woman was attracted to him, he could feel it in each of her movements and words, and that was something which had never happened to him before. It made him feel odd, but definitely good-odd.

All it took for Aminto to go from hostile to swooning was Rion requesting a name change to his identification. What??

quote:

"The manipulation of air is too difficult to see, so we've provided these ribbons to make the exercises more visual," Aminto said as soon as Rion was settled, picking up two silk ribbons of different colors from a small table which held five ribbons. "What you'll do is surround them with columns— thin columns—of thickened air, and then you'll coil them about each other. But make sure the columns remain separate, otherwise the ribbons will show that they've merged."

As she spoke she used the power to do as she'd described, coiling the two colorful ribbons around as though they twined up an invisible pole. But then the ribbons suddenly rushed toward one another, and stuck together as though glued.

"You see?" she asked, glancing at Rion. "Only by maintaining two separate columns will you be able to keep the ribbons apart. Would you like to try it now?"

Why do the Air magic people need ribbons?! They are supposed to be High talents who can sense the air and what it's doing.

quote:

"In a moment," Rion said, suspecting he would have little trouble performing the trick. "Tell me first why these others seem to have failed at so simple a task. Haven't they been here for a while after having passed the initial test?"

"Yes, of course they passed the test, and they have been here for a time, but—" Aminto paused, as though searching for the proper words, but then she shrugged. "They did what they had to in order to save their lives, but beyond that they're useless," she stated bluntly. "They're the sort who have to be pushed into doing anything at all, because for one reason or another they can't turn their potential into reality by themselves. They're losers and will stay losers, because they refuse to take charge of their own lives."

She looked at Rion warily, as though afraid of what his reaction would be, then seemed relieved when he simply nodded. It was the only thing he could do, after all, when he understood the point so personally. He was really the same person he'd always been, but it had taken the government to force him out of his rut, and a name change to make him feel like a man. A different man, one who made things happen rather than one who struggled to cope when things happened by themselves. He didn't understand why "Clarion" hadn't done what "Rion" seemed to find so effortless, but he refused to argue with the results—or go back to being a "loser."

So if Rion is capable of logical thought, then he should be realizing at this point that this round of testing is pretty safe and therefore he might need to plot Lorand's murder after all.

quote:

When it was clear that Rion had nothing more to say, Aminto left him alone to practice. He thickened the air around the red and yellow ribbons Aminto had returned to the table, then lifted them up and began to twine them about each other. He'd done the same thing any number of times with blades of grass when he was younger, but he took his time "learning" how to do it. What he'd already learned was not to rush into anything, at least until he'd had a look around.

Less than an hour later two more men appeared, each taking a cubicle closer to the doors. They began their practice using three ribbons, braiding them together— almost together—into a plait. After doing that, one of the two tried to bring a fourth ribbon into play. For a moment it looked as if he would succeed, but then all four ribbons flew together. He'd obviously lost control of the columns of air, and Rion wondered why. Were four columns that much more difficult to handle?

Rather than investigate the question immediately, Rion decided to be circumspect and work his way up to it. Caution was a concept he was unfamiliar with except where his magic was concerned, but he'd certainly had to be cautious with it to keep Mother from lecturing him after finding him playing with it. So he took his time coiling two ribbons, did it a few more times as though feeling the need to practice, then finally added a third ribbon. Keeping three columns of air distinct and separate took more power than he normally used, not to mention concentration. If one failed to pay attention, the columns merged into one and so did the ribbons.

By the time Rion had reached the point of plaiting the ribbons easily, two more men had arrived, one at a time. The first began to work with four ribbons and the second with five, but Rion was almost able to feel their efforts. What they did wasn't done easily, nor with very much confidence. It was as if they expected failure at any moment, and strove only to hold it off rather than continue on to improve their grip-

This made very little sense to Rion, but he wasn't given the time to think about it for long. Aminto appeared with a placard announcing lunchtime—and a private nod and smile for Rion—so he put the ribbons aside and left his cubicle. The others were all heading out the door, but the man who'd had the cubicle opposite Rion's fell into step with him.

Could it be that we're about to have a meaningful and interesting interaction between characters??

quote:

"Congratulations on your progress," the man said wryly, glancing tiredly at Rion. "I'm Mem Follil, and if you're willing to share your secret, I'm willing to listen."

"Rion Mardimil," Rion supplied, completing introductions.

Woooahhh he dropped the "Lord"! Are we supposed to take this as continuation of his character's earlier resolution post bath house to do his best to blend in? Or is this the beginning of his shedding of his noble identity? Either way, it's a good step for Rion and I'm really surprised Green's not hammering this into our faces as she usually would.

quote:

"But what do you mean by 'secret?' If you have more than a Middle's ability with magic, you should be able to do the same."

"They say I'm a potential High, but I can't seem to pick up the knack," Follil confessed with a sigh, leading the way out of the room and toward the tables and chairs where most of the others were already seated. "And it is a knack, so I'd be grateful for any advice you'd care to give."

The man wasn't quite as tall as Rion and was thin with red hair and blue eyes, but Rion felt the urge to stare as though the other had two heads. What Follil had said was meaningless, but he didn't have the"time to correct him.

"I'm afraid we're going to have to continue this discussion at another time," Rion said as Follil stopped at an empty table large enough for two. "I noticed an office of my bank only a block away from here, and I really must run over there to arrange a withdrawal. It's preposterous to walk around without a penny, I know, but—"

This is why Rion is the most likeable - he decides to do things earlier and then he actually follows through on them.

quote:

"You can't mean you don't know?" Follil said with a short laugh that had no amusement in it. "You're an applicant, so your bank won't be permitted to give you a single copper. You'll have to beg funds from the testing authority like the rest of us, or else go hungry. Until you qualify to compete, that is, but you still have a long way to go. There's double the difference in handling four strands rather than three than there is between three strands and two. When it comes to five strands you can triple the difference from four, so you might as well sit down to lunch and recoup your strength."

Even the minor characters can't behave consistently. This guy has figured out that the amount of power required to handle each additional strand but is insisting that there's some weird trick he doesn't know.

Somebody good at algebra reduce the information we just got here into an equation. I would do it but my brain isn't firing on all cylinders this late at night. Anyone?

quote:

Follil pulled out a chair and took his own advice, but Rion hesitated. The man had sounded certain about what would happen at Rion's bank, but Follil was obviously not a member of Rion's class. Best would be to check on the matter personally, although a terrible suspicion had begun to grow in Rion's insides.

"Thanks for the advice, Follil, but I need some exercise anyway," Rion said, fighting to sound casual. "If I run over to my bank for nothing, at least I'll have gotten the exercise. See you later."

Follil raised his eyes to the ceiling and shook his head with a sigh, and that annoyed Rion as he strode toward the building's front door. A man who thought there was a "knack" to using the ability he'd been born with had no right to look down at him. It was almost too bad that he'd decided to see what he could learn from these people, and was therefore going out of his way to be polite. Under normal circumstances he would have told the man exactly what he thought of him.

Oh. Here's the hammer to the face we were missing earlier.

quote:

Outside it was still raining, so Rion used a shield made of air to keep himself dry while he jogged to the bank. He also tucked his identification inside his shirt in case Follil was partially right, but he might as well not have bothered. The office's manager came out to bow and scrape, but his roundabout apology came to the same thing a rude rebuff would have: the testing authority had cut him off from all his funds, and the suggestion of a loan was quite impossible.

On the one hand, this is actually a sensible course of action for the government to do in terms of applying economic incentives.

On the other hand, this seems like the kind of short sighted move that would cause black market activity to skyrocket.

quote:

Rion jogged back to the testing building, needing the effort to help cool his temper. Those people had turned him into a pauper, and the only way to change that was to compete and earn one of their bonuses. Rion intended to do just that, but the idea of having no choice in the matter threatened to make him furious. He wasn't a loser who needed to be forced to perform, so how dare they do that to him?

Food was only just being brought out when Rion reached the tables, so he sat down and let himself be served. Only the tea was really palatable, but Rion forced himself to stuff down the fuel he'd need for the afternoon's efforts. He was just finishing up when Follil appeared and sat at the table without waiting for an invitation.

"Was I right?" the red-haired man asked airily, then waved a hand. "Of course I was right, otherwise you would hardly have come back in such a temper. But you can get even with them, you know, simply by teaching me that knack. In turn I'll teach it to the ladies, and then all of us can go forward and begin to compete. When we win they'll be forced to pay us gold and they'll hate that, so let's get started now."

The man looked at him with such pathetic eagerness and thinly veiled greed that Rion regretted having eaten the awful food. Barefaced stupidity tended to turn his stomach, and he was in no mood to respond with anything but the truth.

"Are you the fool, Follil, or do you take me for one?" Rion demanded, keeping his voice low only with effort. "There's no trick involved here, or what you keep calling a knack. You simply open to the power, pay attention to what you're doing, then accomplish what you set out to do. If you don't understand that, how did you survive the test?"

"I don't remember what I did during the test," the man responded sullenly. "I was too frightened to notice when I discovered the knack, so I lost it again. You didn't lose it, but you're not about to share it with anyone, are you? You're just like the others, refusing to give a fellow human being a hand, so to the Deep Caverns with you! I'll find it again myself, and when I do I'll see that you never win so much as a copper in the competitions!"

And with that he stood up and stalked off, leaving Rion to sit and shake his head. The man just didn't want to hear the truth, not when he needed a "trick" to help him do what he should have been able to do without one. Having lost that special knack was his excuse for not trying his absolute best, but Rion couldn't understand why anyone would do that. Wasn't life bad enough that no excuse was needed to make the effort to change it for the better? It was certainly easier to use the excuse and stay a loser, but why would anyone want to?

Yeah, I don't understand the whole point of this either. We got an info dump about how to pass these tests from a minor character...who then proceeds to ask the protagonist to explain how to pass the tests.

quote:

Those questions were apparently too profound to be answered quickly, as Rion was called back to the practice room with the others before any explanations came to him. He was prepared to return to the cubicle and that abominable chair, but Aminto stopped him before he reached them.

"You've earned a better cubicle just as I knew you would," she purred, putting her hand to his arm before pointing to a cubicle nearer the door. "You can use that one now, which you'll enjoy a good deal more. And tonight you'll be expected to go straight back to your residence, but perhaps tomorrow night... if you continue to improve . . . you can join me for dinner. We'll see. . . ."

Did some Spirit magic user next door inadvertently give Aminto a magical lobotomy while Rion was asking for his identification to be changed and then again during lunch? The abrupt change in her behaviour from hostile to flustered to predatory is weird on so many levels.

quote:

She touched his arm again as though directing him into the new cubicle, but her palm slid over his biceps and triceps in a way that was more annoying than interesting. He hadn't invited her to touch him, so what right did she have to do it anyway? Such behavior was outrageous, and apparently it wasn't one of those things considered acceptable that Rion didn't know about. Aminto hadn't let the others see what she was doing, and once having done it she glided away to wherever she waited while they practiced.

You have Air magic, why don't you put yourself behind one of your neato barriers like you did at the tavern again? I mean, she does as well so I guess technically she might be able to stop you but she'd sure get the message.

quote:

Rion had to deliberately calm himself as he entered the cubicle, but sitting in the new chair helped. It was padded to a certain degree and angled a bit rather than rigidly straight, and that made sitting in it a good deal less uncomfortable. Not actually comfortable, but definitely less uncomfortable. Ah well, he was there to practice, after all, not to nap, but maybe once he'd mastered four ribbons. . . .

Visions of another step upward—or, rather, a better chair—put Rion's attention back into practicing.

A reminder that these people are like 18 years and older.

quote:

He plaited three ribbons again just to warm up, then tried his hand with four. His first try turned into a disaster, and the four ribbons, clinging to one another, fell to the floor when he released them. Managing four columns of air was harder than managing three, a lot harder than he'd thought it would be. Maybe Follil was right about those increasing degrees of difficulty . . .

"No," Rion said aloud, straightening in the chair. "Follil is a loser but I am not, so I refuse to believe an excuse. Four columns are harder to handle, but not impossibly hard."

And with that he set about trying to understand why he'd failed. After experimenting for a short while the answer suddenly came, but not an answer designed to bring soothing and satisfaction. It had occurred to Rion that he wasn't using enough power to handle four separate objects, but hadn't opened himself to more because he was already using more than he ever had before. There was such a thing as natural limits to what one did with one's aspect, and too often those who tried to pass the limits experienced all sorts of gruesome happenings.

Mem told you exactly how much more power you needed to take in at lunch!

quote:

But just what was his limit? Rion didn't know, and the truth of the matter was that the only way to find out was to press on until he was stopped. That was far from the best way of doing things, and sudden insight suggested that this was the problem which had stopped Follil and the others. Those two men who had achieved handling four and five strands respectively ... no wonder they'd only been trying to hold their own rather than working for a surer grip. Doing the second would have required more power, and they surely feared they were already pressing their limits.

I hate everything about this mechanic because it's clearly the product of a fixed mindset. People are just born with whatever they happen to win (or not win) in some random genetics lottery and strength is the be all and end of all of everything in this magic system and these books. The entire first series is "strong people are better" and Green doesn't try to backpedal this until the second series and to be honest, it's too little too late.

Every level up in the protagonists' magic is basically either: 1) take in more power or 2) learn one neat trick that solves the immediate problem. This is the worst, laziest writing with magic ever.

quote:

Rion took a deep breath as he studied his hands, wishing he could scoff at those fears as he once would have. Now he was in the midst of understanding them only too well, as he had no desire to die after having only just begun to live. As little as it was, he nevertheless had something to lose—but if he refused to take the risk, would he win? They would most likely release him eventually to return to the life he'd left, which was exactly what he'd wanted.

Basically in text confirmation that Jovvi and Vallant should literally be like "oh yes, three strands are so hard, oh, how terrible that I can't do this, oops, I guess you'll just have to let me go do my own thing now." I mean, yes, we should take this with a grain of salt since it's Rion reasoning things out here, but it's not like any of the Adepts are pushing the issue are they?

quote:

But could he do that now, after everything he'd experienced? It had been hard enough then, which meant that now it would be impossible.

So he would be released to not go home, which would leave him where? Even if Mother continued to pay his allowance, how far would that rather modest amount go? And what would he do if the allowance was stopped, which was much more likely? Beg in the streets? Look for a woman like Aminto who had power and gold enough to support him as well as herself? Something told him he'd be better off choosing the streets and begging. . . .

But all that added up to a decision on his part. He took another deep breath, this time one of determination rather than depression, enjoying the sense of freedom which now filled him. Simply living would quickly become worse than a clean, swift death, so what did he have to lose by pressing his limits? If he lived it had to be on his terms, which meant winning a place for himself that couldn't be taken away at someone's whim. He was a member of the nobility, after all, so who had a better chance of being victorious?

Look, the character flaws from other protagonists are catching! Here is the exact same reasoning used by Tamrissa in the last chapter, and Lorand in every chapter where he's done anything with his talent, popping up in Rion's POV. This is why all the characters could basically be condensed into a single character or one female and one male protagonist and you'd hardly miss anything.

quote:

Turning his attention to the ribbons again, Rion opened himself to enough more power to handle four separate columns of air. That brought him the hint of a tingle he'd never felt before, but the tingle faded quickly and didn't return so he wasn't distracted. Handling four columns and keeping them separate took concentration, but that too became easier with practice. Not easy, at least not at first, but certainly easier every time he did it from scratch.

By the time Rion had formed the third complicated arrangement using four ribbons and was no longer straining, Aminto came by with a placard announcing the end of the session. Instead of simply dropping the ribbons, Rion put them neatly back on the table where they belonged before he left the cubicle. Follil and the two women stood near the door with Aminto, and when Rion joined them Aminto smiled at him.

"For you, Dom Mardimil, another identification card with your name corrected, and our apologies for the error," she said, handing him the new card and chain arrangement which he'd forgotten he'd asked for. "I'll take the incorrect one, if you please."

Rion had been looking around for a place to throw away the card with his former name, but hadn't found one. Giving the thing to Aminto let him be rid of it, and then he put on the new identification with a good deal of pleasure.

"I'm also delighted to be able to inform you that you may choose to come here two hours later tomorrow morning," she continued, that purr still in her voice. "Your accomplishments have earned you that, as well as a new and even better cubicle. A pity these others will never earn the same. Good evening to you now, and I'll see you again tomorrow."

I'm feeling sorry for the coach drivers here. They're going to be doing multiple drop offs and pick ups all day tomorrow.

quote:

She turned left and walked away from them then, but not before showing Rion the gleam in her eyes at mention of the next day. She apparently looked forward to something that would never happen if he had any say in the matter, but there was no need to mention that. He would also save correcting her use of "dom" rather than "lord" to him, specifically if she tried to press him. Some men might accept that sort of treatment, but Rion had no intentions of being one of them.

You omitted your title when introducing yourself to Mem earlier so why are you getting all hung up on this now? And shouldn't you be thanking your lucky stars? She threatened to drag you off to dinner earlier!

quote:

Follil and the women glared at him before leaving the room with noses in the air, and that amused Rion as he followed. He had quite a lot of practice at being snubbed or ignored, and by people who were much better at it than these three fools. And it seemed to have stopped raining, which was delightful news. They would be able to await their coaches out front in the fresh air, rather than crowded together inside by the side door.

Rion felt considerably drained, but stepping outside and taking a deep breath of rain-freshened air restored him a bit. He stood in the midst of a number of others, and it suddenly occurred to him that he ought to be looking for the ladies he'd arrived with. So he turned to do just that—and promptly found himself being bounced off of. Someone had bumped into him, a rather small and soft someone.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry!" a lovely—and somehow familiar—voice exclaimed. "I should have been watching where I was—Oh, goodness."

Rion looked down to see the lady he'd chosen in the tavern two nights earlier, the beautiful girl with dark hair and large green eyes. She wore considerably more clothing now, quite attractive and tasteful clothing, in fact, but her lovely face was flushed with embarrassment.

"Please excuse me, sir," she said hurriedly, a worried look also in her eyes. "We've never met, of course, and I didn't mean to imply that we had. I'll just—"

"But of course we've met," Rion interrupted, wondering why the pretty little thing seemed so nervous. "I find myself guilty of the unforgivable sin of not recalling your name, but I certainly remember all the rest—and with a great deal of fondness. I'm Rion Mardimil."

"And I'm Naran Whist," she replied with an even deeper blush, then lowered her voice to add, "Are you sure you don't mind talking to me? Most gentlemen find it embarrassing, so I've learned not to 'recognize' anyone. Even when they look as marvelous as you do in those clothes . . ."

Her voice trailed off in a way that made Rion grin as her gaze moved over him. Now here was appreciation from a lady that a man could enjoy getting.

"Not only don't I mind, I'm delighted we've run into each other again," he said, taking her slender and graceful hand to bend over. "It pains me that circumstances are such that I'm unable to invite you to supper, but I expect that to change very shortly. May I call on you when they do?"

"Oh, that would be wonderful," she said adoringly, her fingers to the place on her hand where his lips had touched. "I've never been invited to supper . . . But I really must ask you to excuse me now. I have a—an appointment here, and I'm already a bit late. It was so nice to see you again . . ."

Book Five spoilers Naran's "appointment" is to use her Sight magic to stalk Rion and deliberately run into him here, which kicks off their actual relationship, otherwise Rion would have just ended up pursuing Jovvi or Tamrissa and messing up Green's perfect outline, probably.

quote:

"Wait," Rion said as she began to leave. "Where can I find you when the supper becomes possible? At the tavern?"

"Oh, no, that was really my first time there, and I haven't gone back," she said with a small laugh. "The memory of our time together was too wonderful to ruin. I live in Seeleem Street, Wishfon White. First is Wishfon Blue, then Wishfon Green, then Wishfon White."

"I'll find it," Rion called after her as she fled into the building with a final wave. He really did hate to see her go, and that was very strange. He'd lain with the girl, but other than that knew nothing about her. Why, then, was he even now wishing he hadn't had to let her go?

It is actually really weird for Naran to flee into the Air magic building.

quote:

The question was so absorbing that the ladies found him instead of him finding them. Their coach was just behind the one now being boarded, so when it pulled up he helped them inside

Even Beldara?

quote:

and climbed in himself. All three of them looked just as tired as he felt, and when the carriage began to move, Tamrissa sighed deeply.

"On the way home at last," she said with weary satisfaction. "And if we ladies don't get to use the bath house first, I vow to poison every gentleman in the residence."

"Anything but that," Rion pleaded with a grin while Jovvi laughed. "Lunch was poisoning enough for one day, so for my part I willingly grant you ladies first use. And since the others surely know what's good for them, I'm certain they'll agree."

"Good," Tamrissa said, her bloodthirsty satisfaction unusual but seeming perfectly natural. "I'm really too tired to bother with poison, but I will if I have to. On important worldly matters, one must always stand firm."

Rion joined Jovvi's second laugh,

This is...not funny. Sorry Green, try harder.

quote:

but noticed that Beldara was back to ignoring the world. This time the red-haired woman's silence seemed more sullen and seething than previously, but Rion was too uninterested to wonder why. He had much better things to think about, like Naran Whist and when he would be able to see her again. He'd have to get to those competitions as quickly as possible, and then he'd have to win. . . .

They were nearly to the house before Rion remembered that Jovvi was there, and what his plans had been concerning her. He still found her incredibly, deliciously attractive, but something small had changed inside him. No longer was he willing to harm Coll in order to have Jovvi to himself, which came as a great relief. He liked Coll and valued the man's advice, and now that would not have to end. Perhaps he would mention Naran to Coll, but then again, perhaps not. . . .



Summary:

Day 4
Tamrissa Rion drinks tea, hates on Beldara insults Mem Follil, discovers he's been cut off from his trust fund and plaits fire air-wrapped ribbons into a three four-strand braid.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 17
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks, Adept Aminto, Mem Follil

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 8
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 7
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 9
General: Unnamed Chairman and the five Seated Highs in each aspect
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar,
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 21
COACH RIDES: 16 (yeah I know the morning was the same coach ride we saw in Tamrissa's chapter but since we have to read about it multiple times, I'm counting it again)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 22
"CLIFFHANGERS": 10
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 6
BLATANT MORALIZING: 14
BATH SCENES: 6
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Chapter 25)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29)

Possible fixes:
Same points as the previous chapter, and there wolf already covered how to work Naran into the group previously. I feel like this is the novel equivalent to Big Brother and other reality TV shows - there's so much manufactured drama and boring daily stuff that takes up all the page count instead of Green actually exploring the world and the main storyline. WHY?!?!?!

Edit: oops, messed up a count and formatting a quote.

Leng fucked around with this message at 15:47 on Sep 20, 2020

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




quote:

There's double the difference in handling four strands rather than three than there is between three strands and two. When it comes to five strands you can triple the difference from four...

This is certainly more thought than Green put into it, but....

Start with a variable for each prize amount. If you master 2 strands you get A silver, 3 gets you B, and so on. The differences in the quote above can be written as
code:
C - B = 2 * (B - A)
D - C = 3 * (C - B)
Solving for C on the first one we get
code:
C = 2 * (B - A) + B
C = 3B - 2A
and then we can plug that into the second:
code:
D - (3B - 2A) = 3 * ((3B - 2A) - B)
D - 3B + 2A = 6B - 6A
D = 9B - 8A
So now we know how to express the biggest reward in terms of the smaller two. We don't know what those two are, but we can reduce them to a single value X, the amount of silver you get from graduating from 2 to 3 strands:
code:
B = A + X
X = B - A
Plugging that in to what we know about the final amount:
code:
D = 9B - 8A
D = 8 * (B - A) + B
D = 8X + B
D = 8X + (A + X)
D = 9X + A
So at the end of the day we know that if you get a bump of, say, 10 silver over your base allowance from mastering three strands, you can expect a total bump of 90 silver for mastering all five.

Now the real trick is to come up with four more ways that minor characters can explain the pay structure to the other protagonists as word problems, each one phrased differently but arriving at the same result.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Algebra aside, these chapters about opening up to the power really get under my skin, and it's not just the return to lazy repetition. Again, maybe I'm reading more into Green's politics than I should but I don't think she's being particularly subtle.

A secondary theme in the series besides parents can really screw up their children is success comes to those who deserve it. But we are given two different ways of "deserving it".

In text, the instructor says that people who don't push themselves and take charge of their lives are losers. We might read this as characterization of that particular instructor if the sentiment were not immediately accepted by Rion and repeated by other protagonists throughout the book.

In practice though, we see that "deserving it" is a matter of opening yourself up to your potential to channel more magical power. This potential is inborn and predefined; there's nothing you can do to change it. You just push yourself as far as you dare, and you either succeed or you burn out.

And if that's not a metaphor for right-wing politics of personal responsibility then I don't know what is. Everyone is encouraged to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and if they can't then they're losers who didn't apply themselves hard enough. Green is a cheerleader for this system because it lets people with natural advantages shine. It grosses me out much more now than it ever did when I was reading these as a teen.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

Plugging that in to what we know about the final amount:
code:
D = 9B - 8A
D = 8 * (B - A) + B
D = 8X + B
D = 8X + (A + X)
D = 9X + A
So at the end of the day we know that if you get a bump of, say, 10 silver over your base allowance from mastering three strands, you can expect a total bump of 90 silver for mastering all five.

Now the real trick is to come up with four more ways that minor characters can explain the pay structure to the other protagonists as word problems, each one phrased differently but arriving at the same result.





You know what, until you typed that out, I did not see that the whole exchange could have plausibly been about how much silver they would be winning as a result for passing each test. Just gonna reread that bit again:

quote:

"You're an applicant, so your bank won't be permitted to give you a single copper. You'll have to beg funds from the testing authority like the rest of us, or else go hungry. Until you qualify to compete, that is, but you still have a long way to go. There's double the difference in handling four strands rather than three than there is between three strands and two. When it comes to five strands you can triple the difference from four, so you might as well sit down to lunch and recoup your strength."

I interpreted this bit as five strands requiring 9X + A amounts of power to handle comfortably, rather than the additional silver they would be winning for qualifying. I had to check ahead in my notes to confirm when they earn more silver - and it's Chapter 40 spoilers 1 silver for each first level mastery and 2 silver for every second level mastery.

Green's editor sucks. How did something this ambiguous get left in the published version? We'll avoid the larger question of how did something this badly written get published.

wizzardstaff posted:

Algebra aside, these chapters about opening up to the power really get under my skin, and it's not just the return to lazy repetition. Again, maybe I'm reading more into Green's politics than I should but I don't think she's being particularly subtle.

...

Green is a cheerleader for this system because it lets people with natural advantages shine. It grosses me out much more now than it ever did when I was reading these as a teen.

My knowledge of American politics was close to non-existent until the lead up to the 2016 election which I figured I should probably care about even if I was no longer living in the US, so I never would have picked up on this growing up. This explains so much about Green's characterization. That said, what remains unexplained is how she sold this many books because there's a whole lack of natural advantage here!

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Actually I think you're right, the full passage does read more like it's describing magic effort instead of prize money. I must have been conflating that with the escalating rewards that get brought up later.

But the math still works!

Hobnob
Feb 23, 2006

Ursa Adorandum


I can see money as a motivation to ensure everyone gives their best effort, but uncomfortable chairs? What a bizarre system.

The money thing seems absurdly easy to circumvent anyway, at least for city dwellers, since apparently it's common knowledge. Just withdraw some from the bank before testing starts. You might get caught out by the sliding-payment-for-not-school-uniforms trick, but that only works if you actually have the money on you at the time, not hidden it somewhere in your lodgings, or given it to a friend or relative to keep.

there wolf
Jan 11, 2015

by Fluffdaddy


wizzardstaff posted:

And if that's not a metaphor for right-wing politics of personal responsibility then I don't know what is. Everyone is encouraged to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and if they can't then they're losers who didn't apply themselves hard enough. Green is a cheerleader for this system because it lets people with natural advantages shine. It grosses me out much more now than it ever did when I was reading these as a teen.

Same, but I didn't have the nose for Randian bullshit as a teen that I do now. What's that you say? Society is run by a bunch of entrenched elites who use government bureaucracy to weaken and dispose of the truly powerful. And they're all about endless unnecessary wars, and also academics are useless do nothing snobs. And the ideal family unit is a polycul, except a strictly hetero one where the men are all manly men and the women are all strong and determined, but still appropriately feminine because gotten stick to that strict gender binary. If this weren't as old as it was, I'd assume it was written by one of those women from the Less Wrong circles who acknowledge that the men around are exclusionary, prejudice, and abusive trash, but still think feminism is dumb.

Liquid Communism
Mar 9, 2004


Out here, everything hurts.




wizzardstaff posted:

As an American it is my curse by birthright to be hyper-aware of 2A bullshit.

I may be a little too eager to read this series with Goodkind-level conservative moralizing (especially with regards to gender politics) but given Green's interviews I don't thinks that interpretation is too far off.

Nah, that's totally fair. Green is a deeply and proudly Traditional Southerner, and that carries some politics with it.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THIRTY

Jovvi took a wrap with her to the bath house rather than a change of clothing, and was pleased to find Tamrissa doing the same. They would have to dress again for dinner, and her weary body felt that that was quite soon enough.

"No sign of Beldara," Tamrissa remarked as they moved up the walk toward the bath house. "Either she's already inside, or she's decided against joining us. And if she's already here, I'm certain she'll leave as soon as I walk in."

"You outdid her, then," Jovvi said with an approving nod. "I was afraid you might be foolish enough to let her do better just for the sake of peace."

"In a manner of speaking I did just that until lunchtime, and then I realized how foolish I was being," Tamrissa answered, reaching for the door pull. "What was your session like?"

Because the Highest Aspect forbid that anybody does anything better than the perfect Tamrissa.

quote:

"Difficult in more ways than one," Jovvi replied, rubbing her back with one hand as she walked in to find the bath house empty—as she'd known it would be. "That first chair was impossible, and the second one was almost as bad. They generated fields of pitching emotions for us, and we had to balance tiny spheres in the field. You have to use both strength and finesse to balance the emotional field, and once you get it settled with two spheres, they add a third. It goes all the way up to five spheres, with each balance-point different, but I don't know what happens after that."

Ok guys I think I figured it out. They've got these chairs, see:



quote:

"After that, I think, are the competitions," Tamrissa said slowly, also slowing in the midst of undressing. "Jovvi ... I kept my progress down to a minimum at first because of what we discussed, you know, not knowing what happened to all those people who passed the test. I still don't know if I did the right thing by passing so many of the others, but we were told that this is the last week of sessions. Anyone who doesn't qualify by week's end won't have another chance to do it."

"We weren't told that," Jovvi said with a frown, also pausing for a moment. "What did they say would happen to those who don't qualify?"

"Nothing specific, except for being thrown out of their residence penniless," Tamrissa said, and Jovvi was able to feel the girl's surge of fear at the thought. "That would be horrible for me, but you shouldn't mind it much. It would let you continue on with the plans you've made."

Exactly!

quote:

"Would it?" Jovvi asked, finally able to discuss the thoughts she'd had on the subject. "It occurred to me that I've never met anyone who'd been through testing for High, and didn't even know someone who had. The only Middles I've ever met weren't strong enough to qualify for testing, so they don't count. Have you ever met a former applicant, or know someone who met one?"

"No," Tamrissa admitted, and again Jovvi felt a thrill of fear flash through the other woman. "That could mean there are just very few of them, or else—or else no one who fails to qualify really is turned loose. Do you think they're . . . killed?"

"I have no idea," Jovvi admitted frankly, a faint chill touching her as well. "But we have to remember that death isn't the worst thing that can be done to you. That's why I worked as hard as I could, on the theory that a slim chance is better than none. We also don't know what happens to successful applicants who don't win a place as High, but whatever it is won't happen as soon as the result of failing to qualify."

"I have no idea how to make my characters behave like they're three dimensional people or to foreshadow the things that are going on in the background so I'm just going to make up arbitrary crap like this to keep the plot on track, though you'd never know it since we're thirty chapters into Book 1 and barely anything has happened."

quote:

Tamrissa silently nodded her reluctant agreement with that, and then they finished undressing in a matching silence. Jovvi led the way into the water, submerged completely to rid herself of the leavings of sweat, then headed for a corner and a headrest where she might soak a little.

"We can't stay in here too long, but I'm in no state to just wash and get out," Jovvi said when Tamrissa came up from her own submersion. "And I've been thinking that we ought to tell the others about what we've been discussing. They should have the chance to decide which they'd rather risk, success or failure."

"That assumes they all have the choice," Tamrissa pointed out, gliding to another head rest near Jovvi's. "Judging by all the people in my session who haven't gotten anywhere—or who are afraid to try—some of the others here will fall into the same category. Or will choose to fall into it, without even considering anything else."

"You sound as if you mean someone in particular," Jovvi commented, turning her head a bit to look at the girl. "Who's so blindly determined to fail that they'll take the chance of being killed or worse?"

Oh, so now your unconfirmed theory is now fact? You've both seen people in your sessions who have been there for ages and haven't been thrown out.

quote:

"Vallant Ro," Tamrissa grudged after a moment's hesitation, her voice low and her gaze on the warm, rippling water around them. "He's never wanted to be here, and made that perfectly plain right from the beginning. I . . . mean to apologize for calling him a quitter and a coward, but I'm afraid that's just what he is. Getting back to the marvelous life he left is all that concerns him."

Tamrissa just hating someone because they actually have a life that they enjoy as opposed to exercising some empathy.

quote:

"No wonder he was so convinced you hate him," Jovvi murmured, uncertain whether Tamrissa heard her. The girl's misery was so strong that Jovvi could feel it without the least effort, including the other emotions mixed in. That faint jealousy tinged with bitterness, for instance. ... It was obviously aimed at the fact that Vallant Ro did have a life he wanted to go back to, the sort of "marvelous" life that Tamrissa had never had herself. It's a terrible thing to have to admit that your parents care nothing about you, and tends to make you believe that everyone else is just the same.

If we were seeing Tamrissa through anybody else's eyes instead of the POVs we do have, she would not be likeable, at all.

quote:

"And then there's Eskin Drowd and Beldara Lant," Tamrissa said after taking a deep breath. "Beldara wants to succeed with every fiber of her being, but I don't think she's had much practice in delicate manipulation. She probably put on lavish shows for her townful of admirers, throwing giant gouts of flame all around. If you never have to keep your doings small and inconspicuous, you can easily miss the possibility that you might someday need to."

What did you ever do that required delicate manipulation? Reminder that Tamrissa passed her first test by reforging a bar of metal but spent two years in an abusive marriage to a sadist and never used her talent in self defence, at all. Fire is possibly the least versatile element in this universe - Tamrissa can reheat her own food and water, dry things, warm herself, produce light, sense body heat and Book 3 spoilers set someone's blood 'aflame' when having sex without being conscious of doing so.

quote:

"And Drowd almost certainly lacks the self-confidence needed to stretch himself," Jovvi agreed. "If he didn't have rather strong feelings of inferiority, he would hardly spend so much time telling people how important he is—and how inferior they are. Or trying to make trouble among those around him. I'll bet anything you care to name that he didn't do at all well."

"And is now blaming everyone else for it," Tamrissa said with a nod. "Clarion—Rion, that is, seemed enormously pleased during the ride home, and that leaves Lorand Coll and Pagin Holter. I wonder how those two did."

"Both of them want to win, so I'm sure they did very well," Jovvi answered, smiling a bit at the thought of Lorand. "We can ask them later to be certain, but I'm not worried. I just wish we were absolutely sure we're doing the right thing."

"As things stand, there's nothing else we can do," Tamrissa pointed out with a sigh. "And I think I'll finish washing and then go back to my apartment. I could use a nap before dinner."

We are literally reading about people who wake up, eat breakfast, go braid things magically, eat lunch, do more magic braiding, take a bath, have a nap, eat dinner, repeat.

quote:

Jovvi agreed with the idea of a nap, so she reached for her own jar of soap and finished washing. Once they were out of the bath and toweled off, Tamrissa used her talent to dry most of the residual dampness from the two of them. Delicate manipulation, she'd called it, and delicate it was. The flames had been almost invisible, but had done an efficient job. They all seemed to be in better condition than they'd been after the test, but that had to be because they'd expended all their strength during the test in order to stay alive.

...so Tamrissa spent 2 years grinding her Level 3 "Delicate manipulation" Fire spell because she doesn't know how to use a towel to dry herself completely? I'm having a really hard time trying to make sense of this one. Maybe Green just doesn't know how to use towels.

quote:

They left the bath house together carrying their well-worn session outfits, but as soon as they reached the sitting area just inside the main house Tamrissa uttered a low squeak and then disappeared at a run. The poor thing was obviously embarrassed over being in nothing but a wrap, because all the men were in the sitting area, clearly waiting for their turn in the bath house.

Jovvi paused to smile at them and wave a hand to show that the bath was all theirs, and Eskin Drowd was the first to respond. He stalked past Jovvi without acknowledging her existence, which led her to believe that the man had done as badly as she'd suspected he would.

Or maybe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyGOy1SQbXc

quote:

Rion smiled and nodded as he passed her, but Pagin Holter just nodded. There was a . . . coldness inside the small man that hadn't been there before, but before Jovvi could wonder about it she saw Lorand.

"What's wrong?" she asked softly when he stopped beside her, raising one hand to his drawn and exhausted-looking face. "You look as if you went through the test again."

"I also feel like it," he admitted, his voice almost as pale as his face. "I'll tell you about it later, if you like, but right now I really need that bath."

She nodded to show she understood and then stepped aside, and he continued on out to the bath house in what could only be described as a determined plodding. Jovvi was more than a little worried about what might have happened, but she'd have to wait until later to find out about it. Forcing patience on herself she turned away from the garden door— only to find that all the men hadn't left. Vallant Ro still remained in the sitting area, because he'd fallen asleep. Apparently Lorand wasn't the only one who'd had a hard time.

Green needs to be clearer about when Jovvi is using her talent and when she isn't. I can't tell whether she's "forcing patience on herself" because she's using her magic, or whether she's just being a normal human about it.

quote:

Jovvi considered letting him sleep, but the man was sprawled in a chair that was more decorative than comfortable and would certainly wake up feeling as if he'd gone through torture. A nice warm bath would do a lot more for him, so she walked over and put a hand to his shoulder. It actually took two shakes before he woke, and then he looked at her blurrily.

"The others have already gone to the bath house," she said, speaking slowly and clearly to give him the chance to wake up all the way. "I can see that you're really tired, but you'll be better off washing the sweat away and then stretching out in bed."

"I'd be best off just cuttin' my throat and gettin' it over with all at once rather than in pieces," he muttered, running a hand over his face. "Another day like today, and I'll probably do it."

"Didn't you do well?" Jovvi asked, automatically soothing his jagged emotions. This wasn't a reaction she'd expected, not from someone who supposedly wanted to fail.

"Actually, I did wonderfully," he said, sitting forward to rest his arms on his thighs. "I was so badly in need of somethin' to take my mind off that room, that I got all the way up to usin' four strands of water. I was about to try for the fifth when they told us it was time to leave, and I couldn't keep myself from runnin' out. Now I have to go back tomorrow, and I don't know if I can."

"Something about the session room bothers you?" Jovvi asked, finding it impossible to resolve the muddle of his emotions. There was quite a lot of fear present but not an ordinary fear, and Jovvi had never seen anything like it. "Tell me what the something is."

"It's . . . not important," he said, the short hesitation before answering overridden by strong resolve. "All that matters is that I have to go back tomorrow, and the next day, and probably all the days after that until they let me go. But I'll never last that long, so I don't see any point in—"

"Vallant, that isn't true," Jovvi interrupted quickly to head off the incipient panic she was able to feel in him. "The time won't stretch on that long, because this is the last week anyone can qualify for the competitions. As soon as you're able to handle five parts of your aspect with control, they move you out of the sessions and over to the competitions."

"You know, I believe you're right," he said with a frown, having begun to argue before thinking better of it. "I wasn't able to pay attention to much in that place, but I did notice that the woman usin' five strands of water in her weavin' wasn't doin' it easily. I could feel her struggle all the way to where they'd put me, and it hadn't changed even by the end of the day. That has to be why she's still there, because she doesn't have full control. But where do they send you once you've gotten the control? Someplace better—or someplace worse?"

"Tamrissa and I have been trying to figure that out," Jovvi said, hoping to distract him from the agitation that threatened to descend on him again. "She and I agree that we've never met anyone who'd gone through testing only to be sent home again, and we never knew anyone who'd personally met someone like that. Have you?"

"Now that you mention it, I can't think of anyone at all," he answered, his frown lightening as his gaze sharpened. "And I ran into a lot more people than most, visitin' different ports as I do. So what have you and Dama Domon decided it means?"

"We're not certain, but we don't think it means anything good," Jovvi said, faintly amused that he'd decided against calling Tamrissa by name. "We've all proven ourselves to be potential Highs, don't forget, and just because someone can't use his or her potential today, that doesn't mean they won't manage to use it tomorrow. If you were in charge of this thing, would you simply let them walk off and then forget about them?"

"Yes, but we're not dealin' with someone like me," Vallant responded, now disturbed in an entirely different way. "They would hardly go to so much trouble to get us here, and then let us walk away again. I hadn't thought of that, so I'm glad you mentioned it. Did you and Dama Domon come up with any particular plan of action?"

"We decided to move forward as far and as fast as possible," Jovvi told him, enjoying how quickly he'd managed to pull himself together. "It also isn't clear what happens to those who qualify but don't get Seated, but continuing on gives us a longer time to find out—and the chance to come up with a plan to protect ourselves. If you like, you're welcome to join us in that."

"It seems as though I might have to," he allowed, looking less than pleased with the prospect. "To keep breathin', if for no other reason. Well, I'd better get to that bath now. Thank you for your concern, lovely lady, and for takin' the trouble to show it."

Hello echo chamber! It just takes one person to confirm your theory and then you're off to the races!

quote:

He rose to kiss her hand, then took his clean clothing and left the sitting area. Jovvi very much enjoyed the way he said thank you, and smiled all the way back to her room. If Lorand hadn't been there, Vallant would have made a substitute almost as good. Jovvi decided she'd have to find a way to get Tamrissa and Vallant much closer together. The poor girl could use a little pleasure in her life, and the poor man felt so awful thinking he was hated. But Tamrissa didn't hate him, and all Jovvi had to do was let them both know that. . . .

Hahahahahaha Jovvi thinks she's dealing with two adults who can communicate with each other in a mature fashion.

Summary:

Day 4
Everybody (except Beldara) heads straight to the bath house after an exhausting day of magical braiding, though thanks to Tamrissa declaring mixed bathing off limits, we're spared any further awkward bath scenes with the full cast. Jovvi goes head first into territory with early converts Tamrissa and Vallant.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 17
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks, Adept Aminto, Mem Follil

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 8
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 7
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 9
General: Unnamed Chairman and the five Seated Highs in each aspect
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar,
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 21
COACH RIDES: 16
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 22
"CLIFFHANGERS": 10
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 6
BLATANT MORALIZING: 14
BATH SCENES: 7
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Chapter 25)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30)

Possible fixes:
This is the official beginning of Green's conspiracy plot line and it's lame. Jovvi has no real facts to base her theory on - though with wizzardstaff's recent commentaries I'm not...entirely surprised by this. Spoilers for the rest of the first series Jovvi happens to be right - because Green wanted her to be right since she's not able to write real characters who are observant or have an uncanny sense of intuition. It's like Green's forgotten that most stories rely on conflict to drive the plot.

If we wanted to keep this conspiracy angle and not change too much, we should see the following:
  • Some characterization of Jovvi with paranoid tendencies, which is very reasonable given her back story
  • Have her follow up on being given access to the main archives post her first test
  • She uses her street rat skills and swipes the texts covering the laws relating to applicants for High practitioner positions
  • In between seducing Tamrissa and Lorand, she does some deep research into those laws, using the knowledge she's pieced together from some of her former patrons (like say the Guild guy who dobbed her in or maybe a judge or two)
  • The laws are a convoluted mess but she reads between the clauses of the legislation and figures out the conspiracy
  • She tries to convince everybody else they're in terrible danger but nobody believes her because Jovvi's the token nutcase in the group
  • One of the minor characters - let's say Drowd - has something happen to him and it happens to be witnessed by whoever has been most outspoken against Jovvi's theories
  • Conspiracy confirmed, now we want to see them figure out how to get out

And after 30 chapters of reflection, I think it would be good to swap the general perceptions of Beldara and Tamrissa:
  • Let Beldara be the confident, Type A Fire talent that everyone else likes for being an unapologetic go-getter - even if she deserves a verbal smack down every now and then because she's being a conceited rear end
  • Tamrissa can be the erratic, rage-filled homicidal one that everyone steps carefully around in case some innocent comment triggers an act of violence. Throw in a few incidents of either wilful or inadvertent destruction of property while we're here
  • Unfortunately Tamrissa quickly proves she is stronger than Beldara by a not insignificant margin
  • While everyone would prefer to have Beldara, they can't dismiss the fact that picking Tamrissa would probably give them the edge to win.
  • Nobody can figure out whether the reward of sitting on the Fivefold Throne personally is worth having to damage control Tamrissa all the time and betray Beldara as friend
  • They get attacked by overwhelming force during their escape from the conspiracy. Tamrissa becomes unhinged and starts throwing fire around indiscriminately (we can lift that whole hallucination scene from her fighting the fireball in the garden).
  • Beldara makes the decision for the group by saving everyone's lives and she goes out in a literal blaze of glory
  • Now they have no choice but to go with Tamrissa and loads of emotional baggage to work through

there wolf
Jan 11, 2015

by Fluffdaddy


I like how Jovvi is the only one not doing the strand weaving thing, but we only get to hear about it second hand. It's like Green deliberately didn't want to have to write something different.

I don't think you should do that re-characterization with Tamrissa and Beldara, or you should but soften it a little bit. Like I think it's a good idea to have Beldara be more likable if only because having a positive character who isn't going to end up in the policul is a good idea. But don't make Tamrissa rage filled and homicidal, just highly defensive and erratic. Maybe her parents/husband was adamant about her not using her powers for anything, even lighting candles, because that's what servants were for. That makes Tamrissa 1. get really good at fine detail usage so he never found out, and 2. terrified and then empowered by bigger usage in a way that's really dangerous. Her arc is then about control, both of her powers and her emotions.
You can have the rest of the group kind of split over who to bond with, with the people who value group cohesion favoring Beldara, and the people valuing raw power favoring Tamrissa.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


there wolf posted:

I like how Jovvi is the only one not doing the strand weaving thing, but we only get to hear about it second hand. It's like Green deliberately didn't want to have to write something different.

Agreed - I wanted to find out more about how exactly they're generating pitching (mini) fields of emotion, like how does that even work? It's way more interesting than the braiding going on with the rest of the cast but nah, who needs to see actual interesting stuff?!

there wolf posted:

I don't think you should do that re-characterization with Tamrissa and Beldara, or you should but soften it a little bit. Like I think it's a good idea to have Beldara be more likable if only because having a positive character who isn't going to end up in the policul is a good idea. But don't make Tamrissa rage filled and homicidal, just highly defensive and erratic. Maybe her parents/husband was adamant about her not using her powers for anything, even lighting candles, because that's what servants were for. That makes Tamrissa 1. get really good at fine detail usage so he never found out, and 2. terrified and then empowered by bigger usage in a way that's really dangerous. Her arc is then about control, both of her powers and her emotions.
You can have the rest of the group kind of split over who to bond with, with the people who value group cohesion favoring Beldara, and the people valuing raw power favoring Tamrissa.

Yeah I think you're right about pulling it back. Cutting out all of the early Tamrissa POVs will help a lot. I'm not sure Green realizes just how bad the first two Tamrissa chapters are. It'd take a really good writer to somehow make a rage filled and homicidal character turn into someone you cheer for. All I want to do is produce a first draft that's better than this mess Green left (not a high bar, but we all gotta start somewhere).

What's going to be interesting to figure out is how Spirit magic is going to play into all of this. Stephanie Meyer leaned on Edward Cullen's mind reading powers way too much because he had no limitations other than Bella, and it made everything stupid! And in Green's world, ALL Spirit magic users (at least the Highs anyway) can basically read minds at will, so that creates a headache for plotting. But it's just one of the many things about the magic system that needs reworking. By the time we finish the first series, I hope to have figured out most of the fixes. Books 1-3 don't have much magic use really so we haven't really gotten into it yet.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

Vallant forced himself to banish the thought of sitting down again, and plodded along to the bath house. He was the one who needed a bath the most, but all the others had gone in ahead of him. They probably hadn't noticed that he'd fallen asleep, so it was a good thing Jovvi had. If not for her, he probably would have missed dinner as well as the bath.

Reminder that Vallant's talent is WATER MAGIC which apparently involves being able to summon water from CLOUDS and any other bodies of water through invisible wormholes/portals. Why the hell does he even need to go to the bath house? If I were dead tired I would head on up to my room and summon myself the clean bath water from the bath house, hold it in a suspended globe of water in the middle of my room while I bathe and then return it all through the same magical wormholes nobody else can see. Technically if the water gets pulled from the bottom of the bath, all anyone in the bath house would wonder is why the water levels in the bath keep randomly changing.

quote:

Walking into the bath house showed the other men already in the water, but there wasn't much in the way of conversation going on. Coll and Mardimil were closest to the entrance steps, while Holter and Drowd had retreated to the two farther corners of the bath. Both of them seemed to be taking pains to show that they had no interest in socializing, something Vallant already knew about Holter.

While beginning to get out of his clothes, Vallant tried again to understand the change that had come over the small groom. Holter had been silent that morning on the way to the sessions building, but not thinking-silent. He gave the impression of being through with thinking, of having made up his mind about something. He'd worked his strands of water in the proper order, taking a little longer than Vallant but getting just as far. Fatalistic might be the best word to describe the man, that and bitter. Holter had obviously been hurt when his friends had drawn away from him in fear, but the decision he'd come to because of that wasn't quite as clear.

Once his clothes were in a heap, Vallant moved slowly down the steps into the water. Thinking about Holter and the change in the man let Vallant forget what he himself had gone through, but not completely and not for long. The room where his session had been held was totally without windows , and if there had been doors on the cubicles it would have taken a platoon of guardsmen to get him into one. It had been hard enough without that, fighting to keep from giving in to panic, fighting not to run, fighting to make himself understand and believe that no one stood between him and getting out. Walking in quietly and sitting down in the chair was one of the hardest things he'd ever done, but at least no one had been between him and the way out. If there had been. . . .

That if had haunted him a good deal more in the room, so he'd diverted himself by concentrating on the exercises they'd wanted him to do. Vallant ducked under the water as he remembered the trouble he'd had at first, then how he'd found it easier as his talent and ability adapted. He'd had to go on as far as possible, otherwise his mind would have returned to thoughts of suffocation, being trapped, needing to escape. . . .

Ok, I guess there's not enough space in your room if you want to swim.

quote:

"Glad to see you made it, Ro," Coll said quietly after Vallant wiped the water from his eyes. "When I realized you were missing, I also realized you might have fallen asleep. I'd just decided to cut my bath short and go back when you walked in."

"Dama Hafford woke me, so we both owe her thanks," Vallant said, nodding to Mardimil as the other man moved over to join them. "She also told me a few things that ought to be passed on, things she and Dama Domon have been discussin'. Were either of you told that this is the last week anyone will be able to qualify for the competitions?"

"That wasn't mentioned in my session," Mardimil said with raised brows. "Not that it makes much of a difference, since I'd already decided to qualify as soon as possible. I'm almost there right now, so another day or so ought to see it done."

"It wasn't mentioned in my session either, and in my case it makes a big difference," Coll said, sounding as if he grudged every word. "I . . . can't seem to get beyond handling more than three strands of earth, and I really tried. I can't remember ever trying so hard in my entire life, but it just wasn't any good. I'd been thinking that I'd have the time to work it out somehow, but now. . . ."

Coll's voice trailed off as he stared down at the water, and Vallant couldn't think of anything to say that would do any good. Coll was the one who had wanted to be there while Vallant and Mardimil hadn't, and now Coll was the only one in danger of failing to qualify. It wasn't ironic, it was damned unfair, but life had a bad habit of being just that way.

"You know, I've been thinking about something," Mardimil mused aloud, and Vallant looked up to see that he spoke to Coll. "This fool came over to me at lunchtime, and asked me to share the 'secret knack' I'd discovered that let me handle the ribbons in strands of air. When I told him there wasn't any secret, he stalked off after calling me a liar. At the time I thought I spoke the truth to him, but now . . . You do realize that the more you must handle with your ability, the more power you have to use? That sounds elementary and juvenile, I know, but—"

Mardimil's words ended abruptly, and Vallant could understand why. The man had just been stating the obvious, but the way Coll now stared at him ... an admission of pleasure-murder along with the intention to repeat the act with Coll as the victim might have deserved that kind of stare, but not many other things.

I...what the hell? Who can parse this garble of a sentence: "an admission of pleasure-murder along with the intention to repeat the act with Coll as the victim"

An admission of being a person who takes pleasure in murdering other people with the intention to murder Coll?
An admission of being a joy kill with the intention of killing Coll's happiness?
An admission of being a murderer who admits to planning on pleasuring Coll?



quote:

"So that is your problem," Mardimil said gently to Coll, putting a hand to his shoulder. "I could feel that in some of the people around me, the fear of opening themselves to enough power to do the exercise properly. I hesitated myself at first, but then I realized I had very little to lose if I lost control of whatever power I drew in. I'm all through with being pitiful and useless, and I'd rather be dead than fail to earn myself a place in this world."

"And that could be exactly what failure does earn," Vallant put in, lowering his voice a bit. "The ladies had been speculatin', and I had to admit I'd never met anyone who'd gone through the testin' and then been sent home. Have either of you met or heard of anyone like that?"

"No," Coll answered while Mardimil frowned and shook his head. "I was hoping something would come along to distract me from that 'solution' to my problem, but this isn't only just as bad, it's worse. Are you saying that anyone who doesn't qualify is killed?"

"That or made to disappear in some way," Vallant agreed with a shrug. "It makes a twisted kind of sense if you stop to realize how much they go through to get all potential Highs sent here. They obviously want us all accounted for, so they're hardly likely to turn us loose now."

"But then what do they do with the ones who lose the challenge to their Seated Highs?" Coll asked, looking as confused as Vallant felt. "Applicants are brought to Gan Garee for the entire year from all over the empire. There's one Seated High and two alternate Seateds for each aspect, a total of fifteen against how many hundreds applying? So what happens to the ones who don't make it?"

"I've never heard anyone ask that question," Mardimil said, looking just as disturbed. "Mother and I even attended a challenge once, and the defeated challenger was carried away to be looked after by a physician. But no one ever mentioned what happened to the man afterward, and no one even suggested they'd like to find out. The man wasn't killed, but he did become . . . erased."

In Chapter 16, we worked out that roughly 1200 people are sent for testing each year, with a 2 in 3 chance of dying in the attempt, 1 in 6 chance at passing and 1 in 6 chance at being told sorry, it was a pointless test just go home and forget all this happened. That means if they were playing ball, there's only 200 confirmed Highs who survive and get sent through these sessions, and 200 confirmed Middles who are sent packing. At each of the sessions so far, we've only seen a handful or so of people in each aspect.

This is also the first time we'll hear about the two alternate Seateds and it'll never become relevant.

quote:

"Apparently the ladies have considered that point as well," Vallant said, wishing more than ever that he might sit down. "I was told that they're aware of the danger ahead, but movin' in that direction anyway will buy them the chance to think of a way around the thin ice. They feel that if they don't keep movin', they're likely to fall through the ice sooner rather than later."

"They have a very good point," Coll said, then made a wry face. "And I feel like a child left behind by the grownups. The 'ladies' thought about all these things, but we great strapping men had to have it shown to us. I can't say I've been delighted to hear it, but I'd rather know about it than continue to stumble along blindly. It's information I'll need —assuming I can find a way around my problem."

The spreads.

this toxic masculinity. Also, what is up with having ladies in air quotes? I'm not sure Green realizes this reads like Lorand is particularly upset about Jovvi's choice of career and has for whatever reason lumped Tamrissa in accordingly.

quote:

It should have been comforting to Vallant to know that he wasn't the only one who had a problem with the sessions, but in that particular situation it was more depressing. His own problem had forced him to go forward, while Coll's could end up costing the man his life. Vallant sat down right where he was, needing the feel of warmly soothing water on his exhausted body.

"I wonder if I should speak to Drowd," Coll said, following Vallant's example and sitting, with Mardimil rejoining them a moment later. "My problem has limited me to three strands, but he's still struggling with two. The only people in our group who are still down that low are three women, and Drowd was livid when he couldn't manage to leave them behind."

"Drowd doesn't deserve anything better," Mardimil said with grim satisfaction. "The man is a liar and a cheat, and he takes great pleasure in starting trouble among those around him. It's said that a man can't complain if he gets what he gives, and what Drowd gives is a complete lack of concern over the well-being of others."

"Not to mention the fact that he'll probably get worse rather than better if he learns the truth," Vallant added, seeing Coll's look of indecision. "An immediate life-threat forces a man to react without thinkin', but a time limit focuses him on the time instead of the problem. If he's goin' to pull out of it, he's more likely to do it if he's left alone."

Well hey now, that's a problem and a half for Lorand, isn't it?

quote:

Coll nodded his agreement, then said, "What about Holter? He's a decent-enough sort, and maybe he can make use of the warning."

"Holter doesn't need it," Vallant said, beginning to feel overwhelmingly sleepy again. "He's movin' ahead as fast as I am, and there's a chance that knowin' what we do would harm him rather than help. He hasn't been the same since his friends turned their backs on him, and I'd hate to see him suddenly stop tryin'. But I think I'm goin' to stop tryin'— stayin' awake, that is. The sooner I'm out of here and stretched out on my bed, the sooner I can let my eyes close. I'll see you later at dinner."

"I think I'll do the same," Coll agreed, starting his own struggle to get back to his feet. "I'm almost as wiped out as I was after the test, but at least I don't have to be out of here quite as early tomorrow as today. Managing three strands buys you an entire extra hour."

Hearing the main characters complain about how tired they are after using magic is going to be a thing across all eight books. I'm not doing a count of these because it's so prevalent you can just assume the counter is ticking up at least once every two chapters.

quote:

"Managing four buys you two extra hours, but I've decided against taking them," Mardimil said, remaining seated. "I noticed that those who take them seem to be stuck in place, and that's the last thing I want happening. With the bank refusing to release any of my funds—thanks to our friends of the testing authority—I need to get to the competitions and do some winning."

Vallant frowned at mention of the bank, since he'd forgotten all about his own intention to make a withdrawal. He'd spent the allotted lunch time standing out in the rain, drinking in the feeling of having no walls of any kind around him. That was the only thing which had sustained him during the afternoon hours, so it couldn't be considered a waste of time.

But as he reached for a soap jar, he realized he wasn't surprised to hear that he couldn't touch any of his own money. The authority wanted applicants doing their best in the competitions, so they had to have a way to coerce people into making the effort. Vallant wondered briefly why Mardimil seemed so doggedly determined to get his hands on victory gold; it wasn't as if they were being forced to do without something vital, but then he dismissed the question. Mardimil's reasons were his own, and Vallant had enough to think about.

This is why I like Rion so much better than Vallant. I realize we're supposed to be feeling sorry for him dealing with his extreme claustrophobia but it's a weird unresearched quirk that pops up whenever Green feels like Vallant would otherwise be too competent and be doing stuff instead of progressing through things at roughly the same pace as everybody else in the group and I HATE IT.

quote:

Like the sudden worry he felt over Tamrissa Domon. She was stuck in the middle of that mess with them, and even her father wasn't likely to be able to get her out of it again. He'd promised to take care of her and not let anyone hurt her ever again, but how he would keep that promise in their current situation was something he had no idea about. Between that and his problem with closed-in spaces, he'd be lucky to keep himself in one piece and sane. By rights she should have laughed in his face when he spoke about protecting her, instead of gently dismissing the boast with polite thanks. . . .

Vallant paused a moment in his washing, self-disgust filling him like torrential rains filled a dry streambed.

This is a weird image to use for a sailor, who spends most of his life on the ocean and has probably never been far enough inland to see a dry streambed.

quote:

Had he gotten so used to moaning and complaining that it was making him forget how to be a man? He'd had to fight twice as hard for a captaincy of one of his daddy's ships, simply because he was his daddy's son. He'd had to prove beyond all possible doubt that he deserved the job, since he and his daddy wanted no one to think that anyone could hold a position with their family's firm without earning it. And the ragging he'd had to put up with before he did get a ship of his own. . . .

Actually interesting back story that somehow doesn't influence any of Vallant's actions as a character.

quote:

So what was it that was now making him give up on all fronts without even a token fight? As soon as he saved his life by passing that test, he should have admitted to himself that going home again would, be impossible. He was neither stupid nor innocent, and had known—without admitting it!—even before he left that he would never see Port Entril again. And the way he'd been behaving with Tamrissa . . . He'd never met a woman who drew him so strongly, so what did he do about it? He apologized for living and stayed out of her way.

At that point Vallant realized he was almost scrubbing his skin off, and eased up a bit. He deserved a good hiding for the way he'd been acting, but that was about to change. He would get through those sessions and competitions no matter what he had to do to accomplish it, and he would find a way to keep his word to Tamrissa. But first he had to make her understand that his wasn't a passing interest, and she'd better get used to the idea.
He'd take care of every bit of that—as soon as he finished taking his nap.

Obligatory because this is some controlling creepy rear end in a top hat behavior that Tamrissa "better get used to". At this point trying to pick out the differences between Odrin and Vallant is like splitting hairs, yet Jovvi's warning Tamrisa away from the former and trying to set her up with the latter. I know Green's going for the enemies to lovers trope here, but other than being told in each character's internal monologues that they're obsessing over each other, there's no indication of chemistry in their behavior or actions whenever they're in a scene together. The Valissa ship has been grounded from the beginning.

Summary:

Day 4
Everybody (except Beldara) heads straight to the bath house after an exhausting day of magical braiding, though thanks to Tamrissa declaring mixed bathing off limits, we're spared any further awkward bath scenes with the full cast. Jovvi goes head first into territory with early converts Tamrissa and Vallant, who brings Rion and Lorand for the ride. Eskin and Pagin get left out because reasons they're not main characters.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 17
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks, Adept Aminto, Mem Follil

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 8
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 7
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 9
General: Unnamed Chairman and the five Seated Highs in each aspect
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar,
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 21
COACH RIDES: 16
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 22
"CLIFFHANGERS": 10
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 6
BLATANT MORALIZING: 14
BATH SCENES: 8
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Chapter 25)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31)

Possible fixes:
We've covered no new ground at all. This whole scene could have been covered by the last chapter if Vallant had just added the statement "I'll let the others know" in his parting line to Jovvi last chapter.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

Lorand expected to sleep until he was called down to dinner, but something woke him and didn't let him fall asleep again. Something. The thought of that evasion made him sneer at himself, but there wasn't much force behind the sneer. Looking down on other people's shortcomings was easy, but a man's own fear hit too close for that.

And it was fear. Lorand sat up and ran his hands through his hair, refusing to let himself call it ordinary sensible precaution. That sensible precaution had almost gotten him killed during the test, and now it was keeping him from doing what he'd come to Gan Garee for in the first place. So admit it, man, and face the truth: you're afraid to open yourself to any more of the power than is absolutely necessary.

"drat!" Lorand muttered, really becoming disgusted with himself. That "absolutely necessary" phrase was another evasion, brought forward to make himself think that the use of any additional power was unnecessary. He seemed ready to do anything to keep from having to admit that it was all over if he didn't get a grip on himself. If only he didn't have the picture of that little girl in his mind from so long ago, of her sitting unmoving in the rain, mindless from being burned out—

"Something"? Like...a nightmare? Or just a vague nebulous feeling of "fear"? A little girl who magically burned herself out is a horrific image but somehow there's just nothing here in the scene to evoke that horror. I normally hate dream sequences but here is a perfectly good place to put dream sequence to explore all of Lorand's issues with burnout and Jovvi and his chauvanistic toxic masculinity, annnnnd we don't get any of that because saying that "something woke him up" and that "it was fear" is far easier.

quote:

Lorand got to his feet quickly, but the surge of nausea quieted down to the point where he could control it. All day today he kept seeing himself like that, unliving rather than dead, no one on hand to ease him by ending it completely. It was stupid to think even for a moment that no one would see to him if he did burn himself out, but part of him insisted that he wasn't "home." At "home" his father would have taken care of the matter even after the words they'd had, but he'd never be able to go "home" again.

What? Lorand's afraid of existing for the rest of his life as a drooling vegetable (who wouldn't be cognizant of anything), as opposed to the fact that turning himself into vegetable would basically mean ending his own life?



quote:

Lorand sighed and began to dress, wondering just how much had to happen before he actually got it through his head that he would never, under any conceivable circumstance, return to the place he'd once considered home. Intellectually he knew all about it, but emotionally he was a child crying in the woods, frightened at being lost and screaming for his parents to come and find him. His mind knew well enough that he would have to find his own way out of the woods, but those child-level emotions. . . .

You couldn't wait to leave Widdertown and you haven't spent any time thinking of anyone or anything from your hometown fondly. I don't buy this sudden bout of homesickness.

quote:

Being alone with his thoughts was just making things worse, so he wandered downstairs to see if his luck had changed and Jovvi was also up and around. He'd promised to tell her about the problem he was having, but even more than that he wanted to discuss the idea of marriage. She seemed to think there was nothing wrong with the life she'd been leading, and he had to make her see the truth. As much as he wanted to take her in his arms, he couldn't get over the feeling that it was wrong.

You proposed and she said no, including her reasons why. Just drop it!

quote:

At first the house seemed deserted, but then Tamrissa and her companion Warla came out of the library. They seemed to be discussing something about the house, which Warla must have been in charge of. Lorand had caught glimpses of Warla during the last couple of days, but the girl had always been hurrying to or from somewhere, or in the midst of speaking to the servants.' Lorand was about to leave them to the privacy they probably wanted, but Tamrissa saw him and smiled.

"Dom Coll, how nice to see another of us up and about," she said, almost echoing Lorand's thoughts. "If you'll give me a moment, we can share a cup of tea and chat until dinner is ready."

Lorand smiled and bowed his agreement, feeling courtly in his freshly cleaned new outfit. The pants and shirt were what he'd worn all day, but he'd gotten into the habit at home of coaxing his clothes to shed all dirt and even stains.

Cotton was the easiest fabric to work with since it responded as quickly after being drawn, spun, woven, cut, dyed and sewn, as it did in boll form. He felt less of a backwater hick in the new clothes, so he'd become determined to take very good care of them.

In the alternate timeline where Jovvi hires Lorand and Hat after they save her residence from being torn apart, Lorand earns extra coin by running his own laundry service when he's off duty as a bouncer.

quote:

Tamrissa and Warla finished discussing whatever it was they'd been talking about, and Warla curtsied to them both before starting off on the run again, while Tamrissa began to walk toward him. Neither one of them took more than two or three steps, however, before someone knocked at the front door. Tamrissa stopped short with dread and fear flashing briefly across her face, but Warla veered toward the door with the obvious intention of answering it. Remembering what Jovvi had told him about the trouble Tamrissa had been having with her parents, Lorand moved quickly to stand by her side. He was ready to handle anything—except for what the situation turned out to be.

What is with this random insertion of third person omniscient commentary in the middle of a third person limited chapter? We haven't had third person omniscient since Chapter 16! This is not how you foreshadow, Green.

quote:

"It's someone asking for you, Dom Coll," Warla said, turning at the door to look at him. "Shall I ask him in?"

Drumroll please! Are you ready for Round 1, Random Encounter #2?

quote:

Him? Lorand thought even as he nodded his agreement. I don't know anyone in Gan Garee, but maybe it's Master Lugal, come to see how I'm doing. Guild men don't usually leave the area where they live and work, but maybe—
Lorand's mind stopped dead then, because his caller had shuffled through the door. Dirty and rumpled, unshaven and obviously hung over, uncomfortable and looking completely out of place, it was still, without any doubt—

"Hat," Lorand whispered, then he shouted, "Hat!" and ran to meet his lifelong friend, dragging him into a hug before pounding on his back. "Hat, you miserable excuse for a friend! I thought you were dead! Why didn't you let me know you were still alive to complain about things?"

Uh, hang on a moment. YOU'RE the miserable excuse for a friend! You distinctly decided that you should probably find out what happened to Hat in Chapter 14 and then never acted on it. Why are you blaming Hat for not letting you know he's alive while he's in the process of letting you know he's alive?

quote:

"Because I didn't know where you were," Hat answered hoarsely, strangely stiff and standoffish, and then he forced a laugh. "They made the stupidest mistake during that test, you know. They miscalculated the amount of earth to drop on me, and because of that I passed out. When I woke up I was out of that room, but I was also being told to go home. Just a Middle, they said, you're nothing but a Middle. Go home and get a job you can handle."

Hat's familiar features had twisted into something ugly, a perfect match to what Lorand's insides felt like. Hat had been so determined to pass the test, to prove to the world that he was somebody. Being a working Middle wouldn't have made him a somebody with a big enough S, so he'd decided not to believe the testing people.

"But they were wrong, of course, because I'm much better than just a stinking Middle," Hat continued, swiping at his nose with one hand. "They gave me a coach ticket to get rid of me, to hide the fact that they'd made a mistake, but I'm no hayseed to be gotten rid of that easily. I'm staying right here in Gan Garee, where I can prove how wrong they were."

Hat's eyes were almost blazing now, but Lorand couldn't think of anything to say. How do you tell your best friend that his dreams had died so he might as well forget them? It would hurt Hat less to have a knife plunged into his chest, but Lorand wouldn't have been able to do that either. Maybe if he told Hat the true situation . . .

I hate the direction Green's taken with Hat. It would have been so much more interesting if both Hat and Lorand had passed! Then from the minute Pagin raises the point about challenging Blendings in Chapter 18, we suddenly have conflict! Does Lorand care enough about his friendship with Hat to let him win? Or does the appeal of being close to Jovvi outweigh his concerns about Hat so may the best man win? Is Hat's ambition going to tempt him into deliberately sabotaging Lorand's efforts, since Lorand's always been better at Earth magic and Hat can't risk it?

There's nothing that Eskin does as a character (pick on Clarion, jump at the chance to be made a noble, be a rival Earth magic talent for Lorand) that Hat couldn't have done. Eskin's unique back story is he's an academic from Regisard (aka University) which means he could legitimately have been used as a way to seed information about Blending, the Empire's history, etc, but we just get petty bullying instead.

quote:

"I think I'd better tell you right now how lucky you really are," Lorand began, incredibly relieved that he'd thought of a way to help Hat. "This isn't anything like what we imagined it would be, and you're lucky to be out from under. You see—"

"Lucky?" Hat barked, that ugly look back on his face. "You're trying to tell me I'm lucky to have been cheated of what's mine? Look at those clothes you've got on, and look at this house! I've been sleeping in alleyways, you fool, and I haven't eaten since yesterday morning! Everybody in this city is a thief, stealing everything I had and then going after my blood! It wasn't as if I expected those dice games to be fair, but I couldn't have lost as much in them as they said! They cheated me when all I wanted was a good-enough stake to keep me alive until I proved the testing people were wrong! Even the silver I got from turning in the coach ticket is gone, so you've got to help me! I saw you in that carriage this morning and knew your driver from the neighborhood I've been sleeping in, and that's how I found you. Now you've got to help me, you've got to!"

"Hat, take it easy," Lorand tried to soothe, jumping into the tirade at the first opportunity. Hat was completely out of control, and the sight was painfully pitiable.

"Don't tell me to take it easy!" Hat tried to shout, but the hoarseness his voice had become refused to let it happen. "I just want to hear you say you'll help me! You owe it to me, Lor, you know you do. If you hadn't been there when I went to take the test, they wouldn't have stolen my place from me! I figured out that they must have a quota, only one High applicant accepted at a time, and they took you because you're taller and better-looking. So you owe me plenty, and you'd better start paying up!"

Believe it or not, this will not be the first time that we hear the argument "you got ahead because you're tall and good looking" from an "antagonist".

quote:

"What kind of help do you want, Hat?" Lorand asked, trying to stay quiet and reasonable. "Would you like to join us for dinner? I'm sure there's enough for one more, and I can help you clean up while—"

"Excuse me, Dom Coll, but that won't be possible," Warla interrupted in little more than a whisper. Both women were still there, wearing expressions of pity, but Warla forced herself to go on. "Lady Eltrina was painfully clear on what we can and cannot do, and feeding or sheltering someone who hasn't been assigned here are two things we're forbidden. I might be able to put together some bread and cheese to be taken away, but—"

"You can keep your stinking bread and cheese!" Hat tried to shout at her, making the poor little thing flinch back. "I'll buy real food when he hands over all the silver he has left, which is probably more than he started with. You hear me, Lor? You run and get that silver, and then you can start thinking of the words you'll use when you tell your fancy friends that you're giving up your place to me. It should have been mine anyway, so they'll find they're getting a true bargain. Now—"

"Hat, stop it!" Lorand snapped, finally admitting that reason and patience would do nothing against Hat's delusions. "I have no silver left at all, and the idea that I can give up my place to you is ridiculous. I know how disappointed you are that you didn't pass the test, but telling yourself fairy tales won't change anything. There isn't any 'quota,' and I didn't steal your place. I know what Master Lugal told you before we left, so why are you doing this?"

"I wouldn't have believed it," Hat said slowly, staring at him as though he were lower than grub slime. "You're in with them, my best friend is hand in glove with the garbage who stole my place! Is that the deal you made with them, Lor? They'd give you new clothes and a great place to live, and you'd help them keep their mistake quiet? Have I finally gotten to the truth?"

"You'll have to make up your mind, Dom," Tamrissa put in, stepping closer to stand beside Lorand. "Either they made a mistake, or they had a quota. If you're going to lie to yourself, you ought to keep the lies straight. But you know as well as we do that Dom Coll had nothing to do with your failure to pass the test. You managed that all on your own, and now I'd like you to leave my house the same way."

"You're all trying to confuse me, but it won't work," Hat said, shaking his head, and Lorand finally noticed that the man was more drunk than hung over. He would have removed the alcohol if he could have, but even Middle strength in their shared aspect was enough to let Hat keep himself from being touched in that way.

In-text confirmation that magical strength (and potentially only in a shared aspect) is what stops other people from being able to do magic to you at random. Normal people in our world already are pretty terrible at respecting physical boundaries - especially given social distancing requirements. Imagine if you could just do whatever you wanted to someone who disagreed with you!

This is why that "tingle" Lorand feels in Chapter 1 is kind of important to figuring how this would work. If you CAN feel when other people are using their ability, regardless of aspect, then at least you stand a chance of being able to react and possibly flee, defend or counter attack. If you can't, then it becomes first mover advantage and you're at the mercy of whoever is fastest. There should be massive cultural impacts from this! Yet all we see in-text is characters spouting lines of "you don't set off other people because you never know how strong they are magically" and characters going around doing the exact opposite.



quote:

"No, trying to confuse me won't work because I know the truth," Hat continued, and then his expression crumpled. "But you have to give me the silver, Lor, they said they'll kill me if I don't get it! They cheated me and robbed me, and now they're threatening to kill me! If you don't give it to me, there's no place else to get it!"

"Maybe he doesn't know any better than that, but I do," Tamrissa put in again while Lorand stood wrapped in sudden guilt. Hat needed money, but he didn't have any to give! "If you're a certified Middle in Earth magic, you can get a job just by asking for it. There are always streets that need to be recobbled, lawns that need to have weeds Discouraged, pets and working animals that need to be coaxed and—"

"No!" Hat interrupted as sharply as his hoarseness allowed. "That's scut work, and I refuse to do scut work! I'm a High, not some crummy Middle, so why should I lower myself? Lor will give me the silver, and then I'll—"

"Hat, I don't have it!" Lorand interrupted in turn, now more disgusted than pitying. "They made sure we don't have money, so we have to do everything their way. Is that what you're jealous of, not being in a position where other people have the say over your entire life? What happened to the common sense you used to have?"

We've seen Hat be ambitious and lecherous, but we have never seen him be practical about anything.

quote:

"You won't do it?" Hat said, obviously hearing nothing but what he wanted to. "You won't part with some lousy silver even to save my life? Something told me it would be that way, but I refused to believe it until it happened. Now I have to believe it, but there's something for you to believe as well: I'll get even for this if it's the last thing I ever do. Enjoy your silver and your clothes and your fancy house, because you won't have them for as long as you think."

"Hat, don't do this," Lorand began, but the other man was lurching toward the door and then out into the night. Warla closed the door gently behind him before hurrying away, and Tamrissa put a commiserating hand to his arm.

"In spite of everything you're probably still worrying about him, but you shouldn't," she said in a gentle voice. "He lied about everything including his life being in danger, that I can assure you. We once had a servant who came by with the same story concerning a gambling debt, but my husband refused to give him an advance on his wages. I fully expected the man to be killed, but his creditors just had him beaten up. Not badly enough to keep him from working, but badly enough for him to hurt while he did. The point, I was told, was that dead men can't pay up on what they owe."

Are you guys ready for Tamrissa to dual wield Facts and Logic? If you are, you need to hold your breath for a moment while the spreads.

quote:

"I wonder if that applies to men who refuse to work," Lorand said, sending her a brief smile of thanks. "But in any event, I appreciate the help you tried to give. Maybe if he hadn't been drunk, what you said might have done some good."

"I doubt it," Tamrissa replied, wrinkling her nose. "I can understand being horribly disappointed, but I can't understand passing up a chance to make things even a little better. He found it easier to blame you for his troubles than to do something about them, which means he doesn't deserve the least amount of sympathy. But at least we learned something: if you can't pass the test, they don't really let you die."

"We don't know that for certain," Lorand warned her, using the new topic to get the bad taste of his former friend out of his mouth. "He said he was told he was a Middle, which means he wasn't a legitimate candidate for High. If actual potential Highs are also saved and sent home, we either ought to know of some, or this city should be crawling with them."

"Well, I don't know any, and the city isn't crawling with them," she answered with a sigh. "That brings us back to where we were, but you may not know yet where that is. Jovvi and I have been discussing some things, and we've come up with certain guesses and decisions."

"Yes, I know," Lorand replied, following her gesture as she began to lead the way back to the library. "Dama Hafford mentioned the matter to Dom Ro, and he passed it on to Dom Mardimil and me in the bath house. We decided not to say anything to Dom Drowd and Dom Holter, because the speculation could well do them more harm than good."

Why did we need this recap of what just happened in the last two chapters?

quote:

"Please make yourself comfortable in that chair, and I'll pour the tea," she said with another smile and gesture after closing the door. "And I agree completely about not telling Dom Drowd, but not because of any worries over him. The man is positively poisonous, and doesn't deserve to have any of us help him."

Tamrissa just sabotaging someone's reputation on the strength of Jovvi's warning to "stay away from Eskin Drowd".

quote:

"Rion—Dom Mardimil—feels the same way," Lorand admitted, taking the chair she'd pointed out. "I can't say I like the man myself, but that doesn't mean I'll enjoy seeing him dead or worse. Which will happen if all our speculations turn out to be true."

"It's hard to see how they won't," she said, coming over with his tea before taking another cup to her own chair. "I really hope we turn out to be wrong, but either way we'll have to wait and see. But now you and I will have to find something else to talk about. I invited you in here to give us privacy when I told you about our guesswork, and it will look strange to any of the servants in Lady Eltrina's pay if we end the talk too soon."

"Is this what they mean by intrigue?" Lorand asked with faint amusement. "If it is, I don't like it nearly as much as I thought I would as a boy.

This most definitely does not qualify as intrigue.

quote:

But there is something we can talk about, if you don't mind my asking for some advice. And if you and Dama Hafford are as close as you seem to be."

"Aha!" she said with a grin, leaning forward in her chair. "I think I'm going to enjoy this topic a good deal more than the other one. I don't mind in the least giving any advice I can, Jovvi and I are becoming fast friends, and please call me Tamrissa."

"With pleasure, Tamrissa," Lorand responded with a laugh that hopefully wasn't too self-conscious. "And I'm Lorand, or, if you prefer, Lor. And now I wish I knew where to begin. The subject is a delicate one, and not the sort of thing I'd ordinarily discuss with a lady. Now that I think about it, I'm sure I've made a mistake bringing it up in the first place. Maybe we could talk instead about—"

"Lorand, don't you dare!" she interrupted, looking as if she were close to tears. "No one has ever asked for my advice before, and if you don't give me a chance I'll—I'll—never forgive you. Do you want me to never forgive you?"

"No, I don't believe I could live under a burden like that," Lorand surrendered with a sigh, silently cursing his big mouth. If he hadn't blurted out the most pressing thing on his mind—! Well, done was done, so he'd better make the best of it.

"Good," Tamrissa said with her smile returned, settling back with her teacup. "Now tell me all about it."

Tamrissa:

quote:

"Let me see if I can find the proper way to put it," Lorand temporized, thinking frantically. How was he supposed to describe Jovvi's profession to an innocent and sheltered young lady? But with that as the core of his problem, he had to describe it. Why couldn't he have just kept his mouth shut or simply discussed the weather?

"It's taking you a very long time to find the proper way to put it," Tamrissa ventured after what really was a long, awkward silence. "Couldn't you just put it—improperly?"

"I suppose I might as well," Lorand agreed with another sigh, all his thinking having given him very little. "Let me begin by saying that I hold Jovvi in the highest regard, and I feel honored that she seems to return my feelings to a small degree. I've . . . even broached the subject of marriage— assuming we all get through this testing business in one piece—but that was something she didn't find interest in. Apparently her former profession . . . biased her against marriage, and has become something of a—stumbling block between us. You see, she was a—ah—that is, a—"

"A courtesan," Tamrissa supplied without a blink. "Yes, I know, she told me. What about it?"

"What about it?" Lorand echoed, unsure of whether to be relieved or shocked, and then he understood. "Oh, I see, you know the word, but don't know what it means. Now, how can I explain it without offending you . . . ?"

Uh, dude? You literally just did.

quote:

"Lorand, I'm not a child," she said with the slightest trace of annoyance in her tone. "I know what a courtesan is and does, and just like most young girls, I used to dream about being one. On some level I still consider the life unbelievably romantic, even if my late husband made the thought of associating with men more than just a little distasteful. But that's my problem rather than yours. What part of all that did you need advice about?"



Yeah, totes sis, we all wanna be Satine.

A reminder that I read this book as a FOURTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL because it somehow ended up in my high school library. This is such an incredibly damaging thing to put in a book. At that point in my life, my friends and I all had body image issues to the point where one had anorexic tendencies and I had seriously considered bulimia. Add the constant sexualizing of women and young girls well before the age of consent and we were pretty messed up.

And a bunch of us read this crap in a book where we're told by a protagonist who is characterized by the author as a Strong Female Character that most young girls dream about being a courtesan, where the most common job description is to exist solely to provide sexual pleasure to men and that it's freaking ROMANTIC.

Green.

quote:

"Romantic?" Lorand said, finding it almost impossible to get beyond that word through his shock. "It isn't romantic, it's . . . wrong. And what did you mean by that dreaming comment? Most young girls do not dream about becoming courtesans."

"I'd say I'm in a better position to know about that than you are," she returned, now looking at him oddly. "Unless, of course, you've actually asked thousands of young girls, and had a way of knowing you were answered truthfully. Did you?"

"Of course not," he said, trying to ignore the blush he felt on his face. "I just happen to know what I know, the same thing everyone in my neighborhood district knew. No decent girl would ever dream of becoming a courtesan."

Engaging Facts and Logic!

quote:

"What has decency got to do with being a courtesan?" Tamrissa asked, beginning to look as confused as he felt. "A standard of decency is applied to things that would harm others, but what harm does a courtesan do? Her task is to provide pleasure, and the more popular she is, the more of it she provides. What's indecent about that?"

"It . . . just isn't right," Lorand insisted, trying again to put his point of view into words. "A courtesan's main purpose is to . . . lure men into coming to her, into wanting to be with her rather than with his family. How do you think such a man's wife feels? Isn't she being harmed?"

"Personally, I would have danced with glee if my husband had ignored me in favor of a courtesan, and then I would have felt terribly sorry for the poor girl." Tamrissa's words were on the dry side, but there was no doubt she meant them. "But that's just me, so let's examine the silliness you just offered from a more objective stance. Are you saying men are so weak-willed and pliable that they would leave women they loved to spend time with the first courtesan who crooked a finger at them? Would you do that?"

"No, of course not," Lorand conceded, feeling his frown. "But I happen to be a man of principle. Some men are not, which brings their wives endless grief."

"Are you saying now that courtesans are responsible for those men being scoundrels?" Tamrissa asked, her head to one side. "I've learned that scoundrels don't simply change because there's no easy opportunity for them to take advantage of. In the absence of courtesans, they go prowling among unsuspecting single women and the wives of their friends. You've found it otherwise?"

Lorand immediately thought of the rakes in Widdertown, and the long lists of conquests they were always boasting about. The lack of courtesans in the area hadn't stopped any of them. . . .

"And then there's that matter of love," Tamrissa went on, having grown thoughtful. "It's difficult for me to picture what that must be like, to be so close to someone else that they matter more than anything else in the entire world, including yourself. I read that once, a long time ago, and still don't really understand it. But even more, I don't understand why someone who feels like that would find a courtesan at all attractive. The only possibility I can think of is that they don't feel like that at all, and only claim to."

Once again Lorand's memories of home returned, this time centering around community picnics and gatherings. How many of the husbands had stood around staring at and daydreaming about all the prettier girls and women? How many of the wives had stood whispering and laughing together while inspecting the most handsome young men? But all those married people had claimed to be very happy and very much in love. . . .

"And then there are the women who, like your friend who visited earlier, enjoy blaming others for their own shortcomings. One of the men in my husband's circle of acquaintances was married to a woman who never had a kind thing to say about or to him, not to mention sweet or loving things. Nothing he ever did pleased or satisfied her, and it was actually painful to be around them at a party. And yet when he began to see a courtesan on a regular basis, she was shocked and outraged. What right did she have to feel like that, when she was the one who drove him away?"

"Possibly she was disappointed that he failed to live up to the vows he'd taken," Lorand suggested, unable to meet the direct gaze she now regarded him with. "If you commit yourself to something, you're honor bound to stay with it no matter how difficult it becomes."

"I think we're discussing peoples' lives, not building a house," she objected gently, the words softer than her stare. "And sometimes other people or the circumstance of the time commit you to things without consulting your preferences. Staying in an unbearable situation doesn't make you honorable, it makes you a masochist. And what about people who hide what they're really like until they have you trapped? Why do you have to be honorable when they lied about what you were getting into? And—"

Why do I feel like Tamrissa just stopped being Tamrissa for this whole section and became an author self-insert? Oh, yeah, because there was this interview and Green's soapbox about courtesans.

quote:

"Please, enough," Lorand interrupted, holding up a hand. "Your points are well taken, but that doesn't change the fact that the whole idea of courtesans is . . . immoral. Just because everyone else might be doing wrong, that doesn't make what they do right."

"Weren't you ever taught that morality is a purely local thing?" she now asked, studying him with a curiosity that suggested he was some odd and foreign artifact. "Our school made a point of teaching us that, because so many different parts of the empire are represented in this city. They explained that if any group in a small place wants or doesn't want a particular thing, they announce it as moral or immoral. Very few people have the nerve to stand up and speak against something 'moral' or for something 'immoral,' so the group gets its way without having to come forward with reasonable or logical arguments for or against the thing. Isn't that what your people did, calling courtesans bad and immoral without listing any real reasons for believing that?"

Paging aparmenideanmonad to this thread.

quote:

Lorand almost stated the reasons he'd been given, but then he remembered they'd already discussed and dismissed them. Scoundrels would be scoundrels with or without courtesans, no man turns his back on true love, and some women drive their husbands to other arms than theirs. It was something else entirely bothering Lorand, and he was finally forced to admit it.

"All right, it isn't some nebulous objection about her profession," he blurted, saying it fast before he lost his nerve. "It's the fact that she shared herself with other men, and intends to keep on doing it. How am I supposed to live with that? I really love her, and I don't want to share her with anyone. If that's being selfish then I'm selfish, and I don't want to get past the feeling. It's too important to me, too . . ."

"Personal," Tamrissa finished with a sigh when his words simply trailed off. "Again, I don't have any idea how that feels, but I'd like to understand it. Do you mean that if Jovvi had been married and widowed seven or eight times, you'd still feel the same? I met a woman once who was betrothed to six brothers, one after the other, and none of them lived more than a year. There was something in their blood that was killing them off one after the other, but the two merchant families were determined to have an alliance. There were ten brothers all together, and the last I heard, number seven was lasting longer than any of the others. But that gets away from my question. If that were Jovvi and the last brother died and ended the chance of alliance, would you refuse to marry her even though you loved her?"

"Why, I don't know," Lorand admitted, considering the question with surprise. There had been a family like that on a farm near Widdertown, where every one of their boy children suffered from uncontrollable bleeding. The smallest scratch had turned fatal for three of them, and the family physician had said the others would probably go the same way. The family had put themselves into debt to travel to Gan Garee and consult a High practitioner in Earth magic, but the man hadn't been able to find anything in the way of a germ that didn't belong. They might as well have stayed with their family physician who, like many other physicians, was an ordinary practitioner of Earth magic.

In this middle of Tamrissa's powerful deconstruction of Lorand's arguments with Facts and Logic, we get this random detail about rare blood diseases and uncontrollable bleeding that can't be cured by Earth magic. This will never be relevant to the plot or other character building, ever.

quote:

"Actually I do know, and the answer is no, I wouldn't refuse to marry her," Lorand corrected himself after thinking for a moment. "But that's just the point. I want to marry her, but she wants a—a—permanent liaison while she continues to be a courtesan. That's the part I'm really having trouble with."

"So it isn't what she did, but what she intends to do," Tamrissa said with a nod after sipping her tea. "I feel silly asking this, but I'm really trying to understand ... If Jovvi was a cook in a fashionable dining parlor, would it bother you to eat the meals she prepared at home because she also cooked elsewhere? Would you want her to stop cooking for everyone but you?"

"That is a silly question," Lorand responded with a small laugh. "Of course I wouldn't want her to stop cooking for others. But there's a big difference between cooking and doing what she does, don't you think? It simply isn't the same thing."

"Why not?" Tamrissa asked, her head to the side again. "What does that big difference consist of?"

"You must be joking," Lorand said with a different laugh, one of disbelief. "There's a big difference between cooking and—and—lying with other men. There's nothing intimate about cooking, nothing . . . personal and direct. And what about children? How could I know that any child she had would be mine?"

"You would find it impossible to love a child of hers even if you weren't its father?" she asked, brows raised high, then gestured a dismissal of the question. "No, never mind, that question isn't relevant. What is relevant is the fact that women have known how to keep from conceiving for some time now. The preparation called closum is made from two of those minerals I forget the names of, but it's available from every streetcorner practitioner of Earth magic even if your family physician won't hear of giving it to you. I looked into the matter before I found out that Gimmis was sterile, and I'm surprised that you don't know about it. Or do you?"

Lorand did, and had even produced some closum once for a girl at school who'd been a close friend. She'd fallen in love with one of the older boys, but hadn't wanted to limit her options by becoming pregnant. . . . Lorand nodded reluctantly in answer to her question, but couldn't find any words.

There is no way that any sponsor of a courtesan residence would go without employing an Earth magic practitioner. In between bouncer duties, loads of laundry, Lorand could dispense birth control AND also be the emergency first aid officer. That kind of versatility and skill in an employee is gonna cost...probably on par with Jovvi's courtesan fees. No wonder Jovvi thinks it's a good deal for both of them!

quote:

"So if there were any children you'd know who their father was," Tamrissa said once it was clear he had nothing to add. "That leaves the rest of your objection, which comes down to sharing intimacy. I hate to keep asking, but could you explain that? I know what the word means to me, but not how others look at it."

"Intimacy means sharing your bodies in pleasure," Lorand said, disturbance over what Tamrissa's life must have been like breaking through his self-absorption. The girl was downright solemn when she admitted not knowing about certain things, and Lorand ached for her. If her husband had still been alive. . . . "And it's supposed to be pleasurable, Tamrissa, for both of the people involved. It's a sharing of love, of the deepest feelings two people can have for each other, and it means everything if you do it with the right person. If you do it just for coin, or for passing pleasure, the real thing is somehow—tarnished."

Despite this revelation here in Book 1 and Lorand's character arc in Books 3-5, this is going to come up as an issue AGAIN in the second series.

quote:

"I think that's the best way I've ever heard it described," she said with a shy smile that illuminated the beauty of her face. "Thank you for telling me that, Lorand, it was very kind of you. What did Jovvi say when you told her the same thing? Doesn't she see it like that?"

"I don't know, because I haven't told her," Lorand said, the words coming out like a revelation. "I just let the whole thing bother me, and never tried to discuss it with her. But if I'd tried sooner, I would have gotten bogged down in all sorts of things that don't really matter—like right versus wrong, and moral versus immoral. It's how she and I feel about things that really matters, and I owe it all to you that I've finally realized it. Tamrissa, you do a mighty fine job for someone who's never given advice before."

"But that wasn't advice," she protested with a laugh as her cheeks colored. "Advice is when you tell people what to do, not when you cause them to make up their own minds— isn't it?"

"I suppose it is, but in that case what you do is better," Lorand assured her with a grin.

Actually, what Tamrissa did isn't advising, it's facilitating!

quote:

"At least I like it better, so it's settled. Now, what else can we talk about until dinner is ready? How about the weather?"

She really laughed at that, and Lorand joined her with pleasure. Tamrissa could be sharp-tongued at times, but less of the time than most women and she was really sweet. If he hadn't met Jovvi first . . . But he had met Jovvi first, and now he could hardly wait to get her alone to talk to her. How they both felt made a very big difference . . .

The only person who's been on the receiving end of Tamrissa's "sharp tongue" is Vallant, and Jovvi's the only person who's witnessed it. The Vallant/Lorand staking of claims on "their" women is yet to happen so Lorand's got no basis for this impression since Tamrissa hasn't done anything to convey this impression in a group setting.

Also the fact that these primary love romantic pairings are locked in on the basis that they met first.

quote:

If anything made a difference with the threat of death or worse skulking around in the shadows. And if he somehow managed to get around his other personal problem before he ran out of time. . . .

So. Much.

Summary:

Day 4
Everybody (except Beldara) heads straight to the bath house after an exhausting day of magical braiding, though thanks to Tamrissa declaring mixed bathing off limits, we're spared any further awkward bath scenes with the full cast. Jovvi goes head first into territory with early converts Tamrissa and Vallant, who brings Rion and Lorand for the ride. Eskin and Pagin get left out because reasons they're not main characters. Lorand has a random encounter with Hat and is saved by Tamrissa. They adjourn to the library so Tamrissa can sort out Lorand's confusion with Jovvi using Facts and Logic.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 17
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks, Adept Aminto, Mem Follil

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 8
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 7
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 9
General: Unnamed Chairman and the five Seated Highs in each aspect
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar,
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 21
COACH RIDES: 16
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 24
"CLIFFHANGERS": 11
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 7
BLATANT MORALIZING: 15
BATH SCENES: 8
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Chapters 25, 32)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31)

Possible fixes:
We're now nearly three quarters of the way through Book 1 and NOTHING IS HAPPENING. We've had:
  • Useless excerpts from a boring history textbook (Prologue, 726 words)
  • Boring fireball attacks (Chapters 1-5, 19,785 words)
  • The pass or die first test and a board meeting recapping exactly what happened and spoiling the conspiracy plot altogether (Chapters 6-16, 53,633 words, freaking hell that's enough to win NaNoWriMo)
  • Dinner, secret personal rain clouds, breakfast and dress fittings (Chapters 17-20, 19,048 words)
  • Carousing in a tavern (Chapters 21-23, 12,398 words)
  • Girl talk over chocolate (Chapter 24, 5,024 words)
  • A series of pre-breakfast conversations, including the first random encounter (Chapters 25-27, 11,021 words)
  • Braiding, braiding, braiding and more conspiracy theory conversations (Chapters 28-32, 20,697 words)

= 142,332 words total about the minutia of these awful characters' daily lives with a healthy helping of blatant moralizing throughout

We're no closer to knowing whether seeing how the main cast are going to be formed into a challenging Blending (main plot). None of the characters (barring Rion) have grown whatsoever. None of the relationships (barring Jovvi/Tamrissa) have progressed. None of the antagonists have done anything other than make empty threats and hurl insults.

A few days ago, TOR just posted Chapter 12 in Sanderson's Book 4 of Stormlight Archive (Rhythm of War). It is 6,568 words long (515 words longer than the chapter we just read from Green) and is a pure character scene that's sort of expository (we're seeing characters in the same space after a 1 year time skip in the series so it's basically a re-introduction of everybody). The action consists of one character dragging another character to a winehouse to drink and chat with other characters - basically the same as what Green's got going on in most of her chapters. But the way Sanderson has his characters interact and how the dialogue is written, it feels so natural to the characters that they feel like real people. And there's so many relationships that get progressed and an ACTUAL CHARACTER ARC that happens to the POV character - to the point where it is my favorite chapter of the 12 that have been released so far. In one Sanderson chapter, more stuff has happened to advance characters and relationships than in the entirety of Green's book so far.

Comparisons aside, at the freaking 3/4 mark of a book (if we're going by the Save the Cat model), we should be on the edge of our seats, thinking All is Lost, page turning as quickly as possible to see how the protagonists escape the Dark Night of the Soul! The Break into (Act) Three should be happening in the next couple of chapters. And yet I'm still here, reading about people having baths, taking naps and drinking tea while discussing conspiracy theories and not DOING ANYTHING.

Changing NOTHING ELSE about Green's plot, world, or characters, you could at least sort of fix the overall narrative flaws by rearranging the chapters:
  • Useless excerpt from boring history textbook (Prologue)
  • Braiding, braiding, braiding to qualify (Chapters 28-38)
  • First and second level masteries (Chapters 39-44, Book 2 Chapters 1-5, 22-26)
  • Congrats! You are now a master and get to be forced into communal living in preparation for being a part of a challenging Blending (Book 1 Chapters 11-15, 17-27 and Book 2 Chapters 11-15, 21, 29-30)
  • Insert some sort of transition here that doesn't exist in Green's books
  • Game on! Compete against other people in your aspect to secure a place in a challenging Blending - by the way, deadly use of magic is permitted so, pass or die (Chapters 6-15 rewritten)
  • Yay, you're a challenging Blending now, stay tuned for the next book which will be a tournament plot about competing against other Blendings!

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Ah, now we come to the standard beat in every fantasy-romance novel: the chapter where the characters drop everything to have a Socratic dialogue about the ethics of prostitution. Totally normal, see it all the time.

The weird blood disease thing stands out because Green isn't content to leave Tamrissa's serial monogamy scenario a hypothetical. She has to invent a convoluted backstory so that Lorand can say "oh yeah, blood disease, marrying down the line of brothers, makes total sense" and get on with learning that Sex Work is Good, Actually but also The Real Problem is Frigid Wives.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


I had flashbacks to Deuteronomy 25:5:

The Bible (New International Version) posted:

If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.

there wolf
Jan 11, 2015

by Fluffdaddy


This was a beautiful tour of some very dated politics around sex work. Like I can't even say I disagree with the fundamentals of it, except that it's just so thin and...well, romanticized. Sex work is work like any other job, and deserves the same level of respect and security as all labor. Green never engages with that aspect at all, so instead it's entirely the Satine fantasy as you pointed out. Not wouldn't it be great to valued and respected for your skills and the work you do, but wouldn't it be great to be pretty and wear pretty clothes and have all the boys like you?

And it's exceptionally ridiculous in this setting where the courtesan in question CAN READ AND MANIPULATED EMOTIONS. A great deal of sex work is about companionship and socialization rather than just sex. So in a setting where sex work is openly accepted as a legitimate career for anyone not a total rube, that spirit talents aren't commonly, or at least in high demand as, sex workers is nuts.

Actually, is sex work accepted? It's certainly common, but is it like Victorian England where there were tons of prostitutes because that was one of the few avenues for economic independence for women, but the culture was highly prejudiced against them leaving them terribly marginalized and despised despite their commonality? Or is it like the co-bathing between genders thing where only rubes are upset by it, and everyone in the cities thinks it's totally cool and normal. Like how does Vallant, the most cosmopolitan of the men think of prostitution? Would he marry a courtesan himself or openly socialize with them outside of their workplaces?

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

Rion was dressed again in his new clothing when he went downstairs for the meal. Rather than use the second outfit which was meant for the next day, he'd soaked the worn shirt and trousers in his bedchamber's wash basin, gently squeezed them out, and then used Air magic to dry them. Everyone had responded to the clothing so well that he meant to wear it as often as possible until he was able to replace it with more of the same style but in better fabrics.

Our new bros Rion and Lorand really should have coordinated on their laundry efforts.

quote:

He was definitely hungry again when he went downstairs, but this time he wasn't the first to show up at the table. As he reached the bottom of the stairs just behind Vallant Ro, Lorand Coll and Tamrissa Domon came out of the library together, laughing. All four of them ended up walking into the dining room as a loose group, where Pagin Holter and Beldara Lant were already seated. Then Jovvi Hafford arrived, followed a moment later by Eskin Drowd, and dinner was underway.

Why does every character feel the need to constantly refer to other characters by their full name?!

quote:

There was a small amount of conversation during the meal, principally among Tamrissa, Jovvi, and Coll. Rion was included from time to time as well, and he felt that his responses were a good deal more satisfactory than the ones made by Ro. It was as if Ro had other things on his mind besides idle conversation, but Rion couldn't imagine what that might be.

At meal's end, Tamrissa invited everyone to join her for a short while in the library, where a lovely brandy was waiting to be sampled.

Why did we need three paragraphs summarizing dinner? I mean, I am grateful that we got a summary instead of having to read through it all, but why??

quote:

Holter refused politely and left the room, while Beldara Lant simply walked out without the least response. The others ignored those two and left the dining room amid companionable chatter, and Rion was about to join them when Drowd put a hand to his arm to gain his attention.

"I see you haven't yet managed to find a way to protect your own interests," Drowd drawled insultingly with a smirk. "Coll continues to take most of the attention of the lovely Jovvi, leaving you no more than crumbs outside the window. It was rather unlikely that you were man enough to repay Coll for thrusting you out of his path to the lady, but I did think you at least had it in you to try."

"Did you really," Rion said, studying the man thoughtfully. "You expected me to do something to Coll, and because I didn't I'm unfit to be called a man by you. Is that because you're so very deeply concerned over my welfare, or because Coll outperformed you today—as you suspected he would. Come, come, Drowd, don't be shy about telling the truth. You might find it a fascinating experience for once."

"Coll did not outperform me," Drowd growled, his face now dark with anger. "He simply got the hang of the exercise sooner, but he clearly reached his limit. Tomorrow I will be the one to do better, and the following days will see the same. The bucolic hayseed doesn't live who can outdo Eskin Drowd."

"And to be sure of that, you'd like me to do away with Coll for you," Rion said, taking pains to show his disbelief clearly. "I certainly do hate to disappoint you, but I'm afraid my interest in the delightful Jovvi isn't quite as deep as you believed. There are other lovely women in the world, and I may have found one. But the others are waiting, so if you will excuse me. . . ."

Rion's bow was pure sarcasm, a fact Drowd saw quite clearly as Rion walked away from him. The man obviously fought against becoming livid, so Rion happily left him to it in private.

Oh. Green wanted us to see a character moment from Rion. Ok, this is cool and all, but I feel like we already saw this in the previous chapters. We haven't covered any more new ground and quite frankly the antagonist is becoming boring, because he's seriously just tried the same tactic again.

quote:

The others greeted his appearance in the library with smiles, a glass was pressed into his hand, and his opinion on the vintage was actually sought. Rion tasted the brandy then declared it the best he'd ever had, but that wasn't the vintner's doing. The warmth of the group that actually welcomed his presence meant enormously more, but he kept that part to himself to save everyone concerned the embarrassment.

They had only been together for a short time, when a servant appeared to say there was a visitor at the door. Both Tamrissa and Coll immediately lost their amusement for some reason, but it wasn't either of them the servant turned to. It was Rion the man clearly meant to address, but before he was able to add details to the first of his message, the visitor brushed past him into the room. For one heart-stopping moment Rion had hoped it might be his lovely, dark-haired Naran Whist, but instead it turned out to be—

"Clarion, my poor darling, I'm appalled!" Mother announced in ringing tones as she swept past the helpless servant. "To think that you've been forced to live in such squalor these past days! And what have they done with your lovely clothes after giving you those rags? This entire situation is completely intolerable, and I'm taking you home with me at once!"

Rion's mind skidded to a halt in shock and mortification. It was hardly the first time Mother had burst in on him when he was with people who might have become friends, but at those other times he'd barely begun to know the people involved. When they'd drawn back from him in offense or ridicule, he'd been able to tell himself they were simply not worth knowing. That wasn't the case with the people he now stood among, but he was helpless to stop what was happening.

"And see the outrage they've committed with that ridiculous sign!" Mother went on, pointing to his chest. "They've written your name wrong, as though you were just anybody and of no consequence whatsoever! Well, we'll see about that soon enough. You are my darling Clarion, and before I'm done every one of them will know it!"

Rion winced, knowing she wasn't joking. She would show up at the sessions building and make such a row that everyone in the building would hear about it. She would force them to replace his identification card just to silence her, and he didn't want it replaced. His new name meant too much to him, and the threat of its loss was enough to help him find his voice again.

"No, Mother, the name isn't a mistake," he said almost at once, his insides twisting with the realization that he was attempting to disagree with her. "I told them to change it to this, and I—I—mean to keep it. I've decided that it suits me better."

"Suits you better than the name I chose for you?" Mother said, her eyes beginning to widen in a way Rion was much too familiar with. Whenever he found something to get stubborn about, Mother had never argued. She'd merely shown her frailty and utter dismay, and Rion had always ended up giving in.

"But my darling, Clarion is the name I chose for you," she said, appearing close to tears. "I spent all the months I carried you in my body, searching for the perfect name, and at last I found it. I can't begin to tell you how joyous I felt, but if my joy and happiness mean nothing to you, by all means, pervert the name as you wish. I've always loved you too much to deny you anything. . . ."

Her words trailed off as tragedy peered out of her eyes, and Rion knew he was lost. He'd never been able to stand up to the suggestion that he was harming her, and probably never would. Even if he knew, deep inside, that she wasn't being harmed at all. He parted his lips to admit defeat, but a small, gentle hand placed suddenly on his left arm kept the words from being spoken.

And instead of having continued character growth, we have him crumble just so the others can swoop in and save him.

quote:

"You can't mean it took you that long to find the most ridiculous and demeaning name possible," Jovvi said to her with a smile. "Surely a woman of your talent and ability was able to accomplish the thing much sooner than that."

Mother actually began to preen at what seemed to be a compliment, but then she actually heard everything Jovvi had said and immediately went stiff.

As a person who constantly overuses the word "actually", I actually can't believe the editor actually left TWO instances of the word "actually" in this sentence that was actually published.

quote:

"Clarion, who is this person?" she demanded, looking daggers at Jovvi. "Tell her to remove her hand from your arm at once, and to apologize to me immediately! Even though you stand about while I'm being abused, I refuse to accept such treatment from a commoner!"

"Is she a commoner because she won't let you get away with treating a grown man like a half-wit boy?" another voice put in, and then Tamrissa stood beside him to his right. "And if you think she abused you, that's only because you haven't dealt with me yet. I never thought I'd meet anyone worse than my own mother, but you've surpassed her. To come bursting in here and embarrass your son nearly to death, and then to claim to love him? It's yourself that you love, and at least my mother never made any attempt to deny that."

"How dare you!" Mother whispered in a fury, her skin going pale and then red and then pale again. "Have you absolutely no idea who I am, that you would dare to even think such things in my presence? Clarion, fetch your possessions at once! You're leaving with me this instant!"

"You seem to have difficulty with your hearing," Jovvi said, causing Mother's head—and glare—to snap around in her direction. "His name is now Rion, not something designed to make everyone snicker at him behind their hands. It did the job of keeping him completely under your thumb because he had no one else to turn to, but now he's finally broken free of you. Why don't you accept that gracefully instead of trying to make a scene?"

Uh, no, the name was really not the only thing holding Rion back. A crappy name at the end of the day is just a name.

quote:

"And you can forget about his going with you," Tamrissa added as Mother's face turned an even deeper red. "The law insists that he stay right here, and I'd guess that you've lost to the law once already. If you hadn't, he never would have come here in the first place. If you had even the least amount of ordinary manners I'd invite you to join us for a while, but as you were so obviously raised in a barn, you can flounce out just the way you came in."

"Ohhh!" Mother exclaimed, obviously completely mortified. No one had ever dared to say such things to her before, although Clarion had sometimes had the impression her "friends" would have enjoyed doing exactly that. Her social position was such that no one could afford to offend her by failing to invite her to a party or gathering, but many of them had seemed to wish they could.

A reminder that Hallina Mardimil is related to three members of the Seated Blending.

quote:

"Clarion, I insist that you say something!" Mother ordered in a strangled voice, so livid that it was a wonder she didn't burst. "Tell these harlots that you haven't a copper of your own, and then let me hear that you mean to accompany me! I refuse to stay in this disgusting place one moment longer than necessary!"

Rion had been feeling painful guilt over what Jovvi and Tamrissa had said to the mother he'd been so close to for so long, but her last speech changed that. Suggesting that the only reason the two women had defended him was because they thought he had money hurt, the sort of pain she'd always given unthinkingly. For her he was only there to jump to her beck and call; he wasn't someone she truly cared about, and it was time he admitted that to himself.

"My name is now Rion, Mother, and you'd do well to remember that," he said after a short hesitation, his tone as firm as he was able to make it. "It was vile of you to suggest that these ladies came to my aid only because they had hopes of being paid, but this is hardly the first time you've been vile to me. With that in view, you'd better do as they said and go."

Disbelieving fury flashed briefly in her light eyes, and then her entire demeanor changed in the way she was so good at accomplishing.

"Oh, my poor darling, they've gotten you all confused, haven't they?" she whispered, tears now glinting in those eyes. "They've deliberately poisoned your mind against me, the tragedy I've always tried to protect you from. But please don't fret, I understand that it isn't your fault, and there's no question but that I forgive you. And you needn't worry that I'll abandon you while you remain in their clutches. I'm not without influence in this empire, and my letter may have been ignored but my person won't be. I'll free you, dear, and then we'll be back together again forever."

Rion felt a chill grip him at that, but he stood silently while Mother came close to kiss his cheek, then watched as she turned and left. Tamrissa stepped to the door as the servant hurried in Mother's wake, and after a moment Tamrissa closed the library door and turned back to them.

"She's gone, thank goodness," Tamrissa announced, one hand to her middle. "She makes my insides turn over, and I don't know how I managed to speak to her like that. As soon as she was out of here she stopped floating and started stalking, and Eskin Drowd was nearly run down. You were very brave to stand up for yourself, Rion, but at least it's over with now."

"Unfortunately, it's not," Rion disagreed after emptying his brandy glass in a single gulp. "I've seen her like that before, and she's only just begun. She'll start to visit everyone she can think of, and eventually they'll get so tired of her nagging that they'll give her anything she wants just to get rid of her. I used to admire that behavior, but now it's my life she's after. ..."

A life he'd only just begun to live. The idea of being dragged back to the terrible isolation and unhappiness he'd been chained to before was enough to make him weep, right then and there in front of them all. He had no doubt that they would understand and sympathize, but he couldn't bear to give them what would also be an unconscionable embarrassment.

"I think you'd do well to remember that you're not a child any more, Mardimil," Ro said, breaking a silence that had grown almost awkward. "She can rant and rave as much as she likes, but she can't force you to go back to her. As long as you say no and stick to it, there's nothin' she can do."

"And the testing authority isn't about to just let her walk you away," Coll pointed out, obviously trying to change the atmosphere from depressed to enthusiastic. "We're right in the middle of things, remember, and if you qualify for the competition they certainly won't let you leave. But what we speculated about hasn't changed, so maybe you would be better off if she—"

"No!" Rion interrupted harshly, then held up a hand in apology. "No, I would not be better off even if we were certain about what lies ahead. I would rather be dead than return to what was, so I have to thank each and every one of you for the help you've given me. But now, if you don't mind, I believe it's time for me to retire."

No one tried to dissuade him, but Tamrissa patted his arm and Jovvi kissed his cheek before they allowed him to leave.

all that ever happens in this book is people saying

quote:

The hall was empty and he crossed it quickly, taking the stairs two at a time to let him reach his room sooner. For some reason he abruptly remembered his original intention to complain about that room, a place that had grown more welcoming than his apartments in Mother's various houses had ever been. How could he have seen it as stiflingly small rather than cozy, garish rather than lively, inferior rather than wonderfully warm . . . ?

Even as his mind asked those questions, the answer became obvious. He'd thought those things because he'd still been looking at the world through Mother's eyes, the only way he'd ever been permitted to look at anything. It wasn't possible to consider going back to that, to consider giving up the small amount of progress he'd made toward becoming a real person. If any of Mother's "friends" tried to insist, he'd have to remind them that he was just as noble as she was . . .

how does that actually help at all? We've already seen that there's ranks within the nobility itself and constant jockeying for position.

quote:

Yes, that was it. Rion smiled where he'd stopped in the middle of the room, and then began to get undressed. He'd forgotten briefly that he was a noble, and no one forced nobles to do anything they didn't care to.

He'd make certain he qualified for that competition thing, and then he'd remind anyone who became involved that he was no commoner to be told where to go and how to live. Yes, that would work—



quote:

—hopefully against any and all trouble that Mother would certainly manage to generate. . . .

What is going on with this punctuation??? This isn't even a separate thought that is interrupting anything. It's almost enough to make me start hating Rion again.

Summary:

Day 4
Everybody (except Beldara) heads straight to the bath house after an exhausting day of magical braiding, though thanks to Tamrissa declaring mixed bathing off limits, we're spared any further awkward bath scenes with the full cast. Jovvi goes head first into territory with early converts Tamrissa and Vallant, who brings Rion and Lorand for the ride. Eskin and Pagin get left out because reasons they're not main characters. Lorand has a random encounter with Hat and is saved by Tamrissa. They adjourn to the library so Tamrissa can sort out Lorand's confusion with Jovvi using Facts and Logic. After dinner, Rion has a successful confrontation with Eskin before Jovvi and Tamrissa has to swoop in to save him from his random encounter with Hallina Mardimil.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 17
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks, Adept Aminto, Mem Follil

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 8
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 7
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 9
General: Unnamed Chairman and the five Seated Highs in each aspect
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar,
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 21
COACH RIDES: 16
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 25
"CLIFFHANGERS": 11
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 7
BLATANT MORALIZING: 15
BATH SCENES: 8
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Chapters 25, 32, 33)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31)

Possible fixes:
The reason why these random encounters bug me so much is because they are exactly that - random! There's no apparent rhyme or reason behind which antagonist is dropping in or when they're dropping in and no obvious link to the main plot for their visit, other than "the protagonists are getting on really well so we need more drama to reinforce the tight knit dynamic of the group and we need some sort of conflict to go forward". Last chapter I already pointed out how stupidly backwards the whole structure is. It's like somebody gave Green a diagram of the standard three act structure drawn on a really thin piece of paper and she got confused and looked at it from the reverse side in order to plot her book.

Rion's entire arc is about learning to adult. Let's say we're doing a very small arc - by the end of Book 1, he's become somebody who can look after himself:
  • Open on Rion being completely incapable of looking after himself - he's dressed by a servant, fed by a servant, dragged along by his mother to a boring party where he's the butt of everyone's jokes and stiff and awkward about everything
  • When they get home, we see him work out his frustrations on his conjured gym equipment and then hide out and chill afterwards in his thickened bubble of air with a dogeared novel where a big strong man does something cool to save somebody (female) and we see him want to be like that
  • Instead of Rion's first POV being set on the day he leaves, it's on the day that his mother gets a proclamation her son's getting drafted for this year's competitions. She's all distressed, kind of like the book he was reading last night, and he basically riffs off the lines from his book and ventures forth alone
  • Following on from the last chapter's rearrangement of magical challenges, he's in a new environment with people who don't know him, other Air magic talents sizing him up, etc. It's pretty intimidating, but he keeps on thinking "what would that big strong man hero from my books do" and he just follows the script. It works, mostly because he doesn't realize how strong he is with Air magic, and he gets respect he didn't expect
  • He goes through the next bunch of challenges (the mundane tricks with Air magic that are supposed masteries), cruising at the top, and everything goes to his head. He starts acting like the arrogant noble he was raised to be
  • In the next round (let's say individual combat rounds rather than theoretical exercises), he runs up against somebody better than him and gets some humility knocked into him. His ego is totally bruised and maybe this is where we work in the romance subplot with Naran
  • Time for the B story - there's fun and games with Naran, he becomes bros with Lorand and Vallant, yadayada. Maybe Vallant teaches him to fight.
  • Naran disappears, he thinks she's been kidnapped and runs off to try and save her. He runs into the people who are after Naran, finds out they don't have her and manages to fight them off using the skills and techniques he's learned from Vallant but he's beaten up enough that by the time Vallant finds him, Rion needs to be carried back and Lorand has to work a serious healing
  • Insert some sort of transition to join this up with the main plot of becoming part of a challenging Blending and work in his mother's machinations in the background somehow. Maybe she does actually succeed in pulling enough strings to get him released from the competition to return to his former life and he has to confront her and cut the apron strings
I'd probably end Rion's character arc for Book 1 around there, and leave Naran's disappearance as a cliffhanger for Book 2, which becomes all about "what's going on with Naran?" That leaves room for Rion trying to have other relationships with Jovvi and Tamrissa which violates the unspoken bro code with Vallant and Lorand, and things not really working out.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


there wolf posted:

Actually, is sex work accepted? It's certainly common, but is it like Victorian England where there were tons of prostitutes because that was one of the few avenues for economic independence for women, but the culture was highly prejudiced against them leaving them terribly marginalized and despised despite their commonality? Or is it like the co-bathing between genders thing where only rubes are upset by it, and everyone in the cities thinks it's totally cool and normal. Like how does Vallant, the most cosmopolitan of the men think of prostitution? Would he marry a courtesan himself or openly socialize with them outside of their workplaces?

As far as I can tell, Green never did enough world building on this point because ultimately it's irrelevant to the plot. Jovvi's backstory is just a backstory so Green could have her little soapbox moment via Tamrissa in Chapter 32 and it's never brought up again in the first series; it's referenced in one line at a party in Book 6 and then I think in either Book 7 or Book 8, it becomes a plot point in relation to partner swapping shenanigans which ultimately doesn't matter.

We'll actually get another courtesan POV character in the second series where spoilers for Books 6-8 Issini is a courtesan who had a regular patron, Edmin, a former High Lord and son of former High Lord Embisson Ruhl. She helps him hide and find a new life after the main crew take over, round up all the former members of the nobility and turn them over to the Astindans as slaves as part of the peace treaty. Eventually they end up in a Blending which is basically the "real/better than marriage" thing in this universe.

You could probably go off Vallant's thoughts in Chapter 5 as being a fair representation of what wealthy merchant sons (and probably noble sons by extension) think - he's supposed to marry Mirra for her connections to another merchant shipping family to consolidate power, wealth and connections (very similar reasons to noble matches). The fact that he finds Mirra sexually attractive is probably a bonus for him, but marrying Mirra would be advantageous to his family regardless. His parents are supposed to be the only "decent" parents in the books so that means if he really didn't want to marry Mirra he wouldn't get forced into it, but I don't think they'd like it if he decided to marry a courtesan instead. I think in Chapter 5 he states outright that if he couldn't find a plain woman to suit him, he'd just visit courtesans for the rest of his life.

That said, I think Green's drawn a distinction between courtesans (Jovvi) and other sex workers (Naran/the tavern girls) though she's never gone into exactly what the distinction is. I've always thought courtesans were intended by Green to be something like the Companion's Guild from the Firefly universe, except she completely neglected to give Jovvi any actual skills during her time with Allestine so in reality, we're just looking at branding and market positioning by different players in the sex work industry. Courtesans probably brand themselves as luxury, high end sex workers, are super selective (though STILL not clear whether they personally get to make the selection or whether it's up to their sponsor) and charge hefty premiums while tavern girls are doing it for extra money and don't get a lot of choice in clients.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

Vallant actually found it a relief to reach the sessions building on this second morning. After what he'd gone through yesterday—and undoubtedly would again today— he should have felt anything but relief, and yet that wasn't so. He'd spent so much of last night and all of this morning's drive thinking about Tamrissa, that anything pulling him away from his thoughts had to be considered a good thing.

A reminder that Vallant is supposed to be an experienced, adult man who has had loads of relationships with women.

I don't know about you guys, but once I was done with high school crushes and those first early relationships, my brain was also done with constantly obsessing about guys because as a grown woman, I had other, more important things to think about. Male goons, please confirm whether this is also the case for grown men.

quote:

Holter, Coll, and Drowd were in the coach with him again, and the first coach also carried its original complement. Apparently everyone had decided to start as early as they had yesterday, and that no matter what level they'd achieved. Vallant wanted the torture over and behind him as quickly as possible, but others, like Drowd, needed the extra practice time. The man looked positively grim this morning, and if stares could have killed, Coll would have been an unmoving body on the ground.

This time, with the sun shining brightly, the coach stopped at the front of the building. Drowd was out as soon as all motion had ceased, and Coll wasn't far behind him. Vallant waited until Holter stepped down before getting out himself, but he couldn't keep from pausing at the top of the steps. The others had already gone inside, all of them including Coll . . .

And that brought it all back, the breast-beating he'd done ever since he'd seen Tamrissa and Coll the night before, laughing as they came out of the library together. That could have been caused by almost anything, but then he'd noticed during the meal that they called each other by their given names. Apparently Coll had moved ahead while Vallant had hesitated and wasted time, and now Vallant's opportunity with Tamrissa was lost for good.

"Breast-beating"? Green's definitely written this right after reading something from the Old Testament. I'm surprised that I'm not seeing references to sackclothes and ashes.

quote:

But he'd spent the entire ride thinking, and now it was time to decide that he hadn't lost out. It wasn't like him to simply give up without a fight, but this being stuffed into tiny, airless spaces was playing havoc with his usual self-confidence. He had to take care of that first, but as soon as he got back to the residence he intended to go looking for Tamrissa. He'd find out if he really had no chance with her, and if that didn't happen to be the case. . . .

This guy is worse than a teenaged girl.

quote:

Having made up his mind brought Vallant almost to the point of whistling, but he wasn't quite that confident about going back into the session room. He was able to square his shoulders and enter the building as if doing it were easy, and actually crossed the floor without hesitation. The hesitation appeared when it came time to walk into the room itself, but Vallant forced himself to bear in mind that the sooner he got to it, the sooner it would be over. Swallowing from a dry mouth proved rather difficult, but remembering that no one would be between him and the door finally let him go inside.

The same Adept was there, and the man smiled coldly before leading Vallant to a cubicle only a few steps from the door. Holter was already inside the one opposite, his four strands of water already beginning to form. Vallant had to clench his teeth and his fists before he was able to enter the cubicle, but thinking about forming those four strands before trying five let him do it. It wasn't actually necessary for him to start with four strands again, not when he already knew how much power was needed to control them, but it would give him a chance to get the same control over himself before going on.

Vallant noticed vaguely that the lamplight was softer and the chair much more comfortable in this new cubicle, two benefits that made very little difference to his state of mind. What he had to concentrate on was forming strands of water and then weaving them together, three patterns each for the four and five strands. He'd gotten all three patterns for the four strands, but went through them again anyway to see if he'd forgotten anything important.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdvugjyP6ZI

quote:

But not only hadn't he forgotten anything, forming the patterns was so easy it was as though he'd done it all his life. Vallant frowned at that, not understanding why it had happened. It was true that he'd found using his talent easy over the years, but he'd never needed to do anything this complex. Maybe weaving five strands would prove more of a strain, the same strain he could feel in the stranger who wove water to his right.

Braiding things is so complex, wow. Oh, the strain to my suspension of disbelief.

quote:

Vallant opened himself to more of the power than he'd ever tried to control before, the silent roaring of its arrival echoing in his head. He, also experienced a surge of strength and vitality, making him feel like a seven-foot giant of good health, but that feeling couldn't be relied on, he'd learned. The more power you took in the faster it drained your physical strength, and that no matter how good you felt before you fell over from exhaustion. The best thing to do was to get on with it, do what was necessary—and then get out.

So he gathered enough moisture from the air to form a fifth strand, and began to weave them together into the first of the three patterns. Vallant knew there were buckets of water standing around in that room, replacing what was taken from the air. They'd been cautioned not to take the water directly from the buckets—easier by far than taking it from the air—because the water in the buckets was only there to keep the air breathable. With so many people stripping moisture from the air, it would soon have felt like a desert to their lungs and skin.

The distraction of those thoughts should have slowed Vallant's progress with the weaving, but to his surprise it didn't. The weaving formed one turn and knot after the other until the entire length of the five strands was used. But that was the easiest of the three patterns to do, so it remained to be seen what would happen with the others. They also required more concentration, but once they'd been formed the first time, Vallant was able to go through all three of them again with very little effort.

All of this is so complex! But our protagonists are so perfect that anything difficult is surprisingly easy, to the disbelief of everyone including the protagonists!

quote:

A movement out of the corner of his eye took Vallant's attention, and he turned his head to see Holter getting up to leave his cubicle. Vallant remembered glimpses that showed Holter going through the three patterns as well, and now the man seemed ready to leave. In Vallant's opinion that was an excellent idea, so he banished the five strands back to the air they'd come from, then forced himself to follow Holter slowly.

The Adept in charge waited for them near the door leading out, near the door and happily not in front of it. Vallant wanted nothing more than to just keep going, but the Adept obviously waited to tell them something. If Vallant let himself run out the way he so badly needed to, he'd just end up having to come back. Keeping control of the panic another couple of minutes was a much smarter idea, and the sweat running down his face could simply be ignored.

"Congratulations, gentlemen, and welcome to your new standing in life," the Adept said, sounding for the first time as though he addressed equals—or near equals. "You've managed to qualify for the competitions just as quickly as you're supposed to, so tomorrow you won't be returning here. Just relax and enjoy yourselves through the rest of today, for tomorrow the true enjoyment begins."

Annnnd that's it, struggle's over folks. By that I mean the struggle to stay awake while reading this section.

quote:

Something about his smile disturbed Vallant, but Holter was heading for the door after nodding, so Vallant lost no time following. The large open floor of the building's interior brought a small amount of relief, but what Vallant needed was the true outdoors. For that reason he lengthened his stride to reach the front door more quickly, stepped outside into the sunshine, then moved to one side to lean against the wall and close his eyes. He had no idea how long they'd have to wait before the coach returned for them, but he'd be fine as long as he could do his waiting right here.

"You okay?" a voice asked after a moment, a disturbed voice that nevertheless sounded reluctant to speak. "You need help t'go back in an' sit down?"

"Anythin' but that," Vallant muttered, opening his eyes to see a frowning Holter staring at him. "I . . . don't like bein' indoors, especially not on pretty days like this one. I'll be just fine, but since you brought up the question, I'll give it back to you. Are you all right?"

Holter stiffened, as though on the verge of withdrawing back into himself again, then he moved his gaze from Vallant's face and shook his head.

"No, I ain't okay," he stated, the words almost flat. "My friends don't wanna know me no more, like I ain't the same man who drank an' laughed with 'em an' done 'em all them favors. I ain't good enough fer 'em anymore, but that's whut they think. I mean t' prove I'm better, an' then we'll see who looks down on who. An I'll do 'er, too, no matter how rough doin' 'er is. . . ."

He let his voice trail off before walking a few feet away, the bitterness in him so sharp that Vallant could almost taste it-He tried to imagine how he would feel if all his friends had drawn away in fear and loathing, but quickly dismissed the question. The pain of it would have been almost unbearable, even though Vallant had those in the residence he might talk to and associate with. How much worse was it for Holter, who'd felt out of place right from the beginning?

Stop. Ruining. Characters. Pagin was so likeable, right up until now when Green's decided to make him say that crap about his friends "looking down on him" and thinking "he's not good enough for them". Are we even talking about the same tavern sequence here? Ginge and Pagin's other friends are TERRIFIED of the fact that Pagin (and his new friends) have a thousand times the magical strength that they do, and think that they'll use it to get whatever they want. Which, given the maniacal cackling this crew engaged in after putting the tavern toughs in their place, is perfectly justifiable.

quote:

That was another question Vallant preferred not to get into, especially since it didn't seem possible to do anything about it. The little man had been invited to join them in the library for brandy last night, and he'd refused. It isn't possible to ease the pain of someone who doesn't want to be eased, someone who's decided to use the pain as a goad on the way to success. Obviously that's what Holter was doing, and the man didn't seem prepared to let himself be diverted.

They had to wait almost half an hour, but finally the coach arrived to take them back to the residence. Other people had come out to wait with them, but no one who was a member of their residence. As the coach moved through the crowded streets, Vallant tried to wonder how the others were doing. He really did care, but thoughts of a single one of the others kept crowding out everyone else. Today he would find out exactly where he stood with Tamrissa, who would hopefully be home as early as he was. After that . . . after that. . . well, they'd have to see, but he'd made up his mind that there would be an after that!

Still waiting for the hook in this primary romance, 34 chapters into the book.

quote:

Lorand left the coach right after Drowd, still upset about the night before. He'd meant to speak to Jovvi right after the small party, telling her how he saw things and then asking how she saw them. It would have been the perfect time, if Mardimil's mother hadn't shown up. The woman had probably bribed someone to tell her where Mardimil was, and then she'd sailed in and tried to take over Mardimil's life again. Once he'd left for his room, Jovvi and Tamrissa had been furious, which ended the possibility of any sort of calm exchange of ideas.

Sighing as he walked across the floor, Lorand had to admit that he had more pressing problems to concern him than a missed opportunity for conversation. He knew what he had to do in order to qualify for those competitions, and couldn't honestly say he hadn't known sooner. When Mardimil had put the answer into words he could no longer ignore he'd almost run, something the others had undoubtedly seen. But having to face the need to open himself to even more of the power that could kill so easily . . .

Lorand pushed that thought away, along with the picture of that little girl from so many years earlier. Deep inside, the whole thing still made him tremble and probably always would. What he had to keep firmly in mind now was that Jovvi would certainly move ahead to the competitions, and he couldn't stand the thought of not being there with her— and for her. If she needed him and he wasn't there, he'd never forgive himself even if he lived.

That's a pretty big "if". In 34 chapters, we've seen that Jovvi is a super strong mind reader who also happens to have a significant chunk of gold on hand and is supremely smoking hot to anyone who lays eyes on her. She doesn't need you, and that's a cool thing.

quote:

Which wasn't all that likely to happen. He eyed the door he approached, the one Drowd had already gone through, trying to remember if he'd ever heard someone boast about almost having made it to the High competitions. He hadn't realized sooner that he should have known someone like that—unless those who came close never went home again. Middles were a different story, but then there was no competition involved with being declared a Middle.

Just in case you missed the in the last couple of chapters.

quote:

So Lorand had to accept the fact that his life was probably at stake again, and refusing to use the necessary power wasn't likely to save him. Not to mention get him any of the gold he needed, for others as well as himself. Hat. . . Hat had been his friend for a very long time, and couldn't be blamed for what he'd said while drunk. The disappointment had been devastating for him, but he'd always been a lot stronger than he looked. He'd pull out of the depression and disappointment and then begin a new life—with the help of the gold Lorand would lend him.

But first Lorand had to win the gold, and in order to do that he had to qualify for the competitions. He stopped just inside the door of the session room, fighting not to sweat as he waited for Toblis, the Adept, to come back from placing Drowd in a cubicle. Drowd was back where they'd both been yesterday, and when Toblis took Lorand to a different cubicle, Drowd tried to kill him with a glare again. The academician obviously found it intolerable that a mere farmer was able to outdo him.

Well, that was just too bad about Drowd. Lorand sat down in the chair that was better than the one he'd had yesterday, and prepared himself to start all over from the beginning. If he was ever going to do what was necessary, he had to do it now, before he lost his nerve again. He just had to remember that he risked nothing in trying to use more power, not even his life.

This internal monologue is kinda getting old.

quote:

Weaving two and three strands of earth from the containers provided in each cubicle turned out to be much easier than it had been yesterday, encouraging Lorand to go straight to four strands. He held his breath when it came time to take in more of the power, but it still seemed to be well under his control. That helped him to relax even more, which let him go through all three of the required patterns twice by the time lunch was announced.

Lorand had noticed in passing that Drowd had managed to reach three strands, and the man fought to braid them a second time when the lunch placard was brought through. Lorand expected the struggling academician to at least finish what he was doing, but instead Drowd dropped the earth and led the others out to the tables. Lorand could see that the man's lips were tight with fury, as though it were all Lorand's fault that Drowd had never learned to finish a job before indulging his own needs and wants.

Lunch was less of a help than Lorand had hoped it would be, except for the fact that he was put in yet another cubicle when they all went back. Drowd still wasn't moved, and when the academician demanded to know why, Toblis explained in that distant manner of his. Drowd certainly had reached the three strand level, but he hadn't reached the point of completing the braiding easily. Only when that happened would he be ready to move up to four strands, and only when he moved up would he qualify for a more comfortable cubicle. And then, of course, he added the icing.

"You really ought to try applying yourself like Coll there," Toblis drawled, gesturing toward Lorand without looking at him. "At this rate, you'll be eating his—dust—for the rest of your life."

Toblis turned then and walked away, chuckling at his little joke. Drowd wasn't chuckling, though, since it's difficult to laugh when you're livid. This time he'd just about been told that all his troubles were Lorand's fault, exactly as he'd suspected all along.

No, we will never see any characters display any sort of subtlety. This is about as subtle as Green's characters get.

quote:

Lorand turned away from the man's murderous glare, walked to his new, very comfortable chair, and sat. This new cubicle was very much of a lure to relaxation, a place where he'd be very comfortable while he pretended to try for control over five strands. That was what he had to do next, open to enough more of the power to control five strands of weaving, but the thought of that made Lorand sweat even more than he had before lunch. He was still ahead of Drowd, after all, so he had plenty of time before he would really need to move ahead. . . .

It took quite a lot for Lorand to get out of that chair and sit down on the floor, where he would be a good deal less comfortable. Fear let you use anything to distract yourself from doing what caused the fear, even if you didn't have as much time as you wanted to believe. This was the last week anyone would be able to qualify, and there was nothing to say that the testing authority people actually would wait until week's end before ridding themselves of those who clearly would never make it. If he really did intend to qualify, it had to be right now without any excuse or argument.

Taking a deep breath did nothing to loosen the knot of fear inside Lorand, but he refused to let that stop him. It was either qualify or die, so he really did have nothing to lose. He held tight to that statement and fought to believe it as he opened himself to more of the power, nearly missing the surge of strength that came with it. It was almost as if the greater amount of power brought the strength necessary for its control along with it, but that was absurd. Beyond a certain point the power killed, it didn't help.

The SAME monologue, twice in the SAME chapter.

quote:

Nevertheless, Lorand should now be able to handle five strands of earth. He moved them out of the container one at a time, making sure he had complete control over one before adding the next. The power roared inside him, demanding that he do and accomplish faster and with more assurance, making him dizzy as he fought to control it. That control became easier once he had all five strands and began to weave with them, but he did have to concentrate more than ever before.

For a while Lorand seemed to move in a dream, aware of nothing but the three patterns he had to produce. Distantly he realized he was bathed in sweat, but only when Toblis appeared outside his cubicle to beckon with one finger did Lorand raise an arm to blot his face on his sleeve. It took some effort to release the power and stand, but by the time he reached the place near the door where Toblis waited he was on the way back to feeling normal again.

"Congratulations, Coll, on managing to qualify," Toblis said, now sounding distantly amused. "I was certain you would, but didn't think you'd go so far as to produce the patterns four times rather than twice. But I suppose it's one way to be certain that you won't be here tomorrow for your—friend—to glare at."

"Where will I be tomorrow instead?" Lorand asked, turning to see that Drowd still struggled with braiding three strands. It would be nice to be away from the man tomorrow; too bad the same thing couldn't be accomplished tonight.

"Tomorrow you'll be introduced to what the competitions are all about," Toblis answered, then waggled his fingers. "Run along back to your residence now, and get as much rest as you can. I promise you'll need it."

I seriously don't understand why you couldn't just skip the stupidity of the first tests and just have everyone who's a Middle try this braiding exercise in their home towns. Even if Book Four spoilers it's so you can snatch up all the strong magical talents and enslave them in your army you can STILL do that by only sending the people who qualify to the capitol AFTER they can braid five strands.

quote:

Toblis walked away from him then, so Lorand left the session room and headed for the front of the building. Only half of the afternoon was gone, but hopefully he'd be able to get the coach to take him back to the residence now rather than later. He needed badly to use the bath house, and then he would find Jovvi and get to that conversation he meant to have. Tomorrow would bring new situations and new problems, so he'd be smart to take care of the old ones before the new ones arrived.

It's not a complete sequence until somebody mentions they need to take a bath.

quote:

Even if he was already dreading what he'd need all that rest for.  . .

I'm truly perplexed - what does Lorand need all that rest for? He qualified just as easily as Vallant did, because taking in more power gives you more strength as a side effect.

Summary:

Day 5
Vallant and Lorand head back to their sessions and qualify by taking in more power to weave five strands.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 18
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks, Adept Aminto, Mem Follil, Toblis

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 8
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 7
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 9
General: Unnamed Chairman and the five Seated Highs in each aspect
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar,
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 21
COACH RIDES: 18
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 25
"CLIFFHANGERS": 12
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 7
BLATANT MORALIZING: 15
BATH SCENES: 8
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Chapters 25, 32, 33)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34)

Possible fixes:
I think the problem is Green can't decide whether her characters are going through magic school or not. She's picked an arbitrary set of trials, grouped everyone by intake and aspect, but then failed to structure it in any interesting way. The trials are so straight forward that there's no puzzle for the main characters to solve and the key (taking in more power) is genetically determined so they don't actually gain any skills or new abilities as a result of passing the trials. There's a half-hearted attempt at introducing some rivalry but the protagonists and antagonists never come to actual blows with each other because they're separated into completing individual challenges so it's all extremely boring.

Some immediate fixes:
  • Testing for High should be done individually in their home towns, instead of this magical "you're now a confirmed Middle according to the resident Guild member, off you go to the capitol for testing"
  • The whole testing system needs a rehaul and lined up with whatever gets taught in the schooling curriculum. Spoilers for Book Four the braiding patterns they're learning now are techniques to access higher levels of control/power so I can't imagine why it wasn't taught at school. Anyway, the test should be a combined aptitude/end of school exam that dictates what you can pre-qualify for in terms of high demand jobs in the Empire
  • The skill trees for each aspect needs to be more clearly mapped out - it doesn't have to be as RPG literal as a skill tree but some sort of specialisation within each aspect would make it more interesting. As it is, any Earth magic talent is interchangeable for another Earth magic talent (same goes for every other aspect) and this is stupid. I will do a magic system brainstorming power later.
  • Post qualification training for the competition is focused on combat, because this is where the story is going. We can riff off typical army training scenarios, adapted for the main storyline and the world. Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series does a great job of this - it covers first year page training, the rest of page training, squirehood and then first year as a knight.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

My stomach tried to do flip-flops when I walked into the session room, but I managed to quiet it with less effort than it usually took. Yesterday I'd been terribly afraid of coming back here to try again, afraid that I'd fail and lose everything. Now . . . now I seemed to have more assurance, borrowed in part from Jovvi and, surprisingly, Rion Mardimil.

Rion had been distracted during the drive this morning, which was only to be expected after what he'd gone through with his mother last night. Once we were out of the coach Beldara Lant took off without a backward glance, but apparently Rion heard Jovvi trying to assure me that I could do anything I cared to. He hesitated in the midst of walking away, then turned back to come over and take my hand.

"Dearest lady, you mustn't entertain a lie which detracts from your golden strength," he said softly and gently, looking down into my eyes. "Anyone able to face Mother the way you did last night is clearly much stronger than I am, and I expect to have no trouble at all in qualifying. If you use the same protectiveness for your own benefit, your difficulties will be even less than mine. Please tell me you will."

I couldn't help blushing as I nodded with a smile, noticing for the first time how really handsome Rion was. Jovvi agreed with him enthusiastically, and the two of them walked me almost to the door of the session room. I knew they would be disappointed if I failed, so I had to succeed for their benefit as well as my own. I'd never had anyone care about me before, even in passing as their concern probably was, and I just couldn't let them down.

The whole "Tamrissa is a naturally FIERCE and BRAVE person whose instincts have been repressed with regards to herself because of her horrible past" would be a lot more interesting and genuine if we didn't get any Tamrissa POVs - mainly because every time we're in her head it's written so disingenuously.

quote:

So I followed Adept Forum to my cubicle with more determination than ever before. Beldara already sat in her original cubicle among the four men we'd been with yesterday, but this time I ignored her as thoroughly as she'd been ignoring me. I had things to do, the first of which was to run through the braiding exercise again. Starting with three strands warmed me up, so to speak, and then I was ready to try four.

It had been unexpectedly easy to work with three strands, and opening to more power let me do almost the same with four. There were three separate exercises to go through that weren't as difficult as they looked, and when I finished them the second time I opened myself to the power again to try five strands. I was well on the way to finishing the first five-strand exercise, when a double scream, the second following swiftly on the heels of the first, almost made me lose control of the fire in my talent's grasp. I quickly anchored the strands in place, then hurried to the door of my cubicle to see what had happened.

Looks like Green's caught on and realized there's a complete lack of narrative tension in these chapters! Instead of going back and fixing the macro issues or having her characters do interesting things, it's yet another random cautionary incident happening to a bystander character that we've never met, is unnamed and we do not care about.

quote:

"All right, now, let's settle down," Adept Forum said as he came through, heading for the cubicles in back. "This does happen from time to time, tragedy though it is. It's not likely to happen to the rest of you, or it would have done so already. Settle down, I say and let the men do their job."

The men he referred to were right behind him, six men who went past the point where he stopped. They entered the two cubicles involved, two men in one and four in the other. Those who had come out of their cubicles moved back to give the men room, but that number didn't include Beldara Lant. She still sat in her chair with an expression of scorn and superiority on her face, unlike the two remaining male applicants left in the area. They both looked ill, and they returned to their chairs to sit slumped in dejection and fear.

"Yes, I know exactly what happened," Adept Forum said to one of the men in my own area who had obviously gone over to him to ask the question.

Not having half of the butler and maid dialogue doesn't make it less obvious that it's butler and maid dialogue.

quote:

"That fool sitting there staring at a world he'll never come in contact with again is burned out, and he did it to himself. In all this time he hasn't even been able to coil two strands, but he obviously decided to change that. I felt him open himself wide enough for a herd of horses to pass through, showing he had no sense of judgment at all. You do have to walk before you can run, but what he tried was to fly."

In the midst of this painful dialogue, we get a tidbit of information that's sort of interesting. Every time someone has talked about opening to the power so far, there's been no mention of what other people can feel (particularly those with the same aspect). Here is the first in-text confirmation that states the act of opening to the power - and how much power is taken in - can be felt by others.

I'm picturing there's this intangible barrier to the power that everyone born with magic can sense, and you access it by temporarily cutting your own doorway through the barrier. Because everyone can sense the barrier, they can feel you doing it as well. Is there a range limitation on this? Because this would be a really interesting mechanic to use to find people who are in hiding, or reasons to pretend you're weaker than you really are.

quote:

Adept Forum and the other man had to step into an empty cubicle to let the two men leading the burned out one to go by, and I couldn't stop staring until it was no longer possible to see the slack face above the stumbling body. A small shiver passed through me at the sight, but nothing I couldn't cope with. The man was now beyond anyone's ability to hurt him, a condition I considered quite comforting. The other one, though . . . the smell was definitely beginning to turn my stomach.

"As you can see, the first man's scream caused that second fool to lose control," Adept Forum went on once he and the other man were back in the hall. "The power was freed to do as it willed, and what it willed was to burn him to cinders. It will take hours to clear away the results, so just go back to whatever you were doing."

The man he spoke to glanced at the horrible mess the four men were trying to clean up, then he took his pale face and trembling hands back to his own cubicle. The stench of burned flesh was trying hard to make me ill, but beyond that I felt strangely untouched. Both men were free of having to worry about what the world would do to them next, a luxury I didn't share. The thought of failure brought me greater fear than the possibility of death, and that was what I still had to fight against.

I also feel strangely untouched by the fact Tamrissa thinks becoming a vegetable is a "luxury" because she wouldn't have to worry anymore. Green keeps leaning on this device and it's tiring to constantly hear it from every single protagonist.

quote:

After returning to my chair I finished the first pattern with five strands, then did the other two. Running through all three for the second time was easier yet, and then Adept Forum was gesturing to me through the cubicle's clear resin wall. I rose and followed him out, not to the area near the door but through the door to the open floor of the building.

"Ah, that's much better," Adept Forum said once the door was closed behind us. "That smell was beginning to give me a headache. But now on to more pleasant matters. You're due congratulations, my dear, both for qualifying and for surprising me. I surely expected you to be too deeply upset by the incidents to finish qualifying today. I'm sure you'll be delighted to know that you needn't return here tomorrow."

"You're right, I am," I responded, really detesting the man and his manner. "Where do I go instead?"

"To the competitions, of course, something your driver will know," he answered, interest flickering through his eyes as he examined me. "I expect you'll enjoy yourself rather more than most, which pleases me. Perhaps we'll meet again, my lovely."

His bow was as sarcastic and condescending as the rest of his attitude, but I ignored it as I turned and walked away. It was almost lunchtime, and I had no intentions of taking the meal there. I wanted to be home, and I only had to find our coach to make it happen.

This parting line from Adept Forum and Tamrissa's narration of his bow is just bizarre. We've got another indication that he's attracted to her (no surprises, please find me a character who ISN'T attracted to Tamrissa or Jovvi and I'll be surprised), then he says something about Tamrissa enjoying herself more than most and being happy about it. Tamrissa's got no idea what's ahead, but Adept Forum probably does know and thinks she's going to enjoy slaughtering other people and that makes him happy?

quote:

Stepping outside felt wonderful, as though I'd been released from some invisible shackle, and a pleasant surprise was waiting. Jovvi and Rion stood together to one side, and when they saw me they waved me over.

"Tamrissa, you did it!" Jovvi enthused once I was close enough, then her smile dissolved as she studied me. "I mean, you did do it, didn't you? You're out of there early, but you look a bit on the pale side. Is everything all right?"

"For me it is, at least so far," I responded, hurrying to reassure the both of them. "And I don't doubt that I look pale. One of our people exercised very bad judgment, and managed to burn himself out. His scream distracted another man, making him lose control of the power. That one ended burned up instead of out, but I swear the Adept was glad it happened. That smell will eventually drive everyone out of the room, either by making them qualify or making them give up."

"What about Beldara?" Jovvi asked, her hand to my arm and the words very quiet. Rion also looked disturbed, but no more than I felt. "She wasn't the one who . . . exercised bad judgment, was she?"

"No, she just sneered, then went back to what she'd been practicing," I replied with a headshake. "She seems to be finally getting the idea of what she's been doing wrong, so she ought to qualify in another day or so herself. If she does, I doubt if any of the others will manage it along with her."

"I know precisely what you mean," Rion said with a nod. "None of those others in my session room will ever qualify, not if they try for the rest of their lives. They should be able to do it, but for one reason or another they don't. I was told that those with true potential always qualify by the second day, at the very latest, by the third. That leads me to believe the sessions won't go to week's end, even if they claim it ill."

"I got the same impression," Jovvi said, then waved a hand beyond the steps.

Ok so if everyone can feel how wide everyone else is opened to the power, how the hell are these qualification rounds even any mystery? You would just look closely at the people handling five strands, how wide they are opened to the power, and then copy them from the beginning.

quote:

"There's our coach at last, so let's not waste any time getting to it. We're supposed to relax and enjoy ourselves today, and that's what I mean to do. I get the impression that tomorrow will be harder than anything we've faced so far."

"I'd consider that an understatement," I said as I joined her and Rion in heading for the coach. "All those people who tested and passed and qualified before us have been practicing and competing for who knows how long, and they're the ones we'll be going up against. In order to get anywhere at all, our names would have to be written in the Prophecies. If we're ever going to need a plan of action, this is the time."

REALLY CRAPPY FORESHADOWING.

quote:

"I don't care how good they are," Rion said after helping Jovvi and me into the coach and then following. "I need the gold that winning a competition will bring, so I intend to win. Plan or no plan, I will succeed."

"I wish I had your confidence," I told him with a smile, speaking nothing but the truth. "It would be nice to believe that I'll turn out to be the strongest one competing in my aspect, but that's not very likely to be the case."

"Why not?" Jovvi asked, turning in her seat to my right to look at me. "Someone has to be the strongest, so why can't it be us? We're not competing against each other, after all, so why can't all of us be best? I think we can be, so that's what I'm going to expect."

So why couldn't this logic apply to Beldara before? Oh, because she's not one of Green's protagonists and therefore it's morally wrong for her to be confident and assertive.

quote:

"And I," Rion agreed with a merry grin, just about the first I'd seen him show. "The idea is marvelous, and I agree with it completely. We're all the best, and when we win positions as Highs, we'll have parties and invite only each other."

"That would make for very small parties," Jovvi said with a laugh. "I think we ought to invite everyone who ever gave us trouble, and dare them to try it again. Then we could watch their feeble efforts and laugh."

"Yes!" I agreed, finally letting myself share the enjoyment of the silliness. "And if they try to give too much trouble, I can singe their bottoms to make them jump. Then we'd have no need to hire dancers and acrobats."

They both laughed aloud at that, then tried to find other things we would do to those we disliked once we became Highs. Daydreaming is supposed to be a useless waste of time, but those who say that are wrong. On the one hand, making the dreams come true justifies the time spent. If it doesn't involve something that's likely to come true, simply enjoying the faint possibility justifies it on the other. As long as you don't try to live your life in those dreams, there's a lot more good in them than bad.

You are horrible people.

quote:

Before we knew it we were back at my house, so we went inside intending to see about lunch. We actually made it about halfway across the hall before Warla appeared and stopped us.

"Excuse me, Tamrissa, but I've been waiting for you to return," she said, looking faintly upset. "There are people here to see Dama Hafford, and I've put them in the sitting room. They arrived more than an hour ago . . ."

"And have been cooling their heels and fuming all this time," Jovvi said with surprise when Warla let the words trail off. "I can't imagine who it can be, so let's go and find out."

Really? She can't imagine who it could be? If Jovvi was as smart as she's supposed to be, she should be 1) opening up to the power to sense who the visitors are, then either 2a) fleeing the house right now, or 2b) exercising her talent from a distance to make Allestine and her henchmen leave.

quote:

Our good mood still clung to us, so Rion and I agreed at once to go with her. Warla led the way to the sitting room, and that location showed her opinion of the visitors more than anything else. If she'd approved of them, she would have put them in the larger and much more comfortable library. I wondered who they could be—until we followed Warla in to see a woman and two men. The woman was no longer young but still very beautiful, the men were the sort I would have been much happier not meeting, and all three together took the merry smile from Jovvi's face.

"Why, Allestine, what a pleasant surprise," Jovvi said at once, a neutral smile replacing her previous one. "And you've brought Ark and Bar with you. What brings you from Rincammon all the way to Gan Garee?"

"Business, child, rather important business," the woman Allestine replied with a smile of her own that I didn't like at all. She also remained seated in the room's only comfortable chair, while the two men had risen to stand to either side of her. That she would play noble receiving lowly callers in my house annoyed me, almost as much as her slow examination of my face and body disturbed me.

"You may remember the trouble I had with that tiresome girl Eldra," the woman continued, moving most of her attention back to Jovvi. "After you left I informed her that it was time she joined the staff of the residence more fully and began to repay some of the gold I've spent on her, and the silly chit disappeared. At first I though she would be hiding in or around the residence, but finally came to the conclusion that she'd decided to make her way to you. If you'll tell me where she is, I'll put her under my protection again."

"I have no idea where she is, because I haven't seen her," Jovvi replied with a frown, now looking concerned. "But how would Eldra have gotten here? She hasn't any silver or gold, so she'd have to travel on foot. A trip like that would take forever, with no means to get food or shelter along the way. Are you certain she's trying to reach Gan Garee?"

Make Eldra the protagonist instead. She actually does stuff!

quote:

"I'm certain she's trying to reach you," the woman answered, her smile as sleek as her manner and words. "I have no idea how she'll accomplish it, but I have every faith that she will. With that in view, I think it would be best if you gathered your things now and prepared to return with me. These people here in Gan Garee are easily bribable, which means I don't expect to have any trouble in getting them to release you. And until I find the proper people to approach, I'll just stay here in this house."

The moment Allestine has to actually act the antagonist, she loses all ability to be subtle and to be a character in her own right. From the little we saw of her, she has a complete mother hen act, so why wouldn't she be playing this up for all she's worth? Her line of argument should be:
  • Pretend she's here to check in on Jovvi (which is more or less true, in case Jovvi's using her talent to truth read)
  • Be full of motherly concern about Jovvi, comment on how tired and exhausted she looks, ask after the testing and how strenuous it's been
  • Bring gifts for Jovvi (what do white people do here? Asian mothers would bring medicinal soups)
  • Wait for an opportune moment and offer to sneak Jovvi away back to Rincammon
  • Once Jovvi's agreed, is packed and ready to go, bring up Eldra as a side question - and maybe not even then. If Eldra really is with Jovvi, then Jovvi wouldn't leave her behind when going back to Rincammon, and if Jovvi has no idea about Eldra, then she would go willingly. There's no incentive to bring up Eldra as it would just raise Jovvi's suspicions

quote:

"Guess again," I said, the words popping out when I felt the surge of panic in Jovvi. It wasn't unusual for me to be afraid, but there was something . . . criminal in doing the same to her.

"I beg your pardon?" the woman said to me, her pleasantness having turned the least bit hardened and calculating. "You weren't addressing me, I'm sure . . . but we really must get to know one another, dear. You and my darling Jovvi seem to have grown close, so it shouldn't be difficult to convince you to come with us and visit Rincammon. I'm certain you'll love it, so much so that you'll most likely decide to remain permanently. You'll—"

It's like Green forgot how to write people trying to achieve something in a scene and decided all of her characters - antagonists particularly - just self-narrate their internal thoughts to other characters in place of actual dialogue.

quote:

"That's enough," I interrupted, now closer to outrage than I'd been in quite a while. "You and my parents must have been born under the same rock, and you make me just as sick as they do. To begin with, this is an official residence of the testing authority, so deciding to move in won't do you the least good. In the second place, your search for someone to bribe will be a long one, since both Jovvi and I have just qualified for the competitions for High practitioners. In the third place, I have no intentions at all of getting to know you, nor do I intend to let you take me over and own me. With all that in view, you can leave now."

Facts and Logic!

quote:

"Throwing temper tantrums isn't at all becoming in a beautiful young lady," the woman said, the look in her eyes hard above a brittle and uncompromising smile. "You'll certainly learn better once you've been with me for a while, just as Jovvi and the others have. I've no idea what this— qualifying—is, but it undoubtedly means nothing at all. And with that in view, you may now find rooms for me and my . . . associates. We've had a long and exhausting trip, and their tempers are unfortunately a lot shorter than they should be."

Her words and the spitefulness added to her smile seemed to be a signal for the two big men. They began to step toward us, an inhumanly uncaring expression in the eyes of each. My heart had been pounding a little and my hands trembling from the speech I'd made, but seeing those two men start for us sent a flash of terror through me. Rion's presence meant nothing to them, and it was clear that they would hurt him badly if he tried to interfere with whatever they meant to do. Which could well be the hurting of Jovvi and me . . .

Can you please remember for once that you guys are HIGH TALENTS.

quote:

And that was when something . . . clicked inside my head. It was a very small happening, not even really a sound, more like a change of direction of sorts. I'd sworn not to let myself be hurt again, but even more I couldn't bear the thought of letting my friends be hurt along with me. I'd never had friends before, I'd never been allowed to have them. Now that I'd gotten past the restriction, I'd never go back to the old way again.

So instead of retreating from the men who had just begun to advance on us, I borrowed part of the qualifying process I'd just gone through and called five wide strands of fire into being between us. The heat of it made the men stop short and then flinch back, and the woman seated like nobility went pale.

"Even common footpads know better than to try their tricks with a stranger," I said, feeling oddly remote as I made certain that my fire burned nothing in the room. That was actually harder than weaving with the flames, a distant fact that flickered through my awareness and then was gone. "I can see you're not as bright as common footpads, so let this be a lesson to you. And in case you were wondering, this is what that qualifying nonsense is all about. Now get out."

FINALLY.

quote:

"You . . . you can't use that . . . that . . . obscenity against us," the woman tried in a trembling voice once I'd let the flames die, her eyes certainly wider than she would have liked. "It happens to be against the law, which I'm sure you know. If I report this incident you'll be sent to the Deep Caverns, so—"

"Really, Allestine, I considered you much more worldly than that," Jovvi interrupted as ice began to form in my blood. The Deep Caverns . . . !

Oh come on. This is about as scary as the bogeyman.

quote:

"I was told that the laws don't apply to those of us who have qualified to compete as High practitioners, something that should be perfectly clear to a practical woman like you. We're of more potential value than people who have barged in where they don't belong, so if anyone is charged it won't be us. And now I think you'd better take Tamrissa's advice and go."

The woman was furious as well as frightened, but she did seem to understand that she had no choice. She gathered herself together and then stood, glared at us for a moment, then began to lead her ruffians out of the room. I was delighted that the trouble seemed to be over—until the two ruffians reached me. One grabbed my arms while the other folded a fist with the clear intention of hitting me, and terror froze me where I stood. They were going to knock me unconscious to keep me from using my talent against them, and they were about to succeed—

What? In Chapter 9, the last time "terror hit you" when a man made unwanted physical contact with you, you immediately went to attack him with Fire magic. Yet now you're freezing?

I don't buy it. Ark and Bar should be dead right now, with Allestine, Jovvi and Rion as witnesses. That would have INTRODUCED SOME CONFLICT because Tamrissa straight up killed two men in self defence using disproportional force.

quote:

—when they both choked at once, then began to claw at their throats. As soon as I was free I rushed over to where Jovvi and Rion stood, for the first time noticing the terrible expression Rion wore.

"Men who attack women aren't men at all," he said, looking at Allestine, who had gone white again. Her ruffians continued to claw at their throats and began to turn very red, no more than grunts coming from them. "And women who tell men like that to attack are even worse, lower than the lowliest peasant. If anything like this ever happens again, you'll join them in searching fruitlessly for enough air to fill your lungs. Do you understand me?"

The woman nodded jerkily, her eyes wide again as she tried not to watch her ruffians suffocating, and then Rion stopped whatever he was doing and let them have air to breathe again. They were both down on hands and knees by then, and as soon as air was available they began to drag it in in great gasps. But they only took an instant to do that before beginning to struggle to their feet. Their expressions said they would leave the house now even if they had to crawl, and their employer apparently felt the same way. As soon as they were erect she headed for the front door which Warla already held open for them, and a moment later they were gone.

And of course Rion has to save the day, because he's a man and it'd be terrible if he just stood back and did nothing because the women were clearly capable of saving themselves.

quote:

"Oh, you two were wonderful!" Jovvi exclaimed, looking back and forth between Rion and me. "Allestine is the most poisonous woman I've ever met, especially when she uses those two conscienceless curs to get her way. This is probably the first time in years that she hasn't gotten exactly what she wanted."

"I apologize for simply standing here and watching until it was almost too late," Rion said, finally allowing that terrible expression to disappear. "It never occurred to me that those two animals would dare to try to harm a lady. When it became obvious they meant to do no other thing, my outrage seemed to grow a life of its own—along with a purpose. I've never heard of anyone doing something like that before, but I'd judge it to have been rather effective."

And of course we have to have this outright explanation for why he wasn't doing anything because a real man would have jumped in immediately and sent them packing.

quote:

"It certainly was," Jovvi said with a laugh, giving him a hug before turning to me. "And so was what Tamrissa said and did. What you told Allestine infuriated her, Tamma, something I could see even if you couldn't. I noticed her deciding she wanted you in the residence as soon as she saw you, and no girl she's ever decided on has managed to refuse her successfully. You were marvelous to come to our rescue like that, and I couldn't be more proud of you."

"Even though I was terrified almost the entire time?" I asked as she hugged me, not quite up to pretending otherwise. "I'm actually very much of a coward, Jovvi, and there's nothing in that for anyone to be proud of."

"Why have you suddenly forgotten the truth?" Jovvi asked, stepping back to study me while Rion made a sound of polite ridicule. "Isn't it true that in order for bravery to exist, there has to be fear when you act? Without fear there's nothing to be brave about, nothing to make the act different from any other. Cowardice is when you let the fear get the better of you to the point of keeping you from acting, so how can you be guilty of it? You did what was necessary, and proved your bravery in no uncertain terms."

This book.

quote:

"Something which many ladies would have found beyond them," Rion said, sober and obviously sincere. "There are any number in Mother's circle who would have allowed themselves to be imposed upon even without two animals threatening them, simply because they see themselves as helpless.

This is going to be a recurring theme - "animals" as an insult or derogatory term is second only to "fool".

quote:

I've begun to learn that one is helpless only if one believes it so, and you and Jovvi, my dear, happily see it otherwise. The two of you are so marvelous, in fact, that should either of you wish someone to lie with tonight and give you pleasure, the honor would most definitely be mine."

I could feel my cheeks warming behind my smile as I shook my head, a curious sense of regret behind the refusal. Most men wanted me simply because of what I looked like, but here was one who claimed to admire my bravery instead. Despite what they'd said I knew it was more stubbornness than bravery, but it still felt strangely good to be wanted for the facet of my character that my parents most deplored.

"Oh, Rion, you've become quite dangerous to ladies in a very short time," Jovvi exclaimed with a laugh, obviously teasing. "I actually find myself tempted to accept your offer, which would not have been the case only a few days ago. You should be congratulated on learning far more quickly than most other men."

"Breeding always tells, of course," Rion responded with that very handsome grin, then he offered his arm. "If I may escort you into lunch, we can continue our discussion on the way. For instance, just how attractive do you find me, and what may I do to increase the allure to a point where you'll no longer be able to resist?"

Actually good characterization that got a smile out of me! These tiny flashes of what these books could have been are frustrating because they're so infrequent.

quote:

Jovvi shook her head at him with mock impatience, but still took his arm with an amused smile. They left the sitting room still exchanging comments which made them both laugh, and I watched for a moment with my own smile before beginning to follow. Jovvi's ease in handling herself with men was something I really admired, and maybe one day I'd also be able to—

"Hello," Vallant Ro said as he just about materialized in front of me. "I'm glad to see you're back early. I hope that means you're through with qualifyin'."

"Yes, all three of us are," I agreed, gesturing toward Rion and Jovvi, who were continuing on toward the dining room. "We got back a little while ago, and—But you're back as well. Does that mean you've also qualified?"

"Yep," he answered with a grin, actually looking proud. "Holter and I were first back, and both of us qualified at just about the same time. I don't know about him, but I owe my success to you. If you hadn't given me a good talkin' to, I probably never would have seen what I was doin' wrong."

"Were you doing something wrong?" I asked, feeling my cheeks heat again as I looked away from his very handsome smile. He smelled so good, as if he'd only just come back from the bath house, and the nearness of his big, hard body brought waves of warmth very much like my flames.

"What I was doin' wrong was believin' I could ever go back to my life the way it was," he replied, the words sad but not depressed and miserable. "It was the stubborn dream of a boy desperately lonely for the haven of his home and family, not the realization of a man that the time had come to make his own way in the world. But I understand that now, and wanted to thank you for helpin' me see it right. Most women just wouldn't have bothered."

He took my hand then and raised it to his lips, but his light, compelling gaze never left my face. I both saw and felt the slow, deliberate kiss reach my hand, and a shiver raced through me. But not a shiver of fear, at least not entirely.

After 35 chapters, Vallant finally remembers that he's got some actual skill in chatting up women and decides to use them.

quote:

"I . . . really did nothing at all," I managed to get out, both wanting and not wanting to pull my hand back. "You were the one who—accomplished it all, and—and—so all congratulations should be yours."

"I would much prefer to share them with you," he murmured after finally ending that kiss. "But only if you don't mind. You're much too marvelous to be made to do anythin' you don't care to, especially now that your protector is goin' to be around for good. What kind of protector would I be, if I was the one you needed protectin' from?"

Judging by things Vallant has said and done, plus his obsessive internal POVs, this is a rather sinister line to have here.

quote:

His grin made me laugh, bringing back my previous good mood with a rush. He was going to be here, just like the rest of us, and now wanted to be here as well. I hadn't thought it would happen, hadn't even hoped because hope never works, but now . . .

Am I the only one entirely unconvinced by Tamrissa's sudden change of heart?

quote:

"May I have the honor of escortin' you in to lunch?" he asked, offering his arm the way Rion had with Jovvi. "I'm starvin' and you're probably the same, but maybe later we can walk in the garden. It would be a real nice place to share thanks and congratulations."

"Yes, I'd like that," I said, hesitating only a heartbeat before taking his arm and joining him in walking toward the dining room. The beauty of the garden was usually ruined for me by awful memories, so perhaps it was time to reclaim it with some pleasant ones. That word, pleasant, so close to its other form, pleasure. Everyone said that was what was supposed to come from a man and a woman being together, not pain but pleasure. For the first time I found myself believing it might be true and real, as true and real as the strong, solid arm my hand rested on.

Maybe . . . later ... I'd find out. . . .

Someone needs to get this woman a vibrator.

Summary:

Day 5
Vallant and Lorand head back to their sessions and qualify by taking in more power to weave five strands. So does everybody else. Allestine and her henchmen show up to kidnap Jovvi and Tamrissa, only to be chased out after deadly displays of Fire and Air magic. Rion flirts with Jovvi, and Vallant flirts with Tamrissa, on their way to lunch.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 18
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford, Regensi, Weeks, Adept Aminto, Mem Follil, Toblis

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 8
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 7
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x1), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 3
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 9
General: Unnamed Chairman and the five Seated Highs in each aspect
Lorand: Eskin Drowd
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar,
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 23
COACH RIDES: 19
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 25
"CLIFFHANGERS": 13
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 7
BLATANT MORALIZING: 16
BATH SCENES: 8
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Chapters 25, 32, 33, 35)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)

Possible fixes:
Since we're in a repetitive sequence territory, I don't have any more to add plot wise, so let's go to world building details instead. The current conspiracy theory is that there's a black hole somewhere in the Empire sucking up all of the strong magical talents for sinister purposes (which Book Four spoilers is true, it's the enslaved Gandistran army). There's also the "Deep Caverns" which we'll never see, though Book 3 spoilers Allestine and her henchmen will get sent to the Empire's deep mines as punishment for attempted kidnap of Jovvi. Magical talent (and strength) passes down genetically, the nobility have somehow bred themselves too thinly and we'll see a fairly horrific conversation in Book 4 about deliberate efforts to bring magical strength and talent back into the nobility. Finally, people who are burned out become vegetables whose bodies function but their minds are gone - and are put out of their misery.

The whole point of a conspiracy theory plot is to have the characters discover a secret that is either horrifying in its own right or has horrifying implications for the world. The actual conspiracy theory is horrifying not because of the ends (i.e. having an army - which any nation of a reasonable size would have to have) but the means (people are enslaved using mind control drugs rather than being conscripted or willingly enlisted) and the purpose (to pillage and burn their way across neighboring nations for no reason other than "we want to make our Empire bigger" - like not even the most token of justifications such as "they have a rare resource that we want"). As a result, there's no payoff when the protagonists uncover the secret.

What can we do about that? Well, let's start with some basic, pretty common assumptions about the Gandistran Empire which we can invent based on what we know from the books:
  • It's the most technologically advanced nation on the continent
  • Lots of trade routes - overland (thanks to an impressive network of stone paved highways) and naval (thanks to various ports)
  • The basic standard of living for even the poorest of the poor is pretty good - thanks to the "indigent rolls" and some sort of government run safety net
  • Nobility is granted in perpetuity for service to the Empire, along with grants of land
  • It's a gigantic, complex machine that requires huge amounts of resources to maintain
  • There's two overriding philosophies that matter: might makes right and nothing goes to waste

Just off the back of that, I'd say there could be a secret conspiracy on what happens to the husks of burned out people. Rather than putting them down (which would be a waste of perfectly functional bodies that have genetic potential), there's a grey market that's semi-sanctioned by the government for the bodies of people who were once Middle or High talents. Burned out men and women would end up being baby makers/incubators in a morally dubious fantasy equivalent of test tube baby factories. Most of the operations are funded by noble families wanting to improve their magical bloodlines.

That's a super gross thing that would be arguably justifiable by the philosophies in this fictional setting, yet horrifying enough that you probably don't want it to be generally known to the entire population. There's a lot of scope for where to go story wise with this but it wouldn't really fit with the narrative Green has planned. I'm kind of meh on whether we need a conspiracy theory plot at all, given the number of character and relationship arcs that need to be juggled on top of the main plot. If I end up doing one, it'd have to be a main plot in and of itself, otherwise it'll be too distracting.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Earlier in the Tamrissa Explains It All chapter about courtesans, she told us that even if it's not ideal for men to seek companionship outside of marriage, the real blame lies with their wives for being so frigid. I'm getting strongly similar vibes here:

Rion posted:

"Men who attack women aren't men at all," he said, looking at Allestine, who had gone white again. Her ruffians continued to claw at their throats and began to turn very red, no more than grunts coming from them. "And women who tell men like that to attack are even worse, lower than the lowliest peasant. If anything like this ever happens again, you'll join them in searching fruitlessly for enough air to fill your lungs. Do you understand me?"

Violent men are bad, but manipulative women are worse. So much worse, in fact, that it's okay for men to be violent to them.

You'd think that seeing Rion deliver a death threat before effortlessly transitioning into a complete charmer would set off all of Tamrissa's "abusive sociopath" red flags, but she seems pretty okay with it.

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Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Well you see Rion delivered a death threat to somebody who's NOT a protagonist so that means it's all ok!

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