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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 THIRTY-SIX

Jovvi enjoyed Rion's attentiveness during lunch, but she couldn't help noticing that Lorand hadn't gotten back yet. Vallant Ro sat in his place next to Tamrissa, speaking to her in a low voice that occasionally rose a bit in shared laughter. Tamma's cheeks seemed to have turned a permanent pink, but she obviously enjoyed the attention Vallant paid her. Jovvi was happy for her, but—

But Lorand's absence was becoming more upsetting. Pagin Holter sat to Jovvi's left, polite but so tightly withdrawn that she couldn't even consider trying to reach through to him. He had no intentions of sharing his disturbance with anyone at all, and he ate quickly before leaving with no more than a nod. Rion, on the other hand, was in a light and expansive mood, reveling in the memory of having come to the rescue of two women. His offer to her had been sincere and interesting as well as flattering, but not difficult to deflect. Rion was definitely becoming a very charming man, but he still lacked the experience to make refusing him difficult.

And none of that was able to distract her from the fact of Lorand's continued absence. Was he having trouble qualifying for the competitions? Well, that was a silly thought, of course he was having trouble. Jovvi helped herself to a cherry tart and took a bite of it, but couldn't keep her mind from asking the much more pointed question she'd been trying to avoid: he was certainly having trouble, but would he be able to overcome it?

Why do you even care this much? Yes a strong Earth magic talent would be a very valuable addition to the staff of your future residence, especially if you can just pay him in sex instead of actual money and especially especially if you want to bang him anyway. And even if he didn't qualify, you don't exactly need a High talent in Earth magic for all of that stuff.

quote:

The answer to that lay out of reach, invisible along the path of the unsolidified future. Jovvi finished the tart and then her tea, spoke lightly to Rion for another minute or two, then excused herself. She needed to be alone for a while, to balance the worry that threatened to ruin her entire equilibrium. And it was so silly! It wasn't as if she and Lorand were going to build a life together or anything. So why did the worry over him even distract her from the near disaster of Allestine's visit?

Oh hey, are we going to have a character actually do some self searching?

quote:

Jovvi didn't know,

Of course not, this is a Green book.

quote:

but as she climbed the stairs to her room she thought again of how close she'd come to being right back under Allestine's hand.


Like...not at all?

quote:

And with Tamrissa to keep her company! She wouldn't have minded having Tamma in her own residence here in Gan Garee,

Tamrissa now has an official nickname. And Jovvi is ok with exploiting someone sexually as long as it's for her own profit, and not anybody else's profit.

quote:

but wouldn't have wished even Beldara Lant the burden of having to work for Allestine.

Seriously you can stop hating on Beldara now. She's now been confirmed in text as way below Tamrissa's level.

quote:

As long as you were obedient and popular with the clients, Allestine was all sweetness and smiles. But just try to balk her on something. . . .

If we hadn't seen Allestine act uncharacteristically dumb last chapter and vomit all her internal narration onto the page, then I'd be wondering why Jovvi hates Allestine so much. "Oh no, the sponsor of my residence is strict, has high standards and doesn't tolerate insubordination from her employees, what an unreasonable boss".

quote:

As Jovvi entered her room, she wondered if Eldra really had run away from the residence. She wouldn't put it past Allestine to use the story as an excuse to let her come to Gan Garee herself, most especially if she'd noticed that Jovvi had taken most of her favorite outfits. That was probably the silliest thing she'd done, but there was no helping it now. Allestine was here and would be back, just as soon as she got over her fright, but—

But where was Lorand? Jovvi discovered that she now stood with her hand on the door after closing it behind her, only two steps into the room. Obviously she was very badly in need of restoring her balance and equilibrium, when she wasn't even sitting down to worry.

What??? Seriously?? Like we're supposed to buy that Jovvi was once a street kid, surviving by her wits.

quote:

She had to find a comfortable place quickly and do what was necessary, so she started for the bed—

This would be a lot more fun if that sentence went somewhere different to where it does actually go.

quote:

—and nearly tripped over something invisible halfway there! Running into whatever-it-was hadn't been painful, but it had almost sent her sprawling. Jovvi spent a moment trying to see what it was, then gave up using her eyes and instead used her hands. Bending down and groping found her the invisible obstruction, and she ran her fingers over it.

A reminder that we're in Jovvi's room and it's after lunch. The only way any of the following makes sense is that her room is completely dark. Either she left the curtains drawn or in fantasy world, bedrooms can be bedrooms in wealthy merchant mansions even if they don't have a window (which would be against building code in Australia!) and there's no lamp inside.

quote:

"Neither warm nor cold, and soft but not really yielding," she muttered, at the same time distantly wondering where it could have come from. It hadn't been here this morning, when she'd gone down for breakfast before leaving for the session. It was rounded and about mid-thigh height on her, and stood directly in her path to or from her bed and the door. It also had no odor, and was very smooth to the touch.

Moving around the thing to the left brought Jovvi's hands into contact with an opening, which turned out to be a hole in the circular object. As soon as she realized that the hole was large enough for her to climb into, Jovvi went from mystified to delighted. As a child she'd had a favorite hiding place where she'd gone for refuge anytime life began to be too much for her, an old, discarded barrel that no one had ever claimed for a more practical use. Now here was almost the same exact shape, and just when she needed it so badly. But who could have done this for her, and how had they known?

Good questions! Whoever it is either must have Spirit magic to have gone digging through your mind for old memories - and much stronger than yours since they were able to do it without you noticing - or been spying on you your whole life?

Also an old barrel? As a street kid in Rincammon? If Port Entril is in the south and it's like the Southern US given Green as an author, then doesn't that make Rincammon northern US and therefore freaking cold in winter? That barrel would have been turned into kindling at the first gust of snow.

quote:

And then it came to her what the invisible barrel must be made of, which told her who had produced it. It could hardly be anything but solidified air, and that meant the gift was from Rion. But how had he known she needed a refuge, and how had he found out about her childhood one? Those two questions didn't have answers at all, but Jovvi was still grateful for the gift. Without wasting another moment, she bent and crawled inside.

You don't think this is a little suspicious after a random fireball and a personal rain cloud? And you're totally cool with your conclusion that the guy who's been trying to get into your skirts all afternoon leaving you a magical stalker "I've paid people to go digging into either your past and/or your mind" gift in your bedroom is just a real sweet dude?

Smart as a door knob, our Jovvi.

quote:

By the time she came out again, her equilibrium was as restored as it was going to get. Possibly it was the fact that she could see out of her refuge through its invisible walls that had kept it from being wholly effective, or maybe she'd just been trying too hard. Jovvi wasn't sure, but at least the time she'd spent curled up had done some good. She no longer felt like being cooped up in that room, which was always a step in the right direction.

Taking a book to keep her company, Jovvi went downstairs and out the back door with the intention of sitting in the garden and reading. She'd gone no more than three steps up the path, though, when she saw Tamma and Vallant strolling through the garden. Tamma held to the big man's arm with more confidence than she'd shown yet, and the blush seemed to have finally faded from her cheeks. The two seemed delightfully involved with each other, and Jovvi didn't have the heart to intrude and ruin the time for them.

So she turned back to the house with a sigh, resigned to finding an indoors place to read. Maybe the library, she mused as she retraced her steps to the front hall, with the door open enough so that new arrivals could be heard— Jovvi stopped short in both her thinking and her walking, since the sound she now heard was the front door opening. Telling herself it could be anyone—like the other missing members of the residence—let Jovvi walk rather than run the rest of the way, but it wasn't just anyone. It was Lorand who had just come in, and his face looked tired but not in the least defeated.

"You qualified, didn't you," Jovvi said, bringing his immediate attention to where she stood. "It wasn't easy, but you did it."

"I certainly did," he answered, matching her smile as he took three steps in her direction. "I just threw caution to the winds, and it was no harder than jumping blind off the top of a cliff. I'll be glad to tell you all about it—as soon as I pay a visit to the bath house. If I come any closer to you before then, I'll probably knock you over."

Please don't, because then we'll have to read about it again, and it's going to be even less interesting hearing it via Jovvi's POV than it was seeing it from your POV.

quote:

He'd stopped after coming only those three steps nearer, and Jovvi couldn't help laughing gently.

"I'm not quite as delicate as all that, but visiting the bath house is a good idea. Just be careful not to disturb Tamrissa and Vallant, who are currently walking in the garden. Try to get to the bath house without them seeing you, and put the 'occupied' sign on the door."

"I'll do just that, and I'll also be back before you know it," he promised, already edging toward the stairs. "Just don't disappear anywhere, because I want to talk to you. You don't mind not disappearing, do you?"

The afterthought was very sweet, and Jovvi shook her head as she drifted toward the stairs herself. Once he had his answer, Lorand grinned, waved a silly little wave, then turned and went up the stairs two at a time. Jovvi waited only until he was completely out of sight, then she raised her skirts and went up the stairs at her own best pace. There was no real reason to wait for Lorand-—when she could join him in the bath house.

Jovvi broke records getting out of her clothes and into a wrap, and didn't even really notice that the invisible barrel was gone. She hurried downstairs and out to the back at top speed, then crept along the path to keep Tamma and Vallant from noticing her. Personally she didn't care who saw her, but Lorand was still sensitive about things like this. She'd have to work on him— after she showed him exactly what he was missing.

The "occupied" sign was on the door the way it was supposed to be, so she opened the door slowly and quietly and slipped inside. The warmth of the air quickly surrounded her, and she saw that she didn't have to worry about Lorand noticing her at once. He was already in the bath and scrubbing his long dark-blond hair with soap, and obviously hadn't heard her entering. She smiled at that as she moved to where he'd left his clothes, then slipped out of her wrap and slippers. He'd know she was there soon enough, and in the right way.

Moving down the steps into the bath had to be done slowly, and Jovvi kept her eyes on Lorand as the water lapped higher and higher against her body. His broad, muscular form glistened with the same water, suds from his hair marking him here and there with sliding foam. As he finished scrubbing and began to rinse the soap away, Jovvi paused in her approach. For some reason she suddenly felt very shy, as if she'd never shared a bath with a man before. She had, of course, many times, but only once before with this man and he hadn't enjoyed the experience. Would the same thing happen again? Or worse, would he be angry? Had she made a terrible mistake doing this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtdeR1ZhHJI

quote:

And that's the way Lorand first saw her when he wiped his eyes, standing and staring at him wide-eyed, too terrified to approach any nearer. She couldn't bear the thought that he would turn his back and walk away from her, determined never to associate with her again. He was just an attractive man she happened to like, no one of any real importance in her life, but if he decided he never wanted to speak to her again. . . .

"Jovvi, what's wrong?" he asked at once, deep disturbance in his eyes as he began to move toward her. "Are you here because something terrible has happened? Tell me what it is ."

"No, nothing has happened," she reassured him at once, then couldn't hold back the truth. "I . . . simply decided to surprise you by joining you in here, then suddenly realized you might be . . . offended. I'm sorry, Lorand, and I really didn't intend to embarrass you. I'll leave at once. . . ."

She turned to do just that, unable to look at him any longer. If the anger and outrage came she didn't want to see it, not when simply knowing about it would be bad enough. She managed to take two small, slow steps through the water, and then his hand was on her arm, turning her back to him.

"I'm not offended and I'm not embarrassed," he said slowly and clearly, looking down at her with his beautiful brown eyes. "Surprised and delighted would be a more accurate description of how I feel, especially since I've already washed. Now there's no danger of knocking you over."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9glMiNvRsuM

quote:

His grin tried to coax a smile from her, and what it brought out was a rather silly specimen of one. Jovvi knew her smile was foolish, but the relief she felt was out of all proportion to the incident. She felt as if her life had just been saved, as if she'd been given water on the verge of dying of thirst, as though she'd been pulled back from the edge of a precipice. And then his arms reached out and pulled her even closer, making it all a thousand times better.

"Why . . . why don't you try to knock me over in a different way?" she suggested hesitantly in a whisper. "It's the oddest thing, but I feel as if I've . . . never done anything like this before."

"That's because you haven't," he murmured in answer, his dark eyes bright with desire as his big hand stroked her hair. "Not with me, at least, and that's going to make all the difference."



Lorand you better be able to back that up.

quote:

That sounded nothing at all like the Lorand she thought she knew,

Yeah, us neither. Brace yourselves, guys.

quote:

but then his lips came to hers and all coherent thinking was immediately beyond her. The surge of power passing between them almost did knock her over, and she had to circle his body with her arms in order to stay on her feet. Not that she minded touching him like that, with her entire body as well as her arms. Without knowing it she'd ached to be held by him like that, and now, at last, it was happening.

But that wasn't the only thing happening. Jovvi had once had a Middle practitioner in Water magic as a patron, and being in the man's arms had been more pleasurable than being with an ordinary patron. That time, though, was nothing compared to sharing Lorand's kiss and feeling their bodies touch. The power flowed back and forth between them as though they stood in an electrical storm, lightning flaring through their flesh without burning them to nothing.

Here it is. Not only are people who are genetically lucky enough to be born High talents magically stronger, better at doing things in life and have greater prospects for employment, they're also going to have better sex than everyone else without having to work for it.



quote:

Although she was being burned, and Jovvi moaned with the feel of something so intense that it almost reached the threshold of pain. Lorand's lips were consuming hers, his hands now moving over her back and bottom with long, deeply felt caresses, her own hands moving over his body in the same way. But as incredible as the feelings were they also seemed to be building toward something, a something that would take a horribly long time to reach.

That's...not how orgasm works, Green. Lorand's doing something wrong if it's going to take Jovvi a horribly long time to get there despite being this turned on. Or maybe she was going for edging but got it backwards?

quote:

And then Jovvi felt herself lifted off her feet and put down gently on something soft, which had to be one of the lounging pads on the bath's wooden verge. She hadn't realized they'd left the bath, but didn't really care. Lorand was all she cared about, that and his kiss and caresses. He now knelt above her where she lay, his lips still hungrily clinging to hers. One of his hands now stroked her breast, the other exploring the full length and area of her thigh.

I'm picturing Lorand pawing mindlessly at Jovvi here, the way my cat paws at the door when he's been locked in and not allowed out. This is not remotely sexy at all.

quote:

But then she became aware of something else, something impossible. She knew exactly where Lorand kissed and touched her, but all at once she was also being kissed and caressed inside her body! That was the only way to describe the searing touches of indescribable ecstasy, as though she were being kissed all over beneath her skin.

This sounds...horrible. Like what is he doing, using Earth magic to squeeze her internal organs? "Oh Lorand, do that thing to my liver again!"

Does someone need to give Green an anatomically correct sketch of the human body marked with where the touch receptors and nerve endings are?

quote:

She writhed beneath Lorand and tried to escape his kiss in order to ask what was happening, but he refused to release her.

Uh, dude? You haven't talked about whether she's into bondage, you don't have a safe word and you are using your magical ability on her (which is potentially lethal if you should happen to slip, which is completely possible after a full day's exhausting qualification session) without consent. This is when you back off and let the woman ask you "WHAT IN THE NAME OF THE HIGHEST ASPECT ARE YOU DOING TO MY INTERNAL ORGANS?!"

quote:

His own moaning joined hers, but his lips continued to hold hers captive.

And an eternity of time passed like that. Jovvi was frantic after the first few minutes, clawing at the bands of steel that were Lorand's arms, writhing against the warm, soft stone that was his body,

This is actually terrifying.

quote:

whimpering as the tide of flames lapped higher and higher until she was all but drowned. She'd never felt that way before without attaining immediate release, but this time there was no relief. On and on it went, building and growing without end—

—until suddenly, exquisitely, Lorand was beginning to enter her. She raised her body to meet and welcome him, feeling as though she'd been waiting for nothing else.

The most popular courtesan in all Rincammon and the North - who presumably has a very large repertoire of sexual techniques and definite preferences - has been a passive party to this whole sexual experience other than raising her hips at the moment of penetration.



quote:

So large and hard he was, the most perfect of men,


Oh FFS.

quote:

and as he fit himself within her she felt her talent reach to him without her conscious effort. Balance was the ruling aspect of her life, but where it was possible to bring balance to raging emotions, so was it possible to remove the balance in the most desirable way. Lorand groaned as he felt a rush of wild perfection turned just far enough to be out of his reach, but not so far that he couldn't eventually make contact. All he had to do was begin the most natural act between men and women, the most wonderful ever conceived of.

And that was exactly what he did. His stroking was so deep and hard that Jovvi thought she would die of the pleasure. Her body worked to match his movement completely on its own, as her mind was too busy reveling in ecstasy to direct it. On and on it went, the perfect blending of man and woman, and when release came it was long moments in the ending. Jovvi shuddered in incredible delight and clung to Lorand, and he held her so tightly that she never wanted to be released again.

The perfect BLENDING, see?? See?? Look at this foreshadowing!

quote:

When it was finally and completely ended, Lorand pulled over another lounging pad and lay down beside her. They were both breathing heavily and covered in the fine sweat of their lovemaking, and when she managed to turn to him he leaned close and kissed her nose.

"Somehow I knew it would be like that," he said, reaching out with one hand to brush her hair back. "It's now perfectly clear why you were the most popular courtesan in Rincammon. There can't be another woman like you in the entire empire."

All she did was lie there and then use her Spirit magic. Any other woman with Spirit magic could have done that.

quote:

"And there can't be another man like you," she said with another of those smiles she considered so foolish, reaching out herself to touch his chest. "I've never experienced anything like that, and I wish you would tell me what you did. I know it sounds silly, but it was almost as if you were inside me in more ways than one."

"I was," he answered with a grin, putting his own hand over hers on his chest. "I've never even thought of using my talent in that way before, but I needed to be inside you in as many ways as possible. Physicians and surgeons are practitioners of Earth magic, you know, so you shouldn't be surprised.

This is not how post coital conversations are supposed to go.

quote:

How do you think surgeons operate? By cutting people open?"

"Of course not, silly," she responded with a laugh. "Any surgeon who had to cut people open would have very few patients.

Haha, very funny.

quote:

And you're right, I should have realized that that was what you were doing. I suppose I got sidetracked into thinking that Earth magic just covered soil and growing things and metal and animals.

"It's only the most versatile magical talent out of all five elements!"

quote:

Probably because you mentioned weaving strands of earth during your session. I wonder why they didn't use something else."

"Probably because facility with one part of the aspect can be translated into facility with the others," he suggested with a shrug.

That is literally all the explanation we ever get for why braiding, braiding, braiding and it's the laziest handwaving of the fact that the protagonists never need to work on getting better at magic going forward.

quote:

"But with the testing authority involved, there's no way of knowing for certain. Those people are—a waste of time to talk about, especially when there are more important things to discuss."

"That's right, you did say you wanted to talk about something," Jovvi remembered aloud, loving the sensation of his flesh against her hand. "We'd probably have more fun doing something else again, but you've had a hard enough day. We can talk for a time while you regather your strength."

"I like your enthusiasm," he said with a laugh, "but I admire your understanding even more. I agree that there are better things we might be doing with our time, but this is something that has to be said. Our futures are very uncertain right now, but there's always the chance that we'll somehow get through whatever is ahead and then find that normal lives are possible. If that does happen, I want you to know how I feel."

"I think I already know, because I feel the same way," Jovvi said, once again nearly overwhelmed with shyness. "I've . . . never known anyone like you, Lorand, and I can't bear the thought of losing you."

"Yes, you do know how I feel," he said, smiling softly as he tightened his hold on her hand just a little. "That means we have nothing to discuss after all. If we get out of this mess with whole skins, we can be married right away."

Lorand's first not-proposal went so well that he's gonna go for another!

quote:

"Married?" Jovvi echoed, trying to understand what he could possibly be talking about. "I can't marry you, Lorand, not when I'll have a brand-new business to establish. After a while I'll have enough other courtesans in the residence that I should be able to retire, but that won't happen right away. I'll find it easier than Allestine does because I won't keep my people all but enslaved,

How exactly is that going to make it easier for you? What exactly are you contributing - apart from infrastructure - that any other ambitious, skilled courtesan couldn't do on her own? You're talking about a business where you're completely reliant on human capital in a world where being a courtesan isn't going to be a stepping stone upwards to something better. You either hold on to your cash generating assets or you make a plan to deal with the high rate of churn. I'd bet turnover is upwards of 30% without even looking it up.

quote:

but it's not something you do in days or weeks. I'll have to—"

"Jovvi, listen to me," Lorand interrupted, the smile gone from his face.

You know he's a keeper if he constantly interrupts you to tell you to listen to him.

quote:

"Once we're married I'll provide for us, including any children we might have. That means you don't have to do a thing but be there with me. All this talk about establishing a residence is just—just—"

"Unnecessary nonsense?" she finished tonelessly, working her hand free of him. "And how unnecessary would it be if something happened to you, and I was left alone—or with children? My mother found a way to survive after my father died, by selling my brothers and sister and me. Until then we came close to starving, and sometimes I wished we'd died along with Daddy. I won't put any children of mine through something like that, and I won't go through it again myself. I intend to find safety and security in any way I have to, and I'm more sorry than you know that you can't understand what I mean."

"Unfortunately I do understand," he replied as she began to get to her feet. "I've seen women left alone in Widdertown, and what they had to do to survive was pitiful. But there's something you have to understand as well: I can't bear the thought of sharing you with other men. Call it selfishness if you like, but giving strangers what you give me when we share love—the very thought of it tarnishes what we have together, ruining the uniqueness of it for me. Isn't there anything else you can do to satisfy your need for security?"

"What?" she asked very simply, meeting his gaze again. "If you can think of something that will do just as well, I'll gladly choose that instead. If you can't. . . ."

She let the words trial off, but he still nodded to show he knew what she meant. Their happiness had disappeared like fog exposed to the morning sun, and there didn't seem to be a way to get it back.

"Let's both think about it," he said with a sigh after a moment. "It's not as if we need the answer immediately, after all, not when we haven't gotten even a single look at the competitions. If one or both of us win seats as Highs, there won't be a problem any longer."

Look, I get that Jovvi has a whole heap of accumulated intellectual capital - sex work is what she knows, she's good at it, it's been reliably lucrative for her in the past, she's already got Tamrissa and her house lined up as part of her fledging business plan and - arguably most important of all - she ENJOYS IT. But how is there no middle ground between "be a house wife and mother to our hypothetical children" and "entrepreneur bootstrapping a capital intensive start up"?

Did you guys forget you're both High talents again? How is "let's both do a DINK scenario, make bank, go full FIRE by living modestly and self funding a retirement plan as well as our own life insurance policy before having kids" not a thing? Between Lorand and Jovvi, they should be able to open their own one stop shop body and mind medical practice - especially if Jovvi leans pretty hard into the wellness thing.

quote:

"No, you're right, there won't, be," she said, forcing a smile and taking his offered hand after he rose. "But right now we'd better wash and get out of here. Others might be waiting to come in, and it would be rude to make them wait any longer than necessary."

He gave her a sound of neutral agreement, and they went back into the bath together. But not together, not really, not the way they'd been at first. They both had needs and wants they were chained to, and it was highly unlikely that their differences would ever be resolved. Jovvi felt like crying her heart out, but that wouldn't have stopped the pain. As she let the warm water flow over her, she decided to save her tears for when she and Lorand had to part for good.

When that day came she would need more than tears to help, but she already knew she'd never get it. . . .

You were supposed to be all Regina George about this and now you're going to drag down this narrative into further drama queen territory?

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. Jovvi and Lorand have weird sex in the bath house where she's lying on her back thinking of England while he's stroking her internal organs with his magic.

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), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 24
COACH RIDES: 19
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 28
"CLIFFHANGERS": 14
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 7
BLATANT MORALIZING: 16
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

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)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Chapter 36)

Possible fixes:
there wolf nailed it earlier; Lorand's thing with Jovvi needs to be totally one sided because it makes no sense for Jovvi to get this attached this fast. Remember when I said that I wasn't convinced there wasn't somebody with stronger Spirit magic than Jovvi hiding around Tamrissa's house pulling strings? Now Book 8 spoilers there most definitely isn't but these moments where Lorand's called out on saying something out of character and Jovvi noting that she's getting really attached for no reason just sets off .

Spoilers for this set of fixes in case anyone really doesn't want to find out about the end of book 8 this early:
  • In Book 8, the advanced nation of Blendings is presented as some sort of perfect nirvana and the people there are pulling strings for entirely altruistic reasons, because the power of love. The reveal is dropped in like the last chapter of Book 8 so Green uses it as a way to tidy up all the loose ends, including some other nation that's not even named who have been sending Blendings to invade the Gandistran continent starting with Gracely.
  • This is so colossally stupid that I'll probably change it such that they WERE masterminding things in some way, for their own benefit, and make them the big bad of Book 3 and tie them in with the Prophecies (if I keep the Prophecies at all)


That leaves Book 1 as a "learn the individual magics" arc, Book 2 as a "learn about Blending/the world" arc and Book 3 as a "war of nations" arc. That sounds doable in 100k-150k length novels.

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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


On that note, we have 8 chapters left in Book 1. At my current posting rate, we should be done with Book 1 somewhere around the second week of October. However, as previously mentioned, Book 1 ends in a stupid place because Green and a better stopping point would be 5 chapters into Book 2, which we would probably get to shortly after mid October.

I don't know about you guys, but reading so much of Green's crap leaves me feeling like I need to go read some GOOD writing before my brain completely melts, starts resetting and begins to think this level of writing is normal. Besides, I'm still only two thirds of my way through my Stormlight Archive reread and even though I planned to get through Dawnshard before Rhythm of War drops, I did NOT anticipate Will Wight releasing Wintersteel on October 6 so I have an extra 145k words of Cradle to devour as well!

In addition to all that reading, NaNoWriMo has been on my bucket list for this year.

Long story short, I'll need to take a short hiatus from doing this thread from about mid-October until the end of November, but these are my options:

1. Write the story that's been kicking around in the back of my mind
OR
2. Rewrite Book 1 of The Blending - the original plan was to do the rewrite once all 8 books are done, but quite frankly that might drive me insane. At any rate, I think we've covered enough ground that a rewrite of the first book would be doable at this point without spoiling too much of the remaining 7 books.

For what it's worth, there are some definite benefits for me to go with Option #2 namely because a) the outlining, character creation and some world building has already been done; b) knowing there are goons expecting me to post an update will force me to stay ahead of the target word count and actually finish writing; and c) there's a higher likelihood of output that's not entirely crap, since I'd be writing Green's second draft for her.

So if anyone is interested in following a live rewrite in a CC thread in November, please post and let me know you want Option #2 for the upcoming NaNoWriMo and you'll still get your regular dose of Blending universe entertainment (this time at my expense rather than Green's). Otherwise I'll go with Option #1 and we'll reconvene in early December!

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




I'm torn, because I'm interested in seeing a rewrite but don't want to be responsible for making you spend more time in the Blendingverse.

A Small Car
Aug 24, 2016




I have to admit, I found the first few chapters that you posted intriguing enough that I bought and binge-read all 8 books (probably the way to do it, then you're not stuck in this universe for too long). Personally, if you think your sanity will take it, I would be interested in seeing the rewrite and following along.

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'm torn, because I'm interested in seeing a rewrite but don't want to be responsible for making you spend more time in the Blendingverse.

A Small Car posted:

I have to admit, I found the first few chapters that you posted intriguing enough that I bought and binge-read all 8 books (probably the way to do it, then you're not stuck in this universe for too long). Personally, if you think your sanity will take it, I would be interested in seeing the rewrite and following along.

My one serious creative project (which I've been working on for the last 7 years in haphazard bursts of focus followed by long periods of nothing) is currently stalled at the 3/4 mark because there's some structural issues with bringing the various character arcs and subplots together into one satisfying climax and conclusion. I've given myself until next August to finish it and have been stuck for the last month. Hence, this whole thread and the NaNoWriMo project to try and work on some fundamentals while giving my conscious brain some space to come back to it in December. So honestly, spending more time in the Blendingverse is probably the least of my worries.

My biggest worry is that despite the low bar Green has set, I won't be able to do any better.

My second biggest worry, is that knowing that I won't be able to do any better will prevent me from actually finishing the rewrite and it'll stall just like my serious creative project, or fizzle out like a similar project attempted two years ago with Let's Read Ready Player One and a goon sourced fix fic (both incidentally also by chitoryu12). I have a tendency to bounce from idea to idea and what I need to work on is execution.

Those two fears are my main reasons for doing any rewrite as a NaNoWriMo project. I have a good track record when it comes to delivering things on deadline so getting to a target word count in 30 days will help a lot - and it means that at the end of November I can shelve it (along with any feedback I get) for later and switch gears back to my primary creative project.

I figure that as long as I keep in mind that the point of this whole exercise is to develop some good writing habits (in terms of getting words down on a page and FINISHING an entire draft) and get a solid grounding in the fundamentals of writing as a craft (prose, character and plot), it'll be a good learning experience.

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-SEVEN

Rion stood by the window in his room, staring out at the pretty little garden. And it was a little garden, at least by the standards he'd been raised by. Nothing but the best, Mother would always say, for me and for my lovely boy. Don't worry, darling, I'll always be there to make certain you get nothing else.

Remembering how pleased he'd been to hear that, Rion could have cried. Back then he'd had no idea he was being cursed rather than blessed, chained rather than freed. Mother had always made a point of keeping her deliberately given word, and in that nothing had changed. There'd been a letter waiting for him when he'd returned to his room after lunch, written in her secretary's flowing, familiar script.

Imagine having to scribe the following dictation while keeping a straight face.

quote:

"My darling boy," the letter had begun, just as though he were still ten years old.

Sorry Rion, 3 days of knowing what sex is and your first sexual experience doesn't make up for your complete lack of adulting skills. You are still a giant man baby. I am sorry to tell you that developing pick up artist skills does not increase your overall maturity.

quote:

"I knew allowing you to come to Gan Garee without me would end badly, and so it has. Those trollops living in that so-called residence with you have obviously taken advantage of your sweet-natured innocence, but I refuse to abandon you in your hour of need. I've demanded an audience with the Blending, and this time I won't allow them to sway me. One way or another I'll soon have you out of there, and back with me where you belong.

We will see the Blending Hallina Mardimil is referring to here exactly once at beginning of Book 3.

quote:

"As far as other things go, I must tell you frankly that I'm deeply disappointed. I sent word to Gan Garee ahead of you, to Dom Hoclan, my business manager. He arranged to have men keep watch over you, to protect you in case of trouble, and to discover what bad influences you might be exposed to. He was also supposed to keep you from those bad influences, but mistook my intention and merely had his men keep watch. When I received his report this morning, I immediately took to my bed.

"My darling, how could you betray me so by indulging in the rutting practiced by animals and peasants? I realize you certainly had no idea how filthy and disgusting the thing you were made to do really was, but surely you should have known that what has my approval you have already been permitted to indulge in? That this very obvious truth failed to stop you I attribute to your being in the company of those nauseating peasants, and as soon as I have your word that it will never happen again, we'll speak no more of it.

Someone good at satire cover Chapters 1 through to Lorand's POV in Chapter 22 from Hoclan's perspective and write an epistolary summary of the event from his report to his virgin Karen boss about her man child adopted stolen son.

Also, it's a wonder that Green didn't stray once into exhibitionism with her characters given how many people were watching Rion have sex in Chapter 22.

quote:

"In the interim, I ordered Dom Hoclan to have the sickening female who desecrated you arrested by the guard and thrown out of the city. As soon as she's found your honor will be avenged, and no one need ever know. The pain in my heart will remain, of course, but once you've returned to me and enough years have passed, the pain will surely do the same.

Why just Naran? If you're going to the Blending, why don't you ask for Jovvi and Tamrissa to be executed too? Because spoilers (you know what forget the spoiler tags you all know this is coming) both of them are gonna jump Rion in the next week!

quote:

"Be brave, my love, it won't be long, you have my word on that. Until then, I remain, your adoring mother."

So very Oedipal.

quote:

His adoring mother. Rion shuddered at that phrase as it rang over and over in his head. She'd decided to have Naran Whist arrested and thrown out of the city so Rion's "honor" would be avenged, and that without knowing how much he burned to see the girl again. If she ever found out, Naran's life would be worth less than a copper, and all because she'd generously turned a sheltered boy into a man. The boy's mother didn't want him to become a man, and all her considerable power and influence would be bent toward returning him to his place under her thumb.

I hate this trope so much.

quote:

A wave of illness made Rion close his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them once more he was able to see Tamrissa and Ro again. The two had been walking in the garden since before Rion had come to the window, and something told him they had used a private part of the garden to share a kiss. He had very little experience in judging the matter, but he still had that definite feeling. And just a few moments ago, he'd seen Jovvi hurrying to the bath house in a wrap. Ordinarily that would have meant nothing, but Coll had gone into the bath house a short while before her, and now the "occupied" sign hung very conspicuously on the door.

Rion turned away from the window, frustration and anger rising dangerously within him. His mother's minions would interfere with the woman he most wanted to associate with, and the only two other females he found the least interest in had refused his company before accepting that of other men-Was he so pitiful, then, that no decent relationship with a woman was possible for him? Was he doomed to be nothing more than "mother's darling boy" for the rest of his days? He couldn't bear that thought, he simply couldn't, it was so damnably unfair!

The incel vibes from this paragraph are overwhelming.

quote:

Anger turned so quickly to fury and rage that Rion would have been shocked if he hadn't been so deeply caught up. Instead he snarled and lashed out with a fist as he'd been taught to do in his exercises. The motion was intended for the releasing of tension and pressures, a deliberate spilling of excess energy that might otherwise overwhelm him. He lashed out with his other fist even as he took another step— and the blow landed on something soft and yielding which was also invisible.

For a brief moment Rion was startled, but then his wildly lunging thoughts found the answer. The exercise set he'd learned to form from solidified air as a boy; his mind had realized he needed it very badly now, and had formed the set without his being aware of it. Another blow in the same place showed Rion that the set really was there, so he began to use it as it was meant to be used.

Pummeling the wide cushion until his breath came in gasps was the first step, and then he moved to the left, where the knobby pole was positioned. Grabbing the invisible pole and strangling and shaking it was immensely satisfying, and brought him to the point of being able to move to the right, again beyond the cushion. Separate sections of solidified air lay there, and he took one in each fist and began to raise and lower them. Their weight had been increased rather dramatically, so lifting them over and over was no easy thing.

After the weights came the ladder, which he climbed up and down so many times that his leg muscles cringed at the thought of continuing on. His arms already felt that way, so he was finally able to leave the set and go to collapse on his bed. The fury and rage had been completely burned out of him, leaving his mind free to try rational thought again. But the anger wasn't gone, far from it, and likely would never be gone again. Unless and until he found a way out of the madness his mother was determined to drag him back into.

This is problematic on a few levels:
  • His mother is going to try and drag him back to his old life using the same tactics that have already failed. There's no logically plausible threat to Rion himself at all. She's an ineffective antagonist.
  • Rion's first reaction is anger at women, followed by a violent physical action. This, coupled with his last address to Allestine in the previous chapter, is very alarming
  • We're supposed to be shocked and horrified and scared for Rion and Naran, but we're getting this monologue while Rion's basically flailing around on his invisible personal gym equipment which even he, a High in Air magic, can't see. This is a pretty comedic image which is at odds with the tone of the monologue
  • Despite acknowledging his manchildness, there is zero thought about improving himself as a person to the point that Jovvi and Tamrissa would be attracted to him over Lorand and Vallant.

quote:

Rage tried to surface again, but this time it was easily brought under control. Rage accomplished nothing but destruction, and only constructive thought had a chance of freeing him. Rion understood that, but where was he supposed to begin? With an answering letter to Mother, telling her he now knew the truth? She claimed to love him above all other things in life, but actually it was herself she loved. Keeping him a pitiful child had been for her benefit, certainly not for his.

The thought of writing a letter like that brought a faint smile to Rion's lips, but he knew how useless the effort would be. After reading it Mother would take to her bed in a "faint," and when she arose again she would be even more determined to reclaim him. It would be the "bad influences" which had caused him to reject her great and selfless love, and she would give her word again to save him from the evil and return him to her side.

You could just ghost her. That would drive her nuts.

quote:

But that was something which would never happen. Rion had lost himself to rage because of the fear that she might succeed in regaining possession of him, not realizing just how impossible she would find that. He would sooner live on the street, in filth and squalor and begging coppers, than go back to the nightmare of his previous life. That firm decision freed him more surely than all the letters and protests in the universe, sending his previous fear to a place from which it could never return.

This is a prime example of why I hate these books. The protagonists spend ALL THEIR DAMNED TIME making mountains out of molehills. Yeah, look, people's thoughts often go around and around in circles but just like how you don't write dialogue verbatim as people would speak in real life, you also should not write internal monologue exactly like real life. The point of a story is to focus on the interesting bits - i.e. the turning points where stuff happens and decisions are made. This whole Rion POV could have been summarized in a sentence or two about him wrestling with his feelings of shame, inadequacy, fear and anger that were triggered by his mother's letter visit (the letter should just be cut entirely, with its contents included in her previous dialogue).

quote:

"Sorry, Mother, but your darling baby has finally begun to grow up," Rion murmured, his smile now a good deal more serene. "And if I find Naran before your people do, she'll be just as safe from you. Yes, she isn't at the tavern any longer, so I should have a chance to do just that. But I'd better remember about those people watching me. . . ."

For the first time since he got his mother's letter, Rion was grateful she'd sent it. He added a silent thank-you to what he'd just said, then began to make serious plans. And tried not to remember what Jovvi and Tamrissa so obviously thought of him. . . .

We got ~1500 words of a useless monologue that concluded the only credible threat was to Naran (which could be easily deduced by a reader since all you would know the first time around is that Naran's just a random tavern girl), then one sentence that says Rion's making "serious plans" (that we will see him enact in future chapters).

This is why these books don't need to be from everybody's POVs. The extra POVs add nothing but bloat.

quote:

Vallant finally went back to his room to get ready for dinner, keeping himself from whistling only with the greatest of efforts. He'd spent all afternoon walking in the garden with Tamrissa, and she'd even agreed they might do the same again this evening. She might decide against it at the last moment, but not because she was uninterested in him. She was just so shy where men were concerned, when she wasn't telling them off, that is. . . .

He laughed lightly as he closed the door behind himself, feeling as if he walked on air. She was just as interested in him as he was in her, he knew it more surely than he'd ever known anything in his life. In his old life, that was. If he had to lose that, he seemed to have gained what would turn out to be incredibly more.

Giving in to the urge to whistle a few notes, Vallant started across his room to the bed, intending to lie down for a short while. He certainly had the time, and he certainly had what to daydream about.

We are bouncing from POV to POV as the protagonists go through their daily schedule of wake up > breakfast > magic > lunch > magic > bath > nap/quiet time > dinner > evening shenanigans > bed > repeat. In a meticulous manner that focuses on excruciatingly vague detail.

quote:

He grinned as he walked, intending to take full advantage of the daydreaming, and then suddenly, unexpectedly, he ran into something that tripped him. He fell forward, expecting to sprawl full length on the floor, but it didn't happen. He sprawled on something soft and springy instead, a good three feet off the floor.

Vallant blinked as he looked down at the carpeting he hadn't fallen onto, trying to figure out what was going on. He lay on something invisible, but it wasn't meant to harm him or it would have done so already. So what could it possibly—

"Of course!" he said aloud with a laugh, absolutely delighted. "It's an invisible cloud, supplied to let me float as much as I like."

The idea was perfect, and Vallant knew he'd have to thank Mardimil for it. His cloud had to be made of solidified air, and there was only one practitioner of Air magic in the house. Mardimil must have seen him and decided to do a bit of gentle teasing, but that was perfectly all right. Vallant didn't mind being teased like this, not when it fit his mood so perfectly.

Up until this point, Vallant's had the following meaningful interactions with Rion:
  • An agreement to exchange information after an awkward meeting in the bathhouse
  • Some brief advice about carousing and breaking up a bar fight in a group outing
  • A group meeting in the bath house about qualifying and being cut off from their bank accounts
They are not bros by a long shot so there is no logic to Vallant's line of thinking other than "well he's the only Air magic guy around", forgetting that the house is full of servants and spies (given the going on) and any of them could have Air magic.

quote:

He turned over and stretched out, finding the cloud to be even more comfortable than his bed would have been. It was something he would have loved to show to and share with Tamrissa, just as he wanted to share everything with her. For the daughter of one wealthy merchant and the widow of another, she'd had so very little in her life.

Vallant: "Hey Tamma come look at this cool invisible cloud in my bedroom! It's even more comfortable than my bed!"

Somehow I don't think that would go down well.

quote:

"But that applies only to pleasure," he muttered, a darkness descending over his happiness. "When it comes to pain she's had enough for ten people, but her father still isn't satisfied. He'll use her to get what he wants until she's all used up—unless somebody stops him. Somebody like me, for instance, who'll never let her be hurt again."

Vallant made that promise out loud once more, but this time for himself rather than for Tamrissa.

Who the hell monologues like this out LOUD? Total. Drama. King.

quote:

He'd never met a woman he felt so complete with, and the more he spoke to her the more certain of it he became. It was as though she'd been given to him in compensation for having lost his family, but he had to remember she hadn't really been given. He'd have to work harder to win her than he'd ever worked in his life, because she still couldn't quite trust men.

Obligatory Vallant because women are not prizes, they are people. I hate this guy. A reminder that this is a primary love interest of a protagonist who is a protagonist himself written by a female author who professes to be a feminist.

quote:

He sighed then, remembering how she'd tried to wish her beauty away. She felt it had brought her nothing but grief, and she honestly believed that being plain or downright ugly would have saved her from what she'd gone through. It was possible she was right so Vallant hadn't argued, but something told him she was mistaken at least in part. What lay inside her, what made her the woman she was, was every bit as attractive as her face and body. Vallant felt the pull of her essence, and suspected a good number of other men would and did feel the same. That man Hallasser, for instance. . . .

"What lay inside her"?? "What made her the woman she was"?????? "The pull of her essence"??????????????? Like, a uterus and vagina that can Book 3 spoilers set a man's blood aflame during sexual intimacy?

I'm trying really hard to give Vallant the benefit of the doubt here and assume he means Tamrissa as a person. Unfortunately, none of his POVs show any appreciation of Tamrissa as a person, other than for her physical beauty.

quote:

Vallant felt every trace of humanity leave him at thought of the man Tamrissa's father was now trying to give her to.

According to Jovvi, Hallasser would be worse than Tamrissa's first husband, but that would happen only if he got his hands on her. If it ever actually came down to that, Vallant knew he would unhesitatingly pull every drop of water out of the man's body. Hallasser would die a shriveled dust-corpse, and Vallant would spend not an instant in regret. And then it would be Tamrissa's father's turn. . . .

Thoughts of that sort were usually accompanied by rage, but the matter was too important for rage. Vallant lay very still on the cloud, wearing a faint smile at the cold calm inside him, grimly satisfied with his thoughts. No matter what the cost, he would protect the woman he had begun to fall so deeply in love with.

When normal, well adjusted people say "I'm gonna kill you/him/her/them", they're using hyperbole. They don't actually give any thoughts to thinking about how they would kill somebody. Vallant is a High talent in Water magic who can actually do the things he's fantasizing about in a blink, and what we've seen of the magic so far indicates that only another High talent in Water magic would have the ability to defend against his attack.

This makes 3 out of 5 protagonists who are homicidal. We had Tamrissa hallucinating about burning her parents and ex-husband to cinders, Rion plotting Lorand's murder for kissing Jovvi and now Vallant is - in his own words - daydreaming about killing Tamrissa's intended future husband and her father. Worse, Vallant's own internal monologue indicates he's had these thoughts before when he's in a homicidal rage.



quote:

The woman he wanted so badly to make love to, but that would have to wait. She wasn't yet ready to accept him in that way, and he was prepared to wait as long as necessary until she was.

Is anyone convinced he's in love with Tamrissa? How is this guy different from Odrin Hallasser, apart from the packaging? He's still controlling, prone to homicidal rages, thinks of her as an object/prize, etc.

quote:

But in the meanwhile he could daydream, which he did until it was time to go down to dinner. To see her again, and be near her again. . . .

The creep factor just keeps climbing higher and higher, though I can thankfully say that Vallant never goes anywhere near Edward Cullen territory.

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. Jovvi and Lorand have weird sex in the bath house where she's lying on her back thinking of England while he's stroking her internal organs with his magic. Rion has an incel pity party for himself and Vallant indulges in murderous fantasies.

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), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 25
COACH RIDES: 19
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 28
"CLIFFHANGERS": 15
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 7
BLATANT MORALIZING: 16
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 5
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

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)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Chapters 36, 37 x2)

Possible fixes:
Club this chapter to death with a set of invisible weights then dehydrate the remains into a pile of dust.

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-EIGHT

By the time I reached my room, I was almost sorry I'd insisted on leaving Vallant for a while. Being with him had been wonderful, so unexpectedly filled with . . . fun. I still found it hard to believe that such a thing was possible, to enjoy being in the company of a man. Even the boys I'd known at school had been more hungry than humorous, more intent on conquest than on comfortable exchange. But Vallant was so marvelous, so unique. . . . I just about danced inside my sitting room, closed the door to the hall, then did dance around a little. I'd never before felt the way I did right now, and the experience was pure delight. It made me want to dance, and sing, and fly—!

Little do you know that Vallant's still pretty intent on conquest and sees you as a prize - he's just really good at masking it. I feel like Green skipped writing the conversation because it would require these two characters to actually relate to each other as adults and that's much harder than just thinking about how hot they are.

quote:

I stopped short in the middle of the room when I banged into something, but couldn't see what the something might have been. That part of the room was empty of everything but carpeting, but I hadn't imagined brushing against something. So I put out a hand and felt around, and sure enough a moment of groping at last put my fingers on the thing.

Whatever it was. I blinked over the fact that it was invisible, then used two hands to explore its dimensions. Again it took a moment to make sense of what I felt, and then I was more confused than ever. Unless I was mistaken, the thing felt like a swing, the kind of net garden swing I'd used only once as a child, at the house of one of my father's business associates. The associate's children were allowed to use the swing anytime they pleased, but my sisters and I weren't permitted any activity which might damage us or leave a scar. . . .

Damage or scarring from a swing is pretty low risk and this world has magical healers.

quote:

At first I tried to imagine how an invisible swing could have gotten into my sitting room, but then the answer became obvious. Rion had supplied it by solidifying air, and it didn't matter whether he'd done it on his own or Vallant had asked him to do it. I now had what fit my mood perfectly, and no one was there to say I couldn't use it.

I moved around carefully until I was able to lower myself into the swing, muffling giggles over the thought of a net swing without any netting. But the thing was comfortable and felt really solid, so I held to its sides and began to swing. Pushing against the floor with my feet let me swing for quite a number of minutes before I had to push again, so I was able to let my mind drift off into pleasant memories.

How big is Tamrissa's sitting room? Also you just left Vallant. How did he even have time to ask Rion to do it? You don't find this the slightly bit weird given the fireball and the thunder cloud? And if you've been "walking" in the garden with Vallant all afternoon, presumably relating like two adults and laughing over your previous misunderstandings, how did you not ask him about the thunder cloud? This stupid "mystery" should have been busted by now.

quote:

Like the way Vallant had told me about his family, not to brag but to share the idea of what a real family was like. His mother had an odd sense of humor and enjoyed occasionally teasing her sons, which usually made them laugh. His father was a big man with a very strict sense of honor, but he'd always shared that sense with his sons rather than imposing it on them. They all loved each other very much, and I was finally able to understand why Vallant hadn't wanted to be parted from them.

Stop telling me these things and start showing me! This is the second time Vallant's been telling fun stories to other people and we don't get to hear any of them. We're just told he's very charming and funny instead.

quote:

I'd told him very little about me in comparison, but he hadn't pressed for details he seemed to know I didn't care to discuss. Instead he'd called me Tamakins, insisting that the awful nickname suited me perfectly. I'd tried to retaliate with Valsi-Walsi, but the sound of that had been so ridiculous I hadn't been able to say it without laughing. At first he'd pretended to cringe at the name, but it wasn't long before he couldn't keep from laughing either.

A reminder these are two grown adults.

quote:

And then, not long before we'd come in, he'd put a finger under my chin to raise my face, and then he'd kissed me. It had been such a gentle kiss, and such a short one, but my lips still tingled with the feel of it. I'd expected him to ask for more, dreading what would happen when I was forced to refuse, but he never did. He simply kissed me gently for a moment too quickly over, and then we'd resumed strolling. With my hand held firmly to his arm, just as he'd insisted. . . .

I thought about all that for a timeless time, then stopped thinking and just let the sensation of pleasant memories wash over me. Things had been fairly pleasant when I was a small child, but since then there'd been nothing to compare with what was really a simple walk in a garden. And I'd agreed to think about doing it again, later, after dinner. In the dark rather than the light, with paper lanterns brightening only certain portions of the path. . . .

I expected the idea of that to make me blush, but all it did was cause me to laugh and swing higher. Everyone kept insisting that associations between men and women were supposed to be pleasant, and I suddenly found myself ready to investigate the claim personally. Or almost ready. There were still so many ugly memories that needed more burying first____

That weird punctuation typo is in the ebook. Like StrixNebulosa, I sold my paper copies so I don't know whether that error existed in the print!

quote:

I swung long and high, but after a while I remembered that I was supposed to be getting ready for dinner. I could have stayed in the skirt and blouse if I'd wanted to, the way most of the men had stayed in their uniform trousers and shirts. But instead I found myself leaving the swing and hurrying to my wardrobe, to pull out the best dress I had. I wanted to look really marvelous for Vallant, to make him glad he'd asked me to walk with him again.

Reminder: this is supposed to be a Strong Female Character. Such great messages for 14 year old girls reading this from their high school library.

quote:

I could see his platinum hair and pale-blue-eyed handsomeness clearly in my mind's eye, and couldn't wait until I saw them again right in front of me.

Seriously??

quote:

The dress of melon silk trimmed with lots of white lace took a short while to get into, and that after washing some in the basin. Once dressed I ran the brush through my hair quickly, then hurried out of the suite. I was certain I would be very late, and only hoped Vallant hadn't decided to wait for me before going in himself. Walking in late is bad enough; walking in late with a man beside me . . . I'd probably never live long enough to stop blushing.

Happily, Vallant hadn't waited, and I was surprised to see that I wasn't the last to get there. Two other chairs remained empty at the table, and as soon as I was seated I found out why. I was in the midst of exchanging a smile with Vallant, who had returned to his original seat, when Warla appeared to stop beside me on the right.

"Please excuse the intrusion, ladies and gentlemen, but I've been instructed to tell you something," she began in her usual, hesitant way. "This afternoon some people came, and they packed up Dom Drowd's and Dama Lant's belongings and took them away. They . . . said to tell you not to expect those two back, even if they manage to qualify before week's end. If they do they'll be put in another residence, and if they don't they'll be . . . released to return to their ordinary lives. That means dinner will be served immediately."

At this point Tamrissa should realize that Eltrina lied about there not being any other residences having capacity. Of course, she doesn't.

quote:

She curtsied and left then, and a moment later the servants began to bring out our meal. No one said a word until the servants were gone again, and then Jovvi sighed.

"I won't pretend I liked them, but this upsets me," she said softly, apparently speaking the thoughts of most of us. "Some of us were told everyone has until week's end to qualify, but for some reason I don't believe it. Unless I'm mistaken, they have no more than two days left."

"If that," Vallant agreed, looking as serious as everyone else. "I'd put my money on tomorrow bein' their last real chance, with the day after used to . . . clean up the leftovers. If the testin' people actually waited till week's end, half of those left would stay in their residences, already havin' given up."

"You're probably right," Lorand agreed as well from my left, a dark shadow heavy in his expression. "First they'll take care of the leftovers, and then—what? When will it get to be our turn?"

"Probably not until we fail in the competitions," Rion said, sounding more distant than he usually did. "But first we have to fail, which I, personally, have no intentions of doing. Success will bring more than gold, so we'd all do well to concentrate on nothing else."

Jovvi and Pagin Holter nodded in abstraction, but Vallant and Lorand looked as uncertain as I felt. I fully intended to do my absolute best, of course, but the ghost of what-if-that's-not-good-enough? continued to haunt me. I had no idea what the competitions would consist of, but that damned uncertainty I was cursed with kept whispering doubts and fears.

We've had like eight chapters of and no forward momentum on the actual conspiracy.

quote:

The meal was a very silent one, with each of us wrapped mostly in our thoughts. Once I looked up and happened to meet Vallant's gaze, and he tried to smile at me reassuringly. I tried to return his smile in the same way, but neither one of us succeeded. But we did try, and that in itself made me feel a bit better.
When everyone had finished eating, we moved our silent group out into the front hall. Pagin Holter disappeared the way he usually did, followed this time by Rion. I thought it strange that he would walk off so abruptly, but then Vallant came over to me and everyone else was forgotten.

"I hope you've been thinkin' about that stroll I suggested earlier," he said with a slightly better smile. "After that announcement, we need it more than ever."

I returned his smile and was about to answer, when a knock came at the door. One of the servants was there to see if we wanted anything—or possibly to listen in on our conversations—and he went to the door and opened it. Standing just outside was my father, the person I least wanted to see in the entire world.

Yay, another random encounter to create more Tamrissa/Vallant drama. Because Green can't just have two characters work out their issues like adults.

quote:

"Well, good evening, my dear," he said, coming inside only a single step before stopping to smile at me. "I thought you would all be finished with dinner by this time, and I'm pleased to see I was right."

"What do you want?" I asked, fighting to keep my trembling from showing. "I thought I told you not to come back. I won't be sold again, and especially not to that— that—"

"Actually, child, I'm here to look after my daughter's best interests," he interrupted smoothly. "That—gentleman— beside you announced to all of us that you and he were engaged, but I'm afraid that may not be true. If what I suspect is so, the man has betrayed you by not mentioning that he's already engaged to another woman entirely."

I barely had time to remember that Vallant had said we were promised to each other on my parents' last visit, when my father abruptly stepped aside. Behind him was a very beautiful woman with thick auburn hair and dark, sultry eyes, and when she saw Vallant she smiled dazzlingly and hurried inside.

"Vallant, my love, how wonderful that I've actually found you!" she exclaimed, rushing into his arms. "Daddy was terribly disappointed that I didn't insist you marry me before you left, and so he sent me here with enough gold to arrange everythin' now. He and Momma are only a few days behind me, so they'll certainly be here for the ceremony."

"By a happy coincidence, the young lady's father and I are business associates," my father purred while I stood there with my mind clanging in shook. "She came to me asking for assistance in finding her intended, and you may imagine my surprise when her description seemed to match the young man involved with my daughter. You really must—"

"Get out," I interrupted his gloating in a choked voice, hating him more than I'd ever thought was possible. "Get out of my house and don't you dare come back!"

I turned and ran for the stairs then, shaking off the hand Vallant tried to put on my arm despite the woman crawling all over him. He undoubtedly had a perfectly reasonable explanation why he'd neglected to mention that he was promised to another woman, but I didn't want to hear it. He'd managed to hurt me more than Gimmis had ever accomplished, and I was on the verge of losing control of myself. If I'd stayed there even a moment longer, flames would have leaped out to consume everyone in reach.

But when I reached my bedchamber with two doors closed firmly behind me, the only, thing that came was tears. I sat on the floor in my beautiful silk and lace dress, sobbing hopelessly, wishing I were dead. For a very short while I'd let myself believe there really was such a thing as pleasure, but it was a lie. The world and life contained nothing but pain, and I'd never let myself forget that again. Or ever let anyone come close. Not ever. . . not again . . . not when it hurt so much to be wrong. . . .

I'm trying really hard to work up feelings of betrayal, etc on Tamrissa's behalf and I can't.

quote:

Vallant tried to call out Tamrissa's name to stop her, to tell her it wasn't true, but Mirra chose that moment to throw her arms around his neck and smother the words with a kiss. She hung on like a leech with the strength of a pit bull, and by the time Vallant had freed himself, Tamrissa was gone.

"Why, Val, darlin', whatever is makin' you treat me in so ungentlemanly a way?" Mirra pouted after catching her balance. She'd nearly fallen from the shove he'd given her, and he thought it was a shame that she hadn't. "I know you're glad to see me, darlin', just as glad as I am to see you. Why don't we go to your room to . . . discuss the weddin'. . . ."

Vallant just casually shoving Mirra that hard. If only Rion had hung around, then we might have had a magical battle in the house!

quote:

She grinned at that and tried to close with him again, but Vallant put a hand on her chest and shoved again. This time she stumbled back into the man who'd brought her, hopefully crushing his foot at the very least.

"My daddy taught me to be a gentleman with ladies, which means you don't qualify, Mirra," he growled over her screech of outrage. "You know well enough that we weren't engaged, just talkin' about it, and even that ended before I left. Now, I believe I heard the lady of this house order the slimy cur who brought you to leave, and I want you gone along with him."

Oh hey, this is new information. You didn't dispute Mirra's comment about the wedding back in Chapter 5, so as far as we're concerned, you guys were engaged. And you also knew that she didn't acknowledge your break up! If it was the big planned alliance between two shipping merchant families, you probably should have written a letter to your father in the interim to explain things.

quote:

"How dare you, sir!" Tamrissa's father hissed as Mirra went into that full pout she had so much practice with. "Such denigration is actionable, which you'll find out when I have you hauled into court!"

"Sellin' a daughter to a sadist and then tryin' it again means you deserve every filthy name a man can put lips to," Vallant countered, his growl becoming more pronounced. "You go right ahead and sue me, and then the whole city can know what you are. But right now, get out and take— her— with you."

"You'll be sorry you said that, darlin'," Mirra hissed while Tamrissa's father went pale with fury, her words obviously referring to the disgust she'd heard in Vallant's tone. "You're the one I want and the one I mean to get, but you'll be real sorry you spoke to me like that. Just wait and see if you're not."

Her head came up with a sniff and then she turned and flounced out, followed by Tamrissa's father after the man gave Vallant a small bow. He'd recovered control of himself so quickly that Vallant frowned, wondering what the man could be up to now. He was far from beaten, there was no doubt of that, but something much more important clamored for Vallant's attention. As soon as the door was closed he turned toward the stairs, but Jovvi's hand was on his arm before he could take even a single step.

Spoilers - they won't do anything because Green doesn't write effective antagonists.

quote:

"Wait," she said, the intensity in her tone halting him more successfully than chains would have. "She won't speak to you now, and even more importantly won't listen. She's all locked up inside again, and needs time to get over the disappointment."

"But there's nothin' for her to be disappointed about," Vallant protested with a chill touching his insides. "Mirra was lyin', and she's got to understand that."

"She won't believe it," Jovvi said, sympathy pouring from her like water. "I could feel that clearly, and even understand why to a small extent. Believing things leaves you open to being hurt, and she can't take any more pain. It's easier for her to simply refuse to believe, but give her some time. She got around the problem once, so there's no reason why she can't do it again."

"I'm willin' to give her all the time she needs, but we still don't know how much the testin' authority means to give us." Vallant knew his voice had gone lifeless, which fit the situation perfectly. "The longer I know that girl the more deeply in love I fall, but now she won't even talk to me. And I don't even know how long I have to change her mind. What if it's not long enough . . . ?"

Vallant let the words trail off, but no one added anything in the way of encouragement. Only Jovvi and Coll were left in the hall with him, and they seemed to have problems of their own. The careful distance between them seemed deliberate, and the pain he felt in them seemed more than a mirroring of his. Maybe he ought to say something to them. . . .

But words of compassion refused to come, so he simply went upstairs to his room and lay down on the bed. Everything had been going so beautifully, and now . . . now they were dirt and ashes. He'd managed to bring her around once so maybe he could do it again, but how long would it take? He would have willingly spent years, but they might turn out to have no more than weeks. Or days.

"drat Mirra, drat that travesty of a father, and drat me for handlin' this so badly," Vallant whispered into the lonely silence of the room. "But most of all, drat that testin' authority. drat . . . drat . . . drat . . . !"

Vallant:

: Sir, I signed up for an action adventure fantasy tale about defeating Evil, not a romance soap opera.

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. Jovvi and Lorand have weird sex in the bath house where she's lying on her back thinking of England while he's stroking her internal organs with his magic. Rion has an incel pity party for himself and Vallant indulges in murderous fantasies. Warla announces that Beldara and Eskin were moved out at dinner. Jovvi reinforces the . After dinner, we get a combined random encounter for Tamrissa and Vallant which kicks off the next drama in their relationship.

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: 13
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 27
COACH RIDES: 19
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 29
"CLIFFHANGERS": 15
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 7
BLATANT MORALIZING: 16
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

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, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)

Possible fixes:
Incinerate this chapter and scatter its remains into the ocean.

Leng fucked around with this message at 04:28 on Oct 2, 2020

there wolf
Jan 11, 2015

by Fluffdaddy


Actually it does make sense for Tamrissa to fall apart at the slightest upset because she's a victim of abuse with little capacity for trust. Particularly when her primary abuser, her father, is involved since he's spent her entire life manipulating her into accepting his word as gospel over the evidence of her own sense and senses. And the same applies to Rion; the power and control his mother exerted over his life he just assumes applies to the world at large because she's convinced him it does.

And it also makes sense for Vallant to put his foot in how to handle it, because if you haven't been exposed to how abusers operate then it's genuinely baffling how much control they continue to exert over their victims who profess to hate and distrust them. The stuff he does to indicate he's a good and honest person isn't going to work here because Tam doesn't know what good, honest people are actually like. Jovvi's right that if he's going to chase after her and insist it's a lie, Tam won't accept it because her entire life has been a liar insisting that he's right.

I don't remember if you're cutting the dad angle all together, so just in general- The better way to handle this (and the way Pride and Prejudice, the ancestor to all this hate-to-love romance, does) is for Jovvi to stop Vallant and tell him why Tam won't believe him and he's better leaving her alone. Vallant should then weigh respecting Tams boundaries (and thus acknowledging that she has them) with the need to clear his good name. After a little time passes he either slips a letter under the door or knocks and talks through it, explaining the Mira thing, apologizing for putting Tam in this position, and telling her he's going to leave her alone from now on if that's what she wants. And then he does just that.

Actually, what would make for fun foreshadowing would be if every time the dad shows up, someone different claimed to be involved with Tamrissa. And give her dad the goons, so each person can show a reasonable defense or threat against them, and then Tam's power arc is her quickly and dismissively running them off when they pop up in the middle of dealing with a bigger problem.

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 it does make sense for Tamrissa to fall apart at the slightest upset because she's a victim of abuse with little capacity for trust. Particularly when her primary abuser, her father, is involved since he's spent her entire life manipulating her into accepting his word as gospel over the evidence of her own sense and senses. And the same applies to Rion; the power and control his mother exerted over his life he just assumes applies to the world at large because she's convinced him it does.

Fair points. Maybe what's bothering me is the execution. I'm slowly beginning to understand why even though it's really easy to fall into writing internal monologues (because hey, it's easier to explain how your characters are feeling), writing good internal monologues are difficult, especially if trying to do show, not tell. In Sanderson's 10th 2020 lecture, he suggests a rule of thumb of having introspection (internal monologues) comprise 20-30% of the text, with dialogue, description and beats (action) taking up 70-80% (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJfE-HMfSkk#t=2079s). He even suggests doing everything else you can think of first, and then going back to do introspection last, as a way of forcing yourself to practice getting good at writing the other things. We'll see how I go following this approach.

I'm actually going to cheat with the NaNoWriMo. It's only a rewrite of Book 1 which is all "learning to fight with magic", so I don't need to have figured out every backstory and character arc detail of every member of the full Blending. What I do need to do is to pick one of them as the primary POV character and I'm 90% that I will stick with Lorand, mainly because I've done the most thinking of how the book would work that way.

Assuming it goes well, Book 2 will be the primary focus on relationships and politics since that's a fundamental part of Blending and then Book 3 would be the overcoming the devastating evil.

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-NINE

Lorand joined the other men in climbing into the first coach, leaving the second for the ladies. Everyone was unusually quiet this morning, except for the one time Ro spoke to Tamrissa in the dining room during breakfast. Tamrissa had apparently taken lessons from the now-absent Beldara Lant, her attitude telling everyone that she was entirely alone in the room.

"I can see you don't want to talk to me, but this you're goin' to hear," Ro had said once Tamrissa was seated with a plate of food in front of her. "Mirra was lyin', and so was your father when he said I betrayed you. I did nothin' wrong, and if you insist on believin' their lies, you're helpin' them win."

That's our Vallant, the opposite of the considerate big strong man love interest that Green had been trying to portray in the last chapter. Pity Jovvi didn't give him the concrete advice there wolf had outlined!

quote:

Unless Tamrissa had stopped up her ears she must have heard him, but not even a flicker in her eyes had supported that. She just went on eating quietly and calmly, ignoring Ro along with the rest of the world. Mardimil and Holter had looked faintly puzzled, but neither had asked any questions.

As the coach pulled away from the residence, Lorand's thoughts returned for the thousandth time to what had gone on between Jovvi and him yesterday afternoon. The love-making had been as marvelous as he'd expected it to be, but nothing had gone right after that. He'd explained his point of view to Jovvi—and then she'd explained hers. He hadn't expected her to be so desperate for security, and he hadn't been able to argue her point of view. If he'd been wealthy it would have been a different story, but as it was. . . .

Lorand took a deep breath and let it out slowly, staring at the landscape going past without seeing it. He wasn't a wealthy man, so it was impossible to argue with Jovvi. He hadn't realized that her mother had actually sold her children, and the idea had disturbed him so much that he'd retreated to his room to rid himself of it in peace. He remembered wishing he were still back at the farm, where he'd had a small, secret room among the bales of hay in the barn.

Whenever his father had spent part of the day talking about the future he intended his sons to have, Lorand would take the first opportunity to go to his private place and make his own plans. He'd decided early that he would not spend his life working for his father to save him the cost of hiring a Middle to help with the harder jobs. In his private place he'd repeated his vow over and over, until he'd grown big enough to make his own plans come true.

This would have been some handy character motivations to convey back in Chapter 1!

quote:

Lorand remembered thinking about that as he began to cross the room, and then the craziest thing had happened. He'd tripped on and fallen over absolutely nothing, and ended up lying on top of the nothing. Feeling around finally gave him an idea about what it was, but that was even crazier. It felt just like the bales of hay which had contained his secret place, all the way down to the opening he would crawl through. The whole thing was a lot smoother, but more importantly it was also invisible.

It had taken awhile for Lorand's battered thoughts to realize what it was, which was solidified air. For some reason Mardimil must have provided the thing, and Lorand had been too relieved to have his favorite place back to wonder how Mardimil had known. He'd simply crawled inside, and spent some time telling himself everything wasn't lost. He'd come to Gan Garee to earn a High practitioner's position, and if somehow he actually managed to do it, all his problems would be solved.

He'd meant to thank Mardimil at dinner for his help, but Warla had made that announcement about Drowd and Beldara Lant and he'd forgotten all about it. Later Mardimil had disappeared and then there'd been that to-do with Ro and the woman and Tamrissa, and now it was really too late. Even if Mardimil hadn't looked distracted and withdrawn this morning, any thanks would seem like an afterthought about something trivial.

This is such contrived nonsense all for the sake of preventing the protagonists figuring anything out.

quote:

And besides all that, Lorand was too worried about what was ahead of them to spend time trying to thank someone gracefully. They'd gone in a different direction this morning, and now the coach was crossing a small bridge which seemed to lead out of the city proper. The road they traveled wasn't a wide one, and there were open fields on both sides of it. But not planted and tended fields. They'd been lying fallow for quite some time, and had gone mostly to grass.

I am dying for some details here. What bridge? Which side of the city? What kind of major capital city has major farmlands immediately outside its surrounds?

quote:

A couple of miles up the road the coach began to slow, and then they turned off onto another road of the same size. But on this one it was possible to see structures in the distance, ones that didn't seem to be buildings. It wasn't yet possible to see what they were instead, but waiting until the coach moved closer didn't help much. Walls of smoky resin blocked easy sight of the things, leaving only hand-painted metal symbols of the various aspects to differentiate one section from another.

And those sections stretched out for quite a distance to both the left and right of the road. Their coach turned left, and a short way down it stopped in front of the symbol for Air magic. That made Mardimil the first to get out, which the man did without hesitation or comment. There was an opening in the resin wall behind the sign, and Mardimil disappeared through it as the coach began to move again.

Next out were Holter and Ro, both of them leaving the coach in the same preoccupied way. We've become a group of strangers, Lorand thought as he watched them go, more so than when we first met. I'd wonder where all this was leading, but I don't think I want to know.

Thinking further on writing introspection - maybe the problem is Green consistently has her characters engage in introspection while nothing else is happening. The introspection always occurs when everyone is sitting in a coach or in their room, where there's no other possibility of action going on. This thought about becoming strangers, more than they were initially, does reveal something about Lorand's character but he could easily have had that thought while doing or observing something interesting.

quote:

The idea was unsettling, but before he could fall too deeply into considering it, it was his turn to leave the coach-He stepped out onto a resin walk near the sign of Earth magic, then went through the opening in the wall with almost no hesitation. The coach kept on going, undoubtedly to the area to the left of this new road up ahead, where other coaches stood. There were also two ordinary buildings over there, one much larger than the other. A stable for the horses, then, and a posting house for the drivers. . . .

And then Lorand was beyond the wall, and all other thoughts left him. What had looked like structures from a distance weren't; thin, transparent resin rested on poles of the same material, acting as a flat-topped roof over almost every foot of the vast area. Some parts were sectioned off with walls, making both larger and smaller areas, and some of the walls were smoky rather than clear. There also seemed to be chairs in some of the areas, multiple chairs in one of them along with tables. Most of the areas had something other than furniture, though, and Lorand was so intent on figuring out what the something was that he almost missed the man walking up to him.

"Fascinating, isn't it?" the man asked with a friendly smile. He was a bit short of his middle years, a slightly rounded man not quite Lorand's size with a round face, brown hair, and mild brown eyes. "I'm Hestir, the Adept assigned to show you around. As you'll probably be the last newcomer, my job is almost over."
The man didn't seem terribly upset about that, and his easy manner led Lorand into deciding to take a chance.

"But I thought the others had until week's end to qualify," he protested mildly, as though only faintly curious. "Most of those in my sessions seemed rather determined, so I expected to see them arrive only a short while after me."

"Those in your session have been determined since they first arrived," Hestir responded with a dismissive laugh. "We've learned over the years that those who don't qualify by the third session at the latest usually don't ever manage it. There was one once, about nine years ago, who finally forced himself into qualifying at the last moment. Nothing came of it, though, since he couldn't quite get himself together for the competitions. But enough idle chatter, something I'm quite marvelous at. We'll start the tour over there."

This should be Lorand's cue to ask more about that guy nine years ago.

quote:

"Over there" was an area to the extreme left, a large one with comfortable chairs surrounding a core of tables and chairs obviously meant to be used for meals or snacks. There were a few people moving around some of the areas, but this one was empty.

"When the others arrive, some of them will stop here for another cup of tea before beginning practice," Hestir said, the words more conversational than lecturing. "Behind that wall is a cooking area and a place for the servants, as those of us in this section take our lunch here. If you want a servant and there aren't any about, just ring that bell and one will come out from behind the wall."

Hestir had pointed to a small cowbell hanging from one of the posts by a rope, another length of rope available to ring it with. Lorand nodded as though ringing for a servant was the most usual and unimportant thing in his life, and Hestir smiled.

Why Green couldn't have just given us a good paragraph of strong description instead of all these vague dialogue lines and a 'tour', I will never know.

quote:

"Now, over here is our very first practice area," he said, leading the way to a series of smallish sections surrounded by smoky resin. "It's what you'll use to begin with, before you start the first of the competitions, but please don't confuse it with a warmup area. Those are arranged around the sections devoted to interactive competition, between that and the individual competition area."

"There are different kinds of competitions?" Lorand asked, surprised enough to stop where he was. "For some reason I thought there would be only one."

"A common enough mistake, and one I made myself in the beginning," Hestir said with a chuckle, stopping with him. "It takes a moment to realize that there are different parts to our aspect, more parts, in fact, than with any of the others. We must prove our strength in all of those parts, as well as in the two methods every aspect uses. The first method is, of course, competing with another applicant to show strength and speed. The first to complete the assigned chore is the winner."

"Like in a foot race," Lorand said with a thoughtful nod. "That must be the individual competition you mentioned. But that has to mean the interactive competitions pit us directly against each other. Don't you lose a large number of applicants that way?"

"Only the hopelessly incompetent ones," Hestir replied, obviously amused by that thought as well. "One of the things you must learn is how to shield yourself from the products of your own aspect. Any fool off the street can attack with his aspect, the strength of the attack depending upon the fool's own strength. But to defend with your ability—Ah, that takes imagination and a sense for planning as well as strength. Let's take a look at the first practice area now, shall we?"

This is already much more interesting than any of the magic we've (barely) seen in the past...38 chapters - and why I kept saying that these masteries should be moved significantly earlier in the book!

quote:

Lorand nodded even as he tried to swallow against the roiling feeling in his middle. He'd wanted to ask about where the positive parts of his aspect came in, the ones you didn't use for something like attack or defense against attack. But asking something like that would have made him look naive, which could end up being a very bad mistake among these people. Predators think of the naive as prey, and even the round, overly pleasant Hestir was more wolf than sheep.

Annnd this is why Book 1 should be all about learning to fight with magic as opposed to just doing magic.

quote:

"Oh, goodness, the morning sun is in that uncomfortable part of the sky again," Hestir exclaimed when they stepped into the first area. The sun was between two stands of trees visible in the distance, and glaring as only an early-morning sun on a soon-to-be warm day can. With nothing but empty air to block the sight of it, even squinting didn't help much.

"I think we need to do something about that," Hestir said in a way that made Lorand instantly suspicious. "Now let me see, what can that something be? Well, how about this."

Hestir had been looking at a mound of clumped-together soil, the only thing to be seen in the area. The next moment the mound— exploded! —throwing a fine mist of soil into the air. The sun's glare was blocked out, of course, at least until the mist began to settle down again.

"Please note that the dispersal was contained, and didn't go beyond this area," Hestir said while Lorand stared, at the same time working automatically to keep the dust out of the volume of air he currently breathed. "That's the first thing you must practice, control of the material you touch with your ability. If even one grain of soil ends up outside this area, you haven't yet perfected your control."

Lorand nodded again, realizing that Hestir was telling him about doing two things at once. Well, he'd done more than two things at once during that test, but he'd never actually exploded anything. . . .

"We'll have to let the dust settle before you can try it yourself," Hestir said, chuckling at his little joke. "During that time I'll show you the other areas. Come along now."

Lorand was about to ask why they didn't simply gather the soil back into its original mound, then dismissed the question. Hestir was undoubtedly too important to spend his time and talent on a menial chore like that, especially when there were other areas to be shown. So Lorand simply followed the other man, then stopped beside him in the second area. Instead of soil, this place held a small mound of iron ingots. Each ingot was about two inches square, and Hestir pointed to one lying a couple of feet away from the mound.

"I'm going to do the same thing to that ingot that I did to the soil, but not as spectacularly," he said. "Watch and see what I mean."

It was still necessary to squint against the sun's glare, but that didn't stop Lorand from seeing the way the ingot began to come apart. It crumbled into small chunks from one end to the other, uneven chunks that rooked a bit before lying still.

'And that's all there is to it," Hestir said, this time pretending nonchalance. Lorand had been able to feel his effort, which hadn't been minimal. "Do you think you can manage that?"

There you have it - Earth magic is insanely overpowered. Lorand can both explode objects and dismantle them apart in an instant, heal, affect people's bodies directly, control animals and encourage plant growth.

quote:

'I guess I'll have to try it and see," Lorand replied, working now to sound self-effacing. He wasn't about to mention that a bent nail was useless on a farm, but did rather well as a prop for a boy to impress the girls with. He'd be able to take that ingot apart a lot faster and more thoroughly than Hestir had—but not while the man watched. There was no sense in making accidental enemies, not in a place like hat.

What exactly happens when an Earth magic user is taking apart an object? Are they reducing them into their constituent elements (and I mean elements as per the periodic table)? Is it the magical equivalent of "will it blend?" https://www.youtube.com/user/Blendtec

quote:

"Good man, that's the spirit," Hestir enthused, his broad mile back. "A willingness to try means everything, and is usually the difference between success and failure. Let's go on to the next area."

The third area contained a small-meshed cage filled with rats, well-fed rats by the look of them. Lorand didn't have the usual farm-bred hatred of rats, nor did he fear them as some people did. He understood that their depredations were the result of their will to survive, and had never tried to hurt them unless his own survival—or his family's—had been at stake.

Why would farming folks fear rats? Like I get hating rats, finding that they're pests because they chew through stuff, carry disease and eat what's been harvested, etc, but how, exactly, would some rats threaten Lorand's own survival or his family's? Surely you would have to have plague-like levels of rat infestations for that to happen. In which case, I want to read about THAT backstory!

quote:

'Now, here we're looking for something else entirely," Hestir said, just saving Lorand from making a fool of himself by refusing to take apart the rats. "Once again it's a matter of control dominating strength, as the rats aren't to be harmed, Here's what you have to learn to do."

Lorand felt Hestir begin to exert himself again, and then the rats began to move away from the center of the cage. They didn't go willingly or easily, but at last there was a cleared space in the middle. After a moment there was movement among the rats to the right, and then a single rat me slowly and reluctantly into the cleared space. It stood one only for a brief moment, and then all the rats were running around freely again.

"So you see," Hestir said, breathing somewhat heavily. "First the entire group must be induced to clear the center of the cage, and then one rat must be returned to stand alone. This, in a manner of speaking, is like Encouragement, but considerably more specific."

"Yes, a lot more specific," Lorand agreed, considering the matter. "I have experience with Encouragement, of course . , . but what is something like this for? How can it possibly be useful to a High practitioner?"

"That's something you'll find out if and when you become a High practitioner," Hestir said easily, dismissing the idea. "We lesser mortals don't need to be told, we only need to learn what we're instructed to. And remember, the rats aren't to be harmed."

Lorand will only ever use this ability once outside of testing sessions, in Chapter 28 Book 6 which has a legitimately funny exchange of dialogue (probably the funniest in all 8 books).

quote:

When Lorand shrugged and nodded, Hestir smiled again and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Good man," he said, clearly approving. "Now, once you've mastered these three exercises, there will be more of a different sort for you to work at. I'll show you one or two of those, and then you'll begin at the beginning. The ones beyond here are simply variations of the first three, so please don't spend your time worrying about any hidden surprises."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drnBMAEA3AM

quote:

"What I will be spending my time on is wondering how long it will take to reach the competitions," Lorand said, working to put the sort of upper class pettishness you sometimes heard from Mardimil in his own voice. "It's rather tiring, but all our funds have been depleted and we'll soon need to pay for our food or starve. That was told us right at the beginning, and the next payment time draws uncomfortably near."

"Oh, that's not something to worry about immediately," Hestir said with a deprecating gesture. "You'll be given a silver din for each of the first three areas you master, and two for each of the areas after those. By that time you'll have reached the competitions, and will be ready to win yourself some gold. So let's continue on, and then you'll be able to begin."

Right now Lorand only has 2 silver dins left and it costs 3 silver per week to eat. He's got 1 day to earn at least 1 mastery in order to pay up for next week's meals.

quote:

This time Lorand followed with a bit more eagerness, more than ready to begin. The only one of the first three areas he expected to have to practice was the first, and even that shouldn't take much time to master. Depending on what the next areas held, he could well be at the competitions before he knew it! If he had stacks of gold to offer Jovvi even before the matter of a High position became immediate, he might have a chance to change her mind.

You might be quite disappointed to know that Jovvi has a literal stack of gold hidden in Tamrissa's house right now. Unless you had a mountain of gold, she's not going to change her mind.

quote:

"I won't demonstrate these next exercises," Hestir said, drawing Lorand from his thoughts. "They're either too messy for anything less than serious practice, or would require a replacement for some part or parts of what you must work with. This first, as you can see, is a large kettle of thick black liquid that doesn't smell very nice at all."

"It looks a bit like axle grease and even smells like it, but it's not as thick," Lorand observed, studying the large kettle where it stood in the center of the area. "What am I supposed to do with it?"

"The same thing I did with the soil, dear boy," Hestir replied with a wave of his hand. "This liquid comes from the earth, and therefore falls under our aspect. It's considerably more difficult to scatter liquid, but practice will soon see you doing it. Now, in this next area is a simple arrangement of wooden wheels, but there's a section of metal on the inside holding it all together. Can you feel the metal?"

"Yes," Lorand answered with a frown. "But the metal is steel, not iron. You aren't going to tell me I have to take steel apart?"

"Nothing less, dear boy," Hestir confirmed with a grin. "And how clever of you to tell that it's steel. Many of the applicants coming through aren't able to discriminate that clearly. I expect you'll do very well indeed here, and I'll have been the first to realize that. Oh, and when you're ready to go beyond the first three areas, be sure to ask for the presence of an Adept before you begin. Each mastery must be verified by one of us, and if we're not there to see it you'll just have to do it all over again. Let's pause for a cup of tea, and then I'll leave you to it."

Lorand let himself be bustled out of the area and back toward where they'd started from, his elation of a moment before now gone beneath depression. The first three areas would be very little trouble for him, but the next ones would hardly be the same. Scattering that liquid would come under his aspect rather than under Water, since there wasn't any water in it. But handling something like that. . . . And steel. Were they serious about expecting him to be able to pick apart steel as easily as he did iron?

In-text confirmation that Water magic only works on H2O and Earth magic can basically manipulate anything (other than pure water I guess???). Why would you want to have anything other than Earth magic in this world? If Lorand can disintegrate steel, then objects don't have to be relatively pure elements to work. What exactly are the limitations on his powers? Can he explode a person if he wanted to?

quote:

Hestir chattered on about nothing important as they walked toward the eating area, but Lorand wasn't fooled. The round, smaller man was trying to distract him from the fact that the Adept hadn't demonstrated those last two exercises because he couldn't. Hestir worked for the testing authority and was allowed to call himself an Adept, but in reality he wasn't very powerful. He must have qualified for the competitions in his day just as Lorand had in the last two, but he hadn't gone much beyond that.

How do you know this Lorand? Come on, Green, you couldn't have had Lorand sense how much power Hestir was using?

quote:

So the question was, just how far would he go? How many of all the people who came here actually made it into the competitions? And there weren't that many Adepts. If you didn't make it and they had all the Adepts they needed, what then? What became of all those potential Highs who simply reached their limit?

And if you needed so much talent just to reach the competitions, what would it be like to challenge a Seated High . . . ?

These questions would be a lot more engaging if we ever saw what Adepts or High practitioners do.

Summary:

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials" (as Adept Forum called them) - the first and second levels of masteries of that aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.

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: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 14
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 27
COACH RIDES: 20
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 3
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 29
"CLIFFHANGERS": 16
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 8
BLATANT MORALIZING: 16
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

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, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Chapter 39)

Possible fixes:
Nothing to add to what I've said before: cut the bloat, show don't tell and move this way earlier in the book.

EDIT: fix misplaced quote tag

Leng fucked around with this message at 04:16 on Oct 26, 2020

there wolf
Jan 11, 2015

by Fluffdaddy


Before refrigeration and modern transportation, you'd need farms right outside of cities to supply them with fresh food. Today the whole locavore movement is encouraging more farming in and around urban areas, so it might make a comeback.

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


That would make sense, except we know in this world Water magic users are basically walking ice makers! The transportation thing is probably the more relevant issue, though if you can travel from one edge of the Empire to the other in two weeks by public coach, well, it's not a very big Empire. It's so frustrating that we don't get any imagination at all about how the prevalence of magic should utterly change how everything works in this world.

Jumping off your point about locavore movement and urban farming, why should this world rely on gigantic farms as we know them? If 15-20% of the population had some ability to encourage plant growth and affinity with growing things, why wouldn't you be designing cities that are effectively collections of self-sufficient biospheres? Why wouldn't neighborhood or community gardens be the rule rather than the exception? Even things like climate aren't necessarily a big issue, if you have Water magic to adjust humidity levels, Fire magic to adjust temperature and Air magic to manipulate shade and shelter.

Instead of shipping food everywhere, the easier things to transport would be seeds, seedlings, live plants, fertiliser and livestock.

The only farms that would make sense would probably those for large livestock, like cows, sheep, etc. Poultry are small enough that they don't pose massive problems in an urban area. I doubt they'd be farming fish and other seafood since population levels aren't usually to the point where over fishing is a problem (though who knows since we don't know anything about the population).

I am probably way overthinking this. I know not everybody cares about world building. But this bugs me because it is immersion breaking for me and I hate that.

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 FORTY

Jovvi let herself be helped into the coach after Tamrissa, feeling disturbed over more than just her own personal problems. She and Lorand were leagues apart in how they viewed the necessities of life, but it would be a while before their differences actually drove them apart completely. Tamma and Vallant were another story, however, and their pain was so strong Jovvi could have woven with it.

Jovvi's the only one who didn't do the boring braiding exercise, but now she's using the same language. Did Green forget about the balancing spheres thing or do Spirit magic users have to weave patterns as well? Spoilers for later books everyone has to weave the patterns so I'm actually not really sure why Jovvi was talking about balancing spheres earlier

quote:

So once the coach began to move she said, "He wasn't lying, you know. I was there last night when he reminded that woman to her face that they'd never been engaged, and that their relationship had ended before he left for Gan Garee. He also called your father some rather interesting names, then threw them both out. Your father threatened to take him to court, and he told him to go ahead and do it."

Jovvi felt a faint sense of pleasure in Tamma over that, but not so much that it changed anything.

Only one name and I wouldn't say "slimy cur" is interesting.

quote:

"Whether or not he was lying doesn't matter," Tamma replied after a moment, looking out the window rather than at Jovvi. "He never said a word about that woman, which let my father use her against me. I can't afford to give my father any more routes into my mind than he already has, so Dom Ro can find some other woman to charm. I'm sure the one last night was only a single representative of the hundreds he's gone through."

"You're blaming him for being a healthy man?" Jovvi asked with a frown. "He never told you he'd grown up in a barrel, and you had no right to think that he had. He really cares about you, Tamma, and wants your trust more than almost anything."

I'm having a hard time telling which of the following upsets Tamrissa the most: jealousy of Mirra, thinking Vallant lied to her (by omission), or because she was blindsided by her father pulling a cheap trick. Her dialogue says it's the last one, but Jovvi's focusing on the first. You almost then have to go with the High talent in Spirit magic, but honestly that's a much less interesting characterization compared to the last.

quote:

"How can I trust someone who makes me more vulnerable so easily?" she asked, her gaze still firmly out the window. "He has no idea what I'm up against, and no real idea what I'll have to face if I lose. If someone makes you weaker rather than stronger, you're a fool to let them anywhere close. Besides, there are more important things to think about now, including whether or not we'll survive. We don't all have to, you know."

What annoys me about Tamrissa is her hypocrisy. She expects full disclosure from others but provides none of it herself. Somehow Vallant was supposed to tell her everything about himself - including past lovers - in an afternoon walking in the garden on basically their first official "date" ever, but she wasn't going to mention anything about what she thinks she's up against in terms of her father, etc.

quote:

That suggestion chilled Jovvi so thoroughly that she let the subject drop. It wasn't as if she hadn't realized it herself at some level, she simply hadn't let herself think about it. Now she had to, and the thought made her strangely ill. How had Lorand gone from being an ordinary, interesting man to someone whose survival was vitally important? Even if they never found a way to be together, she couldn't bear the idea that he might not survive. There had to be a way, for all of them, and what she had to do was find it.

"Ordinary, interesting man" is contradictory. Which is it? Also this is Day 6! The speed at which the emotional attachments between each romantic pairing have gone from 0 to 100 (or 100 to 0) makes me think Green's been following the typical K-drama plot structure for her romances.



quote:

The decision in favor of action rather than sitting around waiting for something to happen made Jovvi feel better. She looked out her window to see that they seemed to be heading out of the city, across a bridge into an area that ought to be filled with the estates of the rich. Anywhere else it would be, but Gan Garee apparently had another use for the area. Odd that there weren't estates and mansions anyway . . .

Or maybe not so odd. When they turned onto a side road after the men's coach in a relatively short while, Jovvi thought she understood. Either the testing authority had been permitted to claim the entire area for its own uses, or anyone with enough power and gold to build in the area knew better than to do it. They had to be close to where the competitions were being held, and no one with any sense would want something like that outside their back door. Accidents could happen even with her aspect, and some mistakes can never be repaired.

So close yet so far. Why would this area normally be filled with rich estates? Is it the view? Is it because the soil's better for fancy gardens? Is it because there's marble deposits right underneath for building fancy mansions? No idea! And why would the testing authority be given access to the best real estate for training areas and arenas, especially if competitions are only held every 25 years? This is the worst utilization of prime real estate ever.

quote:

When they reached a road running parallel with a resin wall, the men's coach turned left and theirs turned right. Tamrissa was the first to get out when the coach stopped beside a metal sign painted with the standard Fire magic symbol, but she didn't simply leave. After a brief hesitation she put her hand over Jovvi's and squeezed gently and reassuringly, and then she got out of the coach. She hadn't met Jovvi's gaze, but she had wished her luck.

Jovvi managed to return the squeeze before Tamma was gone, and then the coach continued on.

This bit reminds me of the early stage directions I used to write where I would try to direct everything the actors are supposed to do. Maybe Green should try her hand at screenwriting instead of novel writing. It'd force her to rely on dialogue and action instead of internal monologue to tell the story, though we might end up with back to back fifteen minute soliloquies that actors have to deliver in one during scene changes.

quote:

It went quite a long distance, actually, before stopping beside a sign with the Spirit magic symbol. Jovvi discovered how reluctant she was to leave the coach when it came time to do it, but that didn't stop her any more than it ever had. She'd learned that simple problems could sometimes be run away from, but the rest had to be faced and defeated before it was safe to turn and walk away.

Would have been nice to have Jovvi thinking about the last such problem she defeated where she learned this, instead of just telling us she did.

quote:

Jovvi closed the coach door behind her and headed for the opening in the resin wall, preferring not to picture deputies of the testing authority pursuing her. And they would come in pursuit, that was absolutely sure in a world of uncertainties. They went to a lot of trouble and expense gathering in all potential Highs, so there was no chance at all that they would shrug and forget about any who tried to escape them. They had to be avoided in a different way, most likely through the exercise of aspect power.

To be honest I'm not really convinced, since there was that plot hole back in Chapter 10 when Vallant found out that if he had lost his coach ticket, he would have been released to go live on the street while somebody tried to identify him.

But let's assume Jovvi's right - please explore this angle and cue project escape plan right now!

quote:

But the question still remained: how much power would be considered too much and how little too little? The entire situation screamed out a need for careful balance, but as Jovvi looked around at what lay behind the resin wall, she felt the frustration of not- knowing where the balance point lay. That was the key to all balance, knowing where the balance point was; without knowing, stabbing around in the dark after a hidden enemy would be just as productive. Pure luck might bring you success, but relying on luck was notoriously unreliable . . .

What I find weird about Spirit magic is that it's the one talent we keep hearing about having a role of "balancing", even though most elemental philosophies would have every element having a counter element that needs to be balanced (e.g. Fire/Water, Air/Earth, Spirit/Void) or exist in some sort of cycle (e.g. Fire creates Earth contains Metal carries Water feeds Wood fuels Fire). In later books (Book 3 I think is the first mention), we'll hear that Fire magic has the role of guarding and attacking. Green will never go into the purpose of any other aspect.

quote:

"Good morning, my dear," a smooth, pleasant voice said, taking Jovvi's attention. "I'm delighted to see that another of us has made it."

Jovvi examined the woman smiling at her even as she automatically returned the smile. The person greeting her was perhaps ten years away from middle age, but the woman radiated a sense of balance that suggested centuries of practice and exercise. She was tall, handsome rather than pretty, and had shining brown hair and soft brown eyes. Her dress was on the plain and businesslike side, a dark rose trimmed with gray, but was obviously expensive.

Ten years away from middle age? What's middle aged in this world? 35? 45? 70, since every Earth magic user can heal?

quote:

"I'm Genovir, the Adept who will be showing you around," the woman continued, putting out a friendly arm to draw Jovvi closer. "We'll have a cup of tea while I describe what you need to know, and then I'll get you started. Let's take that table over there."

There were quite a few tables with chairs standing just beyond the entrance area, and the one Genovir pointed to stood on the far side of the arrangement to the right. Jovvi let the friendly arm guide her into joining the woman, who paused to ring a bell hanging on a post before going to the table and sitting. Even before Jovvi was settled, a servant came out from behind a wall to the right, took Genovir's order for tea, then the man disappeared back behind the wall.

"Our servants are extremely efficient and quite pleasant," Genovir said when the man was gone, giving Jovvi another smile. "We generally all lunch in this area as well as take tea during times of rest, and you need only ring that bell when you want service. Some even take tea before they begin, as we're doing now."

Why is any of this important to the plot? How does any of this reveal character? What new information does this give me about the world?

quote:

"There aren't many people around, and none at the other tables," Jovvi observed just as mildly. "Is everyone already at practice then?"

"Oh, dear me, no," Genovir replied with a pleasant laugh. "Most of the applicants haven't arrived yet, it's much too early. We're here because this is your first visit, and you need someone to tell you what's expected. Tomorrow you may return early or with everyone else, just as you choose."

"I see," Jovvi said, then waited for the returning servant to set down a teapot and cups, pour for each of them, and then bow and leave again. "My goodness, they are efficient," she added.

"Once you reach this level you're entitled to a bit of pampering," Genovir responded, almost taking the compliment personally. "And once you've gone through hours of practice—or a competition—you'll appreciate it even more. Our range may not be as varied as some of the other aspects, but it can be more intense."

First it's more comfortable chairs, now it's prompt tea service. If these are the perks that come with being a High practitioner, then I'm not really sure the ordeal is worth it.

quote:

Jovvi nodded and sipped her tea after adding sugar, then let her gaze wander over everything in sight. A canopy was suspended from poles high above their heads, ready to ward off the heat of a noon sun when it arrived. Beyond the area of tables where they sat was a wide lawn of lovely grass, interrupted only by four stone paths. Each path led to an odd-looking round structure of resin, two of them small, two large. The small ones were to the left and the large to the right, and Genovir noticed Jovvi's curiosity.

I don't really care that Jovvi takes sugar in her tea since it's described so factually that it doesn't add anything to her character. Meanwhile, I still have serious white room syndrome. How high is "high"? What exactly is "odd-looking"? Does Jovvi not know the names of any shapes?

quote:

"The small buildings are practice areas, the large, competition areas," she supplied after sipping at her own tea. "The small resin building to the left is where you'll begin, at first taking up where you left off at the sessions. The only difference here is, you'll be facing the people whose emotions you must balance, rather than having them behind walls and out of sight somewhere."

"The way they were during the sessions and even at the test," Jovvi said, knowing she showed a small frown. "But why am I suddenly going to be facing them? I can affect them just as easily through a wall."

"Not through a resin wall, and that's the only sort we have here," Genovir responded, still projecting nothing but kindliness and patience. "In addition to that, you have to become accustomed to working with the people around you. We're all of us raised not to interfere with those who are closest to us, sometimes even in matters of self-protection. You've reached the level where that changes, and you must become accustomed to the idea."

She gave Jovvi a moment to think that over, a moment Jovvi gladly took. She'd used her talent both to defend herself and to further her career, but at all other times she'd followed the restrictions and hadn't gone beyond soothing an occasional someone in great distress. She'd been taught, along with every other child, that using her ability to affect other people was both disgusting and absolutely forbidden, and it was going to take some effort to get beyond that.

Is this message something that only Spirit magic users got or did everyone get the same message? How does that work if healers all have Earth magic and have to use their ability to heal their patients? Is it consistent across the Empire? Does it get conveyed during school? Did Jovvi even going to school, being a street kid? Is it just embedded as a social construct or are there laws against it? Who knows!

quote:

"You'll have six people to work with, and they'll begin by shaking fists at you and simply being angry," Genovir continued after the pause. "That will give you a sense of being endangered, which should help to get you past ingrained reluctance. And they'll all be standing together, which will make balancing their emotions easier. Once you've mastered that they'll separate into two groups, which you'll find is just a bit harder to handle. After that there will be three groups, and finally all six will stand individually around you. When you can meet and master that situation, you'll be ready to move on to the next small building."

"What's done there?" Jovvi asked, mostly to keep from thinking about having six people all around her who had to be balanced into harmlessness and serenity. That would be much harder than what she'd already done, but somehow she'd have to manage.

Reminder that Jovvi was balancing tiny spheres in fields of pitching emotions. I don't know about you guys, but I have trouble imagining what this looks like. Were the Spirit magic Adepts using their talent to generate a limited 2D area of effect where if you walk into this particular square, you would immediately feel this emotion? What about the pitching part of it? Was the intensity of the emotion fluctuating around in the square? Did their magic effectively make an emotion tangible so it could balance physical objects? I have so many questions about how Spirit magic works and I will never get any answers.

quote:

"The second small building is where you'll practice reversing what you did in the first," came the answer, the words so smooth and matter-of-fact that Jovvi was instantly on guard against showing the wrong reaction. "The people you'll be working with will just stand there, and it will be up to you to change serenity into anger, and perhaps into some of the other emotions. We can do both with our talent, you know. Unbalancing is merely the opposite side of the coin."

"So it is," Jovvi agreed with a faint smile, inwardly more than a little disturbed. Whatever were these people after ... ? "And when I complete that part of the practice, then comes the competition? How does that work?"

"My, aren't we eager," Genovir said with a smile that was just a shade too pleasant. "I certainly do hope our ability is able to match our ambition. But of course it will, so you must be told that the first competitions are time, strength, and speed tests where you are, in effect, competing with yourself. When you prove your mastery over your current peers, you then step forward to face those who have risen to the heights before you. So you see the whole thing is quite simple."

"Simple to discuss, yes," Jovvi said, making certain her tone was wry. "Accomplishing it will be another matter entirely, but I have cause to be concerned about the gold they told us could be won during the competitions. In just a short while I'll need to pay for my food again, and I don't yet have the full amount."

"Ah, yes, I'd forgotten about that," the woman said, and now her smile was considerably more relaxed. "The pressure of needing to earn your supper. Well, you need not fear an empty belly quite yet, as you'll earn a silver din for each section of the first building that you master, and two silver for every section of the second. Does that ease your mind?"

"Yes, thank you, it certainly does," Jovvi replied, making certain she sounded gratefully relieved. "Hopefully I'll have enough time to earn what I need for week's end, and after that I can work toward future times. Yes, that should do quite nicely, and I appreciate your putting my mind at rest."

"That's one of the things I'm here for, my dear," Genovir replied, superiority fairly oozing out of her. The impression of total balance was a false facade, Jovvi could see now, erected to hide a rather shallow personality. And as easy as it was to get through the facade, the woman couldn't be terribly strong. And yet she called herself an Adept, which was supposed to be a position only just below that of High practitioner.

Ok, how do you see someone's personality is shallow? Is Jovvi scanning through Genovir's mind right now? What did she see that made her conclude Genovir is shallow?

quote:

Jovvi sipped her tea in silence, trying to make sense of what now lay before her. The practicing she would soon do had a purpose, she couldn't be more certain of that. But the nature of the purpose was hidden behind requirements without explanation—and statements apparently designed to raise thoughtless protest.

Like their short discussion about the second practice building. Jovvi had the very strong conviction that she was supposed to have protested the idea of creating unbalance; that would have shown she felt concern over others, the strength of her protest indicating just how strong that concern actually was. They could have been looking for a sense of humanity, but if that was so then why had Genovir seemed so pleased when Jovvi hadn't displayed one? And Genovir had been pleased, Jovvi had felt that clearly, but the emotion hadn't seemed personal.

So Genovir probably wasn't making an estimate of Jovvi for purely personal use. She was supposed to look for certain qualities, but ambition wasn't one of them. The thought of that hadn't set well with the Adept, but that part of it might have been personal. The woman was guarding herself in an effort to keep from being read, but not particularly well. There was a good chance she would soon relax, and then Jovvi would be able to get a better idea of what was going on.

This red herring will go nowhere.

quote:

But in the meanwhile Jovvi would have to watch what she said and did. The day was growing brighter and more pleasant, an external outlook that didn't quite match Jovvi's inner one. She still had to find out how strong was considered too strong, and how weak too weak. Playing that balance was the only thing that would let her move forward in relative safety—until she reached the end of whatever line it was that she walked.

"Are we ready to begin now?" Genovir asked with the pleasant patience that was beginning to grate on Jovvi. They'd both finished their cups of tea, and apparently having a second cup wasn't part of the grand plan.

"Oh, yes, I'm quite ready to begin," Jovvi answered, then stood as Genovir did. She had to remember to be eager about some things, not so eager about others. And she had to remember that she was supposed to be nearly penniless. Her cache of gold was quite safe where she'd hidden it, but it had to be forgotten about. That meant she had to earn at least one more silver din before week's end, but would that be considered adequate progress? Assuming she found herself able to move ahead rather quickly, just how quickly should that be allowed to happen?

Jovvi sighed as she followed Genovir onto the path leading to the first of the small, round resin buildings. The next days weren't likely to be pleasant, not in the least. . . .

You would think the socially savvy Littlefinger wannabe mind reader would use her conversational skills to do some investigation, instead of just sitting there asking the same questions as the hick farmer.

Summary:

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials" (as Adept Forum called them) - the first and second levels of masteries of that aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.
  • Spirit: 1) calm 6 angry people in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1 , 2) do the opposite of 1

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: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 14
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 28
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 29
"CLIFFHANGERS": 16
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 9
BLATANT MORALIZING: 16
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

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, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Chapters 39, 40)

Possible fixes:
Same as previous chapter and the comments in Chapters 1-10 about keeping only 1 POV. I don't need to see everybody gain their masteries unless it tells me something new about their character!

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




I feel like some of these manifestations of Air magic should not be as comforting as they're made out to be. Your happy childhood memory is a dark, snug pocket where you go to hide? Here you go, have a completely transparent replica that leaves you fully exposed in the middle of the room.

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


What's weird about it is all of these Air magic signs are taking place in completely private places. There's no reason for it to be invisible, and we know from Rion in Chapter 22 that Air magic practitioners can make air opaque! It didn't go into whether that meant Air magic can manipulate light and therefore Air magic users can train to be illusionists, but Jovvi and Lorand could totally have had opaque barrels and bales of hay to hide in, but they didn't because Green.

there wolf
Jan 11, 2015

by Fluffdaddy


Air magicians being able to do illusions would be a pretty cool expansion on their powers, particularly if you've got eight books you need to be leveling people up through. Or maybe it's actually the product of powers combing, like air and water, which would setup the eventual blending of all five.

I think the worst part about the testing stuff is not that it is contradictory, but that the reason for it being so is never explained. If the idea is that the government is trying to suppress people's inherent power so a weaker elite can stay in charge, it makes sense for testing to be an inefficient mess, particularly if it grew that way over time from the suborning of a better system. Like finding highs was so important but they had an issue with bribes, so everyone was cut off from their funds and candidates were kept at the government's expense while going through the trials. Then that deteriorated into a voucher system, and then this lovely 'we keep you broke and then give you prizes for doing well thing they have now.'

But Green makes it all seem like the inscrutable 3d chess of a master villain, instead. Realistically the contestants should be latching onto the contradictions as a sign that something isn't right here as much as anything else.

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:

Air magicians being able to do illusions would be a pretty cool expansion on their powers, particularly if you've got eight books you need to be leveling people up through. Or maybe it's actually the product of powers combing, like air and water, which would setup the eventual blending of all five.

My headcanon is that Book 5 spoilers Air + Sight magic = illusions, i.e. you could cast an illusion but it would have to be rooted in something that's within the realm of probability.

The other problem with "nobody knows how Blending works" and the reason for the conspiracy theory is that Book 3 spoilers the mechanic for Blending is you reach other to each other and "connect" to each other, except this is described no differently than how you would form a link group. We've already had in-text descriptions of talents of different aspects working together to make resin, etc so how is it nobody ever thought hrmm, what happens if I do exactly the same thing except with one of each different aspect??

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 FORTY-ONE

Rion left the coach without a backward glance, still too wrapped up in his plans and feelings to be able to concern himself with those around him. Especially when things didn't seem to be going well for the others. Tamrissa and Vallant Ro appeared to have had some kind of falling out, and there was a definite . . . distance between Jovvi and Lorand Coll. Perhaps the ladies now regretted having given their attentions to other men rather than him, but that possibility had to be shelved for the moment along with the rest.

This would have been a more effective chapter if we had Rion wrestling with how exactly he's going to rescue Naran (on the proviso that the plan blows up in his face because the cardinal rule of storytelling is it's boring to show characters planning things and then have things go exactly as planned).

quote:

This time there were no guardsmen to bother with, so Rion walked through the opening in the resin wall. Beyond lay an open area which wasn't terribly large, then an expanse of ordinary tables and chairs, and then a stretch of lawn broken only by stone paths. Two small, round resin buildings stood beyond the lawn to the left, and two similar but larger buildings stood to the right. There was nothing to say what any of the buildings were for, and that annoyed Rion.

I'm annoyed because this is the third identical description that we've got of the same place. If descriptions are supposed to reveal character then Lorand, Jovvi and Rion are all interchangeable.

quote:

"Good morning," a voice said, and Rion turned to see a man approaching him. The man was dressed plainly but rather well in blue trousers, a pale green shirt, and a light gray vest, but the expensive clothing would have looked better on a thinner man. This one obviously enjoyed indulging himself at the expense of his waistline, and even through sleeves his arms looked fleshy rather than muscular. A half beard circled his mouth and matched the brown of his hair, all of that ordinariness working to camouflage the sharp look in his dark brown eyes.

"I'm Padril, the Adept assigned to assist you," the man said, stopping to give Rion a quick inspection with those eyes. "I see they were right, and your name is incorrect on your identification card. I'll arrange for a proper one immediately, and—"

"No," Rion interrupted, outrage suddenly beginning to grow in him. "My correct name is just as you see it on this card, and it's not to be changed to anything else. You may tell whomever else is involved that that decision is final."

"They're certain to find that pronouncement confusing," Padril said, now looking at Rion with curiosity. "Apparently someone made quite a fuss over the mistake, and insisted that it be corrected at once. Now you tell me there is no mistake, and nothing's to be changed. I'm afraid explanations will be demanded before the matter can be resolved."

"As far as I'm concerned the matter is already resolved," Rion answered, his tone quite chill. "You may tell those people that I'm a grown man, and therefore completely capable of deciding what my name will be. If someone appears and disputes the correctness of that name, they need only refer the someone to me. No one's word is to be taken in this matter above mine."

"I doubt they'll be pleased, but I'll certainly pass on what you've said," Padril assured him, faint amusement behind the words.

There are so many other ways that this power struggle between Rion and Hallina could have played out. If she's that rich and influential, she could have bribed everyone he's in contact with to address him as Clarion, regardless of what his identification says. That would say a lot more than trying to change his identification back. If Hallina was going to go down that route, then she should have bribed someone in the residence to switch out the identifications while Rion's asleep.

quote:

"Now that we've settled that misunderstanding, let's take a cup of tea and discuss what you're here for."

The man gestured toward one of the tables, then led the way over to it. Rion followed, watched as Padril paused to ring a bell hanging on a post before taking a seat, then took his own seat. By then a servant was coming toward them from behind a wall to the left, already carrying a tray with a pot and cups.

"I requested the tea just before you arrived," Padril explained while they were being given cups and then having the cups filled. "We take lunch and refreshment at these tables, and ringing a bell will bring you immediate service. It goes a bit more slowly at lunchtime, when most of us are here at the same time, but the wait never stretches beyond reason."

Rion nodded and sipped at the hot tea until the servant had left, then he gestured to the buildings.

"Why yes we will have tea as we are very sophisticated, civilized, intelligent people of the very best society"

quote:

"That, I take it, is where the goings-on go on," he said, trying to lighten his mood. "Do any of the buildings relate to one another, or do they all have separate purposes?"

"The two small ones are for practice, the two large ones for competitions," Padril replied without hesitation. "There are also two sorts of competitions for each segment, which I'll explain about shortly. You're not fond of idle chitchat, I take it. Most newcomers avoid the topic of what's to be required of them until their Adept guide insists on discussing it, but you've brought it up yourself. I would guess that this name thing has really upset you."

"You find it beyond reason that I'm merely eager to get on with things?" Rion countered, leaning back just a little in his chair. "An applicant's ultimate aim is supposed to be the achievement of a High position, and I've never heard of the position being awarded to someone shy and retiring. But perhaps I'm mistaken, and the reticent are the ones who achieve the glory."

"No, you aren't mistaken," Padril admitted with a chuckle.

Two things:
1) most applicants avoid the topic? I don't buy this. Most people should want to know what's involved, either because they're personally invested in the possibility of untold power, prestige and wealth or because of curiosity.
2) Rion has heard of people who were awarded High positions? Well WHY DIDN'T YOU BRING THIS UP EARLIER during your last bath house meeting? When you're trying to figure out what happened to the people who didn't make it, consider who made it and whether there's any patterns there is relevant information!

quote:

"The positions do indeed go to those most able to take and defend them. But my own position requires that I be certain the applicant under my wing is able to do his or her best, and in your case I'm not certain at all. Are you unaware of the fact that inner turmoil can and does interfere with the full use of your talent?"

"Truthfully, I've never heard that," Rion said, and the words were the truth. He'd never heard anyone discuss the subject, but his own observations didn't match the conclusion. A week earlier he would have said so without hesitation, but now some newly-awakened sense of caution made him keep the matter to himself.

"The connection between personal distress and a lessening of ability is quite well documented," Padril assured him with a sincere expression both on his face and in his eyes. "You must dismiss all other concerns when you engage in operating at this level, leaving your mind clear to concentrate on what's before you. If you tell me about the problem troubling you, it will not only make you feel considerably better, I'll then be better able to act on your behalf. If I can, I'd like to see to it that you're not troubled again."

Rion hesitated, uncomfortable with the thought of unburdening himself to a stranger, but there was no real harm in doing it. Padril would most likely find himself helpless before Mother's determination, but possibly one of the man's superiors would not be the same.

"If you can keep me from being troubled again, you'll undoubtedly be set on the Fivefold Throne all by yourself," Rion finally allowed with a wry smile. "I've recently decided to . . . exert my independence as an adult, and my mother dislikes the idea intensely. She's been insisting that I retain the name she gave me, but I find only the last part of it acceptable. I even had the identification card changed, and don't intend to allow it to be changed back again. But Mother does wield a good deal of power, so the battle won't be easily or quickly over with. If I were you, I'd seriously consider staying well out of the affair."

"It sounds as though that would certainly be the wisest course," Padril agreed, equally wry. "Mothers can sometimes be so unreasonable where their children are concerned. And when they have power as well . . . The temptation to withdraw is certainly there, but I'm afraid I'll have to ignore it. Your potential value to the empire is a good deal greater than your mother's, so we have no choice but to support your stance rather than hers. Does knowing that ease your mind at all?"

"Actually, it does," Rion admitted, surprised to discover that he wasn't lying. "If you can keep Mother from distracting me, I should be able to give you a showing that will make you glad you did. And since that is supposed to be what I'm here for, things would work out quite well."

More obvious foreshadowing! Which will be promptly undone by the tell all explanation in Chapter 44.

quote:

"Having something to point to before my superiors would help a good deal," Padril admitted in turn, now studying Rion thoughtfully. "Suppose I describe what will be expected of you, and then you give me an estimate of how quickly you think you can accomplish each thing."

"Go ahead," Rion agreed, now even more eager to get down to details. If these people could be gotten actively on his side, his problem with Mother might be solved rather more easily than he'd imagined.

"As I mentioned, there are two buildings for practice," Padril said with a nod for Rion's agreement. "In the first you will have six other people besides yourself, and you'll need to practice keeping them and yourself supplied with air to breathe while the room is being filled with smoke or some such that would make breathing difficult. At first the six will be together, but then they'll separate, first into two groups, then three, then they'll stand individually. How long do you think it will take you to accomplish all that?"

"Not long once I get the hang of working with more than three groups," Rion answered honestly, remembering the test he'd survived. "Learning comes rather easily to members of my class, after all, so I anticipate very little trouble."

"Good," Padril enthused, leaning forward just a bit with a warm smile on his face. "And for each milestone you master, you'll earn another silver din. But the achievements in the second building bring two silver dins each, and that's the place most applicants have the most trouble. Someone like you, though . . ."

"Won't have any trouble at all," Rion finished happily when the other man's voice trailed off. "What's involved that so many people have difficulty with it?"

"In a manner of speaking it's just the reverse of the first building," Padril said, still obviously approving. "You'll need to take away the air from about the six people, first with them standing in a group, to the end where they stand individually. It's really quite simple, so I don't understand why so many have trouble with it."

"They must have been members of the lower classes," Rion commented, already elated over what would soon be a major success. "And you need have no fear at all, since I've already practiced that little trick with two people and had no trouble at all. Six will simply take a bit more concentration and effort."

Padril: "To pass your second level masteries, you need to suffocate other people. Most people can't do that for reasons that I, an odious sycophant without a conscience, have trouble understanding"
Rion: "No worries my fellow sociopath, I've already practiced depriving two other non-voluntary humans of air so I got this bro"

We'll see in Book 2 that the nobles practice on their own servants but we will never find out where they are getting these people for the commoner Spirit and Air magic applicants to practice on. I wonder if they're just poor people who volunteer to be repeatedly suffocated in exchange for money to feed themselves and their families, or if they're drugged mind controlled people kidnapped from the gutters.

quote:

"Marvelous," Padril breathed, leaning back again with shining eyes. "You've already practiced what many of those sharing our aspect are unable to manage at all. You certainly will be worth an enormous amount to the empire, and I feel privileged to be the one who will assist you. When you reach the competitions—But I haven't described the competitions yet, have I? What a fool I am, to be so easily distracted by magnificence."

"And that's where the gold is paid," Rion said after joining Padril's self-laughter. "We must certainly not forget about the competitions."

Rion's sarcasm meter is broken.

quote:

"Oh, you'll undoubtedly soon be swimming in gold," Padril said with another laugh, then leaned forward again. "The first competitions are merely time trials, you and the others of your level working to see who can do the most the fastest. You'll certainly win there rather easily, and then you'll face others of your new level in true competition. Each of you will try to take the other's air while keeping your own, and at each stage more people will be added to 'your' side. When you win there, the gold will really begin to flow."

Spoilers for Books 2 and 3 it seems like Green planned for there to be another round of competitions between the time trials and the actual Blending competitions, but this never happens. I would bet it got cut because Green ran out of page count since the masteries don't even wrap up until 2/3s of the way through Book 2

quote:

"I can hardly wait," Rion said, leaning back in his chair while visions of true independence flowed lazily through his mind. His power and importance would exceed Mother's rather than simply equaling what she wielded, and his happiness would thereafter be assured. No one would dare to tell him what to do or when and how to do it, and his protection of the sweet and lovely Naran would be personal and constant.

I can hardly wait to see how long this instance of characterization sticks around.

quote:

"I'm glad you were first to mention waiting," Padril said, bringing him back to the currently-real world. "I, too, can hardly wait to see what you'll accomplish, so what say we finish our tea and get you started, eh? The sooner begun, the sooner on to greater things."

"Yes, you're absolutely right," Rion agreed with a grin, then he finished his tea in a single swallow and stood. "First we begin, and then on to greater things."

Padril actually left his tea and simply rose, the man's entire countenance and demeanor showing how pleased and satisfied he was. It felt odd to have a stranger show such deep emotions where he was concerned, but Padril obviously knew a man of quality when he saw one. And soon he would see one accomplishing marvels. . . .

Rion followed Padril toward the first building, happier and more at ease than he'd ever felt in his life.

Rion's ability to read emotions is also broken. "Pleased" and "satisfied" aren't exactly deep emotions.

Summary:

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials" (as Adept Forum called them) - the first and second levels of masteries of that aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.
  • Spirit: 1) calm 6 angry people in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Air: 1) keep 6 people breathing in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1

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: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 14
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 30
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 29
"CLIFFHANGERS": 16
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 10
BLATANT MORALIZING: 16
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

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, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Chapters 39, 40, 41)

Possible fixes:
If we're talking in terms of overall narrative, same as previous chapter. I could see potential for doing this chapter from the POV of one of the random people acting as test subjects in a prologue or an interlude of some sort, so we can see how terrifying these people are, instead of being bored by braiding braiding braiding. Come to think of it, this would be a good POV to seed some world building around how effectively (or ineffectively) the government is at running things and what the average downtrodden peasant is doing to get by.

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


We're getting so close and these chapters are so short, I'm going to try and power through this by tomorrow, then take a break to binge read all of Wintersteel (Cradle 8) in one sitting before I come back to finish off the first five chapters of Book 2 as promised.

quote:

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

I left the coach before Jovvi, and my relief at not having to worry about any more conversation with her just about balanced my nervousness about what lay ahead. I'd worried bout that—during the few, brief periods when I hadn't been thinking about Vallant Ro.

As I walked toward the opening in the resin wall, I tried to understand why Jovvi would defend the man. During the time he and I had spent together, he'd just about sworn that I was the only woman he'd ever found any real interest in. I'd let myself forget that other people couldn't be trusted, and I'd started to believe him—and then that woman had arrived. I'd suddenly realized that he must have told her the same exact things, and that I'd been a fool to even consider believing him. And what hurt the most was that Vallant Ro had put me in a position where my father could embarrass and humiliate me. Again.

Vallant is like that person early on in a relationship who never goes into any real specifics about their past love life because they know they're going to get a bad reaction. I kinda feel for him though, because I don't know that full disclosure would have done him any good with Tamrissa.

Wow. It took 41 chapters before I could feel any sympathy for this guy. Just saying.

quote:

Just inside the smoky resin wall was an open area, with tables and chairs arranged to the left and cubicles of some sort about fifty feet ahead. To the right of the cubicles and another fifty feet beyond them stood a round building made of milky-white resin. The arrangement looked ordinary rather than threatening, and even the cubicles were mostly open and larger than what we'd used during the sessions.

I stopped a short way past the entrance wall and stood looking around, wondering where I was supposed to go next. There wasn't another living soul in sight—until a woman came out from behind a wall to the left, beyond the tables and chairs. She wore a yellow skirt and white lace blouse, seemed to be close to her middle years, and strutted rather than walked. As she came closer I could see that her face was mostly unlined, but wore an expression of. . . assured arrogance, I suppose you could call it. Her brown hair and eyes were unremarkable, but her attitude said that could only matter to someone else, not to her.

Not only do we have protagonists that feel like copies of each other, we also have the same for random infodump characters!

quote:

"Good afternoon," she said rather dryly, stopping about five feet away to look me up and down. "It's about time you got here."

"I got here when the coach did, whose arrival I had no control over," I answered immediately, trying to ignore how fast my heart had begun to beat. "And this is the morning, not the afternoon, but don't bother correcting yourself. Whichever, it isn't particularly good."

"So you're not as much of a little priss as you look," she said with something of a shrug, her tone lightening just a bit. "That will make you easier to live with, but don't expect us to ever be bosom friends. I don't like your sort, and I'm only associating with you because I've been assigned to do it. I'm Soonen, your Adept guide, and you'd better remember what I say because I don't intend to repeat myself."

"Say it clearly the first time, and you won't have to," I countered, really disliking the woman. "And what do you mean by my 'sort.' What sort is that?"

"The sweet and pretty little girl sort," she returned, looking me over a second time. "Your kind never gets anywhere, because it's so much easier to stand there acting helpless until some male fool rushes over to take care of things for you. And don't tell me that that's the way you were raised to behave. It's not a reason, it's an excuse."

"So what's your excuse for judging people according to your own prejudices?" I came back, beginning to be too angry to be nervous any longer. "I was raised to be helpless and do as I was told, but that never quite agreed with me. For that reason I now do as I like, and don't wait for anyone to do things for me. If I can't do them for myself, I practice until I can do them. You—"

"Okay, enough," Soonen interrupted, raising both hands palms toward me. "You talk a good game, but that doesn't mean you can actually do anything. We'll get this tour routine over with, and then you can put your power where your mouth is." Fuming is too calm a word to describe how I felt, but I still lapsed into silence. I did want her to finish up what she described as a "tour," and then maybe she would leave. If he didn't and accidentally got singed at some point, it wouldn't be my fault.

That typo exists in the ebook, though I wouldn't be surprised if it got missed in the print. Also this exchange is so on-the-nose that I'm cringing.

quote:

"These tables are where we take our lunch and any re-refreshment we might want," Soonen continued, waving a hand without looking toward the objects she discussed. "There are bells on the posts scattered through the area, and when you want service you just ring one of them. Now come this way."

She turned and walked toward the cubicles, heading for the one on the far left. There was at least twenty feet between the last of the tables and the cubicles, and when I followed Soonen to the first of them I found out why.

"This is where you'll practice," she said, now gesturing to the small rooms which had no ceilings. Some of the others farther down the line also had no back wall, but this one had clear resin closing it in. "The exercises aren't anything like what you've already done, because by now you ought to be able to handle your flames without any trouble. Now you have to learn to handle them along with other things."

What? What does that mean? Fire magic is pretty straightforward - it increases the temperature of the target object. Control involves being able to target objects precisely and managing the speed of temperature increase. Lighting a forest fire? Very imprecise rapid temperature increase. Drying damp towels? Precise gradual temperature increase. Handling other things is not really part of the mechanic here.

quote:

She turned away from me and walked into the cubicle, then stepped down hard on the end of a long lever. The lever was attached to a wide box, whose lid flew open to allow a shower of dirt to be thrown up into the air. The cloud of dirt spread out even before the lid closed again, but it never got the chance to settle down onto the floor of the cubicle. There were suddenly flames all through the cloud, and when they disappeared there wasn't a speck of dirt left.

"Burning dirt isn't easy, but if even one grain falls to the floor you haven't mastered the ability," Soonen said, turning again to look at me with malicious amusement. "There's a technique to doing it, but that's something you'll have to discover yourself. I'm not allowed to tell you what it is."

That might or might not have been the truth, but I wouldn't have begged her help even if I'd needed it. That seemed to be what she was after, wanting me to humiliate myself in order to be told what I had to know. The only flaw in her plan was that I'd already seen what she'd done, having touched her flames automatically with my talent to get a closer view, so to speak, of what was going on. Visually it didn't seem like it, but she'd woven her base fires the way we'd learned to do during the sessions.

How is Tamrissa the only one to think to do this? I mean, fine, Lorand is the only other one to get a demonstration but if you can follow what someone's doing simply by using your talent, why wouldn't you do that all the time?

quote:

"Now, in this second practice area you'll find something different," Soonen went on, walking into the next cubicle. "And if you thought burning dirt was hard, wait until you try this."

This time the lever she stepped on ran up the righthand wall and was attached to a metal tank of some sort suspended above the cubicle. Stepping on the lever opened small holes in the metal tank, which immediately began to leak a fine mist of water. Soonen released the lever and then reached out with her flames again, but this time with a different pattern of weaving. Burned water usually turns to steam, but once her fire had swept through the shower of droplets there was nothing left whatsoever.

"And that's the way it has to be done," Soonen said, looking at me with even more smugness. "Producing any steam at all is a failure at mastery, since any fool can produce steam. Now come in here."

She moved from the second cubicle to the third, which had a pile of wood in the middle of the floor. Each piece in the pile, about a foot in length, was carved into a different shape, and all the shapes and pieces were jumbled together.

"Can you see that long-oval in the middle of the pile, the one with a splotch of orange paint?" Soonen asked, pointing toward a piece that was almost completely buried in the midst of the others. "Well, the object here is to burn that piece to nothing but ash—without touching any of the other pieces. The smallest singe mark anywhere else will be considered a failure, but you'll just practice until you get it right—won't you?"

"Yes, I will," I returned through my teeth, her ridicule immediately grating on my temper. "But why don't you really show me how good you are, and do the exercise rather than talk about it? You did the others, after all, so why not this one?"

"It so happens I'm not in the mood to go after another marked piece of wood," she answered with the same smile, only her eyes showing an instant of raging hatred. "If I destroyed this one I'd then have to bury its replacement in the pile, and I'm not in the mood to dirty my hands either. Let's move on to the next rooms."

She brushed past me in a very firm way, closing the subject of her doing the exercise in a flat and final manner. But her back had stiffened quite a lot, showing she suspected that I knew the truth—which I did. This marvelous and high-level Adept who thought so little of me couldn't do the exercise, not the way it was supposed to be done. I'd thought I'd felt her straining with the first two exercises, but decided I was imagining things—until she simply described the third.

I guess nobody in these books is capable of any subtlety because if they were, it would all be beyond the protagonists' abilities to deduce what's going on.

quote:

"These following rooms are variations on the third, with progressively more delicate—and flammable—materials," Soonen said, pointing into the next cubicle without looking at me this time. "Here you'll find wedges of leather, then strips of cloth, and finally a pile of feathers. Mastery there will require you to burn one single feather of a particular color at a time until ten are done, with your examiner pointing out which feathers to burn when."

"And will you be my examiner?" I asked, mostly to keep from showing how appalled I felt. Ten feathers, one at a time? How was anyone supposed to do that?

"No, I'm not an examiner," Soonen answered, an edge of bitterness to her tone. "Our aspect has twice or more the number of women than it has of men, but the examiners are still all male. Not stronger or better, just male. How are you supposed to prove what you can do if none of them will give you the chance?"

What? So talent distribution isn't even? Is is a reflection on the genetic distribution of magical talent or a reflection on the magical traits that the society has encouraged to develop?

quote:

I almost told her that waiting for someone else to give you a chance was the same as refusing to try because you weren't sure you could do something. I was hardly the possessor of the world's greatest amount of self-confidence, and trying even when you aren't sure is horribly difficult. But it has to be something you do, something you make up your mind to try even if you're sure you'll fail. No one can decide on that for you, just as no one can give you a chance. You must find your own chances, or live your life without them.

I'm starting to wonder if most of the blatant moralizing is coming in Tamrissa's chapters because Tamrissa is the author's self-insert.

quote:

"You don't have to worry about the last set of exercises until you master these first ones," Soonen continued, now sounding a shade angrier than she had. "They're a repetition of the first set, with the addition of an Adept, in this case me, trying to burn your delicate little toes while you perform each exercise. You must learn to defend yourself while doing something else with your talent, and this is the best way to make an applicant understand the need."

"Best for whom?" I couldn't help asking, noticing at the same time that her mood had improved. Anticipating all that fun must have done it, fun that I had to fight to keep from shivering over.

"Why worry about something you probably won't ever have to face?" Soonen asked, disparagement heavy in her voice and manner. "You're too pretty to actually accomplish anything, and the men will be able to carry you only so far-After that you'll be off the hook, and then you'll be able to relax."

"Does that mean you've decided not to discuss the competitions?" I countered, now fighting to keep from losing my temper completely. "It's always possible that some fluke will occur and I'll master these exercises in spite of your expert opinion to the contrary, so why not humor me and tell me what I'll need to know."

"You won't need to know it, but I'll tell you anyway," she said with a sound of derision, the look in her eyes dismissive. "The first of the competitions is you against your level-peers, just like in a foot race. Strength, speed, and ability are what you need to win, but what you win is the interesting part. The prize is the chance to face someone a good deal stronger, this time one against one rather than everyone against the competition itself. The more advanced competitors can kill you, and worse, you might even break a fingernail."

More in-text stuff about something that I'm pretty sure got cut during editing Books 2 and 3! One on one battles would be more interesting than this stuff, and this stuff is more interesting than the braiding braiding braiding.

quote:

"What about the gold?" I choked out, more furious than I could ever remember being. "We were told we'd be able to win gold, but no one said it would take so long to reach a position where it's possible. What are we supposed to meet our obligations with in the meanwhile?"

"Oh, didn't I mention that?" she asked, laughing at me silently. "I suppose it slipped my mind with everything else we discussed. Every time you master one of the first segments, you'll earn a silver din. If you move on to the second set it will be two silver dins a segment, but you can most likely forget about that. You won't get even as far as the third segment in the first set."

"Why not?" I demanded with matching ridicule and my fists on my hips as I looked up at her. "Just because you didn't? What makes you think I'm as backward as you are?"

"We'll see who the backward one is," she growled, now showing all her hatred in her eyes. "You won't get anywhere at all, and when that happens I'll laugh."

"And if it doesn't happen, you'll burn," I said in my own growl, then realized how close I was getting to losing control. I couldn't let that happen, especially not in that place, but with that woman around it wouldn't be possible to calm down. "But at the moment I can use a cup of tea, so why don't you run along back to wherever you came from. If I need you I'll ring a bell."

She began to snarl something, changed her mind, then simply stalked off looking like a thunderstorm about to happen. I had the definite impression she'd wanted me to start the exercises immediately, before I'd regained control of myself. If I'd died pulling in more power than was wise because my judgment had become impaired, she would have been able to cross me off her list of those who might do better than her if left to their own devices.

If anyone's counting, Tamrissa gets to earn more silver than anybody else because she's got a larger number of masteries to demonstrate than the other aspects. I don't know whether Green inherently decided that it's because Fire magic requires more control or because she couldn't be bothered thinking up additional masteries for the other aspects.

quote:

Well, that wasn't going to happen. I walked back to the area containing tables and chairs, rang one of the bells, then sat at a table. I would have my cup of tea and regain control over myself, and then I would start the first of those exercises. I didn't yet need the silver din I would earn with each mastery, but by next week's end I would. I'd be much happier having the silver before I needed it, and that's why I was eager to start. To earn the silver, not to prove something to that stupid woman. . .

The servant who appeared actually brought a cup of tea with him, expecting me to sip it while I waited for whatever else I wanted. He seemed disappointed when I said that the tea would do fine, and he returned behind the wall a good deal more slowly than he'd come out. Once he was gone I forgot about him, concentrating instead on regaining full control of myself. Men didn't interest me, neither servants nor applicants in Water magic, especially applicants in Water magic. I'd decided not to listen to any of them ever again, and I'd stick to that.

I had no need of anyone to protect me, and I meant to prove it. There might have been a faint tremor in my hand when I lifted the teacup, but that didn't matter. I'd show all of them that I needed no one other than myself, I would. . . I would ... I would. . . !

Green's inability to tell when she should end a chapter and when she shouldn't irritates me no end.

Summary:

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials" (as Adept Forum called them) - the first and second levels of masteries of that aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.
  • Spirit: 1) calm 6 angry people in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Air: 1) keep 6 people breathing in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Fire: 1) burn grains of flying dirt, burn droplets of water mist, burn specific pieces of wood, leather, cloth and feathers; 2) defend yourself against attack from an adept while repeating 1

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: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 14
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 10
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, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 30
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 29
"CLIFFHANGERS": 16
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 11
BLATANT MORALIZING: 17
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

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, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Chapters 39, 40, 41, 42)

Possible fixes:
Further reflection says each of the first five "how do I get mastery" chapters should have been condensed into like three paragraphs of exposition and combined with the "actually getting my first level mastery" chapters that kick off Book 2. And then 4 of those 5 chapters should get nixed because 1 POV. Or we do the whole thing like magical Olympics like the athletics and track events where all the events are going on in the same arena.

Ok, I just realized the basic premise here is really magical Olympics, only instead of gold medals, the winners get to rule the Empire. In which case the usual plot archetype that applies is "underdog sports story" à la Cool Runnings and Mighty Ducks, though the meta-narratives that go with those two that might be boring here and we should go for more of a Miracle situation what with the Empire being up for grabs.

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


Welp, so Wintersteel was automatically downloaded to my Kindle about an hour after my last post, so I have ALREADY binge read it. Two chapters left in Book 1 so let's get this done so I can go and binge read it AGAIN (because it was that good).

quote:

CHAPTER FORTY-THREE

Vallant spent most of the coach ride sunk deep in agitated thought. He'd fully exported Tamrissa to show something in the way of reaction when he told her the truth, even if that happened to be accusing him of lying. That he could have coped with, but her absolute refusal to hear him had been the most frustrating experience of his life. How do you cope with being turned invisible by the woman you've discovered you don't want to get along without?

This is a hilarious typo in the ebook. Vallant is lucky he's a character in fantasy 17th century Britain. He would not be able to cope with Tinder. Though now I kind of want to see Book 5 spoilers Naran and Jovvi link up to provide a match making Tinder like service, where Naran considers someone's future probable romantic partners and Jovvi helps her beam her Sight into the customer's head, and the customer just mentally swipes left or right on each person that would make so much more money than Jovvi's courtesan gig.

quote:

If someone knew the answer to that, it wasn't Vallant. When the coach finally stopped beside a metal representation of the Water symbol, he still hadn't thought of anything. But Holter was leaving the coach, so he had no choice but to do the same. Mardimil had already left without Vallant's noticing, and he himself was outside with the coach beginning to move before he realized he hadn't said anything to Coll. It wouldn't have hurt to wish the other man good luck, and then he might have even gotten the wish returned. . ..

You're a super fit sailor captain dude, I'm fairly sure if you want to wish Lorand good luck you could run after the coach, holler at the top of your lungs and he'd hear it.

quote:

But the opening in the milky-white resin wall didn't seem to lead into anything but more outside, so Vallant followed Holter with only the smallest hesitation. Just beyond the wall was an open space, with tables and chairs arranged to the right. Straight ahead about fifty feet away was a line of odd-looking cubicles, and unless Vallant was mistaken there were no back walls or ceilings to them. That came as an incredible relief, even with the presence of a large, round, white resin building visible a short distance beyond the cubicle. It might be possible to avoid going into that building, at least for a time.

"One fer each a us," Holter murmured, and Vallant looked around to see what he meant. Two men were coming toward them from behind the wall beyond the tables and chairs, and Holter's commenting on their approach probably showed how nervous the small man was. Vallant didn't blame him, especially since the two approaching were a mismatched set.

They were both dressed rather well, but the smaller and heavier of the two looked as if he were wearing someone else's clothes. Discomfort over clothing not yet gotten used to often produced that rumpled, ill-fitting look, and the lopsided grin the man wore did nothing to improve the image.

Did Vallant suddenly turn into Rion? Why is he noticing other people's clothes?

quote:

The second, thinner man wore a faint smile as well as showing greater self-confidence, but he also gave the impression of holding himself away from his companion. As if to avoid contamination, Vallant thought, which meant he was too late by years. His smile showed he'd already been contaminated by the assumption that he was better than the crude sort of man ever could be, which made Vallant sigh.

"Copper to gold I know which of those is meant for me," he murmured, loud enough for no one but Holter to hear him. "I'd also be willin' to trade him for the one who's yours. Would you like to trade?"

Holter glanced at him with the first true amusement Vallant had seen him show in days, but a firm headshake accompanied the amusement. Holter wasn't stupid, which meant Vallant was stuck with the thinner man. Vallant sighed again, which made Holter chuckle, and then the thinner man had reached Vallant while the other drew Holter aside.

"Good morning and welcome," the man said, his voice deep and melodious and somehow out of place. "I'm Wimand, the Adept assigned to show you around. Your companion will be seen to separately by Podon, as we've learned that group introductions to our precincts are most often less than successful. We'll sit and have the tea I've already ordered, and I'll tell you what we're all about."

Now random minor characters are giving us excuses for why Green couldn't write more effectively? There's no other justifications for why you can't just do mass inductions where there would be more characters interacting with each other, except "because".

quote:

"My friend doesn't seem to be havin' tea," Vallant observed as he followed Wimand to the table the other man had gestured toward. "He and Podon are goin' straight to that first cubicle on the left, and Podon is tellin' him somethin'."

"He's telling him about what each of the practice rooms is used for," Wimand replied as he sat, his smile completely unperturbed. "Those of the common class usually have very little patience, so we routinely let them go through the tour first. I promise you it won't make any difference, and in a short while you and he will be taking turns using the rooms—for as long as he can keep up, that is."

"What makes you think he won't keep up?" Vallant asked as he watched a servant approach with a tea service. "Holter and I were in the same session, and he's had no trouble keepin' up until now."

"It's rather sad, but it is a fact of life," Wimand replied, letting the servant pour tea for them and leave before continuing. "Yes, it's very sad, but lower class applicants never get very far beyond this point. Success depends on strength, and strength very often depends on self-assurance. They know they're not as good as we are, you see, and that knowledge defeats them every time. But let's discuss the things you must know, like what Podon is about to demonstrate."

Vallant turned to look at the other Adept without comment, but not because he had nothing to say. He simply knew how useless it was to argue with a man's prejudice, especially one that involved self esteem. Those who spent time talking about how inferior others were, were actually saying how afraid they were that they were inferior. Finding something different that couldn't be denied—like having been born into a lower class—let these people feel superior without their ever having to do anything to prove the contention.

Any American goons care to explain how this fits with Green's politics? I'm lost - I thought Republicans were the ones who are all against Democratic "elitism" and all that, or is classism supposed to be a stand-in for racism since there's no indication anywhere in the books that any of the characters aren't white? Except then that would make the protagonists on the wrong side of the morals here.

quote:

"That first exercise room and the one next to it have the same purpose, but use different methods," Wimand explained. "Your task will be to create spheres of water around first one group of objects and then two groups, and then more all the way up to six separate groups. The first room has a large vat of water for you to work with, but in the second you'll need to draw your moisture from the air."

The man Podon was in the midst of demonstrating the thing to Holter, and Vallant could see that six head-sized globes of water had been created around six round forms of resin standing on movable pedestals. The exercise wasn't particularly easy, but it would certainly be easier than drawing the necessary water from the air.

"The next set of rooms contains oblong boxes of the sort bread is often kept in," Wimand went on after sipping at his tea. "In each of the two rooms you'll be able to see the boxes, and you'll need to put a globe of water inside each of the boxes. You'll begin with doing one box at a time, then two at a time, and then move all the way up to six. As with the first set of rooms, one will have a vat of water, and one won't."

"How will I be able to tell if I've positioned the water properly?" Vallant asked, watching Holter and his Adept guide move on to the second set of cubicles. "Seein' it leak from the bottom of the box won't tell me if half the globe ended up on the far side, and only seems to be comin' out from the inside."

"If you see any leaking before pulling the release cord, you haven't done it properly," Wimand explained, gesturing to the two who now stood staring at an oblong box. "The inside of each box is made to funnel the water into a holding dish with a false bottom, and pulling the release cord springs the bottom. But the funneling into the dish will happen only if you position the globe properly, otherwise you'll get leakage from the sides. Again, only one of the rooms contains a vat of water."

"Why do you have those duplicate arrangements?" Vallant asked, the oddity finally taking his notice. "Anyone able to do the exercises by taking moisture from the air should be able to do it with a supply of ready water even more easily. I can understand startin' with the two different methods, but why keep on with them?"

"For the most part it's a question of flexibility," Wimand responded smoothly, giving Vallant the strange impression that the explanation was . . . prepared. "We've discovered that having applicants practice in only a single way makes them forget there is another way, which I'm sure you'll agree is rather limiting. The rest of the reason is that taking so much moisture from the air is far from easy, and most applicants do better when they begin with ready water. Ah, see? That's what the box does when the sphere is properly placed."

Seems to me that this is encouraging the exact opposite of flexibility!

What I like about Sanderson and Will Wight is they build their magic systems with a reasonable level of depth and tell their stories so we as readers understand exactly what can be done with the magic. Then, they develop their characters throughout the course of the story and let the characters use magic to solve problems in ways that are consistent with who they are and their motivations. Green obviously predates both of them but she's a contemporary of Robert Jordan. Even if the magic system in Wheel of Time is significantly more fuzzy compared to a Sanderson one, Jordan's still defined enough rules around balefire, the Mask of Mirrors, gateways, skimming, etc that we can understand the powers at the disposal of the characters.

Though I guess the point of this rant is not about how Green has (or has not) built her magic system, it's more than she's forgotten to let her characters drive the plot.

quote:

Vallant turned back to see that Podon had pulled on a rope, and water was obediently pouring out of the box and into a bucket. He wondered just how large the proper area inside the box really was, but didn't ask. Once he began to practice, he'd certainly find out.

"The third set of rooms is naturally the hardest," Wimand commented with a small chuckle. "If you watch, you'll notice that Podon will explain to your companion about it, but won't demonstrate. That's because he can't, of course, not without using more power and concentration and effort than he cares to show in front of an applicant. This exercise is the one he never quite got the hang of."

"What's so complicated about it?" Vallant asked, making no mention of the fact that Wimand hadn't yet done any of it. He talked a good game, but sitting back and smirking at someone else's efforts isn't the same as bettering those efforts.

"The fact that the boxes are hidden behind curtains makes the exercise harder," Wimand replied, surreptitiously watching Vallant closely. "You must use your power to locate the things before you can put spheres of water in them, and the box sizes get progressively smaller behind the curtains. Anyone who reaches the point of being able to fill the smallest size using nothing but air moisture deserves to move on to the competitions."

So is line of sight a limitation or not? If Vallant can reach clouds 20,000 feet/6 kms up in the sky, does that mean he could dunk someone in a cold bath 6 kms away in the next town?

quote:

"Ah, the competitions," Vallant said, turning his head to look directly at the so-called Adept. "That's what I've been lookin' forward to hearin' about, since that's where the chance to win gold lies. What's involved there, and how long will I have to starve before I get a chance to try it?"

"Oh, you won't starve while you're practicing," Wimand assured him with a chuckle. "You'll be paid a silver din for each exercise you master using ready water, and two dins for the exercises using air moisture. That should keep you for a short while at least, and then you should be up to the competitions."

"They're held out here, where the practicin' is done?" Vallant asked casually, as if the answer were completely unimportant. "There's certainly enough room for everyone to watch whatever goes on."

"What goes on first is a general competition, where applicants show what they're capable of," Wimand said after reaching over to pour more tea in his cup. "Strength, use of ability, and amount of time elapsed are the deciding factors in choosing a winner, and those you strive against are your skill-level peers. The winner, however, goes on to face someone from the next level up, and that contest is you against your opponent directly. And there may be enough room out here to hold the competitions, but we prefer to be a bit—more formal. They're all held over there, in that round white building."

Convergence was published in 1996 with Competitions following in 1997. Surely Green HAD to have handed in a manuscript for Book 2 before things got locked in for printing to fix this repeated plothole about facing someone from the next level up in Book 1. Though maybe doing a print run back in those days was a lot harder to change the proofs, etc compared to today.

My other hypothesis is Green kept missing her deadline for the first book so her editor dragged whatever mess of a manuscript she had at that point and arbitrarily chopped off the book at a reasonable word count for the sake of getting something printed.

quote:

"I thought that was probably what it was for," Vallant commented as casually as possible while his insides turned over. "But I haven't even begun the exercises yet, so the buildin' won't concern me for some time. And speakin' about the exercises, when can I get started?"

"As you can see, your companion has returned to the first room," Wimand said, annoyance in his tone as he gestured. "Podon was to have gotten him to take tea now so that you might begin first, but the man appears to be unusually obstinate. I can speak to him myself if you like, and possibly point out the merits of sitting with his feet up until after lunchtime."

"No, don't bother," Vallant told him with a wave of his hand. "I don't mind beginnin' after lunch, and by then Holter should be glad to take a breather. I suppose he and I will just have to take turns for the rest of the time we're here."

This seems extremely shortsighted - they go to the effort of collecting all of these High talents and don't build enough facilities for them to all practice at the same time?

quote:

"Only until the man reaches his limit," Wimand reminded him with a smirking smile as he stirred in his chair. "I know that won't take very long at all, so your patience will soon be rewarded. Right now we could use another pot of tea, and perhaps a few sweet cakes to keep it company."

The Adept rose and went to a nearby post to shake a rope attached to a bell, and by the time he'd returned to his seat a servant was already on his way over to them. The tea and cakes were ordered and then Wimand began to chat about nothing of importance, which let Vallant listen with half an ear while his mind worked on other things.

The most pressing thing was the realization that in order to compete, he would have to enter a building without windows and stay in it for an indeterminate time. On most scales the building was fairly large, but on his own private scale it was tiny and airless and would be suffocatingly confining. He'd want out of it even before he walked inside, so how was he supposed to compete? Compete and win, that is. Competing and losing would be all too simple.

How do you even walk into a house or an inn or a tavern or bathhouse or anything else? Why is it that only testing buildings are setting off your claustrophobia?

quote:

Vallant smiled and nodded to whatever Wimand happened to be saying, privately wishing it were possible for him to hide somewhere. He had to compete and win if he wanted to keep up with Tamrissa, as the girl would find some way to win even if she had to half-kill herself to do it. Vallant had no doubts about that, any more than he doubted his own ability. If the competitions were held outside, nothing would keep him from winning either.

Oh right, Green needs to keep all her characters progressing at the same level. Why??? When characters aren't progressing equally, it creates conflict and tension! Literally half of the tension in Will Wight's Cradle series is about the protagonists trying to catch up to each other or fearing being left behind. Is it revolutionary? No! Is it interesting? Yes! Why? Because characters are doing things to solve their perceived problems! And we get massive, massive, massive payoffs for their struggles that make the book incredibly satisfying as a reader.

quote:

But they weren't held outside, and he had to sip from his teacup to hide the bleakness that touched him at that thought. First Tamrissa refused to acknowledge him, then he was saddled with a prejudiced fool as a mentor, and now this devastating news about the competitions. On some level he'd known it would probably be that way, but he hadn't wanted to think about it. No competitions meant no advancement, which would put him in the same class as the fool Wimand.

Calling it now, The Blending was the original Western take on wuxia/xianxia/progression fantasy, except Green probably doesn't watch or read anything in that genre so has no clue how to adapt the tropes that make that genre work.

quote:

That thought held only for an instant, and then Vallant had to work to keep himself from stiffening. Wimand and the other Adepts worked with applicants, but after this week's end there would be no more applicants this year. That would put the current Adepts out of work, so the testing authority wasn't likely to take on any others. What, then, would happen to those applicants who didn't advance? The question had been asked before, but suddenly it had become a good deal more imminent.

Just in case you forget about the going around.

quote:

". . . and you really must try the fish here for lunch one day," Wimand was saying while he examined the sweet cakes which had been brought. "It's absolutely marvelous, but that's only to be expected. Successful applicants will certainly become very important men, and no one would wish to get on the bad side of a very important man."

Vallant agreed with a smirk to match Wimand's, but privately he seethed. The applicants would not all become very important men, some would become very important women. Wimand's prejudices weren't just class oriented, obviously, and Vallant felt as though the fool had deliberately insulted his Tamrissa. She would reach the exact place she wanted to be, and anyone who tried to get in her way would have him to deal with!

Stop. Objectifying. Women.

quote:

It took something of an effort for Vallant to calm himself, and in some odd way it didn't work completely. A small part of him had become fired up by the anger, and that part had made a decision. Somehow, some way, he was going to qualify for those competitions, enter them, and win. And after that he would have a talk with Tamrissa, one she would not be able to ignore. And maybe that talk ought to come first, while he was in the midst of accomplishing the rest. He didn't need the distraction of their not getting along; what he needed was her.

This internal monologue is giving off such bad controlling vibes.

quote:

Having made that decision caused Vallant to sit a bit straighter, and even to smile to himself. The prospect of forcing a potential High in Fire magic to listen to him wasn't one he should be looking forward to, but insanity had obviously claimed him. He couldn't wait to get Tamrissa alone to try his best, and if he ended up singed ... or even burned to ashes . . . wouldn't that be better than having to live his life without her?

Vallant smiled again, knowing there was no question about it.

Just...reread that again. And again. And then realize that internal monologue would not be out of place from an obsessive stalker rapist.

Summary:

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials" (as Adept Forum called them) - the first and second levels of masteries of that aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.
  • Spirit: 1) calm 6 angry people in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Air: 1) keep 6 people breathing in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Fire: 1) burn grains of flying dirt, burn droplets of water mist, burn specific pieces of wood, leather, cloth and feathers; 2) defend yourself against attack from an adept while repeating 1
  • Water: 1) Using water from a vat: a) surround 6 objects with water in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; b) place 6 spheres of water inside visible boxes 1 at a time, then 2, up to 6 at a time; and c) place 6 spheres of water inside hidden boxes in the same groupings; then 2) repeat 1 using water moisture from the air

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: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 14
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 10
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, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 31
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 2
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 29
"CLIFFHANGERS": 16
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 12
BLATANT MORALIZING: 18
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

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, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Chapters 39, 40, 41, 42, 43)

Possible fixes:
I got nothing to add other than that Vallant's getting completely shafted in terms of the masteries he's earning. Surrounding things with water, filling a visible thing with water and then filling a hidden thing with water apparently only counts as three masteries, even though he has to do the same number of variations within each task and the equivalent variations in Spirit and Air magic are counted as distinct masteries in those aspects.

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


Alright guys, this is it! Here is the end of Book 1.

quote:

CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

Lady Eltrina Razas walked into the room beside Lord Ollon Kapmar, enjoying the way the others jumped to their feet at sight of him. Ollon was one of the most powerful men in the entire empire, and he was never handicapped by sentiment. He always did what was necessary without hesitation, no matter who it was he had to do it to. It was said he'd once had the woman he was sleeping with removed, simply because she hadn't handled some matter as well as she should have. That made sleeping with the man even more deliciously exciting for Eltrina, although there was really no risk at all for her. She had always handled matters perfectly, and also always would.

Our first Eltrina POV, where Green is attempting to write a femme fatale. She qualifies as a major antagonist and will be hanging around for the sequel trilogy.

quote:

"You may be seated," Ollon said to the others once he and Eltrina were in their chairs, hers the first one to his right. There were still more than a dozen liaisons present, although by meeting's end that number would be lessened as more files were closed out. Looking at Ollon's strong handsomeness, the man still broad-shouldered and vital despite the gray in his blond hair to match the gray in his eyes, Eltrina wondered how most of the others could be eager about no longer needing to report to him.

Possibly because they're not banging him. I wish Green would come up with some different physical characteristic of handsomeness other than "broad-shouldered". We can't count "strong handsomeness" because it's so far up the pyramid of abstraction that it's hanging in the sky above the apex.

quote:

"It always pleases me to reach the final week of categorization," Ollon told them after leaning back in his chair, letting his cold gray gaze touch each of them in turn. "There will be no further applicants arriving until after the beginning of the new year, and then this process will start all over again. Some of you will find it possible to pursue other interests until then, and I do believe I'm beginning to envy you. Twenty-six years of seeing this through to its ever-surprising end has grown rather nervewracking in my old age."

Eltrina joined the others in giving him the polite laughter his joke had called for, a variation of the same joke they said he made every year. This was the first time she'd heard it personally, but she'd certainly chuckled over it secondhand before. An ever-surprising ending to the sorting out indeed.

I think Green is poking fun at these characters. Sometimes it's hard to tell because the truly funny moments in these books are few and far between.

quote:

"We'll begin with those of you who have closed out the residences you've been responsible for," Ollon said once the laughter had ended. "You may submit your final reports and then leave."

Four people, three men and a woman, rose to come forward clutching their reports. One by one they handed over the paperwork, told Ollon it had been a pleasure working with him, and then they'd made good their escape. For supposed members of noble families, their craven behavior annoyed Eltrina no end. But at least the girl was gone, which was quite a relief. Among the remaining ten there were only three women, and Eltrina was now the most attractive of them.

Why couldn't these reports have been submitted before hand? He's not even taking a verbal report like last time. Though it's unclear that it was actually Ollon Kapmar back in Chapter 16.

quote:

"This year our efforts have a double purpose," Ollon said once the four had left and closed the door behind them. "In most respects it will be business as usual, but I caution you again to keep in mind that this is a twenty-fifth year. There must be an absolute minimum of five challenging common Blendings to match the five put forward by our noble brothers, so you mustn't waste anyone capable of being put into one. Begin thinking now about which of your charges will be saved, and which will be fed to our Seated Highs."

"Sir," one of the younger men said, raising a questioning hand. Eltrina recognized him from parties and such, but couldn't remember his name. "I still have three residences filled with advanced applicants, but I'm told that most of them won't even make the competitions, much less win in them. Two or three of them have the proper temperament to make adequate Adepts, but the rest I'd expected to send to my father. I happened to see him last week's end when he came home for a brief visit, and he mentioned that he needs them."

"I'm aware of your father's needs, Lord Kogrin," Ollon replied, frowning at the situation rather than at the man he spoke to. "He took the opportunity to visit me as well, but there's only so much I'm able to do for him. A twenty-fifth year finds us short in many areas, and we can do nothing other than cope. For instance, we have more than enough Adepts right now. Use the best you have as members of a Blending and substitute the ones you would have used as Adepts to challenge the Seated Highs. The Highs have been cautioned to destroy only the very strongest of their challengers, leaving the rest alive to help fill our other needs. Does that sound workable to you?"

Young Kogrin nodded and settled back in his chair already sunk in thought, obviously having no idea how ridiculous he was being. This was Ollon's second twenty-fifth year, which meant his suggestions had little need of being approved by a child. Everything would work out just as it was supposed to, adding another marvelous triumph to Ollon's record.

Books 4 and 5 spoilers Kogrin's father is leading the army at the Astindan front, which is steadily losing ground due to Astinda finally having pulled together ten High Blendings bent on vengeance. More High talents are needed for the Gandistran army, which is comprised entirely of like aspect link groups.

quote:

"All of you have written reports, I know, but I'll need an oral summary for my own preliminary report," Ollon continued after sipping at the cup of tea which servants had provided before the meeting began. "I have an appointment with one of the Advisors this afternoon, after which he means to leave for a few days of personal enjoyment. By the time he returns everything will have been settled, and I'd very much like to tell him then that nothing but small details need be added to my report. Lady Eltrina, you may begin."

So why did you let the previous four people go?

quote:

"Of course, Lord Ollon," Eltrina replied with her best smile, privately laughing at the others. They would now be terrified of giving Ollon incorrect information, but she had nothing of the same to worry about. "I still have four residences under my wing, and I've already begun to rearrange them with an eye toward this being a twenty-fifth year. I expect to have at least one full Blending to offer for the Grand Competition, possibly two."

A murmur went through those seated at the beautifully polished oval table of gray wood, a sound of surprised dismay which widened Eltrina's smile only on the inside. Some of those present had fairly powerful relatives, and it simply wouldn't do to flaunt her superiority.

"Most of those in my residences have already completed their sessions, of course," Eltrina went on as though unaware of the reaction she'd caused. "Six of the remaining ones might well qualify today, and I've put them in a single residence together. If they do qualify, they'll already be settled in and will simply go on to the practice sessions. If they don't, their disposition will be the same as any of the others who haven't managed to qualify."

"What if some qualify and some don't?" Lemmis Admen asked in the nasal whine she used for a voice. The woman was horse-sized in both face and body, had the frizziest hair Eltrina had ever seen, and considering the clothing she usually wore, was probably colorblind. If Lemmis had been the least bit intelligent she would have kept her mouth closed unless it was absolutely necessary to speak, but what she said usually showed how little intelligence the horsy thing had.

"I mean, it is possible some of the six will qualify and some won't," Lemmis whined defensively when Ollon moved his gaze to her. "I don't intend to rearrange my residences until after today, when I'll know for certain which will be which. You never do know for certain until it happens, you know."

"And yet, with the help of the sessions Adepts, it's possible to make educated estimates," Eltrina replied smoothly once Lemmis ran down. "Most of the six are expected to qualify, so no more than one or two will need to be moved again. All of my residences now contain at least one of each of the aspects, which was the main reason I took the opportunity to move people around. After the dust of final decision settles, I'll know just what I have in the way of possible Blending members, and what I'll need from the rest of you to round them out."

This time there was more of a muttering to be heard from the others, low vocal resentment that she had managed to get a jump on them. If she was properly organized while they were not, she would end up above them all.

"Has anyone else arranged the same thing in their residences?" Ollon asked, looking around at them blandly. "No? Well then, the organization of the next phase indicates itself. We'll use the lady Eltrina's established base, and supply her requirements before any other dispositions are made. You'll also show her the compositions of your various residences, and she'll choose one to house a full Blending. When she does, the residence will be added to the four already . . . under her wing."

These antagonists are so incompetent that anybody with half a mind with some tendency towards forethought is apparently formidable. How are we as readers supposed to believe there any credible threat to our protagonists?

quote:

Ollon smiled when he said that, which kept the others at the table quiet despite their displeasure. Eltrina had managed to become his second in command, and it was no longer possible for any of them to stop her.

"Now Lady Eltrina will tell us about the possible Blending she mentioned a moment ago," Ollon continued, moving his smile to her. "Are they all quite marvelous and strong, with an excellent chance of winning the Fivefold Throne?"

"What else?" Eltrina responded with a laugh, one which some of the others joined in. "They do happen to be strong, and all six in the residence have passed the first step in qualifying for the competitions. The one duplicate aspect is Water, and I haven't yet decided which of the two to include in the Blending. One of them is a low-class peasant who doesn't fit in with the other four at all and knows it, but the second has quarreled with the female representing the Fire aspect."

"And you'll certainly choose the one most likely to make the most trouble," Ollon said with an approving nod. "Tell us about all six, and why you consider them such excellent candidates for membership in a challenging Blending."

Eltrina glowed, only a short step from preening herself. Ollon was letting her tell the others what to look for, intimating that she knew and they didn't. If there hadn't been people present who were close to her husband, she might have kissed Ollon.

"These people are suitable only for being in the same Blending," she explained, looking around at the others with a half smile. "Each of them is quite strong in his or her aspect, and we certainly wouldn't want them where their strength could be fully utilized. The first Water candidate I mentioned, the low class one, is bitter because he's been rejected by his former cronies and just doesn't feel comfortable with his new acquaintances. He'll keep a certain amount of himself back from any Blending, causing it to be considerably less than an effective whole."

"And the other one?" Ollon prompted after nodding his approval. "Is his argument with the Fire female the only strike against him? If so, I would certainly assign him elsewhere. Arguments have been known to be made up."

"That's the beauty of it," Eltrina told him with an amused laugh. "It doesn't matter whether he makes up with the female or not, because he has a personal problem that may well cost him any victories in the competitions. It was noticed after his test that he was desperate to get out of the testing building, so he was watched during the sessions. He was terrified every moment of the time he spent in the sessions room, and couldn't wait to get outside again. He can't bear to be enclosed, so how deeply into a Blending do you believe he'll be able to go?"

Her only answer was matching laughter, sharing the delicious joke. No one with a disability like that could ever become a full member of a Blending, and that no matter how strong he was.

"Now, the female with Fire magic is another story," Eltrina went on after the laughter had quieted. "She's attempting to avoid another forced marriage by pretending to be strong and fearless, but only her Fire talent is strong. She herself is a fearful little thing who came close to attacking someone with her ability, showing how uncertain she is and how lacking in adequate control. The leading aspect of any Blending is always the Fire talent, who has to be the strongest and steadiest of the lot. This particular leading aspect will surely panic, and lead the others into wasting their strength before any real danger approaches."

Ollon nodded and smiled while the others murmured or chuckled, so she took a sip of tea and continued.

"The Earth magic member is a backwoods clod who seems to be terrified of burning himself out. He's managed to qualify so far, but his fear makes him hesitate in a way that will ruin the balance of the others. The Air magic member is that ridiculous son of Hallina Mardimil, the one she always bores everyone with when she drags him to parties. Until now he's been incapable of thinking or doing anything for himself, but she's finally pushed him into rebellion. He's in the process of declaring himself a grown man, and has even discovered the difference between boys and girls. Between that and the persistence Hallina will show trying to get him back under her thumb, he probably won't even notice what else is happening about him."

The laughter was much more raucous and ridiculing this time, as Hallina had inflicted her doltish offspring on all of them at one party or another. It served her right that she was now having trouble recovering him, as he never would have been assessed strong enough for testing if she'd excluded him the way she should have.

"You haven't yet mentioned the last member of your Blending," Ollon prompted, obviously as amused as everyone else. "Does he or she have a similar personal problem?"

"No, Lord Ollon, the young lady doesn't," Eltrina replied, smiling only to herself as she avoided his trap. "Even those tiresome neutral judges would notice if every member of a challenging Blending had personal problems, so the Spirit magic member is the one who seems to be completely well adjusted. She's the one who will represent the group in public, and the others look perfectly normal. It's the balance I think every challenging Blending should have."

Hello random spoiler laden infodump AT THE END OF THE FREAKING BOOK. We will find out in Book 2 or 3 that there are laws against knowing too much about Blending (with "too much" never actually being defined). This is a weird display of an excessive level of knowledge on Eltrina's part that theoretically should be a death warrant for her but of course it doesn't seem to matter because who needs any consistency in this world?

quote:

"And so they shall," Ollon agreed, sending her a personal smile before giving his attention again to the others. "Make sure Lady Eltrina is fully informed about every applicant in your residences, most especially in the matter of the sorts of problems she's mentioned. All five of the challenging Blend-ings must look capable, but we certainly don't want them to be anything but handicapped. Do any of you have questions for Lady Eltrina or myself? No? Then let me ask a question you've heard before, but one which is still supremely important. Have any of you seen even a hint that one of your people may be one of those mentioned in the Prophecies?"

A muttering ran through the group as they exchanged bothered glances, and the resulting headshakes looked tentative and unsure. Ollon had just asked the question they'd all been worrying about, but personally Eltrina had decided that the fuss was really covering nothing real. She had no idea who had decided that the Prophecies were true, but they must have been senile or stupidly innocent to believe in them. None of her people could possibly have fit the requirements, so her headshake was firm and positive when Ollon looked at her.

"That's something of a relief," he said when he had denials from all of them, "We expected to begin seeing people matching the first Prophecies by now, and the fact that we haven't is beginning to change the minds of some of us. Not everyone believes that the Prophecies will come true, but those who do are more powerful than those who don't, so we'll certainly continue to watch. And each of you is to report anything at all that might support an appearance. Is that clear?"

This time the nods were much firmer, more like the one Eltrina had already given. They were afraid of those who supported the idea, and would be happiest when the time was past and no one was able to claim they'd missed a vital clue.

I had not remembered this bit. Maybe Ollon really is the chairman from Chapter 16. In which case why did we NOT just have Chapter 16 from his POV instead of third person omniscient?

quote:

"Very well then, let's get on with what we're here for," Ollon said, turning his attention to one attendee in particular. "Lord Miklas, would you do us the courtesy of being next with your verbal report?"

The tiresome Miklas, began to drone out his report, but Eltrina had no need to listen. The man would end his speech by summarizing everything he'd said with the brevity he should have used in the first place, and Eltrina would be able to listen then. In the meantime she leaned back in her chair with her teacup between the fingers of both hands, and simply enjoyed the heady flavor of success.

I'm actually feeling some empathy for Miklas here, since this is definitely a thing I am guilty of.

quote:

Yes, success at last. Eltrina breathed deeply with the pleasure of the thought, knowing she'd finally found her proper footing. One day soon she would have Ollon's position, and when that happened she'd also have the power to rid herself of the tedious bore she'd been forced to marry. Then she would be free to do as she pleased, but first she had to prove her brilliance by making all of Ollon's plans go as he wanted them to. Just that, with her as his fully-acknowledged second in command, and then it would be time for a terrible accident to befall poor Ollon. . . .

Again, subtlety is not anybody's strong suit in these books.

quote:

Eltrina smiled to herself as Miklas droned on, then she made a deliberate effort to listen to the man. She intended to know everything necessary, so that nothing would ruin her plans and Ollon's. Nothing would go wrong, not with all the preparations she'd made, and then, after the unfortunate demise of all those challenging Blendings, she'd have her reward. She'd earned it, she deserved it, and soon she would have it. . . .

You JUST said you didn't need to listen to anything he said except to the end of his verbal report!

quote:

Those of you reading this in what we consider the future must now be wondering just when I'm writing this account. The others didn't want me to say, but how can you decide how to take it without knowing that piece of information? I don't think you can, so I'll tell you—in a way. I don't want you to picture me sitting in the Palace of the five, grandly writing our history after we won the day. We've done only a little winning, and the most important battle is still ahead of us. Before the day of facing that comes, we wanted to put down everything that's happened until now.

Book 5 spoilers she's writing this before they're about to face the strongest Astindan High Blending.

Tamrissa! I'm not wondering WHEN you're writing this account, I'm wondering HOW you're in Eltrina Razas's head considering that you do not have access to her thoughts and memories between now and the point in time at which you're writing this AND I'm wondering WHY you still feel the need to provide this inane commentary despite promising to stop before.

quote:

Because chances are good that we won't survive. The Prophecies say that we're needed to win, not that we will win. There's a big difference there, and every day that passes brings us a better understanding of that difference. Thinking about it is enough to make some of us ill, so that same some of us try not to think about it. Great lot of good it does. . . .

The information from the relevant chapter in Book 5 when they are learning about the Prophecies: "Beware and be warned. In three hundred years will come a time of greatest crisis, a time when the teachings of wisdom are no longer followed. This will presage the reappearance of the devastating evil of the Four, which nearly destroyed our empire. In this time of crisis there will appear a Chosen Blending, and there will be no doubt of their identity. They will stand against the reemergent evil, and will do their utmost to triumph."

That last part almost comes close to being an actual prophecy, but leave it to Green to spoil the ending of her first series at the end of the first book.

quote:

But I still haven't come really close to what the five of us consider present day, so I'd better continue with this. The opposing five we ultimately came up against were already together and getting ready for us, but happily we didn't know that. We had other problems, big and small, and the first thing to happen was. . . .'

This is the end of Book 1. All 181,539 words of it.

I am not kidding you.

There are no more words after this.

Green literally has Tamrissa trail off like this in the middle of her pointless narration.



This is why I'm gonna do the first five chapters of Book 2 before we take a brief break for NaNoWriMo.

Summary:

Day 6
Eltrina attends a status update and gets herself openly acknowledged as the unofficial noble 2IC on Project Competitions by the boss she's banging on the basis that she is the only one with a bare minimum of competence.

I'll do an overall summary of Book 1 after we make it through the first five chapters of Book 2.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 21
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, Kogrin, Lemmis Admen, Miklas

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 14
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 11
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas
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, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 32
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 3
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 29
"CLIFFHANGERS": 17
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 9
TEA DRINKING: 13
BLATANT MORALIZING: 18
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

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, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Chapters 39, 40, 41, 42, 43)

Possible fixes:
The whole arc of this book needs fixing, along the lines described in my comments on Chapter 34. Wintersteel is about 145,000 words and Wight gave us SO MANY PAYOFFS my head is still reeling barely 12 hours after finishing the book. Convergence is 25% longer and there are ZERO payoffs. I hate Green's writing so much.

I don't mind having Eltrina as a POV since antagonist POVs can be interesting and effective if done well, especially if the antagonist is a compelling character. Unfortunately, we don't learn anything else about the balance of political power amongst the nobility, why they are constantly jockeying for position except for "more power/influence" and we don't really get a unique spin on Eltrina's motivations. Is it duty to the Empire? Is it sheer indoctrinated hatred of the lower classes? Is it simply unchecked personal ambition? Is it simmering resentment for being constantly overlooked for her competence? We'll never know!

One thing the rewrite desperately needs is a well-developed antagonist and there's no shortage of them to pick from! What's going to be a lot harder is working out how to stack the antagonist arcs on top of the protagonist's arc and the overall narrative arc. The other thing I'm finding fascinating is what Sanderson has done in Stormlight by spoilers for Way of Kings, Words of Radiance and Oathbringer starting Moash as a minor antagonist who laughs at Kaladin's efforts to remake Bridge 4, becomes Kaladin's best friend and closest confidant and eventually turns into a twisted version of Kaladin and becomes a serious antagonist at the end of Book 4 and wonder if I could do something similar for Lorand/Hat where Hat starts out as Lorand's best friend and ends up a serious rival by the end of Book 1, things are said/done in Book 2 that has Hat end up as a pretty serious antagonist, and then stuff happens in Book 3 so Hat ultimately gets a redemption arc and sacrifices himself to save Lorand as in Green's Book 5.

Anyway, enough speculating for now! We've got five more chapters to go before we wrap this up about this time next week and turn our minds towards a NaNoWriMo rewrite.

there wolf
Jan 11, 2015

by Fluffdaddy


Green's politics are libertarian, which is just some weird version of liberal that uses meritocracy like the will of heaven- If you're successful then you deserve it, if you're not successful the you didn't want it hard enough and you don't deserve it. If they're not successful than an evil cabal of elites are keeping them down with a corrupt system.

In the context of US politics that makes her conservative and probably a Republican because a false adulation of working class people over lazy poors is pretty key to those people.

Hobnob
Feb 23, 2006

Ursa Adorandum


Wait, that's it? No payoff for the fireballs? Nothing about the weird magical constructs in the residence? I can see leaving them as hooks for the next book, but you need some hints of why these things are happening to keep the reader interested. Also maybe show the antagonist(s) working their plot in the background rather than dropping it all in the last chapter.

What a profoundly unsatisfying story. I doubt I would have picked up book 2 on the strength of that.

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


Yep, that's all she wrote for Book 1. No payoffs, nothing.

Stephanie Meyer gets a lot of hate for how badly written the Twilight books are but you can see she at least attempted something that looks like a reasonable story arc with various events building to a confrontation and then having some payoffs. Green doesn't seem to have grasped that concept, despite apparently graduating with a B.A. from NYU (though there's no info on what her B.A. was actually in so maybe she didn't actually study writing or literature or drama).

Now that we've finished Book 1, let's take a look at what was promised in the blurb on the back cover:

quote:

"In a world of magical adepts, every quarter-century the five talents must he brought only this powerful union of can prevent the prophesied return of the Evil Ones who once enslaved the land."

Convergence

Lorand is of "Earth, " a simple farmer called to the city. Tamrissa is "Fire", sacrificing her home to escape an undesired marriage. Clarion is "Air", an aristocrat flying free for the very first time. "Spirit" is the talent of Jovvi, the beautiful, sensuous, and knowing ex-courtesan. And Vallant is "Water, " a sailor who aches to return to the sea.

As one, they must stand against the odious treachery of past masters -- and confront a fearsome depravity that hungers for their world. As one they must triumph...or as one they die.

From Publishers Weekly

Every 25 years, the law calls for a new Blending to rule the land. The Blending consists of five high practitioners of the magic of Fire, Earth, Air, Water and Spirit. But now is also the time foretold by the Prophecies?when the tyrannical Four would return to bring destruction to the land. Which means that this new Blending must be an extraordinary one. Convergence is an engaging, imaginative and often humorous story narrated by Tamrissa (Fire), that documents the journey, background and trials of Lorand (Earth), Clarion (Air), Vallant (Water) and Jovvi (Spirit) as they each compete for the new Blending. Although all very different, the five become close allies, overcoming their many fears and vulnerabilities to qualify for the competition that will determine the new Blending. Green (Dark Mirrors, Dark Dreams) has written a fine first installment to what promises to be a wonderful new fantasy series.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"An acknowledged master of fantasy adventure." -- --Rave Reviews

What I thought when I read the blurb: "oh cool, we're gonna get an epic elemental magical battle at the end of the book where they defeat the Evil Seated Four."

After reading the entire book:
  • First line of the blurb has a typo and still doesn't make any sense. I've been trying to see if I can turn up any photos of the hard copy (mine's in storage somewhere) to confirm the print version but no luck - does anyone have their copy handy?
  • We know nothing about the Evil Seated Four who once ruled the Empire before the first fivefold Blending or about the Prophecy beyond what we were given in the first page of the Prologue
  • None of the five protagonists have developed beyond their one line description on the back cover, let alone "overcoming their many fears and vulnerabilities"
  • The reference to "odious treachery of past masters" is confusing as hell, because all we've seen is incompetent friends/family/ex-bosses/random nobles running around doing their best "tee hee I'm right and you're wrong and you'll be sorry" impressions
  • I have no idea what "fearsome depravity" refers to (is this a reference to the child abuse in most characters' backstories?) and how it "hungers for their world" (is this a reference to the greed of the noble ruling class being corrupted and fixing the competitions?).
  • The book trailed off in the middle of the first level masteries, so none of the protagonists even finished qualifying
  • Tamrissa's narration is the opposite of "engaging, imaginative and often humorous"

But hey, don't take my word for it, given that I am a confirmed hater of these books. Let's take a look at what someone who loves these books say:

Trista Robichaud posted:

If you like shoujo anime and/or Game of Thrones scheming, I encourage you to check out this series. Give yourself some time to fall in love with the characters and see them through to the end. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

...

My worst complaint about these books is that the books flow seamlessly into one another. I cannot tell you if individual works stand well on their own, as I read them in sequence. Furthermore, I have a terrible time remembering where one stops and another starts, and I have to pack all five into my kit bag if I want to read them! ☺

Source: https://consideringstories.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/sharon-greens-shoujou-five-man-band/

Somehow I do not think this person has actually read Game of Thrones.

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


Book 2: Competitions



Here is the blurb, which we'll revisit when we finish Book 2:

quote:

The perfect Blending of the primary basics of the known universe-Earth, Air, Fire, Spirit and Water-will create unimaginable power. Power enough to hold off the dread Evil Ones for yet another quarter-century... Power enough to rule the world...

COMPETITIONS

They are the five greatest talents on a beleaguered world of magical adepts-and its only hope for salvation. But first Lorand, Rion, Tamrissa, Jowi and Vallant must prove themselves to be the Chosen Five of the ancient Prophecies. Which means they must first compete in a series of deadly contests designed to reveal the full scope of their powers . . . and place them at the center of a corrupt nobility's lethal schemes.

And there are those who wish them to fail. But defeat is unthinkable . . . because failure is doom.

Review

"An acknowledged master of the fantasy adventure." -- -- Rave Reviews

About the Author

Sharon Green is the author of more than two dozen novels, including the five books of her tremendously popular series, The Blending. She lives in Tennessee.

We open with Tamrissa narration that appears on the first page right after the front matter before the start of Chapter 1:

quote:

You may be wondering why I broke off the story so abruptly, so I’ll tell you: things have been happening. Those early days didn’t seem quiet and peaceful when they were happening, but compared to what’s going on now…. Well, letting you know what happened is one of the reasons I’m writing this, but telling you things out of order will just confuse you. Whoever you are, whenever you’re reading this… and however things turned out. I’ll just continue on as if I really believe we’ll succeed in the end…and that we’ll all survive….

I’ll remind you who the five of us are, and then I’ll introduce you to our major opponents.



quote:

CHAPTER ONE

Lorand Coll, Earth magic
 
The day had warmed considerably, but it was still moderately cool under the canopy stretched across the area. Lorand sat at a table alone, finishing the last of the excellent lunch he’d been served. He’d worked hard all morning and had felt tired when he’d sat down to the meal, but now he felt a good deal better. And more confident, something that was much more important than simple physical comfort.

A reminder that this is all in Tamrissa's journal and there is no reason to give people a "reminder" in the journal because it's YOUR FREAKING JOURNAL TAMRISSA. Are you journalling or are you writing your memoirs or are you an author pretending to be a character writing a journal?

quote:

Lorand poured himself another cup of tea and sat back with it, looking around while giving his food a chance to settle. There were thirty or forty people sitting in or moving around the area, some of them grouped together like friends but most as alone as he was. They were all practitioners of Earth magic like himself and were supposed to be there to qualify for the competitions, but he’d been the only one practicing this morning.

Hello unsubtle foreshadowing!

quote:

A bird trilled happily from its perch atop the resin wall of one of the practice areas, and Lorand looked up to see that it was the same bird that had kept him company all morning. The feathery practicing-supporter had appeared right after Lorand’s Adept guide, Hestir, had left him to his solitary practice, and it had really seemed to be there to support Lorand. It had chirped encouragingly when he’d hesitated, crooned reassurance when he’d made his tries, and had sung for all it was worth when he’d succeeded. It was as though it knew he needed support to get through the time, and had come just to give that support…

Even more obvious foreshadowing!

quote:

“Well, Lorand, all finished with lunch, dear boy?” a voice asked suddenly, and then Hestir, his Adept guide, was sitting down at his table. Hestir was a man in his middle years, not as tall as Lorand and considerably rounder, with a round and friendly face, brown hair, and mild brown eyes. “Was the food as good as I said it would be?”

“It was better,” Lorand answered after sipping from his teacup. “Truthfully, I was expecting the same sort of food served us during the qualifying sessions, and regretted how hungry I was.”

“I don’t blame you in the least, dear boy,” Hestir replied with a laugh of true amusement. “They know that most of the applicants still attending the sessions won’t qualify for the competitions, so they tend not to waste decent food on them. So tell me, are you ready yet to qualify in the areas where you’ve been practicing? You’ve been at it all morning, after all.”

Lorand could see that Hestir was joking, teasing him in what he considered a gentle way. That meant it wasn’t usual for people to qualify so quickly, but Lorand had very little choice. He had to get past what he had no trouble with, to give himself more time with what he would find hard.

“As a matter of fact I am ready to test in the first three practice areas,” Lorand said, pretending not to see how quickly Hestir’s amusement disappeared. “The silver din I get for each of them will let me pay for my food at the residence for another week, so I’ll have the time to work on the last two areas. I don’t expect those two to be mastered quite as easily as the first three.”

“No, the last two aren’t nearly as easy as the first three,” Hestir agreed, as though reminding himself aloud that he himself had mastered them. “Well, then, let’s go and see what you can do—unless you’d rather finish your tea first.”

“I would like to finish the tea,” Lorand said, telling himself he wasn’t really stalling. He was still in the process of regathering his strength, something he’d be wise to finish along with the tea if he expected to move on to the more advanced practice areas. Hestir smiled and nodded and settled back in his chair, silently pleased with Lorand’s hesitation. So showing a bit of nervousness might be the best thing Lorand could do…

The conclusion wasn’t a terribly certain one, but it would be typical of these people who worked for the testing authority. Lorand hadn’t yet found one of them that he liked, but his likes and dislikes were secondary to the aim of staying alive. He and the others at the residence had noticed that none of them knew or even knew of anyone who had gone through the testing for High practitioner and had come back to talk about it. Failed applicants were … done away with? Sent somewhere to never return? No one knew, so he and the others had decided they had to succeed. Even though success itself wasn’t all that certain to save them…

“I’m ready now,” Lorand said after finishing his tea in a single swallow and then standing. The more he thought about what might lie ahead, the more disturbed he became. And he couldn’t afford to be disturbed, not when he needed the gold he could win at the competitions. Getting there in the first place would be far from easy, and that would provide enough disturbance for three or four people.

Green's really taking her "duty" to remind us what happened in Book 1 seriously. We've hit:
  • 3 silver dins required to eat each week at the residence
  • Monetary rewards for each first level mastery
  • That apparently tea service, better food and the chance to win gold are considered sufficient incentives
  • The conspiracy
  • Lorand has issues with burnout

I feel like my intelligence as a reader has been insulted.

quote:

Lorand let Hestir lead the way to the first practice area, which contained nothing but a pile of soil. The Adept stepped aside to give Lorand room to walk in, and then it was time. After two or three false starts Lorand had found the key to handling the mound of soil properly without needing to draw in more power than he’d already been using, a discovery that had come as a great relief. Using larger and larger amounts of power was very dangerous, and Lorand couldn’t seem to get around picturing himself burned out and mindless, just as that little girl had been so many years ago…

“You may begin at any time, dear boy,” Hestir prompted, now back to sounding amused. “Of course, if you’ve changed your mind about trying for mastery right now, that’s perfectly all right. Some of us are a bit more shy than others about performing in public, but it’s something you do eventually get beyond. Would you like to postpone this until tomorrow?”

“No,” Lorand replied after taking a deep breath. If he let himself postpone the test today, tomorrow there would be a different reason for postponing it again. He had to do it now, and get it quickly behind him.

So he looked at the mound of soil even as he reached out to it with his ability. Earth magic was his realm, everything and anything to do with the earth. Soil was the most basic part of that, and the first step to handling this practice problem was to spread his power around the entire area. Trying to contain things afterward just didn’t work, and that was what it had taken him a while to realize.

Once his power filled the entire cubicle, Lorand used a portion of that power to grasp the mound of soil. Making it explode in all directions looked impressive, but basically he simply tore the soil apart with his strength. That caused the tortured grains to fly away from each other with great force, but they weren’t allowed to go far. The net of power he’d spread out before starting caught the grains and contained them, especially keeping them from flying at Lorand with the force of their explosion. The first time he’d nearly blinded himself, and had had to waste some strength cleaning himself up afterward.

“Dear boy, that was marvelous!” Hestir enthused, his tone nevertheless sounding faintly hollow. “And not a single grain has escaped you. A true mastery without doubt.”

“And the first of the three silver dins I need,” Lorand deliberately pointed out. “If not for that, you can be certain I would be taking a good deal more time. Well, we might as well get on to the next one.”

Even as he spoke, Lorand automatically gathered the scattered soil back into its original mound. Basically he tended to be neat, and leaving the soil scattered every which way as Hestir had done after demonstrating the practice problem wasn’t Lorand’s way. Hestir muttered something Lorand didn’t hear as he followed Lorand to the next cubicle, but it couldn’t have been anything important. If it had been, the Adept would have repeated it, but he didn’t.

A reminder that the last 5-6 chapters of Book 1 consisted of everyone obsessing over how hard getting the first level masteries are. Green considered it enough of a suspense to function as "cliffhanger" for the whole first book with the payoff in the opening chapters of Book 2.

I did not feel a sense of suspense at the end of Book 1, just irritation. And now I do not feel any sense of satisfaction at the "payoff", because it's incredibly boring.

quote:

Which meant there was no excuse to put off trying the second practice problem. An iron ingot stood in the middle of the cubicle, and Lorand reached to it with the fingers of his talent. He could feel everything about the metal that way, every smoothness and flaw, almost every grain of it. Of course, metal didn’t come in grains, at least not after it was worked, but the memory of being ore seemed to be part of even a molded ingot. Strange, but not something to be worried about now…

Instead he reached to the flaws in the ingot, exerted his strength, then watched the ingot fall to pieces just the way it was supposed to. As a boy he’d found the flaws in bent nails to crumble them in an effort to impress the girls, but here in the practice area his efforts were apparently even more impressive.

“That’s really quite good,” Hestir said softly, and Lorand could feel the tail end of the Adept’s use of his own power. “You’re considerably stronger than I’d realized at first, and I’m no longer surprised at the progress you’ve made. You’ve now achieved a second mastery, and I’m ready to witness the third.”

Green must have had a very different childhood to me if she thinks a guy disintegrating a nail would be impressive. What would have been impressed teenaged me (ok, maybe even current me) is a guy using Earth magic to charm/tame dangerous predators.

quote:

Lorand nodded and walked to the third cubicle, faintly disturbed by Hestir’s new attitude. Had he blundered by passing the tests so quickly, or was the other man simply impressed? It was so damned hard knowing which way to jump, or even if he should jump at all. He could feel the agitation making his control over his ability begin to slip, and then—

And then he heard the birdsong again, causing him to glance up. That bird was still there, a pretty little gold, black, and white chickadee, and it seemed to be encouraging him again. Silly or not its presence did hearten him, and that made him glad that the practice area was generally out-of-doors. If it had been in a building the bird wouldn’t have been able to get in, and he might not have had the heart to continue what he’d started.

This is a Significant Event, guys, get it? Get it??

quote:

“Number three,” Lorand said, now looking at the cage of rats in the middle of the cubicle. Again he reached out with his power, but this time much more carefully. The rats were living creatures, and were meant to stay that way. Very gently he began to urge the rats to leave the center of the cage, and just as they’d done earlier they responded more quickly than he expected. Once the center of the cage was empty he had to choose a single rat to return to it, and that was harder. Holding back all the others while coaxing just one to where he wanted it to go…

But after a couple of minutes it was done. The single rat stood alone in the center of the cage, and despite the sweat covering Lorand’s face, he wasn’t all that tired. Every time he repeated a new undertaking it became easier to do, just as if practice did make perfect.

So are these tasks hard or not?!

quote:

“Number three mastery, just as promised,” Hestir said with a sigh, a comment Lorand took as his cue to release the rats. “You’re really quite accomplished, sir, and I look forward to watching you climb to the heights. Please believe that I feel honored to be your guide during these first days.”

Lorand was certain that the Adept was being sarcastic, but when he turned to look at the man he was even more disturbed than he’d been earlier. Hestir no longer looked him in the eye, and his stance was all but subservient. Lorand had been fairly certain from the first that he was stronger than the Adept, and somehow he’d apparently proven it. He was no longer “dear boy,” but “sir.”

“I think I’m ready for another cup of tea now,” Lorand said lightly, trying to ease the tension he could feel far too clearly. “Would you do me the favor of joining me, Adept Hestir?”

Tea. Twice in one chapter.

quote:

“The honor would be mine, sir,” Hestir returned, clearly refusing to return to his former attitude. “And allow me to ring for a servant for you…”

Hestir hurried ahead to call a servant and get the tea ordered, and Lorand followed rather quickly in order to add a request for a sandwich or something. He’d expended enough strength to be hungry again, and he wanted to get the food swallowed before Hestir’s attitude ruined his appetite. It was obvious the round little man expected Lorand to become rather important, and wanted to start ingratiating himself as soon as possible.

The answer to any magical problems in this universe is: 1) use more power; and 2) eat lots of food afterwards

I'm not even kidding. There's a reason why I'm counting meals.

quote:

Lorand sighed at that, having the distinct impression that he would hate being important. He hadn’t expected to feel that way and it was disappointing, almost as disappointing as the fact that his little bird supporter had apparently flown away. The chickadee was nowhere to be seen, which left Lorand all alone among strangers … and possible enemies…

The inconsistency in Lorand's character is annoying and this internal monologue is so vaguely written that it's hard to guess why Lorand's feeling this way. Is it because his father and mother brought him up to be a self sufficient man and that people who rely on others to do things they are perfectly capable of doing themselves are leeches? Is it because he's actually quite shy and prefers to spend his time exploring nature and bonding with animals? Is he feeling homesick and trapped in the urban environment which doesn't have a lot of wild plant and animal life, other than rats and other pests and seeing the songbird reminded him of a happier time?

Who knows? Green doesn't!

Summary:

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials" (as Adept Forum called them) - the first and second levels of masteries of that aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.
  • Spirit: 1) calm 6 angry people in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Air: 1) keep 6 people breathing in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Fire: 1) burn grains of flying dirt, burn droplets of water mist, burn specific pieces of wood, leather, cloth and feathers; 2) defend yourself against attack from an adept while repeating 1
  • Water: 1) Using water from a vat: a) surround 6 objects with water in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; b) place 6 spheres of water inside visible boxes 1 at a time, then 2, up to 6 at a time; and c) place 6 spheres of water inside hidden boxes in the same groupings; then 2) repeat 1 using water moisture from the air
Eltrina attends a status update and gets herself openly acknowledged as the unofficial noble 2IC on Project Competitions by the boss she's banging on the basis that she is the only one with a bare minimum of competence.

Lorand passes his first level masteries and notices an abrupt shift in his Adept's attitude.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 21
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, Kogrin, Lemmis Admen, Miklas

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 15
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 11
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas
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, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 32
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 3
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 29
"CLIFFHANGERS": 17
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 10
TEA DRINKING: 15
BLATANT MORALIZING: 18
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Book 1: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Book 1: Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Book 1: Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Book 1: Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Book 1: Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Book 1: Chapters 25, 32, 33, 35, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Book 1: Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Book 1: Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Book 1: Chapters 39, 40, 41, 42, 43; Book 2: Chapter 1)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapter 1)

Possible fixes:
Same same as the last SIX chapters of Book 1. But in addition to that, the biggest problem is these tests and trials are boring - even the Olympic-esque time trial events in this book. There's a few ways of doing that:
  1. Characters have a goal that needs to be somehow achieved with the magic - e.g. it's a puzzle for the reader as well as the character
  2. Make it a spectacle where the draw is just awesome imagery and action that showcases the unique features of the world - e.g. Quidditch
  3. Build the test around character driven conflict - e.g. one on one combat
The Griffindor/Quidditch matches were both spectacles as well as character driven conflict while Goblet of Fire was a combination of a puzzle and spectacle.

Green kind of got it right with the (badly executed) pass or die first test but then just went way off course with the braiding and this mastery stuff, which have no puzzles, no spectacle and no conflict. While the rest of the review was rubbish, Publishers Weekly did accurately call it when they described the story as Tamrissa documenting the journey, background and trials of the protagonists. These books are literally just badly written descriptions of a series of events happening.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Congrats on finishing the first book! These qualifications and competitions are a real slog, especially with the obligatory infodump. I'm looking forward to the "introduce the opposition" chapters because at least we'll have some new personalities to hate.

Speaking of obligatory infodumps, we like to give them a bad name but I think they are better when well-executed than left out at all. The last series I read where their absence was striking was NK Jemisin's Broken Earth books, which just pick up right at Chapter 1 with no nods toward refreshing you on the previous book's material. It was kind of disorienting since there was a gap between reading them.

Oh, and I have print copies of all the books (except #8, somehow) so I can check for typos sometime.

A Small Car
Aug 24, 2016




Leng posted:

[*]First line of the blurb has a typo and still doesn't make any sense. I've been trying to see if I can turn up any photos of the hard copy (mine's in storage somewhere) to confirm the print version but no luck - does anyone have their copy handy?

The print version does not contain that typo, which surprises me more than it should.

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:

Speaking of obligatory infodumps, we like to give them a bad name but I think they are better when well-executed than left out at all. The last series I read where their absence was striking was NK Jemisin's Broken Earth books, which just pick up right at Chapter 1 with no nods toward refreshing you on the previous book's material. It was kind of disorienting since there was a gap between reading them.

Well-executed being key! For me, that means being part of the story or the setting and being presented to characters in a way that doesn't feel forced. In a series, it's a bit of a balancing act, since you can't assume that everyone will go back and reread things. Though with how the business model for Kindle Unlimited works, it seems to me that the better business model would be to write in a way that DOES encourage re-reads.

So while things like Cradle don't get a whole lot of appreciation in the main SFF thread, it's really a smart move by Wight. It's a fast-paced, tightly written action-packed plot that focuses on a small number of main characters in a pretty vivid world. Books come out every 6-12 months and they're so addictive that readers are compelled to re-read over and over and over again. Wintersteel hit #1 on Amazon's best sellers list for the WHOLE Kindle store (not just his genre) and stayed there for about 24 hours or so and it's still at #4 right now.

In Cradle, Wight has pages of literal infodumps that he's made an organic part of the world, right from the beginning of Book 1. And I kid you not, he executed it so well that there was an infodump in Book 5 which was the ACTUAL CLIMAX of the book. Other Cradle fans are known to have yelled, screamed, fist pumped, etc at that moment. Me personally, my brain went "WOOOOOOAAAHHHHHHH".

A Small Car posted:

The print version does not contain that typo, which surprises me more than it should.

"<insert thing that was actually done properly>, which surprises me more than it should" sums up my entire reaction to Green's books.

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 TWO
Jovvi Hafford, Spirit magic
 
The canopy above the tables in the eating area created a pleasant shade under the noon sun that Jovvi could really appreciate. Sitting out in the fresh air after spending the morning in a practice building felt good, and the lunch she’d just eaten had been more than simply adequate. The people in this area did believe in pampering themselves, just as her Adept guide Genovir had said. Jovvi sipped at her second cup of tea, thinking about the morning and the Adept Genovir, and even the people around her at the other tables. Genovir had been the first one she’d met there, and it hadn’t taken long to notice that the other woman’s talent wasn’t particularly strong. An Adept was supposed to be one level below the strength of High practitioners, so the anomaly made Jovvi even more suspicious about what was going on than she had been. And that suspicion increased when she considered the others sitting in the area having their lunch. There were more than thirty men and women, most of them eating alone as she had, and all of them were supposed to be there to qualify for the competitions to become a Seated High. But after spending all morning practicing with her ability, Jovvi was able to tell that most of these people weren’t unusually strong. Oh, they were all potential Highs, just like the people in the practice sessions she’d attended before qualifying for this place, but they seemed just as stuck at this level as the other sessions people were at the lower level. Which brought Jovvi to the question she’d been asking herself all along: when it came to surviving that time of tests and competitions, how strong was strong enough? It would be foolish to stand out as being too good, she felt, but it also would be less than wise to be too ordinary. She hadn’t been able to answer the question this morning, but now she was getting a slightly better idea…

I wish we could get some specific details on what "strong" means and what practicing entails. What are the limitations around Spirit magic? Can you only make someone angry if you know something about them? Or can you only transfer an emotion to another person if you feel it yourself? Do Spirit magic users see emotions as tangible items in someone's brain? Or are emotions like colors? Or does it work like emotional allomancy in Mistborn, where people are constantly feeling all kinds of emotions and all you can do is either emphasize or subdue emotions they are already feeling?

quote:

“Did you enjoy your lunch, dear?” a voice came, and Genovir appeared beside Jovvi and then sat herself at the table. The Adept had taken her own lunch at a larger table with half a dozen others, people whose attitudes seemed to be just like hers. Genovir was perhaps ten years older than Jovvi and taller, handsome rather than pretty, brown-haired and eyed, and projecting an attitude of wise patience and full balance.

Jovvi's about Tamrissa's age, so this makes Genovir around 29, which is apparently 10 years from middle age. If 40 or so is middle aged, then I guess life expectancy must be around 70-80 years. That seems pretty short in a world where you have magical healers.

quote:

“Lunch was wonderful, thank you,” Jovvi replied with a smile, feeling Genovir’s probes in her direction. The so-called Adept was apparently trying to be surreptitious about checking Jovvi’s state of mind and balance, but Genovir wasn’t strong enough to get past Jovvi’s awareness undiscovered.

“I knew you’d enjoy it,” Genovir said with a smile and a nod. “We do work harder here, so we deserve to be treated better than those who haven’t accomplished what we have. And after half a day of doing that work yourself, I believe you understand now why it would be foolish of you to expect to reach the competitions very quickly.”

“Actually, I realize more than that,” Jovvi said with the same smile, still turning aside the woman’s ever-strengthening probes. “I noticed a few of these others coming in to practice in the building this morning, but the rest seem content to rest on whatever they’ve already accomplished. Just like those others at the sessions, the ones who have been trying for weeks or months to qualify, but just haven’t managed to do it.”

This is the first time this conversation has been interesting, simply because we're getting to see some Spirit magic in action! The description of using "mental probes" reminds me of Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn Chronicles, a 7 book post-apocalyptic series where the aftereffects of nuclear holocaust resulted in deformities and mutations (physical and mental). Mental mutations often resulted in some type of psychic power, such as farseeking (telepathy/mind reading) and coercion (mind control).

quote:

“What are you saying?” Genovir asked, clearly trying to fight away a frown. “That our people here are no better than those poor, useless souls of the lower level? But that’s ridiculous, my dear, utterly ridiculous. Many of our people don’t have to practice any longer, and some work better expending less effort. During the next weeks I’m sure you’ll find your own best pace, and then—”

“Next weeks?” Jovvi interrupted to echo, raising one brow. “But we were told that no one will be allowed to try to qualify for the competitions beyond this week’s end. Surely that means there’s only a matter of days before the major competitions will be held?”

“Actually … more than just a few days,” Genovir grudged, not terribly happy about parting with the information. “But that means nothing to someone at your level, my dear, and you shouldn’t let it disturb you. Disturbance will hamper your ability, you know, so when it comes time for you to try for mastery you’ll be at a severe disadvantage.”

“I think that achieving mastery will take care of any disturbance there might be,” Jovvi said pleasantly after finishing her tea. “Just how do I arrange to go about that?”

“I—I ask one of the other Adepts to witness your performance,” Genovir responded, her inner balance definitely gone now. “But you really should take more practice time first, to be certain … you…”

The woman’s words trailed off as Jovvi calmly and simply shook her head, refusing to hear Genovir’s “words of wisdom.” There was no longer any doubt that moving ahead as quickly as possible was still the right thing to do, and she’d have to tell the others as soon as they all got back to the residence tonight. Tamma, and Vallant Ro, and Rion Mardimil, and Pagin Holter—and Lorand Coll. Lorand especially…

This whole exchange is full of plotholes. According to Genovir, Jovvi is free to take as much time as she likes to qualify and all these people are still here, not dead, despite Kogrin's urgent requests, so that pokes a few holes in the . In addition, Book 4 spoilers some strong Middles get sent off to the army as well, so it's not like they strictly need to be High talents. They'll all be drugged and mind controlled so it doesn't really matter what they can do in an undrugged state - or at least we never find out if this training makes them a more effective army

quote:

Genovir left the table abruptly, but Jovvi wasn’t given much time to worry about how Lorand was doing. It took only a couple of moments before Genovir was back, along with a man who looked more supercilious than self-assured.

“Dama Jovvi Hafford, I present you to Adept Algus,” Genovir said, all but curtseying. “Adept Algus will witness your attempt at mastery, and certify it if you succeed.”

“When I succeed,” Jovvi corrected, then rose to her feet to smile at Algus. “How nice that I’ll have a gentleman accompanying me. I always do much better in the company of gentlemen.”

“I don’t doubt that for a moment, lovely child,” Algus replied, his smile having grown interested. “Allow me to offer my arm for the short walk to the practice building.”

Jovvi took the man’s arm with her most charming smile of agreement, ignoring the roiling fuss coming from Genovir. The female Adept was furious over how quickly Jovvi had melted Algus’s aloofness, but that was too bad about her. The tall, saturnine man would do much better on Jovvi’s side, most likely missing entirely how he was being manipulated. Many men with power enjoyed letting beautiful women manipulate them, a fact Jovvi had learned during her time as a courtesan.

Algus decided to chat as he escorted Jovvi to the practice building, so she obligingly chatted. He was an older man who was still in his prime, although obviously no stronger than Genovir. His attempts to unbalance Jovvi’s emotions to his own benefit were easily deflected, so they walked into the practice room still chatting about nothing.

Actually good characterization of Jovvi, 1 entire book later.

quote:

Six new subjects stood in the room, eyes dull from the drugs they’d been given, and Algus waved a languid hand at them.

“There they are, lovely child,” he said, his smile more demeaning than amused. “As soon as I cue them, you may go right to it.”

Jovvi nodded with a much better smile and walked to the center of the room, hiding her extreme distaste with the ease of long practice done elsewhere. The subjects they gave her to practice on here were all drugged, otherwise they’d never be able to maintain an almost constant state of unbalance for her to work with. Anger was the easiest thing to induce, with fear coming in a close second. She’d worked with both during the initial test and the sessions, but in this place they’d so far used only anger.

“Hear one who is authorized to command you,” Algus said, obviously giving them the keying phrase. “This woman is your enemy, and your anger at her is boundless.”

Foreshadowing!

quote:

The six people immediately grew furious, their raging emotions aimed directly at Jovvi. It had disturbed her for quite some time that morning to see the expressions and gestures that went with the emotion, but she’d finally gotten almost used to it. At least she’d learned to be less concerned over working with actual people, something everyone was raised not to do. The far from easy life she’d led as a child now helped her in that respect, and Jovvi was willing to take any help she could get.

So she immediately spread out her ability, touching the hostile emotions of the people before her. They really were furious and weren’t far from deciding to hurt her, so she quickly began to balance their hostility. Their emotions eased immediately, the drug’s presence in their systems doing nothing to stop her, and their shouting and fist-shaking ended just as quickly. They were completely mollified and under control, but Algus waited a moment or two before acknowledging that.

“Very nicely done, lovely child,” he conceded at last, sounding more patronizing than approving. “One mastery accomplished, three to go. You people—division one.”

At the command the six subjects divided into two groups of three, and then they were radiating heavy anger again. It was slightly more difficult for Jovvi to divide her abilities as well, but only because there were individual sources of unbalance in each of the two groups. Beyond that she’d already divided her strength into more than two parts, so a pair of moments later the two groups were calm again. This time Algus waited longer than he had the first time, but eventually had to give in.

“Two masteries, then,” he granted, his words on the cool side. “Quickly now, you people, division two.”

One person came from each of the former groups, and now there were three groups containing two people each. Jovvi had to brace herself against the renewed anger, wondering if the testing authority realized that this was the hardest part of the problem. Multiple members of multiple groups was a very tricky exercise in balance, and small beads of perspiration formed on Jovvi’s brow before she had all three groups calmed again. The beads of sweat grew larger while Algus made her hold the groups, but once again he was eventually forced to acknowledge her accomplishment.

“All right, that’s three,” he just about snapped, apparently finding it difficult to maintain his own balance. “But there’s still one to go, so don’t congratulate yourself quite yet. You people, division three.”

The six people spread out to stand individually, which came as a relief for Jovvi. If Algus thought handling six individuals was harder than three pairs Jovvi wasn’t about to correct him, but she did make something of a production of it. She let the ranting and raging go on for a moment before bringing it under control, then clenched her fists as she held the six with her power. She wanted her “struggle” to be clear to Algus, who would certainly wait as long as possible before ending the test. He did wait longer again while Jovvi held the six with only a small amount of effort, but finally his voice came to end it.

I can't work out exactly what Green was hoping to accomplish here. Her protagonists keep wailing over how hard things are going to be, but then also breezing through the tests without a problem. It's like the complete opposite of underpromise, overdeliver. You can write a powerful character sandbagging, but they need to be doing it for a reason that's consistent with their motivations and who they are. The payoff then comes in watching that character go all out (which is something we will never see these characters do).

quote:

“Much to my astonishment, that’s four masteries,” he said, now sounding honestly surprised. “You have my congratulations, Dama, for showing yourself superior to most of those of the gentle sex. Would you care to rest now?”

“Yes, with a cup of tea, if you please,” Jovvi replied faintly after releasing the six subjects. Actually she felt fine, but if Algus wanted to believe her exhausted, that was something else she wasn’t about to argue.

“Here, take my arm,” Algus said after hurrying over to her, his interest now a good deal more intense. “We’ll have the tea together, and perhaps a sweet cake as well. Or anything else you might wish. Your company honors me, Dama, and it would please me to see to your needs.”

Jovvi gave him a wan smile as she leaned on his arm, perfectly well aware of which needs of hers Algus would most prefer seeing to. It would be silly to tell him at once that he hadn’t a prayer of making it into her bed, not when there were things she hoped to learn from the man.

Wouldn't a post coital conversation be exactly the kind of atmosphere where you're most likely to learn those things?

quote:

But one thing she’d already learned, and the point was rather significant. Algus now called her “dama” rather than the condescending “lovely child” he’d been using, which meant quite a lot. Gaining those masteries had earned her another step upward, and one that was important enough to change Algus’s attitude. If it had been a negative step he would have been a lot less ingratiating, which meant her theories about moving ahead being the best way were proving themselves.

Jovvi took a deep breath of fresh air as Algus led her outside, but still had to fight down a brief flash of frustration. So her theories had proven themselves so far; that didn’t tell her how much farther they would take her. She still didn’t know how good good-enough would turn out to be, but she’d better find out before everything fell apart…

Still waiting for Green to realize that you can't manufacture tension entirely via internal monologue. Well, maybe some better writers can, but Green certainly isn't one of them!

Summary:

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials" (as Adept Forum called them) - the first and second levels of masteries of that aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.
  • Spirit: 1) calm 6 angry people in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Air: 1) keep 6 people breathing in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Fire: 1) burn grains of flying dirt, burn droplets of water mist, burn specific pieces of wood, leather, cloth and feathers; 2) defend yourself against attack from an adept while repeating 1
  • Water: 1) Using water from a vat: a) surround 6 objects with water in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; b) place 6 spheres of water inside visible boxes 1 at a time, then 2, up to 6 at a time; and c) place 6 spheres of water inside hidden boxes in the same groupings; then 2) repeat 1 using water moisture from the air
Eltrina attends a status update and gets herself openly acknowledged as the unofficial noble 2IC on Project Competitions by the boss she's banging on the basis that she is the only one with a bare minimum of competence.

Lorand/Jovvi passes his/her first level masteries and notices an abrupt shift in his/her Adept's attitude.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 21
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, Kogrin, Lemmis Admen, Miklas

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 15
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 11
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas
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, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 36
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 3
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 29
"CLIFFHANGERS": 17
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 10
TEA DRINKING: 17
BLATANT MORALIZING: 18
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Book 1: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Book 1: Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Book 1: Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Book 1: Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Book 1: Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Book 1: Chapters 25, 32, 33, 35, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Book 1: Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Book 1: Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Book 1: Chapters 39, 40, 41, 42, 43; Book 2: Chapters 1, 2)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapter 1,)

Possible fixes:
So. Much. Bloat. wizzardstaff is 100% correct when saying that Books 1 and 2 are the worst slogs. Fortunately, we've only got 3 more chapters of the first level masteries to go before we take a break for NaNoWriMo. From there, we'll get a little bit of variety from the noble POVs. While those are just as repetitive as the protagonists, we do find out more about the power structures in the Empire so it kind of alleviates the boredom.

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 THREE 
Rion Mardimil, Air magic
 
Rion sat in the fresh air after enjoying his meal, a pleasant change from the circumstance found with the sessions he’d moved beyond. The food served for lunch at the sessions had been abominable, nothing a man of breeding and culture would accept for long. Here, though… The meal had been good enough that even Mother wouldn’t have complained very much.

Rion realized that that was the first time he’d thought about Mother all morning, and the realization pleased him. Mother was doing her best to keep him under her thumb and completely dependent on her, but he’d already gained more of an advantage than he’d expected to. She’d tried to force him into changing his name back to Clarion, that awful joke she’d saddled him with, but it hadn’t worked. Instead she’d secured him allies, which Padril had explained about.

Looking around showed Rion the place where Padril, his Adept guide, had taken his lunch, at a table with others who also seemed to be Adepts. Padril had assured Rion that he was much more potentially valuable to the Empire than Mother was, so as soon as he proved his worth he would have powerful friends to stand between him and Mother. And he needed those friends, no matter how strong his resolve was to find independence. He’d discovered that his resolve and determination began to crumble when Mother stood directly in front of him, and as abhorrent as the thought of returning to her domination was, he feared it would happen if he found himself standing alone.

A burst of laughter arose from those people sitting with Padril, momentarily making Rion believe that they were laughing at him. When he’d still been Clarion he’d been laughed at more than once, but he hastened to remind himself that he was now Rion and that didn’t happen to Rion. Indeed, from the way Padril had spoken, Rion would be the last one anyone laughed at. Great things were expected from Rion, and Rion was ready to produce them.

Another burst of laughter came from the same tableful of people, and this time one or two actually glanced in his direction.

Rion knew he was extremely unworldly as far as most things went, but being ridiculed was one state of affairs he was well familiar with. Those people were laughing at him, but he couldn’t understand why they would do so. Padril had agreed about how special he knew Rion to be, how much better than all the commoners around him…

Only then did the thought come, that there were just commoners around him. Clothing didn’t enter into it since all applicants wore the same white shirt or blouse and gray trousers or skirt. Bearing and attitude shouted that he was the only member of the nobility present, which could well mean that other members of the nobility were being handled and tested in some other place. Since he hadn’t come across any of his peers at any time so far, the theory appeared to be more than sound.

Which meant that Padril hadn’t believed his claim to be a member of the nobility, and the Adept’s very solicitous concern and support had been a sham. He hadn’t admired Rion and his potential at all, and possibly hadn’t even believed in it. Padril had been pretending, making Rion the butt of a joke, and that was the amusement he now shared with his friends. See the foolish young man who really thought he was important.

This is a good moment of character growth, yet something about this still bothers me. I'm fairly certain it's because Green is taking far too long (590 words) to make the same point. The first two paragraphs are rehashing what we already know about Rion from Book 1 as well as the general testing situation from the previous two chapters. We don't get any new information until the third paragraph about Padril and the table of Adepts, but the rest of that paragraph is also a rehash, along with the next few lines.

So if we look at this as a mini arc, what we need as a reader is: Rion's noticed 2 things that he wouldn't have normally noticed - 1) Padril and the other Adepts are looking in his direction a lot and laughing; 2) nobody else in the place looking like they might also be noble. He puts these things together and concludes that Padril doesn't believe him. That's one paragraph, not eight.

quote:

Rion felt the definite urge to do violence, an emotion he’d felt before but had never been so close to acting on. The nerve of that peasant, to make him the butt of his senseless joke! Committing violence would have felt marvelous,

Did you forget about plotting Lorand's murder?

quote:

but Rion saw Padril rise and begin to walk toward him, and suddenly he had a better idea. Telling people things was never as good as showing them, and Padril had earned some showing. Besides, he now remembered that he and the others at the residence had decided to move ahead as quickly as possible, which fit in perfectly with his own plans.

“Ah, Rion, finished with lunch, I see,” Padril remarked with his usual ingratiating smile as he reached Rion. “You must have had a strenuous morning, but you certainly look as if you’ve been restored.”

“Completely restored, thank you,” Rion returned, trying not to sound stiff with anger. There was no sense in warning the fellow, or making it impossible for the man to say the wrong thing.

“Ah, then in that case I must disturb your rest time to ask a most pressing question,” Padril continued, his brown eyes showing veiled amusement. “We’ve already established that you’ll be doing marvelous things, but I’ve been wondering just how soon you’ll be doing them. My superiors will want to know… Perhaps by the beginning of the new week? Surely that won’t be too soon?”

“Actually, the beginning of the new week doesn’t suit me at all,” Rion drawled, fairly certain he knew what Padril was aiming at. “I wonder why you would think it did.”

“I thought so because you were the one who wanted to forge strongly ahead,” Padril reminded him, gentle admonition behind the words. “But surely I’m the one who is mistaken, and you would prefer to wait until the second new week before showing us your prowess. Better to wait a bit longer and be absolutely certain, eh?”

“I’m already absolutely certain,” Rion said, ignoring the wink the man had shown him. “And I see no reason for a wait of any length. Whom do I have to see to arrange the testing right now?”

“Now?” Padril echoed, his vast and worldly amusement suddenly faltering. “You can’t mean you want to—Now?”

“Yes, now,” Rion repeated, taking a grimly pleased satisfaction from the man’s sudden nervousness. “To whom do I speak about it?”

“Why, I’m the one assigned to witness your attempts at mastery, but surely you’re simply joking with me.” Padril had begun to sweat and squirm, for some reason Rion couldn’t fathom. “You can’t possibly be ready to test yet, not after only half a day of practice. It—isn’t often done.”

“I’m glad you weren’t foolish enough to say ‘never done,’” Rion told him as he rose to his feet. “Let’s not waste any more time.”

Padril’s bearded face was creased into a worried frown, but he said nothing further before turning to lead the way to the path that led across the grass to the practice building. The so-called Adept glanced at those he’d been sitting with as he walked, but made no effort to acknowledge their smirks and grins. He must have come over to add to the general amusement, Rion realized, but had found the joke ruined instead. And it would really be ruined once Rion passed the test.

Only male Adepts are allowed to witness and grant masteries. We saw this with Genovir in the last chapter and we'll see it again with Soonen in Tamrissa's chapter.

quote:

The practice building was divided into a number of rooms, each of which was lit by lamps sealed behind clear windows of resin. In fact the entire room was capable of being sealed, which Padril saw to once the six people Rion was to work with had entered.

“When I pull this cord, smoke will be pumped into the room,” Padril said as though Rion had no idea about what was going on. “The first mastery required of you is to keep yourself and those six people breathing freely, with them standing together in a single group.”

Rion nodded curtly to show that he understood perfectly, and after a moment’s hesitation Padril pulled the rope. Smoke began to billow into the room immediately, heavier smoke than Rion had worked with that morning. The difference wasn’t all that significant, however, not when Rion reached out with the fingers of his talent. Air magic was his aspect, and in no more than a moment there was clean air for himself and the six subject people to breathe.

Every household in an urban centre should be employing Air magic talents to constantly purify and circulate air inside buildings, with Water magic users helping out in hotter climates to create air conditioning.

quote:

“Now they’ll divide into two groups of three,” Padril announced after another hesitation. “Remember that you must keep them breathing freely.”

Padril had surrounded himself with his own clean air, of course, but Rion had the impression that the man wasn’t holding it easily. But that was unimportant at the moment, and protecting his subjects was not. Rion carefully parted the shell of clean air and sent it with the three people who moved away from the others, and not a wisp of smoke disturbed any of them.

“Very … impressive,” Padril said after an even longer hesitation, his voice now trembling faintly. “Two masteries completed, two to go. May we have the next separation, please?”

The three people who had moved away now moved back again, but only in order to form three groups of two. Rion carefully separated his spheres of air again, but there wasn’t much time left. The air that had started out clear was being used too far by too many people, and the pumped-in smoke had tainted whatever air was left. If Padril didn’t stop taking his time admitting the masteries, the subjects would soon be coughing and choking from something other than smoke.

“Yes, well, that’s three now, isn’t it?” Padril asked after much too long a time. “Well, just one more to go, but it is the hardest. Places, please.”

The Adept now sounded too pleased to suit Rion, so while the six people began to separate into six individually clear islands in the smoke, Rion thought about why. It took only a moment to come up with a guess, but it seemed rather likely. If one or more of the subjects began to cough from breath-tainted air, Padril could claim it was smoke causing them to cough, and thereafter deny him the mastery. It would fit well with the heavy man’s twisted sense of humor, but Rion had a joke of his own to play.

It took an enormous amount of concentration and effort, but Rion did find it possible to steal the air from around Padril and distribute it among his six subjects. He didn’t take all of Padril’s air, of course, just enough to keep his subjects breathing freely. And the most amusing part of it all was that Padril never noticed the loss.

Or at least didn’t notice it to begin with. The Adept seemed prepared to wait even longer than previously before acknowledging Rion’s mastery, but then there was an abrupt change in his plans. It was Padril who began to cough and choke, and then the heavy man was unsealing the room in order to get outside. Rion waited until the smoke was completely gone before unshielding his subjects, and then he strolled out to where Padril stood gulping air and occasionally still choking.

“Not a single cough or gasp in the lot,” he observed laconically to the Adept. “Except for you, that is. That’s a full four masteries, I believe, sir. Am I mistaken?”

This is borderline funny! I wish Green would play up moments like this a lot more. These only seem to happen in Rion chapters as well, hence why he's more fun to read compared to everyone else who's too busy being emo, or righteously indignant, etc.

quote:

For an instant Padril seemed ready to deny Rion’s claim, then fear replaced frustration in his eyes. He seemed to know at last that he dealt with a superior, and his words confirmed the surmise.

“Yes, sir, that is a full four masteries,” he agreed, now sounding extremely servile. “Excuse me for not having congratulated you at once, the oversight was unforgivable. Allow me to offer you tea to refresh yourself with, and I’ll fetch it myself. Just follow me, if you please.”

Rion found the man’s cringing homage more disgusting than satisfying, but he still followed him out of the building and back toward the eating area. He intended to have something to eat along with the tea, but more importantly meant to do some thinking. He hadn’t had the time before, but now…

Now he reclaimed his lunch table, and put the question to himself clearly: if members of the nobility weren’t anywhere around there, then where were they? And more to the point, why wasn’t he there with them? Could Mother have had something to do with his placement, and if so, why would she have done such a thing?

The deeper question he's not asking is whether he's been excluded all his life! We'll find out in...3 more chapters.

quote:

And last but certainly not least: how could he undo whatever was done and finally get to where he really belonged?

I could have sworn that at some point in Book 1, Rion had resolved that he much preferred considered one of a group even if they are commoners rather than being ostracized. At any rate, this is actually a little bit of foreshadowing on Green's part!

Summary:

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials" (as Adept Forum called them) - the first and second levels of masteries of that aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.
  • Spirit: 1) calm 6 angry people in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Air: 1) keep 6 people breathing in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Fire: 1) burn grains of flying dirt, burn droplets of water mist, burn specific pieces of wood, leather, cloth and feathers; 2) defend yourself against attack from an adept while repeating 1
  • Water: 1) Using water from a vat: a) surround 6 objects with water in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; b) place 6 spheres of water inside visible boxes 1 at a time, then 2, up to 6 at a time; and c) place 6 spheres of water inside hidden boxes in the same groupings; then 2) repeat 1 using water moisture from the air
Eltrina attends a status update and gets herself openly acknowledged as the unofficial noble 2IC on Project Competitions by the boss she's banging on the basis that she is the only one with a bare minimum of competence.

Lorand/Jovvi/Rion passes his/her first level masteries and notices an abrupt shift in his/her Adept's attitude.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 21
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, Kogrin, Lemmis Admen, Miklas

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 15
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 11
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas
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, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 36
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 3
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 29
"CLIFFHANGERS": 17
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 10
TEA DRINKING: 18
BLATANT MORALIZING: 18
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Book 1: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Book 1: Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Book 1: Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Book 1: Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Book 1: Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Book 1: Chapters 25, 32, 33, 35, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Book 1: Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Book 1: Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Book 1: Chapters 39, 40, 41, 42, 43; Book 2: Chapters 1, 2, 3)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapter 1)

Possible fixes:
These books could use a heavy injection of humor. I don't blame Green on this though, writing humor is difficult in the first place. Sanderson says it pretty well:

Brandon Sanderson posted:

Humor is more subjective than what we find heroic, tragic, or even beautiful. It also depends a great deal on audience buy-in and mood. This makes comedy one of the trickiest things to do in a book, because some people are just going to hate what you do. My approach has generally been a kind of shotgun blast--I try to include multiple different kinds of humor, stylized to the individual character. That way, if you don't find the humor itself funny, you at least learn what the character finds funny--and learn something about them.

https://wob.coppermind.net/events/188/#e4908

I'm not sure how I'll do trying to write funny moments, but I'll see how I go working off this framework: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysSgG5V-R3U

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 FOUR
Tamrissa Domon, Fire magic
 
The day had become a warm one, but the canopy overhead shielded everyone having lunch from the noonday sun. And there were quite a lot of others having lunch besides me, more than thirty of them. Most of the people were women, just as Soonen, my Adept guide, had claimed, but that was the only difference among the lot of them. Once they’d shown up most of them had spent their time drinking tea, with only one or two drifting over to the practice cubicles. But not to practice, certainly not. I was the one who practiced, while they stared into a cubicle for a while and then walked away.

This conspiracy is so incompetent that I wonder why they even bother.

quote:

I sipped at my tea in an effort to calm my annoyance, which now threatened to get out of hand again. It hadn’t been much of a problem while I’d been practicing, not with all the strength I’d been expending, but lunch had done a good job of restoring my energies. And being outdoors seemed to help as well. I enjoyed being outdoors, but…

But I was far from being happy. I sipped tea as I looked around again, wondering for the tenth or twentieth time if everyone else there was the same sort of incompetent want-to-be that I suspected Soonen was. My Adept guide had proven to be an arrogant idiot much like Beldara Lant, the woman who shared my aspect and had shared my residence until yesterday. Beldara was convinced she was the best at Fire magic ever to have been born, but she hadn’t yet been able to justify the claim with actions.

Soonen claimed to be an Adept, but she’d spent her time calling me useless and helpless, and hadn’t even been able to demonstrate the third exercise I was supposed to do. The woman had seemed to be trying deliberately to make me lose control of both my temper and my talent, and I couldn’t understand that. If the testing authority didn’t want us to qualify for the competition for High practitioner, what were they after instead?

Convoluted not-drama, apparently.

quote:

Any possible answer to that was one designed to make me shiver or tremble, so it wasn’t a great disappointment not being able to think of one. Simply knowing I walked a very thin line with various disasters waiting on all sides for a misstep was enough to keep my insides in a permanent twist, at least when I stopped to think about it. What I’d tried to keep in mind instead was the agreement the others at the residence and I had come to: keep moving forward. Nothing about our situation was certain, except for the fact that falling behind would bring immediate disaster, while moving forward at least postponed the time of trouble.

Still not convinced about any sort of disaster. What a flimsy excuse for not being able to figure out how to write a compelling story.

quote:

I took a deep breath to ease the fluttering in my middle, and saw Soonen rise from the table she’d shared with two other women. That table had been near one filled mostly with men, but she hadn’t even glanced in their direction. Now she made her way toward me, tall and imposing with her arrogant stride, the beginning of a sneer on her plain, undistinguished face.

“If you’re through stuffing yourself, it’s time you got back to practicing,” she said as she stopped beside my table to look down at me. “You don’t have forever to make your pitiful attempts at testing, you know, so you’d better get moving.”

“If I don’t have forever, then I ought to make my pitiful attempt right now,” I answered, using my nervousness over the test to counter rising annoyance. “Who did you say I had to speak to about watching me?”

“Gerdol is your examiner,” she responded automatically, then shook her head as if to dismiss the entire idea. “But that’s ridiculous, you can’t possibly be ready after only a single morning’s practice. If you think I intend to bother Gerdol for nothing, you have another think coming.”

“Either you can call him, or I will,” I stated, flatly refusing to let her get a rise out of me—at least where she could see it. “If I can’t do it, we’ll all soon know.”

“Yes, yes we will,” she said, brightening with the idea of my failure. “And then I’ll be rid of you, so it’s worth bothering Gerdol after all. I’ll be right back.”

Her enjoyment and happiness were clear as she made her way toward the table holding mostly men, but by the time she reached it she’d lost a good deal of both. Even though there were more women than men in our aspect, she’d said, the only ones who could be examiners were men. That arrangement was an old story, but she acted as if it were brand new—or could be changed by complaining about it. Her complaints had about as much chance to change things as mine would have about my parents trying to sell me into marriage again. Apparently Soonen had never learned that if you don’t like the way something is, you have to find a way to change it.

Ow, my head. This is the extreme idealism of meritocracy there wolf was talking about that can only genuinely be expressed by a person born into privilege.

quote:

Soonen spoke diffidently to one of the seated men, and after a moment he rose and followed her away from the table. He wasn’t a very tall man, a bit shorter than Soonen, in fact, and had whiskers framing his face. He wore nothing of a mustache to hide the annoyance in his expression, and was a bit on the plump side. He followed Soonen at his own deliberate pace, and when he reached my table he frowned down at me.

“I’m given to understand that you’ve already requested an examiner,” he said in a deep, heavy voice. “Can that possibly be true?”

“It can be and is,” I answered, hating the way my voice trembled at his obvious disapproval. “I don’t blame you for not wanting to take Soonen’s word for things, but this time she happens to be right.”

Soonen drew her breath in angrily at that, but Gerdol first raised his brows, then chuckled.

“Well, it’s been some time since we’ve had a lady of proper tastes in these precincts,” he said, his tone having softened as he looked me over. “Come along, my dear, and do the best you’re able. If you find it beyond you to complete the course today, there’s always tomorrow or the day after.”

He offered his hand to help me rise, and I forced myself to take it as well as to smile my thanks. Jovvi had mentioned how easy it was to use men’s weaknesses against them, but I hadn’t understood what she meant until just this minute. Soonen complained and apparently made a nuisance of herself, but would have gotten a lot farther if the men around her wanted to impress her. If a system is designed to exclude you, doesn’t it make sense to maneuver members of that system to where they want to change it?

ok now we're supposed to buy Tamrissa the fledgling siren when she's had major issues with the slightest hint of intimacy with a man? Was that one walk in the garden with Vallant enough to totally shift her attitude?

And if the lack of suspense wasn't enough, we now know you can attempt the masteries multiple times. Green's killed all sense of suspense to the point where these chapters are unrevivable.

quote:

That latest line of thought was a bit frightening, but not as much as the testing I was about to undergo. I would have preferred to think about social change, but as soon as Gerdol led me to the first practice cubicle, all my attention centered on what was about to be done. I moved into the cubicle, took a deep breath, then stepped hard on the lever on the floor in front of me. The lever caused a box to fly open and a wide cloud of soil to be thrown into the air, and then it was time to perform.

Reaching for the power had never been very hard, but lately it had developed into a reflex like opening your eyes after hearing a strange sound. It was there almost before I realized it, already having woven my fires into the necessary patterns, sending flame to consume every grain of soil in the air. My fires had to be very hot to accomplish that trick, and when I let them fade again there wasn’t even a hint of soil left.

“Well, that was quite impressive, my dear,” Adept Gerdol said with pleased indulgence, as if he were speaking to a precocious child. That undoubtedly meant he was able to do the same, and I was about to ask him not to talk down to me when I heard the sound of a bird scolding. I quickly looked up and sure enough, there was the brown, gold, and white chickadee.

I still found it difficult to believe, but all morning while I practiced I’d had the company of that bird. It seemed to have no fear of the fire I used, which was strange enough in itself. Add to that its manner of seeming to support and encourage me when I’d needed it the most, and you have something that goes beyond strange. Now it seemed to be telling me to keep my mouth closed, a reminder I needed. Lately I’d found that using the power seemed to calm many of my fears and apprehensions, but fortunately or unfortunately the state of mind didn’t stay with me for long.

Spoilers for Book 8 someone hiding is in the bushes around here, coaxing a tiny bird to perform on demand. My money says it's one of the random filler people wandering around as background scenery, but that's still quite the range to control an animal from. We haven't seen any Earth magic work at that kind of range

quote:

“Yes, quite impressive,” Adept Gerdol was saying as I turned to him. “That’s one mastery to your credit, and if you’d like to leave the next until later or tomorrow, I’ll join you for a cup of tea.”

“I’d be delighted to share tea with you later, Adept Gerdol,” I answered in a way that would have made Jovvi proud of me. “Right now, though, I prefer to continue. Once all this testing business is behind me, my mind will be clear enough to concentrate on other things.”

“Of course, my dear, I quite understand,” Adept Gerdol said as he took my hand and patted it. “We’ll continue on as long as you’re able, and then we’ll have tea.”

He used the hand he held to lead me to the next cubicle, and I caught a glance of Soonen on the way. The woman had her lip curled into a sneer over the way Gerdol was behaving with my encouragement, which showed she didn’t understand the true state of affairs. She’d been the one to give me the idea about trying manipulation when she’d spoken about how men reacted to my “sort,” so it was completely accurate to say that she was directly responsible for everything I did.

I would have liked a chapter of Jovvi teaching Tamrissa how to flirt and manipulate men.

quote:

And that might even include my performance during the tests. I’d finally forced myself to admit that I wanted to show the woman, show her what I could do and that I wasn’t the helpless little toy she’d claimed. The second cubicle had a pull cord which released a wide spray of water from a tank overhead, and even as I yanked on the cord I heard a trill of avian support and encouragement.

But by then I had the power flowing through me again, and the object this time was to burn the water without creating steam. Once again the feat required the use of a woven pattern in my very hot fires, but then that, too, was done.

“Excellent, my dear, truly excellent,” Adept Gerdol said heartily with triumphant birdsong as a faint backdrop. “Two masteries one after the other. You’ll certainly want to try for the third, and afterward we’ll have our tea and discuss the best way to increase your precision.”

I turned to the man again with a smile and a nod, but on the inside I was fuming. The oaf expected me to fail at the next exercise, just the way Soonen had almost certainly failed and possibly the way he had. The haunted part of my mind feared that they would prove to be right, but the rest of me was too bloody angry to even consider failure. But not to use strong words like “bloody,” at least to myself. I’d never said that word out loud, and probably never would.

Really? Ok, well this explains why Torrin was so upset with Vallant saying "blazing blue hell". Is Green Mormon or something?

quote:

I walked to the third cubicle surrounded by the most calming birdsong I’d ever heard, so that when I stepped inside I felt less angered and more controlled. The thought came that it would be marvelous to be able to take that bird home and feed it seed and bread until it was too heavy to fly, but that wasn’t likely to become possible. The bird wasn’t really there to support me, I simply needed to believe it was.

Theme about the cycle of abuse perpetuating itself continues.

quote:

So I held to my beliefs as I looked at the pile of wood thrown one piece on top of another in the middle of the cubicle. The pieces were each about a foot in length and were carved into different shapes, an oval shape with a splotch of blue paint just visible in the pile’s middle. The piece with the orange paint splotch which had been there earlier had had to be replaced, and I’d done the replacing myself.

Both Soonen and Adept Gerdol stood waiting silently for me to fail, undoubtedly thinking that I couldn’t yet be up to burning one single piece of wood in the pile without at least singeing some of the others. At first I hadn’t thought I could do it either, but then I’d tried it—and had discovered I already knew how to keep my flames from burning what they shouldn’t. Once or twice I’d had occasion to guard what surrounded my fires, like when Jovvi’s sponsor had come to the residence, and the woman’s two henchmen had tried to hurt Jovvi and me. I hadn’t considered that practice at the time, but apparently it had been nothing else.

Isn't this convenient?

quote:

“The oval piece of wood, with the blue splotch of paint,” I said, naming my target, more than eager to get on with it and have it behind me. When Adept Gerdol murmured his agreement that he saw the piece, I took it as my cue to begin. Yellow-red fire flared all around the oval piece of wood, making me think of winter and logs in the fireplace. But only that one small piece of wood burned, and somewhere far away a part of me marveled that I was able to protect things from my flames as well as burn them. Most people never mentioned anything about the protecting part, and then it was all done.

“You’ve burned it,” Adept Gerdol said slowly, now sounding numb. “Without burning any of the other pieces. You’ve mastered it.”

“She couldn’t have,” Soonen protested, again sounding furious. “There are probably singe marks all over the pieces in place we can’t see from here.”

“Then go and take a closer look,” I offered, turning to regard both of them. “I got rid of every singed piece in the cubicle before lunch, so any you find will prove that I failed.”

The two Adepts had gone pale for some reason, but that didn’t stop Soonen from pushing past me to get to the wood pile.

She began to turn over pieces of wood, after a moment throwing them harder and harder, and that spoke more clearly than any words she might have used.

How rare is this ability that the two Adepts are this surprised? Book 4 spoilers we know these places exist to send a constant stream of enslaved Highs out to the two armies, so Tamrissa can't be the first to pass all of these test. They would have to see this happen all the time! They should already have a drill in place to know exactly how to react.

I hate these books.

quote:

“There aren’t any singed pieces, and the third mastery is yours, Dama,” Adept Gerdol said, just as if he were a stranger. “Would you care to continue on, or would you prefer to rest for a short while first?”

“Continue on,” I answered, wondering why he was acting so strangely. The next three cubicles required an increasingly more delicate touch, but there didn’t seem to be much doubt that I’d master that group as well. And my decision to continue on seemed to frighten him even more. He bowed his agreement shakily, then held out a hand to ask me to precede him. So we left Soonen still raging among the pieces of wood, and went to the next cubicle.

That one had wedges of leather rather than lengths of wood, and the following cubicle had strips of cloth. When I’d been practicing the cloth had really made me worry, but then I’d realized that protection was protection. It took the same effort and amount of power to protect cloth as it did to protect wood, even though that didn’t seem quite right. It should have been harder to protect cloth, and I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t.

Especially when I reached the last cubicle, which contained feathers. That one really made me nervous, and by then Soonen was back with us. She wore the oddest expression, something like terrified anger, and Adept Gerdol’s expression wasn’t much better. The man was obviously nervous and disturbed, and his patronizing had turned to obsequiousness.

“You’re supposed to choose the ten feathers I’m to burn,” I reminded him, turning in the cubicle’s doorway. “Would you like to begin?”

“Ten feathers?” he echoed, shaking his head with a frown. “You only need to burn three, Dama. Where could you possibly have gotten the idea of ten?”

“I must have misheard,” I said, only glancing at a Soonen who had frozen where she stood. She was the one who had told me ten feathers were required, probably to frighten me into believing I’d never do it. But it hadn’t worked out that way, since I’d practiced—and had gotten—ten feathers cleanly burned. Hearing the truth actually relaxed me, so I turned back to the pile of feathers with full confidence underscored by happy birdsong.

Adept Gerdol chose the three most difficult feathers to reach, of course, but once I’d burned the last of them Soonen didn’t even suggest there might be singeing. Unprotected feathers don’t singe, they burn, a lesson I’d learned well the first time I’d practiced with them. I’d been nervous and unsure of myself then, but now I turned back to the two Adepts with more confidence than I could remember feeling in many years.

“I believe that that’s the last of it,” I said, speaking only to Adept Gerdol. “If you’ll declare the mastery, I’ll be able to go and have that tea.”

“Of course, Dama, of course I declare the mastery,” he assured me quickly while I thought about having something a lot more substantial along with the tea. I’d just finished lunch a short while ago, but I still felt completely hollow. “Allow me the honor of escorting you back to your table and ordering the tea for you.”

If you haven't noticed, from this point onwards, the tea drinking becomes a running gag that you could use it in a drinking game. If you took a shot every time the word "tea" is mentioned in a chapter, you'd be blind drunk pretty soon.

quote:

He offered his arm in a way that looked downright diffident, as though he might possibly be afraid of my turning my fires on him. As an Adept he should have had nothing to worry about; after all, it stood to reason that if you were able to protect feathers from burning, you should have no trouble protecting yourself.

But once I’d taken his arm, it came back to me that he—and Soonen—probably weren’t able to do that exercise. How they’d gotten to be Adepts without it I had no idea, but I was almost completely certain that that had to be the case. They hadn’t been able to attain the masteries but I had, and that must be what they were afraid of. I was stronger than they were, and they hadn’t been very nice to me.

I let Adept Gerdol seat me at the table, feeling a small chill creep around my backbone. The fear the two people were showing couldn’t be based on the possibility that I might turn out to be offended by their previous behavior. It had to come from reality and past experience, specifically with others who’d proven to be stronger and had also done something to them or to people they knew.

If this is the case, then these Adepts are mindless idiots who are incapable of learning. How does Green find any of this compelling? If you're going to write a competent protagonist, then you need to write a correspondingly competent antagonist, unless the conflict is man vs nature or man vs himself!

quote:

All of which made me uneasy about what sort of situation I would soon be moving into. Tomorrow Soonen would be attacking me with her ability while I performed the same exercises, and I’d have to protect myself as well as gain the masteries. Assuming I was able to do that I would then move to the first of the competitions, and afterward I would have to face someone of my own strength in a direct confrontation.

Note that Fire magic is the only trials that involve learning how to defend yourself against direct attack. That's deliberate on Green's part but a weird plothole, since every since other aspect is able to both attack and defend.

quote:

Someone who might possibly be trying seriously to kill me. My insides lurched and roared at that thought, making it impossible for me to hear what Adept Gerdol was saying to me. My life might well be in danger soon, and I didn’t quite know how to handle the idea.

What? According to Jovvi's theory, Tamrissa's life is already in danger AND she's dealt with the first pass or die test and the random fireball before that. Tamrissa is no fainting violet. Can we just move past this stupid pretense?

quote:

In desperation I looked around for my bird friend, needing its support, but it seemed to be gone.

And that, I couldn’t help thinking, would prove to be more of an omen than a natural occurrence…

Green hasn't gotten any better at cliffhangers.

Summary:

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials" (as Adept Forum called them) - the first and second levels of masteries of that aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.
  • Spirit: 1) calm 6 angry people in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Air: 1) keep 6 people breathing in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Fire: 1) burn grains of flying dirt, burn droplets of water mist, burn specific pieces of wood, leather, cloth and feathers; 2) defend yourself against attack from an adept while repeating 1
  • Water: 1) Using water from a vat: a) surround 6 objects with water in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; b) place 6 spheres of water inside visible boxes 1 at a time, then 2, up to 6 at a time; and c) place 6 spheres of water inside hidden boxes in the same groupings; then 2) repeat 1 using water moisture from the air
Eltrina attends a status update and gets herself openly acknowledged as the unofficial noble 2IC on Project Competitions by the boss she's banging on the basis that she is the only one with a bare minimum of competence.

Lorand/Jovvi/Rion/Tamrissa passes his/her first level masteries and notices an abrupt shift in his/her Adept's attitude.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 21
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, Kogrin, Lemmis Admen, Miklas

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 15
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 11
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas
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, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 38
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 3
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 31
"CLIFFHANGERS": 18
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 10
TEA DRINKING: 20
BLATANT MORALIZING: 19
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Book 1: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Book 1: Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Book 1: Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Book 1: Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Book 1: Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Book 1: Chapters 25, 32, 33, 35, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Book 1: Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Book 1: Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Book 1: Chapters 39, 40, 41, 42, 43; Book 2: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4)

Possible fixes:
Shred this chapter into into pieces and use those as tinder for a campfire. Then we could roast marshmallows and make s'mores, which would be delicious and fun.

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 FIVE
Vallant Ro, Water magic
 
Vallant sat at the table after having finished his lunch, lost to the pleasure of beautiful birdsong. The woodsy music not only reminded him that he was out of doors, it told him that his bird-supporter was still here. It had kept him company all morning, showing up when he first began to practice.

He looked around then, seeing his Adept guide Wimand sitting a short distance away with two cronies. Vallant was supposed to have waited until after lunch to begin his practice, but he’d been so desperate to get away from Wimand’s chattering that he’d taken the first opportunity to begin practicing. Holter hadn’t used the first practice cubicle long, which was only to be expected. Despite Wimand’s loudly-voiced opinions to the contrary, Holter was every bit as good as Vallant in Water magic.

And that despite the fact that Pagin Holter was a former stableman, a member of the lowest class. Wimand was sure Holter would quickly reach his limit and thereafter fail, but Vallant knew what was driving the small man he shared a talent with. Holter was the only duplicate talent left in Vallant’s residence, and the hurt Holter felt over being rejected by his long-time friends also made him feel like an outsider among everyone else in the residence. Rather than making him give up, the hurt had turned Holter completely determined to succeed in the competitions for High practitioner. Vallant had gone through the qualifying sessions with the man, and therefore knew Holter’s chances were excellent.

And, in a manner of speaking, a lot better than Vallant’s chances. He raised his teacup and took a bracing swallow, but would have needed something as strong as brandy to really feel braced. Vallant had a problem with enclosed spaces, and while the preliminary practice areas were out of doors there, the competitions were held in a large, white resin building. A large, white, windowless resin building, which made the place a lot smaller than everyone else undoubtedly considered it.

But Vallant had to master the various practices, and then had to move on to the competitions. He and the others in the residence had agreed that failing to qualify would bring big trouble, even if they didn’t yet know what that trouble consisted of. Moving ahead would probably bring trouble as well, but that would be some time in the future while failure would bring immediate results.

So Vallant had to keep going forward, but the thought of needing to walk into—and stay in—a windowless box for an indeterminate amount of time made his insides twist and a cold sweat break out on his forehead. He’d been able to avoid thinking about it while he practiced this morning, but now even the encouraging birdsong wasn’t helping. He had to master those practice problems, but if he did…

I get that a recap is nice for readers if it's been 12 months between books, but we really don't need five of them. Why couldn't we just have gotten the full rundown in the first chapter from Lorand?

quote:

“You took my advice and had the fish for lunch,” a voice said, and Vallant looked up to see that Wimand had come over without his noticing the Adept’s approach. “How did you like it?”

“It was excellent,” Vallant answered, deciding against telling the man that any seaport dining parlor could have done better.

Do never order seafood at a restaurant in an inland city. Unless it's next to a lake or river.

quote:

“Now I’d like to know how I go about earnin’ those silver dins you said would be paid when I mastered the practice areas.”

“You can’t mean you think you’re ready to ask for an examiner,” Wimand said with a small, incredulous laugh. “I know that your … companion has asked Adept Podon to witness his own attempt, but trying to keep up with the man is pointless. He’ll certainly fail to establish mastery, and you’ll look a good deal better by not joining him in that failure.”

“What I expect to do is join him in success,” Vallant replied, getting to his feet to look down at Wimand. The man’s narrow-minded prejudice was something Vallant no longer had the patience for, and therefore no longer intended to put up with. “Podon has made Holter wait for an extra hour, but now that they’re gettin’ started, I intend to be right behind them.”

“You’d do better to insist on going first,” Wimand responded with a petulant frown. “If you absolutely must go against my advice about the testing, at least arrange things so that the peasant follows your lead, rather than you following his.”

I'm pretty sure that there isn't a formal merchant class - when we go into the noble POVs, they all clearly view anyone who's not a noble (and in some cases, lesser nobility) as peasants.

quote:

“No,” Vallant stated shortly, fighting to keep his expression from showing the contempt he felt for Wimand. “We’ll do it my way rather than yours. Let’s go.”

Wimand threw his hands up in exasperated agreement, then led the way toward the first practice cubicle. Holter and his Adept guide Podon were already leaving the cubicle, and the two Adepts exchanged a nod.

“Now, see?” Wimand told Vallant in a low voice. “The peasant has mastered the first practice, leaving you to match him. If you’re expecting to surpass him when he reaches the point of failure, I hope you’re not overrating your own level of ability.”

“I guess we’ll be findin’ out,” Vallant said, forcing himself not to add to the fairly neutral words. “In this cubicle, I’m to use the vat of ready water to surround those resin circles with water. Isn’t that right?”

“First you surround all six forms at once,” Wimand clarified, stepping into the cubicle to push the round forms on their movable pedestals together. “As soon as you’ve done that, I’ll separate the six into two groups of three, and then you surround the two groups.”

“Then it becomes three groups of two, and finally six individual groups,” Vallant put in to hurry the explanation he had no need of. “All right, here goes.”

Vallant used the ready water to surround the six head-sized resin forms, with that bird perched on the top of the cubicle and trilling approvingly all the while. Each time Vallant did what he was supposed to, until all six of the forms were individually surrounded by water. Keeping the globes of water separate had given him some trouble until he’d remembered the sessions exercises he’d done to qualify for this place, and then the problem had been solved.

“Well, at least you haven’t been left behind,” Wimand said with grudging approval when he’d finished. “Now let's go see how the peasant has done in the second area.”

Once again Holter and Podon were leaving as Vallant and Wimand approached, and for the second time the two Adepts exchanged nods. Podon looked … faintly nervous but also faintly pleased, which managed to deepen Wimand’s frown.

“In case you missed that, the peasant has apparently done it again,” he told Vallant accusingly. “I tried to point out how bad an idea this was, but you refused to listen. Assuming Podon isn’t giving the man a bit of unmentioned help, you’ll certainly regret not having listened to me.”

“This second cubicle has those six breadboxes I’m supposed to fill with water,” Vallant said, again ignoring Wimand’s complaints. “If I do it right, the water will collect in a bowl inside each box, and won’t leak out until the bottom of each bowl gets released by the rope pull. I start doin’ it in one box, then in two together, three together, and so on until I’m up to fillin’ all six boxes at once.”

“Yes, that’s quite correct,” Wimand agreed, sounding faintly bored. “Now you have only to accomplish it as easily as you discuss it.”

It was clear that Wimand didn’t expect Vallant to succeed, but Wimand was in for a surprise. Vallant hadn’t been expecting to learn something new about his talent, but this particular exercise had taught him that he could feel things through the use of that talent. Without knowing how it worked, Vallant had been able to tell the precise size of each box’s innards, as well as where each water-catch dish was positioned. The discovery had made the third practice area very much easier rather than harder, which meant that if Holter had discovered the same thing, he was in the midst of gaining his third mastery.

So Tamrissa can feel things through her flames and Vallant can feel things through water he's controlling with his talent. Does this mean Rion and any other Air magic user can just feel everyone and everything within range? What is the standard Air magic range anyway? That would bring a new level of creepy into this world.

quote:

But Vallant still had to earn his second, so he turned his attention to the breadboxes without bread. Putting water into first one, then two, was boring when he could have started with doing all six at once, but he didn’t say so. He simply did the exercise the way they expected him to, and when Wimand emptied the last dish in the last box, he turned to the Adept.

The exercise is so simple Vallant could have been showing off but chose not to for reasons. I wonder if Green even recognizes when she's sabotaging her own novel.

quote:

“It looks like I’ve matched Holter again,” Vallant drawled, distantly wondering why Wimand was beginning to look shaken. “Shall we continue on and see if I can do it a third time?”

“Yes … yes, of course you’ll continue on,” Wimand said, his stuffy superiority apparently forgotten. “Please come this way.”

He led off in the direction of the next cubicle, and Vallant raised his brows a bit as he followed. Something was bothering the so-called Adept, and it must have been serious if he hadn’t even knocked Holter again. It wasn’t far to the next cubicle, only a matter of feet, but even as they approached, Podon turned to give Wimand an unreadable glance.

“Gotta give Dom Holter here congratulations,” Podon said to Wimand in an over-hearty voice. “He just got th’ third mastery, ’n now he’s ready t’ start t’morra with practicin’ usin’ water from th’ air.”

“Well, Dom Holter, I do congratulate you,” Wimand burbled like a young lady being introduced to the gentleman she’d had a longtime, distant crush on. “But I was certain you’d be able to do it, and I said as much to Dom Ro here. Who has only to complete this last exercise before being in the same position.”
Some sort of disturbance flashed in Podon’s eyes as he made noises to show how impressed he was, but Holter turned to Vallant with a faint grin.

“Go get ’em, man,” he said warmly, then walked away toward the tables with Podon trailing eagerly after him. He’d have to discuss what might be going on later with Holter, but right now he had a mastery to earn.

The third cubicle had a curtain across the middle of it, and behind the curtain were different-sized boxes. Vallant had to fill them in the same way he’d filled the previous boxes, only here he wasn’t allowed to see any of them. He had to discover their sizes through the use of his talent, but he already knew how to do that. So he reached to the vat of ready water with the fingers of his talent, and began to do the exercise.

When he was through, Wimand silently tripped the hidden boxes one after the other. Each one yielded the gush of water it was supposed to, and when the last, smallest box responded properly the Adept turned to Vallant.

“Let me be the first to offer my congratulations, sir,” Wimand said in an unsteady voice, his forced smile looking just short of ghastly. “You’ve achieved the third mastery along with the other gentleman, and now the two of you are ready to begin practice tomorrow on the next level of achievement. May I accompany you back to your table and order you some tea?”

Say no, Vallant. Demand a proper ale brew, or something.

quote:

“I think I’ll have a sandwich as well,” Vallant said with a nod, feeling mellow and pleased. He’d also gotten congratulations from his bird friend, which for some reason were more welcome than Wimand’s. And yet a glance around showed that the bird was now gone, disappointing despite being nothing more than expected. Vallant considered the bird his good luck charm, but had to admit he probably wouldn’t need any more good luck today.

“And I believe I’ll share Holter’s table rather than sit alone again,” he continued as he followed Wimand back toward the eating area. “Sharin’ the success, and all that.”

“Yes, yes of course,” Wimand agreed instantly, but the man looked more distracted than attentive. Once again Vallant wondered what was wrong, but wasn’t certain he ought to ask. Maybe tomorrow … after discussing the matter with the others tonight … and finding out how Tamrissa had done…

Luckily, we're going to take a break after this chapter - and even when we come back to pick up the Let's Read again in December, we'll be going into some noble POVs so our minds won't be immediately assailed with a sixth chapter where every single protagonist gives us a recap of five chapters of recaps.

quote:

I can still remember how … superior I felt back then, cautiously superior but still better than everyone else. The great achievement had been so easy… If I’d known how short a time I’d be feeling like that, I might have enjoyed it more. Well, you’ll find out all about it, but only when it becomes time to tell you.

Right now you have to meet our opposite numbers, the people who became our greatest enemies—or so we thought. Nothing worked out the way we expected it would … or hoped it would … or generally wished it to. And now that I think about it, I suppose their Five could say the same thing…

Still no actual explanation for HOW Tamrissa writes these POV chapters. End of Book 2 and Book 5 spoilers there's literally 6 interactions between the 10 characters before the 5 antagonists die.

Summary:

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials" (as Adept Forum called them) - the first and second levels of masteries of that aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.
  • Spirit: 1) calm 6 angry people in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Air: 1) keep 6 people breathing in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Fire: 1) burn grains of flying dirt, burn droplets of water mist, burn specific pieces of wood, leather, cloth and feathers; 2) defend yourself against attack from an adept while repeating 1
  • Water: 1) Using water from a vat: a) surround 6 objects with water in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; b) place 6 spheres of water inside visible boxes 1 at a time, then 2, up to 6 at a time; and c) place 6 spheres of water inside hidden boxes in the same groupings; then 2) repeat 1 using water moisture from the air
Eltrina attends a status update and gets herself openly acknowledged as the unofficial noble 2IC on Project Competitions by the boss she's banging on the basis that she is the only one with a bare minimum of competence.

Lorand/Jovvi/Rion/Tamrissa/Vallant passes his/her first level masteries and notices an abrupt shift in his/her Adept's attitude.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 21
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, Kogrin, Lemmis Admen, Miklas

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 15
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 11
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas
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, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 39
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 3
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 31
"CLIFFHANGERS": 18
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 11
TEA DRINKING: 22
BLATANT MORALIZING: 19
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Book 1: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Book 1: Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Book 1: Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Book 1: Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Book 1: Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Book 1: Chapters 25, 32, 33, 35, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Book 1: Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Book 1: Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Book 1: Chapters 39, 40, 41, 42, 43; Book 2: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5)

Possible fixes:
We have just fixed the only remaining thing that could be fixed in this trainwreck by putting these five chapters onto the end of Book 1.

I brought my Drake
Jul 10, 2014

These high-G injections have some serious side effects after pulling so many jumps.



So these five chapters could have been condensed down to a paragraph of each of them beating their adepts' expectations on their very first mastery attempt. And what, they've all been in this town for less than a week? Assuming their time reckoning is anything like ours. You're right, so much of this book could have been cut out and no great loss.

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


Book 1 (+ first five chapters of Book 2) Summary:
Here is a TL;DR supercut based on the chapter summaries with some additional context for anyone who doesn't want to wade through the drag that is Book 1 (or anyone who has been following along and wants to take a step back to consider the whole picture but doesn't want to risk their sanity by revisiting any chapters).

Prologue/Opening
A poorly written extract from a faux historical textbook tells us it's the time of the Prophecy, when a Chosen Blending will arise to defeat the returning tyranny of the Evil Four and there will be "obvious signs" and "subtle happenings" to indicate the identity of the Chosen. We are introduced to five protagonists, each independently making their way to the capitol city of Gan Garee in the Gandistran Empire:
  • Lorand Coll, a naive dreamer desperate to escape life as a poor dirt farmer in Widdertown (Earth magic)
  • Jovvi "Regina George" Hafford, wantrapreneur - bootstrapping her own startup endeavours thanks to her time as a renowned paid sex goddess (Spirit magic)
  • Clarion "I'm a Lord" Mardimil, a pompous manbaby with a slight Oedipal complex (Air magic)
  • Tamrissa Domon, a mentally unstable survivor of domestic violence suffering from severe PTSD as a result of two years in an abusive marriage on top of an abusive childhood and has not just "anger issues", but "murderous rage issues" (Fire magic)
  • Vallant Ro, a sexist assholic melodramatic "daddy's boy" (Water magic)
Before any of them step into their coaches, they are individually attacked by giant murderous fireballs which they smother with dirt using Earth magic/calm with Spirit magic/suffocate with Air magic/burn out with Fire magic/quench with Water magic with as much emotional tension as a bowl of soggy cereal. The Guild representatives witnessing each respective attack gives each protagonist a paid coach ticket to Gan Garee and a pouch of silver.

Day 1
Lorand/Jovvi/Clarion/Vallant arrive at the testing facility in Gan Garee while Tamrissa (Gan Garee born and bred) is shuffled around like thirty different waiting rooms inside. All of them get shiny IDs and are sent for testing. The test involves escaping live burial/raging emotions/suffocation/being crushed alive/a ring of fire. After each protagonist escapes, a creepy dude gives them "water" to drink and they are taken to Tamrissa's house (which Tamrissa has volunteered as an official residence in exchange for legal protection). Everybody arrives at slightly different times, heads straight to the bath house, and gets walked in on/walks in on somebody else with ensuing in one of the most stupidly repetitive sequences in the entire 8 book series because Green.

Lady Eltrina Razas, their representative from the testing authority, shows up to boss everyone around and implement pointless attempts at dehumanizing the protagonists at dinner. Highlights of the dinner conversation include: every male protagonist getting raging for Jovvi and Tamrissa, Jovvi verbally bitch smacking Beldara Lant (discount Tamrissa), Pagin Holter (token "guy who is an outsider but because we're nice people we're nice to him to prove that we're nice people") clueing the oblivious in to the fact it's a twenty-fifth year, and Vallant and Jovvi blasting Eskin Drowd (anti-Lorand) with some blatant moralizing on about how controlling other people and invading other nations is bad.

Somewhere in the midst of all this mess is spoiler laden interlude from the creepy dudes administering the tests that flat out states everything is rigged and people have been dosed with mind control drugs to ensure their absolute compliance.

Day 2
After an angsty, silent breakfast where everyone is stewing in their own thoughts because they've been rained on by a tiny thundercloud that everyone blames on Vallant (who blames his on Pagin), and a lunch with boring small talk, they are 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 Eskin. The crowd turns fearful after they start cackling like proto-evil overlords so they leave.

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. He yells at her to not feel her emotions and threatens her with unwanted sexual contact as "punishment".

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.

Day 4
Everybody learns to braid their elemental aspect into three/four strand patterns, except for Jovvi who gets to balance spheres in fields of pitching emotions, which is way more interesting than the braiding stuff and hence we never get to read about it because Green. Rion discovers that anyone who's an applicant is cut off from their bank accounts. 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. It is all very boring since the Day 1 interlude spoiled the entire conspiracy the protagonists are in the midst of discovering.

Lorand has a random encounter with Hat (his best friend who came to Gan Garee for testing with him whom Lorand assumed was dead) and is saved by Tamrissa. They adjourn to the library so Tamrissa can sort out Lorand's confusion with Jovvi asserting her right to be a sex worker 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 his abusive mother, Hallina Mardimil.

Day 5
Everybody heads back to their sessions and all five protagonists qualify by taking in more power to weave five strands/balance five spheres. Allestine (sex worker exploiter extraordinare and Jovvi's ex-boss) 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. Jovvi and Lorand have weird sex in the bath house where she's lying on her back thinking of England Gandistra while he's stroking her internal organs with his magic. Rion has an incel pity party for himself and Vallant indulges in murderous fantasies about Tamrissa's father and intended husband. Everybody has a random favorite object appear out of thin air (barrel, gym equipment, swing, cloud, bales of hay) which they proceed to hide in/punch/swing on/lie on/hide in.

Warla (Tamrissa's companion and de facto mistress of the household by the testing authority's instruction) announces that Beldara and Eskin were moved out at dinner. Jovvi reinforces the . After dinner, we get a combined random encounter for Tamrissa and Vallant in the form of her father and his ex-fiancé Mirra Agran, which kicks off the next drama in the on/off Valissa ship.

Day 6
Everyone sets off for "The Trials". They arrive at their respective testing grounds where their Adept explains the first and second levels of masteries for their aspect:
  • Earth: 1) explode stuff, 2) disintegrate stuff, and 3) control animals.
  • Spirit: 1) calm 6 angry people in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Air: 1) keep 6 people breathing in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; 2) do the opposite of 1
  • Fire: 1) burn grains of flying dirt, burn droplets of water mist, burn specific pieces of wood, leather, cloth and feathers; 2) defend yourself against attack from an adept while repeating 1
  • Water: 1) Using water from a vat: a) surround 6 objects with water in 1 group of 6, 2 groups of 3, 3 groups of 2 and 6 groups of 1; b) place 6 spheres of water inside visible boxes 1 at a time, then 2, up to 6 at a time; and c) place 6 spheres of water inside hidden boxes in the same groupings; then 2) repeat 1 using water moisture from the air
They all pass their first level masteries (Lorand, Tamrissa and Vallant with the benefit of some moral support from an animal cheer squad) and notice an abrupt shift in their supervising Adept's attitude.

Eltrina attends a status update and gets herself openly acknowledged as the unofficial noble 2IC on Project Competitions by the boss she's banging on the basis that she is the only one with a bare minimum of competence.

Counts so far:

TOTAL WORDS: 193,676
Book 1: 181,539
Book 2 (first five chapters): 12,137

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 21
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, Kogrin, Lemmis Admen, Miklas

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 9
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop, Ginge's tavern, Magross bridge, mastery facility outside Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 15
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 4 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Day 5 (lunch, dinner), Day 6 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 9
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (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: 11
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas
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, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 39
COACH RIDES: 21
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 4
OTHER MEETINGS: 3
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 31
"CLIFFHANGERS": 18
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 11
TEA DRINKING: 22
BLATANT MORALIZING: 19
BATH SCENES: 9
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 2

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Book 1: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Book 1: Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Book 1: Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Don't rain on my parade! (Book 1: Chapters 19, 20)
  • Uniform fitting (Book 1: Chapters 20, 21)
  • Random encounters: Round 1 (Book 1: Chapters 25, 32, 33, 35, 38)
  • One, two, three, four, five (Book 1: Chapters 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35)
  • A favorite object appears out of thin air (Book 1: Chapters 36, 37 x2, 38)
  • Proof of mastery: Level 1 (Book 1: Chapters 39, 40, 41, 42, 43; Book 2: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5)

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


queserasera posted:

So these five chapters could have been condensed down to a paragraph of each of them beating their adepts' expectations on their very first mastery attempt. And what, they've all been in this town for less than a week? Assuming their time reckoning is anything like ours. You're right, so much of this book could have been cut out and no great loss.

Six days I counted all the meals and when people went to sleep/woke up.

Green seems to be allergic to introducing an obstacle and then resolving it in the same chapter. She consistently writes chapters that introduce some problem for the characters and ends the same chapter with the character(s) going . It's the worst when each main character is doing their own thing, because we have to cycle through all five viewpoints before circling back to the first person who goes from to in a few paragraphs.

Maybe she read about the "yes, but/no, and" rule somewhere then got mixed up and all she could remember is that chapters need to end with an unsolved problem to propel the plot forward, completely forgetting that the cycle is actually:
  1. Character wants something they don't have
  2. Tries to get thing they want
  3. Did #2 work? For "Yes" go to 4, else go to 5
  4. "Yes, but": It worked, and now there is a new problem
  5. "No, and": the situation has changed/there is another problem
Even taking away the FIVE FIVE FIVE considerations, I can't think of any other reason why Green thought it would be a good idea to split the first level masteries into two chapters. Book 1 Chapters 39, 40, 41, 42, and 43 are pure info-dumps on what the masteries are and Book 2 Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 could definitely be summarized into a paragraph each. At this point, considering Book 1 Chapter 44 is an antagonist POV, surely the MORE interesting thing to create demand for Book 2 would be to have Eltrina's POV thinking "everything's going swimmingly, except for this alarming part where a bunch of people passed on their first attempt and that is very unusual when compared to our records of everybody going through these tests and maybe we've bitten off more than we can chew and they can derail our plans".

Let's Read The Blending going on hiatus until December

November approaches and we've now reached the promised pause point! I'll be spending the next two weeks making a plan for rewriting Book 1 as a NaNoWriMo project and will post a link here when the rewrite thread is up in CC. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who's been reading along with me - I hope I've been able to do this hate-read so far with justice, lack of thematic analysis notwithstanding. This thread will stay open for discussion on Green's books and we'll pick up on Chapter 6 of Book 2 in December.

Leng fucked around with this message at 12:18 on Mar 20, 2021

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Seeing the days summarized like that puts me in mind of a freshman orientation week. It may be an overdone genre but looking at this series through a "magic school" lens makes a lot of things click for me:

-Protagonists are drawn from the corners of the empire to attend a core institution
-They suffer through a bloated, arcane bureaucracy that arbitrarily governs every aspect of their new lives
-The authority gives them very little control over the basics of food and housing
-Placement tests and qualifying exams are thrown at them in the first few days
-They screw and love and feud with each other like the culturally confused 18-year-olds that they (mostly) are

Heck, at one point in this thread I even commented that they seem less like a polycule and more like a group of college friends who had a very sexually fluid freshman year before settling down.

I feel like it wouldn't take much reframing to change the setting from a talent search to a magical university. Things that don't quite work for me:

-The Prophecy and the whole global stakes of the Blending competition. The protagonists don't intend to become world leaders, at least not at first.
-The fact that there is a Blending competition in the first place. That could be sidelined into a spectacle like Quidditch or the battle school drills in Ender's Game, or maybe drop the tiered competition aspect and focus on the conflict between the two main Blendings.
-Jovvi's background becomes a little more problematic if she's de-aged, not that it was problem-free already. Fixing that could be a matter of making her an apprentice to literally any other kind of trade; I don't know that her being a sex worker adds anything except drama with Lorand and an opportunity for Green to moralize.
-Tamrissa's story is also kind of tricky to fit in, depending on how much the story wants to dwell on sexually exploitative and abusive parents. I suppose that's equally an issue with the story as-is, and I don't think Green does it justice--so maybe my discomfort with it is less how it fits with the "magic school" setting and more with how it's treated in the original material.

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:

Seeing the days summarized like that puts me in mind of a freshman orientation week. It may be an overdone genre but looking at this series through a "magic school" lens makes a lot of things click for me:

<snip>

I feel like it wouldn't take much reframing to change the setting from a talent search to a magical university.

The reframing is easy but it would require quite a bit of invention from whole cloth to pad out magical university shenanigans. Most series going down the schooling plot archetype route tend to follow some sort of school year structure, with new challenges being introduced each year - this is true from sellers like Rowling's Harry Potter, Trudi Canavan's The Black Magician, Tamora Pierce's The Protector of the Small/The Circle to self-published Melanie Cellier's The Spoken Mage series.

These types of stories also lean heavily on the "protagonist doesn't know that they have magical powers" trope, with the first book always introducing the magical world and the protagonist learning skill and control. This goes against one of Green's fundamental premises for the series - i.e. what if everyone had magical abilities?

Finally, there's a large problem with how compressed Green's timeline is as well. Based on my notes for Books 1-3 and a quick scan of Books 4-8:
  • As we just saw, Book 1 covers 6 days
  • Book 2 covers 3 days
  • Book 3 covers 13 days
  • Books 4 and 5 look like roughly 1 month
  • Book 6 covers roughly 2 weeks
  • Book 7 something like 3 days
  • Book 8 something like 2 days
That means start to finish, all 8 books take place over the course of 2 months, give or take a week. That's too short for magical university - but probably long enough for basic training where civilians who are accustomed to using their magic for peaceful applications are trained to be combat ready soldiers. And it would save me two weeks of worldbuilding!

wizzardstaff posted:

Things that don't quite work for me:

-The Prophecy and the whole global stakes of the Blending competition. The protagonists don't intend to become world leaders, at least not at first.
-The fact that there is a Blending competition in the first place. That could be sidelined into a spectacle like Quidditch or the battle school drills in Ender's Game, or maybe drop the tiered competition aspect and focus on the conflict between the two main Blendings.
-Jovvi's background becomes a little more problematic if she's de-aged, not that it was problem-free already. Fixing that could be a matter of making her an apprentice to literally any other kind of trade; I don't know that her being a sex worker adds anything except drama with Lorand and an opportunity for Green to moralize.
-Tamrissa's story is also kind of tricky to fit in, depending on how much the story wants to dwell on sexually exploitative and abusive parents. I suppose that's equally an issue with the story as-is, and I don't think Green does it justice--so maybe my discomfort with it is less how it fits with the "magic school" setting and more with how it's treated in the original material.

Yep, in my mind, the Blending competition would definitely be a Book 2 arc with the theme being regime change, and the Prophecy would come into play for Book 3, which is about defeating the Evil (whatever that ends up being - I'll have plenty of time to think about that one).

Green's overall theme of "parents can really screw up their kids" is probably fine to keep front and center for Book 1, but I don't think we need to go to the levels of child abuse that currently exists in the books because: 1) everyone has hang ups due to how they were parented, even if they weren't abused; and 2) it's NaNoWriMo and my first attempt at writing something - I don't trust myself to do such sensitive topics justice and I would rather get a handle on the basic crafts of writing before I try to tackle complex issues.

Also 50k words isn't a lot to play with, so in all likelihood I'm going to pick 1 of the existing protagonists (95% certain it's going to be Lorand) and focus on them. That means the other protagonists won't get POVs or much page time (if at all) and therefore their back stories may or may not surface at this point in time. Book 2 can then be focused on politics, relationships and conspiracies.

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


The Let's Rewrite: The Blending by Sharon Green thread is now live in CC.

For the next two weeks, I'll be posting there about my planning and process. If you're reading mainly to get your fix of the Blendingverse, actual rewriting will begin in November and the first chapter will most likely go up around 4 November.

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


If anyone's looking for a Blendingverse fix, I just posted my lazy rewrites of Lorand arriving in Gan Garee and attempting the first test as bonus content in the Let's Rewrite thread in CC!

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Sisal Two-Step
May 29, 2006

mom without jaw
dad without wife


Popping in from page 1 to say that I'm really enjoying this thread so far! I like the balance between the original text and OP's commentary.

Also like how Green correctly identifies the Only Two Genders: Fighters and Non-fighters.

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