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Liquid Communism
Mar 9, 2004


Out here, everything hurts.




Leng posted:

Bron had overindulgent parents I believe while Delin was sexually abused by his father and his father's cronies though Kambil was the one being secretly manipulated by his grandmother and went unhinged after Delin had her killed.

Your point is a great one though, which is that Delin's delusions are the only thing that's given considerable screen time but is never actually explained, and Kambil's issues ARE explained but we never really see the impact of it upon his actions, so prima facie the two things should just be combined and arguably we don't need multiple POVs per antagonist group, we only care about the jockeying for position/dynamics within a Blending insofar as the protagonist group.

I intended that to be Delin, I just utterly botched it because I was half awake.

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Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY 

Kambil was sitting quietly and drinking a cup of tea when Oshin arrived, more than an hour late.

I can't believe it but at this point, I would rather have Kambil's chapter open with him eating brunch or something. I am a tea aficionado myself and there's way too many mentions of tea in these books. I think I'd have less of an issue with it if it was just one weird quirk for one of the hundreds of characters at this point, but everybody and their mother/father/sidekick/trainer/casual hookup/pet seems to be addicted to tea. And not in a way that reveals anything about the culture of the Empire either, in the same way that tea ceremonies in various Asian cultures have significance.

quote:

But the instructor still maintained the same sedate pace as always, possibly because of his size. Oshin’s greatest pleasure was a long, leisurely meal, and he indulged his pleasure as often as possible.

“I was wondering whether you’d heard the news, and now that I see you I’m certain you have,” Oshin said by way of greeting, lowering himself into a chair opposite Kambil’s. “You would never believe the rumors that are afloat out there.”

Oh FFS, not AGAIN.

quote:

“Yes I would, because I’ve probably heard every one of them this morning,” Kambil countered with a sigh as he watched Oshin pour himself a cup of tea. “One version had everyone in the Weil household murdered in their beds, and another version had each body mutilated by perversions of all five of the aspects. The only point each of the stories agreed on was that Lady Elfini was definitely one of the dead. You don’t happen to know the actual details, do you?”

I would like to hear more about what "perversions" of the five aspects are. But that would require Green to do some actual hard work so...

quote:

“It so happens I do, and that’s the reason I’m this late,” Oshin replied after taking a long swallow of his tea. “After hearing the wild tales being repeated by my household staff, I knew I’d never regain any semblance of balance until I learned the truth. And I do happen to know quite a large number of people, so I stopped at the Weil estate to see if any of them were there as investigators. It turned out I knew two of them, and they asked me to stay for a while to help calm the house’s staff.”

“So that they might be more easily questioned,” Kambil said with a nod as he leaned forward. “So what did happen? Or have you promised not to discuss that?”

“No, my friends are very practical people,” Oshin said with a mirthless smile. “They know there’s no hope of keeping any of the story quiet now, so they don’t even mean to try.

The government is beyond incompetent at this point!

quote:

As briefly as possible, the facts seem to be this: Homin returned yesterday afternoon accompanied by Delin, packed a bag, then left again with Delin to stay at his place. Elfini was annoyed even before that, but when the two young men left she was absolutely livid. Her mood worsened the later in the day it got, and by the time Aston arrived home—later than expected—it wasn’t even safe to breathe in her vicinity. She stormed out of her ‘sanctum,’ ordered Aston to follow her, then stormed back in.”

A recap of something that happened 3 chapters ago and that we've had endless gossip on since. WHY.

quote:

“And of course Lord Aston obeyed,” Kambil said wearily. “I was once introduced to the man, and couldn’t believe the difference between his public face and his private feelings. Very frankly I couldn’t bear to stay near him for long.”

Does literally nobody in positions of power in this Empire remember Spirit magic is a thing?

quote:

“Yes, that sort of … mismatched emotions is very difficult for one of us to stand,” Oshin said, sending a brief flow of compassion. “Love is pain and self-hatred is acceptance, and both are pleasure. I’m very glad to say I don’t understand it, and hope I never do. At any rate Aston was a fool and went with Elfini willingly, and she apparently took out all her anger on him. The servants heard him screaming for a very long time, and then there was nothing but silence.”

“Did she kill him?” Kambil asked with brows high, then slowly shook his head. “No, I would guess that she didn’t, not after she’d worked off most of her outrage. She was a woman who always needed to be in complete control, and whipping Lord Aston within an inch of his life would have returned that control to her.”

“That’s a very astute summation,” Oshin said with a nod of approval. “Aston was stretched out face down on a whipping rack to one side of the room, and apparently Elfini left him there unconscious. She went to the dining room and ate alone, then returned to her sanctum. That was the last time anyone saw her alive.”

Even the antagonists are getting in on making comments on Green's themes of control!

quote:

“Except for whoever killed her,” Kambil pointed out. “One of the stories said a masked intruder broke in, and Lord Aston might have seen him. Is there any truth in that?”

“Unfortunately, no,” Oshin said, his sigh rather deep. “Aston apparently remained unconscious all night, and wasn’t even lucid when a physician called by the guard finally managed to rouse him. Elfini had gone much too far, and he was badly hurt.

So much for Elfini's control.

quote:

He might have died as well if one of the staff hadn’t gotten up his nerve to knock on the door of the sanctum this morning. Elfini always took an early breakfast at precisely the same time every day, and when she didn’t appear the staff was worried.”

Why? If I were one of those poor servants I would have rejoiced!

quote:

“And when the servant got no answer, he probably just walked right in,” Kambil said, leaning back in his chair again. “It would have been out of character for Lady Elfini to lock a door in her own house. I wonder if the servant went searching because he was worried about her, about his lord and master—or about his job.”

It is a bad idea to ever be the first person to walk in.

quote:

“You seem rather cynical this morning, but I suppose disappointment does produce cynicism,” Oshin said, studying him with calm blue eyes. “And you are disappointed, but I’m afraid I don’t understand why. Would you care to explain?”

“It’s … idealistic foolishness,” Kambil apologized with a vague wave of his hand. “I know we’re all human rather than perfection incarnate and that ordinary humans have problems, but this—I can’t bring myself to believe that someone in my world would do such a thing. Was she really … chopped into pieces?”

“She was killed with some edged weapon and was cut up rather badly, but not chopped up in any manner,” Oshin said, compassion flowing from him again. “The investigators are calling it ‘thorough’ rather than ‘enraged’ or ‘insane’ or anything like that. It’s perfectly possible that some vagrant broke in with the idea of forcing Elfini to tell him where the gold and silver was hidden. She thought she could handle him herself and therefore made no effort to ring for help, but she was mistaken. He realized he would get nothing out of her, so he simply killed her.”

“And that way it wasn’t done by anyone from our world,” Kambil said, trying not to send too much depression at Oshin. “We’ll all be able to go back to our comfortable little niches without needing to suspect our next-door neighbor of being a monster, but I wonder how true that explanation is. Could it really have been a vagrant, who is hopefully miles away from here by now?”

“I hope fervently that the answer to both parts of that is yes,” Oshin said, faintly echoing Kambil’s depression. “I think my friends mean to recommend adopting the conclusion in the report they give to the Advisors, and if the recommendation is taken, that will be the end of it.”

“We hope that will be the end of it,” Kambil corrected, then he stirred in his chair.

That's both the stupidest explanation ever and also the stupidest recommendation ever.

quote:

“I suppose you’d like to get to the practice now. I’ll do my best, of course, but don’t expect anything extraordinary in the way of results—at least as far as a good performance is concerned.”

“I think we can afford to let you pass one day without practicing,” Oshin said, waving him back into his chair. “Our aspect has to be the most heavily touched by a tragedy like this, so take the day to regain your balance. And if you think more conversation on a different topic would help, I’ll be glad to stay for a while.”

“I’d be very grateful for that,” Kambil said, working to produce a normal smile while he shoved all his previous emotions aside. “There’s a question I’ve been wanting to ask, but the opportunity never seemed to arise. Would you mind if I asked it now?”

“Since we may never again have the leisure for casual conversation, you might as well,” Oshin agreed with a better smile than Kambil’s. “If it turns out to be too personal or too embarrassing, I’ll simply refuse to answer.”

Stop. Making. Your. Characters. Talk. Like. This. It's. So. Dumb.

quote:

“It’s not really anything like that,” Kambil said, letting Oshin’s amusement touch him. “It’s just that I noticed right from the first how really strong and capable you are with Spirit magic. That led me to wonder why you’re instructing me and the others, rather than being part of a group yourself. Or does that come under the heading of too personal and/or embarrassing?”

“Actually it’s neither,” Oshin said, refilling his cup after having drained it. “I thought you knew, but since you obviously don’t I’ll have to explain.

Infodump incoming! Not even any pretense at disguising it.

quote:

Not everyone is able to become a member of a Blending, and it has nothing to do with strength. There are other factors involved, and one of the most rigid is age. Haven’t you noticed that you and the other members of your group are approximately the same age?”

“Well, I noticed we were all from the same generation,” Kambil answered slowly with a frown. “Is that the same thing, or am I missing the point?”

“The point is that people of the same age have a much greater chance of successfully Blending,” Oshin said, now reaching for one of the small cakes displayed on a plate near the tea service. “Widely mixed age groups have the smallest chance, and those beyond the age of thirty or so have no chance at all unless they’ve Blended before that. Your group and the others are all expected to manage it, so it’s nothing for you to really worry about.”

Wow. This magic system discriminates against old people too.

quote:

“I think my worry-compartment is too full at the moment to add anything else,” Kambil told him ruefully. “Tomorrow or the next day will probably be another story, but right now I intend to take your advice. I’m going to put everything unpleasant out of my mind, and enjoy my day off. Do you expect to turn the rest of your students loose as well?”

“Probably not,” Oshin said, using one of the linen napkins to wipe crumbs from his chin. “You heard about what happened so quickly because you live right in the neighborhood, so to speak, as do the rest of the members of your group. My other students live progressively farther away, so I ought to reach them before the news does. Which tells me I really should be on my way now.”

Kambil knew Oshin really had decided to leave, so he saw the older man to the door and then stood and watched his carriage drive away. He felt a lot better now, thanks to Oshin’s conversation, but was glad he hadn’t had to practice. He might not have been able to control the results properly, and that was very important now. Bron had repeated that to him at least three times the day before, so he couldn’t have forgotten even if he’d wanted to.

Green's writing is full of poor transitions like this. She doesn't seem to know how to end a chapter or a scene satisfactorily.

quote:

But there were things he did have to make himself forget, so he went back into the house and directly to his apartment. His life could very well depend on how good a job he did, since the results would affect the performance of his talent. And considering the other members of the group, he’d better do a very good job indeed…

Dun dun dun! What's going on with Kambil? This is the first cliffhanger I'm inclined to forgive, mainly because of the hints that Spirit magic talents can magically lobotomize themselves or something. This is way more interesting than anything else that happened in this chapter so far. Spoilers for Book 5 I think Kambil's the real murderer, he tried to get Delin to go through with it but it didn't work which is like the only genuine mystery Green has achieved at all in this entire series.

quote:

* * *

Delin was finally able to return to his apartment once Homin was gone. The furor had continued for hours after the guardsmen had first appeared with their news. Homin had been sound asleep in one of the guest apartments, and it took a while for the servants to rouse him and bring him down to speak to the guardsmen. Delin had already come down to find out what the commotion was about, and so had been there to witness Homin hearing the news and promptly fainting.

They’d had to send for a physician then, but Delin could have told them that Homin was all right. The man’s muscles had all tensed at once when he’d seen the guardsmen, probably thinking that Elfini had sent them to drag him home. When he learned that Elfini would never bother him again, his relief had undoubtedly been so great that he’d fainted.

Is it that anyone with Earth magic can tell if people are ok, or just something a High talent in Earth magic can do? Why do physicians exist at all then?

quote:

Delin walked to a chair and sat, the smile on his face wide and finally out in the open. Homin should have thanked him for the relief he’d felt, since it had been his efforts which had caused it. He’d left the house last night after everyone was asleep, returned to the Weil estate, and then had done what he’d had to. His group was now safe, and before Homin had left, the pudgy man had whispered that he meant to practice for the rest of the day—as soon as all the investigators and guardsmen were gone. He had to be at home to make sure his father was properly cared for, but aside from that he would spend his time practicing.

Lucky Delin, to escape an endless slumber party with Homin. What passes for a good slumber party in this universe? More tea drinking?

quote:

Which was just what Delin wanted him to do. Their progress as a group was the most important thing right now, so nothing could be allowed to stand in their way. There was just one regret…

Delin lost his smile when he thought about that, and frustration rose up to choke him with anger. He remembered leaving his own house, remembered reaching the terrace doors of Elfini’s “sanctum” again, and remembered starting to go in. But from that moment until he found himself leaving the estate again, nothing but blankness filled his memory. He’d finally managed to do what he hadn’t been able to do earlier, the blood on his clothing and on the long knife he’d held testifying to that, but he couldn’t remember the act itself. He’d suffered brief periods of blackout before in his life, but never at such an inconvenient time!

Dun dun dun dun! Book 5 spoilers he doesn't remember because Kambil couldn't plant the fake memory of Delin killing Elfini.

quote:

It was necessary to take a deep breath to calm himself, and much of the frustration remained even afterward. He really wanted to remember the most glorious moment of his life, and maybe after some time had passed he’d be able to. In the meanwhile he’d removed every trace of blood from his clothing, and had buried the knife on the Weil estate in a place only he would be able to return to.

After all, he’d probably need the weapon again, and the second time he’d certainly remember…

kind of idiot wants to use the same murder weapon twice? I know, I know, a psychopathic one. Also more proof of Earth magic being way overpowered - any serious criminal organization would want an Earth magic talent to go around covering up their tracks. Must suck being investigators in the Blendingverse. I'm not normally one for police procedurals (the most I've ever watched is some episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine) but this would be way interesting. Someone good at detective stories write a replacement fanfic from the perspective of the investigators trying to figure out who murdered Elfini!

Summary:

Day 7
Bron's trainer passes on the news of Elfini's murder before Bron squeaks through on the first of the first level masteries, after an entire childhood's worth of pattern training and a lower bar for passing. Selendi and her trainer also trade gossip about Elfini's murder before she achieves two of her first level masteries at a significantly lower bar for passing. Kambil's trainer brings news of the actual facts and excuses Kambil from practice for the day.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 27 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 16 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 10 (9 in Book 1)
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 (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 16 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
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: 44 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 29 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 7 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 6 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 33 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 19 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 30 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 20 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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, 18, 19)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5)

Possible fixes:
Alright, so we're into Rewrite Book 2 territory (with Rewrite Book 1 having been all about getting good at the magic and qualifying as a High practitioner). As I've said before, the way I view the second book (in what should be a trilogy) is it'd be mostly political intrigue so we can learn about all of the various factions, their motivations and how everyone's angling to have their candidate(s) end up on the Fivefold Throne. A murder mystery is a pretty good subplot to include, so I'm okay with that.

Green's problem is twofold: 1) she's made the murder victim Elfini, a character whose only action of note was stopping Homin from practicing. Big whoop. Like murder is bad, but this murder doesn't really have any meaningful impact on the overall storyline so Green then had to write in a bunch of convoluted reasons (that the reader is not aware of at the time) to make it matter (and these reasons are later revealed in big expository dumps in dialogue); and 2) the murder happens way too early.

If we're using the three act structure to plot this, I think I'd make most of Act I political manoeuvring between factions (against a backdrop of everyone learning how to Blend and practicing as a Blending), culminating in a key member of an ascendant faction getting murdered. Act II becomes focused on solving the murder mystery (which faction did it?) against the backdrop of early rounds in the competition, with the murderer revealed at the break into III. Act III would have to be the final rounds of the competition and end with the winners being Seated.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE 

“Who has the visitor at the door come to see?” Jovvi asked the servant who’d come out to the garden.

A recap in case you've forgotten what happened 5 irrelevant chapters ago: the protagonists are in Tamrissa's back yard doing a bad job of pretending to celebrate the fact they all attained their first level masteries and are using the pretend party as a cover for secretly talking amongst themselves about the conspiracy. They have just broken up their huddle to return to party mode, and party mode apparently consists of individual people standing by themselves drinking tea and alcohol, when a servant announces Yet Another Random Encounter.

quote:

By rights I should have been the one to ask, since it was still my house; but I’d somehow gotten the idea that if I didn’t bring myself to the world’s attention by speaking, the visitor would turn out to be someone other than my father. And to make matters even worse, Vallant Ro had seemed about to approach me again. I wasn’t quite up to the point where I would rather face my father than speak to the tall, blond ex-sea captain, but I had the sinking feeling that that point was not very far away.

Yep, she's gonna get there by the end of this chapter.

quote:

“The caller at the door and his companions have asked for Dom Coll,” the servant answered, looking around at the men. It became clear then that he didn’t know which of them Lorand was, and that’s why he’d made a general announcement. He was one of the extra servants put on by the testing authority to keep the residence running smoothly, and I didn’t know his name either.

Everyone but Lorand relaxed at hearing the answer, and for a brief moment that included me. But then I realized that I was still in danger of needing to deal with Vallant Ro again, so I made the fastest decision of my life. Putting my teacup back down on the table took only an instant, and then I hurried over to a still-hesitating Lorand before Vallant Ro could cut off my escape.

“It might not be that former friend of yours again,” I said softly to Lorand, looking up at his expressionless face. “But in case it is, why don’t I go with you again?”

That's our main female protagonist. Everyone thinks she's so altruistic but she really isn't.

quote:

“You wouldn’t mind?” he asked at once, partial relief filling his dark and pretty eyes. “I know Hat needs my help, but I can’t give it to him yet—and I really hate having to admit it.”

“What makes his refusal to accept reality something you have to feel guilty about?” I asked, honestly curious. “Did you do anything to cause him to be like that? Are you responsible for his having failed the test?”

“The answer to both questions is no, but it also isn’t quite that simple,” he replied, gesturing vaguely with one hand. “Hat is my friend, and you owe help to a friend if you’re in a position to give it. I know he’d do the same for me.”

Hahaha Lorand, you're so deluded.

quote:

“Somehow I doubt that, but I don’t know the man as well as you do,” I granted him, then gestured toward the house. “Well, shall we go to see if it really is him?”

Lorand’s nod was a bit on the reluctant side, but he still began to move toward the house with me. He also still held his brandy glass, so I took it from him gently, gave it to the servant stationed near the house, and asked the man to put it on the table.

Green's writing is littered with little details like this that just add words without revealing character or world building or advancing plot. WHY.

quote:

Lorand was a big man and obviously very capable, but in this instance I had the definite feeling that he needed protection as well as support. The idea of me protecting a man his size was laughable, but somehow that laughter felt extremely good.

The big strong man needing protection from a small physically weak woman–and her being astounded by this fact–is going to be a recurring motif throughout these books.

quote:

The servant who had announced the “callers” led the way back through the house to the front door, which had been closed again with the visitors still on the outside. That made me wonder about what they must be like, but I didn’t have to wonder long. The servant opened the door to reveal Lorand’s friend Hat—looking more disreputable than the first time—flanked by two husky men who simply looked dangerous.

“That’s him,” Hat said at once, pointing a trembling finger at Lorand. “He’s the one who’s responsible, so talk to him.”

“Responsible for what?” Lorand asked in confusion. “Hat, what’s going on?”

“Guess that shows he knows ’im,” one of the husky men said, obviously speaking to the other, then he continued to Hat, “But you ain’t off th’ hook yet, shorty, so don’t try t’disappear thinkin’ I won’t be lookin’. Now you c’n tell the man how much he owes us.”

“What does he mean, how much I owe him?” Lorand demanded of a Hat who seemed to be groping for words—and who also seemed to be looking for a chance to run. “What did you tell these men?”

“Just the truth,” Hat finally responded, sounding both defensive and aggressive as he wiped his mouth on the back of one grime-covered hand. “Those tests for High are fixed so that only one applicant is accepted at a time, so we agreed that that one would be you. In return you’re supposed to be responsible for any … debts I incur while I wait for my chance, and now you have to pay up. I owe these men two gold dins, but you might as well make it three. I’ll need something to live on for the few days before I go to pass the test myself.”

Extortion! You're not doing best friendship right if you don't do a little extortion every now and then.

quote:

“That’s your idea of the truth?” I asked in outrage as Lorand just stared at the man open-mouthed. “At least your claims are more logical this time, but they’re still just as ridiculous. When are you going to grow up enough to admit that you didn’t delay taking the test, you failed it? And even if they gave people second chances normally, you’d still be too late. Everyone able to qualify for the competitions has already done so, and after this week’s end no one will even be allowed to try. All the testing is over for the year, and won’t start again until after the competitions.”

“No, that isn’t true!” the small man shouted hoarsely, a wild look now in his eyes. “I’m going to test again in just a few days, and this time I’ll pass! You don’t know anything about it, slut, so why don’t you just go back to codding Lorand the way you’re supposed to, and the rest of the time keep your mouth shut!”

“Hat!” Lorand barked while my cheeks flamed red over the disgusting man’s language. “You know better than to talk to a lady like that, and Tamrissa is a lady! She also happens to be one of the successful applicants in this house, so you’d better watch your mouth. Since you obviously can’t read or can’t see what her identification says, I’ll mention that her aspect is Fire.”

The two husky men paled and took a step back, which probably meant they couldn’t read. Hat looked nervous as he tried to focus on my identification card, but he still seemed to be too full of alcohol to manage the feat. He shook his head a little, possibly to clear it, then looked at Lorand again with the belligerence back stronger than ever.

It's weird that everyone fixates so much on Fire being a deadly aspect. Every single elemental aspect can be deadly (and painful in its deadliness) so this is weird. Lorand would have been better off leaving the statement at the fact that they're both Highs.

quote:

“What difference does it make what her aspect is?” he demanded. “She isn’t allowed to do anything to me, so I won’t let her get away with lying. And I won’t let you get away with it either. You said you’d give me money, so I want those three gold dins now.”

“I said I’d help you all I could when I could,” Lorand corrected, his voice now stiffer than it had been. “I never agreed to pay your gambling debts, and it isn’t my fault that you failed the test. Telling yourself fairy tales won’t change the truth of the world, Hat, and you’d know that if you ever let yourself sober up. Right now all I have is silver, and barely enough for my own needs. If I start to win during the preliminary competitions that will change, but until then I guess I can spare one silver din—”

“Charity!” Hat snarled, then he spit. “That for your charity, when you know how much you owe me! Keep your codding charity, I don’t want it or need it! In a couple of days I’ll be qualifying for all those competitions, and then you can come crawling to me! But he’s still the one who owes you that gold, Meerk, so get it from him or forget about it. I made a deal in good faith, and I mean to stick to it!”

Green's used "codding" twice in this page now and that second instance of it doesn't mean what she thinks it does.

quote:

With that he turned and pushed between the two big men, then stalked away up the drive. He ignored the hired carriage standing near the steps, and the two men he’d been with watched him go with frowns on their faces. Then they turned back to Lorand, and Meerk, the one who’d done the previous talking, nodded.

“Just when’s all this gold comin’ t’ya?” he asked, inspecting Lorand with his gaze. “I ain’t gonna wait long, so you better come up with it real fast like.”

“Why are you making it sound as if I’m the one who owes it to you?” Lorand asked with his own frown. “Hat’s apparently been drunk ever since he failed the test, which hasn’t helped him to accept the truth. I told him I’d give him as much of a hand as I could and that still goes, but—”

“Look, jobby, I don’t care what th’ truth is,” Meerk interrupted, his dark, dull eyes unmoving from Lorand’s face. “That chump who just left owes me gold, an’ if I can’t get it from him then I’ll get it from you. If I don’t, then maybe you won’t be in any shape t’be in them competitions, get what I mean? You think about it, an’ I’ll be back.”

So much for them being intimidated by the fact that both Lorand and Tamrissa are High practitioners. This seems really dumb when they were scared a second ago.

quote:

The two men stopped staring at Lorand darkly and turned to leave, heading for the waiting carriage. The way they’d acted had disturbed me, but Lorand’s behavior disturbed me more.

“Why didn’t you tell them not to be absurd?” I asked as he began to close the door, the expression on his face distantly troubled. “You don’t owe them a thing, so there’s no reason for them to come back here. And if that’s the way a friend is supposed to behave, I’m glad I never had any.”

“Hat’s not normally like this, and the trouble he’s in is worse than anything he’s been in before,” Lorand answered, sounding distant and disturbed. “But he’s still a friend, and I don’t believe in abandoning friends when they’re in trouble. If I don’t pay off his debt those two might kill him, since it’s perfectly obvious that he’ll never be able to pay it off. I’ll just have to … make sure I do win the gold.”

And suddenly, all his incentives about winning to have enough gold to convince Jovvi to be with him are forgotten.

quote:

“Lorand, what world are you living in?” I couldn’t help asking, well beyond exasperation. “You claim you don’t believe in abandoning a friend in trouble, but you’re doing all this for someone who brought you trouble, then walked away leaving you to cope with it alone. And no matter what those two said, they won’t kill the idiot. At worst they’ll beat him up and then force him to take a job, so what you’re really saving him from is having to pay for his stupidity with a little pain and a lot of sweat. If you don’t believe that pain teaches a very thorough lesson about what not to do again, just ask me about it.”

This would not be a Tamrissa chapter without some blatant moralizing.

quote:

“I know you’re right, Tamrissa, but there’s nothing I can do to change matters,” he said with a sigh as he patted my hand. “Hat isn’t behaving the way a friend should, but that doesn’t give me the right to be just as uncaring. I have to help him if I can, but at this point it’s more for my own benefit than his. I don’t want to forget how a friend is supposed to behave.”

This is pretty flimsy reasoning.

quote:

“I think I understand now why there are so many nasty people in this world,” I replied with my own sigh. “Being nice lets too many people take advantage of you. Well, all I can do at this point is say that if I win any gold in the preliminary competitions, I’ll help you pay them off.”

“Now that’s what I call being a friend,” he said with a laugh, then his smile softened as he gently touched my face. “Thank you, friend Tamrissa, for disapproving of what I’m doing but supporting me anyway. In turn I’ll try not to need your help, but it still feels good to know the offer is there. Shall we go back to the others now?”

“We might as well,” I agreed, returning his smile as I took his arm. “And you’re right: being a friend does feel awfully good, no matter how dumb your friend’s behavior is. I’ll have to remember that.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been insulted so nicely before,” he said, laughing again as we retraced our steps to the back of the house. “But if a friend isn’t entitled to insult you, who else is?”

Does anyone buy this friendship?

quote:

We discussed that point as we walked outside, but Lorand’s laughter wasn’t fooling me. He was still upset about what had happened, and there was nothing I could do to make things better for him. I was beginning to learn that it was possible to give people pain in ways that weren’t physical, but had no idea how to cope with it. People tend to defend themselves from physical pain, but with the emotional kind…

Reminder that Tamrissa is eighteen years old and has been emotionally abused by her parents since childhood. This is a weird thing to have in her narration.

quote:

The refreshment table held Lorand’s brandy glass and my teacup, so we each retrieved our possessions before Lorand went off to tell Jovvi about what had happened.

Who is holding what beverage is of vital importance to the plot because...oh wait it's not!

quote:

I stood and sipped my cooled tea, simply glad it was over, then abruptly discovered that that conclusion was extremely premature. Vallant Ro was once again heading straight for me, and this time there was no possibility of escape.

I finished the tea in my cup in a single gulp, then turned to pour myself more. It was the oddest thing, but after the time I’d spent in Rion’s bedchamber I now found taking Lorand’s arm and holding it tightly not in the least difficult. But for some reason facing Vallant Ro was harder, and speaking to him seemed one step below torture. I would have run to hide if I could have, but something told me he’d simply follow.

Because attempting to avoid talking to someone by pouring more tea is not effective. What would be effective is retiring for the night. Or going to the bathroom. Or anywhere that he can't follow you in a socially acceptable manner. Oh wait, the last time you ran into the library, he barged in anyway. Welp.

quote:

“Tamrissa, I’d like to speak to you for another moment,” he said from behind me while I spooned sugar into my tea. “I promise not to intrude long, but something has been disturbin’ me and I’d like to discuss it with you.”

“I think I know just how you feel,” I muttered, paying very little attention to what I did with the tea, then abruptly decided on surrender. If I simply stood there and let him have his say, the torture would hopefully soon be over.

“All right, I’ll listen,” I said in a tone loud enough for him to hear as I took my tea and turned to face him. “Just please make it brief.”

“As best I can,” he agreed with a small bow. I couldn’t help noticing again how marvelous he looked in his practice clothes, how broad-shouldered and slim-hipped. My cheeks warmed as I found myself trying to remember how he looked without them, his platinum hair falling loose about his shoulders and those light blue eyes staring directly at me…

“Tamrissa, are you all right?” he asked, bringing me back to reality with a jerk. “I somehow had the feelin’ you didn’t hear what I said.”

“I’m … sorry, I was just … distracted for a moment,” I apologized, trying not to die of embarrassment. “Please go on, and I promise I’ll hear you this time.”

Just one time sleeping with Rion and suddenly all Tamrissa can do when confronted by her on/off crush is to undress him with her mind.

quote:

“I just said I’ve been doin’ some thinkin’ about what you said,” he obliged, faint puzzlement in those beautiful blue eyes. “You told me about all those men you’re involved with and so didn’t want to lead me on, but I’m afraid it’s too late. You already have led me on, and now I find myself feelin’ … hurt.”

“Hurt?” I echoed, now even more appalled. “But I didn’t mean to hurt you, truly I didn’t! Let me apologize again, because I really—”

“Please,” he interrupted solemnly, holding up one big hand. “I realize you didn’t hurt me deliberately, but that doesn’t change how I feel. I’ve been standin’ there picturin’ you … sharin’ yourself with all those men, but when it comes to me you just want … brevity. Treatment like that says that in your opinion I’m not even good enough to talk to.”

“Oh, I really didn’t mean anything like that,” I babbled, silently cursing that stupid idea I’d had. “I was actually trying to show concern, not—”

“Concern?” he interrupted again, taking the teacup and saucer out of my hands before I managed to spill the tea all over both of us. He’d put his brandy glass down somewhere, so he had no trouble holding the teacup and saucer.

“It doesn’t seem to me like concern when you’re willin’ to walk about on Coll’s arm, but don’t even want to talk when it comes to me.” He looked so serious and so really upset that I wanted to hold him close and comfort him—right after I cut out my tongue. “I understand how betrayed you must have felt when your daddy lied to you about me, but it was a lie and we both know it. Does that mean I’m not fit to breathe the same air as everybody else?”

I wanted to tell him that it meant nothing of the sort, but if I agreed to forget the incident he’d want to go back to the way things had been between us. I was beginning to very much want the same thing, but he really did make me too vulnerable where my father was concerned. He was a point of attack my parents would not hesitate to use against me, and I simply couldn’t let that happen.

“Your silence says I got it just right after all,” he told me heavily after a moment, those eyes now infinitely sad. “I was goin’ to suggest somethin’ that would make things … less than right but at least fair, but now I suppose we’d better forget it. I’ll just get out of your way, and won’t be botherin’ you again…”

And this is where you should have left things Vallant. Really.

quote:

He looked so forlorn as he began to turn away that I simply couldn’t bear it. I finally had to admit that he’d never actually done anything to harm me, but circumstance had had me treating him as shabbily as Hat was treating Lorand. I’d been hurt too often myself to casually do the same to someone else who was innocent, so I had to make whatever amends were possible.

“Wait,” I said before he’d taken even two steps away. “I … don’t want you to believe what isn’t true, so I’ll … agree to your suggestion about how to make things fair. As you said we might have to work together, and working around something like this is just too hard.”

“Don’t you want to hear the suggestion before agreein’ to it?” he asked after turning back to me, an odd look now in his eyes. “It might be somethin’ you’d find objectionable, even though it would only be fair. I don’t want to think I’m forcin’ you into somethin’ you don’t really want to do…”

You are an rear end for going through with this.

quote:

“You’re not,” I assured him as forcefully as I could, looking up into those incredible eyes. “I want to do this for you, I really do! Just tell me what it is, and I’ll do it.”

“Well, if you’re sure,” he gave in with a sigh that looked rather odd. “And it does make me feel a lot better to hear you agree. Now all we have to decide is when to do it, but I don’t want to rush you. How about in two days time, which will make it week’s end night?”

“Yes, that would be fine,” I agreed, relieved that I would have two whole days to get ready to—“But you still haven’t told me what it is that we’ll be doing, not to mention where. Were you thinking about out here in the garden if it doesn’t rain?”

“No, to tell the truth I wasn’t thinkin’ about usin’ the garden,” he said, scratching his ear as he tried to swallow some sort of amusement. “Actually it came to me that if you were lyin’ with so many other men, it would only be fair if you lay with me as well. Now that you’ve agreed I don’t feel so much less than them, but this garden isn’t the proper place. I’ll come to your apartment, and maybe you’ll even let me stay the night.”

After saying that he gazed at me in the blandest way I’d ever seen, pretending that I wasn’t gaping at him with my jaw down to the ground. And that I wasn’t blushing so furiously it was a wonder the nearest trees hadn’t caught fire. My thoughts were in the most chaotic whirl it’s possible to experience, but after a moment a very definite thought broke through.

“You tricked me!” I hissed, knowing it beyond all shadow of doubt. “You deliberately told me stories and tricked me! I’ve never heard of anything so vile, so—so—!”

“Excuse me, but I offered to tell you my suggestion before askin’ you to agree,” he interrupted for the third time, the look in his eyes having hardened. “You were the one who insisted on agreein’ before you heard anythin’ about it, so you have nothin’ to complain about. We have a date, Tamakins, and I’m really lookin’ forward to it.”

Obligatory Vallant.

quote:

He grinned at the way I began to sputter, caused by trying to say seven things at once. I hated him for tricking me like that, but I realized with a sinking feeling that he was right. I had insisted on agreeing to terms I didn’t yet know, and he had offered to tell me first. That meant I was trapped unless I found it possible to go back on my word, something I’d never been able to do. Not being able to trust the word of those around me, I’d sworn to myself that my word would always be good…

Someone really needs to explain the concept of informed consent to Tamrissa. The metaphor about tea is a good one, considering how much she drinks it.

quote:

“What a relief it is to get this problem out of the way,” the monster said, trying to sound innocent despite his continuing grin. “The worry was interferin’ with my sleep, but I’ll certainly get my rest tonight. And tomorrow night, so that I don’t disappoint you on our date.”

He was really enjoying himself, and then I saw him notice that he still held my cup of tea. Rather than return it, though, he raised the cup to his lips just where my lips had been. Those eyes were on me as he took a deep, sensual sip, all but commanding me to remember what it had been like when those lips had really touched mine. In spite of myself I began to feel what he so obviously wanted me to, and then—

How does a romance/erotica author not know how to write arousal properly?

quote:

And then he made a strangled sound and turned away to spit the mouthful of tea into the grass. I couldn’t imagine what was wrong—until I remembered that I’d lost count of the number of teaspoons of sugar I’d put into the cup. I’d been distracted by his presence, which made the entire episode one of poetic justice.

“I hope there was so much sugar in there that it poisoned you!” I snapped as he stood there trying to get the cloying sweetness out of his mouth. “And I may have agreed to lie with you, but I said absolutely nothing about speaking to you. Don’t bother addressing me again, Dom Ro, as you and I have already exchanged our last words!”

Should I give some credit to Green for actually trying to tie tea drinking into a character plot at last?

quote:

And with that I hurried back to the house, needing to be alone in my bedchamber. I hated Vallant Ro for tricking me like that—but now could think of nothing but the approach of week’s end night…

For someone who constantly preaches on her soapbox about vital service that courtesans provide to society, I don't understand why Green has to continue with the whole nonconsensual/reluctance angle to this romance when that kink is mainly rooted in the whole Madonna/whore complex.

Summary:

Day 7
Bron's trainer passes on the news of Elfini's murder before Bron squeaks through on the first of the first level masteries, after an entire childhood's worth of pattern training and a lower bar for passing. Selendi and her trainer also trade gossip about Elfini's murder before she achieves two of her first level masteries at a significantly lower bar for passing. Kambil's trainer brings news of the actual facts and excuses Kambil from practice for the day. Hat shows up with two thugs with threats to pay Hat's gambling debts. Vallant tricks Tamrissa into agreeing to sleep with him and is an rear end about it.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 27 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 16 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 10 (9 in Book 1)
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 (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 17 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts
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: 44 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 29 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 7 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 6 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 34 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 19 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 33 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 21 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21)
  • 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, 18, 19)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5)

Possible fixes:
This whole chapter should have been part of the Chapters 11-15 sequence. And I'm not convinced that sequence is worthwhile at all. I don't mind the idea of an unknown underdog wildcard faction suddenly becoming a power in the political games being played to fix the results of the next competitions, but I feel like it needs to be earned and we haven't seen anything like that yet. The weird thing that I'm coming to realize is that because of the competitions element, the story has more in common with political drama than a typical "quell the rebellion" or "overthrow the evil monarch" type of thing. In fact given recent US events, I'd go so far to say there's a pretty good real life analogy going on right now.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Clarion felt positively lighthearted as the carriage took him and the others back to the new testing area for the second day. Yesterday had not only seen him gaining his first set of masteries, but it had also brought Tamrissa Domon to his bedchamber with her totally unexpected request. The time with her had been very sweet and pleasantly fulfilling in an odd way, considering that he felt no more than warm friendship for the girl. Her constant support of him had prompted him to agree to something he’d had no actual burning desire for, but he’d granted the request as a favor.

Are you kidding me??? You were ready to plot Lorand's murder because Jovvi didn't want to sleep with you and Tamrissa featured about as prominently in your mind during that whole thing.

quote:

And afterward he’d been extremely glad he had. As despicable as his own personal situation was, Tamrissa’s was clearly a good deal worse. He’d almost felt her waiting for him to give her pain, and only after they parted had she seemed willing to believe there would, in truth, be none. She was such a harmless, soft, little thing; how any man could bring anguish to her was completely beyond him.

This woman is a High in Fire magic. She is very capable of inflicting loads of harm.

quote:

Rion shifted on the carriage seat, taking the opportunity to glance at Vallant Ro. Ro seemed distracted this morning, but not broodingly so. It seemed more a matter of … daydreaming, with an occasional sigh thrown in. Last night he’d obviously had words with Tamrissa, but it hadn’t been anguish that he’d given her. Furious anger was what it had looked like to Rion, and although he hadn’t been able to hear what was said, he’d seen the pained look on Ro after Tamrissa had stormed off.

Which most likely meant things hadn’t quite gone the way Ro had wanted them to. Rion chuckled to himself, feeling a bit sorry for Ro. The soft, harmless woman he’d held in his arms had become a growling, claw-covered tigress where Ro was concerned. Rion freely admitted that he’d rather have Tamrissa defending him than attacking him, a position Ro couldn’t seem to find a way into.

If Vallant would just stop being an rear end for one second...

quote:

After Tamrissa had left, Jovvi had casually spoken to the rest of them about not being too quick to follow her example. They had to establish a picture of people who enjoyed spending time in each other’s company, or any future meetings and discussions they held would be noticed by the servants who were reporting to the testing authority. Even Holter had agreed to the request, so they’d stood around having unimportant conversations—until one of the regular house servants had approached Rion.

These people are the worst.

quote:

“Excuse the intrusion, Dom Mardimil, but there’s a young lady at the servants’ entrance asking to see you,” the man had murmured. “If you’d care to follow me I’ll take you to her, otherwise I’ll send her on her way.”

For an instant Rion had been terrified that Mother had returned, but once the servant began to speak he’d been able to relax. Mother would never have used the servants’ entrance even if she’d known where to find it, and the servant had definitely said young lady. He’d immediately wondered who that could possibly be—

And then he’d known who it had to be. With pulses pounding he’d told the servant to lead the way, and then he’d followed the man into and through the house to a side door off a narrow hall near the servants’ quarters. The servant indicated the door and then quickly disappeared, leaving Rion to open it to find just the one he’d hoped it would be: Naran Whist.

“Dear lady, how did you find me here?” Rion had asked as his entire body began to tingle at the sight of her. “But I’m being just as rude as that servant was. Please come inside.”

“My lord, forgive me, but I haven’t the time,” she begged off with the loveliest smile, looking up at him with those incredible eyes. “I asked some discreet questions among … acquaintances I have, and in that way discovered which residence you were in. I hope you’ll excuse my intrusion, but I’m leaving the place I currently live and couldn’t bear the thought of you coming there and not finding me. Here.”

Book 5 spoilers Sight magic is real handy!

quote:

She pressed a folded envelope into his hands, but Rion couldn’t take his eyes from her in order to examine it. She wore a dark gray hooded cloak, the hood framing her dark-haired loveliness. Beneath the cloak he was able to glimpse a red gown trimmed in gold, but one that seemed … scantier than what Tamrissa and Jovvi wore. The gown emphasized Naran’s charms, and Rion would have enjoyed seeing more of it.

“I’ve written down where I’ll be by this week’s end night,” she went on, slowly withdrawing her hands from his. “If you’ve changed your mind about coming to see me I’ll understand perfectly, but if you haven’t… I wanted you to know where I would be.”

“Since I haven’t changed my mind, I’m very grateful for the information,” Rion said with his own smile, wishing it were still her hand in his grasp rather than the envelope. “Are you certain you can’t come in even for a little while?”

“Unfortunately I have a … an appointment which I’m already late for,” she denied, sadness and regret clear in her expression. “It isn’t far from here, so I was able to stop on the way. Now I must go, but—I’ll dream about seeing you again.”

Book 5 spoilers I've always re-read this as Naran lying. It's pretty unclear whether or not sex work is Naran's main gig, because later on she tells Rion she only went to that tavern that night to meet him (thanks Sight magic).

quote:

That last was said with such shy delight that Rion yearned to take her in his arms, but a breath later she had disappeared into the night. His first thought was to follow and at least see her to her carriage, but then he remembered the men Mother’s agent had watching him. If they had the least idea that he was involved with Naran, they would quickly report the fact. Then Mother would have Naran thrown out of Gan Garee—or maybe even worse.

For that reason Rion quickly closed the door, to keep from being seen by accident. There seemed to be a thick hedge just beyond the wide path to the door, so his meeting with Naran might have gone unnoticed. If it hadn’t and Mother did indeed find out, Rion didn’t know what he would do. But his immediate rage at the thought gave him something of a hint, so he would hope that it never came to that.

More homicidal urges?

quote:

Rather than return to the garden, Rion first found the excellent servant who had been so marvelously discreet, privately tipped the man one of the four silver dins he’d earned that day,

Rion is officially the most generous one. At this point he knows he's cut off from his fortune so he just gave this guy 25% of his net worth for being nice to Naran.

quote:

and then he returned to his bedchamber. He wanted to look at the contents of the envelope he’d been given, but without an audience. He tore the envelope open and pulled out two sheets of paper.

The first sheet had nothing but an address, which Rion recognized as being somewhere in the middle of the city. It told him exactly where Naran would be by this week’s end night, so he turned curiously to the second page. If they were directions on how to reach the address, he didn’t really need them.

But they weren’t directions. It was recognizably the same gracefully delicate hand which had written the address, but this was a letter. Rion had never gotten a letter before, most especially not from a woman, and the scent of lilacs reached him as he began to read.

“My dear sir,” it began, for all the world like a greeting from a merchant one had patronized before. “Please don’t think me forward, but I felt I had to make some attempt to say what knowing you has meant to me. I’m certain you will quickly grow tired of me, and you need have no fear that I will try to hold you longer, but until then I live for the few brief moments we’re able to be together. You fill my dreams each night and my thoughts each day, and I live for the time you will find it possible to come to me again. Until the day, I remain, yours devotedly, Naran Whist.”

“Mine devotedly,” Rion had echoed aloud, never having heard such a marvelous phrase. It was the way he felt as well, but he would certainly have to speak sternly to that young lady. To even suggest that he would tire of so beautiful and marvelous a woman—! That would never happen, but seeing her as soon as possible must. Somehow he would avoid the men watching him, and then—

Hold on to this thought until we get to the sequel trilogy.

quote:

“Rion, this is where you get out,” Lorand said, bringing him back to reality with a jerk. He hadn’t even noticed that the coach had stopped, so deeply into his thoughts had he been. He nodded and got out of the coach, then walked through the resin wall to find a reception committee of one. Padril jumped up from a nearby table, and it was clear that the so-called Adept had been waiting for him.

“Good morning, sir,” he said as he came toward Rion, a strange smile framed by his ring beard. “Will you have some tea before you begin?”

“Yes, I believe I will,” Rion said, making no effort to stop in order to talk to the man. He was on the way to the table he had begun to think of as his, ignoring Padril’s side-scrabbling effort to keep up as he spoke.

“Then do please join me at my table, the one you passed,” Padril urged, gesturing back toward the entrance. “The tea was only just brought, so it’s perfectly fresh. And the table position will allow you the privacy which is so much your due.”

That last was probably said because quite a number of people sat about while talking and drinking tea, but Rion wasn’t in the least tempted by the idea. It sounded too much like something Mother would have said, and his own table stood empty and unclaimed.

“I prefer to be in the thick of things, with truly fresh tea,” Rion answered, ringing a bell for a servant before sitting at his table. “You, however, may return to your privacy, and I’ll summon you when I’m prepared to begin.”

“You’re denying me permission to join you?” Padril whined, sounding more disturbed than puzzled. “But I don’t understand, sir. Why would you do that?”

“I’ve never been able to bear spastic behavior at this time of the morning,” Rion replied without looking at the man. A cup of tea was already being brought to him, and that was a much more interesting sight. “Now please go away and do your fidgeting and spasming somewhere else.”

That's a loaded and very inappropriate insult these days. That aside, Rion also has the best put downs.

quote:

Padril apparently had no reply to that, but he continued to hover for a moment as the tea was put in front of Rion. When Rion gave all his attention to the tea and none to the hovering Adept, Padril at last accepted the fact that he’d been dismissed. He walked away with dragging steps, and Rion finally had the privacy that had been mentioned earlier.

Which let him sit back and look around after sipping at his tea. The crowd spread out among the tables looked no different from the one of the day before, except for the people at the table where Padril had taken his lunch yesterday. Everyone else’s conversation looked desultory and bored, but the people who were presumably Padril’s associates seemed to be engaged in an intensely serious conversation. They appeared to be as unhappy as Padril had been, and briefly Rion wondered why.

Dun dun dun! Spoilers for the next couple of chapters where one of the cleverer protagonists figure it out the tea offered by the Adept is drugged.

quote:

But the question held very little true interest for him, as Rion was in the process of shaping his determination into a vehicle for success. Yesterday he’d earned enough silver to pay for his keep, and today he would earn enough to take Naran to the best dining parlor in the city for dinner. He very much wanted to give her the world, but would have to begin with very small parts of it.

This is actually nice characterization.

quote:

This time he deliberately kept himself from falling too deeply into his thoughts, and considered instead the test which was before him. Rather than keep his subjects supplied with air, this time Rion would have to take their air away. The biggest benefit to that arrangement was the fact that Padril would need to declare the masteries a good deal more quickly than he had yesterday, otherwise they would run out of subjects rather quickly. That thought made him chuckle as he finished his tea, then he rose to his feet and turned to gesture to Padril.

The ethics involved in this is pretty bad. If it's just taking air away, why do live subjects need to be used at all? What happens if someone does die accidentally? Why can't they just have Rion take a predetermined volume of air away from one specific area? I have so many questions.

quote:

The Adept still appeared to be hovering even though he’d seated himself, and at Rion’s summons he lurched to his feet and lumbered over. The man really was much too overweight for the low position he held in life, and was also rather wasteful. The tea on his table looked as untouched as it had been on Rion’s arrival, but it was some distance away so Rion might have been mistaken. It was also completely unimportant, so Rion put it from his mind as Padril reached him.

That's some real classist stuff here. Only rich people can be obese! And why the constant obsession with tea, even when the POV character points out it's completely unimportant?

quote:

“I’m ready to begin,” he announced unnecessarily. “You may lead the way to the testing building.”

The Adept seemed to shrink in on himself as he heard that, and his steps turned plodding as he obeyed. But as they passed the table filled with his friends, friends who had started out laughing at Rion just as Padril had, one of them rose and came over to join them.

“I … believe I’ll come along and watch the witnessing,” the man announced to Padril, sounding oddly hesitant. “I trust you don’t mind, Padril?”

“No, Arnot, not at all,” Padril responded, not quite sounding hearty and welcoming. “This is Dom Mardimil, who will surely soon be Master Mardimil. Sir, this is Adept Arnot.”

Rion nodded curtly, annoyed that he hadn’t been asked if the intrusion was acceptable. It also annoyed him to be addressed as “dom” rather than “lord,” but the point wasn’t one he cared to press at the moment. And soon his proper title would be “master,” something he hadn’t realized and actually preferred. “Lord” he’d been born with, but “master” he would have to earn.

Despite spoilers all of the protagonists earning their masteries, nobody will ever use the term "Master" to address any of them.

quote:

Both men led the way to the second small practice building, and when Rion walked in he noticed the difference from the first building at once. None of the practice rooms was capable of being sealed, and some even had windows. Considering the fact that applicants were the ones who were expected to do the sealing, that was perfectly understandable.

Padril went to summon the subjects Rion would work with, and he returned with six people who seemed to have been drugged. They moved as though walking in a dream, stopped immediately when ordered to do so, and stood staring off into other worlds with what appeared to be limitless patience and unconcern. Rion understood why they would be drugged—otherwise their terror would be completely disruptive—but he discovered that he didn’t care for the practice. The chill white of the resin walls grew colder with their presence, and Rion would have shivered if he made a practice of allowing himself to do such things.

Puredan is lovely, isn't it?

quote:

“I believe we’re ready to begin,” Padril said as he closed the door to the small room, now, for some reason, sounding determined. “Please start any time you wish.”

The man Arnot hadn’t said another word, but he and Padril now stood together. Not long ago Rion would not even have noticed that, but now he noticed and also wondered. These people had proven they weren’t to be trusted, and having two Adepts in the room seemed suspicious. Rion decided to keep a wary eye on them, as they were almost certainly here for their own benefit rather than his.

But his main concern was getting through this test, so he turned his attention to the six subjects. The four men and two women stood grouped together the way they’d been left, and Rion was surprised to find himself hesitating. He hadn’t found it difficult to take the air from those two ruffians who had invaded the residence with that odious woman, but these six people weren’t menacing women he cared for. How could he, in all good conscience, take the very breath of life from them…?

Rion suddenly felt very alone in that room, being the sole person who stood by himself. Not long ago being alone was the most familiar thing in the world, but now he’d learned what it was to have the support and companionship of friends. He hated being without anyone on his side when he had to do something he disapproved of—and then, abruptly, he noticed he wasn’t quite as alone as he’d thought. A small spider had come down on a thread to hang above his right shoulder, just a bit below eye level.



quote:

Normally Rion would have moved away from the thing in disgust, but now…

But now the spider was his only companion, and its companionship let him turn to the six subjects again. He didn’t like what had to be done but his approval hadn’t been asked for, so he’d better get on with it and put the distasteful time behind him.

Reaching for the power was unnecessary, as Rion seemed filled with it the instant he wanted it. This was something new and it startled him, but not so much that he forgot what he was about. He formed a large sphere around the six subjects, and the next instant they were all gasping for breath.

In Green's writing, advances in magical powers just happen randomly without any foreshadowing or explanation.

quote:

“Nicely done, sir,” Padril said, for some reason now sounding almost as greasily insulting as he had to begin with. “It took longer than I’d expected for you to get started, but it was certainly done well. You must hold them like that for a full minute, and when you release them I’ll order them to their second positions.”

Rion had just as good a sense of time as anyone else, but that single minute seemed longer than any other he had ever lived through. The subjects choked and clawed at their throats while he held them airless, but when the minute was up and he released them they went back to their waking dream state. They breathed deeply for some seconds, but other than that they showed no signs of knowing how close they’d come to death.

These people have to be experiencing brain damage from all of this near suffocation.

quote:

Padril let the subjects return to breathing freely for a while, and then he ordered them to split into two groups of three. They moved immediately into the commanded arrangement, and it was time to do the same thing to them again. Rion glanced at the spider, delighted that it was still there with him, then he formed two spheres from which he took the air.

“Ah, much more lively this time, sir,” Padril said while the subjects choked again and Rion waited for another endless minute to be up. “This will be your second upper level mastery, but in a manner of speaking you have to admit that it’s actually easier than first level. Yesterday you had to keep yourself supplied with air along with the subjects.”

Rion wasn’t prepared to admit anything Padril wanted him to, even though the Adept was absolutely correct—in a way.

Talent-wise it was certainly easier to take air from people than to keep them supplied with it, but personal standards-wise…

What kind of backwards type of testing is this when the FIRST level masteries are technically harder than the second?!

quote:

When the minute was up Rion released the subjects, and again Padril waited before arranging them in three groups of two. Rion waited even longer to give the pallor on their emotionless faces a chance to fade a bit more, and then he took their air for the third time. The small spider seemed to be commiserating with his deep disturbance, exactly the kind of support he needed right now.



quote:

“We’ll give the subjects an extra pair of minutes to recover this time,” Padril said when Rion released them at the end of the required delay. “Being without air for even so short a time weakens the subjects, and we wouldn’t want any of them to die, would we? I hope you don’t mind waiting, sir.”

Rion didn’t answer the man, but Padril didn’t seem to be expecting an answer. The Adept’s recovered superior amusement was even more noticeable now, and his friend Arnot was clearly sharing it. But he had only one segment to go before he attained all four upper level masteries, so Rion didn’t understand the change in their attitudes. Why had they started out fearful and unsure, but now had done a complete about-face?

The puzzle wasn’t one that Rion was able to solve during the intermission, not when the time allowed was so short. Padril announced that it was time to resume much sooner than Rion would have liked, and argument simply wasn’t possible. The exercise was best over and behind him anyway, so there wasn’t even any sense in arguing.

Rion took a deep breath as he prepared to smother the six subjects again, only this time individually. Six spheres of airlessness were required to do the job properly, so he reached out—and ran into some sort of resistance. The necessary volumes of air slid through the fingers of his ability, avoiding his attempt to touch them. That had never ever happened before, and for a moment Rion was stunned.

But just for a moment. It took that long to realize that Padril and Arnot simply stood there to his left and behind him, neither of them commenting on how long he was taking to perform the exercise. Since most of their original nastiness had returned they ought to be snickering at the very least, but an instant-quick glance over his shoulder let Rion see they weren’t. In point of fact they were both staring at the six subjects intensely, and the concentration in their expressions was anything but amused.

Rion felt like snarling, and his spider companion seemed just as disturbed. If Padril and Arnot weren’t blocking Rion’s efforts with their ability, he would eat that entire building without salt. They meant to keep him from the fourth mastery and in turn also from the competitions, and they were most likely under orders to do so. No wonder Padril had been so frightened yesterday and Arnot disturbed this morning. They knew how much strength he had, and had worried about opposing him.

There you go. The Adepts are under orders to link and stop anybody else from qualifying. Which makes no sense really. Don't they need extra bodies for Book 4 spoilers being shipped off to those Astindan armies? Also these guys were already drugged and given buried commands so this part of the conspiracy is redundant. I think Green just wanted a way of trying to create tension because if this didn't happen there would be none since her protagonists would just breeze through the masteries because they were just born awesome.

quote:

But now they considered themselves entirely safe, because they’d seen him hesitate over taking away the breath of life from the subjects. Many people weren’t able to do it at all, Padril had told him yesterday when he’d first arrived, and the two Adepts now considered him almost as helpless as one of that sort. They would point to his many hesitations, tell him his failure was due to a hidden fear of harming the subjects, something he could be expected to believe. It would also be expected to keep him from trying for the mastery again, but trying a second time would not be necessary.

Taking his spider friend’s continued presence as active support, Rion deliberately opened himself to more of the power than he’d ever used before. For a timeless moment there was a silent rushing sound in his ears, but certainly not caused by anything in the ordinary world. Along with the sound came an influx of strength, and the oddest feeling that his body would soon begin to glow. The entire experience was heady and faintly dizzying, as though he’d been drinking a bit too heavily, but then all those strange reactions went away and Rion was back to the way he’d been.

Except for now being able to wield substantially more power. He hadn’t been sure his ability would support the added strength, but he’d been too angry to consider any consequences other than success. And now that he’d found his success, it was time to teach two “Adepts” a lesson.

In an alternate universe, Rion just turned into a vegetable here.

quote:

Rather than reach to the subjects again, Rion reached first toward Padril and Arnot. The men were too deeply immersed in their tampering to notice at first, but they certainly noticed when Rion surrounded them with their own sphere, then took away their air. After that he surrounded the six subjects just the way he was supposed to, and as they began to choke for the fourth time, Rion spoke without turning.

“One last minute, and then the final mastery will be mine as well,” he commented, knowing Padril and Arnot were able to hear him. “That certainly isn’t very long, so I’ll think about extending the period while I wait for the time to pass.”

The Adepts weren’t able to speak, of course, but Rion could feel the way they fought against his strength in an effort to escape. They weren’t all that weak which meant perspiration broke out on his brow from his efforts to resist, but once again success was his. He held all seven spheres intact and airless for the full required minute, and only then did he allow them freedom.

Rion had already turned to look at the Adepts, neither of whom was a pretty sight. Arnot stood with his shoulders braced against the wall, and Padril had gone to his knees, both with their teeth bared in their efforts to break free. Their abrupt release came like the unexpected snapping of a rope, causing Arnot to slide down the wall and Padril to go to all fours. Both men were pale and immediately began to gasp in air, giving Rion the opportunity to speak first.

“You now have my thanks for having tried to interfere with my advancement,” he told them coldly, noticing that they seemed to tremble from something other than the results of their ordeal. “If anything like this is ever tried with me again, no one will enjoy my immediate anger. Now let me hear you declare my fourth and final mastery.”

“Con—gratulations, sir—on achieving—the level of—master,” Padril quickly obliged, panting even in the midst of the words. He also studied the floor rather than look up at Rion, and being able to breathe hadn’t lessened his pallor. “Please—forgive us, sir, we were—under orders to—do as we—did. But you—triumphed anyway, and—in a moment I’ll—fetch your silver dins—and master’s bracelet.”

“Bring it to my table, where you’ll find me resting from my exertions,” Rion ordered, then he turned and walked out of the room. He’d first searched for his spider friend, having some vague idea about taking it outside where it might have a better chance to survive, but the spider had disappeared. Which was rather a lucky thing, as Rion was badly in need of the time to do some thinking.

If you didn't already notice that something fishy is going on with the spider, you should have noticed by now! That spider is using Spirit magic!

quote:

The bright morning sunshine came as a surprise when Rion stepped outside, since he felt as if he’d spent hours if not the entire day in the practice building. He also felt as if he hadn’t eaten in almost that long, so he rang a bell for service before sitting at his table. The servant who quickly appeared took his order for food as well as fresh tea, and then Rion was able to lean back for a while.

I think this might be the chapter with the highest number of mentions of tea so far.

quote:

And ask himself why the testing authority would try to hamper his efforts to move onward. That theory Holter had come up with, about the members of their residence having been arranged into a potential Blending; if the authority really did want them to compete as a Blending, why make such a strong effort to disqualify one of them?

The suggestion that it had been done because the authority wanted no one but the strongest and best to compete would probably be what they would claim, but Rion didn’t believe it. Despite the solid reasoning behind such a stance, something about it rang untrue. Their aim wasn’t to disqualify the unfit but to disqualify everyone possible, which explained why every ruling Blending for the last hundred years had come from the nobility. The testing authority had eliminated all real competition before the final confrontation came about

Rion's theory isn't bad but I think it's incomplete. If the nobles really have that much data on how much strength, etc is required, then they should have been using link groups of more than 2 people to weed out the truly strong. Otherwise they're just going to have repeats of these situations. We'll also get some more information on the politics of the situation in the next book.

quote:

“Excuse me, sir,” a voice interrupted his thoughts, and he looked up to see a trembling Padril standing there clutching something. “I have your eight silver dins and your master’s bracelet.”

The servant was also coming with his food and tea, so Rion put out a hand to Padril.

“Give me the dins, and then explain about this bracelet thing,” he ordered the Adept, making sure his tone was as cold as it had been. “And make sure your explanation leaves nothing out.”

Like the identification tags, we're going to get this explanation five times.

quote:

“Yes, sir,” Padril responded at once, still looking gray from his ordeal. He handed over the dins and watched while the servant put the food and drink in front of Rion, but only glanced at one of the empty chairs at the table. He hadn’t been invited to sit, and obviously knew better than to try it anyway.

“The master’s bracelet takes the place of the applicant’s identification card,” Padril began as soon as the servant left. “It marks the wearer as a full participant, firmly beyond the level of applicant. There’s really nothing more to the matter, since it’s only a higher-status indicator.”

“And how many of those testing previously earned their higher status despite interference?” Rion put bluntly after sipping at his tea. “Some of them? Most of them? All of them?”

“Please, sir, you must understand how late in the year it is,” Padril whined, all but squirming in agitation where he stood. “It’s been our experience that those applicants with so short a time for practice rarely do anything more than get in the way of those who have an actual chance to attain the various positions. ‘Helping’ them to drop out does a service to both them and us.”

“Allow me to say that I don’t think much of your ‘service,’” Rion told him dryly, then waved a hand at him. “Go away now and allow me to eat in peace, but don’t go too far. I have questions about what happens next, and I’ll expect you to be available to answer them before I leave.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll be right over there,” Padril responded, indicating the table with the rest of his cronies. “Just raise your hand when you want me, and I’ll return immediately.”

When Rion nodded absently he scuttled away, looking as if he’d just narrowly escaped death. In a manner of speaking he had, for Rion knew that if he and Arnot had made the mistake of attacking him directly rather than just trying to block him, the end result of his efforts would have been a good deal less pleasant for them. He’d been victimized for enough of his life; from now on he meant to make up for that.

Rion's gone straight from "I can't take air away from people" to "I would have killed those two idiots". The dramatic swings here are incredible. And I don't think Green sees anything wrong with it, because "self defence".

quote:

Rion picked up his sandwich and began to eat it, but his thoughts were on things other than food. He would have to be sure to discuss his suspicions with the others, to warn them that everything might not be as open and aboveboard as some of them believed. And then he’d be able to plan his visit to Naran, which he now had the silver to pay for. Naran … one day soon he would have gold to spend on her, and no one would be allowed to stand in his way, no one…

Too late dude. They're all going through the same experience right now. Which we will need to read about in the next four chapters.

Summary:

Day 7
Rion achieves his second level mastery by nearly suffocating people to death, including his two Adepts.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 32 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 16 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 10 (9 in Book 1)
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 (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 19 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 44 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 30 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 7 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 6 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 35 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 19 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 35 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 21 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22)

Possible fixes:
Green's masteries are boring so I made them more interesting in my rewrite. Sanderson's been writing a treatment for a Mistborn film and talking about what he would do differently to make the story fit into the length of a feature film. One of the ideas was to have Kelsier take Vin on missions straight away and learn her powers as they go. In the book, there's a much slower progression and she doesn't go with him on a mission until she's done some other basics.

EDIT: wow I've messed up some of the counters because I've forgot to increment them

Leng fucked around with this message at 13:01 on Jan 28, 2021

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Here's a relevant hint on writing effective romance that came up in the fiction writing advice thread:

Pththya-lyi posted:

The tricky thing about a romance arc is that it's two character arcs in one! Or, seen another way, the relationship is a character in the story that has its own arc. The arc is about the two characters growing into their best selves because of their relationship with each other. Each character has a flaw or wound that makes them incomplete by themselves, and only by embracing each other whole-heartedly can they grow past their wounds. The meat of the arc is the internal and external obstacles that keep them from doing just that. Throughout the arc, you show them bonding with each other over their interests, backgrounds, traits, and/or goals, or perhaps through some light competition. Their emotional - and most likely physical - intimacy builds to a honeymoon phase, which is shattered by a tragic separation caused by internal or external problems. The two wallow in their separate miseries, realize they need each other, then make a choice to reunite. Any disagreements they had are resolved, and the couple live happily ever after. (Or you can end it tragically if it makes sense for your story, but we need more gay HEAs so I really hope you don't.)

I've read all 8 books and I gotta say I'm stumped.

Vallant/Tamrissa:
He goes into it being on his guard against beautiful women because of his ex, Mirra. She goes into it as a survivor of childhood, domestic and sexual abuse, so...massive trust issues. The series of obstacles are all convoluted misunderstandings, with one incident that is genuinely both impactful and meaningful for their relationship in that it actually forces some character growth. I couldn't tell you whether either of these characters have interests–I mean, Vallant's into sailing, I guess because he used to captain a ship, but we literally will never hear about it ever, and Tamrissa doesn't seem to have any hobbies beyond drinking tea and eating chocolate though she eventually will start a glass menagerie. They are both children of successful merchants so you would think they would do some bonding there, but because Vallant literally can't see her as a person as he's too obsessed with her boobs or whatever and Tamrissa spends all of her time perpetually bouncing between embarrassed/shy/furious, we will never see either of them actually have a meaningful conversation about anything that is not related to their relationship or the group. Somehow they end up together in a permanent semi-monogamous but really polyamorous spiritual marriage without anybody ever actually proposing.

Lorand/Jovvi:
She's a sex positive independently wealthy go getting courtesan and he's got issues with that. She's into fashion and being rich and he's into not looking like an idiot. The series of obstacles are...basically him lamenting that she won't sleep with him exclusively or marry him and her worrying about the conspiracy all around them. The magic system basically tells him that she's right and he's wrong, and the protagonists all have plot armor that means despite the conspiracy, they will eventually win without any effort.

Rion/Naran:
He's been cut off from his mother's apron strings and bank accounts and has just discovered sex is a thing. She's...got no flaws whatsoever. The series of obstacles are basically hired goons. Very late in like Book 7 or something, it's like Green realizes that these two have never had any challenges to their relationship and so just makes stuff up. Spoilers a random woman flirts with him and he has the realization that he's never slept with anybody other than his three female Blendingmates then basically decides he can't be trusted to be faithful to Naran and therefore ends their relationship. It's pretty unconvincing.

A Small Car
Aug 24, 2016




These were bad enough when I binge read them all, but going through them a second time with this thread it's really obvious just how horrible all of these books are. Kudos to you for sticking with these!

Given what I've seen in real life with extremely sheltered people getting into their first relationship (or first few), I actually buy the Rion/Naran relationship - everything's great until he torpedoes it for a random, stupid reason because there's never been any meaningful conflict before. Given the timeline of all of this, hasn't their relationship only been going for a couple months by that point too? It makes me think of all the early middle school relationships where everyone would go to the movies and then breakup because popcorn was shared with the wrong person, or some similar trivial reason. Not that I think Green had any of that in mind when writing this.

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


A Small Car posted:

These were bad enough when I binge read them all, but going through them a second time with this thread it's really obvious just how horrible all of these books are. Kudos to you for sticking with these!

Given what I've seen in real life with extremely sheltered people getting into their first relationship (or first few), I actually buy the Rion/Naran relationship - everything's great until he torpedoes it for a random, stupid reason because there's never been any meaningful conflict before. Given the timeline of all of this, hasn't their relationship only been going for a couple months by that point too? It makes me think of all the early middle school relationships where everyone would go to the movies and then breakup because popcorn was shared with the wrong person, or some similar trivial reason. Not that I think Green had any of that in mind when writing this.

Not even!

Leng posted:

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.

But you are correct, Rion/Naran would have only been together for something like 4-6 weeks by the time that particular drama happens. Which, uh, I don't know. I agree that Rion's messing stuff up by idly wondering what it's like to sleep with other people is entirely consistent but then his weird angst of "I can't be trusted to not cheat on her so I should just break up with her even though this is ~True Semi-Monogamous Polyamorous Love~ still doesn't make sense. But hey, I guess that had to happen so Lorand and Vallant could get in on the blatant moralizing.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE 

Lorand felt like a personal servant by the time he left the coach. First he’d had to wake up Mardimil when the coach reached his stop, and then he’d had to do the same for Ro. Both men had been deeply into their thoughts, but Ro had also seemed to be brooding. Holter had only been partially distracted, but enough so that Lorand had felt that he rode alone in the coach.

I'm having a lot of trouble understanding the authorial choice to have multiple characters in the same scene when all they do is apparently sit there and stare off into space. The whole setup makes all the characters feel like scripted NPCs, except even the most meme-worthy NPCs in something like Skyrim feel like they have a lot more personality (yes even the "arrow in the knee" guard dialogue NPCs).

Lorand feeling like a servant should be a nice moment of characterization. He's not the deluded arrogant wannabe that Hat is, but he does privately think that he's the best Earth magic talent from Widdertown ever, he did have an entire conversation in Chapter 1 with Hat about how they're too good for the town and how they'll make everyone at home sorry that they missed the opportunity to cosy up to future Highs, and now he is well on his way to being a Master, not just a High (it's never really clear if the two are distinct things, but I'm gonna pretend they are, since we got the whole spiel about "flawed potential Highs" back in the first random interlude chapter in Book 1).

Instead Green just lets this lovely opportunity go whooshing past in favor of the drivel that follows.

quote:

And it wasn’t as if he didn’t have his own things to brood about, he thought morosely as he left the coach. He’d wanted to talk to Jovvi again, and after the celebration broke up last night he’d managed to make it happen. He’d drawn her aside after everyone else had left, and had smiled down at her.

“So far things aren’t going too badly for me,” he’d said, trying to recapture the wonderful mood they’d shared when they first met. “Before you know it I’ll have gold and a really good chance to win in the competitions, and then we can start to plan our life together. Or, if you’d rather not wait, we can start the planning right now.”

at Lorand thinking that one or two gold dins would be enough of a secure nest egg for Jovvi to want to jump into wedding planning after she's already declined his unwanted proposal. To be fair, he doesn't know about the cache of gold Jovvi's hidden in the house but this still has me shaking my head. Dude just doesn't have a strong grasp of economics.

quote:

“I really do like you, Lorand Coll,” she’d answered with a smile, putting one soft and shapely hand to his face in a gentle caress. “I knew at once that you would turn out to be someone who was important to me, and I’m not often wrong about things like that.” Then her smile had faded, and the hand was gone from his face. “But right now I think it’s time I went to bed.”

Lorand wanted to ask if he could join her there, but suddenly the suggestion seemed out of place.

Seriously?! Was the first thing about their future life together gonna be about planning how many sons she's going to give him?

quote:

“Jovvi, what’s wrong?” he asked instead, wishing he could take her in his arms. “Have I done something to offend you?”

“It isn’t you,” she replied with a headshake. “Or at least it isn’t you alone. How can we plan on anything at all, when we don’t even know what tomorrow will bring? A very large part of my childhood was filled with that kind of uncertainty, and I thought I’d fixed things so it would never happen again. Now it’s happening anyway, and every day it gets worse.”

“All the more reason for us to stay as close as possible,” Lorand had told her, taking her hand despite the presence of the servant stationed near the house. “If we can’t count on anything else, at least we can count on each other.”

“Can we?” she’d asked, making no effort to pull her hand away but still looking at him oddly. “I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about you, Lorand, because I have a small, distant understanding of your problem. So far you’ve been able to force yourself to move ahead with the rest of us, but what if tomorrow comes and you find that you can’t do it again? How strongly will I be able to count on you if you aren’t here?”

Lorand hadn’t been able to answer that question, and after a moment he’d released her hand in defeat. He’d expected her to go back to the house immediately, but after an instant’s hesitation she’d put her arms around his neck and kissed him. There was nothing of passion in the kiss, he knew that at once; it felt more as if she were reluctantly kissing him goodbye. Lorand returned the kiss with silent desperation, and a moment later she was hurrying back to the house.

Alright now I'm even more confused. Jovvi, who is presumably still touching the power, should therefore be aware of what Lorand's thinking. In all of the previous chapters, she's clearly okay with a sexually intimate relationship without any promise of something more intimate. Why would she not just distract Lorand and herself by saying "I'm off to bed, and you–you should join me"? This mopey angst from Jovvi feels even more out of character.

Oh it's because Green needs stupid drama to manufacture tension.

quote:

And now, walking toward the resin walls surrounding the practice area, Lorand still couldn’t argue with what she’d said. It had been nothing but the truth, and even a sleepless night of tossing and turning hadn’t done anything to change that. You can’t count on someone who can’t even count on himself, even if the someone is too thickheaded to keep that fact clearly in mind.

“Good morning, sir,” a voice said, and Lorand blinked back to his surroundings to see that Hestir, his Adept guide, stood waiting for him. “I look forward to watching you practice this morning, and then perhaps I’ll get some idea about when you mean to test for your next masteries.”

Lorand was about to say that it would probably be a while before he was ready for the next tests, but the words were never spoken. He’d caught a glimpse of someone over near the first set of practice cubicles, and when he looked directly at the someone he felt jolted.

“That’s Eskin Drowd,” he all but blurted, beginning to move closer to the cubicles to be certain of that. “But what’s he doing here? The last time I saw him he was having all sorts of trouble qualifying.”

“Apparently he got past his troubles,” Hestir remarked, having followed along. “He reported here first thing this morning, and after his guide showed him around he went right to work practicing. He seems to realize that he’s the last of his group, and means to make up for lost time.”

At that point Drowd glanced over his shoulder, then looked again more directly, just as Lorand had done. When he saw that it really was Lorand whom he stared at, the well-remembered sneer appeared in his eyes and on his face. You forgot all about me, the sneer said without words, but I’ve caught up now and I won’t fall behind again. This time it will be you eating my dust, just wait and see if it isn’t.

And then Drowd turned back to his practicing, complete determination clear in every line of his body. He’d been bested for a while by a “mudfoot,” but he’d sworn to Lorand that he meant to change that. Lorand would have no choice but to stand there and watch that sneering Drowd move past him, and then Drowd would be put back into the residence and Lorand would be out. After that he’d probably never see Jovvi again…

Lorand must have been taking notes from Vallant on how to be a drama king.

quote:

“I won’t be practicing this morning,” Lorand heard himself saying to Hestir. “I know what’s necessary, so I’ve decided to go straight to the testing. Let’s begin right now.”

“But … now?” Hestir blurted, suddenly looking shaken. “I was certain you would decide to wait until this afternoon… Well, if that’s your decision, so be it. I’ll fetch you a cup of tea to drink while I get another Adept to join me in the witnessing. This stage requires two witnesses, you know—”

“Thank you, but I don’t want any tea,” Lorand interrupted,

Mind. Blown.

quote:

knowing he didn’t dare give himself time to stop and think. “I’ll go with you to find that other Adept, and then we’ll get straight to it.”

“If you insist,” Hestir agreed after a brief hesitation, now looking considerably less calm and pleased. “My associates are over there.”

He gestured toward a table filled with men drinking tea and talking, then began to lead the way over there. The Adept also seemed to be thinking about something, but Lorand chased too many of his own thoughts to wonder about Hestir’s. He was committed to taking the test now, and backing out simply wasn’t possible. No matter how many doubts and fears he had plaguing him, he had to succeed.

“Morin, a moment of your time, please,” Hestir said when they reached the table. After a brief hesitation an average-looking man with brown hair and eyes rose and came over to join them, and Hestir gestured toward Lorand.

“Dom Coll here has just informed me that he wishes to take the next tests immediately,” Hestir said, his voice coming out with an odd, flat inflection. “He’s in such a rush he even refused a relaxing cup of tea, so I’ll require your assistance with the witnessing.”

“Of course, Hestir,” the man Morin replied in that same odd tone, and then he looked at Lorand and produced one of the coldest smiles Lorand had ever seen. “It will be my pleasure, Dom Coll, since there are very few successes in this area to witness. The exercises are so difficult that far more people fail than pass, but I’m certain you’ll be one of the few rather than one of the many.”

“Of course he will,” Hestir agreed heartily while Lorand felt a definite sinking feeling in his middle. “Dom Coll understands that it’s simply a matter of using sufficient strength to get the job done. Let’s go over there now, shall we?”

The restoration of Hestir’s jovial good mood worked to weaken Lorand’s determination even more, since both of the Adepts had chosen to say exactly the wrong thing in an effort to bolster his confidence. If that many people failed to pass the tests, then they had to require a lot of strength, just as Hestir had stressed. That meant—

Lorand’s fretting came to a sudden halt as suspicion flared like a torch of pitch. Both Adepts had said exactly the wrong thing, and right after Hestir had seemed so disturbed by Lorand’s decision to test. It didn’t make sense for them to want to discourage him, but they couldn’t be doing anything else. While pretending to be on his side.

Anger grew in Lorand as he followed after the men, burning high and hot for two reasons. The first was that the Adepts seemed to know all about his problem, and the second was that they were trying to use that knowledge against him. As a third it grated on his sense of pride that they obviously considered him too backward to notice what they were doing, too much of a “mudfoot” to discover their little trick.

And then Lorand wondered if that was the only trick they had in store for him. Thinking back to his first conversation with Hestir, Lorand now remembered the Adept saying he needed “a” witness to his attempts at mastery, not two witnesses. Hestir could have meant a witness in addition to himself, but Lorand didn’t believe that. The two were definitely up to something, and now Lorand had to discover what that was.

Thank you for bashing me over the head with all of these clumsy details.

quote:

“All right, my friend, we’re here,” Hestir said, and Lorand looked up to discover that they’d reached the proper cubicle. Inside was a vat of thick black liquid, a liquid that came from beneath the ground and was therefore in the province of Earth magic.

“All you have to do, Dom Coll, is explode this liquid in the same way you exploded the pile of soil yesterday,” Hestir continued, stepping aside out of the way. “It does happen to be more difficult, but I have confidence in your level of strength.”

Lorand kept his face straight as he stepped into the cubicle, but inside himself he fought to hold his temper. These two were trying to make him fail, so that Jovvi would move completely beyond his reach and Drowd would be able to laugh in ridicule. But Lorand wasn’t going to let either of those things happen, not if he could possibly help it. Death would be better and easier to take…

Even as he looked at the vat holding the thick black liquid, Lorand’s ability was already spreading toward it as well. Merging with the power had always been an incredibly vital experience for him, and if not for his fears about burnout it would have been the best thing in his life. When he touched the black liquid with his ability, he was able to feel the individual drops that the whole was made of, their viscosity and texture, their weight and natural movement.

I can only assume this is petroleum. Which then means I'm a little confused as to why they don't have asphalt or combustion engines?

quote:

And all of that told him what he would have to do to scatter it the way he’d scattered the soil, to send it fountaining up in a proper explosion. It would take more strength than it had taken to explode the soil, but Lorand was already using that much strength and more. All he had to do was work out the proper addition to the necessary weaving…

“Have you changed your mind, Dom Coll?” Hestir’s voice came from behind him, so bland that Lorand’s anger tried to rise again. “If you have, we quite understand. But if you haven’t, please begin right now.”

“As you wish,” Lorand answered with his own blandness, making no effort to turn. “Right now it is.”

And then he exploded the liquid, sending it splashing up and around with no more warning than that. But he’d first woven a very fine net of soil in front of himself, to keep the liquid from splashing him along with everything else. From the immediate shouts of surprise and disgust erupting behind him, Lorand was forced to guess that the two Adepts hadn’t thought to do the same. They must have moved to stand in the cubicle’s doorway, possibly believing there was no danger in doing that…

“Hestir, weren’t you and Morin standing behind the resin walls?” Lorand asked once he’d turned, now fighting to put concern in his voice rather than breaking down and laughing out loud. Hestir was spattered all over his left side and Morin had the same all over the right, showing they hadn’t moved out of the doorway quite fast enough. It couldn’t have happened to two nicer people, but it would be unwise to make that opinion visible to the two.

I think this is supposed to be funny. Obviously because we've been told that Lorand is trying not to crack up. Clearly so very funny.

quote:

“It’s a shame your clothing had to get stained, but you were absolutely right,” Lorand burbled on as he left the cubicle, pretending he couldn’t see how angry the Adepts were. “That wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, so I’m ready to tackle the next exercise. But I would advise you men to get those stains out of your clothes right now, before they damage the underlying dyes beyond repair.”

“We appreciate the advice, Dom Coll, but unfortunately Morin and I haven’t the time to play with stains right now,” Hestir replied through his teeth, having removed the black liquid from nowhere but his face and hand. “We’ll see to the matter later, after we’ve witnessed however many masteries you gain.”

Lorand shrugged and nodded before leading the way toward the next cubicle, but his thoughts were grimly amused. The two men claimed that they didn’t have time to remove the stains, but Lorand would have bet his chance in the competitions on the virtual certainty that they couldn’t remove them. The black liquid really was difficult to work with, and it wasn’t hard to believe that men who had been appointed Adepts just weren’t up to it.

Another plothole is the fact that they've all been practising the EXACT EXERCISES they have to perform to demonstrate mastery. I am so totally confused why there's any suspense when there's no element of the unknown in the situation. Like even in a driving test, when you've spent hours learning how to parallel park, or do three-point turns, going for your licence is always an unknown because you can't predict the traffic conditions or the parking spot that the instructor's gonna pick or the exact route you have to take.

Way back in Chapter 39 of Book 1, Lorand was given the grand tour so he knew exactly what was involved in the second level masteries. The only element that Hestir didn't explicitly show him was the third variation on the thing with the rats, so that's literally the only element of surprise. But he was supposed to be doing more practise, so even that wouldn't have been a surprise at all.

What the hell kind of plotting is this?

quote:

All good humor lasted only the few steps necessary to reach the next cubicle. A large wooden device had been built in there, a thing which resembled a strange farm wagon, and inside the device was a bar of metal. Lorand was supposed to use his ability to take apart the bar of metal, but the metal was steel rather than iron. Lorand had never tried to take apart steel before, but he already knew it wouldn’t be easy.

“This should be a simple task for you, Dom Coll,” Hestir’s voice came from behind Lorand, once again vastly amused. “You did so well taking apart the iron that I’m surprised to see you hesitate. Taking apart steel requires nothing more than the use of additional power.”

Being prodded like that brought back Lorand’s anger, which in turn let him pose a silent question: just how much strength did it take to cause steel to crumble? The bottom-line truth was that Lorand didn’t know, so it made sense to find out before deciding he couldn’t do it. And it would take quite a lot to make him admit that, with Hestir and Morin poised and ready to laugh.

So Lorand reached out to the wooden device and found the bar of steel inside it. The bar seemed to be the main brace for other metal mechanisms inside the wagon, but that part was unimportant. It was the slim steel bar itself that he examined, and despite its general appearance of solidity he discovered pits and weakness lines that couldn’t be found with eyesight alone. Iron was grainy, but steel had all those pits…

Without stopping to think about it, Lorand poured every ounce of the power he wielded into deepening the pits he’d found. An effort like that couldn’t be sustained long, but it didn’t have to be. Suddenly various parts of the wooden device collapsed or sprang out of line, and Lorand was able to turn a sweat-covered face to the two frowning Adepts.

“I think that makes two additional masteries,” he said, doing nothing to hide how hard he’d worked. “Is this the end of it, or is there more?”

“There’s one more exercise which you haven’t seen as yet, sir,” Hestir replied, now looking more disturbed than angry. “If you’ll follow us, I’ll explain the problem once we reach the proper cubicle.”

Lorand didn’t like the sound of that, but he had no choice about complying. He followed the two men toward an odd looking cubicle some distance away from the others, wondering why Hestir now looked disturbed. So far the Adepts hadn’t done anything but try to shake his confidence in himself, but maybe that was about to change. With only one more exercise to go through, it would be their last chance.

Stop using "odd" as an adjective!!! It makes every single character feel/sound exactly the same, since we never understand which specific details they're picking out as "odd".

quote:

When they reached the separate cubicle, Lorand was able to see why it had looked so strange. It was at least four times bigger than any of the other cubicles, had a small white resin building attached at the back, and it was completely empty. The white resin building had a door leading directly into the cubicle, and oddly enough there was a barred gate across the front of the clear-walled cubicle. Lorand had also caught a glimpse of a portion of the area behind the white resin building before they’d reached the cubicle, and that was the strangest part. It looked like there was a grassy area back there, surrounded by some sort of high metal fence…

FINALLY. Why didn't we just get THIS description up front instead of the stupid filler we got before?

Also Lorand should totally be in contact with the power right now. We should be getting all sorts of observations through his Earth magic talent, including details about what's inside that grassy area. Unless this is an attempt to demonstrate how resin (a substance that is produced by a combination of three magical talents) is apparently magically inert and blocks magical senses.

quote:

“Please step inside, sir,” Hestir said when they stood in front of the cubicle, Morin on the other side of the doorway. Lorand had no choice but to comply, and this time the others made no effort to follow him. The sound of a click came, and when Lorand turned he saw that the barred door had been closed with both Adepts outside.

“Don’t be alarmed, this is simply part of the procedure,” Hestir said quickly, no least trace of amusement in the man. “There could well be danger for us if you fail, so we’re allowed to remain out here.”

“Danger for you?” Lorand echoed, frowning as he watched Morin walk to a large lever at the far side of the cubicle. “What danger are you talking about, and what about me? I’m here on the inside.”

Damned Adepts can't even keep their cover story straight.

quote:

“That’s the—ah—required place for an applicant,” Hestir replied, and this time Lorand knew the man was lying. “It won’t be for long, I assure you…”

An Earth magic talent, trying to lie to another Earth magic talent, knowing that said Earth magic talent can tell that they're lying. The bar gets lower and lower.

quote:

Hestir’s words trailed off as Morin threw the lever, and a sound behind him made Lorand turn. The sound came from the slow opening of the door in the small resin building, and Lorand suddenly became aware of the fact that there was something alive in the building.

“This is a variation of the third exercise, the one with the rats,” Hestir’s voice came as Lorand tried to identify the living thing inside the building. “In this instance, however, you’re simply to bring the beast out and up to you, then return it to its lair.”

By then Lorand’s blood had begun to run cold. He’d identified what the building held, and it was a puma! There had been some pumas in the hills beyond the farms of his county and once he’d even sensed one in the distance, but to be this close…

“You can’t seriously expect me to use Persuasion on an animal like that,” Lorand protested, his insides twisting. “If it doesn’t respond, I’ll be killed!”

If only we had gotten some information in advance about the fact that Lorand tried but failed to sense anything because the resin was blocking him! Green constantly sequences things out of order and it leaves me feeling like all of her books are just a long series of plotholes that have been patched by being retconned one after another.

quote:

“That motivation is considered sufficient for those who qualify for this exercise,” Hestir said, his tone beginning to sound more confident. “I would suggest that you take control of the beast now, before it emerges on its own. Once it begins to move voluntarily, controlling it will prove to be much more difficult.”

So...is it asleep right now? Drugged?

quote:

As if controlling it now was easy! Lorand felt like laughing, but with hysteria rather than amusement. He had to get the puma under control, or it would certainly maul him. He could sense the way it had begun to stir, obviously getting ready to emerge. Now or never, Lorand, boy…

Lorand’s hands would have been trembling if he’d tried to use them, and even the fingers of his ability were the least bit unsteady. But he still reached out to the puma with his talent, intending to judge what level of strength would be required to handle it. At the same time he clung to the bravado he’d generated a moment before, telling himself that except for being larger, the puma was no different than the rat…

“They say that a big beast’s volition is very much like that of a man,” Hestir commented while Lorand carefully sent his ability toward the big cat. “It’s the beast’s feral nature that makes it so, therefore I advise caution.”

The words reached Lorand only distantly, as most of his attention was on the process of beginning to touch the puma. He was just a breath away from it, so he stretched his ability that extra breath of distance—and ran smack into some kind of barrier! Something was between him and the big cat, keeping him from even trying to exercise control!

“Better hurry,” Hestir said, and the choppy, breathless way the man spoke made Lorand glance back. The two Adepts stood directly behind the barred door, and the intense expressions on their faces said they were using their own ability. Obviously that meant the barrier had been erected by them, to keep him from gaining the final mastery—and possibly even to keep him from surviving.

Gotta feel bad for Lorand here. Rion wasn't even close to being in danger, just being frustrated. But somehow, I'm not feeling much tension on Lorand's behalf.

quote:

Fear flared all through Lorand, but he didn’t have the time to pay attention to all the different levels and sides of it. Once again “maybe I’ll burn out” had changed to “I’ll certainly die,” and the stronger fear was able to overcome the older and slightly weaker one. Before doubt had a chance to creep in, Lorand opened himself to more of the power—a good deal more.

So this personal flaw does exactly...what? We've seen it come up three times now and in every instance, it basically doesn't matter. Apart from Lorand's hesitation–which never costs him anything–he's acting no differently to any of the other protagonists.

quote:

Warm, tingling lightning immediately began to race through him, bringing assurance and physical strength and alertness. He’d need all that and more to do everything he had to, but now he felt that nothing was beyond him. The influx of power had also brought confidence, so he took immediate advantage of it.

In Green's universe, magic is literally magic and by that I mean it magically fixes people who are magical. Spoilers for Books 3/4 holding onto the power constantly literally fixes all of Tamrissa's confidence and self-assertiveness issues.

quote:

Reaching out to the two so-called Adepts was effortless, so much so that their straining to hold the barrier in place was completely obvious. It was clear now that they were no more than strong Middles, and all their attention was on maintaining the merging of their talents. Ordinarily Lorand would have been certain it would be impossible to touch them, but now he had no doubts the other way.

So he reached to their bowels and bladders and closed a strong grip around each of the organs, then began to squeeze. Certain bodily reactions have the ability to break through the strongest air of concentration, and those were two of the best. Lorand felt the two men falter in their merge as they automatically tried to keep from soiling themselves, and that was all the opening he needed. His ability kicked down the weakened barrier, and reached for the puma behind it.

So did they or did they not poo poo their pants? I feel like this is an important detail. I assume by the "automatically tried" that they did, but none of the three characters will remark on this later so I remain in doubt.

quote:

And not a moment too soon. The big cat was already beginning to step through the opened doorway, a feral eagerness filling it. It didn’t mind that it wasn’t yet lunchtime, it would be glad to make a meal exception in Lorand’s case. It snarled when it felt him beginning to search out its muscle and nerve connections and then it tried to attack, but by then its movements were no longer under its own control. Lorand felt the sweat breaking out all over him from the need to use that much strength, but he didn’t lose his grip on the struggling animal.

Instead he began to direct its movements, forcing it to walk stiffly toward him. The rat he’d done the same thing with had hated and feared being treated like that, but its inner raging had been nothing compared to the puma’s. Lorand knew instant death awaited the least slip in control; for that reason his attention was glued to the procedure, to make certain there were no slips.

Walking the puma back to its building was almost harder than bringing it to a point just in front of him, but Lorand managed to do both. Once the big cat was inside he turned to look at the two Adepts, both of whom were staring white-faced through the bars.

“Close that door,” Lorand gritted out between his teeth, unable to release the puma until that was done. When Morin hesitated, Lorand managed to add, “If I find I’m about to die, I swear I’ll take you two with me.”

That, at least, prodded Morin into motion, and he hurried over to the lever and moved it back to its original position. That made the door begin to close, but it’s movement was much too slow. By the time Lorand was able to release the puma, exhausted was too mild a word for the way he felt.

And that's it. 318 words in five bland paragraphs, not even 10% of this chapter (4715 words) on what should really be a tension-filled edge-of-our-seats is-Lorand-about-to-be-savagely-mauled-by-a-wild-untamable-predator-and-possibly-killed scene. The puma doesn't even make it out of its cage under its own power. We never see or feel that Lorand is in danger, we're just told that he is of course in real danger because "oh it's so hard".

I had to double check how many words I took to write my version (I did basically the exact same scene) and I used 583. Not that many more, honestly, and I consider myself to be a pretty verbose writer so I'm pretty sure a good writer could have done excellent suspense in 318 words. But we got Green instead.

quote:

“Now get this gate open,” he growled at Hestir, in no mood to play any more games. “This makes a full three masteries, and I want to hear you acknowledge it.”

“Of course, sir, of course,” Hestir babbled, releasing the latch on the gate before stumbling back a few steps. “The masteries are yours, along with your new designation. I’ll fetch your dins and bracelet immediately, while you refresh yourself at a table.”

“What bracelet?” Lorand asked as he stepped out of the cubicle, momentarily distracted from what he’d meant to say.

No, no, no, we already–

quote:

“It’s your master’s bracelet, which shows you to be a full participant rather than just an applicant,” Hestir answered as fast as possible, the look in his eyes one of terror. “Please, sir, about what was done … I’d like to explain—”



quote:

“Don’t bother,” Lorand interrupted, the growl still clear in his voice. “I don’t care why you two did what you did, the action isn’t one I mean to forgive. Go and get what you owe me, but don’t try to talk to me when you bring it.”

“Yes, sir,” Hestir quavered with a gulp, then he hurried off in the direction Morin had already taken. Lorand followed more slowly, and was able to ring a bell for a servant before he collapsed into a chair. When Hestir returned, Lorand might not be able to speak, so he’d made sure speaking would be unnecessary.

The servant came quickly to take his order, which included enough solid food to fill the mile-deep hollow Lorand felt in his middle. Eating and relaxing would restore him to a great extent, but after that he’d also need some sleep. Tomorrow would be soon enough to demand explanations, when he’d have enough strength to stand and listen to them.

I'm shocked that there was no mention of tea at all.

quote:

Lorand had the odd feeling that he was being stared at, and when he raised his head to look around he discovered he was right. Eskin Drowd stood near one of the practice cubicles, and his stare was filled with amusement and ridicule. At a guess Drowd thought Lorand had failed, and was taking the opportunity to laugh at him.

And that would be the second best thing about the day, Lorand realized as he sat up a bit straighter. He’d gained the masteries that he needed, and now Drowd would see him step up another level above him. The look on the man’s face would be worth seeing and remembering, but right after that and his meal he would go directly back to the residence. As soon as he got the sleep he needed, he’d have to find out what was going on now…

Honestly, you should be trying to find out everything you can while you're at a testing facility by making like Rion and using your newfound prestige and power to get some straight answers out of Hestir and Morin, especially since Hestir feels an urgent need to explain himself. There is nobody at Tamrissa's house who knows anything about anything and all of you are just going to compare notes and conclude that yes, indeed, why the Adepts did try to stop everybody, oh poor us, whatever shall we do and OMFG we still have three POV chapters of experiencing these first hand and we STILL have to read the recap chapters of them discussing it.



Summary:

Day 7
Rion Lorand achieves his second level mastery by nearly suffocating people to death exploding some oil, disintegrating some steel and playing with a puma, including despite interference from his two Adepts.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 33 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 17 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 10 (9 in Book 1)
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 (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 21 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 45 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 31 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 7 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 6 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 36 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 19 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 35 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 21 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 5
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22)

Possible fixes:
Since I already did this, I'll be lazy and copy/paste what I wrote (sorry folks who have already read this while following the rewrite). In my version, this mastery is part of the practical component of the end of school exams (like an equivalent to the SATs for Americans or the IB) and Lorand's elective was Healing rather than Persuasion, so a different character is doing this particular test:

quote:

A series of obstacles had been set out in the courtyard for the test of Persuasion: a long narrow beam that stood knee high from the ground, a wide hoop raised six feet in the air and a large white sheet, stretched and hung with two ropes. Three other servants wearing uniforms with the Guild’s symbol pushed an iron cage into position in front of the mound of soil before they retreated into the safety of the Guild house. The cage was half the size of a private coach, draped with heavy black cloth, and the mind inside it radiated aggression and hunger.

Master Lugal held up a miniature version of the hourglass from the morning. “You have until the sand runs out to Persuade this animal to navigate the course and return to its cage.”

The Acolyte whipped the black cloth off to reveal a large spotted hunting cat. Its pupils narrowed to tiny slits in the sudden brightness. Heavy muscles bunched under its sleek coat as it padded up to the barred door and yawned, unsheathed claws clicking against the wooden floor of the cage. Mollit swallowed visibly as he was confronted by the cat’s fangs and sharp teeth.

Lorand felt a stab of nostalgia at the sight. His father kept a small wooden menagerie up high upon the mantle, safe from grasping hands of his young children, who were only allowed to play with them under their father’s watchful eye. Camil whittled each tiny figure with great care, laboring over each one for a full year before he considered it finished.

Amongst them was a lithe hunting cat, carved from polished ebony with chips of jade for its eyes. It had joined the menagerie a few weeks before Lorand’s tenth birthday. The Coll children argued over what the next one ought to be for a week until Mildon won.

Camil never finished the miniature of Surefoot. It remained trapped–its form half-realized in a lump of ash buried in the stack of firewood. The desiccated corpse of the real Surefoot had been turned into fertilizer.

The Guild Master turned the hourglass over as his Acolyte pushed on a lever, throwing the cage door open.

“Begin.”

Human met feline in a clash of wills. The cat snarled on its hind legs as Earth magic arrested its motions before it could pounce. Minutes ticked by as Mollit fought to assert his dominance over the cat and forced it to walk–one stiff-legged stride at a time–to the first obstacle. In Lorand’s Earth vision, the cat was detailed in glowing green lines. Patches of roiling emerald haze marked the extent of his schoolmate’s control: heavily concentrated in the four limbs but absent in the shoulders and haunches. Not enough to compel it to crawl underneath the long beam on its belly.

Despite himself, Lorand was impressed. His father often said that while general rules of thumb could be applied according to an animal’s traits, the more intelligent the animal, the more individual the approach required. Familiarity with an animal’s species helped a great deal and hunting cats weren’t native to Widdertown or its surrounds–they came from the forested areas by the Tondron Peaks.

Slowly, green haze spread out through the cat’s shoulders and haunches from its limbs as Mollit wrested bodily command from the animal. Inch by inch, it lowered its belly until it was pressed against the ground and its forepaws and hind legs worked until its entire length cleared the first obstacle in a graceless wriggle.

His schoolmate wiped the sweat from his brow with one forearm and glanced at the hourglass. Only half a glass of sand remained.

In that momentary lapse of focus, the feline broke free and pounced, pinning Mollit to the ground. Its claws dug into his body, jaws ready to snap his neck. Growls emanated from its throat but he held its teeth at bay. Just.

Lorand went rigid as Talitha sucked in a breath. How could they witness this and do nothing? Yet neither of them looked away; that felt like a betrayal.

Come on, Mollit.

They sat, paralyzed, and breathed in synchronicity with Mollit as he struggled for his life, under the impassive eyes of the Adept.

Breath in as green haze hammered away at the cat’s chest.

You can do this.

Mollit flexed his talent–heaved–and flung the cat five paces backwards through the ring and into the flapping white sheet.

Breath out.

The sheet disintegrated, torn to shreds by razor sharp claws.

Breath in. The air was thick with a coppery scent.

A blurry streak leapt through the air and Mollit rose to meet it. He staggered forward–hands outstretched like a twisted reflection of his feline opposite–and bellowed in challenge. The two slammed into each other. Brawny arms grappled with furred forelimbs as sinews strained, blood dripped and two sets of feet–booted and clawed–churned up the packed dirt of the courtyard.

The emerald bubble surrounding the cat’s head deepened.

Sand ran out in the hourglass.

Mollit drove it back into its cage and slammed the door shut. The cat roared in its impotent rage and he responded in kind, before both of them slumped down in defeat.

EDIT: I should add that with this chapter, we are now at the end of the halfway point in Green's Book 2, which has 46 chapters (though it really should include the first five chapters of Book 3, for the same reasons that Book 1 should have included the first five chapters of Book 2). Assuming I've added correctly, we are now 65,460 words in–which by the way is almost 10k more words than my total word count for NaNoWriMo, or an entire short story–and like nothing much of anything has happened. Some people had sex with some other people, someone was murdered and a whole lot of people did magical stuff that should have been interesting and/or terrifying to read about since all of those skills are clearly intended for combat purposes but ended up being boring filler between pages and pages of people drinking tea or talking about drinking tea or refusing to drink tea. The core structural problem of FIVE FIVE FIVE has now been doubled to TEN TEN TEN and I seriously can't fathom why any competent editor would allow this.

Leng fucked around with this message at 09:53 on Feb 1, 2021

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Leng posted:

The core structural problem of FIVE FIVE FIVE has now been doubled to TEN TEN TEN and I seriously can't fathom why any competent editor would allow this.

I remain convinced that these books were handed off unedited.

Repeating the trials and mastery training for each character in the first book, then turning around and doing exactly the same thing with identical mastery exercises in the second book, is a real "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" situation to slip past an editor.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR 

For the first time in a long while Jovvi felt utterly depressed, and would have let the coach ride to the practice area go by in brooding silence. She’d said her goodbye to Lorand last night when she hadn’t really planned to say anything at all, and then she’d gone to her bedchamber and cried. Telling herself Lorand was just another man wasn’t working at all any longer, but there was nothing to be done about it. She simply couldn’t bring herself to depend on his being there if she needed him, and that was the one fault she found it impossible to overlook.

If Kambil can work Spirit magic on himself, Jovvi should be able to as well. And I'm still totally confused at why she's not just sleeping with him if she wants to. It's probably some "oh we can't be together for good due to a stupid reason so let's not even be together for a tiny bit because that will make it more miserable when we have to split up" crap, which feels out of character for Jovvi.

And we're SEVEN freaking days into this timeline. This kind of melodramatic star crossed lovers crap is so juvenile. Which I guess seeing as all of the protagonists are like 18-somethings is still age appropriate but this has got the maturity of romance in YA novels. Like we're talking Cassandra Clare levels of melodrama here. Except Cassandra Clare actually writes much better prose, has better plotting and and better characters and the melodrama usually is because said love is actually forbidden by strong cultural or social mores as opposed to just literally being all in the characters' heads.

quote:

So she would have been happier to pass the ride in depressed silence, but Tamma’s presence refused to allow that. One minute the girl was projecting excited anticipation at the top of her emotional lungs, and the next it was outraged annoyance tinged with faint apprehension being projected. Jovvi couldn’t have ignored that combination even if there hadn’t been so much strength behind it, so after a few moments she admitted defeat with a sigh.

“All right, Tamma, tell me what’s bothering you,” she said wearily, drawing the girl’s attention. “If you don’t, we’ll probably both explode.”

“Oh, Jovvi, I’m sorry,” she answered, blushing a bit with fluster. “I didn’t realize you’d—But of course you would, so—I’ll try to stop.”

“You’ll try to stop feeling completely scattered and almost irrational?” Jovvi actually smiled at the thought, Tamma’s regret and concern for her coming through just as clearly as the rest. “I appreciate your wanting to try, but if you ever found a way to do it, you’d probably be able to take the Fivefold Throne by yourself. Tell me what’s causing the storm.”

“One of my plans came back to bite me,” Tamma admitted reluctantly after a short hesitation, now looking down at her hands. “Specifically the one to discourage Vallant Ro.”

“Oh, dear,” Jovvi said, then curiosity began to move aside her depression. “I knew it would be difficult to get anywhere with that man. What did you try?”

“Well, I remembered a comment you made about his probably not liking women who lay with other men,” she replied with a vague gesture. “I decided that that would be the most likely thing to discourage him, so I lay with Rion and then I told the beast Ro that I had too many gentlemen friends now, and apologized for leading him on. But then—”

“Wait!” Jovvi finally managed to get out through her shock, one hand up to halt Tamma’s flow of words. “I think I’d better take this one point at a time. You wanted to tell Vallant that you had a lot of gentlemen friends, so you lay with Rion. I seem to be having trouble understanding why that was necessary, since you can’t call him a large number, only one. What’s the difference between a complete lie and an almost complete one?”

“The difference…” Tamma echoed, looking more perplexed than embarrassed. “I suppose you could say the difference is mostly in me. If it had been a complete lie, I never would have been able to say it. It was hard enough saying it after the experience with Rion, but that bit of truth let me lie about the rest. And besides … if this thing about the competitions comes to nothing and you end up opening a residence for courtesans after all… I want to be able to contribute actively, not just watch everyone else do the work.”

“I see,” Jovvi said, which wasn’t quite true. And her brows were still raised so high they might never come down, which was partly due to being impressed. “To be honest, Tamma, I never expected you to accomplish quite so large a change in yourself.

Because this is completely bonkers and out of character!

quote:

The effort must have been enormous, and I admire you for having been able to do it. I take it you benefited from lying with Rion?”

“Oh, yes,” Tamma answered with a smile that made her look even younger and more innocent. “He promised to give me nothing but pleasure, and he kept the promise. I was so nervous and even frightened, but he just kept on being gentle until I didn’t want him to be gentle anymore. That was when he gave me the pleasure.”

“Yes, that’s the way it’s supposed to work,” Jovvi said, intrigued in spite of herself. A man like Rion, with almost no experience of his own, shouldn’t have been able to produce that much enthusiasm in a woman like Tamma. When your experiences have been nothing but painful, even ordinary clumsiness can bring back hurtful memories and ruin the pleasure. If Tamma had felt nothing but pleasure, then Rion’s performance must have been almost extraordinary.

Yes. Especially when you consider that it would have been Rion's second sexual experience, ever. I like many aspects of Rion's character, but "the Highest Aspect's gift to women" is not one of them.

quote:

“Well, that’s the way it did work with Rion, but after that nothing went right,” Tamma said glumly, all exuberance suddenly gone. “I told Vallant the lie as best I could, and for a little while he seemed to believe me. Then he came over and told me how hurt he felt at being led on by me, and a moment later I found myself insisting that he tell me what I might do to make him feel less … despised and left out. I even promised to do it without first hearing what it was.”

“Oh, dear,” Jovvi said again, now fighting to keep from laughing. “Even in general it’s a bad idea to promise to do something without knowing what the something is, but with a man like Vallant… I think I already know what he asked for.”

“Everyone in the world but me would have known,” Tamma said, self-disgust tingeing the glumness. “When he thanked me for agreeing to lie with him, I suddenly understood that he’d been planning that outcome all along. I was absolutely furious, and I told him that I might have to lie with him, but I certainly didn’t have to talk to him.”

“And then you stormed back into the house,” Jovvi said with a nod. “I wondered what had happened this time, and now I know. It explains why you’re so annoyed, but there’s one emotion you’ve been projecting that you haven’t discussed yet. You may be furious over being tricked, but you’re also … anticipating the time, aren’t you?”

Jovvi had tried to put the question very gently, but Tamma still flinched on the inside.

“I’ve—come to the conclusion that lying with Rion might have been a mistake,” Tamma muttered, back to looking down at her hands. “As long as I thought of a man’s use as painful, I had a—a—barrier of sorts to protect me from Vallant. Now … all I can think about is how marvelous it will be with him, and I don’t want it to be marvelous. If it is…”

“If it is, you’ll find it painful in the extreme to keep from becoming involved with him,” Jovvi said, at least understanding that part of it perfectly.

There's some weirdness in Green's morality that is being superimposed upon these books that makes permanent serious monogamous relationships the only acceptable outcome. I have a lot of trouble understanding why neither Lorand nor Vallant could just accept a casual relationship with either of their love interests. Green seems to find something utterly compelling about a guy whose entire attitude is "I must have you all to myself exclusively* or I refuse to have a relationship with you at all**"

*unless the magic system dictates that we need to be in a poly relationship with others
**and I also refuse to allow you to have any other romantic or sexual relationships with people who are not me

quote:

“So what are you going to do? Tell him that his having tricked you means you don’t have to keep your part of the bargain?”

“It was a promise, not a bargain, and he offered to tell me what he wanted before I gave my word to do it,” Tamma responded, the glumness having deepened. “I was the one who insisted on giving my word first, so now I have to keep it. In one way I hate the idea, but in another…”



quote:

This time Jovvi simply nodded,

Seriously?!!?!?!??!

quote:

the point much too familiar to need discussing. She’d always remember the time she’d shared with Lorand, and that was a good part of the trouble. If only she were able to forget, she might find it possible to believe that she’d turned her back on a man no different from any of the others she’d known…

So much for the basis of Jovvi and Lorand's relationship. She's literally fixated on him because he's the best lay she's ever had. Which again, as a courtesan, I find that dubious. Of all of her clients as the most popular courtesan in Rincammon and all the North, she's never found anyone as good as Lorand? When she's got Spirit magic and therefore can both make herself appealing to them AND make them want to please her? There's a giant plothole in regards to how much Jovvi consciously understood what she was doing with her talent but regardless, this is pretty implausible.

quote:

The rest of the ride went by in silence, and once again Tamma was the first to get out. Jovvi simply readied herself until the coach reached her own stop, and then she got out and entered the practice area. There were more people present than there’d been yesterday morning, but all of them were sitting at tables and drinking tea. No one seemed to be watching the practice buildings, waiting for people to come out so that they might take their turn, and somehow that wasn’t surprising.

“Good morning, Dama Hafford,” Jovvi heard as Genovir, her Adept guide, suddenly appeared beside her. The tall woman was apparently trying to smile, but the result looked far from natural. “I hope you had a pleasant, restful time after leaving here yesterday.”

“I certainly did,” Jovvi replied with her own smile, then she looked around. “I don’t see Adept Algus. He does have to join us for the testing, doesn’t he?”

“You’re already prepared to continue?” Genovir said, still maintaining that forced smile despite the—lurching distress—Jovvi was momentarily able to feel in her. “We expected you to practice a bit first… I’ll fetch Algus at once. Please feel free to sit and have tea while I do so.”

I haven't talked about this so far, but the other thing that bugs me is how copy/paste each different aspect's practitioners feel. The only aspect Green has bothered to "characterize" is Fire and they're all supposed to be stereotypically "fiery" aggressive people. Spirit magic keeps talking about "maintaining balance" but you never see this affect any character's actions. As to the rest of the aspects, no freaking clue. But if this was real to the universe, each aspect should feel distinct in their cultural norms. But I suppose it's too much to ask of an author who can't even create real characters in the first place.

quote:

Genovir turned and hurried away, leaving Jovvi with the impression that the larger woman’s balance was on the verge of coming apart. Under other circumstances that would seem curious, but with the testing authority involved the reaction felt more suspicious. Those people were up to something, and the something wasn’t likely to be to her benefit.

Jovvi considered taking the suggestion about tea, but old habits made her decide to sit down and simply wait. As a child she’d learned better than to eat or drink near people who couldn’t be trusted, especially not when those people had access to what she would be eating or drinking. She remembered that very pretty young boy who had roamed the same part of the city that Jovvi and her brothers had. The three of them had watched the boy accept food and drink from a smiling stranger, and afterward they’d never seen the boy again…

Hello, convenient 2 sentence "flashback" to let us know that Jovvi, the smartest of the protagonists, has deduced that the tea is probably drugged.

quote:

After a few minutes Genovir reappeared with Algus, both of them coming from the second small practice building. Their pace was less hurried than Genovir’s departure had been, but there was a definite … determination to the tall, thin man’s stride. Jovvi wondered about that, but as soon as the two reached the place she sat, it was no longer necessary to wonder.

“Well, good morning, Dama Hafford,” Algus said in an attempt to sound jolly. “Genovir tells me you’re ready to try for the next masteries, which is fine. But I must insist that you pause for a cup of tea first, which will help to relax you. It would distress me to see you faint from your efforts.”

“That’s very kind of you, sir, but unnecessary,” Jovvi said as she rose, interrupting Algus in the process of reaching for a bell rope. “Since I haven’t fainted yet and have no intention of doing so in the future, I must insist that we get on with the testing. Once I’ve achieved the masteries, I’ll take a cup of tea as my reward.”

Algus turned back to her and seemed about to speak, but his touching her lightly with his ability first stopped that. He had to have realized that Jovvi wasn’t about to change her mind, and so gave up on the argument.

The only interesting thing in the chapter so far–Spirit magic users can sense when somebody else is touching them with their talent.

quote:

“Very well, Dama,” he conceded, immediately covering his flash of frustrated annoyance. “Please come with us.”

He and Genovir began to lead the way back to the second practice building, and Jovvi followed with less satisfaction than her victory would have given someone else. She’d gotten around whatever they’d had in mind with the tea, but the set of their shoulders told her there was more plotting ahead. Jovvi would have been delighted to find she was imagining things, but unfortunately it wasn’t very likely that she was.

Jovvi is a born conspiracy theory nut. She can tell from THE SET OF THEIR SHOULDERS that weird stuff is going on. I'll buy that this is Green trying to show that Jovvi's picking up something from body language cues or whatever, but this is still so incredibly clumsy.

(also it bugs me no end that Jovvi is always proven to be correct in her suspicions)

quote:

The second practice building was just like the first, being divided into smaller rooms for the purpose of privacy. The only difference was the lack of windows in the room Genovir led her into, wall lamps doing the job of keeping the gloom at bay.

“Algus will be right here with the subjects you’ll be working with,” Genovir said, just as though Jovvi had no idea where the man had gone. The taller woman gave the appearance of being calm, but on the inside her nervousness was barely under control. Jovvi smiled and nodded to acknowledge what she’d been told, but her insides were almost as unsteady. The two Adepts were definitely up to something, but she had no idea what to be on guard against.

It really wasn’t long at all before Algus appeared with the six subjects, this time the mix consisting of four men and two women. The men were generally larger than the previous male subjects had been, but with all of them drugged in the same way, that didn’t matter. The—deadness of the six people was more disturbing than usual, though, so when a spider slid down its thread to hang beside Jovvi to the right, she appreciated the company. Spiders were beautifully tranquil on the inside, and it was nice to have one to keep her from being all alone.

The second interesting thing in this chapter! Spiders (and I guess other insects and sentient creatures) have emotions! No, we will never see anything interesting come of this.

quote:

“I’m sure you already know what’s necessary, Dama, but I’ll review the matter anyway,” Algus said as the six subjects drifted to the far side of the room. “These subjects will start out calm, and your task will be to enrage them. They’ll begin by standing together, then will shift through the various stages until each stands alone. For these final masteries you must be standing in the middle of the room, just as you were for the previous ones.”

Jovvi agreed with a sigh and walked to the middle of the room as Algus closed the door, hating to desert her brand new companion but having no choice. The spider would be left behind while she went to the—

Suddenly Jovvi was very alert. There had been no need to tell her where to stand—unless the point was more important than it seemed. A glance at Algus showed her nothing, and it was too bad there was no time to think about it…

Dun dun dun! You would think that there should be a safety barrier made of hardened Air or something, wouldn't you?

quote:

“All right, now we’ll begin,” Algus said from where he stood near the door, behind her, then continued to the subjects, “Hear one who is authorized to command you. This woman is your friend, and she means you no harm.”

What exactly is preventing Jovvi from using this same command phrase? The way we see Puredan work in future scenarios, it doesn't seem to be possible to restrict the people who are authorized to use the command phrase.

quote:

The six subjects, properly cued, all began to smile, not the slightest bit of anger in any of them. Jovvi had already reached out to them, wondering if the trap lay in some difference between them and ordinary subjects, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

Suddenly our street smart protagonist seems as dumb and oblivious as a rock. You're standing in the middle of a group of people that you're supposed to enrage. Any bright ideas as to where the danger might be?

quote:

So she reached to their calm peacefulness, and a moment later they were shaking fists and moving angrily in place.

“Enough,” Algus said after a very long minute, and the subjects calmed immediately. “Nicely done, Dama, very nicely done indeed. All right, you people, division one.”

The subjects obeyed the second command as well and drifted into two groups of three, their calm back to being serenity. Their movement took them a good distance apart, but not quite on opposite sides of the room. As soon as they stopped it was Jovvi’s turn again, so she swallowed her distaste and reached out to them with her ability. Calming and easing people was completely natural and right, but enraging them…!

Actually, influencing/controlling people's emotions (and thoughts) is ethically dubious, but Green will never address this!

quote:

“Enough,” Algus finally commanded after an even longer minute, calming the rage of the six subjects. Some of them had seemed ready to move in Jovvi’s direction, which had disturbed her quite a lot.

Oh, the horror. Is anyone feeling any horror for Jovvi? Or maybe dread? What about a vague concern? I'm not sure myself, because I'm a little distracted by the background noise of my appliances humming, if you strain your ears slightly, they might be humming a very low B flat.

quote:

“Now you have two additional masteries, Dama. Let’s move on to the third. You people, division two.”

The six subjects drifted into three groups of two, and now they were in a triangle around Jovvi. For some reason their complete calm disturbed her, but she couldn’t quite pinpoint why.

STOP WRITING LIKE THIS.

quote:

And then there was another spider—or the same one—sliding down a thread right next to her again, which was somewhat surprising. It hadn’t seemed there were that many spiders in the building, but obviously she’d been mistaken. She would have enjoyed being able to think about that along with what the Adept might be up to, but Algus could well decide to call any hesitation a failure. With that in mind she reached to the subjects again, and once more set them raging.



quote:

“Enough,” Algus said in a shorter time than before, an odd satisfaction in his tone. “That makes three additional masteries, Dama, with only one more to go. If you like, I’ll permit a pause now for a cup of tea.”

“Thank you, no,” Jovvi declined without turning to look at him, having no intention of deserting her spider companion again. And the spider was her companion, its steadiness holding her steady as well. “I would prefer to have the testing over and done with first.”

“As you wish,” Algus agreed, his now-roiling emotions too mixed to be easily interpreted.

So the key to confusing Spirit magic is just to feel a lot of emotions at once?

quote:

“We’ll conclude this, then. You people, division three.”

The subjects in the three groups separated to where each of them stood alone, and now they surrounded her even more completely. Jovvi really wanted the whole thing over and behind her, so she reached to the six individuals and set them raging. Once again this part of the exercise was easier than the previous part, except for the waiting. The six people raged furiously all around her, needing the command from Algus before turning calm again.

It took the first advance of the four male subjects to make Jovvi understand that the command from Algus was more than overdue. The four male subjects, with the two females not far behind, were in the process of beginning to attack her, and if Algus were going to turn them off he would have done so already. That must be the plan, then, to let the subjects attack her and later claim it was caused by her lack of control.



quote:

That brought Jovvi her own anger, along with the determination not to let Algus and Genovir get away with it.

So she reached to the subjects again, intending to calm them herself—and found something blocking her. For an instant Jovvi had no idea would could be causing the block, but then it became obvious. A glance over her shoulder showed that Algus and Genovir were in the midst of some great effort with their own abilities, so that was the answer. They were the ones keeping her from reaching the subjects, a doing they’d obviously planned right from the beginning.

Please never use the term "a doing" ever again.

quote:

And now that Jovvi knew their plan, she certainly wished she didn’t. The six subjects were so furious they were ready to cause serious harm, and they were all around her. They’d already advanced to a point where the diameter of their circle was half of what it had originally been, and another minute would see them even closer. If anything was going to be done about it, it had to be done now.

Wow, so scary!

quote:

Swallowing against the fear trying to rise up inside her, Jovvi opened herself to more of the power. The inrush was exhilarating and strengthening, flowing over and erasing her faint uneasiness over the necessity. The power she already wielded was more than she’d ever handled before, but if she were going to break out of the trap, she needed even more.

And now she had it, so she reached first to the two so-called Adepts. Their struggle to maintain the double block was now completely clear, showing how little of the power they were actually able to use.

Here continues the theme of those who are born as Highs looking down on everyone around them. Reminder that the Adepts are Middles, so they're not that weak in reality. And the majority of the population are Lows.

Green has consciously or unconsciously written in a birth based caste system into the Blendingverse. It's gross.

quote:

But breaking through the block was out of the question, so Jovvi did the only other thing she could: she sent the fear of enclosed spaces to the pair, forcing it through their individually inadequate personal defenses.

We're finally getting some "magical combat" and that's all the detail I get on why Jovvi can't break through the block?

quote:

Genovir moaned as Algus gasped, and the block disappeared only just in time. The four large male subjects were only two steps away from Jovvi when she finally managed to calm them, doing the same for the women at the same time. The combined effort against eight people had covered Jovvi with sweat and turned her faintly trembling, but she’d still accomplished what had needed to be done. And her spider companion was still perfectly calm, as though knowing she could be relied on to take care of the problem. But the problem had more than one side…

Including continuing to hold the fear in Algus and Genovir. Once the six subjects were back to being calm, Jovvi was able to turn and look at the two who had plotted against her. They were in the midst of a mewling, panting struggle to get the door open, each one trying to push away the other so that he or she could be first to get outside. That meant neither of them was able to accomplish it, so the induced fear grew stronger by the minute.

Is this supposed to be funny?

quote:

Jovvi stood and watched them for a moment, feeling a great lack of understanding. She’d expected the two to fight her once they dropped the block, but their only attempt to resist had been so weak she’d almost missed it. And now they were completely under her control despite her weariness, which shouldn’t be so. Was she mistaken, or were they really no stronger than Middle practitioners? Well, there were other answers she wanted more, so that particular question would have to wait.

“All right, calm down,” she said after releasing her hold. “Genovir, let Algus open the door and then both of you can get out.”

Genovir, still very confused, hesitated at Jovvi’s order. That let Algus finally get the door open, and the two stumbled out quickly and hurried along the central hall to the front entrance.

There you have it. Spirit magic can control other people. Earth and Spirit magic are amazingly overpowered.

quote:

After turning and sending the emotion of gratitude to the tiny spider which still hung at the end of its thread,

Book 8 spoilers if Drees Allovin and his Blendingmates who were shepherding the Prophecy can control SPIDERS this is an awesome application of the magic. Are they spiritwalking? Are they here, disguised? Is the spider a real spider or just a magically constructed illusion using Air and Spirit magic? We'll never know!

quote:

Jovvi followed behind the two “Adepts.” She, of course, stopped when they did, a good half dozen paces along the walk.

“That, I think, makes four full masteries,” Jovvi said, drawing a frightened stare from Algus. “First I want to hear you declare it, and then I want an explanation for your behavior.”

“Yes, Dama, four full masteries,” Algus mumbled, making no effort to stand straighter. “I do hereby declare it, and will fetch your bracelet and silver immediately. It will only take a moment…”

“Stop,” Jovvi said quietly as the man began to turn away, seeing that he obeyed immediately. “You’ll explain about that bracelet comment in a moment,

NO DON'T.

quote:

but first I want another answer. You two deliberately tried to make me fail the test—not to mention trying to get me beaten up or killed—and I want to know why. What did I do to make you behave like that?”

“It—wasn’t you, Dama, nor was it really us,” Genovir babbled out when Algus hesitated. “It’s standard practice to do that to late qualifiers, to weed out those who can only just squeak past. Letting them go on wastes the time of our superiors, and it’s much too late in the year for time-wasting. Please—don’t be angry. We really do apologize.”

Both of them stared at Jovvi by then, underscoring the continuing fear that filled them. They seemed to be telling the truth—at least, the truth as they knew it—and the explanation had provided the answer to another question as well.

“So that’s why you began to bow and scrape yesterday,” Jovvi said, looking back and forth between them. “You were trying to cover yourselves in case I somehow proved to be stronger than the both of you. Submission posturing, to keep me from eating you alive in anger—after I noticed how much pleasure you were getting from doing your … duty. And that tea you tried to force on me… It would have had something in it to make your job even easier, right?”

The two didn’t answer, but the way they avoided her gaze was answer enough. They’d meant to drug her, and that would have been the end of her being an applicant.

Both the official story and the act from the Adepts suck. You'd think Spirit magic Adepts would have come up with a better way to do this. Though apparently I think we're supposed to conclude that subtle work of any sort is beyond a Middle. Except then the books contradict this with examples of exceptional Middles later on, so...

quote:

“We’ll just put that matter aside for another time,” Jovvi said after a moment, words calculated to do nothing to ease the fear the Adepts felt. “Now you can tell me what that bracelet thing means.”

“It’s—it’s to be worn in place of your identification card,” Algus stuttered out, his relief on the faint side. “You’ve now reached the level of master, so you’re no longer an applicant. The master’s bracelet will show your new, higher status, that of full participant. Congratulations, Dama, on rising so high.”

Algus did you miss the memo? You're supposed to address Jovvi as "Master" now!

quote:

There was now hope in the man’s voice and mind, hope based on the possibility that his news would put Jovvi’s attention on something other than him. The whole thing was so clear that the man might as well have discussed it aloud, but since he seemed unaware of it, Jovvi decided against mentioning it.

“I’m going to sit down and have some refreshment now,” Jovvi said after a pause that would have been longer if she hadn’t been so tired. “Bring my bracelet and dins to the table, and then we’ll see if there isn’t more to discuss.”

I'm torn on this decision. The interrogation of the Adepts would actually advance the plot so technically we should see this, except it's also Jovvi doing the interrogation and she can now control these two, so they'll spill whatever which means it's not even going to be an interesting interaction. By the way, this will be the template for all information gathering for the rest of the series. Characters need to know something? Get the closest Spirit magic user to just take control of people and force them to spill their guts. Hey presto, information gathering completed, no other effort required.

quote:

Algus paled before nodding vigorously and then hurrying away, a deeply frightened Genovir right behind him. Jovvi wasted no time watching the two escape, not when she needed food and drink so badly. Instead she headed for the eating area and an empty table, where she’d be able to refresh herself—and worry—in peace. The others … what if one or more of them actually drank the tea they’d be offered? They would certainly end up being disqualified, and it might even turn out to be Lorand…

And if it was, what in the whole wide world would she do?

Train another guy to be just as good in bed? Get on with your business plan of opening the foremost courtesan residence in Gan Garee? Go on with life? It sure seems like you've got no options whatsoever.

Summary:

Day 7
Rion Lorand Jovvi achieves his her second level mastery by nearly suffocating people to death exploding some oil, disintegrating some steel and playing with a puma enraging some people, including despite interference from his her two Adepts.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 33 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 17 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 10 (9 in Book 1)
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 (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 23 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran

PLOTHOLES: 46 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 32 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 8 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 6 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 37 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 20 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 35 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 21 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)

Possible fixes:
One of the reasons Green is stuck to her FIVE FIVE FIVE is because she wants to showcase all of the different aspects. This is fine but her solution–which is to show everything at the same time–is boring. I think Sanderson's solution for Stormlight Archive was a good one–keep each book tightly focused on a particular order and what they can do. This worked pretty well up until Oathbringer and then in Rhythm of War I think that fell apart a little bit, because Navani was the focus character for the book, we saw a little bit of what Willshapers could do via Venli but it was not plot centric in the way that Windrunner or Lightweaver powers were in Way of Kings or Words of Radiance so I almost felt like it was another Bondsmith book, except then Navani didn't swear the first oath until the very end of the book so there was no further exploration of Bondsmith powers, except seeing Ishar do mind numbing things with manipulation Connection in that one scene.

I'm not really sure that Green had 5 books' worth of story here, but assuming she does (or adding in a few extra subplots if she didn't), she could have done something similar and had each book focus on a different aspect. I think you'd have to get a lot more metaphysical than Green did though, to have it not end up boring. Or maybe just it should be five novellas with each novella focusing on a different aspect, and an overarching story being told across the novellas. That's probably more doable.

Leng fucked around with this message at 09:53 on Feb 1, 2021

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE 

Vallant’s ride to the practice areas wasn’t a pleasant one. He stared out of the window beside his right arm, seeing nothing of the passing scenery. Instead his thoughts kept going over and over the conclusion he’d come to last night, a conclusion he hadn’t expected to come to. But expected or not the idea had come, and the more he thought about it, the more certain it became.

Look at that, he's trying to do some actual reflection. Will we finally see a flash of maturity?

quote:

Last night had started out really amusing, with Tamrissa the Innocent falling right into his trap. Her expression had been priceless when she finally realized what she’d promised to do, but it had also been touchingly vulnerable. He’d waited for her to turn speechless with embarrassment, intending then to tell her he’d only been joking—or wishful thinking—but that hadn’t happened. Instead, fury had flashed from her beautiful eyes, and after promising never to speak to him again, she’d stormed back into the house.

Vallant is that rear end in a top hat at the bar who sidles up to you with his A game ready, then falling back on "oh haha it was all a joke can't you take a joke" when it bombs.

quote:

Vallant’s first reaction to that had been faint hurt, to see that she really believed he’d force her into his bed. At first he tried to tell himself she had no reason to believe otherwise, but that wasn’t true. He’d not only done nothing to hurt her, he’d gone out of his way to be more than ordinarily gentle.

Seriously? Let's recount all of the incidents of sexual harrassment that have occurred. Off the top of my head and without trawling through all of the Valissa drama in the 69 chapters we've read to date:
  • Walked in on her while she was trying to have a private bath, spending the whole time leering at her and making no apologies about it
  • Followed her into the library when she was trying to get away from him, including barging through a closed door
  • Threatened her with unwanted sexual contact ("just for that I ought to punish you by taking a kiss")
  • Continuing to follow her around and talk to her when she's made it clear she doesn't want to talk to him
  • Tricked her into "agreeing" to have sex with him and then gloating about it

quote:

But she’d still immediately treated him like a lower lifeform, like someone she had no interest whatsoever in associating with.

Because she doesn't. Really. Except Green keeps trying to force them together because Green.

quote:

He’d spent his time apologizing for something that hadn’t been his fault to begin with, and she’d spent her time trying to avoid him. He’d decided he couldn’t bear the thought of being without her, and she’d decided she wanted nothing to do with him. By the time he’d gotten back to his bedchamber, it had come to him that he’d done everything but crawl for the woman.

Uh, no. This is textbook obsessive stalker behavior.

quote:

And since that was something he’d never do for anyone, it was obvious he’d reached the end of the line in his quest for Dama Domon’s attention. Quest… Vallant had laughed at himself bitterly over that one. It had been more of a pitiful display of begging than a quest, since that was what chasing after an uninterested woman always was. Which meant that it was more than time it came to an end.

OMFG. Stop trying to paint yourself as some sort of tormented Knight in Shining Aspect in a star-crossed relationship.

quote:

Vallant stared out of the coach window and remembered the terrible disappointment he’d felt at that thought, but there was no arguing with the conclusion. Tamrissa wanted nothing to do with him, so it was time to bow to her decision and walk away like a gentleman of dignity. It wasn’t what he really wanted to do, but it was the only option left open to him.

FINALLY. Note how grudgingly he is about doing the right thing. "Since nothing short of using physical or magical force will get me into her skirts at this point–the use of which would make me one of the Bad Guys instead of one of the Good Guys–I guess I have to stop sexually harassing this woman who wants nothing to do with me and who has made that abundantly clear multiple times."

quote:

Brooding over that inescapable decision took up all of the coach ride,

You are the epitome of the reason why women who are being harassed like this opt to ghost people like you or break up via phone or text.

quote:

and even caused him to miss Mardimil’s departure. The first he knew when Coll called his name was that Holter was in the process of getting out, which meant he had to do the same. The practice area looked no different from yesterday, but as soon as he and Holter walked through the wall opening, Wimand, his Adept guide, hurried toward them, followed closely by Holter’s Adept guide Podon.

“Good morning, Dom Ro, good morning,” the thin Adept greeted him, forced warmth in his melodious voice. “I trust you rested well since we parted yesterday?”

Vallant hadn’t had much sleep the night before, so he ignored Podon’s burbling the same question to Holter to say shortly, “It was a wonderful time. Now let’s get on with it.”

This is even more awkward than every other Adept scene so far.

quote:

“Of course, Dom Ro, we’ll begin as quickly as possible,” Wimand replied, his enthusiasm fading for an instant before being dragged back in place. “We must wait for two more Adepts to become available to witness your and Dom Holter’s masteries, so we might as well have tea during the wait. We already have a pot and cups right over here…”

“No,” Vallant said, a refusal Holter clearly joined him in. “I’m not in the mood for waitin’, with or without tea. You and Podon can witness our efforts together instead of separately the way you did yesterday, since we’ll be performin’ one at a time. So let’s get this thing goin’ now.”

Vallant knew that any delay would send him back into brooding distraction, and that could mean a delay in passing the tests. Since this was probably the last time he’d be comfortable during a test—in other words, outdoors—his mood wanted the time behind him. Being faced with struggle would satisfy him a good deal more, so that was the point he had to reach. Struggle … and maybe a failure that would end all of his problems for once and all…

Green suddenly remembered that Vallant's supposed to have this crippling claustrophobia.

quote:

Wimand spent some time in feeble argument with Podon backing him up, but Vallant and Holter had formed a united front. Neither of them would hear of a delay, and today it was Vallant’s turn to go first. The Adepts were clearly unhappy about that, especially since they didn’t seem able to refuse. It was completely obvious that they wanted to refuse, but instead Wimand drew himself up.

“I can see that you gentlemen have made up your minds,” he decided aloud, his tone definitely sour. “Continuing on without the others is irregular, but as long as there are two of us to do the witnessing… Very well, we will begin.”

So why did we just waste all of that time reading about this stupidity? I swear reading these books sometimes is an exercise in reading about people engaging in pointless arguments for the sake of having the argument/being seen to put up a token resistance against the inevitable.

quote:

Vallant wasn’t at his sharpest or most attentive, but it was still impossible to miss the … vindictive intent behind Wimand’s words. The Adept sounded as if he had plans that would not be to Vallant’s benefit, but that was all right. Vallant would welcome a skirmish right now, preferably one that was physical. If abilities became involved instead, that would also be acceptable.

Why can't we ever see Vallant exercising his life experience as a worldy well traveled sailor captain and just get told he picks up this crap. Not even through tone of voice or body language or facial expression or some other action, just literally picking up an "vindictive intent". When Vallant doesn't have Spirit magic.

Also this guy is just spoiling for a fight constantly. With what a hothead Vallant is, it's incredibly inconsistent with his character that he never gets into a fist fight until Book 5.

quote:

Wimand and Podon led the way to the first of the testing cubicles, but not before Wimand insisted that Holter wait at a table some distance off.

“To be certain that no one is able to later raise a charge of collusion on the part of you two gentlemen,” the Adept explained with a faintly amused smile. “Having to achieve the same masteries a second time is such a bore.”

Holter shrugged to show that he didn’t mind waiting at the table, so Vallant also allowed the matter to pass without argument. Simply going along would get them out of there sooner, a result Vallant was quickly coming to want rather badly.

The first cubicle held resin spheres the size of a man’s head sitting on posts, but unlike the original first cubicle there was no vat filled with water. Vallant would have to take water from the air to surround the forms with, which was harder than using standing water.

“At least you needn’t worry that anyone will think you used water from the vats in the other cubicles,” Wimand remarked from behind Vallant. “The resin walls don’t let people reach through with their ability, so that’s one concern behind you.

Well at least that's finally canonized.

quote:

Just please be certain that you don’t run afoul of the other, more important one.”

“And what concern would that be?” Vallant asked, turning to look at the man. Podon stood more behind the first Adept than beside him, which, with Wimand’s prejudices in mind, wasn’t very surprising.

“Why, the concern behind the reason that these exercises are so much more difficult,” Wimand replied, a sleek nastiness underlying the words. “It’s not only harder to take the necessary water from the air, it’s also more dangerous. The extra effort needed to do it sometimes causes a practitioner to also surround himself with water. If he then loses his head to fear, he can end up drowning himself. It has been known to happen, and on far more than one or two occasions.”

Hahahahahaha Podon is the worst at coming up with believable stuff.

quote:

“Oh, yes, I remember hearin’ somethin’ about that now,” Vallant drawled, not about to let Wimand think his scare tactics had a chance to work. “That’s a nasty way to die, but I don’t ever expect it to happen to me. Are we ready to begin?”

“Yes, of course,” Wimand muttered in answer, the sleekness having disappeared. “You may begin when you wish.”

Vallant nodded his thanks and turned back to the targets, almost disappointed that that was all the plotting Wimand seemed to have in mind. Apparently the Adept had hoped to frighten Vallant enough to ruin his try for the masteries, which simply showed how blind it was possible for a man to be.

The exercise was just like the first time in that Vallant had to first surround the six forms with water while they were all together, then when they were in two groups, then three groups, then individually. Podon was the one who shifted the positions of the forms, of course, a fact Vallant noticed but ignored. Gathering the necessary moisture from the air took concentration, but it wasn’t long before the exercise was completed.

“Well, you now have your first mastery, Dom Ro,” Wimand said then, making an obvious effort to sound hearty. “Let’s continue on to the next cubicle.”

“I think you’re forgettin’ about Holter,” Vallant said as the Adept began to move away. “It’s now his turn to earn the mastery.”

“No, I’m afraid it isn’t his turn yet,” Wimand denied with a smile as he looked back at Vallant. “Other applicants aren’t given a rest between exercises, so it would be unfair to allow you to have one. Please follow me, Dom Ro.”

You'd think there would be a clear set of rules and procedures somewhere that would be explained to all applicants.

quote:

There was nothing Vallant could say to that without sounding as if he were trying to cheat, so he followed Wimand as requested. Yesterday Holter had started first with Vallant following, but there hadn’t been any pauses between the exercises. And, considering the smugness Wimand now showed, it was too bad argument wasn’t possible.

The second cubicle held six breadboxes, which Vallant had to fill with water. First one box was to be filled, then two together, then three together and so on, until all six boxes were filled at once. Each box held a catch bowl, and if the exercise was properly done the water would come out when the bottom of the box was released. Once again Vallant had to concentrate on what he was doing, but other than that the exercise wasn’t difficult.

Green, on what she thinks is an interesting story: "here's a thing that's supposed to be super hard, but the main character thinks it's not hard, also the main character is spending all their time standing around snarking or having pointless arguments with other characters who are clearly idiots"

Are these books just an incredibly verbose exercise in wish fulfilment where Green can just tell everybody off via her self-inserts?

quote:

“And that’s mastery number two,” Wimand said, but the lightheartedness of his tone was surprising. Vallant turned to look at the man, and was startled to see that two strangers had joined Wimand and Podon.

“How amusing that your mastery has been witnessed by four Adepts rather than two,” Wimand continued, his expression bland. “Dom Ro, I would like to present Adept Rilin and Adept Kinge, whose presence will make it possible for Dom Holter to begin at once. Adept Rilin will accompany me, and Adept Kinge will go with Adept Podon.”

It would have been more accurate to say that the man Kinge had already gone with Podon. The second newcomer hadn’t even nodded to acknowledge the introduction before turning away, and Rilin was no different. He simply stared hard-eyed at Vallant as if he were some lower lifeform, which brought Vallant’s head up as his jaw muscles tightened. Tamrissa had looked at him in almost the same way, and Vallant was sick of that particular reaction.

Ever consider that you might actually be a lower lifeform? One who doesn't understand consent?

quote:

“We can go to the third cubicle now,” Wimand announced, still sounding much too smugly satisfied. That had to mean something had changed to make the situation more pleasant for him, and the only change was the presence of Rilin. Vallant took that as his cue to start being more alert, but otherwise followed the two Adepts silently.

“Now, here the boxes are hidden behind that curtain,” Wimand said once Vallant was in the cubicle, possibly trying to suggest that Vallant was too dim to remember on his own.

Lampshading your terrible writing doesn't make it acceptable, Green.

quote:

“The boxes are of different sizes, so you must use your ability to discover their dimensions as well as to fill them. Just as in the last cubicle, you’ll begin by filling one, then two at the same time, and so forth. You may start when you feel yourself ready.”

“That’s mighty kind of you,” Vallant murmured in answer without turning. Yes, the man was definitely up to something, but it still wasn’t clear what that might be. Could Wimand be trying to get him angry, which sometimes resulted in a loss of control? It was possible…

But Vallant didn’t have the time to worry about that now. The third and final mastery had to be earned, so he reached out with his talent to discover the dimensions of the first box. It was very much on the small side, which meant it had to be filled very carefully. He did that, and Wimand’s tripping the box’s release showed rather quickly that he’d done it properly.

Vallant had filled three boxes successfully and was beginning to probe the size and shape of the fourth when it happened. He suddenly found himself surrounded by water, and for an instant believed he’d had that accident Wimand had mentioned and had done it himself.

Wow. Just wow. Turns out Vallant, our world-weary seasoned captain, is super gullible.

quote:

But his automatic attempt to return the water to the air didn’t work, which immediately told him the true state of affairs.

A glance over his shoulder showed Vallant that Wimand and Rilin were using their own talents rather intensely, which meant that the two so-called Adepts were responsible for the water around him. It was also a fairly safe guess that Rilin was a good deal stronger than his associate, and that was why Wimand had been so smugly pleased. He would have had trouble doing this to Vallant with no one but Podon helping, but with Rilin’s assistance…

All of which was really interesting, but still did nothing to free Vallant from the globe of water. He’d held his breath at the first appearance of the water out of habit, a reflex related to how experienced and strong a swimmer he was; that in itself, however, wasn’t going to save him. He had to force the water away completely, but with two men holding it firmly in place he simply couldn’t break free.

At least not with the amount of power he now wielded. Vallant realized that even as the strain increased on his lungs, and his mind grew aware of the fact that he was trapped inside the small globe of water. Panic threatened to rise up and overwhelm him, but if it did he was dead. He had to find a diversion, so he quickly opened himself to more of the power.

The immediate inflow of golden strength surprised him, as the inflow also seemed to include a bit more oxygen for his straining lungs. But even more it seemed to spread throughout his body, bracing him to wield the additional power and clarifying his wildly roiling thoughts. The way to escape the trap came to him instantly, so he quickly put the plan to work.

Magically now opening to the power also gives you more oxygen. What. The. Hell. The energy and enhanced senses, fine, I buy that. Oxygen? Really?

quote:

In the upper reaches of the sky, water is closer to being ice than a liquid. Vallant reached down two large globs of that ice, and applied each glob to the private parts of the two men trying to drown him.

We've already had weird things going on with range, teleportation of water, etc. How is Vallant shoving ice against these guys' s while they're fully clothed?

I'm this close to giving up on trying to figure out how Green thinks Water magic should work. It doesn't make sense, though everything else in the magic system makes sense.

quote:

Their screams could be heard even through the water around his head, and then the water was no longer there. Vallant stood and breathed deeply while he listened to the unfiltered screams, grimly satisfied. Cold, beyond a certain point, becomes true pain, and if these two didn’t deserve the pain then no one did. He let them experience it for a full minute, and then he withdrew the ice a very small bit.

“Gentlemen, your screams are disturbin’ me,” he said then, keeping his voice reasonably low. “They’re also disturbin’ all those other people, so I suggest you turn and assure them that you’re perfectly all right.”

The two so-called Adepts glanced at him with fear in their eyes, then turned to do as he’d said. People from the eating area had crowded up when the screams first began, but once Wimand called to them that everything was fine, they shook their heads and returned to their tables.

“Nicely done,” Vallant said in the same soft tones. “Now we can discuss the fact that you’re still able to feel that ice, and the additional fact that you can’t force it away from your … dignity. Each of you has been tryin’, and you’ve discovered you’re simply not up to it.”

The two men exchanged desperate glances, understanding without being told that linking against him again was impossible.

They were beyond the point where they could surprise him, and only greater strength than what he wielded could break his hold.

Vallant is a bully, but it's okay because he's a Good Guy which means he only bullies people when it's for their own good.

quote:

“Now we’re goin’ to continue with this exercise,” Vallant said, giving them a pleasant smile. “The ice will stay where it is until I’ve achieved this final mastery, and then we can all forget about it. Do you agree?”

The two men nodded raggedly, so Vallant turned back to what he’d been doing. It didn’t take long to finish filling all the hidden boxes, and when Wimand tripped the lever there were six matching streams of water produced.

“C-congratulations, D-Dom Ro,” Wimand said immediately through chattering teeth. “The s-second level m-masteries are all yours, s-so please…!”

Rilin’s gaze was also begging, but Vallant still felt reluctant to release them. Experiencing pity for people who had deliberately attacked him wasn’t one of his failings, but it was time to end that farce. So he released his hold on the ice, letting the two men reach it themselves, and a moment later they both sighed with relief.

“Now I’d like to know what happens next,” Vallant said after giving the two an additional moment to pull themselves together. “Aside from your fetchin’ six dins for me. How soon do I get to the first of the competitions?”

“You’ll be notified about that, sir,” Wimand replied after taking a deep breath, now firmly back to being obsequious. “I’ll fetch your dins immediately, along with your master’s bracelet.”

“What’s that about a bracelet?” Vallant asked, trying to divert himself from a mixture of disappointment and relief. He’d thought he wanted to get on with the time when he had to enter that enclosed building, but now that the occasion had turned indefinite, he felt it a lot easier to breathe.

Oh FFS.

quote:

“Your status has changed from applicant to full participant, sir,” Wimand told him in explanation, all but bowing. “You’ve reached the level of master, so a master’s bracelet will replace your applicant’s card. Congratulations again on achieving that much higher status, and would you care to sit and take tea while I get your bracelet and dins?”

Rilin had turned and walked away while Wimand spoke, leaving Vallant with the impression that he would not be back.

That was fine with Vallant, since he had one further thing to say to Wimand.

“Yes, I believe I will take tea while I’m waitin’,” he said, then moved closer to Wimand and lowered his voice. “I don’t know why you and your brother slime did what you did to me, but I also don’t care why. I’m simply advisin’ you to make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to Holter. I’ll be watchin’ while I have that tea, and if it does I’ll feel obliged to help the man. Do we understand each other?”

“Perfectly, sir,” Wimand said with a gulp, then hurried off—in the direction of the two—Adepts—with Holter. Vallant nodded to himself in satisfaction as he walked toward a table, looking forward to the tea, something to eat—and a chance to firm up his decision to have nothing more to do with Dama Tamrissa Domon.

That's Master Tamrissa Domon, buddy.

Summary:

Day 7
Rion Lorand Jovvi Vallant achieves his her his second level mastery by nearly suffocating people to death exploding some oil, disintegrating some steel and playing with a puma enraging some people filling small boxes with water by condensing it from the air, including despite interference from his her his two Adepts.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 35 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 17 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 25 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen
Vallant: Mirra Agran, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 46 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 33 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 8 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 6 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 37 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 20 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 36 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 21 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)

Possible fixes:
I have nothing to say other than I am so glad we're at the end of this set of rotating POVs because this level of repetition should just not exist.

Leng fucked around with this message at 09:52 on Feb 1, 2021

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX 

When the coach stopped at my practice area I got out, and Jovvi was so deep in thought that I didn’t want to disturb her even to say goodbye. Our discussion had helped me quite a bit in that it usually helps to share your problems with someone else. But in another way it hadn’t helped at all, because now I couldn’t decide what to do.

I feel like maybe I should have a counter for how many times characters leave other characters without saying goodbye because this has to be the 18th time we've read something like this.

quote:

I stopped on the walk leading to the practice area, trying to pull myself together before going in. Talking things out with Jovvi had made me realize something I hadn’t admitted to myself before: a very large part of me wanted to be with Vallant Ro. Looking at him made me feel things I’d never felt when looking at any other man, and even the thought of simply strolling with him in the garden sent me into a minor flutter.

But according to Book 1, he's basically a triplet, so why don't you feel this way about Rion or Lorand?

Book 8 spoilers she will, because the magic system says so, and Green literally describes this feeling as all the men in the Blending being like one guy and the same with the women, etc though we will literally never see any such relationship development between any of the characters other than the primary pairing

quote:

But I’d decided against associating with Vallant Ro, and right or wrong the decision had still been made. That meant the man had had no right to keep bothering me, not to mention trapping me into a very disturbing promise. Maybe I had insisted on making the promise; that didn’t mean Vallant Ro wasn’t wrong to let it happen in the first place.

Again, not informed consent! You don't have to go through with it! Please can you just stick with standing up for yourself and not falling for the rear end in a top hat?

quote:

Anger rose in me again at that thought, covering over the possibility that I’d been wrong to say I’d never speak to him again. Putting the entire blame on him had seemed unfair because I had encouraged him to a large extent,

Uh, no, you didn't do any encouraging at all. The guy was just fixated on you from the start.

quote:

but the anger wiped out that feeling as well. It usually isn’t wise to let yourself walk around being angry, especially when the use of magic is involved, but this wasn’t a usual situation. If the anger kept me from being distracted by conflicting wants and desires, it seemed wiser to simply go with it.

So I took a deep breath to settle the anger down to a dull roar, and then walked through the opening into the practice area. Today I was supposed to perform those exercises while Soonen attacked me with her own magic, and for the first time since I’d learned about it I didn’t dread the coming experience. I was in the process of learning that anger sometimes turns fear into indignation, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Spoilers for this chapter continuing the incredibly trope-y characterization of Fire magic, yes anger makes your Fire magic stronger.

quote:

“Well, well, so you actually showed up,” a woman’s voice said, and then Soonen stopped not far from me. “I thought sure you would remember what we’ll be doing today and decide to stay in bed.”

“That’s your biggest problem, Soonen,” I countered, the coals of my anger glowing hot. “You don’t think, you just flap your big mouth. I happen to be more than eager to get started, so let’s get to it right now.”

“What a surprise,” the big woman scoffed, looking at me as if I were some sort of insect. “You’re in such a hurry to get started because you’re afraid your nerve will break, and then you’ll show everyone what a sniveling little coward you really are. If you had real nerve, you’d sit down first and have a leisurely cup of tea.”

I was an instant away from saying I’d have two cups of tea, but then rationality came to my rescue. If I sat down for any length of time at all, all those conflicting wants and desires plaguing me in the coach would come right back. I couldn’t let myself be distracted like that, so only one answer to Soonen’s challenge was possible.

“You want me to sit down for a while to give you the chance to work up the nerve to face me?” I asked with a mocking smile. “Really, Soonen, the extra time won’t do you any good at all, so we’ll skip the tea. Go and find Adept Gerdol, and tell him we’re ready to begin.”

The flashing look in Soonen’s eyes was a combination of frustration and fear, and then she’d turned away from me to stalk off toward the front of the eating area. She’d also gone faintly red at my accusation, which had been a considerable surprise.

I’d only been trying to insult and refuse the woman without being put on the defensive, but it looked like I might have struck the nail squarely on the head. Soonen did seem to be afraid to face me, which meant I couldn’t understand why she’d tried to antagonize me. Hadn’t she realized that that would only make things worse between us?

This is the only instance of suspicion that was merely written in a mediocre way instead of abysmal or absent.

quote:

No logical answer came for that question, so I shelved it for the moment and drifted after Soonen. The woman seemed to be heading for the table that Gerdol had been at yesterday, and sure enough the man was there with his friends. When Soonen spoke to him, her face looking drawn, he seemed startled and upset. They then exchanged a few words, after which Gerdol rose and joined Soonen in coming back to me.

“Well, good morning, Dama Domon,” Gerdol said heartily as he approached, his mustacheless whiskers rising with his smile.

Sorry, what? So Gerdol doesn't have any hair on his upper lip? Does he shave his upper lip but not his chin/cheeks/sideburns? Can anyone shed some light on what the hell this is supposed to look like?

quote:

“I certainly hope you had a pleasant evening and rest—but of course you must have. You’re just as lovely as ever.”

“Thank you,” I said with my own forced smile, fighting to keep my anger from taking over. “You’re very kind … as usual. Now I’d like to begin the testing.”

“Without first sharing a fortifying cup of tea?” he asked with brows raised, making it sound as though the practice was unheard of. “Surely you’ll join me for a brief time, Dama, while Adept Soonen serves the both of us…”



quote:

“That’s a really tempting offer, sir, but I must decline,” I said when his words trailed off on a coaxing note. I’d never be able to stand his greasy compliments without exploding… “I’ve come for no other reason than to gain the next masteries, and now I’d like to get to it.”

Gerdol and Soonen exchanged a glance, and strangely enough Soonen showed nothing of relief over not having to serve me. I’d been expecting her to be delighted, and the fact that she wasn’t became another puzzling item for the file of unanswered questions I’d begun to build.

“Very well, Dama, your wish is our command,” Gerdol finally allowed with a sickly smile, giving me the impression that he’d had no choice but to respond in that way. “Please follow us to the first of the cubicles.”

The two Adepts didn’t speak as they led the way, but I had the definite impression they wanted to. It would have been nice to know what was going on,

You DO know what's going on. You got a grand tour when you first arrived (Book 1, Chapter 42). Look, I know you're traumatized by Vallant's assholery last night at the pretend party, but you were literally here YESTERDAY.

quote:

but I was almost getting used to their way of doing things. When they reached the first cubicle Gerdol stopped, but Soonen continued around to the other side of it. The far side, like the near, had an opening in the clear resin wall with a free-standing curtain-wall three or four feet behind the opening.

“This exercise will be the same as it was yesterday, with one exception,” Gerdol said to me when I reached him. “You must burn every grain of sand in the gout thrown up by the device, but at the same time you must protect yourself from attack by Adept Soonen. Soonen is rather stronger than most around here, and for your sake I truly hope you are prepared for this. If not…”

He let his words trail off in an obvious attempt to frighten me, but obvious or not the attempt began to work. I could see Soonen clearly where she stood, and her arrogance seemed to have returned completely. I glanced away from her in my own obvious attempt to hide hesitation—and suddenly felt shocked. Down by the third cubicle, staring straight at me—It was Beldara Lant!

Who will be of absolutely no significance beyond this chapter. Sorry not sorry about spoilers.

quote:

For a moment I had trouble understanding why Beldara would be here, and then I realized that she must have managed to qualify on the very last day. I hadn’t seen her since the testing authority had taken her things and Eskin Drowd’s out of the house, probably expecting that neither of the two would qualify. But apparently Beldara had fooled them, and now she was here to try qualifying for the competitions.

And to stand there smirking her imagined superiority in my direction. Beldara had been raised to believe that she was the best at Fire magic ever to be born, and even coming out of her small town into the real world hadn’t brought her to a more reasonable attitude. Now she stood there, delaying her own practice, waiting for me to fail the way she’d always said I would.

The anger I’d begun with had cooled to uselessness, but seeing Beldara and her Soonen-like arrogance brought it back to full, roaring life. Both of those women tried to claim superiority with words rather than deeds, but I’d already stopped letting mere words defeat me.

In that case, you should have no problem telling Vallant "no".

quote:

“I’m ready,” I said to Gerdol in what was almost a snap as I drew myself up. “Tell Soonen to begin any time she feels up to it.”

Gerdol’s brows drew down as he gestured to Soonen, but his unhappiness and Soonen’s slight hesitation were no longer my concern. I’d reached for the power and had drawn it into myself, and abruptly found myself weaving two patterns of fire. The first would burn every bit of soil Gerdol now prepared to make the device throw into the air, and the second would keep Soonen’s efforts away from me. Distantly I realized that the second pattern was the same one I used to keep from burning anything but what I was supposed to, and that it was woven power rather than woven fire. But that didn’t matter to me now, not when there were masteries to achieve.

Remember this detail about woven power vs woven talent. It will become important in...like 6-7 books.

quote:

Gerdol used the lever to make the device throw soil into the air, and that, of course, was when Soonen struck. Even as my hottest fires consumed the soil completely, I was able to feel Soonen trying to set my clothes and hair alight. The way she clenched her fists said she tried really hard, but it just wasn’t possible for her to go around or through my protection.

Every time I hope that we'll get some specific details of what using the magic is like and how it works. Every time, Green disappoints.

quote:

“How was that?” I asked Gerdol when the soil was completely gone, pretending to ignore Soonen’s continuing efforts. “Worth another mastery, wouldn’t you say?”

“Yes, certainly, Dama,” Gerdol quickly agreed, apparently finding himself shaken by my stare. I still retained active contact with the power, of course, and felt as if I could face down the entire world. “You’ve achieved the first of your second-level masteries without a doubt. Let’s continue to the next.”

Gerdol now seemed to be in a rush to get on with it, and that was perfectly all right with me. As I moved after him and out of the cubicle entrance, Soonen’s attack was immediately cut off. With even a single resin wall between us, it would have to be.

We didn’t have to wait long for Soonen to stalk to the other side of the second cubicle, and it looked as if her temper had gotten the best of her. If determination were clothing, Soonen probably would have been muffled to the eyebrows. As soon as Gerdol released the spray of water I was to burn to a point beyond steam, her attack resumed slightly stronger than before. This time I happened to notice the actual level of her efforts, and decided not to consider her an Adept ever again. She was a fairly strong Middle talent, but that was a far cry from the operating level of a High.

Which means Beldara would be able to pass these masteries too! Because if Soonen is just a Middle, she never would have passed that first test for High.

quote:

“And now we have two new masteries,” I said to Gerdol once all the water was gone without a trace, smiling faintly at the way I’d called myself a High talent without blushing at the boastfulness of the claim. When I finally released my hold on the power I’d be absolutely exhausted, but for now I meant to enjoy the experience of life without fear or nervousness.

“Two, yes,” Gerdol muttered, his glance at Soonen putting a look of frustrated fear on his face. “You—ah—haven’t mentioned anything about the difficulty of being under attack. I hadn’t realized you would do so well with hiding your efforts to resist it.”

“You think I’m hiding my efforts well?” I asked with a very pleased smile, ignoring his roundabout attempt to get some details on the matter. “How nice of you to say that, Adept Gerdol. And now we’re ready for the third exercise, aren’t we?”

“Yes, surely,” the man muttered, then edged carefully behind me before leading the way. Soonen’s attack was now causing sparks to strike against my protection, but causing sparks was the most she could do against it. Flame was completely disallowed, and that no matter how red in the face she got.

I didn't remember this detail until I just read it, mainly because every other time we see Tamrissa defend against Fire magic, there's always actual flame, regardless of talent level. If this were a Sanderson-esque book, I'd be wondering why, but since it's Green, I'm calling plothole.

quote:

As we approached the third cubicle, I smiled faintly to see the fury in Beldara Lant’s eyes. She’d obviously seen me complete the first two exercises, and now clearly hated the fact that I hadn’t failed.

“You’ll have to move aside, young lady,” Gerdol said to her with impatience in his voice. “The dama is in the midst of achieving masteries, and that takes precedence over a beginner’s practice.”

“It so happens I’m ready to achieve masteries, too,” Beldara announced indignantly, humiliation burning hot in her cheeks. “Let that little do-nothing step aside and wait for me to show you how it’s supposed to be done.”

“Don’t be a fool, girl!” Gerdol snapped as Beldara turned back to the cubicle’s interior—only to stop and stare at Soonen. “This lady has already achieved the first-level masteries you’re only beginning to practice, and now she’s in the midst of second-level. Do you really want Adept Soonen to attack you the way she’s been doing with Dama Domon?”

“But … I haven’t seen any evidence of attack,” Beldara returned, trying for belligerence but achieving disturbance instead. “If that other one is supposed to attack her, she isn’t doing a very good job of it. This one probably paid her not to, and that’s why you think she’s so good. Yes, that’s probably it, she paid—”

“Beldara,” I interrupted her babbling, feeling my anger begin to climb again. “I’m not going to stand here and listen to your idiotic accusations. If you think Soonen’s been paid off, volunteer to take her place. But I do have to warn you: if you attack, I’ll probably find it impossible not to respond in kind.”

YES PLEASE!

quote:

Her eyes widened at that, her startled surprise over my new attitude more than clear. I’d never answered her challenge so directly before, and sudden lack of confidence made her wilt visibly.

“It’s … not my place to expose your shoddy little tricks,” she muttered as her gaze fell, the faintness of her tone belying the belligerence of her words. “They’ll find you out without me, and then—”

At that point she simply stopped talking and hurried away, obviously tired of making a fool of herself. Gerdol’s expression said it was about time, and my power-enhanced attitude simply agreed with him. At another time and place I might have felt sorry for Beldara, but right now the only thing concerning me was achieving the rest of the masteries.

Oh COME ON. Having Beldara attack Tamrissa would have been MUCH more interesting! Not only is Beldara stronger, but these two characters have beef. Why in the world would you NOT let them go at each other? I can't understand this decision! It trades the interesting for the boring and is inconsistent with who the characters are.

quote:

That third cubicle held wooden blocks carved into different shapes, and I burned the one Gerdol chose without harming any of the blocks around it. I had to divide my protective shield in order to do it, but that didn’t seem to affect the strength of the shield. It remained just as strong as it was originally, and that held true through the next two cubicles as well. First a strip of leather and then one of cloth burned without a problem, and the fact that Soonen was just about foaming at the mouth hadn’t increased the strength of her attacks.

When we finally reached the last cubicle, the awareness of exhaustion was a good deal sharper in my mind. When I released the power I’d probably fall, but achieving all the second-level masteries would even be worth getting bruised. Gerdol was now supposed to choose three feathers, and once I burned each of them cleanly I’d be able to rest and restore my strength.

“I think I’ll choose … the red, the pink, and the purple,” Gerdol said, pointing out the three widely spaced feathers in the sprawling stack. “You may begin whenever you wish, my dear, but you do seem a bit—fatigued. Perhaps you’d care for some tea before completing this last exercise. I’d be more than happy to permit it.”

“Thank you, no,” I answered, distantly disturbed over that “my dear.” And he was offering me tea again, as though he knew I’d be too tired to start over if I stopped now. Suspicion tried to flare in my mind, but I was even too tired for that. Instead I wiped at the sweat on my forehead with the backs of two fingers, then turned my attention to the designated feathers.

Sparks flew from my shield again while I burned the first two feathers, but before I could get to the third there was a sudden, shocking difference in the attack. I nearly staggered at the strength of it, and even worse, my shield trembled under the onslaught. I couldn’t imagine how Soonen had managed to find so much more strength, but then I caught a glimpse of Gerdol, who stood to my left. He stood in the same attitude of straining that Soonen did, which meant he’d now joined her attack.

That would have been the perfect point for my anger to return, but it couldn’t seem to get past rapidly growing fear. I knew it was beyond me to sustain the shield for long against this strong an attack, and when the shield fell I would certainly burn. Soonen’s frustration had gone on too long for her to be satisfied with burning no more than my clothes and hair, so my life was definitely on the line. If I faltered in protecting myself, I was as good as dead.

It's never really established how Fire magic works in terms of control, and whether higher levels of control are only possible for Highs or if Middles and Lows can do that too. Later on Tamrissa will burn clothes and hair off people and that's taken as a demonstration of her unparalleled control over fire, yet Tamrissa seems to think Soonen (a strong Middle) is capable of it.

quote:

Panic tried to grow from the fear, and it took almost all I had to prevent that. I had to think rather than panic, but the one thought that came was a risky one. If I drew in more of the power I should be able to maintain the shield, but I wasn’t sure I had the strength left to handle more power. If I didn’t I would be just as dead as a burnout, instead of simply burning up.

And that realization seemed to steady me. I had nothing at all to lose by trying for more power, since life would no longer be worth living if I couldn’t continue to advance to the competitions. With that in mind I opened myself wide, welcoming the golden strength pouring in rather than fearing it. It filled me completely with new vitality, calmed all my worries, and brought another idea that almost made me chuckle.

Not only do we have to suffer through these masteries over and over again, we also have to see everyone solve them in the exact same way. No ingenuity required whatsoever.

quote:

Soonen and Gerdol were attacking both in front and in back, so to speak. Their attempts to burn me to ash surrounded me completely, but somehow I was now able to perceive a … level they weren’t operating on. I’d never before been aware of that level, but now I could perceive it clearly—and knew I could use it. It would take my ability around the attacks somehow, and if I liked I could even attack in return.

FFS.

quote:

But mounting my own attack didn’t seem wise, not when it would cause a delay in my achieving the final mastery. It would do more good to hit the two so-called Adepts in a way that would hurt them in a different manner, and I knew just the thing. So I turned my attention back to the final feather, burned it cleanly, then slumped against the side of the cubicle and turned a weary smile on Gerdol.

“Done at last, and just in time,” I told him weakly, pretending I saw nothing of his efforts to destroy my shield. “I really need to sit down now, Adept Gerdol, and will appreciate your arm in assistance—as soon as you declare the final mastery.”

Gerdol turned white and the attack faltered, showing he’d probably pulled out of the joint effort. A moment later Soonen’s efforts stopped as well, and a glance in her direction showed me she’d collapsed into a seated slump against the back curtain-wall. They’d put everything they had into their final effort, and it had turned out not to be enough.

“C-congratulations, Dama, congratulations,” Gerdol stuttered, his face still white with fear. “You’ve now achieved the level of master, and as soon as I seat you at a table I’ll fetch your master’s bracelet and silver dins. Here, take my arm.”

Gerdol fussed over me nervously until he got me into a chair at the nearest available table, and only when he hurried off after ringing for a servant did I release my hold on the power. The world swirled dizzyingly for a moment then, but despite utter exhaustion I didn’t faint. I needed desperately to eat, drink, and rest, but other than that I seemed perfectly all right.

I gasped out, “Food and tea, quickly!” to the servant who came up to me, and once he rushed off I simply sat there and waited. It would have been nice if I’d had two strong arms around me to hold me up in the chair, but—

My mind clanged to a halt with the shock of that thought, especially since I knew exactly whose arms I’d been thinking about. It was Vallant Ro I wanted, Vallant Ro I’d wanted all along. I no longer had the strength to deny that, no matter how frightening the idea was. Constantly getting angry at him had been an escape reflex, to keep myself free and uninvolved.

FFS!!

quote:

But now I no longer seemed to want to be free, at least where he was concerned. I kept dreaming about being in his bed tomorrow night, and each of those dreams, both sleeping and awake, were filled with desire. I really, really wanted his arms around me, and tomorrow night I would have them.

Rather than having to fight a shiver of fear, I found myself smiling in anticipation. Even my real-world attitudes seemed to be changing, and I wondered if that was due to the power as well. I didn’t see how it could be, but the question wasn’t important enough to be disturbing.

Super lame attempt at foreshadowing. In addition to only depicting: two types of childhood, two types of parents, two types of sex, etc, Green also only uses two methods of foreshadowing. Either the characters insist that something couldn't possibly be the case, or the characters are super certain something is definitely the case. Regardless of which one, you can bet that it's going to turn out pretty much exactly as mentioned.

quote:

I simply sat back and smiled, and waited for Gerdol to return with my dins. And a master’s bracelet, which I’d have to remember to question him about.

You couldn't just let it go, could you?

quote:

And tonight … tonight I just might tell Vallant Ro how much I looked forward to being fair…



Summary:

Day 7
Rion Lorand Jovvi Vallant Tamrissa achieves his her his her second level mastery by nearly suffocating people to death exploding some oil, disintegrating some steel and playing with a puma enraging some people filling small boxes with water by condensing it from the air burning things while being attacked, including despite interference from his her his her two Adepts.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 35 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 17 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol
Vallant: Mirra Agran, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 48 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 34 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 8 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 6 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 38 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 20 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 36 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 21 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)

Possible fixes:
When I was doing the last chapter, I actually forgot we still had a Tamrissa mastery chapter to go–that's how much of a drag these chapters are. And I realized I mislabeled the day for the summaries in the previous posts so I need to go back and fix those.

Leng fucked around with this message at 09:52 on Feb 1, 2021

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN 

Homin was right there to greet Lord Rigos when the Advisory agent arrived, for once feeling less than completely terrified. The relatively peaceful and quiet days he’d passed in his own home had done wonders, so now it was just Rigos himself who brought Homin a generally broad fear. The small man seemed to have one or two character traits in common with the late Elfini, a circumstance which made Homin’s hands tremble even as he forced a smile.

Would have been nice to find out what those character traits actually are, but Green so carry on with the telling instead of showing.

quote:

“Ah, good day to you, Lord Homin,” Rigos said as he strolled past the servant holding the door without looking at the man. “Hosting our weekly meeting has given you the benefit of being precisely on time, but I do hope the intrusion won’t disturb your father. How is Lord Aston, by the way?”

“Actually, he isn’t here,” Homin answered while hurrying after Rigos, who was in the process of walking toward the main reception room. “He’s gone to the lake house to recover from his ordeal in peace, and so far has sent word only to tell me that he arrived safely.”

Rigos nodded casually at that as he kept going, bringing Homin the hope that the subject of his father would be dropped. Lord Aston Weil was not only in need of physical healing, he was also in jeopardy of losing his social and professional positions. Too many people now knew what his relationship with his wife had been, a knowledge which could well have ruined his political position for all time.

There is no way that this was secret from anybody who mattered before.

quote:

Homin’s father had explained that he needed to be out of touch until he was physically fit again, and then he’d shocked Homin by crying while saying a temporary goodbye. He and his father had never been all that close, and the only time they’d cried together was when Mother had died. The same hadn’t happened over Elfini’s death, and in fact they’d never even spoken about her.

I think I'm supposed to feel something here?

quote:

“And how are you bearing up in the aftermath of the tragedy?” Rigos asked as he reached the tea table, pausing to glance at Homin. “I now understand your previous comments about being unable to practice, by the way. I hadn’t realized that Lady Elfini would be so foolish as to interfere in an Advisory matter, but apparently she overestimated her husband’s political strength. You really should have told me, and I would have taken care of the problem.”

“I … couldn’t tell anyone about it,” Homin said, immediate and intense apology in his tone. “I had no way of knowing it would make any difference to you, and couldn’t imagine what you might do in any event.”

“What I would have done was have you moved at once to the residence you and the others of your group will soon share,” Rigos replied, turning with a cup of tea in his hands to stare expressionlessly at Homin. “Don’t you understand yet how important this matter is to us? If it were possible to replace you, it would have already been done. Your government needs you, Lord Homin, and what we need we protect.”

Spoilers for Book 4 the high nobility are using these competitions as a way to cull their ranks of deadwood

quote:

“Yes, of course, I should have realized,” Homin murmured as Rigos carried his cup of tea to a chair. What he actually realized was how serious the government really was about that competition business, and how angry they would be when he and his group disobeyed them and won. The thought was enough to make Homin wish he were with another, more docile group, but the wish lasted only a brief time. He still needed to be out and on his own, and then his father’s wives would no longer concern him. Others might think his father had learned to moderate his desires, but Homin knew better. And then he really heard something else Rigos had said.

I thought you actually liked your own mom?

quote:

“Excuse me, sir, but what was that about a residence the group is going to be moved to?” Homin asked while returning to his own chair and cup of tea. “I thought we were told we all had to remain in our own homes.”

“That applied only to the time of the preliminary process,” Rigos answered after tasting his tea, bringing that intense gaze of his back to Homin. “I’ll go into details about it once the others are here, and that way I won’t need to repeat myself. Until they arrive we can talk about other things, like the tragedy so recently past. Have the authorities found the culprit yet?”

Some other author would have found a way to make this dialogue flow more naturally without having to literally write things like "I'll tell you about it later so I don't repeat myself" in a series famous for repeating itself.

Has some brilliant literary author figured out how to make repetition work in books the way it works in music? Example from music: Steve Reich's Piano Phase, which is normally performed by two pianists but here's a version that's visualized in the browser http://www.pianophase.com/

quote:

“No, not yet,” Homin answered with a sigh, resigning himself to discussing the matter he would most prefer to forget. “It took a short while before the investigators were completely convinced that I had nothing to do with the murder, but happily Delin’s father’s household staff works around the clock. I was somewhat upset when I reached the house so Delin told them to keep an eye on me, and they did. One or another servant looked in on me constantly even when I was asleep, and they were able to tell that to the investigators.”

“How lucky for all of us that that’s so,” Rigos murmured with one of his frigid smiles. “The Advisors would have been furious if they’d had to interfere with the investigation. Everyone knows about the murder by now, of course, and it doesn’t matter if most people think Lady Elfini simply got what she deserved. They can’t allow any member of the nobility to be murdered without something being done about it, and that goes double for a member of the high nobility.”

“Yes, the investigators made me sit down and give them a list of everyone who had ever known Elfini,” Homin agreed, remembering how frightened and cornered he’d felt at the demand. “I wasn’t able to give them more than two or three names, but my father supplied dozens. As a matter of fact—”

“As a matter of fact, what?” Rigos prompted when Homin’s words broke off in mid sentence, the agent’s dark eyes intense. Homin had begun to tremble as he silently cursed his big mouth, but there was no getting out of it.

“As a matter of fact … your name was … on his list,” Homin answered slowly from a dry mouth. “Father said you and she had had … words once, but that was some time ago. And you weren’t the only one, so please don’t think—”

“No, no, it’s quite all right,” Rigos interrupted with one hand raised, his gaze now hooded and his face expressionless. “I’d been wondering if they knew about that incident, and now I know they do. The fact that they haven’t spoken to me about it undoubtedly means they’ve dismissed it as the unimportant spat it really was.”

Homin quickly and eagerly nodded his agreement, and then fell prudently silent. The fact that the investigators hadn’t spoken to Rigos really meant nothing, and Homin was certain Rigos knew it. But at least he wasn’t the one who had supplied Rigos’s name, thank any Superior Aspect there was…

Yes this is going exactly where you think it's going.

quote:

The silence was in the process of growing intense and painful when a happy interruption occurred. Kambil and Bron were shown in together, and while those two were helping themselves to tea, Delin and Selendi arrived together. Homin had known that would happen, but the surprise pulled Rigos out of his brown study.

“I’m impressed,” Rigos said, looking from one to the other of the new arrivals. “All of you are precisely on time, and without needing a life-threatening situation.”

“Actually, most of us have decided that we’re bored and want this matter over and done with,” Delin said for the group with a charming smile. “The best way to accomplish that is to keep the distractions to a minimum, so Kambil and I volunteered to help the others keep to the schedule. I hope you don’t mind?”

“On the contrary,” Rigos assured him, his frigid smile now somehow colder. “I feel I owe you two a vote of thanks, and will therefore include your selfless actions in my report. As soon as you’re all seated, we’ll be able to begin.”

That ended the conversation for the moment, but didn’t produce the hurry Rigos might have wanted. Homin watched his group peers examining the room while they waited for their turn at the tea urn, or at least some of them did the examining. Kambil had simply taken one glance around, and then had given all his attention to pouring tea. Delin seemed too pleased with what Rigos had said to bother with even that single glance, but the second two made up for the first.

Bron and Selendi wore an identical expression as they slowly looked around, and that expression wasn’t one of approval. The reception room was just as Homin’s mother had decorated it, since Elfini hadn’t yet gotten around to changing it. The old fashioned but very comfortable furniture and accessories had brought looks of ridicule to Selendi and Bron, which shockingly made Homin angry. It wasn’t cost or bad taste which had kept his father from modernizing the room, it was sentiment, and yet those two dared to look down on what was really his mother’s memory. Homin was completely unused to being angry, but in this case—!

This momentary flash of character will also go nowhere.

quote:

“And now we can begin,” Rigos said, pulling Homin out of distraction to see that everyone had chosen a seat. “Last week’s report was a satisfying improvement over previous ones, but this week’s is even better. Allow me to congratulate all of you on having achieved your second-level masteries.”

Thank goodness we didn't have to read about all of those as well.

quote:

Murmurs and comments blended into a soft gabble at that, and Rigos smiled his winter smile.

I should have started a murmur count but I'm already having enough trouble not messing up the counters every time. Note this and keep it in mind whenever we have a crowd of people.

quote:

“Yes, that does include Lord Homin, something you all seem to be asking,” he said with his version of amusement. “The excuse of not being able to practice was apparently no excuse after all, as Lord Homin quickly caught up to the rest of you once he had the opportunity to work at it.”

“Actually, we expected nothing less,” Delin said with a broad smile for Homin, taking some of the sting from Rigos’s ridicule. “We’ve all made a pact to do our utmost to keep ourselves from looking ridiculous during the competitions, and gentlemen never break a pact with other gentlemen. Besides, we all know how much it will please our families.”

“Yes, your families have been asked to be attentive to your efforts,” Rigos drawled, now sending his ridicule to all of them. “With all talk of decisions and pacts aside, that point still remains. I suggest you keep it firmly in mind over the next several days.”

No one responded to that, and Homin could see how pleased the silence made Rigos. The agent obviously believed it was fear of parental displeasure which had finally moved them all to proper behavior, and that was precisely what they all wished him to believe. Selendi looked sullen, Bron resentful, Delin annoyed, and Kambil bland, and that seemed to please Rigos as well.

Spoilers for Book 4 remember these families have agreed to have their offspring drafted for this farce of a competition knowing that the entire purpose of the competition is to cull the dead wood from their ranks. That's taking the theme of terrible families and parents to the next level, though because Green hasn't tried to foreshadow any of this, if you're reading this for the first time, you have no sense of this whatsoever unless you're doing a close read, which most people wouldn't be, because of all the horrible repetition that makes this such skimmable writing.

quote:

“You now have two scheduled events before you,” Rigos went on once he’d had his enjoyment. “The first comes on the evening of the first rest day after week’s end, and is a reception being given in the palace. All competing groups will attend, ours as well as theirs, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who ‘theirs’ is.”

“You don’t mean the peasants?” Selendi asked with an expression of shock. “But that’s disgusting! Isn’t it bad enough we have to lower ourselves to compete with them? Asking us to associate with them is completely unreasonable.”

“You won’t be there to associate, but to study,” Rigos answered, giving her a withering look and then one of dismissal before turning his main attention to Kambil and Delin. “Your Blending will face one or more of the Blendings they form, and after the reception you’ll be given even more information about them. The information will mean more to you if you can attach faces as well as names to it.”

Spoilers for the end of this book the nobles are just as bad at investigating as the protagonists.

quote:

“What do you mean, we’ll be facing one or more of their groups?” Delin asked, leaning forward with concentration. “We’ve been told nothing about this, so it’s about time we were.”

“That’s one of the reasons we’re gathered here today,” Rigos replied comfortably, his attitude saying that Delin should have known that without being told. “There will be five noble groups and five peasant groups competing for the Throne, and the first round of competitions will pair one noble group and one peasant group. The winning group of each pair will face another winning group in the second round, and if all the peasants—or your own group—haven’t lost in the first round, you’ll need to face a second group of them.”

There you have it, it's a knock out style tournament, but with the brackets based on bloodlines instead of seeding Blendings based on ability.

quote:

“But of course they’ll all lose in the first round,” Bron said with a snort of ridicule. “They’re peasants, aren’t they, which means they don’t stand a chance against us. That also means we’ll only have to face a single group of the rabble, so why will we have to learn about all of them? Why not just the group we’ll be facing?”

“There are two reasons for what you consider a waste of time, Lord Bron,” Rigos responded, now using that ridicule on a new target. “The first is that we won’t know for certain which group you’ll be facing until the pairing is approved by the board appointed to oversee the competitions. Our suggestions have usually been accepted in the past, but not always. If someone on the board decides to change them, you have to be ready.”

This will basically not happen.

quote:

Homin could see the way Bron’s jaw clenched, but the big man didn’t respond to Rigos’s taunting. And then, with a great deal of surprise, the reason for that came to Homin: Bron feared Rigos almost as much as he did! It was a revelation to think that the flamboyant, undisciplined man was no better than Homin in that respect, which definitely made it something to remember.

All of this suspicious behavior from Homin should make you suspicious indeed. Book 3 spoilers on a reread I think these are the first signs of Kambil influencing Homin. If Green were a better writer, it would stick out a lot more but unfortunately the rest of her prose is littered with this type of tell not show crap that it really doesn't register on an initial read.

quote:

“And what’s the second reason?” Kambil asked quietly when no one else did. “I, for one, am grateful for the help that’s been given me, and I intend to continue being grateful—especially for necessary information.”

“I would expect no less from you, Lord Kambil,” Rigos said with a small inclination of his head. “With that in view, the second reason is that peasant groups have won in the first round, usually against groups like the one yours was just a short time ago. If one of the groups of your peers grows indifferently lax, it will certainly happen again.”

“So it’s to our own benefit to learn as much about the peasants as we can,” Delin said, pretending to speak to Rigos while actually speaking to Homin and the others. “Since that’s the case, I think you can depend on me at least to do all the studying necessary.”

Homin nodded with most of the others to show he joined them in agreeing, but Bron still seemed annoyed.

“In my opinion it’s a waste of time to worry about them, but I won’t stop anyone who enjoys wasting his time.” Bron glanced at Delin then, and Homin had the impression that Delin was part of Bron’s annoyance.

*snore*

quote:

“What else is there that we need to know?”

“You might want the details of the second scheduled event,” Rigos suggested, the disdain in his expression showing his opinion of Bron. “That will come at the beginning of the new week, when you’ll all be moved into a single residence. You’ll need to be together once you’ve been formed into a Blending, and that’s the only way to accomplish it.”

“It better not be small, or dirty, or without decent servants,” Selendi told him sourly while everyone else made a sound of surprise. “And it better not be old and ugly, or I just won’t go. If any of my friends ever saw me in a house that was old and ugly, my social life would be over.”

“I’m sure your social life will survive with flying colors,” Delin said to her quickly before Rigos was able to voice his very obvious exasperation. “We all have to make sacrifices, remember, but I’m sure this won’t be one of yours. The Advisors need our participation too badly to put us into a hovel—isn’t that true, Rigos?”

“Of course it is,” Rigos confirmed with vast annoyance. “Anyone with a mind would have known that without being told. We’ll expect you to have your clothes and possessions packed and ready to go first thing in the morning, and if you aren’t ready that will be your loss. The reception will begin somewhat early, so be sure you’re ready for that as well. And now it’s time for me to go, but first I’d like a private word with Lord Kambil. A lady has asked me to pass on her … greetings.”

The least subtle excuse ever for asking a spy to report.

quote:

His smile was coldly amused as he rose and headed for the door, making no effort to see if Kambil actually followed. But Homin realized he didn’t have to look, since Kambil followed the agent out of the room without hesitation. Kambil was big enough to break Rigos in half, and politically powerful enough to get no more than a slap on the wrist if he ever did. Rigos surely knew that, but he still demanded Kambil’s attention—and got it.

That was one of the things power did for you, Homin mused as he watched the door close behind the two men. It was a frightening thing to consider, but if their plans were successful he might one day have that much power … or even almost that much … and then he would be safe from everyone…

Why exactly is it frightening?

Summary:

Day 7
Rion/Lorand/Jovvi/Vallant/Tamrissa achieves his/her second level mastery by nearly suffocating people to death/exploding some oil, disintegrating some steel and playing with a puma/enraging some people/filling small boxes with water by condensing it from the air/burning things while being attacked, including/despite interference from his/her two Adepts.

Homin hosts the next meeting which is a giant infodump explaining the plot for the rest of this book and Book 3.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 35 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 17 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol
Vallant: Mirra Agran, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 48 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 34 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 8 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 7 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 40 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 20 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 37 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 21 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)

Possible fixes:
The whole purpose of this chapter is exposition about the competitions/tournament. It is stupid and lazy writing. Since this is the method by which the rulers of an entire Empire are selected, the mechanism for how it all works should be common knowledge and part of learning about the history of the Empire. Everyone should already know how many Blendings are to compete and that it's a knockout tournament. The stuff about moving into one residence is neither here nor there–I think it's literally for Green to manufacture co-living drama–so should not be told in advance but shown when it happens, in ways that reveal character or further worldbuilding and/or plot. Green's had 72 chapters across one and a half books to seed in all of this worldbuilding about how the next Seated Blending ascends the Fivefold Throne so the fact that she's choosing to just dump it all here in undisguised expository dialogue is an affront to readers everywhere.

Contrast how the Hunger Games handles this: we get all of the info about the Hunger Games via Katniss's internal monologue on the day of the Reaping. In 5,123 words, Chapter One establishes Katniss, her protectiveness of Prim and their mother, the world of the Seam and District 12, her thing with Gale and skill with the bow/survival, the alternate timeline which led to the Capitol and the establishment of the Hunger Games including the rules, Effie Trinket and closes with the inciting incident of Prim's name being reaped. Collins does more in ONE FREAKING CHAPTER than Green does in one and half books.

Alternate approach is Will Wight's Cradle. The concept of the Uncrowned King tournament is first introduced in Underlord (Book 6), though we got hints of it at the end of Ghostwater (Book 5). We get little chunks of exposition throughout the early part of the book but the bulk of it is delivered by Yerin to Lindon via dialogue, which you buy because Lindon's from an isolated place in the middle of nowhere and he doesn't know anything about anything. The intricacies of the tournament itself and the rules for each round aren't explained until Uncrowned (Book 7), and Wintersteel (Book 8) focuses entirely on the match ups in the tournament and the character arcs. Arguably you could consider Uncrowned/Wintersteel as one book which was split for publishing schedule reasons, because so many people were pissed off that the book ended in the middle of the tournament.

Anyway, I digress. The details about the rules, etc were either conveyed in an official context of "here's a tournament official reminding everyone of what is and isn't allowed" or a character reflecting on "I tried to do this thing and the tournament officials took it off me/allowed it because of how they interpreted the rules" in the context of their strategy and immediate tactics for winning their current round. The rules were constraints and part of the playing field that characters had to navigate in order to be successful.

Green's trying to portray a corrupt nobility running things stacking the game. Which is fine! But then she's also written really reactive characters who just sit around being shepherded until they get to the right point in the plot whereby they win because they're born magically powerful. This is so boring–there's no sense of struggle towards the goal, there's no sacrifice that the characters are making, there's not even any character growth or change at all.



I think having a backdrop of corrupt nobility/agents is fine, with different factions trying to rig the outcome in their favor. That's natural and believable. It just means that there's either got to be a real sense of an underdog sports story (e.g. skill/dedication beats resources or whatever) or a story that's less focused on the magical battles and more on the political shenanigans behind the scenes (e.g. political intrigue, assassinations, bribery, extortion, financial scheming, etc).

Leng fucked around with this message at 09:51 on Feb 1, 2021

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




What gets me about the tournament structure that is so belabored in these books is that despite everyone in the testing authority being in on the conspiracy, they seem to go out of their way to make things seem "fair" for no reason. Things like shuffling Tamrissa around on Day 1 so that she's as exhausted as the out-of-towners, the multiple levels of mastery required to advance to the next level, or randomly shuffling the pairings of the peasant vs noble Blendings...ultimately they aren't impactful since the whole thing is rigged, so their only purpose is to put on a show of balance to placate the participants. Except no one would comment on these extra fairness measures or notice their absence if they weren't explicitly called out by the testing authority in the first place. (And they are particularly unnecessary because all of the participants are under the influence of mind control and can be ordered to think everything is fine.)

Ultimately it seems like their only purpose might be to fool the reader into thinking the testing authority is behaving fairly, except we also see them cackling to themselves in secret board meetings so we know that's not true either.

quote:

quote:

“Well, good morning, Dama Domon,” Gerdol said heartily as he approached, his mustacheless whiskers rising with his smile.
Sorry, what? So Gerdol doesn't have any hair on his upper lip? Does he shave his upper lip but not his chin/cheeks/sideburns? Can anyone shed some light on what the hell this is supposed to look like?

Up until today I thought that "whiskers" and "mustache" were synonyms but apparently not. (Follow that link for some surprise erotica that inexplicably made it through dictionary editing.) If mustache is the upper lip and whiskers are the chin and/or cheeks, then Gerdol might look something like this:

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:

What gets me about the tournament structure that is so belabored in these books is that despite everyone in the testing authority being in on the conspiracy, they seem to go out of their way to make things seem "fair" for no reason.

I think we might actually get to the canon reason in either this book or the next one. Actually, wait, I think it's Book 4 there are independent judges or a panel of commoners or whatever the term is who are on the lookout to ensure there's no been no tampering by the nobles organizing the competitions, I think we'll get a passing reference to it in an Eltrina or Embisson POV. Then in Book 4, Meerk is one of them and he's shattered - first when Lorand breaks it to him when they're at the challenges for the Seated High in Earth magic, and then Tamrissa breaks it again when he's rescued the protagonists because he thought the noble Blending won fair and square.

wizzardstaff posted:

Up until today I thought that "whiskers" and "mustache" were synonyms but apparently not. (Follow that link for some surprise erotica that inexplicably made it through dictionary editing.) If mustache is the upper lip and whiskers are the chin and/or cheeks, then Gerdol might look something like this:



that's uh, distinctive.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT 

Delin watched Kambil walk out behind Rigos, and made sure to keep nothing but a pleasant smile on his face. Inside himself was another matter, however, where suspicion had suddenly sprouted. Kambil might be one of his people, but that still didn’t mean he liked or trusted the man.

I don't know why you bother, Delin, Kambil's got Spirit magic so how you're feeling is no secret at all.

quote:

“I wonder what that’s all about,” Bron said, still watching the door Delin had turned away from. “And I hadn’t realized those two were such good friends.”

“It might be a good idea to ask Kambil when he returns,” Delin said, giving the thickheaded Bron the prompting the man always seemed to need. “For myself, I’m going to get another cup of tea.”

Bron could be replaced with a life sized cardboard cutout of him and I'm pretty sure other than the actual magic stuff which comprises like 1% of the actual books, he wouldn't be missed.

quote:

Bron grunted his agreement with the suggestion as Delin rose, but he didn’t seem very happy about doing it. Something was obviously bothering Bron, but at least he had the good sense not to mention whatever it was while Rigos was still in the house. For all they knew, the agent might be simply standing and listening at the door, with Kambil out there in the hall just to fool them. Kambil would be unable to call out and warn them; if he tried it, Rigos would be instantly certain that they were up to something.

you guys are High talents, maybe just freaking open up to the power and sense where they are?

quote:

All of which convinced Delin that the time had come to rid them all permanently of Rigos’s presence. As he poured tea into his cup, Delin frowned, wishing it were possible to save Rigos for a more lingering and painful ending. That was something he’d been looking forward to, but now he had to admit that waiting would simply be too dangerous. Rigos already knew them far too well, and if he discovered the least hint of what they were up to he would inform on them at once.

So here's a massive plothole: we know from way back in early Book 1 that all of the commoner Blendings were given mind control drugs. What about the noble Blendings? Spoilers for Book 3 they weren't, or at least weren't drugged with the same control phrase, because Delin sends the information to the protagonists in a letter and if you're keyed to that phrase, even seeing the words would trigger you. That means if the noble Blendings WERE drugged, they were given a different control phrase. How exactly were the organizers planning to force the other noble Blendings to lose to their handpicked Blending, especially when Book 3 spoilers that handpicked Blending is significantly weaker than every other Blending? Everything we've seen so far indicates that no Middle could ever defeat a High head to head, which means there's no way a Middle Blending could ever defeat a High Blending head to head either. Were there going to be a bunch of Spirit magic link groups off to the side standing at the ready? And as we'll see in the later books, Puredan isn't exactly hard to come by if you're a noble with enough gold and the right agents, which all of these people sound like they would be?

quote:

And as it happened, Delin knew exactly how to get rid of Rigos without any of the group getting involved. His frown turned to a smile as he remembered how easily the plan had come to him, appearing complete and fully detailed when he awoke two days ago. If that didn’t show that his destiny was for greatness, nothing else would. A problem arose, but the true leader of the group already had an answer to take care of it.

Hmmmmn...a fully formed plan just magically appearing in your thoughts? Spoilers for the end of Book 3 Kambil hard at work here.

quote:

“How long are they going to be out there?” Selendi demanded as she stood and flounced over to refill her own teacup. “I mean, just how long does it take to give a man a message from a girl?”

“Some girls send messages on more than a single subject,” Bron told her with a laugh. “I know you have no idea what those other subjects are, my sweet, but don’t let that worry you. No one expects you to.”

“As if you would know about other subjects,” Selendi returned, faint color in her cheeks as she glared at Bron. “The only thing you know about is—”

An exchange between these two facsimiles of mediocre characters is the last thing I want to read, in an already incredibly boring sequence.

quote:

Her words broke off as the door opened again, just a heartbeat before Delin would have broken up the squabble. Kambil came back in, closing the door again behind him.

“He’s gone,” Kambil announced as he headed back for his seat and teacup. “I walked him to his carriage, watched him pull away, then told one of the servants to let us know immediately if he happens to come back.”

“And he gave you your message?” Bron asked him without the cueing Delin was ready to perform. “It seems strange that you two should be close enough for something like that.”

“There was no message, Bron,” Kambil replied with faint surprise, as though he’d expected everyone to know the truth. “He wanted to thank me privately for that ‘report’ I sent him last week. Don’t you remember that I told all of you what I was doing?”

This is as subtle as Green gets with her butler and maid dialogue. No wonder she had to characterize all these people as incompetent idiots–it's to give her an excuse for her bad writing.

quote:

“Oh, yes, that business about repeating things said by members of other groups at parties,” Delin interrupted, only now remembering about it. “So you made things up and he liked them, did he?”

“But I didn’t make things up,” Kambil corrected with faint amusement in his eyes. “I may have … reworded some of what I heard, but every bit of it was really said—in one way or another. I even included quotes from Bron and Selendi.”

“What?” Bron exploded, rising from his chair. “You told that—that—deficient something about me?”

“You and Selendi,” Kambil corrected again, apparently completely undisturbed by Bron’s anger. “I said I heard you musing aloud a time or two about what you would do if our group ever actually won the Throne, but Delin, Homin, and I were too bored to speculate about something that would never happen. Selendi, though, thought your ideas were marvelous, and went on to discuss how many servants she would have and how many new gowns if she were one of the Five on the Throne. Rigos told me he found that part of it amusing.”

“But not suspicious, which it would have been if he hadn’t said anything about us at all,” Delin explained to a still-angry Bron, trying to settle the man down. “Rigos couldn’t have been surprised to hear you have ambition, Bron, but without the support of the rest of us your ambition is nothing to worry about.”

I seriously want to know what incentive these guys have been given to toe the party line about not winning the Throne. Like, what kind of incentive can you give people to NOT seize ultimate power in a oliarchy? (is that right? since obviously not a monarchy?)

quote:

“It better be that way,” Bron growled, glaring another moment at Kambil before switching his stare to Delin. “And you and I have something to discuss. I’m the leader of this group, and I didn’t like the way you made it look as if you and Kambil were. Maybe Selendi needs help to get to a meeting on time, but I don’t need anyone nursemaiding me.”

“Bron, that was just more misdirection,” Delin told the fool, pretending to be wearily repentant. “I’m sorry if what I said disturbed you, but I was trying to keep Rigos from realizing that you’re our leader. Would you like me to apologize more fully?”

“No … no,” Bron decided, his anger having drained out to leave his head in its usual empty state. “Now that I understand what you were doing, you don’t have to apologize. Just warn me in advance next time…

This stupid jockeying for position is also something I don't want to read about. Like exploring the power dynamic in a Blending seems all well and good, but like everything else with Green, she's only going to portray two possibilities: everyone is in full equal poly love awesomeness OR everyone is totally obsessed with being the acknowledged "leader". Neither situation makes allowances for power dynamics due to conflicts between characters' motives/morals/values because I'm pretty sure her characters don't have any.

quote:

And now we can get to discussing these other things Rigos wants us to do. I happen to have made plans for the time we’re supposed to be at that reception, so I say we ‘forget’ to go.”

“But we can’t do that,” Homin blurted, startling everyone, apparently including himself. “I mean, we’ll be facing some of those people in the competitions. If we don’t learn all we can about them, we might lose. Once we’re seated on the Throne, we’ll be able to have any girls we want.”

“I agree with Homin,” Kambil said with a smile of encouragement for the fat little man, while Bron developed a stubborn look. “We do need to see who we’ll be up against, and maybe even do a bit more. If we can get one or two from each group to tell us about any problems their groupmates might have, it will give us even more of an advantage. And if any of them happen to be pretty girls, Bron, we’ll certainly need your help.”

“Yes, I suppose you would,” Bron grudged, finally coming around to reason. “All right, here’s what we’ll do: we’ll go to that stupid reception, talk to those peasants as though we considered them actual people, and I’ll handle any attractive females there might be. We find out everything we can, and that way we won’t have any surprises during the competitions. Is all that clear?”

Everyone nodded without comment, just as though the plan were Bron’s and he’d only just unveiled it. Delin found it ludicrous to think that a supposedly grown man had no idea he was being led around, but apparently everything about Bron was ludicrous.

Not-spoilers: Bron will do absolutely nothing at the reception.

quote:

“Now we’re up to this business about moving into a residence together,” Bron said after a short pause. “That happens to be something I approve of, since we’ll then be out from under our fathers’ thumbs. As long as we don’t get in the way of each other’s private lives, things should work out nicely.”

We don't really get the ages of the noble Blending clearly stated in text but it's safe to assume that they're also about 18-22. Since coming of age seems to be at about 15 in the Blendingverse and also that they're nobles and therefore living at the family estate is a normal thing, this should be an unusual step, but unfortunately the only thing going through my head is this:


quote:

“And as long as the place is decent,” Selendi apparently felt compelled to add again. “I simply refuse to live in a shack, and I expect the rest of you to back me up on this. Unless one of you wants to live in a shack.”

She looked at each of them in turn, and to Delin’s amusement they each solemnly assured her that they did not want to live in a shack. That seemed to satisfy the empty-headed girl, so Delin was able to get on with truly important things.

“Bron, don’t you think we all ought to keep practicing while we’re waiting to be formed into a Blending?” he said, giving the idiot another prod. “And I, at least, would like to congratulate Homin on catching up to the rest of us so quickly despite the tragedy in his life. We’re proud of you, Homin, and doubly proud that you’re one of us.”

Homin reddened and began to stutter through a thank-you for what Delin had said, but Bron managed to ruin the mood by adding, “As long as he continues to keep up. I can’t see that he’ll be terribly important to the Blending, but one weakness can weaken us all. That’s why I want all of you to continue practicing, and if you have any problems, make an appointment to see me. We’ll see each other again at the reception, and now let’s all go home.”

Spoilers for Book 3 when we find out more about Blendings we'll be told that Fire is the talent responsible for attack and defence, and Spirit is for balancing and we will not get any other information about what the other talents are supposed to do. Though you would think that Water being the elemental opposite of Fire should in theory be a pretty important part of defence since all magical combat by Blending in the arena basically boils down to "burn the other guys with Fire" which frustrates me no end because they just don't even try with any aspect.

quote:

Homin tried to tell them that they were welcome to stay for a while and visit, but everyone seemed to feel as smothered by that old house with its tasteless furnishings as Delin did. They all claimed prior commitments and escaped, and in just a few minutes Delin was in his carriage and on his way back home.

But not to stay there. He smiled as he thought about the first step in his plans, which was to go and dig up the knife which had done such a thorough job on Elfini. Then he would remove every trace of himself from the thing, every drop of sweat and every hint of bodily oil. The third step would take him secretly to Rigos’s house, where physical traces of the man would be everywhere. It had never before occurred to Delin that those traces might be transferred to the cleansed knife, but with Earth magic it was more than possible. Then he would rebury the knife, somewhere on Rigos’s property.

Repeating my request for somebody good at/interested in writing detective procedurals to do a rewrite of this sequence from the perspective of the investigators of Elfini's death because this could legitimately be interesting. If anyone likes checking out goon works in progress, newts has a CC thread (detectives in an alt-universe with psychic powers) going on which I've been following with interest.

quote:

Then would come the fourth step, which would be the “accidental” meeting with Atri Folgar, a girl pretty enough to make you forget that her father was one of the Advisors’ top investigators—and that she was bright as well as pretty. Delin usually chatted and flirted with her, but this time his chatting would casually mention how strange his group’s “protector” Rigos was. It would turn out that Delin had heard someone say something about Rigos and Elfini, a passing comment that had made him believe Rigos was more closely involved with Elfini than anyone had realized. Then Delin would make a delicately rude comment about the tastes of some men before changing the subject.

Or, you know, if you bothered to talk with Homin, or if Green had structured this sequence better, you could just use the truth that Elfini and Rigos had beef without needing to make anything up.

quote:

Which ought to make Atri mention the conversation to her father. That part of the ploy was dangerous, but not overly so. Since a weapon had been used to commit the murder rather than ability, no one should suspect a man with High ability. Rigos was the one who would come under suspicion, enough of it for the investigators to bring in a Middle talent strong enough to locate hidden, finished metal. The buried knife stood out sharply to Delin’s least probe, so even a Middle talent ought to be able to find it.

“It’s a good thing they didn’t try that before now,” Delin muttered very softly to himself with a chuckle. No one had thought to search the grounds surrounding the victim’s own house, not when the murderer must have taken the weapon away with him. When they found it on Rigos’s property there would still be traces of Elfini’s blood on it, something the physician who had examined the body would be able to confirm. That, along with Rigos’s own traces, would settle his hash, and Delin’s group would no longer have to worry about premature discovery.

OMFG, if you had Earth magic talents on the investigative team who are effectively walking DNA dowsers, why would you NOT search the premises? That's like murder scene 101, or something. Either Green has never watched a crime procedural or the investigators in this world are just incompetent. Maybe it's both.

quote:

“And his trial ought to be quite entertaining,” Delin murmured to the passing scenery. “He’ll be arrested at once, of course, but the trial might well be delayed until the new Five are enthroned. If so, I’ll enjoy the time even more.”

Delin shows a bizarre lack of understanding of how trials work in this world. Which is another bizarre plot hole of sorts, since he's supposed to be a well educated noble. We'll see an actual trial in Book 3.

quote:

Delin chuckled again, picturing Rigos’s father disassociating himself rather than trying to help Rigos. With the victim a member of the high nobility, no one would get away with no more than a slap on the wrist for committing the crime. But even if Rigos were to get away with it, Delin would be far from disappointed. The man would still be ruined, which meant no one would notice if he suddenly disappeared.

Yes, Delin thought, and then I could have my cake as well as eat it. His mind went off to picture the joy he would find in having Rigos his to end slowly and painfully, and the smile remained on his face for quite some time.

That last sentence is a horrid mess that no competent copyeditor would have approved for print.

Summary:

Day 7
Rion/Lorand/Jovvi/Vallant/Tamrissa achieves his/her second level mastery by nearly suffocating people to death/exploding some oil, disintegrating some steel and playing with a puma/enraging some people/filling small boxes with water by condensing it from the air/burning things while being attacked, including/despite interference from his/her two Adepts.

Homin hosts the next meeting which is a giant infodump explaining the plot for the rest of this book and Book 3. Delin spends the rest of the meeting planning to pin Elfini's murder on Rigos.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 35 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 17 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol
Vallant: Mirra Agran, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 50 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 35 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 8 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 8 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 40 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 20 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 38 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 21 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)

Possible fixes:
Assuming that Rewrite Book 2 has a murder somewhere either at the end of Act I or at the midpoint of Act II, then I would in all likelihood do a subplot from the POV of the investigators. It's way more interesting keeping the identity of the killer secret and having multiple suspects, than the way Green handles it (Book 4 spoilers it was Kambil. Delin wanted to kill Elfini but got stage fright and forced Kambil to murder her and then Kambil messed around with his memories and this reveal was just not really that great in the scheme of things honestly).

Alternatively, if we're going to know who did it, then the consequences need to actually be real (which despite what's said over and over in text, there are no real consequences to Elfini's murder). Or it needs to happen like Words of Radiance spoilers Adolin shafting Sadeas in a fit of opportunistic rage rather than as a pre-mediated attempt so it's more of a "uh oh, that went further than I intended" so that it escalates the plot in one of those "did it work? yes AND this also happened" things.

Or Jade City spoilers the one plot thing that happened that I did like was at the end of Part I where Lan fends off Bero's murder attempt but dies because he's OD'd on SN1 and falls into the harbor and drowns. That was one of the moments that stood out in a book which overall I felt was just okay.

Leng fucked around with this message at 09:50 on Feb 1, 2021

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Those independent investigators must be utter crap at their jobs, if the corruption in the testing authority runs so deep that multiple Middles of each aspect are openly cheating against applicants and no one has said anything.

quote:

OMFG, if you had Earth magic talents on the investigative team who are effectively walking DNA dowsers, why would you NOT search the premises? That's like murder scene 101, or something. Either Green has never watched a crime procedural or the investigators in this world are just incompetent. Maybe it's both.

This sort of thing is all over Green's worldbuilding and it reminds me of the way some people approach magic in D&D. They'll take a spell like Create Water and decide they're going to go make a killing selling drinks in a desert community--because despite being a basic spell that requires virtually no effort in the magic system, no one in the world has thought of this before and that economic niche is entirely unfilled. It's a consequence of not thinking through the effects would be on society of such a fundamental change to the world.

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 literally never see any of those independent observers, ever. They're just kind of mentioned by other characters during other boring conversations and meetings. And I vaguely remember something about that they only get brought in later once Blendings have formed and not before, so that might be Green's explanation, but we'll see!

wizzardstaff posted:

It's a consequence of not thinking through the effects would be on society of such a fundamental change to the world.

This!! I don't expect every writer to go to Sanderson/Tolkien levels of worldbuilding but there needs to be some bare minimum effort otherwise I just keep getting kicked out of a story that I'm trying my best to enjoy.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE 

Vallant came to the dinner table pretty much with everyone else, except for Tamrissa Domon. He’d been there earlier in the day when Tamrissa and Jovvi had returned in their coach, with Tamrissa sound asleep. Jovvi had had one of the servants carry Tamrissa to her bedchamber, and Vallant had firmly squashed the automatic thought that he would have enjoyed carrying the girl. He now wanted no more to do with Tamrissa than she wanted with him, and he was glad that she’d slept away the entire day—as had some of the others.

And now she was late coming down to dinner, almost as late as Pagin Holter. The small man had been there for lunch, actually joining the table conversation without being prodded into it, and afterward had even spent a short time chatting with Lorand Coll. That was the last Vallant had seen of him, and when Tamrissa hurried into the room, he was the last of them still missing.

Dun dun dun! (yes it's what you think it is)

quote:

“I’m sorry for being late, everyone,” Tamrissa said with an embarrassed smile meant for all of them as she took her place at the table. “I managed to exhaust myself during those tests, and it was hard to get up even after sleeping all day. Has anyone sent a servant to see what’s keeping Dom Holter?”

Jovvi seemed about to answer, but Warla’s sudden appearance kept the words from being spoken. The shy girl seemed to be just as nervous as always, and she cleared her throat to announce her presence, just as though everyone hadn’t already seen her come in.

“Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, but you have a visitor,” the girl quavered once it was clear that she had everyone’s attention. “Lady Eltrina Razas would like a few minutes of your time.”

“Thank you, child,” Eltrina Razas said, making an entrance befitting what she obviously thought was her proper station and due. Vallant didn’t like the woman, and wouldn’t have trusted her behind his back under any circumstances.

“Yes, my dear people, I come with news,” Eltrina continued, beaming around at them. “First let me congratulate all of you on achieving your second-level masteries, which your bracelets proudly announce. And you have my thanks for settling another week’s finances.”

The woman grinned at the “joke” she’d make, but Vallant wasn’t the only one who did no more than smile politely. They’d gotten the silver they’d been promised, but the gold was still nowhere in sight.

This is still the stupidest arrangement ever. Not just from the poorly thought out logistics, or the inefficient use of a very senior person's time, but also the fact that you never want more money flying around than can actually be helped. That's just asking for fraud to happen.

quote:

“Now to the news that I think will please you,” the woman went on, apparently ignoring the lack of enthusiasm over her attempt at humor. “Tomorrow morning you’ll all be going to the first of the competitions, where victory will mean the gold you were promised. Doesn’t that sound good?”

This time she got more of a reaction from everyone, especially since Vallant felt as though she’d read his mind. Fear tried to come at the thought of his having to enter that small, windowless building, but Vallant pushed it away to worry about later.

“Yes, I thought you’d enjoy hearing that,” Eltrina said once the exclamations had died down, her smile having grown sleek. “You might also be interested in learning that those of you who win will get something in addition to the gold. The day after tomorrow there will be a reception at the palace for all successful candidates, and if you qualify you’ll be attending it.”

The reaction to that news was more of a shocked silence, which Vallant was forced to admit he participated in. In general the idea of nobility left him vastly unimpressed, but the Five’s palace was another matter entirely. Ordinary people had to be satisfied with seeing it from the outside—and at a distance—but they’d just been given personal invitations … assuming they won.

This concept really boggles me. Palaces in monarchies are important locations and heaps of people work there, or go there to do business or as supplicants, etc. There was some random mention that noble houses have seats in an assembly - does that assembly not meet here? Are the monarchs ceremonial figureheads? What is the balance of power between the Advisory Board and the assembly and the monarchs? This is kind of important if you're trying to set up a political intrigue which is coming in a few books! Why didn't we get this kind of info from the noble POVs that were introduced instead of the boring crap we got instead?

quote:

“That’s very exciting news, Lady Eltrina,” Tamrissa said, and there was a sparkle of excitement in her beautiful eyes. “I’m sure we’ll all do our best, but I wish you’d waited for Dom Holter to join us before telling us about it. He’ll be disappointed that he missed hearing it directly from you.”

“That’s another point we need to discuss,” Eltrina said, hidden amusement of some sort clear to Vallant as he looked at her. “Dom Holter was moved to another residence this afternoon, one that would have been running at a financial loss without another participant in residence. I’m sure you’ll all miss him, but if he’s successful in the first competition, most of you will see him at the reception. Are there any questions?”

Vallant had to fight to keep himself from looking at the others, and he could see that Coll, the only one in his direct line-of-sight, appeared to be having the same problem. If Holter no longer shared their residence, there was now only a single representative of each of the five aspects. That had to mean they’d been chosen to be a challenging Blending, even if Eltrina wasn’t yet ready to tell them about it.

FINALLY. But don't get too excited, they don't learn to Blend until the next book. So we still have to suffer through the rest of this one and a third of the next one.

quote:

“There don’t seem to be any questions,” Eltrina said brightly after looking around at them. “That means I can now leave you to enjoy your meal, but don’t worry if a question occurs to you later. I’ll also be at the reception, and those of you who attend can ask me then. Good night, all.”

Who goes to a party with the intent to gain information when they suspect they're in the middle of a conspiracy? Not these guys! They never do anything!

quote:

The woman turned and left the room after giving them an airy wave of her hand, but for a moment no one seemed able to speak or move. Vallant knew exactly how they felt, and it was a definite relief when Jovvi sighed and leaned back in her chair.

“Well, that was clear enough,” she said, looking at each of them to see that they understood what “that” was: the virtual certainty that they would soon be made into a Blending. “We seem to have only one more challenge before us, which will be the competition tomorrow. Anyone who doesn’t win doesn’t get to go to the reception.”

Or join the Blending, was the unspoken addition. By then the servants had entered with their food, so no one did any more than nod. Not that anyone needed to do more, Vallant admitted silently. Or point out the fact that he, at least, might not make it after all.

“Excuse me, Dom Ro, but I wonder if I might have a few minutes of your time after dinner?” Vallant heard the words which dragged him back to the present, and for an instant thought it was Jovvi who had spoken them. When he realized that it was Tamrissa instead, his insides tightened into a painful spring. Most likely the woman wanted to tell him again how distasteful she felt sharing his bed would be, or possibly she meant to tell him again that only cowards refused to see how far they could go in life. He was in the mood for neither thing, and so shook his head as he gave his attention to the food.

Just because you're an rear end in a top hat doesn't mean everyone else is.

quote:

“I’m sorry, Dama Domon, but I intend to go right to bed after dinner,” he replied in the most neutral tone he was capable of, making sure not to look at her. “Tomorrow will be a difficult day for some of us, so I’m afraid the conversation will have to be saved for another time.”

Nothing of words came in the way of a response or argument, and a glance at the girl while reaching for a roll showed Vallant what seemed to be disappointment on her face. He’d obviously taken away her chance to make him feel even worse than he did, but that was just too bad. She could try again tomorrow night—assuming he still rated a place in the residence.

Seriously, stop projecting on her!

quote:

Which, considering where the competition would be held, wasn’t very likely. And he’d been the fool who’d wanted to get to the first competition because it suited his mood. Well, there was no arguing that it certainly did suit his mood now…

I should probably be more fixated on Vallant's sudden depression and belief that he's not gonna make it in. If only I was actually convinced his claustrophobia wasn't just a convenient plot device that only kicks in whenever the author needs it for drama.

quote:

* * *

Eltrina Razas let the servant help her into her carriage, the smile on her face showing just how pleased she was with the way things were going. She’d even managed to form six groups of potential challenging Blendings, so if any of the members of the first five happened to become unavailable, it would be possible to replace him or her.

Replace the non-performing individual or replace the Blending as a whole? It's never actually quite clear! Also something that the books don't really go into: you can Blend with multiple people but it's super unclear what happens later once Book 3 spoilers the Blending is bonded or Book 8 spoilers the bonds become permanent. I'd hazard that the first stage isn't a deal breaker but I would have thought the second would definitely cause issues. And what happens if Book 8 spoilers a permanently bonded Blending loses one of its members? Do the remaining surviving members still retain access to all aspects or are they left with whatever aspects of the alive Blending members remaining?

It's an interesting angle to explore which means Green obviously doesn't do anything with it. But if I do a rewritten book 2, I will!

quote:

But the peasant Holter would not be returned to this residence if that beautiful man Ro happened to fail in his attempts to keep up. Holter had actually begun to settle in as a full member of the group, proving how little taste those lowborn commoners had for encouraging such a thing. The man was a peasant even to them, after all…

I don't see how? Vallant and Tamrissa are rich merchant kids, fine, but Jovvi's a street kid turned high end courtesan and Books 3 and 5 spoilers Rion's actually the son of servants in Hallina Mardimil's household so he's commonborn too and Lorand is a farmboy. Pagin is an hostler/stablehand so I'm a bit like...eh? Or are we measuring class by net worth? In which case none of them can access any of their money so technically Pagin's not even the poorest. Rion is, because he gave away an entire silver to the servant who told him Naran was there to see him.

quote:

But Holter was gone, leaving Ro and his problem—and his ever-growing feud with the Domon female. Her spies had told her that they’d even stopped speaking, and she herself had heard, just a moment ago, the way the man had refused to grant the girl even a handful of minutes of his time.

Eltrina’s smile widened as her carriage began to move, her plans having been easily adapted. These people would never make an effective Blending, and when they failed she would exercise her authority and take first choice from among them. She’d been too busy to notice earlier how really beautiful a man Ro was, with those broad shoulders, that handsome face, and that delicious platinum-blond hair. But she’d noticed tonight, and once his bright and mighty prospects turned to powdered dust, he’d be more than anxious to give her a time of the pleasure she desired.

And this is the exact point where Eltrina goes from a potentially interesting character to yet another cardboard cutout.

quote:

And while she enjoyed herself completing her plans, Lord Ollon, her superior in the testing authority and current lover, would have his tragic accident. It was already mostly arranged—although there had been an unforeseen and annoying delay—and afterward Eltrina would go from second in command to being completely in charge. Her political position and power would more than triple, and finally, at long last, she would be in charge of her own destiny.

This woman, who has so far been the most competent of the antagonists, does not seem to think that offing her boss (and also lover) would make her the prime suspect in any murder investigation.

quote:

After something tragic happened to her husband as well, she added silently without the amusement. The tiresome pig had been bothering her even more than usual, and she didn’t yet dare refuse him. He wasn’t above tossing her aside if he grew displeased, and after she’d given him so much. Well, that debt would soon be repaid, the first of quite a few…

And if by some miracle of the Highest Aspect that the same idiotic investigators charged with solving Elfini's murder were also assigned to investigate Ollon's murder, and happened to overlook Eltrina as the prime suspect, I'm pretty sure they'd fix that real quick once her husband died suspiciously too!

quote:

Eltrina felt a surge of impatience, but used the sight of the beautifully calm night to help push it away. Everything was going perfectly, and that despite the efforts of a great many fools. That group looking for applicants who fit the description of the Chosen Five in the Prophecies, for instance. She’d had to let them paw through her notes and records in order to get rid of them, but she hadn’t let them see the private reports she’d had assembled. Just about everyone in her residences fit the Prophecy in one way or another, but only if you knew everything about them.

Because the Prophecies are super vague and aren't even good prophecies.

quote:

So Eltrina hadn’t let the searchers know everything. They would have intruded with their ridiculous investigation and ruined all her plans, and she refused to allow anyone to do that, especially not for nonsensical gibberish. People who believed in the collection of fairy tales called the Prophecy were fools, and Eltrina had never suffered fools gladly. After the reception she would tell her people about forming challenging Blendings without the interference of idiots, and then…

Please write Eltrina as the sole competent person who gets things done–and done right!–in a corrupt organization full of idiots instead. That would be a much more interesting story.

quote:

And then Eltrina would have what she’d ached for for so long. Freedom, and power, and all the wonderful things that went with them… She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, actually tasting what would so soon be hers…

But no, Green's just gonna go down this generic route instead.

Summary:

Day 7
Rion/Lorand/Jovvi/Vallant/Tamrissa achieves his/her second level mastery by nearly suffocating people to death/exploding some oil, disintegrating some steel and playing with a puma/enraging some people/filling small boxes with water by condensing it from the air/burning things while being attacked, including/despite interference from his/her two Adepts. Eltrina tells them the competitions begin tomorrow and Pagin's been moved to a different residence.

Homin hosts the next meeting which is a giant infodump explaining the plot for the rest of this book and Book 3. Delin spends the rest of the meeting planning to pin Elfini's murder on Rigos.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 35 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 18 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol
Vallant: Mirra Agran, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 50 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 35 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 8 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 9 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 40 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 20 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 38 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 21 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)

Possible fixes:
The purpose of this entire chapter was to tell the protagonists that the competitions begin tomorrow. We still have another chapter of dinner to go, where they're going to recap and discuss everything that happened that day (meaning yes, we will have to read about them talking about the masteries that we've seen five times already, and yes, everybody will need to have their say).

This level of brokenness is just not fixable. There's a reason why I diverged so much in my rewrite of Book 1. You cannot take a turd like this and make it into something it's not.

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 

Rion was delighted to see the Razas woman leave, and that despite the welcome news she brought. He’d been picturing himself turning up on Naran’s doorstep with no more than a few silver dins in his hand, feeling and looking like a beggar. Now … now he would have gold, assuming he could find a way to avoid being followed. Maybe he would do best to take Tamrissa up on her offer to help…

Still the most likeable one by far, because we'll see him do exactly this by the end of this chapter. I suspect if I went and only read the Rion POV chapters in all of the canon books, I would be way less exasperated at the end of it and I probably wouldn't have missed any critical information either.

quote:

“I had a surprise today,” Lorand Coll said suddenly, breaking a silence which had continued since their food had first been brought. “Holter’s having been moved out reminded me, even though Holter will be missed and he wasn’t. Eskin Drowd showed up in the testing area today.”

“So he finally qualified,” Rion said, finding it impossible to keep the distaste out of his voice. “I hope you had the good sense to bury him in the ground, or Encouraged a tree to grow up around him.”

I'd buy this kind of talk being melodramatic for the sake of making a point, but honestly with 3/5 of the protagonists having a hair trigger as far as magical and other forms of violence against other people go, it's kind of hard not to take Rion being literal about it. Considering Lorand could probably do both of the things suggested.

quote:

“I can’t say I wasn’t tempted,” Coll agreed sourly. “Even after ‘eating my dust’ for so many days, as one Adept put it, Drowd was still sneering with imagined superiority when he saw me. I could also see that he was waiting for me to fail, so I decided I couldn’t let that happen. If I hadn’t been too tired afterward to think of it, I would have thanked him for helping me to succeed.”

“I had almost the same help, and from a similar source,” Tamrissa put in with a grimace, apparently having pulled herself out of disappointment of some sort. “Beldara Lant has also qualified, and she got me so angry that I invited her to attack me in place of Soonen. But I also promised to respond if she did, which I hadn’t done with Soonen. At least not to begin with. Afterward, I think Beldara was glad she hadn’t accepted my challenge.”

“‘At least not to begin with,’” Jovvi echoed, looking at Tamrissa with a frown. “Does that mean you did respond eventually? And did that have anything to do with why were you so exhausted that you were asleep as soon as they helped you into the coach?”

I think I should be thankful that Green didn't give each of them a nemesis amongst their other fellow applicants, because otherwise we'd have to hear about 3 other people in the same vein as Eskin and Beldara.

quote:

“Yes to both,” Tamrissa agreed. “I certainly did respond during the last exercise, but only because Soonen suddenly had the help of Adept Gerdol in attacking me.” Rion started at hearing that, and apparently so did everyone else at the table. “For some reason they both tried to burn me to ash, but I couldn’t return the favor without missing out on my last mastery. So I drew in more power than I’d ever used before, and worked around their attack to complete the exercise. Pretending I didn’t even notice their efforts scared the starch out of them, but it used up so much of my strength that once I finished eating a really large meal, all I wanted to do was sleep.”

And that's the cue!

quote:

“Now isn’t that an odd coincidence,” Jovvi commented, looking around as she said it. “I had almost the same experience, and apparently so did everyone else. Genovir and Algus tried to gang up on me, but I was able to overcome them and gain the mastery. Afterward it became perfectly clear why they were so deferential yesterday after I gained the first-level masteries. They knew they would try to interfere with me during the second-level testing, and wanted to give me a reason to go easy with them if I ended up victorious.”

This whole exchange just reads like a very boring transcript. If we didn't have that opening thought about Naran, I honestly wouldn't be able to tell which POV we're in.

quote:

“Subservient behavior in front of a superior,” Coll agreed with a nod. “That’s what works with lower animals, so now we know what they think of us—if there was any doubt before.”

From this point onwards, there will be a lot of one group referencing another group as "animals", in addition to "peasants", etc.

quote:

“But they were also frightened because they weren’t certain it would work,” Rion pointed out. “They claimed they were under orders and did the same with every applicant, but for some reason I didn’t believe them. My personal guess is that they do it only with those whom they consider unacceptably strong.”

So the standard practice is two Middles against a third level High. This is stupid on so many levels.

quote:

“How can someone in our position be ‘unacceptably strong’?” Ro suddenly demanded, his previous dark mood still obviously with him. “Those bastards could have killed me, or at least come close enough to it to break my nerve. After that my decidin’ to stick it out would be meaningless. When it finally came down to it, I’d be—”

Ro’s words broke off as he realized what he was saying, and Rion joined everyone else in exchanging disturbed glances. With the servants around they were all being careful of what they said, but even with circumlocution Ro had made an important point after Rion’s own. If the testing authority wanted the strongest and best for the challenging Blendings, why were they trying to weaken some of those who were best? The obvious answer was that they didn’t want any common challengers who were too strong, not when those commoners would be facing members of the nobility.

You guys have all been drugged? I know you don't know this but the testing authority does, so this makes zero sense. Pulling this kind of stuff only makes people who weren't suspicious before suspicious–and if they were already deep in territory, well you just confirmed it.

quote:

“I think, under other circumstances, I would find my appetite gone now,” Jovvi commented, staring down at the food in her plate. “Confusion often does that to me, and right now I’m very confused because of what we were told only a short while ago. We have to win the competition tomorrow, or we don’t get to go to the reception the day after.”

That was another excellent point, and Rion joined the others in considering it silently. Being too strong had brought down attack on their heads, but now they’d been told they had to be stronger than everyone else. And there was no doubt that they were being urged to win. The Razas woman’s voice and attitude had made that clear, and yet… What were they supposed to do?

“You know, it’s really strange,” Tamrissa said suddenly, drawing everyone’s attention. “I’ve just now remembered one of my late husband’s more odious games. He would give all the servants a few hours off, and once they were gone he would chase me from room to room all over the house. The longer I kept running the happier he was, and when I finally dropped from exhaustion he would … have the rest of his entertainment. It took me a while to realize that I didn’t have to keep going to exhaustion, I could simply pick a time to pretend to be exhausted and he never knew the difference. After all, I was only being measured against my own strength… I’m sorry, I don’t know why I brought that up…”

The only reason these guys are getting away with this is not because they're so good at fooling the spies but because the spies are inept.

quote:

Rion joined Jovvi and Coll in assuring her it was quite all right to mention something without relevance to the conversation, but that was just as much of a lie as Tamrissa’s apology. The girl had had an excellent thought, and had found a way to mention it to the rest of them without alerting any servant who might be listening.

And Green has to hammer the point home.

quote:

The fact had slipped Rion’s mind, but that first competition would be on the order of a foot race. Each participant would be striving to be best, but against time and situation rather than directly against each other.

How does Rion know this? Eltrina didn't say anything about it. Has he been secretly sitting on actual knowledge of what the competitions are like? Would have been good to share that before, buddy!

quote:

And in a foot race, it was possible to win by a single body length as easily as by ten or twenty yards. If they pretended that that was the best they could do, who would be able to prove otherwise? And then a thought of his own occurred to him.

“If we’re sharing personal incidents, I have one of my own I’d like to share,” he said, keeping his voice diffident but looking around pointedly at each of the others. “Once, when I was a boy, Mother began to invite people over who had sons of their own who were approximately my age. I thought at the time that she did it to provide me with playmates, but during each visit she insisted on having some sort of contest among all the children. Once it was a race, and once it was a test of strength, and once it was even a comparison of book learning.”

“So you were constantly being required to perform,” Jovvi said with a sympathetic nod. “Did she expect you to win at everything?”

“Yes, and most of the time I did, but being able to brag wasn’t her entire reason for doing it,” Rion said. “She held the contests to see how well I would do against some criterion of her own, using the other little boys as nothing more than yardsticks. She didn’t care about their performances, only mine, which took me awhile to realize. At the time I was too busy wondering why the other boys hated me when I won.”

Again there were murmurings of commiseration, but the expressions of understanding in everyone’s eyes told Rion they’d gotten his point. Depending on how strong the other competition entrants were, the whole point of the exercise might be to assess the strength of Rion and the others. If the thing was legitimate, they would face other possible members of Blendings; if it wasn’t, the testing authority would have dross there just to make it all look good. But they would have to wait to find out which it would be.

Which we will be reading about five times in the next sequence of chapters.

quote:

The rest of the meal passed in relative silence, and once it was over Vallant Ro was the first to leave, with Jovvi right behind him. Ro had seemed to be struggling with some sort of strong emotion while Tamrissa told them about the way she’d been attacked, but the man hadn’t said anything to her afterward. It was possible his struggle had had nothing to do with Tamrissa, but that was something Rion had no time to worry about.

Every single meal is like this. And we're supposed to buy that these people are closer than blood. We're already looked at how none of the romantic pairings are based on anything other than 1) physical attraction and 2) the order in which they met each other. As a group, they don't even chat generally! All of the dialogue at meetings at various common meal times/coach rides/shared baths go exactly like this: recap the day, realize the same poo poo happened to everyone, speculate on the testing authority's shenanigans, agree to "move forward", rinse, repeat. There's barely ever any character moments and if the dialogue tags weren't there, you'd be hard pressed to figure out who's talking.

quote:

If he were going to ask Tamrissa’s help with his own problem, it had to be now.

“I wonder, dear lady, if you have recovered sufficiently to share a brief nightcap with me in the library,” he said when it seemed that Tamrissa was ready to take her own leave. “I have something I’d like to discuss with you, and you as well, Coll, if you’re willing.”

Rion didn’t know precisely why he’d included Coll in the invitation, but it might have had something to do with how miserable and alone the man looked. Coll had helped him on more than one occasion, so now it wasn’t possible to exclude the man while asking for Tamrissa’s help.

In other words, you know precisely why you included Lorand?

quote:

“Well, all right, but just for a short while,” Tamrissa agreed after a moment, looking really weary. “I needed to get this food into me, but I need more sleep just as much.”

“Well, I don’t have anything better to do with my time,” Coll said with a shrug as he threw his napkin aside and rose. “No offense, Mardimil, I’m just in a terrible mood. What I should have said was, if we’re not here for each other, who can we expect to be here for us?”

“No offense taken, Coll,” Rion said as he rose as well, actually meaning the words. “And we do have to be here for each other, so becoming insulted over nothing would be stupid. Here, dear lady, take my arm.”

I'm still struggling to figure out exactly what bothers me about the whole group dynamic. Possibly because we're more than half way through Book 2 and we're still in the freaking forming/storming phases except not really, since there has been no jockeying for de facto leadership of the group (Jovvi's probably come the closest) or real conflicts except for the Valissa drama. I don't get the sense that there is any semblance of a group, except for the forced communal living situation.

quote:

Tamrissa had gotten to her feet before he reached her, and the girl looked more distracted than unsteady. She did, however, take the offer of his arm, and they made a small, slow procession to the library. Once there he tried to seat her, but she shook her head with a small smile.

“Thank you, Rion, but I need to stand up for a while,” she said, patting his arm before releasing it. “Now, what sort of problem do you have that I might be able to help with?”

“By tomorrow night I expect to have gold,” Rion stated, seeing that Coll paid attention as well. “With that in mind I intend to meet—someone, but my mother is having me followed. Do you have any idea how I can avoid those followers without letting them know I’ve done it?”

“Well, we should be able to figure out something,” Tamrissa replied, suddenly more caught up. Coll stood with raised brows, but didn’t seem ready to comment. “The best idea would be to have them think they are following you, while it’s really someone else in your place. That way they won’t go searching, and won’t be on the alert the next time you want to do the same.”

Annnnd suddenly we're going to make a sharp left turn into pseudo Shakespearean mistaken identity/swap places subplots.

quote:

“The suggestion is excellent,” Rion said with his own brows high. “What I can’t seem to picture, however, is how I might accomplish it. It’s a virtual certainty that Mother’s people have at least one house servant in their employ, which means I’m under almost constant observation.”

“Yes, you probably are, so we’ll have to take you out of the house,” Tamrissa returned, her mind clearly in the midst of deep calculation. “There’s a lovely dining parlor not far from here, one I went to a few times before I married. If we decide to visit it tomorrow night, your shadows will certainly follow.”

“And I’m to slip away from there?” Rion asked, feeling confused. “Leaving you completely unescorted and departing on foot? Unless I’m mistaken, even if I were willing to do that it would never work. As soon as I disappeared they would begin to search for me.”

“Of course they would, so you won’t disappear,” Tamrissa countered with a glorious smile. “You and I will leave the house together in plain view—a short while after Lorand leaves by himself. Lorand will go to the dining parlor, arrange for the rental of a horse from the nearby stables, and then he’ll wait in the entryway of the dining parlor, which happens to be fashionably dim. When we walk in he’ll take your place, and you’ll slip out the back while the watchers have their attention on him. If he’s willing to do it, that is.”

Both of them turned to look at Coll then, Rion ready to plead with the man. But Coll’s face wore a look of surprised anticipation, and then he grinned.

“It sounds like fun,” he said, and the words actually rang true. “My friends and I occasionally did this sort of thing when we were too young for our parents to be willing to let us come and go as we pleased. You and I are approximately the same size, Mardimil, and even our hair color is close enough to pass at a distance. If we wear the same clothes the way we’re doing now, it should work like a charm.”

Firstly, Lorand had friends who weren't Hat? Like who? We've been in Lorand's head so much already and I literally have no idea. You would think one and half books in, I probably should, shouldn't I?

Secondly, are you all forgetting that PEOPLE IN YOUR WORLD HAVE MAGIC!!! Like okay, visually Rion and Lorand might be able to pass for each other as two out of the three triplets from different mothers, but if the spy is an Earth or Spirit magic talent, don't you guys think that things like your bodily reactions/heart rate/thoughts/emotions/mind would be quite different???

What am I saying, nobody actually uses magic except for when Green remembers that she gave everyone magic.

quote:

“And you really don’t mind?” Rion asked, looking from one to the other of them. “I’ve never had anyone willing to do things for me without being paid, and certainly nothing like this. How can I ever thank you?”

“Some day we’ll need a favor, and you’re the first one we’ll ask,” Coll assured him with a much more gentle smile. “Isn’t that right, Tamrissa?”

“Certainly,” Tamrissa agreed, but her impish grin reminded Rion that she’d already gotten a favor from him. “Besides, I needed something like this to take my mind off my own troubles, and somehow I think Lorand feels the same. By asking us to help, you’re doing us the favor.”

When Coll nodded his agreement, Rion would have enjoyed finding the words to express how he felt. An experience like this was priceless, but also seemed beyond verbalizing. So he took Tamrissa’s hand and kissed it instead, then

Write Rion kissing Lorand's hand as well!

quote:

exchanged a handshake with Coll

...oh come on.

quote:

before turning and hurrying out of the room. Rion hadn’t cried in quite a long time, but certainly felt like doing so now.

But when he reached his bedchamber, he found himself ready to laugh instead. Tomorrow night he would see Naran again, and not for a moment or two and not as a beggar with hat in hand. It would be wonderful, marvelous, and now he didn’t know if he’d be able to stand the wait…

We're supposed to read this as Rion being so in love but it just comes off as an incel super excited about getting laid for the third time in his life.

Summary:

Day 7
Rion/Lorand/Jovvi/Vallant/Tamrissa achieves his/her second level mastery by nearly suffocating people to death/exploding some oil, disintegrating some steel and playing with a puma/enraging some people/filling small boxes with water by condensing it from the air/burning things while being attacked, including/despite interference from his/her two Adepts. Eltrina tells them the competitions begin tomorrow and Pagin's been moved to a different residence. Rion enlists Tamrissa and Lorand to help him sneak off and visit Naran in secret.

Homin hosts the next meeting which is a giant infodump explaining the plot for the rest of this book and Book 3. Delin spends the rest of the meeting planning to pin Elfini's murder on Rigos.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 35 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 18 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol
Vallant: Mirra Agran, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 50 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 35 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 8 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 10 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 40 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 20 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 38 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 21 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)

Possible fixes:
The canon book titles have always bugged me because I think they picked the right words but slapped them on the cover of the wrong books. Even without any wholesale changes to the canon plot or characters:
  • Book 1 should have had a tight focus, on passing the "Challenges" involved in being a High. Pick an aspect, any aspect, and just focus on that protagonist, their journey, and their noble counterpart/antagonist. All the testing crap up until being an acknowledged master (pass or die -> braiding braiding braiding -> first level masteries -> second level masteries) would then have fit into one book, instead of spilling over to the second. My rewrite went with Lorand but you could do this equally effectively with say, Spirit magic: focusing on Jovvi staying clear of Allestine's clutches while cultivating a relationship with Tamrissa in a bid to start her own business and trying to unravel the conspiracy, versus Kambil and his Books 3-5 spoilers trying to make the best of a poisoned situation, his family not being pleased to offer him up for being "culled" and therefore trying to escape anyway, by subtly taking over his group and having to do damage control for Delin's insanity resulting in a long chain of murders).
  • Book 2 should actually have been "Convergence". Most of the cast shouldn't be meeting beforehand due to the stupid communal living arrangements. The first time most of them meet should be when they're yanked into a room by the testing authority and told, here, you guys are gonna be a Blending, no ifs ands buts or swapsies. The main arc would go through the forming/storming/norming/performing PROPERLY, like any teams sports story, whether its Bridge 4 in The Way of Kings or The Mighty Ducks.
  • Book 3 would then be appropriately named "Competitions" since the competitions actually happen in Book 3! Not Book 2! UGH.

The learning how to Blending arc will be quite tricky, because it's all about how disparate individuals learn to work together as a group, rather than focusing on the mechanics of the magic. Things that probably should have come up in Green's books but didn't:
  • There should have been some sort of power struggle between Vallant ("I'm a captain of my own ship") and Rion ("I'm a Lord"). These guys are both used to being in charge and being obeyed without question, they have vastly different life experiences and knowledge (Vallant is worldly and street smart but Rion knows the ins and outs of how the nobility think, the political situation, who's in charge of the testing and the appointments of Adepts, etc). There should be tons of stuff that they disagree on: whether something is an issue, what the priorities are, what the key risks are, what the best approach is, what would be feasible/practical, what would be stupid.
  • Rion being the only unpaired one in the Blending, with his newfound discovery that sex is a thing, should be causing more conflicts! We'll only get one scene about it in Book 3, and it should have come up way more than that.
  • Tamrissa using the power as a crutch should actually be a crutch, not a cure all
  • Jovvi's inherent distrust of everybody should make her lean on Spirit magic more, and should make everyone distrust her more at the start. She should be more focused on the conspiracy (and everybody else should be less willing to go along with it) and not mopey at all over Lorand
  • Lorand's insecurity about being a back country farmer should be way more of a thing. Forget the meaningless fear about burnout and his actual aptitude with Earth magic; he should be feeling outclassed at every turn by Vallant and Rion in terms of "being a man" and out of his class with everybody being so rich and so used to being rich.
This frustrates me because when you look over the raw materials of what ideas are already in the canon books, there's all this potential; it's just all so poorly executed by Green.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

Jovvi stared at Tamma for a while once the coach began to move the next morning, trying to decide whether or not to say anything to the girl. Her own problem wasn’t quite as pressing as it had felt last night, when she’d gone directly to her bedchamber after dinner to avoid needing to speak to Lorand. But Lorand hadn’t tried to speak to her, either last night at dinner or this morning at breakfast. He still looked at her in the same way when he thought she wasn’t likely to notice, but he hadn’t tried again to get her to change her mind.

Which was both a good thing and a bad one. Jovvi sighed as she silently admitted that she didn’t really want to lose Lorand, but the uncertainty surrounding him was impossible for her inner self to overlook. She both wanted him and didn’t want him, but at least he wasn’t adding to the turmoil she suffered with. That made it only a little easier to bear, but Jovvi was prepared to be grateful for small favors.

A guy respecting your decision to not get into a romantic relationship is a "small favor"?

quote:

“Is everything all right?” Tamma said suddenly, startling Jovvi. “I don’t mean to pry, but that sigh sounded like one of mine.”

“Actually, I was going to ask you the same question,” Jovvi replied, finding something of a smile. “I can tell that you’re disturbed again, but it’s not the same disturbance you felt yesterday.”

“I’ll say it isn’t,” Tamma agreed glumly, then she looked up at Jovvi with her head to one side. “I seem to have changed my mind about Dom Ro again, and it occurred to me that there may be something seriously wrong with me. All this, ‘yes I want him, no I don’t want him’ back and forth can’t possibly be normal, but wouldn’t you tell me if I were seriously ill?”

“Yes, I would, and no, you’re not,” Jovvi said with a laugh she couldn’t possibly have held back. “Women may not have a lot of rights in this world, but changing our minds does happen to be one of them. And in your situation, vacillating back and forth couldn’t be more normal. But does this mean you’ve now decided you want Vallant?”

but yeah I'm not into this on/off thing driven entirely by misunderstandings either.

quote:

“Yesterday morning, after the testing, I decided I did,” she agreed, back to being glum. “It was probably a residual of all that power affecting me, but I made up my mind to at least try. That’s why I asked to speak to him last night after dinner, but now it looks like he’s changed his mind.”

“Infringing unfairly on one of our prerogatives,” Jovvi sympathized, feeling Tamma’s disappointment very clearly. “So what have you decided to do now? Forget about him after all?”

“I should, but I can’t seem to force myself to be that rational,” Tamma complained, most of her disturbance now aimed at herself. “I mean, how am I supposed to change a man’s mind once he’s made it up? I wouldn’t know where to begin, but something won’t let me drop the whole thing. He was so cold when he refused even to talk to me, but somehow I could feel pain behind the coldness.”

“And you aren’t capable of ignoring someone in pain,” Jovvi said gently, nodding her understanding. “I won’t try to tell you what to do, but I have a suggestion you might consider: think about this whole thing before you decide on a course of action. If you’re interested in nothing but easing a man in pain, getting him to change his mind again would be wrong. You have to be just as interested in a relationship as he is, otherwise you’ll simply end up hurting him more.”

“That sounds like the best idea I’ve heard in quite a while,” Tamma said ruefully.

"Wow, two adults should not be in a serious relationship unless they're both genuinely committed to it, Jovvi you're so wise"

quote:

“That means I’m going to take your advice, so that takes care of my disturbance. Now what about yours?”

“Oh, mostly it’s the same old thing,” Jovvi forced herself to say, feeling the way her mind instantly closed in on itself. “I have walked away from Lorand, but I can’t stop thinking or worrying about him. Take this morning, for instance. I’m almost certain that we’ll be facing no more than an attempted measurement of our strength, but what if that guess is wrong? What will happen if Lorand finds it necessary to really stretch his ability—and can’t? Even if that doesn’t happen today, it could happen tomorrow, and I can’t bear to picture it.”

“So don’t picture it,” Tamma responded, sounding as if Jovvi had missed the most obvious solution to her problem. “If there’s nothing you can do to change something, what good does worrying about it do? Either you have to find a way to change the thing, the way I did with my parents, or you have to simply give up and accept whatever comes. I never thought I’d be saying this to you, Jovvi, but which route would you rather take?”

Tamma’s tone had been more diffident and apologetic than the words suggested, which helped to keep Jovvi’s indignation from being overwhelming. That was the sort of thing she was used to saying to Tamma, not something she needed to be told herself.

Nice to see the blatant moralizing going both ways. I mean, not really, I would rather that there be no blatant moralizing at all, but at least everyone gets a go.

quote:

Of course those were the two best options, but—

“But what could I possibly do to change things?” she complained aloud, feeling as though she and Tamma had switched places.

You two are literally interchangeable sometimes. Find "Spirit" and replace with "Fire" and all that.

quote:

“If it was easy—or even often possible—to help someone get around the fear of burnout, people would be doing it all the time. Holding his hand during testing wouldn’t work even if I were able to do it, so what else is there?”

“I have no idea,” Tamma answered with a small shrug, looking and sounding sympathetic. “If it were my problem I’d be frantic, so feel free to be the same.”

“But being frantic doesn’t solve anything, and I seem to be out of the habit,” Jovvi said with another sigh, fighting an urge toward depression. “I guess I’ll have to take my own advice and think about this,

Not-spoilers, she's just going to trip over this in the next book or so as a result of the events at the end of this chapter.

quote:

but in the meanwhile I owe you congratulations. You’ve grown to the point of discovering that other people’s problems are usually easier to solve than your own.”

“And you do have to understand their problem before you can do anything about it,” Tamma commented, now looking thoughtful. “That’s a good point to keep in mind, and definitely something else to think about. But for right now I did want to ask–You agree with Rion, then, about what this first competition will be? Just an opportunity to measure exactly how strong each of us is?”

“It seems to be the most logical guess,” Jovvi agreed, tacitly joining Tamma in putting aside their personal problems. “I was specifically told that I would not be competing against anyone directly, only against their efforts. And they obviously want us trying our best, otherwise they would hardly be dangling that carrot.”

“The invitation to the reception,” Tamma said with a nod of understanding.

We just read about this last chapter. I don't need a recap!

quote:

“I wasn’t joking about how excited the idea of it made me feel, but that was last night. This morning I’m afraid I’ll do something horrible to embarrass myself if I go, so maybe I’d be best off staying home.”

“You could always come down with some ‘female problem,’” Jovvi pointed out with something of a smile. “That’s another of our rights, but it doesn’t say whether or not you’ve decided to try winning the competition. Personally, I’d like the option of whether or not to go to be mine.”

“Yes, so would I,” Tamma replied, instantly brightening. “And that ‘female trouble’ thing is another good idea.

OMFG don't even.

quote:

So it looks like I will be trying to win the competition, but not by too much of a lead. It won’t be easy to manage to just win, and I suppose that’s why I was thinking about not even trying. I was really tired yesterday and not at all interested in making the effort, and something of that carried over to this morning. But now I feel back to my usual self, so I’ll see what I can do.”

“I suspect that deliberately holding back will be harder for me to hide,” Jovvi said, having already thought about it. “With Spirit magic, you have access to a good deal of information about the people around you. If someone is frightened, or uninterested—or holding back—you can usually tell, so I’m going to have to project false emotions as well as gauge my response. I don’t expect it to be much fun, but there’s no doubt about its being necessary.”

That last sentence is going to be a recurring saying throughout the rest of these books.

quote:

“I wonder if they’ll have someone there at my competition who can tell things like that,” Tamma said, now sounding worried. “I wouldn’t put it past them, and I don’t know if I can fool someone like that.”

“That’s a good question,” Jovvi said with a frown she could feel, then took a moment to think about it before finally shaking her head. “No, chances are there won’t be anyone there with Spirit magic. We’re not expected to know that they might be trying to get rid of—or at least handicap—anyone capable of besting their noble participants, so it’s unlikely that they’d bother to check on whether or not we’re pretending about anything. They very well might have one of their strongest aspect participants there to measure us against, but not anything more.”

Doesn't Gandistra have like five universities? They need to get one of the competent academics into the testing authority to set up these "experiments" because whoever is currently in charge (which because Ollon and Eltrina seem to be managing the residents but not the Adepts or the competitions themselves) is incompetent.

quote:

“I just thought of something else,” Tamma said, sudden disturbance straightening her in the seat. “We’ve been talking and thinking about a foot race, which seems to be a phrase used by all of our guides. But what if we’re actually required to perform one at a time, and we don’t get to go last? How will we know how much strength to use?”

“I hate to say it, but you’ve done it again,” Jovvi replied, quickly sharing Tamma’s disturbance. “I have no idea how we’d tell, but we’d better think of something fast. We’re already more than half way there.”

Tamma nodded with immediate distraction, so Jovvi immersed herself in her own thoughts. That foot race concept probably was a deliberate attempt at misdirection, leading them to expect one circumstance when an entirely different one awaited. Just how would it be possible to judge…?

By the time the coach began to slow for its first stop, Jovvi had to admit defeat. Nothing in the way of an idea had come to her, and looking at Tamma brought nothing but a shake of Tamma’s head.

“If there’s an answer, it seems to be avoiding me,” Tamma said dispiritedly. “Your expression tells me it’s doing the same with you, but that’s only faintly comforting. I’m about to get out, and I still don’t know what to do.”

“Personally, I intend to hope that we’re wrong,” Jovvi said with a wan smile. “I don’t expect the hoping to do any good, but doing something is always better than doing nothing.”

“A lot of help you turned out to be,” Tamma said, but her wry smile took the sting out of the words. “I gave up on hoping a long time ago, so I can’t even do that much. Well, it’s too late for that anyway. In just a few more minutes I’ll know, so all I can do is wish us both good luck.”

Jovvi returned the wish and then Tamma was gone, out of the coach and walking toward the Fire magic practice area.

Green has a talent for making something that should be exciting incredibly boring.

quote:

The coach started to move again, but the distance to Jovvi’s own area wasn’t long enough to be of any practical use. When the coach stopped again near the symbol for Spirit magic, she still hadn’t been visited with inspiration.

But that didn’t mean she could just sit there, so she got out after taking a deep breath and headed for the practice area. It wasn’t particularly early so Jovvi expected to see a good number of people at the tables, but the sight of the crowd stopped her in her tracks. There was more than twice the usual number of people present, and Genovir came from behind one group of them to glide over to where Jovvi stood.

“Quite a turnout, isn’t it?” Genovir said with a smile, glancing back at all the people. “Usually there’s very little interest left in watching low level competitions at this time of the year, but this year, of course, is different. Would you like some tea before we go to the competitions building? There’s time yet before the event is scheduled to begin.”

“No, I think I’ve had enough tea this morning,” Jovvi replied with a faint grimace. “Later will probably be another story, but– What did you mean about this year being different. What’s different about it?”

“Why, the fact that it’s a twenty-fifth year, dear,” Genovir responded with a wide-eyed innocence that was completely false. She’d wanted Jovvi to ask about the comment, so Jovvi had obliged her. She also knew what reaction Genovir wanted to elicit, so Jovvi obliged her again.

“My goodness, I forgot all about that!” Jovvi exclaimed, showing what was hopefully a better version of innocence. “That means I’ll have to try even harder now, doesn’t it?”

“Just do your best, dear, and it’s sure to impress everyone,” Genovir counseled, hiding behind an air of gentle and benevolent amusement. “If you don’t want any tea, we can start for the building now.”

Jovvi nodded and followed after the larger woman, wondering if she was really supposed to have forgotten so soon about what had happened yesterday. Apparently Genovir considered the matter forgotten, or she wouldn’t have had the nerve to show herself today.

Jovvi, who knows exactly what everyone wants to do, is obligingly going along with it, because...reasons. WHHHHY.

quote:

Well, however it was supposed to go, Jovvi opened herself even more widely to her talent. It was hardly likely that the crowds contained many people who would be on her side, and Jovvi would need as much help against the other sort as she could get.

But then all thoughts of enemies disappeared behind a brand new experience, that of being aware of the people around her in depth. The emotions and reactions of those in the crowd were so clear that Jovvi felt she could reach out and touch them. But not in the partial way she’d used until now, something the drugged subjects in the exercises had almost made her believe was all there was. This … this was new and different, filled with a potential that was downright exciting.

Jovvi can now directly control other people! The only difference is that she had to open up to more of the power yesterday. The implication is this is the range and sensitivity of a High, except that spoilers for the rest of the series we'll get plenty of examples of Middles in Spirit magic doing the same kind of manipulation and control that Jovvi can so this makes no sense.

quote:

“Don’t be shy or frightened, dear,” Genovir said suddenly, and Jovvi realized she’d stopped following the so-called Adept and had come to a complete halt. “But if you’ve changed your mind about the tea, I understand perfectly.”

“Yes, I’m sure you do,” Jovvi murmured in answer, knowing now how eager Genovir was to see her fail in some way. The woman both hated and feared Jovvi, but a blind arrogance that was an integral part of Genovir’s character made her believe that Jovvi couldn’t possibly see past her facade. Genovir would do her best to ruin Jovvi’s standing, and at the moment the way to do that seemed to be doing nothing at all.

“No, I haven’t changed my mind about the tea,” Jovvi continued, giving the woman a sweet, grateful smile. “Please go on, and this time I promise to keep up.”

“As you like,” Genovir agreed with a small shrug and a smile of her own before turning and continuing on. She still seemed convinced that Jovvi was afraid of what the coming competition would bring, and there was the very definite suggestion that she was supposed to soothe the fear. But Genovir was deliberately refraining from doing that, which did nothing to confirm Jovvi’s guesswork about what the competition was for.

But Genovir wasn’t very bright, Jovvi reminded herself as she followed the woman through the crowd. Part of Genovir’s mindless arrogance was the certain knowledge that no one would dare to harm her, not unless it happened to be by accident or reflex. She seemed to think that what Jovvi had done yesterday against her and Algus had been just such a reflex, and couldn’t possibly happen again. It wasn’t likely that Algus thought the same, which was probably why Algus was nowhere to be seen.

I would have vastly preferred to have Algus here again, because that would have been more interesting. But why do Adepts need to babysit all of the competitors? Why would you not just have signage and dedicated competitions staff handling all of these mundane tasks of shepherding people to the right places and giving instructions?

quote:

Then the awareness of Genovir slipped away as Jovvi became aware of the crowd instead. She’d wondered if all those people had been ordered to be there as decorations for a carefully set scene, but that didn’t seem to be the case. Most of them were there completely voluntarily, with something about betting behind their thoughts. But not betting that they meant to do today, with the upcoming competition. To them, this was more of a time of research and investigation…

Jovvi smiled faintly as she passed through the last of the crowd and onto the path which led to the large resin building she hadn’t yet been in. Those people in the crowd who were visitors were all of the nobility, and they obviously knew things that ordinary people didn’t. Like the fact that at least one someone would be rated today, a someone who would be involved in other, more important things later. But Genovir’s attitude still made everything uncertain. Was she withholding reassurance because she’d been told to do so, or because of vindictiveness? It made a considerable difference…

Isn't it so convenient that Jovvi can skim read minds at large now? What a handy way to get your exposition across!

quote:

Genovir reached the large resin building and went through the open doorway without hesitation, simply glancing back to make sure that Jovvi still followed. Jovvi did, and when she also stepped inside it was to see one large, open floor without partitions or rooms. Six people stood in a loose group on the far side, people who were drugged and therefore meant to be subjects. Perhaps ten feet closer to the door was a thick white line painted on the floor, and no one but the subjects stood beyond that line.

Before it, though, were other groups of people. Jovvi knew at once that the vast majority of them were people who had Spirit magic, and some of them stood about chatting in the bright lamplight. Others stood there feeling extremely bored, while the members of the smallest group of all—two people—were definitely nervous.

“Ah, there you are, Genovir, and this must be Dama Hafford.” The voice belonged to a man who had approached them, a tall and thin man in his mid-thirties. “I am Adept Lomad, Dama Hafford, the one in charge of this competition. If you will kindly follow me, I’ll show you to your proper place.”

“Certainly,” Jovvi agreed with a smile for the man’s gracious bow, saying nothing about his claim of being an Adept. It had been immediately clear that Lomad was no more than a moderate Middle in strength, which meant he had to be a member of the nobility. As Jovvi followed him, she suddenly realized that these people were doing more than feeding their egos by calling themselves Adepts. They were also hiding the fact that they were used to being addressed by other titles, like lord and lady. Apparently the nobility wasn’t so oblivious to public opinion that they carelessly flaunted just how much of the competition process they actually controlled.

Is this Empire, one that is so focused on class segregation, so small that there are no differences in accent, intonation or figures of speech between the nobility and commoners? Like you should literally be able to tell if you're talking to someone of the nobility!

quote:

“There are ten participants competing today, and you, of course, are one of them,” Lomad said, slowing to walk beside Jovvi rather than in front of her. “Everyone is now here, so we’ll be starting in just a little while. Please have a seat among the other participants, and the rules of the competition will be explained to you shortly.”

By then they’d reached a place to the right where nine other people sat, with a tenth chair still unoccupied. Jovvi took that chair as Lomad had requested, finding herself mostly ignored by the seven people who were extremely bored. The remaining two were the two who were nervous, both of them men. They’d looked at Jovvi in a calculating way, but for the most part dismissed her presence. They were male and she was female, so they saw her as nothing of a threat.

For her own part, Jovvi had made a discovery. The two men were, along with her, the only potential Highs in the building.

We know from Eltrina's earlier POV there are SIX residences ready to be formed into Blendings. Taking out the spares, that should be five actual competitors total. Spoilers for the end of this book there will be five common Blendings who show up to the reception at the palace, all conveniently color coded for their noble counterparts. So why is Jovvi only competing against two others? Where are the other two?

quote:

She sensed a … depth of ability in the two that was missing in everyone else, and she probably wouldn’t have been able to reach through to them if they’d opened to the power. But they hadn’t opened themselves, undoubtedly because the competition hadn’t yet started, and they were as conditioned as everyone else against using their ability when they weren’t specifically supposed to.

Jovvi moved about just a little to settle herself in the rather uncomfortable wooden chair, finally appreciating just how uncontrolled she was in comparison to everyone else. It should have been beyond her to open to the power almost as soon as she arrived, but she hadn’t had the constant formal schooling that even the poorest children in their society were given. She’d had some before her father died, but after that she’d mostly spent her time on the streets. The lessons of her childhood, repeated many times every day in the classroom, had faded after a while to vaguely recalled memories.

And that seemed to have given Jovvi a definite edge. If there was ever a time to be completely aware of what went on around you, that was it. Those two potential Highs, though, had handicapped themselves by refraining from using their very potent power. For the first time Jovvi began to understand how Tamma had lived through two years of a brutal marriage without once using her ability to defend herself. The conditioning instilled in school was so strong that people could overcome it only by going insane.

Or by being told they were allowed to use their ability. Jovvi could vaguely remember that one exception, the power of it placed in the hands of those “in authority.” That was why those with strength enough survived that very first test, being “allowed” as it were, to use whatever they had. But what about those who couldn’t make that exception to the conditioning? Had potential Highs died because their minds were unable to accept the fact that it was perfectly all right for them to perform?

That thought made Jovvi shiver, and so did the one that followed immediately after. Conditioning like that didn’t happen by accident, and didn’t have to when there was such a thing as a nobility. There were a large number of people who called themselves lord or lady, but compared to the number of people in the general population, they were very much in the minority. And it had to be remembered that the children of the nobility didn’t attend schools with their low-class age-peers. Did that mean those noble children weren’t conditioned at all, or simply in some other way?

Would have been helpful to have this worldbuilding BACK IN BOOK ONE. There you go, the general populace has been slipped minor amounts of Puredan or under loose Spirit magic control. Spoilers for sequel series Green seems to have forgotten about this because it's never dealt with once the protagonists become Seated.

quote:

That newest question disturbed Jovvi even more, but there was no time now to think about it and consider ramifications. The building had been filling with observers during the time Jovvi was lost in her thoughts, and now there seemed to be very little room left. The rumbling mumble of muted conversation also filled every part of the large room, at least until Lomad stepped out of the crowd and across the line to hold up both of his hands.

Will she remember this important insight and investigate it given that they have someone who was raised as a noble in their residence? Nah. There's other manufactured drama instead.

quote:

“Friends, please give me your attention,” he called, and one after the other the muted conversations stopped until there was silence. “Thank you, my friends, and welcome to one of the last basic competitions of this year. Today we have ten participants, and they’re seated right over there.”

Some few people in the audience applauded politely, but most just turned to stare. Jovvi shared the discomfort felt by the two nervous men, but not from simply being looked at. As a courtesan, Jovvi had never minded being inspected by men; after all, that was one of the things she’s been there for. But a moment earlier she’d glanced across the room, and had seen a familiar face.

The man who had been there when she’d taken that very first test; he was here again now, but seemed to be staying as far from her as he could while still being in the same room. He’d also moved out of sight behind others when he’d seen her looking in his direction, just as though he didn’t want her to know he was there. But hadn’t he said something about intending to see her again? Why, then, would he try to hide…?

Hello, nameless Seated High in Spirit magic!

quote:

“As many of you know, this basic competition is very simple,” Lomad continued when the polite applause ended. “The six subjects will be cued to exhibit five different emotions, with only one pair sharing the same emotion at any one time. Our participants will be given a list of those emotions in a set order, and will need to change each subject from the emotion he or she exhibits to the next emotion on the list.”

A burble of comments erupted at that, and at least Lomad had enough ability to tell that the outburst was caused by confusion.

Hate to break it to you, but you don't need Spirit magic to read a crowd. Just normal listening and observing body language will do that.

quote:

“Perhaps I’d better explain in more detail,” he said, and the noise died down again. “The five emotions being used are fear, love, hatred, amusement, and anger, in just that order. What our participants must do is take the subject showing amusement, for example, and change the emotion to anger. The one showing fear has to be changed to love, and the one showing anger has to be changed to fear. Each of the six subjects must be put through all five of the listed emotions in the listed order, but not all five at the same time. Whichever emotion the subject starts with, the next one on the list is what he or she must be made to feel next.”

Why couldn't you just have given the more detailed explanation to start with?

quote:

This time the murmuring had overtones of being impressed, and the two nervous men grew even more nervous. Jovvi felt tempted to join them in that as well, since the exercise would be the most complicated thing she’d ever tried. Five different emotions ranged through six people, and the differences would have to be maintained even while they shifted position. And to add to it, a large clock was being prepared not far from where they sat. At least it looked like a clock; Jovvi couldn’t be completely sure, as its face was turned away from them and toward the audience.

I would be more impressed if we actually knew more about how Spirit magic works. I suppose we could count the poor attempt at introducing that Spirit magic is bad at coping with multiple emotions at the same time in Jovvi's last mastery chapter. Is that a constraint of Spirit magic or just simply normal multi-tasking? We'll never know!

quote:

“And, of course, each participant’s efforts will be timed,” Lomad added, causing one of the two nervous men to moan low. “At their level we expect all of them to be able to perform the exercise, but just how quickly they do it will be another matter entirely. We’ll begin as soon as I’ve given the participants the order in which they’ll compete.”

why don't you just call them up in order?

quote:

Lomad left his position in front of the audience to walk toward the place where Jovvi and the others sat, but Jovvi felt nothing of the urge to stiffen with anticipation which held the two nervous men. She’d already formed the basis of a guess, one she would have bet gold on. Her name would be first on the list, followed immediately by the two other potential Highs. Their scores alone would be of interest to the watching nobility, and the other seven people probably weren’t even going to compete. They’d try to hide that from her and the two men, of course, but Jovvi didn’t yet know how they’d do it.

Spoilers for the end of this book: Pagin discovers none of the "smart money" is betting on commoner Blendings. That begs the question as to why the audience here (if they're all nobles, which they would have to be if the seven dummy competitors won't actually compete) would even be bothered watching this with interest. Is the big money on betting per match rather than on an overall winner since they all know the competition is fixed? Wouldn't that in itself send some alarm bells to the independent judges?

quote:

“All right, people, please pay attention,” Lomad said when he reached them, pulling a piece of paper out of one pocket of his coat. “I’m going to speak a name and then a number. That will tell you when it’s your turn to compete, so please don’t forget the number.”

He began to read his list then, and Jovvi smiled sourly when she learned she would have won her bet. Her name was first, and from their reactions, the two nervous men were listed right after her. They didn’t seem to understand why her name came first, but Jovvi did. She was supposed to perform at her absolute best in an effort to outdo the men who had made no secret of their low opinion of her, and her effort was meant to spur them on to keep from the humiliation of being beaten by a woman. Very neat and tidy, but it still meant that she would have to go first.

Which she hadn’t wanted to do. Jovvi forced herself to examine the problem calmly while Lomad finished reading off his list and then turned to speak privately to someone. Going first meant she couldn’t know how strong the two men were, and therefore she would also not know what was needed to just win. There had to be something to give her a hint…

The urge to be frantic was in the midst of trying to overwhelm Jovvi when she realized that the answer was staring her in the face—or, to be exact, not staring her in the face. That clock, the one which had been set up where only the audience could see it… If it was a special clock, one meant to be reset for each participant, then the outcome was obvious. No one would know how well he or she actually did until the testing people announced the results, and those results could be anything they wanted them to be. It would even be possible for them to say that all three of the real participants had tied for first place—if they’d already chosen all three participants for membership in various challenging Blendings.

Jovvi took a deep breath in an effort to calm her rampaging thoughts. Most of the “answer” she’d gotten was sheer speculation, and fairly wild speculation at that. Taking guesswork as fact was dangerous, most especially in a situation like that. If she was proved wrong, she could find herself out of the residence and out of luck. But something told her that showing her full strength to people who were watching carefully was more dangerous still, so she had to take the chance. Maybe the worst that would happen would be her exclusion from the reception at the palace…

That is literally the worst thing that could happen, and it of course doesn't happen and we know it won't happen because we already saw through Homin and Delin POVs that all of the common Blendings will be at the reception to be inspected by their noble counterparts. So we've spent *checks* 5047 words in a chapter 6054 words long trying to build suspense that was never going to exist in the first place.

WHY DOES GREEN INSIST ON WRITING LIKE THIS

quote:

“All right, Dama Hafford, please come with me,” Lomad said suddenly, dragging Jovvi back to her surroundings. “You are first, you know.”

“Yes, I do know,” Jovvi muttered in answer, wishing it were possible to find somewhere to hide. Instead, she rose and followed Lomad, who took her to the white line painted on the floor.

“Please remember that you must remain behind this line at all times,” Lomad told her. “Those who cross it are disqualified, but I’m certain that that won’t happen to you. Once the subjects are cued, you may begin as soon as you feel able to do so. Do you remember the order of the emotions to be used?”

“Fear, love, hatred, amusement, anger,” Jovvi answered after glancing over her shoulder. The clock was a special one, meant to be stopped and started at specific times, and that helped her to make up her mind. She would take the chance of losing, and hope with all her might that she wasn’t outsmarting herself.

“Yes, that’s completely correct,” Lomad told her with an approving smile, and Jovvi had to remind herself that he meant her recitation of the list of emotions. Everything else was still pure speculation, and would remain like that until the results of the competition were made known.

We could have just gotten the instructions here instead.

quote:

Jovvi set herself solidly behind the line while Lomad moved behind her, and then someone was cueing the six subjects. The immediate and varied range of induced emotions would have knocked Jovvi over not long ago, but now she simply found herself aware of them. To her further surprise she also discovered that she could begin the exercise almost at once, but the caution of her plan kept her from being that foolish. She had to remember not to be too strong, and responding too quickly was part of that.

So she waited through a slow count of seven, then began to change the emotions of the subjects in the prescribed way. She could have done all six of them exactly at the same time, but a tiny lag in reaction time seemed wiser. Once each of the subjects had gone through the entire range, Lomad stepped out in front of her again while the audience applauded.

So much for this being "the most complicated thing she had ever tried".

quote:

“All right, my dear, you’re finished now,” he said with a smile as he took her hands in his. “You’ve done marvelously well, and should be very proud of yourself.”

“Just how well did I do?” Jovvi asked, immediately pretending to be really tired. “I’ll need to sit down for a while, but first I’d like to know.”

The way her hands were held had kept her from turning to see the clock, and by the time Lomad released her it was too late. Turning showed Jovvi a clock which had already been reset, and Lomad chuckled as he put an arm around her shoulders and headed her toward the door.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until the competition is over before you find out how well you did,” he said as he handed her over to another man. “That won’t be for quite some time yet, so you’d be wisest if you went back to your residence to wait. You’d be much more comfortable there, and there are no penalties for not being here for the announcement. Have a cup of tea while your carriage is being summoned, and we’ll certainly meet again at the next competition.”

And then he was gone, heading back to the white line and the next participant while the strange man helped Jovvi to the door and out. So that was how they kept the real participants from knowing what was happening, she thought as she let herself be helped along. One by one they were sent home, and then the rest of the “participants” would be free to leave as well.

In no real competition ever would you do this. Ever. The main draw of a competition is the spectacle of watching competitors striving to win and then vicariously living off and reflecting the triumph of the victors and the despair of the losers and relishing the drama of the favorite being upset, etc. Can anyone name any serious competition that exists where all of the contestants are sent home and the news is not revealed to them live in front of an audience?

How is nobody suspicious of this?

No, wait, a better question: what does it freaking matter if the commoner Blendings know how strong they are and how they stack up against the others? It's not like the noble Blendings are participating in this farce! So who cares, the noble Blendings are still a big mystery and the results of the commoner Blendings are public knowledge. There SHOULD be a whole meta game around whether you go out and flaunt your strength as an intimidation tactic, or whether you hold your cards close and keep as much as you can back to surprise people in the rounds that matter.

See basically any other tournament based plot novel for how this is done right, whether it's the contrast between how Katniss and Peeta handle it in Collin's Hunger Games and their altered strategy in Catching Fire or how Eithan's tactics differ to Sophara's in Uncrowned/Wintersteel.

quote:

Jovvi’s escort sat her at a table and ordered tea for her, then presumably left to send someone for her carriage. Her being ejected from the competition building was really quite encouraging, something that let her enjoy the tea when it came. She wasn’t nearly as exhausted as she’d pretended to be, but that wasn’t to say her strength hadn’t been drained. Real or not, that competition was hard, and Jovvi didn’t mind the idea of going home at all.

Can we rewind just for a second? Your internal narration said, and I quote: "could begin the exercise almost at once", "could have done all six of them exactly at the same time" and that you were "immediately pretending to be really tired".

quote:

Two things arrived together: the last of the tea in her cup, and the man who had gone to see about her carriage. The speed in getting her vehicle back made Jovvi feel even better, so much so that she assured the man she could make it outside alone. He stood and watched her head for the way out, but his presence disappeared from Jovvi’s awareness almost immediately. Her main worry now was how the others would do, hopefully neither too good nor too bad. If there were only some way she could get word to them … assuming, of course, that it wasn’t already too late…

Jovvi paid very little attention to her surroundings as she approached the carriage and began to climb inside, but seeing people already in the seats took her attention away from worrying. She also paused in entering the carriage, but that did very little good. Someone appeared behind her without warning, lifted her and thrust her inside, then followed to close the door and block it.

Did Allestine hijack the official carriage or did Jovvi just obliviously get into a different carriage altogether?

quote:

“Oh, do sit down and behave yourself, child,” a female voice said as Jovvi began to struggle. The coach had also begun to move, which left the practice area behind. “We have a long trip ahead of us, but at the end of it you and I will settle up.”

Jovvi looked up from the floor of the coach where she’d been pushed, her blood beginning to run cold. There were two men present, Ark and Bar, and sitting there with a triumphant smile on her face was none other than Allestine, the woman who had been her sponsor and who had sworn to take her back to her former life as a courtesan!

Classifying this as a "cliffhanger" because we've literally just seen Jovvi demonstrate a bunch of power so now I'm just and waiting for the inevitable first sentence when we get to the next Jovvi chapter in the rotation for her to make them all terrified of her and make her escape.

Summary:

Day 8
Jovvi realizes the whole thing is a sham. She has to go first because she's a woman. The competition involves changing a bunch of emotions on six drugged people deliberately. She does it deliberately oh so slowly and is sent home to await the results.

After the competition, she's kidnapped by Allestine.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 36 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 18 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol
Vallant: Mirra Agran, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 52 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 37 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 9 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 10 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 41 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 21 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 39 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 23 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapter 31)

Possible fixes:
I'm bored so here's an exercise in identifying how much extraneous bloat is in this chapter. All I've done is deleted or moved text around, changing/inserting punctuation/tenses as needed, and condensed multiple words into one or two words. I would have put this in the body of the post but hey, Green's original is so long that despite me cutting all of the bloat, the post went over the 50k character limit so have a Google Doc instead.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1x6-bdKz9n54CangrbFIq8FoA1Hh_q6aCioOwvngC-7w/edit?usp=sharing

933 words. 15% of the original word count. If I get bored again, I'll do this again to some other long rear end chapter to get another data point, but you could probably take this as a rule of thumb and apply it to the entire serieses.

EDIT: Wow, I missed pointing out a plothole about the number of genuine competitors. That's fixed now!

Leng fucked around with this message at 11:30 on Feb 6, 2021

A Small Car
Aug 24, 2016




Leng posted:

933 words. 15% of the original word count. If I get bored again, I'll do this again to some other long rear end chapter to get another data point, but you could probably take this as a rule of thumb and apply it to the entire serieses.

I'm shocked you ended up with 15% of the content being retained, I expected a much lower number

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


In terms of actual story, there's probably another 5-10% that could go, but it would require rewriting of the chapter line by line instead of just deleting/moving text and replacing some words with more efficient words. Which I am not bored enough to do.

On the other hand, there are entire short chapters that are somewhere between 1000-3000 words that we could do the same exercise on, but when you look at the purpose that chapter serves in the overall narrative, you'd throw the whole thing out because it's pointless.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO 

Rion spent his breakfast time floating through a dream of going to see Naran with gold in his hand, which meant the others barely registered with him beyond being presences.

Who gets this lost in a daydream that they forget all basic courtesy at a shared meal time? I get that this is a big thing for Rion but seriously?

quote:

Once the coach arrived, though, he was forced to notice how slowly Coll and Ro moved, suggesting they might be reluctant to face what he looked forward to so eagerly. Insensitivity to the feelings of others was something Rion had never worried about, which probably meant he was often guilty of the oversight. If he were going to grow into a human being worthy of having friends and knowing a woman like Naran, it was time to change that.

Okay well, at least you're willing to self-reflect and change. You get points for that. This is admirable. I'll even refrain from pointing out that you don't know anything about Naran as a person, other than that she gets your going and she's a doormat for you.

quote:

“We should all do very well this morning,” Rion said after he’d taken his seat beside Coll and across from Ro, trying to sound open and encouraging. “No matter what that competition consists of, we’ll certainly be able to handle it … handily.”



quote:

He tried to chuckle at his little joke, but discovered how difficult it is to chuckle alone. Coll looked out of the righthand window and Ro did the same with the left, and Rion almost felt that he was alone in the coach.

Rion didn't even get pity laughs. Though honestly you guys are always staring off into the space in these coach rides anyway so I don't see how this is a new experience for any of you.

quote:

He also felt at a loss about what to say next, but inspiration suddenly visited.

“All right, so you don’t think I’ll win my competition,” he said with a sigh, leaning back and putting a hand over his eyes. “Well, you’re probably right and I’m just fooling myself by trying to believe otherwise.”

...actually playing the pity card.

quote:

“Rion, there’s no reason you shouldn’t win your competition,” Coll said at once, responding the way Rion had hoped he would.

Though I'll give Rion this: an instance of onscreen manipulation of other people based on what you know about them to achieve the result you hoped for, i.e. forcing Lorand and Vallant to confront their issues. That's more than Jovvi's ever done!

quote:

“I’m the one who probably won’t win, and that will be that.”

“If anybody’s goin’ to mess this up, I’m the one,” Ro said next, sounding extremely depressed. “It hurts to get this far before bein’ thrown out, but that’s what’s bound to happen.”

“Would they really throw one or more of us out after all but forming us into a Blending?” Rion asked after dropping his hand, and not only to keep them talking. They were suddenly discussing a very important point, one Rion hadn’t fully considered. “As I mentioned last night at dinner, this ‘competition’ could very well be nothing more than their effort to find out what sort of strength we possess. In that event, their objective will be measuring rather than disqualifying.”

“But if we don’t win, we don’t get to go to the reception at the palace,” Coll protested. “Doesn’t that have to mean the competition is important?”

“No, I think Mardimil is right,” Ro contributed slowly, nevertheless looking more animated. “Until now it was clear that failin’ to pass meant bein’ booted out, but now if we don’t win we don’t get to go to a party. I haven’t been seein’ that part of it, and now I’m wonderin’ why they want us to try so hard. If there’s still a chance of us gettin’ thrown out, why wouldn’t they say that instead?”

“They would use the party instead only if they know we’ll be going up against their noble groups, and want to find out just how good we are.” Coll’s agreement was laced with anger, his gaze moving back and forth between Rion and Ro. “If that’s the case, I don’t see any reason to give them what they want. If it means surviving a confrontation with the nobles, I’m willing to give up a chance to see the palace.”

"I won't go all out because that's going to mean I won't survive going up against a noble Blending" is a weird line of reasoning to take. And by weird, I mean it doesn't make sense. Presumably the result depends on how good the noble Blending is as well. The better reason would be "no I don't want to show them everything I've got because that means they'll know what I can do and can therefore counter it".

Unless Lorand's trying to point out that they could be sabotaged, in which case this is just poorly written because that doesn't come across at all.

quote:

“But what about the gold?” Rion protested even as Ro nodded his concurrence. “If I hold back and don’t win the competition, I also won’t win the gold. I can’t bear the thought of going to Naran with hat in hand like a beggar…”

“Rion has met a lady, and means to see her tonight,” Coll explained quickly to a puzzled Ro. “Tamrissa and I have agreed to help him avoid the notice of the people his mother has following him… You’ve made a good point, Rion, but there’s another one to consider which may be even better: if those people learn enough about your ability to let someone do you harm, won’t that ultimately be worse for Naran?”

What? So going all out means they're going to maim/kill you? I don't think Lorand understands how intel gathering works.

quote:

“And here’s somethin’ I learned the hard way,” Ro added. “If a lady loves you for your gold, it isn’t you she loves. If she wants to be with you even without gold, you’ve found somethin’ beyond price. Keepin’ yourself safe for someone like that is more important than supplyin’ what she never asked for in the first place. Or did she ask?”

“No, actually, she never did,” Rion said, delighted to have an experienced man like Ro confirm the wisdom of his attraction.

Please don't use Vallant as your role model of how to be a good romantic/life partner.

quote:

“I’m the one who wants to have gold for her, but you may be right. Putting myself at a disadvantage to get it doesn’t make much sense.”

“You know, we’ve just decided to lose the competition, but that might not be as easy as it sounds,” Coll mused, again looking between the other two men. “I had to stretch myself to gain those masteries, so I can’t pretend to have no strength at all. I was thinking I’d just hang back behind the strongest of those we’ll be competing against, but how do I tell who that is or how strong he is?”

“And what happens if we don’t all perform at the same time?” Ro put in, now looking as disturbed as Coll. “I was picturin’ us doin’ the thing like the foot race they mentioned, but that doesn’t have to be. They could have us perform one at a time, and the only ones we’d know about would be those who went ahead of us.”

“And if one of us happens to be first, he’ll have a real problem,” Rion added, closing the circle. “I can judge the approximate strength of others of my aspect once they begin to use their ability, but how am I to tell before that? If any of us falls too badly below the level we’ve risen to, they’ll know we’re holding back.”

“And that just might get us tossed out,” Ro said with a nod. “So we’ll just have to decide how much to hold down what we can do, and stick to that level no matter what happens around us. If we don’t make it too low, nobody should notice. At least not that part of it.”

This is why I keep saying that you could combine Tamrissa and Jovvi into Tavvi, and combine the men into...Riollant, and then we'd only have to read this conversation ONCE. Or you could roll all five of them into one Tavriollant protagonist and the conversation could be dispensed with entirely and this realization written as the character's real-time reaction to walking in to this stupid competition.

quote:

The last of Ro’s words were muttered, and Rion didn’t understand what they meant. Coll did seem to understand, though, and he leaned toward Ro looking earnest.

“You can’t let them use your problem against you,” Coll stated, sounding just as earnest. “I discovered during the mastery tests that they seem to know my problem, and getting mad over that helped me to get around the problem itself. Can’t you do something like that for yourself?”

“You don’t think I’ve tried?” Ro asked wearily, looking at Coll bleakly. “Gettin’ mad does help a little, but I keep picturin’ that small, windowless resin buildin’, and I get sick instead. As soon as I walk inside there won’t be any air to breathe, especially when the walls start closin’ in. I’ll choke and then I’ll panic, and then I’ll run out without competin’ at all.”

“It’s too bad you don’t have Air magic like Rion,” Coll said, now apparently sharing Ro’s depression. “I can’t imagine what your problem feels like, but being able to bring in extra air would probably help a little.”

“Maybe it isn’t extra air that Ro needs,” Rion mused, suddenly getting an idea. “You seem to do all right in these coaches, Ro, and you also seem to have no problem in the bath house, which is definitely windowless. Have you ever tried to add more moisture to the air in enclosed places? Resin tends to dry the air of the places it encloses, I’ve noticed, so—”

“So maybe that’s it!” Coll enthused, interrupting Rion with a gentle clap on the back. “Rion’s come up with the answer, and now you can compete.”

Calling this a retcon!

quote:

“I suppose it’s worth a try,” Ro said, not nearly as enthusiastic as Coll, but then he smiled. “Thanks for tryin’ for me, Mardimil. Even if it doesn’t work, it feels good knowin’ there’s somebody on my side.”

“And if it does work, you’re set,” Coll said, also giving Rion a smile. “That means we’ll all be set … except for the girls! Damnation! Why didn’t we talk about this last night? Now there’s no way to tell them.”

“Hopefully they’re thinkin’ the same about us,” Ro soothed, but Rion felt that his worry had suddenly taken a new direction. “Jovvi doesn’t let much get past her, so they ought to be just fine.”

Hahahaha...Jovvi was not on the ball this morning.

quote:

“Ought to be,” Coll echoed, in no way an agreement. “Let’s hope they are, and also agree to have group meetings every night. If we don’t stick together, they’ll get us for sure.”

OMFG no. No. NO. Whoever got Green started on her meeting fetish needs to be beaten over the head with a clipboard and other corporate stationery.

quote:

Ro made a sound that might have been support for the idea, but Rion made his response much more positive. If anything happened to Tamrissa and Jovvi because the men were too distracted by personal concerns to plan properly, Rion knew he would find it impossible to forgive himself. It would hardly be his fault alone, but it would certainly feel that way.

You're all equally pathetic in the way that you wallow in manufactured early high school level drama.

quote:

They lapsed back into silence after that, and this time Rion made no attempt to break it. His disappointment over the gold was rather deep, but he did still have some silver. It might be enough for a modest dinner, and possibly even enough for a small gift for Naran. He spent some time wondering what would really please her, and before he knew it the coach was slowing for his stop.

And we're going to get an entire scene about this later.

quote:

“Well, here’s hoping we all find the proper way to fail,” Rion said softly as they came to a full halt. “In any event, good luck, my friends.”

The others fervently returned the sentiment, and then Rion was on the walk and the coach was continuing on. There was no reason to stand there and watch it,

why is this even in here?

quote:

so Rion strode to the entrance to the practice area and inside. The number of people present had grown considerably, and when Rion paused to look around at them, Padril suddenly appeared to his left.

“I was sent to await your arrival, sir,” Padril said at his most obsequious, even offering a bow.

Slacker. Genovir met her charge outside!

quote:

“The other participants have already arrived, and the competition will soon begin. Would you care to stop for a cup of tea, or go immediately to the competitions building?”

The event planner for these things is also incompetent. If your welcome script includes an offer of tea, then maybe schedule your carriages for earlier and also schedule the arrival of all your competitiors, including the dummy ones, to be at the same time.

quote:

“I have no interest in tea,” Rion answered, making no effort to pretend friendliness toward the man. “Lead me to the building.”

Padril bowed again and began to move through the crowds, and Rion followed after taking a final glance around. For some reason it disturbed him that many of the people there were certainly of the nobility, although no one Rion had ever met. There had been no sign of his class peers until now, but the competition seemed to have brought them out. A low level event like this one promised to be shouldn’t have held enough interest to do that, and for that reason Rion felt disturbed.

Use of "disturbed" twice in one paragraph. How isolated was Rion as a child if he hasn't met ANYONE in the audience? And if Hallina Mardimil is really as politically powerful as everyone makes her out to be then Rion himself should be recognizable to this audience. Wouldn't it be a great opportunity to have a random encounter that doesn't feel shoehorned into the plot?

quote:

But there was nothing he might do about the matter even if it proved sinister, so he simply followed Padril into the large resin building. Most of the floor was open from wall to wall, but a heavy tan curtain had been draped across the back section of it. Others were entering at the same time to join one or another group already inside, but Padril ignored them all to lead Rion to a man standing alone near a group of seated people. Those in the seats wore master’s bracelets like Rion’s, and the man standing alone smiled as they approached.

“Sir, this is Adept Worlen, who is in charge of the competition,” Padril said rather quickly, obviously eager to be finished and away. “He will see to you now, and I wish you luck.”

What happened to "Master"? Also nobody has been called "sir" before this, they're always "Dom" instead. Sloppy or non-existent copyediting on top of the developmental editing too.

quote:

With that the overfed fool scurried away, and Rion was glad to see the back of him. He knew precisely what sort of luck Padril wished him, and he returned the sentiment exactly.

“Well, Mardimil, glad to see you made it,” Worlen said with that lower-nobility charm Rion usually found extremely grating. “Come and take a seat with the other competitors, as we’ll be beginning shortly.”

I don't understand what I'm supposed to be taking away from this attempt at characterization. Does Rion still find it grating? Or is he reflecting that he used to find it grating and now he doesn't? Is he perplexed by this change in opinion? Is this a moment of realization that he used to be a pompous rear end and that he made not only the lives of the servants in his mother's household miserable, he also made the lives of other lower ranked nobles miserable?

quote:

No other response than sitting was called for, so Rion made none. Worlen didn’t seem to notice, though, as he was much too busy watching the spectators enter. Rion himself looked at his fellow competitors, one of whom was a lady instead. She and two of the men seemed very much ill at ease, while the remaining four men appeared more bored than nervous. Something felt odd about that, but Rion didn’t have the time to wonder what. He still hadn’t decided just how strong he should be, and that had to be taken care of first.

Three plus Rion makes four. Where's the missing 5th real competitor? Also you can guess where this is going.

quote:

A number of minutes went by while Rion thought, but the process was far from productive. He was finally forced to admit that he needed to know what was involved in the competition before any lucid decisions might be made, and that was when Worlen stood himself in front of the curtain and raised his arms.

Of all the dumb things we've seen these protagonists do, this might be the dumbest yet. Also, that is not how you use the word "lucid", Green. And while I'm nitpicking on the prose, her constant overuse of the words "a number of ______" pisses me off. It's just extra words for no good reason!

quote:

“Friends, please give me your attention,” he called. “We’re about to begin, so please find your places.”

There was a final amount of shuffling and throat-clearing and coughs, and then there was silence. Worlen smiled, obviously enjoying the audience’s interest.

None of those things are indicative of interest!

quote:

“This, as most of you know, is a low level competition in Air magic,” Worlen lectured. “We have eight participants today, and each of them will test their ability against the ticking of that clock.”

The man pointed then, and Rion turned in his seat to see the back of what appeared to be a sporting event clock. Both human and horse races used the device, but it was positioned so that only the audience might see it, not the participants.

I would suddenly be rather reading about horse racing than this chapter. Does anybody remember the Black Stallion books? I read a whole bunch of them during the obligatory horse obsessed teen girl phase and remember enjoying them a lot, even if they were formulaic.

quote:

“What they will need to do is as follows,” Worlen continued, pulling aside the tan curtain. “There are ten bell devices arranged around this area, some closer together, some farther apart, some high, some low. That small steel ball sitting up on the starting ‘tower’ toward the back must be maneuvered around to ring each of the ten bells, but the participant won’t be permitted to simply grasp the ball in thickened air and move it that way. The ball has to be ‘guided’ into position to ring each bell, otherwise the bell simply won’t ring. Here’s a demonstration to show what I mean.”

A young lady hurried over to where the small and shiny ball lay atop a wooden tower about five feet high. To the tower’s left, rising perhaps an inch from the floor, was a small, flat-topped device. Rion watched as the young lady took the steel ball in her hand, then she walked to the flat-topped device, bent, and struck it with the ball. The device made a thick clicking sound, and then the young lady stood and tried to drop the ball on the device. Despite what should have been a straight-line approach, the ball veered off at the last moment and missed the device altogether.

“So you see,” Worlen said as the girl retrieved the ball and returned it to its tower. “Only ‘guiding’ will let the ball ring the bell, and ten rings are required.

I have thought of a new explanation for the repetitive events. My theory is Green does not know how to revise her writing, so all she does is write a first draft, then write slightly less mediocre versions of the same thing as successive chapters using variations on characters/magical powers/etc, instead of doing the hard thing of going back and improving what she's already written. You can literally see the template of Jovvi's last chapter in this chapter, except the Rion chapter is slightly better.

quote:

Let’s begin now with our first participant.”

Rion had convinced himself that he would be first, and so found himself surprised when the young woman was approached. Worlen had to charm her out of her chair as she tried to protest, and then had to walk her back to a rather thick white line painted on the floor. The so-called Adept spoke softly to the girl for a moment, and then he left her to begin her effort.

The girl was extremely nervous, but when she opened herself to the power it became clear that she was far from untalented. Rion watched her form a cylinder of air then tip the ball into it, which brought the ball down at a steep angle to strike the flat-topped device at the bottom of the incline. This time a bell sounded, but then the girl just stood there, looking around at the other bell locations in bewilderment.

“That’s all right, my dear, consider it part of the demonstration,” Worlen said with a chuckle as he returned to her. “You’ve just discovered that you can’t go from bell to bell in order, not when they’re set at varying heights. You struck the lowest bell first, which means that you would have to grasp the ball in order to raise it again. Since grasping it is against the rules, you’ll have to start again and choose your landings in advance.”

The girl nodded miserably and began to study the various bell positions, obviously too upset to notice that the clock hadn’t been started as yet. But Rion had noticed, and something else as well: all of the other participants were watching the girl with their eyes alone. Not one of them touched the least amount of power, which struck Rion as being extremely strange. No one had said they shouldn’t, and no one had remarked on the fact that Rion was touching it. He was obviously missing something, but what that could be he had no idea.

Seems like Rion is missing both the conditioning that applied to the general populace as well as the specific conditioning for noble children. Guess that private training Bron and co got was how the conditioning was applied.

quote:

This time the clock was started when the girl began the exercise again, and this time she completed it. Her guiding cylinders took the ball from bell to bell in wide sweeps, but always with the downward curve working to her benefit. When the final bell was struck the girl seemed ready to collapse, but Worlen was right there to take both her hands in his.

“Congratulations, my dear, that was wonderfully done,” Worlen enthused while the audience applauded. Then his voice lowered as he spoke to her more privately, finally releasing her hands only after a full minute. When the girl turned she looked up at the clock, but her disappointed expression showed that there was no longer anything to see. Rion wasn’t surprised at that, but the speed used in getting the girl out of the building was startling.

What kind of clock takes a whole minute to reset!? Weren't Victorian era clockworks quite sophisticated?

quote:

“She really did very well indeed,” Rion heard, and looked back to see Worlen. The man had let someone else accompany the girl, and now had returned to the rest of them. “Those of you who follow her will really have to stretch yourselves, otherwise you’ll find yourselves outdone by a woman. And the first one to stretch will be Rion Mardimil.”

When we wrap up Book 2, I'm gonna need a break so I can go read some good feminist fantasy with no toxic masculinity after this. I am so sick of this schtick.

quote:

Rion was tired of having these people forget his title, but this wasn’t the time to make an issue of it. There were more important things going on, not to mention questions to be asked.

Write Rion throwing a hissy fit about this instead!

quote:

“Just what was the young lady’s time?” he put to Worlen as he stood, looking down at the man. “And why was she made to leave so quickly?”

“Her time—and your own—will be given to you once the competition is completely over,” Worlen responded smoothly, looking toward the others as well while he spoke. “Until then you are to make no attempt to learn this information, and you’re to leave the building as soon as you’re told you may do so. Someone will be sent to the winner’s residence with the good news and a purse containing his—or her—gold. Have I made myself clear?”

Rion thought it was quite clear that they were up to some trick, but rather than say so he simply smiled.

WHY?! For the love of the Prime Aspect, please can we have one of the characters call their bluff or do something other than just GO ALONG WITH THIS CRAP.

quote:

The others nodded uneasily, and it was Worlen’s turn to smile.

“Good,” he said in approval. “Now, Mardimil, if you please…”

His arm swept toward the thick white line, so Rion walked over to it and looked at the arrangement of bells.

The clock got reset but not the bells. So everybody can just copy from the first successful person.

quote:

Each stood on its own small tower in different places around the rough circle, each tower a different height. When Rion opened himself fully to the power, he was able to detect a strange … feeling of sorts around each tower. He had no idea what caused the feeling, but suspected it was produced by whatever made the steel ball miss the bell without a guiding cylinder.

GO LOOK AT IT WITH YOUR MAGICAL SENSES! A repellant force field sounds like an extremely handy application of your magic and you're trying to lose so you've got all the time in the world to look at it!

quote:

And just how strong that cylinder should be was another question. The girl had caused the air they were made of to be almost completely rigid, but that might not be necessary—or particularly desirable. Rion suddenly remembered he was supposed to lose the competition, and since he couldn’t really argue the decision he decided he might as well get it over with.

The steel ball had been returned to the top of the highest tower, and lifting it a breath off its resting place showed Rion just how heavy it was. He could have constructed one single cylinder to curve around to each bell, and then would have only needed to nudge the ball on its way again after it rang a bell. But the girl had constructed her cylinder sections one at a time, so he had to do the same and more slowly. Happily, he had a general idea about how long it had taken her.

Rion heard the clock being set in motion the moment he nudged the steel ball from its first resting place, and that helped to remind him to take his time. He discovered that the steel ball needed constant attention even as it rolled along its guiding cylinder; added momentum somehow seemed to add to its already-considerable weight, and without strict watchfulness it could burst through the cylinder wall at the bottom of the slide, either before or after it rang the bell.

I would also be more interested in reading about Rion discovering the laws of physics than reading the rest of this chapter.

quote:

Losing the ball midway would probably also have lost the competition most easily, but Rion’s pride refused to allow him to do that. Going more slowly than the girl would have to suffice.

When the final bell rang, Worlen came over to shake Rion’s hand with enthusiastic congratulations. The man also babbled meaningless questions at him, so by the time Rion was able to turn it was too late to see what the clock had read. Nevertheless he was certain his time had been longer than the girl’s, so he made no argument when some stranger insisted Rion follow him outside.

I don't get it. First, you don't care about being polite to this guy, so just turn around when he grabs you. Like he's shaking your hand, not grabbing your shoulders, so you still have full range of motion. Second, you already agreed earlier to not try to discover your time, so why are you even bothering now?

quote:

The eating area wasn’t completely emptied by any means, but it was mostly the usual low-born hangers-on who were left. The girl who had performed first sat alone at a table gulping tea, and Rion considered joining her. His thoughts must have been too obvious, though, as his guide spoke up before Rion made up his mind.

“Participants in a competition aren’t permitted to fraternize,” the man said in a very flat voice. “When ordinary people see casual mixing, they too often decide that there’s been collusion and that the competition was fixed. The authority wants nothing of trouble of that sort, so you must take a table by yourself.”

“Yes, by all means, let’s be certain there’s no collusion,” Rion returned dryly, choosing a table and sitting. “You may ring for a servant for me, and then see about sending for my coach. As I’m supposed to return to the residence, that would be the first logical step in accomplishing it.”

“A servant is already on his way,” the man replied, gesturing with a nod in the direction of the kitchens. “Someone else is already arranging for your coach, so I’ll simply stand here and keep you company.”

Rion shrugged in an effort to show that he didn’t care one way or another, but after ordering tea and a sweet cake from the servant he sat back to think. The man standing so casually not far from the girl’s table must be her guard, just as the man near Rion was his. And guards the two certainly were, although the reason for their presence was far from clear. What did they expect Rion to do to the girl, or she to him, that each of them had to be guarded…?

And then Rion saw how foolish he was being. Unless he was mistaken, these people were afraid of what he and the girl would say to each other, not do. But that led to another question, such as what sort of thing the authority didn’t want discussed. There were no real secrets to impart, after all…

Or were there? What would he and the girl learn if they were to compare notes? The answer to that was impossible to guess, but just as impossible to dismiss. It was something he would have to discuss with the others when they all returned to the residence, but right now Rion had to fight to keep from turning his head to stare at the girl.

They would probably end up deciding they needed to speak to members of other residences, but how would they do that when they had no idea where those other residences were?

There are so many exchanges like this throughout all of the books that just pad word count. Okay, the testing authority doesn't want you guys to compare notes, got it. I don't need this entire exchange plus four paragraphs of internal monologue to learn that.

Summary:

Day 8
Jovvi/Rion/Lorand/Vallant realizes the whole thing is a sham. She has to/he doesn't get to go first because she's/he's not a woman. The competition involves changing a bunch of emotions on six drugged people deliberately/guiding a ball to ring ten bell towers. She/he does it deliberately oh so slowly and is sent home to await the results.

After the competition, she's kidnapped by Allestine.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 37 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 19 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol
Vallant: Mirra Agran, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 52 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 38 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 10 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 10 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 41 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 22 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 40 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 23 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32)

Possible fixes:
It didn't matter for the Spirit magic competition, but having all the competitors watch each other from the beginning is problematic for Air magic. They should have been brought out separately so they don't see how the other competitors compete! In any event where part of the challenge is overcoming the field/setup, information asymmetry is bad. Everybody should go in blind, and then afterwards get taken to a green room where they can watch as part of the audience instead, when watching won't affect how they perform.

Leng fucked around with this message at 11:29 on Feb 6, 2021

Liquid Communism
Mar 9, 2004


Out here, everything hurts.




Leng posted:

I think we might actually get to the canon reason in either this book or the next one. Actually, wait, I think it's Book 4 there are independent judges or a panel of commoners or whatever the term is who are on the lookout to ensure there's no been no tampering by the nobles organizing the competitions, I think we'll get a passing reference to it in an Eltrina or Embisson POV. Then in Book 4, Meerk is one of them and he's shattered - first when Lorand breaks it to him when they're at the challenges for the Seated High in Earth magic, and then Tamrissa breaks it again when he's rescued the protagonists because he thought the noble Blending won fair and square.


that's uh, distinctive.

Abe Lincoln wore it better.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE 

Lorand wished Ro luck when the man left the coach, and a few minutes later it was his own destination that the coach stopped at. In the interim Lorand had wondered why he felt so lighthearted, but the answer was rather obvious. This was the first time he would approach a test with the knowledge that he had to lose rather than win, and the freedom of that realization almost had him laughing and singing.

The way Green constantly uses "obvious" bugs me no end. I was curious how many times Green uses the word "obvious" in this book - the answer is 122 times. 122 times. It was there 138 times in Book 1 if you wanted a point of comparison. I think I'm gonna do a word frequency cloud when we get to the end of Book 2. We should all take bets as to what the top 10 offenders are.

quote:

At least until he was out of the coach and walking toward the entrance to the practice area. He’d very much wanted to talk to Jovvi again, but telling her he meant to do his absolute best wouldn’t have changed the reason she’d withdrawn from him, and now he couldn’t even say that much honestly. A man who was determined to win in the end would be very unhappy over needing to lose at any time, but Lorand wasn’t in the least unhappy. That said something about himself, and would have said even more to Jovvi.

This is only here because if it wasn't, we would forget that Lorand has a "it's complicated" status with Jovvi.

quote:

So Lorand walked through the entrance feeling guilty for feeling relieved, a combination odd enough to be very uncomfortable. Sight of all the extra people in the eating area helped to distract him a bit from that, and Hestir’s approach did the rest of the job.

“Good morning, Dom Coll, it’s good to see you again,” Hestir said with a great deal of obsequious respect, actually bowing. “Would you care to pause for a cup of tea before joining everyone else in the competitions building?”

“I don’t need any tea this morning,” Lorand answered shortly, and for the first time truthfully. He didn’t need any stimulants or excuses designed to waste time, but even more he didn’t intend to chat with Hestir as though the man had done nothing unusual yesterday.

“Then it’s my honor to lead you to the building,” Hestir said, looking and sounding as if “terror” would have been a better word than “honor.” “Please follow me.”

The way double quotes have been used here outside of the dialogue looks weird to me for some reason. Where's that copyeditor?

quote:

The man turned and walked off at a pace that should have been dignified, but the fact that Hestir would have preferred running was much too obvious. It turned his stride choppy, and Lorand followed a bit more easily while wondering why Hestir’s terror didn’t bother him. It had to be because of the man’s actions, which proved that Lorand wasn’t as forgiving as he’d considered himself. Being feared should have bothered Lorand, but in Hestir’s case it didn’t.

Normally I'd say that this is Green being verbose when writing monologuing but I think this is actually her sneaking in the moral of the story: i.e. fighter good, bullies bad, fighters terrifying bullies through threat of physical violence therefore also good.

quote:

Much of the crowd was heading toward the building as well, and Lorand walked inside to find that it was already fairly well filled. Hestir led the way through the throng toward the back of the building, where a man stood in front of a curtain, talking to a woman who seemed to have just arrived. As Hestir approached, the man directed the woman to a seat among others who were just a few steps away, and then he turned to the newest newcomers.

What is going on? There weren't any curtains in the previous two chapters! Wow it's so different! Do you think maybe they used the same shower curtain from IKEA that featured in that first test back in Book 1 Chapter 6?

quote:

“Sir, this is Adept Lidim,” Hestir said over his shoulder to Lorand with a gesture toward the man. “Adept Lidim is in charge of the competition, and—”

“And this must be Dom Coll,” Lidim interrupted with barely a glance for his brother Adept. “That’s all, Hestir. You may return to your other duties now.”

Hestir wasted no time in obeying that command, bowing briefly before disappearing back into the crowd. Lorand wanted to watch him go just to be sure he was gone, but Lidim put a distracting hand to his shoulder.

“Listen to me, now, Dom Coll,” he said, sounding brisk and very efficient. “We’ll be starting very soon, and you need to know how things will work. Participants will be called up one at a time to tackle the exercise, which I’ll explain to the audience and yourselves once we begin. Each participant’s performance will be timed, but you and the others aren’t to know how anyone else has done. That goes for your own time as well, and once you’ve completed the exercise you’ll leave the building and return to your residence. The winner will be notified—and given his or her gold—as soon as all the results are tabulated. Any questions?”

Look at Green getting more concise with her third draft I mean chapter.

quote:

“One,” Lorand responded, unsure about whether or not he liked this man’s abrupt manner. “I can see the clock standing right there, in front of those seated people. What happens if I turn away from the exercise too soon and do manage to find out my own time? Will I be executed, or simply banished forever from the realm?”

“Very droll, Dom Coll,” Lidim replied with the faintest smile Lorand had ever seen. “Neither thing will happen, of course, as I expect every contestant to be properly circumspect. Now, if you will take a seat with the others, I’ll be able to begin.”

Someone please call this bluff.

quote:

It was no surprise when Lidim gestured to the people seated behind the clock, since they were the only ones in the room who were unable to see what the clock would show. Lorand gave up trying to rattle Lidim and shrugged his agreement, then made his way over to the last remaining empty chair. In addition to the woman and himself there were seven other people, but only one man looked as nervous as the woman. The rest seemed … almost bored, but Lorand decided he must be mistaken. Even he wasn’t bored, and he meant to lose.

The mystery as to where the missing two commoner Blending contestants continues.

quote:

“Attention, everyone, give me your attention, please,” Lidim called out almost as soon as Lorand was seated, holding up one hand as he spoke. “We’re ready to begin, so if everyone will settle down, I’ll explain what this exercise consists of.”

The crowd shifted so that everyone faced the area Lidim stood in front of, and once silence settled over them Lidim gestured. Two men came forward to remove the curtain blocking sight of the area, and once they were gone Lidim gestured again, this time behind himself.

“The large cube that you see there is the main basis of this contest,” he said as a murmur went through the crowd. “The cube is made up of various layers, each of which is a different sort of material. The competitors will each be provided with a cube, the various components arranged in different orders, and their job will be to disassemble the thing layer by layer until it’s gone. They’ll need to discern what each of the materials is, of course, and remove the entire layer at once. And now for our first competitor.”

The girl drew in her breath a bit sharply when Lidim put out his hand to her, but she still rose and went to join him where he stood. Lidim positioned her behind a thick white line painted on the floor, spoke to her briefly and silently, then left her alone. The girl took a deep breath as she examined the four-foot-square cube where it rested on a low platform, and then she began the exercise.

Lorand watched her take apart the first layer of the cube, which was made of heavy leather. The leather came apart and crumbled to nothing at all at once, and her effort impressed Lorand to the point of raising his brows. The girl was strong, much more so than the so-called Adepts around her, and Lorand couldn’t help wondering what it would take to be better than her. Not that he wasn’t glad he wouldn’t have to be, of course. Trying to pull in enough power to top someone else was a good way to destroy yourself.

Finally an instance of good characterization of Lorand's fear of burnout. I wish that we had just gotten loads of little internal thoughts like this until things came to a head when he really has no choice but to pull in more power. Instead, we got the hamfisted handling that we got.

quote:

The layer of leather had been painted a splotchy orange and tan, making it look like some cheap and gaudy cloth. The girl had had no more trouble telling that it was leather than Lorand had, but she paused briefly before tackling the next layer, which showed itself as green and purple diagonals. It turned out to be copper and quickly went the way of the leather, but Lorand took careful note of the girl’s pause. No matter how quickly he figured out what something was, he’d have to remember to pause just the way she was doing.

The girl went through half a dozen layers in the same way, and every time she dissolved one the cube dropped a short distance to the platform, showing that all six sides were being taken apart at the same time. The cube also shrank, of course, until it disappeared with the very last layer. A smattering of polite applause broke out then, and Lidim walked over to the girl and spoke to her softly again. Lorand noticed the way she deliberately kept her back turned to the clock until someone came over to join her and Lidim, and then she followed the newcomer away without hesitation.

I'm fairly certain some laws of physics are being broken here, specifically the one about conservation of mass. Unless...does Earth magic literally break everything apart, not just into its constituent molecules or individual atoms but into its subatomic particles? I'm really rusty on my physics, but doesn't that equal releasing tons of energy from the molecular bonds and nuclear fission?

quote:

“And now we’re ready for our second competitor,” Lidim announced, gesturing to the man who had been sitting next to the girl. “It’s too bad for him that the young lady did such a marvelous job, and now he’s in the position of needing to do better or lose to her. But I’m sure he’ll try his best, and will be able to say that honestly if he does happen to lose.”

A ripple of amusement went through the crowd as the man stood himself where the girl had been. Lorand saw the stiffness of the man’s stance and the way he’d squared his shoulders, those two things, among others, speaking of how determined the man was to keep himself from embarrassment. Lorand knew just how he felt, but also knew he would not be standing like that. No matter how distasteful the matter would now be, Lorand was still determined to lose.

The third draft of this toxic masculinity doesn't get any better.

quote:

Lidim spoke to the man softly for a moment, then left him alone to begin the exercise. A second cube had been brought in and wrestled to the low platform, and its top layer was orange and red and yellow, like a fire gone flat and crazy. The man at the white line studied it a brief moment, then dissolved the layer of camouflaged wood.

Lorand couldn’t help but notice that the man’s pause wasn’t to confirm an immediate impression, but to figure out what the substance was in the first place. He was neither as fast nor as strong as the girl had been, which worked out fairly well for Lorand. Now no one should question the matter when he lost as well. The man was trying harder and harder to match the girl, but his desperation showed that he knew he wasn’t making it.

From an outside point of view, everything went perfectly well until the man was two layers from finishing the cube. During the time the man worked, his increasing frustration and distress said he knew the girl had done significantly better. That awareness had worsened the man’s performance rather than bettering it, of course, and finally it caused disaster.

After pausing to assess the fifth layer, the man attempted to dissolve it. Lorand knew it was a mild steel painted a lead gray, but the color must have misled the man trying to take it apart. The steel shuddered and pitted here and there, but didn’t even come close to dissolving completely.

“No, that can’t be right!” the man protested at once, his voice wild as he looked to where Lidim stood watching. “People are holding the layer together and blocking my work, trying to make me look like a fool! Stop the clock and make them pull back, and then I’ll be able to continue.”

“No one is blocking you, and stopping the clock in the middle of a performance isn’t permitted,” Lidim told him, loudly enough for everyone to hear. “You merely mistook the composition of the material, but if you hurry you can correct the error and possibly still win.”

“Now you’re trying to make me look like a fool!” the man shouted, clearly losing even more control of himself. “I can’t win now, not when she didn’t hesitate at all! Your trying to convince me otherwise says that you’re the one behind the plot! Well, your friends may get away with it, but you certainly won’t!”

So spoilers for later in this book everybody's gonna be told that they won, because all of the contestants have to go to the palace to allow their noble counterparts to scope them out. Which makes the fact that everybody gets to watch everybody else even more stupid because if you've got a reasonably accurate internal clock like this guy, you would know for sure if you were faster or slower than somebody else.

quote:

And with that the man sent his ability toward Lidim, obviously intending to take the man apart the way he’d done with the first four layers of the cube. People shouted and screamed all over the room, but Lorand had already put his own talent between Lidim and the man who had cracked under the pressure. The attack had been a very strong possibility from the moment the man began to shout, and Lorand had been ready.

The man screamed when he couldn’t reach the cringing so-called Adept with his ability, but he wasn’t permitted to take more than a single step in Lidim’s direction. Lorand became aware of a large number of people linked together who touched the man at the same time, and then the man collapsed. They’d probably touched the part of the man’s mind controlling sleep, and had forced him into the state. It had taken a very large number of people with Earth magic, simply because the man was that strong. Not as strong as the girl or Lorand, but definitely a potential High.

Uh, you're in contact with the power, so shouldn't you be able to follow: 1) exactly how many people are linked and 2) what they did while linked? Because every other time somebody's been in contact with the power and other people are doing stuff with the same aspect, they can.

quote:

And a potential High who was probably no longer in the running for any sort of position. The man’s mind had collapsed under the pressure, and it would take the efforts of a very capable physician to see him well again. Lorand thought about that as people carried the man out, compassion for the poor pawn strong inside him. That could have happened to anyone put through what the testing authority considered “qualifying,” and it was the man’s bad luck that he had turned out to be the anyone.

And at this point, Eltrina should be forced to sub in an extra Earth magic user into whichever residence this guy is from. If I recall correctly, Green forgets about this entirely the next time we're in Eltrina's POV.

quote:

“I’d like to thank whoever added their strength to mine in shielding me from that madman,” Lidim suddenly announced, still looking shaken. “I didn’t require the assistance, of course, but I’d like to personally thank whoever was thoughtful enough to try. Would that person please acknowledge the considerate gesture?”

Lorand joined everyone else in looking around curiously, not about to admit that he was the one who’d done it. Lidim had lied about not needing the help, since he hadn’t tried to erect even a feeble barrier. Someone with decent strength would have been able to recognize Lorand’s efforts as soon as he began to do the exercise, but with Lidim involved, Lorand had nothing to worry about.

Hold up. So you can only tell what other people are doing depending on how strong you are? I call plothole, because this is inconsistent as hell.

quote:

“Well, my attempted benefactor is apparently too modest to claim his due in recognition,” Lidim said after a moment or two of no one coming forward. “I’ll simply repeat my thanks, then, and we’ll continue with the competition.”

People began to settle down again with that, and Lidim gestured to Lorand to show whose turn it was. Lorand stood and came forward while a new cube was brought in to take the place of the uncompleted one, and Lidim stepped closer.

“You aren’t permitted to move over the white line, Dom Coll,” he said rather quickly, obviously eager to return to where he’d been standing. “And I hope you understand that there’s really no plot involved here. Just a competition, which anyone is free not to compete in.”

Hahahahaha. Said with a straight face to somebody in one of the two aspects who can tell truth from lie. Yet we don't get any sort of commentary from Lorand on this, because Green.

quote:

“Thank you, Adept Lidim, and I certainly do understand,” Lorand assured him, trying to speak warmly. “If I do happen to fail, it won’t be anyone’s fault but my own. You have my word that I won’t be attacking you.”

Lidim simply nodded and hurried away, so it was time for Lorand to pay attention to the exercise. The top layer of his cube was a dark blue with larger and smaller green and white spots, making the thing look rotten with mold. The coloring didn’t change the fact that the material was a hard baked clay, though, so Lorand set to work.

The exercise turned out to be a lot of fun, and Lorand had to constantly remind himself not to hurry to see what the next layer would be. He dissolved the cube one layer at a time, reflecting that they should have required that all the layers be done at once, and found himself surprised and a bit disappointed when the cube abruptly disappeared completely. There was scattered applause, and then Lidim was beside him again.

“Wonderfully done, Dom Coll, really marvelously done,” Lidim said, sounding as if he simply repeated memorized words that he didn’t mean at all. “You’ll be free to leave in a moment, and here’s the man to accompany you now. If you like, you may have some tea while your coach is being sent for.”

Lorand nodded and followed the man who had come to lead him out, not even glancing at the clock which had probably already been reset.

Finally, somebody who figures it's pointless. But why he couldn't just reach out and sense the position of the hands on the clock with his talent?

quote:

He was rather anxious to get back to the residence, but would definitely have that cup of tea while waiting for the coach. And at the same time he would try to figure out why he was no longer as happy as he’d been. His relief had disappeared somewhere, and Lorand couldn’t quite tell what it had been replaced with.

There were a number of empty tables available in the eating area, and Lorand chose one after looking around. The girl who had performed first in the competition was nowhere in sight, which probably meant she’d already left. The man accompanying Lorand also looked around, then excused himself after saying he’d be back when Lorand’s coach arrived. Lorand nodded absently at that, because the servant he’d rung for was approaching.

After ordering tea and anything in cake that happened to have a cream filling, Lorand sat back and began to try to figure out what was wrong with him. He’d just reached the point of understanding that the competition had been some kind of disappointment to him, when someone sat down at his table.

This is not how you do a monologue. If you want the character to be doing reflection, then actually show us the reflection and the thought process that leads to the conclusion. If you just care about the conclusion, then tell us what their conclusion is and dispense with all the other filler.

quote:

Thinking it was Hestir, Lorand looked up ready to order the man away. The words floated off, however, when he saw that it wasn’t Hestir.

“That’s right, friend, don’t say nothin’,” the man cautioned, his large friend standing closer to Lorand than to him. “I told you I’d be back, an’ now that yer done with that there competition thing, I’ll have m’gold.”

It took a moment for Lorand to make himself believe that the man Hat owed money to had had the nerve to show up here. He obviously had good enough connections to find out about the competition today, and also the fact that there would be a large number of strangers about. That had clearly let him saunter in and hang around with no one demanding to know what he was doing here, and now he thought he had Lorand cornered.

“The competition isn’t over yet, so no gold has been paid out,” Lorand told the man mildly, finally remembering that his name was Meerk. “But even if it had been paid, none of it would be going to you. I’m willing to lend Hat the money, and what he does with it is his business.”

“Look, you, don’t you try coddin’ me around,” Meerk growled, coming across even rougher and meaner in the daylight. “That friend a yours is gone, crawled into th’ woodwork somewheres, an’ I ain’t got the time ’r patience t’dig ’im out. You come up with th’ gold right now, ’r you’ll get what I woulda give that little drunk. You get me?”

“Oh, I understand you perfectly,” Lorand said, suddenly fighting to hold a flame-hot temper. He’d just remembered he wasn’t going to be getting any gold, not after deliberately losing the competition, and he didn’t believe the man. Hat hadn’t simply disappeared, the lowlife could well have done something to him, and that meant Lorand had to do something of his own.

Lorand forgets the whole conversation he had with Tamrissa on how dead people don't pay debts.

quote:

“And since I understand you perfectly,” Lorand continued, “let’s see if I can make you understand me. Do you have any real idea of what sort of competition is being held today?”

“Why would I give a drat?” the man began, gesturing aside the question impatiently. “All I wanna know is—”

The words disappeared as the man choked, his friend staggering and choking in the same way. They’d both gone pale, of course, and Lorand smiled faintly.

“This was—and still is—a competition for potential High practitioners in Earth magic,” he said, leaning back at ease in his chair. “The reason you can’t breathe very well is because I’m strangling you two from the inside, where the strain marks can’t be seen. If I don’t release the hold you’ll die, and all the officials here will do is get rid of your bodies and say nothing. Do you doubt that?”

Meerk shook his head spasmodically while the other fell to his knees, no longer able to stand. They both thought they were dying, but even as angry as Lorand was, he couldn’t kill two human beings in cold blood. At the moment he was simply blocking off some of their air, and the worst that could happen was that they’d faint. But he didn’t want them to know that, not when he hadn’t yet gotten what he wanted.

You could have done any other number of things to prove you're the bigger talent without actually inflicting physical harm!

quote:

“You’re smart to understand that I’m more important to these people than two useless troublemakers,” Lorand went on with the same small, cold smile.

On that note, anybody else want to remark on how out of character this is for Lorand? This feels more like something that Rion or Vallant would do. Probably Rion, because Vallant would just straight up have a fist fight and enjoy it.

quote:

“I’m really tempted to get you out of my life once and for all right now, but luckily for you I have a job of work I want you to do. If you’re interested in taking that job of work, tell me now.”

Both men immediately nodded even as they continued to gasp and choke, and Lorand let his smile widen just a little.

“That’s really very wise of you,” he commended them. “It saves everyone involved a good deal of trouble… Now, what I want you to do is find my friend Hat, and then bring him to me at my residence. If you hurt him in any way I’ll know it and return the favor, but if you bring him to me unharmed I’ll see that you get your gold. Are you still willing?”

By then Lorand had released the men to breathe freely again, needing to see their reactions when they weren’t in a state where they would promise anything to be released. The man who had been standing now sat on the ground with his head hanging low, but Meerk glared at Lorand even as he kept dragging in air. Lorand met his glare with an unblinking stare, and after a moment the man dropped his gaze.

“Always thought that kinda thing was bullshit,” he muttered, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “People bein’ that strong, I mean. I’m real strong in Earth magic m’self, but ain’t no way I coulda broke loose. Okay, you got yerself a deal. We dig out th’ little drunk an’ bring ’im t’you, an’ you pay us. In gold, not in th’ end a our lives.”

He was back to staring at Lorand by then, and what he’d said was true. He was fairly strong in Earth magic, possibly even an unpracticed Middle, but he hadn’t had a chance against Lorand’s strength. He did, however, know the trick of monitoring someone’s bodily signs to see if they were telling the truth, and that’s what he was doing right now with Lorand. That said Hat had really believed the fantasy tale he’d told, but Lorand had no time to think about that now.

“You’ll be paid in gold, even if I have to borrow the gold,” he said clearly, making no effort to block the man’s monitoring. “Does that satisfy you?”

Wait wait wait wait wait. You can BLOCK someone else's monitoring? Why are we not finding out more about this? This is useful!

quote:

“Guess it’ll hafta,” Meerk grudged, pushing away from the table to stand. “Don’t know why you’d want th’ little drunk, but if he’s still here in Gan Garee, he’s yours.”

The one on the ground struggled to his feet, and the two walked unsteadily away. It was still possible that they’d killed Hat and hidden his body, but Lorand had done some monitoring of his own. As far as he could tell, Meerk had been sincere in accepting the offer. If Hat was still in the city, they’d find him and bring him to the residence. After that…

After that, Lorand had no idea what he would do. In the middle of everything going on, what in the world would he do with a man who had turned into a perpetual drunk living in a fantasy world? Lorand didn’t know, but he’d damned well better think of something fast…

Not-spoilers: this also goes nowhere.

Summary:

Day 8
Jovvi/Rion/Lorand/Vallant realizes the whole thing is a sham. She has to/he doesn't get to go first because she's/he's not a woman. The competition involves changing a bunch of emotions on six drugged people deliberately/guiding a ball to ring ten bell towers/dissolving a painted cube. She/he does it deliberately oh so slowly and is sent home to await the results.

After the competition, she's kidnapped by Allestine/he's accosted by Meerk, who agrees to locate Hat in response to Lorand's threat of magical violence.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 38 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 19 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol
Vallant: Mirra Agran, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 54 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 39 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 10 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 10 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 41 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 23 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 41 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 23 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33)

Possible fixes:
Nothing new to add here. This chapter should be disintegrated into thin air and nuke all of the adjacent chapters as a consequence.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Here, have a tag cloud of Book 1, including the 5 chapters that got stuck at the beginning of Book 2 (courtesy of WordArt.com which has an interactive version):



Here are all the words that appear >300 times:

pre:
Word		Frequency
One		851
Out		765
More		604
Now		598
Time		594
Lorand		578
Way		559
Man		547
Jovvi		543
Even		541
Look		508
Vallant		455
Back		454
Up		441
Before		410
Thing		385
Go		384
Again		378
First		372
Know		366
Something	344
Two		341
Those		339
Clarion		333
See		329
Turn		324
Right		324
Never		323
Make		320
Very		316
People		315
Over		313
Well		309
Use		308
Need		306
Being		305
Come		301
Full list here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1LiZl_u212QwZEpe7j-FhBA2zd4H5yylDlNAYNvbjCUE/edit?usp=sharing

I am legitimately shocked that "tea" only appears 89 times, though "bath" features 166 times and "coach" 220 times as expected.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR 

After Mardimil left the coach, Vallant spent the few minutes until his own stop rearranging his thinking. He’d been depressed over the near certainty that he would lose the competition even if he were able to force himself to stay inside the building, and now, suddenly, he was supposed to lose. Never in his entire life had he ever done other than his best, but now…

But now the circumstances were entirely different. If those people really were trying to find out just how strong they in the residence were, self preservation demanded that he and the others manipulate the results of the competition. Just the way he hoped the women were doing…

Vallant exchanged wishes of good luck with Coll and left the coach, determined to think about “the women” and not one woman in particular. He no longer had anything to do with Tamrissa, and even his sense of physical attraction had faded. Tamrissa Domon was just one of the people in his residence, and he meant to keep matters just like that. She’d given up trying to talk to him rather easily last night, which meant whatever she’d wanted couldn’t have been very important.

I would suspect Green of making Vallant an unreliable narrator here but I don't think she knows how to do that. We're literally meant to take this at face value.

quote:

Walking through the entrance into the outskirts of the eating area showed Vallant a lot more people than he’d seen until now. That had to mean they were there for the competition, or at least most of the newcomers were. The rest had attended for their own reasons, and Vallant would have been happier if he knew for certain what those reasons were.

Care to elaborate?

quote:

“Good morning, Dom Ro,” a quiet voice said, and Vallant turned his head to see that a subdued Wimand had come up to him. It felt odd not to have the man making some nasty comment about Holter, and doubly odd not to have Holter right there with him. But then Vallant realized something.

“Good mornin’,” he returned coldly and distantly, pleased to see the way the smaller man flinched. “Are they close to bein’ ready to begin?”

“Very close,” Wimand acknowledged, gesturing toward the building behind the exercise cubicles. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you there.”

“Does that mean everyone has already arrived?” Vallant asked next as he began to follow the man. “Everyone includin’ Holter?”

“Dom Holter is expected at any moment,” Wimand grudged over his shoulder after something of a pause, carefully making his way through the crowd. “It shouldn’t be long at all, and then the competition can begin.”

“I think I’ll wait for Holter outside the buildin’,” Vallant decided aloud, watching for Wimand’s reaction. “I’m too used to goin’ to these things right along with him to change now, especially since I don’t have to.”

A flash of frustration showed on what Vallant could see of Wimand’s face, but when the man glanced over his shoulder again, the emotion was masked.

“You may certainly wait anywhere you like, sir,” Wimand allowed in a neutral voice. “The tardiness may well count against you, but as I recall you don’t think of that as a consideration. Would you care for a cup of tea while you wait?”

“No,” Vallant replied. “No tea, and I’ll take my chances with the tardiness business. I’m too used to bein’ at sea to feel comfortable inside buildin’s, so the less time I have to spend in one, the better I’ll like it.”

Wimand quickly covered up his look of startlement, but not before Vallant caught it—as he’d thought he might. He’d wondered if those people knew about his trouble with being indoors, so he’d given Wimand a chance to try forcing him inside early. The competition couldn’t start until all the participants were there, and what he’d suddenly realized was that Holter had to be one of the participants. The man had achieved his masteries and gotten his bracelet, after all, so it stood to reason.

And Wimand had tried to force him inside early with talk about tardiness. The fool must have said the first thing to come to mind, since his reasoning was even weaker than usual. You can’t be tardy for something that won’t start until everyone involved is there, only for something that starts at a particular time even if people are absent.

There's just endless examples of how the protagonists are so dumb that the antagonists need to be even dumber.

quote:

Vallant followed Wimand’s stiffened back with a grim smile, wondering if the man realized yet just how much he’d let slip. He’d obviously meant to weaken Vallant’s chances in the competition by weakening him, which probably wasn’t part of his superiors’ planning. By doing that he’d told Vallant just how much the testing authority knew about him, and had been caught off balance when Vallant had readily admitted what everyone apparently thought of as a secret.

But when a secret is used against you, it’s time to let it out of the bag.

This is maybe the first thing I read in a Vallant chapter that I liked.

quote:

Vallant stepped onto the path leading to the white resin building, relieved to finally be out from among all those people. Crowds weren’t as bad as being inside someplace small and airless, but that didn’t make forcing a way through them pleasant. If Vallant had hoped to win the competition he would have already been disturbed, but as it was he felt no more than slight discomfort.

“If you need me, sir, I’ll be just inside,” Wimand said, pausing right in front of the building. “And please consider what I told you about being tardy. If you look bad, I do, too, so think of it as self interest on my part.”

And with that Wimand walked inside, his expression now a bit more satisfied. Obviously he thought he’d given Vallant something to worry about, but that just showed how ignorant the man really was. His patchwork of supposed self interest hadn’t done a thing to plug the leaks in the logic of his tardiness story, but Vallant didn’t mind his thinking that it had. It should keep him quiet and out of Vallant’s way for a while.

Whoever did the event briefing for Adepts did a bad job–the process is so inconsistent from aspect to aspect.

quote:

It was another lovely day, so Vallant stood there and enjoyed it until Holter arrived. A number of people had passed him on their way into the building, but one glance at his clothing told them he wasn’t one of them. That was a use for the distinctive clothing Vallant and the others hadn’t considered, and he made a mental note to mention it at the next full meeting. The bracelets they wore were only one way of telling their status, and knowing that might come in handy later.

Are you kidding me?! You were taken to get fitted for not-Adult magic school uniforms and you didn't realize "hey I'm wearing a uniform to make it easy for anybody who knows to identify me"? I should have started a counter.

quote:

Holter appeared in about twenty minutes, silently following the supposed Adept Podon. He looked even more unhappy than usual, but his eyes widened when he saw Vallant.

Twenty minutes is not "any moment".

quote:

“Thought I’d wait until you got here,” Vallant said with a smile when Holter reached him, completely ignoring Podon. “I sort of got used to goin’ to these things with you, and just because they moved you out of the residence doesn’t mean I have to stop. Not yet, anyway.”

Holter matched his grin at that, silently sharing the knowledge that the testing authority would certainly try to drive a solid wedge between them. Those people didn’t want any friendships that weren’t their own idea, but that didn’t mean Vallant had to go along with them.

“It’s good seein’ ya,” Holter said quietly, offering his hand. “It’s always good seein’ a friend.”

Vallant took the offered hand with a nod, confirming for Holter that he was, and would remain, the man’s friend.

As far as I can tell, your entire friendship consists of scaring the hell out of Ginge and getting Pagin ostracized from his previous life, not offering the man any comfort and letting him be depressed about it and work through it on his own, then sticking together with him through the mastery trials (which was arguably more "safety in numbers" than anything). I've never seen you hang out together outside of common meal times, except for the time at Ginge's tavern. That's a piss poor definition of friendship.

quote:

Then Holter started into the building, and Vallant took a moment to brace himself hard before following.

Trying Rion's suggestion right about now would probably be a good idea.

quote:

From the very first step inside, Vallant had to maintain a rigid hold on himself to keep from bolting. Not only was the large building windowless and lit by lanterns, its size was greatly diminished by the number of people in it. And that didn’t take into account the large glass tank filled with water which stood in the very center of the building. The air disappeared into countless lungs, leaving none over for his own lungs, which in turn caused the round walls to begin moving inward.

Ignoring all that was one of the hardest things Vallant had ever done, and even as he followed Holter he wondered how long he’d be able to keep it up. Panic shoved at him, determined and desperate to take over, making Vallant know it would be impossible to hold it off permanently. As soon as his strength failed the panic would take charge, and nothing in the world would change that. If only there was something to distract him…!

That was when Mardimil’s suggestion came back, the one about adding water to the air. Vallant had no hope at all that it would do any good, but his desperation needed something to focus on besides running. Podon now led the way for both Holter and himself, with Wimand nowhere to be seen. They were being taken to a man who stood to the right of the glass tank, beside a double row of seats which were all filled except for the two on the near end. If something was to be done, it had to be done now.

So Vallant reached to the water in the large glass tank, the only real source of water inside that resin building. The water evaporating from the tank into the air should have added sufficient moisture, but somehow the resin of the building seemed to be absorbing most of that. Vallant pulled the moisture into an invisible oval in front of his face, and oddly enough, some of his discomfort vanished. Not all of it by any means, but now when the panic broke through it would be considerably more comfortable.

And this is the guy who we're supposed to believe was a real "Master of the vessel" type of captain.



quote:

“Dom Holter, Dom Ro, allow me t’present Adept Arkow,” Podon said as they stopped near the heavy, supercilious-looking man who stood beside the seats. “Adept Arkow is runnin’ this here competition, an’ he’ll tell ya whut ya need t’do.”

“That’s all, Podon,” Arkow said without looking at the man, distastefully gesturing a dirty, smelly animal away from his vicinity. Podon, looking crushed, left immediately, but Vallant felt no pity for him. Anyone who deliberately involved himself with these people from the testing authority deserved whatever he got.

“How odd that you two arrived together,” Arkow continued, speaking mostly to Vallant. “I was under the impression that you no longer shared the same residence.”

“I got here first, so I waited for Holter,” Vallant said, glad of the distracting conversation. “Was there any reason why I shouldn’t have?”

“No, no, of course not,” Arkow hastily assured him, obviously unused to people who defended themselves by counterattacking.

Factual observations aren't necessarily verbal attacks?

quote:

“But now we’re ready to begin, so please take your seats with the others. You’ll be called up one at a time, and as soon as you’ve completed your performance you’ll be conducted out of the building. I’ll explain what’s expected of you in just a moment.”

The man turned away from them then, giving them the chance to sit down the way they’d been told to do. Vallant couldn’t help hesitating, though, since sitting down wasn’t what he most wanted to do.

“Don’t give ’em th’ satisfaction,” Holter said softly, and looking at him showed that the smaller man knew just what Vallant’s problem was. “It won’t take long, an’ then you c’n leave without givin’ ’em whut t’laugh at.”

Since we've now officially declared a bromance, Pagin starts actually acting like a real character, instead of a convenient background NPC who exists just to drop lore!

quote:

Vallant nodded his thanks for the support, and then forced himself to go to a chair and sit. Almost everyone else there seemed totally unconcerned, and for Vallant that was a usual state of affairs. Everyone unconcerned but him…

“Please settle down, everyone,” Arkow suddenly called out to the room at large, holding up his hands. “We’re about to begin, so I’d appreciate some quiet.”

He got the quiet he’d asked for rather quickly, with those standing on the far side of the glass tank trying to edge around to hear him. Those people didn’t seem to matter, though, as Arkow ignored them.

“I’d like to welcome all our distinguished guests to this occasion,” Arkow continued, his smile more of a smirk.

So just use "smirked" instead of all these extraneous words!

quote:

“We may be holding only a low-level competition, but it still has its points of interest. Our participants will be required to do two things, both of them in this tank of water behind me. The first of those things is being prepared for right now.”

He turned to glance at the two men who had climbed to opposite sides of the tank, something long held carefully between them. It took Vallant a moment to see that the something was a miniature suspension bridge, and it was being settled into place above and in the water. It was made of hardened wood, the way most bridges of that sort were, and looked extremely realistic.

“The bridge, although rather small, is quite sturdy,” Arkow went on after a short pause. “Our participants will first need to use the water in the tank to destroy a good portion of that bridge, and then they will impress us with their strength by parting the waters and holding them apart for a moment or two. Their performance will be timed, of course, and those times will be announced later. Right now, let’s have our first participant.”

Who else thinks Green ran out of ideas for what to do with Water magic?

quote:

Vallant fully expected to be made to wait until the very end; after all, since they knew about his problem they’d surely want to take advantage of it. Being gestured to first came as more of a shock than a surprise, but Vallant was too relieved to worry about it now. He rose quickly and went to stand beside Arkow, suddenly more distracted than he’d expected to be. He couldn’t quite remember the level of strength he’d decided on in case he was chosen to go first, and he only had a minute to bring the memory back.

“Please bear in mind that you may not touch the glass of the tank,” Arkow said softly when Vallant reached him. “Beyond that, you may use your ability freely. Good luck, and do try to do your best. Many of the people watching can do you a great deal of good if they’re properly impressed.”

With that he walked away, supposedly leaving Vallant something exciting to think about. But the beads of sweat on Vallant’s brow should have told the man that Vallant himself was beyond being impressed by anything but the chance to leave. It would be enough of a fight not to work as quickly as he possibly could, something that had to be remembered.

Opening himself freely to the power helped more than Vallant thought it would. It seemed to … expand his surroundings in some way, not to match the outdoors, unfortunately, but enough to give him some breathing room. That literal turn of phrase let him direct his attention to the problem, which wasn’t as difficult as Arkow had made it sound.

It didn't sound difficult at all?

quote:

During a violent storm, normally peaceful bodies of water had been known to wash out even a new bridge.

You don't say? I would never have known! Does Green think the majority of her readers are born in arid areas or something?

quote:

The added strength of wind and crashing momentum allowed the water to do that, and the power enabled Vallant to add even more strength than wind and momentum supplied. The water would be a sledgehammer driven by a giant, and the bridge would not be able to resist.

But it did have to be allowed to resist for a short while. Vallant hated the need, but since it couldn’t be argued with it had to be endured. He used his ability to get the water roiling more and more violently, and then he began to send it against the bridge. It couldn’t take too much longer than it should normally, so the whole thing needed careful balancing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzBNdssqrEA#t=272s

quote:

When one section of the bridge finally gave way under the assault, there was a smattering of applause. Vallant knew he didn’t particularly deserve that applause, so he ignored it in favor of tackling the next part of the exercise. This was really the harder job, and it had to start with calming the waters. Once that was done he inserted the fingers of his talent slowly and carefully into the water, then began to part it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzBNdssqrEA#t=492s

quote:

Spreading out widely enough to keep the waters from escaping was the biggest problem, but remembering all that practice in weaving let him accomplish it. For some reason the woven patterns spread out more easily and widely, so that the water in the tank parted neatly and stayed that way. After that, all Vallant could do was wait. He’d been told he would have to hold it apart for a time, and this was where a serious worry came in.

He couldn’t pretend to be exhausted when he wasn’t, not when any other strong talent would know better, so he had to hold the waters apart until he was allowed to release them. But that meant he couldn’t hedge on this part of his strength, which might tell the watchers whatever they wanted to know. Hopefully it would only give them part of the answer, or even more hopefully turn all their results meaningless—

It wouldn't be a Green chapter without her inserting some weird internal freak out in relation to the competition because every other protagonist went through it, even if it makes zero sense for Vallant.

quote:

“Thank you, Dom Ro, you may release the waters now,” Arkow’s voice came, bringing Vallant back from distraction. His thoughts had drifted off, but his talent had held steady on its own. “Here is the gentleman who will accompany you out, and thank you again for participating.”

Vallant turned to see a stranger waiting for him. It was such a relief to know he could leave that he wouldn’t have cared who waited for him, but he couldn’t simply rush out. He’d gotten support when he needed it most, and now it was time to return the favor. So he turned to look at Holter, gave the man a thumbs-up sign to show his own support, and only then left that place of torture.

The disjunction between the character's action and the character's internal monologue and the supposed bromance is astounding.

quote:

Somehow Vallant kept himself from running, so it was forever before he got outside. He moved a number of steps beyond the entrance and stood there with his eyes closed, simply breathing. His insides still shuddered and twisted with what he’d gone through, but for the moment it was all over with.

“Are you all right, sir?” a voice asked, and Vallant opened his eyes to see the man who was supposed to accompany him. “Do you want me to call someone?”

“Once we get to an empty table, you can call a servant if you like,” Vallant answered, running a weary hand through his hair. “I’m badly in need of a cup of tea, and maybe even a bite to eat.”

“I’ll do that, sir,” the man agreed, then began to lead him away from the building again. “Someone is already sending for your coach, and once it gets here you’ll be able to return to your residence for some rest.”

Vallant was glad to hear that, and even more glad to sit down at an empty table. There were still quite a few people milling around the area, although most of the crowd had gone to watch the competition. Vallant ignored the milling few, ordered his tea and a sandwich when the servant hurried over, then sat back to regather his physical strength.

I'm trying to work out what it is about Green's format of post magical workout eating business that irritates me. Besides being repetitive, I think it's fundamentally because I don't buy that the characters are exhausted at all.

quote:

No more than two or three minutes could have passed in peace and quiet before there were suddenly people stopping at Vallant’s table. His first urge was to ignore them, but curiosity got the better of him and he glanced their way—only to stop and stare disbelievingly.

“Well, it’s certainly about time,” Mirra huffed, obviously insulted. “Did you see that, Daddy? He deliberately refused to look at us even though he surely knew we were here.”

“You can’t really blame him, child,” Mirra’s father, Dom Agran, said with a scowl of disapproval. “The boy knows how dishonorably he’s behavin’, so he’s ashamed. That shows there’s some hope for ’im.”

“If it were me, Mirra, I’d never speak to him again,” Mirra’s mother put in with a sniff. “It’s his good fortune that you still want him, but you’ll have to put in a terrible amount of work changin’ him into somebody decent. Are you sure you want to do that much work?”

“Oh, it won’t be all that hard, Momma,” Mirra returned with a laugh, moving her body back and forth rather slowly while she stared at Vallant. “He’s real easy to handle at home, and once I get him back there I’ll never let him wander away again.”

“Now, see here, young man,” Dom Agran began after clearing his throat for attention. “My daughter agreed to give you her hand in marriage, and now refuses to retract that agreement even though you’ve apparently changed your mind. That means you must honor your commitment, otherwise I’ll be forced to—”

Uh, news flash, either party to a betrothal can break it.

quote:

“That’s enough!” Vallant said sharply, cutting the fool off in mid sentence. “I don’t know who let you people in here, but now that I’m over my shock at your intrusion, I might as well give you some hard truths. I never asked your daughter to marry me, we simply discussed the possibility. If she told you anythin’ else, she’s lyin’ the way she usually does.”

How's that for a retcon? You didn't even break up properly! Like by leaving her a letter to confirm it's really over and by telling your father to try set up Torrin with Mirra instead. And if lying is a habit of Mirra's, then maybe we should have gotten some of that in your perspective way back in Book 1 Chapter 5?

quote:

“How dare you!” Dama Agran gasped in outrage, but Vallant refused to let her get started on an hour-long tirade.

I dunno, you were a dick to Mirra and you've been an rear end to Tamrissa. I think you deserve to be yelled at for at least an hour.

quote:

“Be quiet!” he ordered sternly, getting to his feet. “If you people hadn’t indulged the girl so shamelessly while she was growin’ up, none of us would have this bother now. I’ve never been engaged to your daughter, I say, and wouldn’t have her to wife even if she were the only available woman in the world. Now take yourselves out of here before I ask somebody to have you put out.”

In some alternate universe where Green wasn't so cishet centric, the relationships would be Jovvi/lorand (lack of caps intentional) and Vallant/Rion, with Tamrissa being given them space to heal and Naran not existing at all.

quote:

Mirra stood sulking furiously while her father sputtered and her mother babbled. They might have stayed like that forever if Vallant’s “companion” hadn’t stepped forward with a scowl of his own. Dom Agran ended his sputtering, and glared at Vallant.

So did you get your tea and sandwich?

quote:

“There’s nothin’ wrong with a man dedicatin’ his life to givin’ his wife and daughter everythin’ their hearts desire,” the man stated flatly. “And keepin’ hurt from them, which you made me miss out on today. You haven’t heard the last of this, Ro, my word on that.”

With that he took the women’s arms and marched away, making no effort to look back. Vallant had no idea how they’d found him, but he sat down again silently cursing whatever method they’d used. They’d made the expected scene, but at least it hadn’t been at the residence, where it would have upset—

Real talk for a second: if you were Dom Agran, would you seriously show up in person to try and pressure Vallant into doing the right thing? Surely you would just hit up your buddy/rival Dom "Daddy" Ro and tell him that his second son has dishonored the Agran family, and this is just the heads up that Vallant can expect to be sued for breach of contract.

quote:

Vallant found himself cursing again, only this time out loud in a mutter. Didn’t he have enough problems to face, without needing the addition of all these women? No other man he knew could walk away from girl after girl and still be haunted by them in one way or another. What had made him so lucky…?

After all that, Green still writes "so lucky...?" instead of "so...lucky?".

quote:

Well, lucky or not, he’d sworn off all of them. And he would keep his word, he would!

Not-spoilers: he won't.

Summary:

Day 8
Jovvi/Rion/Lorand/Vallant realizes the whole thing is a sham. She has to/he doesn't get to/Vallent gets to go first because she's/he's not a woman/no women are competing. The competition involves changing a bunch of emotions on six drugged people deliberately/guiding a ball to ring ten bell towers/dissolving a painted cube/smashing a bridge and parting the Red Sea tank water. She/he does it deliberately oh so slowly and is sent home to await the results.

After the competition, she's kidnapped by Allestine/he's accosted by Meerk, who agrees to locate Hat in response to Lorand's threat of magical violence/Mirra and her parents.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 39 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim, Arkow

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 20 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast, post-competition snack)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol
Vallant: Mirra Agran and her parents, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 54 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 40 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 10 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 10 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 45 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 23 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 42 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 23 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33, 34)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34)

Possible fixes:
https://i.imgur.com/fSE1cqv.mp4

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE 

I exchanged good wishes with Jovvi and left the coach, feeling myself slip into the oddest frame of mind. For the first time I was worried about not failing a test rather than not passing it, and even that worry was muted by the decision I struggled with. Jovvi had been absolutely right to say that I had to decide what I really wanted from Vallant Ro before I tried to do anything about his coldness. His own intentions had been perfectly clear, and the idea still frightened me. Were all men so eager to have something permanent? Why couldn’t they be satisfied with more casual relationships?

Look at Green trying to subvert the stereotypes!

quote:

I sighed over that unanswerable question as I walked through the entrance, then stopped short only a pair of steps later. There were so many people here today, a lot more than I’d expected for what was really a very unimportant competition. And so many of them held themselves the way nobles do…

“So … you’re here,” a strangely tentative voice said, and I turned my head to see that Soonen had come up on my right. “Do you want to have a cup of tea first, or would you prefer to go straight to the competitions building?”

This was a Soonen I hadn’t seen before, one who had lost most of her arrogance and attitude. Now she seemed rather sullenly frightened, as though she really wanted to sneer at me again but didn’t dare. It looked like yesterday’s struggle with her and Gerdol had brought me more benefits than just a master’s bracelet.

“Thank you, but I don’t need a cup of tea,” I responded politely but with no warmth at all. I didn’t like Soonen, and probably never would. “Let’s simply go on into the building.”

She nodded jerkily, as though wishing she might say something pointed, then just turned and began to lead the way through the crowd. I moved along right behind her, letting her larger size get us through more easily, and wished I hadn’t lied about the tea. I did need to sit down over a cup for a while, to decide what I would do if I happened to be called to perform first. Without knowing what the others were capable of, how would I know what I should do?

Fat shaming!

quote:

And then a thought suddenly came, strangely enough from something my mother had taught my sisters and me. Once, when we were still rather young, my sisters and I had been laughing over how stupid one of the boys at school was. Our mother heard what we were saying, and immediately stepped in to correct us.

“Girls, I never want to hear you saying something like this again!” she’d lectured severely. “That boy happens to be the eldest son of a very wealthy man, but that’s beside the point. What you must remember is that no man is to be belittled, as one day he may end up as your husband. Until that time you will show as little intelligence yourselves in the presence of others as you can possibly get away with. Just enough to show that you’re capable of managing a large household, and not a smidgen more!”

Back then I’d hated the idea of needing to pretend to be a moron just to soothe the ego of some male idiot, but right now the idea was exactly what I needed. I would use just enough strength to do whatever was required, and show not a smidgen more. I laughed shortly to myself, realizing that this was the first time I’d really been able to use something my mother had taught me.



quote:

It didn’t take long to reach the white resin building the competition would be held in, but a large group of people was there ahead of us and moving inside rather slowly. Soonen seemed to be trying to decide whether or not to push ahead through them, but I knew she’d decide not to. Their clothes and bearing showed them to be of the nobility, and she wasn’t likely to chance offending one of them.

“We’ll be able to get inside in a moment, after they clear out of the way,” she said after her hesitation, making the decision I’d expected. Then she turned to look directly at me. “Some people get really nervous during a competition, with so many important people watching. They try to control the nervousness but can’t, and end up embarrassing themselves.”

“I can see how that could happen,” I granted her in the most neutral tone I was able to produce, beginning to boil on the inside. Soonen was afraid to insult me directly again, so she’d taken the opportunity to try planting seeds of doubt. I’d remember what she’d said about being nervous and then I’d be nervous, and after that I’d lose the competition. Well, I had news for her…!

The furious anger which had been building inside me suddenly collapsed, having discovered there was nothing for it to stand on. Soonen had just provided me with the best reason in the world for not winning the competition, and I almost felt like hugging her. Almost. The anger she usually produced in me was gone, but I still didn’t like her.

These people need to get their mood swings checked out.

quote:

The group of people took their time moving through the doorway, but eventually it was our turn to go inside. I did feel somewhat uncomfortable with so many people around who would soon be watching me, but thinking of them all as enemies helped quite a bit. That new idea frightened me instead, but being frightened was something I’d long ago gotten used to.

Blink and you'll miss it. This jump to considering everyone "enemies" is really bizarre and sudden, and why I think Tamrissa has murderous rage issues.

quote:

The inside of the building was one large, open floor, with lanterns on the walls which made it brightly lit. In the center of the floor was what looked to be a wide half circle of a wall made of clear resin. In front of that half circle were forms covered over with sheets, six of them arranged into a circle of their own. To the right of that arrangement was a double row of chairs with people in most of them, a man standing beside the chairs. He reminded me of Gerdol, although he wasn’t, and Soonen led me right up to him.

I didn't need more detail on how the waiting chairs for contestants are arranged.

quote:

“Dama Domon, this is Adept Odrin,” she said, her tone cold rather than polite. “Adept Odrin is in charge of the competition, and will tell you what to do next.”

Does Green even realize she repeated a character name? The guy Tamrissa's father is attempting to marry her off to again is also called Odrin.

quote:

“Thank you, Sooner, you may run along now,” the heavy man said without looking at her, obviously unaware of the way he’d mispronounced her name.

This is what we're reduced to scraping for in terms of humor.

quote:

“I’m delighted that you’re here, my dear, as the wait was—uh—definitely worth it.”

Odrin had stumbled over his attempted compliment, and that seemed to be because of something bothering him. His hands looked to be trembling with nervousness, there were beads of sweat on his forehead, and he’d only been paying half attention to what he’d said to me.

“I’m glad to be here,” I murmured in answer, wondering if he’d hear me. “Is there anything in particular that I’m supposed to do now?”

“You’ll be taking a seat with the rest of our participants in a moment, but first there are one or two things I must tell you,” he said, and I couldn’t decide if he were answering me or simply speaking a prepared speech. “You’ll each be summoned one at a time to perform, and once you’re finished you’ll be escorted outside. You may refresh yourself while your coach is being summoned, and then you will return to your residence. When the competition is over a winner will be declared, and if that’s you, a messenger will be sent with the notification and your gold. If you haven’t any questions, you may now take your seat.”

I parted my lips to ask what the competition would entail, but he’d already started away from me. Obviously, asking any questions would be a waste of breath, so I went to the chairs and sat in one of the empty ones.

A couple of minutes later a girl came and took the last remaining empty chair, and I couldn’t help noticing how annoyed she looked. Realizing that she’d probably just gone through the same thing that I had with Odrin, I sympathized. The man was a moron, but apparently a lot of people supported my mother’s rule about male morons.

Now might be a good time to build some relationships! I used to do a lot of piano competitions and there would definitely be pre-competition chatter amongst the contestants.

Sometimes it's like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF4xpKobado

But more often than not, we're all warmed up and bored, and constantly see each other over and over again because the competition circuit is very small so you just get to know each other and become friends.

On a re-read, I think this is Arinna, the Fire magic user who ends up in Pagin's Blending. Mainly because we never get introduced to any other female Fire magic users except for Arinna and Beldara.

quote:

“My lords and ladies, if I might have your attention,” I just barely heard someone say in much too low a voice. I turned my head to discover that the someone was Odrin, now standing directly in front of the exercise arrangement. He seemed to be trying to get things started, but no one more than four feet away could have heard him.

Luckily for him, though, a big man of obvious importance stood within that four foot distance, and he projected in a deep voice, “Quiet, all of you!” That brought almost immediate silence, so he turned his attention to Odrin and said, “Speak loudly enough for everyone to hear you, or we’ll find someone who can.”

If this guy is important, it would be a good idea to introduce him! Or at least describe him in more detail than just "big".

quote:

“Yes, my lord, of course,” Odrin quavered, then got a good enough hold on himself to raise his voice. “We’re about to start the competition, my lords and ladies, so I must tell you what it’s all about. The participants will perform one at a time, and what they must do is produce invisible fire.”

He gestured behind himself at the people who were undraping the hidden forms as though that was supposed to explain what he meant, but everyone seemed to be as confused as I felt. I’d never heard of “invisible” fire, and the blank looks on the woman across from me as well as on the two men who sat beside us, said they’d never heard of it either.

“As you know, invisible fire is quite a simple doing,” Odrin continued, clearly unaware of the fact that we knew no such thing. “Each participant will need to start his or her fire on the inside of the various targets, and the flames aren’t to show through until the entire inside of the object is consumed. How quickly the outside flares and goes to ash will tell us how thoroughly the inside has been reduced, and that will all be part of the timing.”

“If that’s what he calls simple, I’d like to see him do it,” the girl muttered, her words only loud enough to reach those of us closest to her. I couldn’t hold back a smile of agreement, pleased to see that someone else had noticed how incompetent those so-called Adepts were. I would also have enjoyed talking to the girl, but Odrin was still speaking.

Definitely Arinna.

quote:

“… and the results of the timing of each performance will be announced later,” he went on. “Now, with everything explained, it’s time to present our first competitor.”

I expected him to look toward us then, but instead he pulled out a slip of paper and squinted down at it. Hope flared inside me that it would be first come, first perform, but apparently good luck still attempted to avoid me. Odrin nodded after checking his list, then looked in my direction.

“Please come here, my—uh—dear,” he said, obviously unsure of how words made sentences now that he no longer had something memorized to recite. I sighed as I stood and went to him, wondering who had the job of calling him in out of the rain.

“You must remember not to cross the white line,” he said when I reached him, then he had to look around for a moment before he located the line he wanted to point to. Since it was painted on the floor right in front of the exercise setup, it was somewhat difficult for him to find. “And please don’t forget that you’ll be escorted from the building once you’re through. Good luck, and you may begin as soon as you’re ready.”

After that he hurried away, probably afraid that I’d confuse him with one of the targets. With Soonen or Gerdol I might not have hesitated, but with him it would be easier to wait until he tripped over his own feet and fell and broke his neck. It was a miracle it hadn’t already happened…

Tamrissa's spent her entire chapter punching down at this guy. And we're supposed to like her for it.

quote:

All of which did nothing to help me start that exercise. I’d had a light touch on the power ever since I’d gotten here, so I started things off by opening myself wide. I felt the usual tingle as the power flowed through me, and suddenly I knew just how the exercise was supposed to be handled. It related to that weaving we’d done, but this time a different pattern was called for.

Besides providing a sudden influx of strength, additional oxygen, alertness, confidence and other miscellaneous affects, being opened to the power also magically endows knowledge magically. I repeated "magically" twice because that's exactly how much explanation is given in the books for this. It gets to the point where it's finally pointed out in Book 8, in like...the second last chapter or something ridiculous like that.

quote:

My attention went then to the six targets, each of which was in the shape of a four-foot post set in a flat stand. Each post was also constructed of a different material, and starting from the thick wooden one on the left they progressed to heavy leather, pulped wood, burlap, cotton, and fine thread. But all six posts were exactly the same height and diameter, which meant their insides were completely different.

Now how does she know that? She doesn't have Earth magic.

quote:

With the power flowing through me I felt tempted to start with the fine thread, which would be the hardest to keep from burning on the outside when its insides caught. Happily, though, caution was too strongly ingrained in my nature for me to do something that foolish, so I overrode the urge and started with the wood. I also deliberately took my time, since I wasn’t supposed to win. Just enough strength and speed to do the job, and not a smidgen more.

The inside of the wooden post burned fairly evenly, and when the flames reached the surface of it there was only a bit of a roar before the whole thing fell to ash. The leather post burned more … lumpily, I suppose you could say, and there was less of a roar when the flames burst through. The pulped wood was easy, as was the burlap, but the cotton almost got away from me. The near miss showed me that my flames were too hot for the more delicate materials, so when I finally reached the thread I was able to do it properly. The outside of the post blackened all over before crumbling into ash, and the exercise was completely over.

This exercise should actually be impossible, since there's no oxygen to ignite inside a solid object. Unless there are air pockets inside each one, which Fire magic still shouldn't be able to figure out where they are. This is like the most straightforward aspect and I do not understand how Green screws up this worldbuilding.

quote:

“Excellent, my—uh—dear, really excellent,” Odrin complimented as he came back to stand next to me, once again sounding as though he recited a—mostly—prepared speech. “That will certainly set the mark for the rest of the participants, and now you may retire. That gentleman there will escort you.”

The man he referred to was rather grim-faced and certainly no noble, but I didn’t mind leaving with him in the least. Odrin was beginning to get on my nerves, and with the power still coursing through me I might not be able to keep from saying so. So I followed my escort through the polite applause of the audience, and by the time we got outside I’d closed off all but a faint touch of power. It had gotten to be a habit to keep a touch on that minimal amount, and I felt a good deal better doing it.

It wasn’t hard to find an empty table even with the greater number of people still standing around, and after ringing a bell for a servant, my “escort” positioned himself behind me. For a moment it felt as though I were being guarded instead of accompanied and I was startled, but then I realized that the thought of being guarded was comforting rather than disturbing. With the smaller flow of power my self confidence had shrunk down to its usual low ebb, and the idea of being protected felt good.

The servant came quickly to take my order for tea and anything wickedly fattening that might be available, and then I sat back to relax until it came. If that girl happened to come out before I left I intended to talk to her, and if the coach had to wait then it would wait. Getting in contact with someone else in my position seemed a very good idea, and I wanted to—

You should have tried talking to her BEFORE. When you were sitting across from her and she said something to you!

quote:

“Good morning,” a voice said, breaking into my thoughts. “Your performance was delightful just now, so I thought I’d come out and tell you so.”

The man who spoke looked familiar, but for a moment I couldn’t place him. A bit on the heavy side but of average build and looks, he was an older man with an air of easy authority to him. My “escort” stepped out to the left of where I sat, apparently ready to order the man away, but one look from the newcomer immediately silenced my guard. His expression said he suddenly recognized the older man and therefore wasn’t about to challenge him, and an instant later I recognized him myself—with a gasp. He was the one who’d been there for my very first test, the test I’d almost died taking. He’d been much too attentive for my liking, and he’d said—

“I promised that we’d meet again,” he said with an odd smile when he realized that I’d recognized him, sitting down as though he’d been invited. “You’ve grown into your talent a bit since we last saw one another, which I really do find quite delightful. There are a large number of women in our aspect, but few of them have a really decent amount of strength.”

“But how can they survive that initial test without it?” I found myself asking, a question probably caused by the residue of power in my system. “We all do go through the same testing procedure, don’t we?”

“Certainly we do,” he agreed, that odd smile broadening just a hair. “The system would hardly be fair otherwise. But I was saying how thoroughly attractive I find you—”

Actually, Lanir, you were complimenting her on her magical ability. But I suppose it's all the same thing to you.

quote:

“You know, a very learned friend of mine made an interesting point,” I rattled on, pretending I heard nothing of a personal nature in his conversation. “He said that the nobility had to keep the testing fair, otherwise they would be the ones who were penalized. Exempting your children from having to prove themselves makes for weaker heirs, who then breed and raise even weaker ones. If the testing wasn’t fair, my friend said it would eventually be difficult to find anyone in the nobility as strong as a Middle. Don’t you agree?”

By then I had my hands in my lap to keep them from trembling. The man hadn’t taken his eyes from me, and I silently cursed myself for having reworded what Lorand had told us. The man whose name I didn’t even know wasn’t amused, and there was no telling what he would do because of what I’d said. His eyes frightened me most, the unblinking stare of them terrifying, and I really wished I’d never said anything at all. He continued to stare for a very long minute, and then that smile was back.

“Of course I agree with something that sensible,” he said, the words smooth and unexcited. “The same point was made by noble scholars quite some time ago, but with one small addition. They pointed out that although it was quite unthinkable, the problem could be solved by bringing in … new blood, so to speak, every once in a while. By using such women to bear his children, a man would be assured of healthy and strong offspring. But such a practice would be barbaric, don’t you agree? I mean, the woman would be nothing more than a slave and brood mare.”

Foreshadowing!

quote:

I felt the blood drain from my face, leaving me faintly lightheaded and very cold. His smile had widened again, and those eyes…

“I really would recommend against trying anything like that,” something inside me made me say, the something not caring that the words came out a whisper. “I’ve had one very bad experience with a man, and if the circumstance ever arises again, I won’t be the only one having it. Now please go away.”

“You really are delightful,” he said, actually chuckling as he stood. “Once again it’s been a pleasure to meet you, and I sincerely look forward to … third time lucky? Do enjoy the rest of your day.”

It will indeed be third time lucky. But Book 4 spoilers not for him!

quote:

He walked away, and once he was gone the servant appeared. I had the distinct impression that the servant had waited to keep from intruding, but I didn’t ask. I needed to give all my attention to steadying my hands, so that I might drink the hot tea and melt the ice inside me. Not another one, was all my mind could say, over and over. Please, not another one. And why can’t I find this ridiculousness funny…?

Isn't it a good thing that you're now a trained High in Fire magic? Spoilers for Book 3 hilsom powder hasn't been mentioned yet, so Tamrissa's fears are quite valid, though it would have been better understood if we had had some random worldbuilding tidbit about hilsom powder BEFORE it becomes plot relevant in Books 3 onwards

Summary:

Day 8
Jovvi/Rion/Lorand/Vallant/Tamrissa realizes the whole thing is a sham. She has to/he doesn't get to/Vallant Tamrissa gets to go first because she's/he's not a woman/no women are competing/reasons even though there is another woman competing. The competition involves changing a bunch of emotions on six drugged people deliberately/guiding a ball to ring ten bell towers/dissolving a painted cube/smashing a bridge and parting the Red Sea tank water/burning solid objects from the inside out. She/he/she does it deliberately oh so slowly and is sent home to await the results.

After the competition, she's kidnapped by Allestine/he's accosted by Meerk, who agrees to locate Hat in response to Lorand's threat of magical violence/Mirra and her parents/Lanir (the Seated High in Fire magic) who intends to breed her like a brood mare.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 40 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim, Arkow, Odrin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 20 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast, post-competition snack)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol, Lanir (who is the Seated High in Fire magic and he's just made it personal)
Vallant: Mirra Agran and her parents, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 55 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 41 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 10 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 10 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 45 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 23 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 43 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 23 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33, 34, 35)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)

Possible fixes:
I am so glad that we're done with this sequence. There's been so many repetitive sequences that it's hard to rank how bad they are, but I'd say this is vying for a close second with the introduction to the first level masteries, mainly because in both cases, everybody's getting the exact same info dumps with only slight variations for aspects. I'd put the braiding stuff third, simply because those chapters felt shorter and we got some of their experiences second hand via dialogue as opposed to having to read in POV for all of them.

The worst repetitive sequence is the initial bath house sequence, because we had to suffer through the same awful dialogue twice.

Anyway, the next chapter will be more interesting and then from there, we only have to suffer through one more repetitive sequence before stuff starts happening and we get left with a Book 2 cliffhanger.

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

“But Delin, why did we have to come all the way into the city?” Bron asked as they walked into the establishment, sounding to Delin as though he were thoroughly annoyed.

As someone who used to live way out of the city, I totally sympathize.

quote:

“What’s wrong with the dining parlors in our own neighborhood?”

“Come on, Bron, you can’t tell me you’re even too lazy to get tired of eating at the same dining parlors all the time.” Delin made sure his tone was very amused and just a little mocking, and Bron reacted self-consciously—and predictably—with silence. “Besides,” Delin continued then, “it’s safer to discuss certain things among you and Kambil and myself in a place where we aren’t that well known. Less chance of someone deliberately trying to listen in.”

Bron couldn’t argue that point, and Kambil only looked as if he wanted to. When Delin had insisted that they three go out to dinner together, he hadn’t told the other two exactly where they were going. He’d said he wanted to discuss certain things about the group, and he hadn’t been lying. They would indeed discuss the ideas which had come to him, but their presence in that particular dining parlor had another purpose entirely.

The host came forward with a bow to conduct them to a table, and Delin allowed himself a moment of pure enjoyment. This establishment was one of the best in Gan Garee, offering silver eating utensils, beautifully delicate plates and dishes, crystal glasses, chandeliers boasting over a hundred candles each, and superb chefs who prepared exactly what each patron wanted. It had been much too long since the last time he’d been here, and he’d earned the treat—even if he hadn’t been warned to be here tonight.

Delin is not good at stealth.

quote:

The host sat them at a fine table, off to one side of the room for privacy, but in a location which commanded a view of everything going on. Delin had paid good silver for that, and expected it to be worth every copper. They each placed their orders for food and drink, and once the host had left, Kambil leaned back in his upholstered chair and pinned Delin with a stare.

“All right, now you can tell us why we’re really here,” Kambil said in that calm and unaccusing way that he had. “You’ve been … bubbling over with excited anticipation since you picked us up in your carriage, so I think it’s time you told us the truth.”

Woah! Delin actually shared his carriage?

quote:

“The truth is that I was advised to be here tonight,” Delin admitted readily enough with a grin. “I happened to … meet a lovely lady whose husband is an investigator for the Advisors, and she told me about an extraordinary find that they’d made. It has to do with something we’re all tangentially involved with, and the investigators mean to move tonight—which is why we’re here.”

“You’re not referring to the competitions, I hope?” Bron asked, immediately looking frightened. “If you are, then I should have been notified at once. I am leader of our group, after all, so—”

“No, it has nothing to do with the competitions,” Delin replied with a laugh, his mood so good that nothing conceivable would be able to spoil it. “But it does have to do with something related to them, only I won’t say what. I have a very strong suspicion, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”

Bron began to protest again while Kambil simply looked thoughtful, but their arrival at the parlor had been nicely timed. All protests and stares broke off at the appearance of a new group of four arrivals, each of whom fairly exuded personal power when they strolled in. The ladies on their arms were all beauties, and Bron, who faced the door, suddenly gasped low.

I wish we could go back to the Clarion chapters where internal monologuing about appropriate male fashion accessorizing involved silk, ruffles and hats rather than women arm candy.

quote:

“That’s Rigos with them!” he hissed, as though the man would have been able to hear him if he’d spoken normally. “Does he have something to do with the reason why we’re here? Never mind, I don’t care even if he does. Just cancel my dinner order, because I’ve completely lost my appetite.”

“Rigos does have something to do with all this, but I can’t tell what,” Kambil said, studying Delin narrowly. “I’m even less happy to see the man, Delin, so I’d appreciate the courtesy of a full explanation.”

“You’ll both understand everything in just a little while,” Delin assured them, soaring high on the unmatchable feelings brought about by the exercise of power.

Please stop using phrases that have magical meaning interchangeably with their ordinary meanings in a fantasy novel which involves people using their magical powers.

quote:

“Right now you’ll have to trust me, since I don’t really know anything. As I said, I have my suspicions about what will happen. Let’s wait and see if I’m right.”

The other two weren’t happy about being put off, but Delin had made it all too obvious that he had no intention of saying anything else. A servant came then with the drinks they’d ordered, and Delin sipped carefully at his glass of light wine. He wanted to be clearheaded when it happened, so as not to miss a single moment.

Delin:

quote:

They were brought a large plate of nibbles to keep them occupied until their food was ready, and Delin chuckled to himself when Bron immediately began to stuff them in his mouth. The fool had already forgotten what he’d said about losing his appetite, which showed again what a marvelous “leader” he made.

Also Delin: "What's a figure of speech?"

quote:

Delin could hardly wait until the time came for him to announce that he was the real leader of the group.

Also also Delin:

https://i.imgur.com/WnMu81Y.mp4

quote:

What a pity that that would not be happening until they’d won the Throne. Announcing it sooner would just be too risky, since there was always the possibility of someone finding out—

“What the—!” Bron exclaimed, pulling Delin out of reverie. He turned to see what Bron already had, which was the arrival of two important-looking men leading a small contingent of guardsmen. They ignored everyone as they strode to the table where Rigos and his friends sat, not really all that far from Delin’s table.

“Lord Rigos Baril, you’re to rise and come with us,” one of the important-looking men said, making no effort to keep his voice down. “Right now, if you please.”

“Are you insane?” Rigos demanded coldly with his usual frown. “I certainly don’t please anything of the sort. If you have some matter to take up with me, you may make an appointment with my secretary—during the day. Now you can get out of here.”

“Rigos Baril, we’re here to arrest you for the murder of Lady Elfini Weil,” the same man went on, drawing gasps from almost everyone in the room. “Either get out of that chair and surrender yourself to the guardsmen, or they’ll come over and pull you out of it!”

The outraged anger in the man’s voice was extremely obvious, and Delin was delighted to see that Rigos just sat there staring with his mouth open. Obviously he couldn’t believe what he’d heard, but his dark skin had still paled quite a bit. The man who’d spoken waited no more than a moment, and then he gestured to the group of guardsmen.

“No, what are you doing?” Rigos babbled as three big guardsmen began to circle the table toward him, his eyes widening even more. “I had nothing to do with the murder, so you can’t treat me like this. Go away, I say, go away!”

Rigos’s voice rose to a shrill scream with the last of his words, a delicious delight Delin hadn’t dared to hope for. The icy poise and superiority Rigos always showed was broken at last, shattered when the guardsmen combined their strength in Earth magic and forced him to his feet. The heavy chair was nearly knocked over as Rigos screamed and tried to struggle, and everyone in the room seemed to be holding their breath. The other people at his table were as white as the lace cloth under their glasses and hands, and the beautiful woman Rigos had escorted in sat with her face turned away. She’d disassociated herself from him completely, and wanted everyone to know it.

It took another few moments before Rigos was dragged from the parlor, as his struggles would have done credit to a much larger—and more talented—man. He’d clearly lost all control of himself, and his terrified screams showed he hadn’t a scrap of dignity left. One of the guardsmen watching finally lost patience, and then Rigos was bent forward and gasping in pain. Delin had felt the guardsman use Earth magic to squeeze Rigos’s stomach from the inside, an action equivalent to a hard blow in the same place. After that they were able to force him out of the room, while another guardsman followed while readying chains.

Somehow Green manages to bleed all of the tension and excitement of the spectacle out when she writes it. Part of it is the POV choice and a lot of it is the prose.

quote:

“They’re going to chain him to the arrest wagon!” Bron exclaimed low as the last of the intruders disappeared outside. “But he’s a noble, just like the rest of us! How do they dare to treat him like that?”

“I’d say the Advisors decided to make an object lesson out of this,” Kambil offered, his soft voice almost lost amid the shocked exclamations of everyone in the room. “He may be a member of the nobility, but so was the woman he murdered. Rather than arrest him quietly they did it publicly, so that everyone will eventually get the message: no one kills one of us and gets away with it. I certainly don’t like the man, but now I pity him.”

This can't seriously be the first time a member of the nobility has been murdered. Spoilers for the rest of the books there are plenty of assassins for hire amongst both high and low nobility.

quote:

“Well, I don’t,” Bron said, all but taking the words out of Delin’s mouth. “I agree with the Advisors, that no one can be allowed to attack one of us and get away with it. Just think: he could have come after one of us next.”

“That’s very true,” Delin agreed, silently ridiculing the fool. Rigos hadn’t a trace of talent beyond the basic level almost everyone was capable of, and they were all Highs. Only a moron would think for even a moment that Rigos could have a chance against any of them, but that was the whole point. Bron was a moron, if that didn’t insult the intelligence of morons in general.

Delin conveniently discounts or forgets about Book 3 spoilers hilsom powder, poison and other drugs.

quote:

“Is that what you brought us here to see, Delin?” Kambil asked, his voice now filled with curiosity. “If so, how much of it did you know about beforehand?”

“All I knew was that Rigos was in trouble and that it had something to do with the murder investigation,” Delin responded with the sort of smooth lies he’d always been capable of.

Real subtle characterization from Green here.

quote:

“I thought he’d done something where Homin was concerned, and would be taken to task for it where we could witness his embarrassment. I never expected anything like this, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.”

Kambil grunted and sat back, showing clearly that he still didn’t agree with the way things had been handled. But Kambil was a fool in his own right, much too soft and forgiving. Delin, on the other hand, was precisely ruthless enough to achieve greatness, which his handling of the matter had proved conclusively. He’d buried the murder weapon with Rigos’s traces all over it, then he’d sent a note with common traces and badly constructed language to the chief investigator. The note had suggested more than ordinary bad blood between Rigos and that slut Elfini, and hadn’t said a word about searching the grounds of Rigos’s estate.

I hate that these books constantly involve people stumbling into facts by accident.

quote:

Which, of course, was one of the first things they did.

Should I be trying to give Green credit for characterization here? Maybe we're meant to pick up that Delin's delusional about his own competence/ability to manipulate things, considering that we already know from a Homin POV that the investigators know about the grudge between Rigos and Elfini.

quote:

Delin sipped his wine again as he remembered how he’d kept track of what was going on, using his long-standing acquaintance with the chief investigator’s wife. Her fear over what had happened to Elfini kept her after her husband to learn about any progress, and he’d kept her informed just to keep her from badgering him to death. She’d passed on everything she learned to Delin, which was how he’d known to be in the parlor tonight. They’d discovered Rigos’s plans for being at dinner publicly tonight, and so had waited until now to arrest him.

“I’ve just realized something,” Bron said suddenly, drawing Delin’s and Kambil’s attention. “Now that Rigos is under arrest, we don’t have to worry about him any longer. This calls for a celebration, and it’s just too bad that Selendi and Homin aren’t here as well.”

but you gotta give Bron points for trying to be an inclusive leader. That's more than I could say about many people in leadership positions in real life.

quote:

Delin saw a look of pain flash briefly across Kambil’s face, and he knew exactly how the larger man felt. Bron seemed to make a career of pointing out how stupid he was, and this time he’d done it in more ways than one.

“Don’t you think someone might have gotten the least bit suspicious if all five of us were here?” Kambil asked him gently, undoubtedly wasting his time in an effort to teach Bron how to think. “They’d know then that we’d been warned what to expect, and might even have our own reasons for wanting Rigos out of the way. We don’t need that sort of suspicion, but I’m still curious about Delin’s other reason for taking us to dinner.”

“Oh, yes, he did say he had another reason, didn’t he?” Bron remembered aloud, shrugging off the rest of what Kambil had said. “But if it has something to do with the group, the others should definitely be here.”

“It most certainly does have something to do with the group, but you’re the only one besides Kambil and myself whom I trust to handle it properly,” Delin told Bron smoothly. “I’ve gotten an idea about the reception at the palace we’ll be attending, the one where we’ll be studying the groups we’ll be going up against. I’d like to suggest something else we might do.”

Here, have a sharp left turn into authorial plot intervention, so the passive protagonists can be railroaded into doing things that they need to do except for the fact that they are way too distracted by their non-issues.

quote:

“I hope you’re going to say miss the thing entirely,” Bron complained, sprawling back in his chair. “But I can’t possibly be that lucky, so go ahead and make your suggestion.”

“What I have in mind is this,” Delin said, easily ignoring Bron’s newest stupidity. “You and I will search out any attractive ladies involved and show them how wasteful it would be to harm us, and Homin and Selendi will just mix with the peasant groups, leading them to believe that we’ll be easy to overcome. Kambil here, though, ought to be doing something else entirely—like trying to find at least one member of each group who can be counted on to be … reasonable.”

Delin's plan consists of doing the ballroom equivalent of pulling up next to a woman with this gem of a pick up line: "Heya babe you should totes let us win in a competition that involves deadly use of magic because we're super hotties. We're so pretty that our faces qualify as priceless imperial treasures"



Like seduction as a plan is totally valid, but seducing a few random people isn't going to convince most of your opponents into throwing their matches. Seduction is usually useful for espionage or sabotage–and in the case of sabotage, you'd be better off seducing the testing authority's various minions, instead of your actual competition.

quote:

“What do you mean by reasonable?” Kambil asked before Bron put the confusion in his eyes into words. “If you’re expecting some of them to take gold to ruin their group’s chances in the competition, I’m afraid you’re deluding yourself. Even an imbecile would understand that they’d be throwing away the chance to become the Seated Blending, something they have to be allowed to continue believing in.”

“Yes, I’m well aware of that,” Delin said with a smile, having expected the protest. “If I’d been referring to bribery with gold, you’d be completely correct. But what I’m talking about is bribery of another kind, namely the chance to join our group. You’ll approach anyone in each group but the Spirit magic member, and engage them in conversation. Depending on what aspect they are, you’ll point to one of the rest of us as someone much too weak to do the group good. The rest of the group will be eager to replace that one with anyone strong enough, and if we’re told about the weaknesses of the others of their group, the place will be theirs.”

This part of the plan is actually good.

quote:

“And they can’t help but know that a noble group has a better chance of winning than any peasant group,” Bron chimed in, finally understanding the idea and obviously loving it. “They may all believe that they really do stand a chance, but on the inside they’ll know better.

This would have been a good time to connect this to the barely introduced plot line about the betting Jovvi noticed earlier. But no, it's Green, so

quote:

It’s a perfect arrangement, and ought to get us all the information we need. You won’t have any trouble doing it, will you, Kambil?”

“Well, no, I shouldn’t,” Kambil said with a frown, joining Delin in letting Bron continue to think that he was their leader.

And people continually forget about Spirit magic. Or is this supposed to indicate that noble children were also brainwashed? This would have been another good opportunity to pick up on that plot thread!

quote:

“What bothers me is the ethics of the plan, or I should say the lack of ethics. We all really are extremely strong, so there’s no reason to believe we can’t do this on our own. Why do we have to lie to and swindle a bunch of unsuspecting innocents just to steal ourselves a slightly greater edge?”

“That’s the whole point, man,” Bron told him with exasperation, letting Delin sit back and simply observe. “Whatever edge we can get will be worth any effort, considering what winning means. All the rest of us are willing to do whatever it takes, and this part of it is yours. If you refuse, you could be wrecking our chances to be the most powerful people in the empire.”

Kambil rubbed his face with one hand, obviously trying to make a decision.

No, you think?

quote:

Delin sat quietly and sipped his wine, wondering if he ought to kill Kambil if the man refused to cooperate. That would leave them badly in the lurch, so first he would have to find a replacement practitioner of Spirit magic. Who that would be he couldn’t imagine, but there had to be someone among the nobility with the same strength and more ambition—

Wouldn't this be a good excuse to go investigate the other noble Blendings? Book 3 spoilers it's all going to happen offscreen because they aren't consequential to the plot as they all get annihilated in the first round of the competition

quote:

“All right, Bron, I have to admit that you’re right,” Kambil said suddenly after taking a deep breath. “If we mean to have the omelet, we can’t refuse to break a few eggs. I’ll do it, and get us what we need.”

Write this chapter from Kambil's POV instead.

quote:

“Good man,” Bron said in approval, reaching over to clap Kambil on the shoulder. “When we have what we deserve, you’ll be glad you weren’t unreasonable. Now let’s discuss what we might want to know about the peasants.”

Kambil began to list the things that anyone but Bron could have thought of by themselves, so Delin stopped listening and returned to his own thoughts. Kambil had saved his life by agreeing with the plan, and Delin meant to use every bit of the man’s talent to get them what they needed. But he still neither liked nor trusted the man, so he’d have to start thinking about when it would be best to get rid of him. The sooner the better, of course, but now he had the time to look around for a proper replacement.

Because it wasn't obvious from the murder fantasies that Delin's a psychopath.

quote:

And to indulge in some pleasure by picturing what Rigos must be going through. Delin chuckled to himself as he enjoyed another sip of wine, wondering if they intended to use torture to get a confession, as they sometimes did with peasants. Monitoring bodily reactions wasn’t always reliable, not with the way some people were able to control themselves, so torture was often used in cases where the judge involved thought it was appropriate.

As we'll see in Book 3 spoilers this is actually not standard protocol, so I can't tell if this is building up Delin as more of a psycopath or a plothole

quote:

If they did torture Rigos, the man was really in for it. He would need to face men of no talent like himself—except for the enjoyment they found in their work. In order to stop the pain he would have to confess to doing something he was innocent of, a delicious turn of events to Delin’s way of thinking.

And maybe, Delin decided as their food began to arrive, just maybe he would find a way to observe some of the torture. It would be an experience of ecstatic delight, so he’d have to see if it might be safely arranged. Yes, he thought as he laughed to himself, he would have to find a way…

Also Delin, in the Gandistran equivalent of a three star Michelin restaurant, right after there's been a high profile arrest:
https://i.imgur.com/3T51jOr.mp4

Summary:

Day 8
Jovvi/Rion/Lorand/Vallant/Tamrissa realizes the whole thing is a sham. She has to/he doesn't get to/Vallant/Tamrissa gets to go first because she's/he's not a woman/no women are competing/reasons even though there is another woman competing. The competition involves changing a bunch of emotions on six drugged people deliberately/guiding a ball to ring ten bell towers/dissolving a painted cube/smashing a bridge and parting the Red Sea tank water/burning solid objects from the inside out. She/he/she does it deliberately oh so slowly and is sent home to await the results.

After the competition, she's kidnapped by Allestine/he's accosted by Meerk, who agrees to locate Hat in response to Lorand's threat of magical violence/Mirra and her parents/Lanir (the Seated High in Fire magic) who intends to breed her like a brood mare.

Delin, Bron and Kambil witness the public arrest of Rigos for Elfini's murder while making a not so cunning plan to gather intel about their competition at the reception.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 40 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim, Arkow, Odrin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 21 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast, post-competition snack, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol, Lanir (who is the Seated High in Fire magic and he's just made it personal)
Vallant: Mirra Agran and her parents, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 55 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 41 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 10 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 11 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 45 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 23 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 43 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 23 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33, 34, 35)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)

Possible fixes:
The way I see it, there's two ways of doing this:

1) Let there be no ambiguity about who the antagonists are. In which case, this chapter would have been better from anybody else's perspective: Bron, Kambil, Rigos, or one of the investigators, or a spy working undercover as a serving person in the dining parlor. The majority of this book is focused on the protagonists, so these chapters from the noble antagonists feel like little asides. They'd be better packed into single chapter interludes at major turning points in the protagonists' storylines. Relevant Sanderson example: Sadeas in Stormlight Archive.

OR

2) Have two main opposing storylines that build up to an ultimate conflict, where one side has to win and you want that victory to have a devastating emotional impact. Tournament related example: Will Wight's Uncrowned, where he set up two protagonists to battle each other in a knock out round. The fanbase has been bitterly conflicted about that outcome ever since.

I can't figure out what emotional impact Green wants these noble POV chapters to have. Are these the equivalent of evil villain monologues or are we supposed to get a feeling of an inevitable conflict that only has a win/lose situation where we're rooting for both sides? It's like she's trying to have it both ways, with how unlikeable her protagonists are and the way she treats her antagonists Book 5 spoilers they all have Shakespearean tragedy type death speeches where they're going on about all their childhood abuse issues.

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

Jovvi’s mind tried to jump around frantically with fear and panic, brought about by having been kidnapped by Allestine and her two henchmen. Allestine would take her back to the courtesan residence in Rincammon, and there she would stay until she was too old to attract patrons any longer. Then Allestine would probably have her killed…

Putting a hand to her head and sitting back on her heels where she knelt on the floor of the coach let Jovvi begin to exert control over herself again. Just a short while ago she probably would have been lost after being kidnapped, but now…

I am now of the opinion that Jovvi's entire backstory of growing up on the streets is a false memory that she self-incepted. No way that anyone who really grew up surviving on the streets as a pretty kid would be rattled by a kidnap attempt.

quote:

“Oh, do get up and take a proper seat, girl,” Allestine said, beginning to be annoyed. “Nothing will be done to you until we get back to Rincammon, and then your behavior on the trip will help to decide just how stern the punishment is to be. What a pity you now have to abandon all your personal possessions, which you would not have had to do if you’d been reasonable.”

So Allestine did notice that Jovvi packed all her favorite dresses!

quote:

Jovvi could feel how much Allestine enjoyed that idea, and the two men, Ark and Bar, were almost as amused. They all enjoyed forcing people to do as they wished, especially supposedly helpless people.

“You really are a fool, Allestine,” Jovvi said after taking a deep breath to restore her balance almost to normal. “You refuse to learn or think, and that’s not the way to survive in the world.”

“Neither is having a fresh mouth,” Allestine growled, not in the least amused. “Bar, show her what happens to girls with fresh mouths.”

But I didn't think she'd be one for using "fresh" in that way.

quote:

Ark sat beside Allestine to Jovvi’s left, and Bar sat to the right, next to where Jovvi herself was to sit. At Allestine’s order Bar smiled with pleasure and raised one big hand, ready to slap Jovvi hard across the face. It would hardly be the first time he’d done that to a girl, and not only at Allestine’s orders. Bar enjoyed hitting women, and indulged in the practice every time he could.

Guess Rion's little display didn't stick.

quote:

But not this time. Jovvi reached to him with her ability, but not to soothe and calm the way she used to. She’d learned an incredible amount about her talent since she’d come to Gan Garee,

Really? That's news to me!

quote:

and now she touched Bar with fear. It was the sort of fear he usually produced in the girls of the residence, and his face twisted as he forgot about hitting her and cringed back on the seat with a sob. It was difficult for a man his size to huddle into the farthest corner away from her, but that didn’t stop Bar from trying.

Not a single sound came in warning beyond Allestine’s very soft gasp, but Jovvi didn’t need warning to know when Ark decided to knock her out. The man might be somewhat behind her as she looked at Bar, but the emotions of his thoughts were a scream in the silence. Jovvi hadn’t been foolish enough not to keep a watch on him, and he didn’t even get to fully raise his fist. His reaching the intention was enough, and an instant later he cringed back in his seat just the way Bar was doing.

“Do you understand yet why I called you a fool?” Jovvi asked, turning her head to look at a very pale Allestine. “Almost anyone else would have realized that I haven’t yet failed any of the tests given me, which are meant to qualify applicants for High practitioner positions. And if you think I’ve done the worst I possibly can to them, you’re even more of a fool.”

Jovvi has a point. Also this is about as competent as any of the antagonists will ever be, except for one event at the end of Book 3.

quote:

“B-b-but this is illegal,” Allestine stuttered, her mind clanging with shock. “If I report what you’ve done, they’ll arrest you and put you on trial!”

“I don’t know which part of that to laugh at first,” Jovvi returned, finding it hard to believe that Allestine could be—and was—serious. “It’s perfectly all right for you to kidnap me into what would have become slavery, but illegal for me to defend myself? I’d be curious to see just how a guard officer would take that.”

Allestine’s face twisted as she remembered why she couldn’t report Jovvi, but Jovvi gave her no chance to comment.

“The other point you keep forgetting is that the officials of this empire consider me a good deal more valuable than you. Their interest is such that they’d probably look the other way even if I killed you, which I really could do.

Also news to me! Based on everything we've seen of Spirit magic, this is not something Jovvi could do, unless this is supposed to mean that she causes them to die of fright or induces a fatal heart attack due to a fit of rage. Spoilers for the rest of the serieses we will never see anyone with Spirit magic kill someone

quote:

Those tests and exercises they’ve put me through are an incredible education. Call to the coach driver and tell him to stop.”

Allestine was now almost cloud white, and she trembled as she leaned out the far window to call to the coach driver. But she hadn’t hesitated to obey, which told Jovvi she’d gotten through to the woman to a certain degree. But not to a significant degree, not as stubborn and really rather stupid as Allestine was, so Jovvi waited until the coach had stopped before she spoke again.

If you go back to Chapter 2 of Book 1, that is definitely not how Jovvi thinks of Allestine when she's first introduced, nor when Allestine arrives in Gan Garee (Chapter 35 of Book 1).

quote:

“It’s not difficult to tell that you’ll decide later I was bluffing,” Jovvi said as she prepared to turn and get herself out of the coach. “You’ll talk yourself into believing that I’d never be able to kill anyone,

Spoilers for all books: as far as body counts go, Jovvi has the lowest other than Naran, and I think she beats Naran by virtue of joining the Blending earlier

quote:

and then you’ll decide to come after me again. To save myself that trouble, I’ve decided to do worse than kill you.”

“Worse?” Allestine quavered, for the moment almost as frightened as her henchmen. “What do you m-mean by—worse?”

“I mean I intend to report this incident to the testing authority,” Jovvi answered with a mirthless smile. “I’ll tell them exactly who you and those two are, and where you come from. After that you should be too busy trying to avoid arrest to bother me, that and worrying about what they’ll do if they catch you.”

“I—I’ll tell them you’re lying,” Allestine babbled, sickness throbbing inside her. “I’ll say you begged me to take you back and I refused, so you’re lying to get even with me. They’ll believe me, men always believe me.”

“My testing authority representative is a woman,” Jovvi commented, reaching back to open the coach door. “And I’d really love to see you try a story like that. Any person, man or woman, who believed I’d rather be a small-town courtesan

I had had the impression that Rincammon was a major population center in the North, but there you go. It's a "small town" apparently.

quote:

than a High practitioner for the empire would have to be seen to be believed. It’s too bad it has to end this way, Allestine, but try to remember that I didn’t come after you.”

“I’ll leave!” Allestine blurted as Jovvi fought with her skirts while she climbed out of the coach from the floor. “I’ll return to Rincammon, and you’ll never see or hear from me again!”

“You expect me to give you a third chance at me?” Jovvi asked with a sound of scorn once she stood solidly on the ground. “Sorry, Allestine, but you’d better forget all about that, and I do mean all about it. As far as you’re concerned, it just isn’t possible. All right, driver, you can continue on now.”

Remember this part, it's important!

quote:

Jovvi slammed the coach door closed on Allestine’s sudden stunned look, and then the coach began to move again. Once it was out of the way, she glanced around to see that she stood on the private road that led to the Fire magic and Spirit magic practice areas. But she was beyond both areas, almost to the road leading out of there. She also held onto Ark and Bar, finding it a bit harder than it had been for some reason, but that wasn’t going to stop her. She meant to hold onto them until their coach went completely beyond her range. After that she would see about walking somewhere to get help.

It was possible for Jovvi to follow the coach with her talent for quite a distance, all the while holding the two men in their private worlds of fear. There was also something else involved, but it wasn’t possible to resolve just what.

What. The. Hell.

WHAT THE HELL!

This is the first time we've seen Spirit magic used in a combative situation against other people and that's all we get?

FFS.

quote:

Once she released the men it would take a short while for them to return to normal, but not being drugged like the test subjects meant they would return to normal. The farther away they were when that happened the better, so Jovvi held on as long as she could. When she finally had to let go, she was also finally able to tremble with her own reaction.

“So close,” she whispered as she hugged herself against the inner chill. “They came so close to getting me back …

If by close you mean from one side to the other in this picture


quote:

and then the authorities would have been after me for trying to run away from the testing procedure. But I can’t report her the way I threatened to do, so what can I do?”

Why not?

quote:

Trying to find an answer to that made her head swim, so much so that the coach had reached her before she even knew it was coming. Stabbing fear made Jovvi look around wildly for someplace to run, but then she heard a blessedly familiar voice.

This. This is our street smart protagonist. Who would have grown up in constant danger. On the streets. Surviving by her wits and observational skills alone.

quote:

“Jovvi, are you all right?” Tamrissa called, then she continued, “Driver, please help her! She looks like she’s about to faint!”

Like she almost fainted right after the fireball too.

quote:

Jovvi did feel as though she were about to lose consciousness, probably because she’d pushed herself too far. The competition had been very tiring,

Way to retcon something that looked like a cakewalk for Jovvi only 6 chapters ago, Green.

quote:

and then the struggle with Allestine and the two men… When the coach driver appeared next to her and lent a supporting arm, Jovvi leaned against him gratefully. She also needed his help to climb into the coach, and once she was on a seat it was Tamma who was there with a supporting arm.

Did anyone get the sense that Jovvi was struggling to deal with her kidnappers?

*cue crickets*

quote:

“Please get us back to the residence as quickly as possible,” Jovvi heard Tamma say to the driver. A moment after the door was slammed shut they were moving again, and a long moment after that Jovvi’s head began to clear a little.

“Your color’s beginning to come back,” Tamma said then, touching Jovvi’s cheek lightly and briefly. “Can you tell me yet what happened? When the coach reached me you weren’t in it, and the driver said he’d been told that you’d taken a ride with someone else.”

NO I DO NOT NEED A RECAP OF THIS. IT JUST HAPPENED.

quote:

“I wasn’t the one doing the taking,” Jovvi managed to say,

People complain about Shallan's unfunny puns/attempts at wordplay in Stormlight Archive but it's never this bad.

quote:

her head against the seat back. “Allestine and her bullies were waiting for me, and they tried to kidnap me. I had to use my ability to get away from them, and the effort really drained me. That means I’ll be fine, so you can stop worrying.”

“That means you’ll be fine for how long?” Tamma demanded, obviously completely outraged. “This time you have to tell someone about that woman, and if you don’t, I will.”

“Tamma, please,” Jovvi said with a sigh. “I’m really too exhausted to argue, but even though I told Allestine I meant to report her attempt, I simply can’t do it. And I don’t want you to do it either.”

“But why not?” Tamma asked, clearly bewildered.

For once I agree with Tamrissa.

quote:

“Are you trying to prove or disprove that old saying about the third time being the charm? You can’t think you still owe her something, not after the way she’s been trying to make you her slave.”

That would actually be a good character reason.

quote:

“It has nothing to do with owing anything to Allestine,” Jovvi said, wishing she had a cup of hot tea to sip from. “If I hadn’t been beautiful she never would have taken me into the residence, and during my time there I more than repaid her investment in time and money.

What a missed opportunity to have a more nuanced relationship along the lines of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jt50UtON8Go

quote:

It’s just that I … can’t bear to report anyone to the guard … not after what I saw growing up.”

Jovvi had wondered if Tamma would understand without a detailed explanation, as something like that was beyond her at the moment.

Yeah I'm drawing a blank too. Trouble with the guard wasn't in the three paragraph flashback we got about your mom selling her own kids after your dad died.

quote:

Happily Tamma remained silent for a moment, then she shook her head.

“I can’t say I understand that attitude,



quote:

but most people can’t understand mine either,” she said with a sigh. “Some day we’ll have to talk about it, but right now there are other things to discuss. You said you told Allestine you would report her, so maybe she’ll believe you and go home. I don’t particularly care how we get rid of her, as long as we do see the last of her.”

“That would work if Allestine were smarter,” Jovvi said with a small headshake. “But Allestine is a creature of emotions rather than rational thought, and as soon as she stops being frightened she’ll become furious. No one has dared to refuse her slightest whim for many years, and if she goes back to the residence without me, all the girls will know I got away from her. That will give them ideas she doesn’t dare let them entertain, and will also make her look foolish. No, she’ll never leave here without me, and she certainly won’t let herself remember what I can do.”

There you go. No need to give the antagonists any character development or complexity. Why bother wasting all of that page count? Just have your protagonists sum them up in one neat little speech instead of showing anything.

quote:

“So she’s almost guaranteed to come after you again,” Tamma said, sounding defeated. “And if she tries it again at the house, she may decide again to add me in as well. What a pity if she does decide on that. I’ll just have to tell her to get in line.”

Tamrissa's like one of those annoying people who constantly drops "cryptic" comments in hopes that you'll ask her about it.

quote:

“There’s more behind that comment than just the urge to make a comment,” Jovvi said with a frown, knowing the truth of that even with exhaustion waiting to take her. “What happened, Tamma? And how did the competition go? With Allestine and her nonsense, I forgot all about it.”

You JUST REMEMBERED when you were complaining about how "tired" and "exhausted" you are.

quote:

“The competition itself went fine,” Tamma said with a shrug, now very taken with watching her fingers twist about each other in her lap. “I decided that my best chance would be to be only strong enough to complete the exercise, so I did but certainly lost the competition. They threw me out after my turn was done, so I don’t know how anyone else did.”

“They don’t want any of us knowing,” Jovvi said, wishing she had the strength to send comfort to Tamma. “I thought of the same thing to do, so that makes two of us who didn’t win. But you still haven’t told me what else happened.”

“After my performance I had a … visitor,” Tamma admitted with strong hesitation. “There was a man present when I passed that very first test, and he said something about seeing me again. I’d forgotten all about it—until he sat down at my table just a little while ago. I tried to tell him to go away, but he isn’t willing to do that as permanently as I would like. He … said something quite abominable, and then he strolled off smiling. I’m beginning to think I have a sign on me that invites men like him to come after me.”

Oh Tamrissa.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1XGPvbWn0A

You are not a special snowflake.

quote:

“We’ll have to discuss the matter once I’ve rested,” Jovvi said, reaching over to still Tamma’s trembling hands.

No! I don't want to sit through any more meetings.

quote:

“In a manner of speaking you are wearing a sign, and we’ll have to think of a way for you to remove it. Right now, though…”

Instead of striking out to explore new territory, Green decides to just go with the age old "it's the woman's fault" approach.

quote:

“You need to rest,” Tamma finished for her, a strong pulse of self-annoyance coming from the girl. “You go through kidnap and escape, and here am I bothering you with my piddling problems. The last time I was the one who fell asleep, so now it’s your turn. Just close your eyes, and I’ll see us safely back to the house.”

Objection, you are not actually doing anything, since you're just sitting in the back of the coach. And since the only form of danger to the protagonists right now are manifesting as routinely scheduled random encounters from their officially designated nemeses, I can't even give you the benefit of standing guard either. You are literally just riding in the back of a coach that you're not even paying for.

quote:

Jovvi smiled to thank her, then just had to close her eyes. There were so many things to do—and talk about—and worry about—but they’d all have to wait until later…

There's gonna be another meeting, isn't there?




Summary:

Day 8
Jovvi/Rion/Lorand/Vallant/Tamrissa realizes the whole thing is a sham. She has to/he doesn't get to/Vallant/Tamrissa gets to go first because she's/he's not a woman/no women are competing/reasons even though there is another woman competing. The competition involves changing a bunch of emotions on six drugged people deliberately/guiding a ball to ring ten bell towers/dissolving a painted cube/smashing a bridge and parting the Red Sea tank water/burning solid objects from the inside out. She/he/she does it deliberately oh so slowly and is sent home to await the results.

After the competition, she's kidnapped by Allestine and frees herself/he's accosted by Meerk, who agrees to locate Hat in response to Lorand's threat of magical violence/Mirra and her parents/Lanir (the Seated High in Fire magic) who intends to breed her like a brood mare.

Delin, Bron and Kambil witness the public arrest of Rigos for Elfini's murder while making a not so cunning plan to gather intel about their competition at the reception.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 40 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim, Arkow, Odrin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 21 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast, post-competition snack, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol, Lanir (who is the Seated High in Fire magic and he's just made it personal)
Vallant: Mirra Agran and her parents, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 55 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 42 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 11 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 11 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 45 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 23 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 43 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 23 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33, 34, 35, 37)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)

Possible fixes:
Sorry about the delay guys, it's been a crazy week for me. Things should start settling down so post frequency should pick up again from next week.

I can't get over how Green does the total opposite of what I would do in picking her start and end points for her chapters. She just loooooves spending so much time in transition from one location to another recapping stuff that already happened. Why would you not just end the chapter on Jovvi escaping? Like what is the point of even showing that entire exchange in the coach, other than that these protagonists are just incredibly co-dependent for people who have known each other just over a week?

What would look like a better Allestine storyline with the objective of "get major cash generating asset back":

Leng posted:

  • Pretend she's here to check in on Jovvi (which is more or less true, in case Jovvi's using her talent to truth read)
  • Be full of motherly concern about Jovvi, comment on how tired and exhausted she looks, ask after the testing and how strenuous it's been
  • Bring gifts for Jovvi (what do white people do here? Asian mothers would bring medicinal soups)
  • Wait for an opportune moment and offer to sneak Jovvi away back to Rincammon
  • Once Jovvi's agreed, is packed and ready to go, bring up Eldra as a side question - and maybe not even then. If Eldra really is with Jovvi, then Jovvi wouldn't leave her behind when going back to Rincammon, and if Jovvi has no idea about Eldra, then she would go willingly. There's no incentive to bring up Eldra as it would just raise Jovvi's suspicions

When Plan A fails, go to Plan B:
  • Start new residence in Gan Garee
  • Entice Jovvi there and remind her of how much nicer being a high class courtesan is vs being a competitor
  • Make connections with testing authority officials, nobility and the criminal underworld
  • Find a way to forge papers for Jovvi, fake a training or competition accident
  • Investigate the whole competition set up
  • Info dump the entire conspiracy on Jovvi–leave her with proof
  • Offer Jovvi a way out–play on feelings of obligation and mother hen act

If Plan B fails, go to Plan C:
  • Offer to let Jovvi buy in to the business, with certain conditions as the junior stakeholder

If Plan C fails, go to Plan D:
  • Pay lots of gold to get hold of Puredan + Book 3 spoilers hilsom powder
  • Drug and brainwash Jovvi into returning

If Plan D fails, go to Plan E:
  • Line up a real training or competition accident, forcing Jovvi to burn out
  • File paperwork as Jovvi's guardian/next of kin through the court system to claim her living but mindless body
  • Market to a very messed up niche market
  • Realize this is way more profitable than having to manage sex workers who are capable of thought (see world building what ifs at the end of this post
  • Sell off existing, living staff to competitors for insane amounts of gold
  • Acquire other victims of burn out who meet criteria (physically attractive, no living next of kin)
  • Repeat
  • Profit

There. Have a compelling antagonist arc, where you see Allestine slowly being driven by her greed to abandon her morals and go to any lengths to kidnap someone she views as an adoptive daughter. It took all of ten minutes to vomit those bullet points onto the page!

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

Before we even get into it, I just want to say that I hate this chapter the most out of this entire book, because it is completely meaningless.

quote:

Lorand was pleased with how quickly the coach came, and he simply sat back and relaxed until they reached the place where Ro was waiting. The big ex-sea captain climbed in quickly, his expression showing some sort of annoyance.

There you go, massive spoilers right in the descriptions here. Vallant is hereby now the "ex-sea captain", so any further moaning about how much he misses his ship and how he intends to get back to that life is pointless.

Also Lorand is literally about the same size as Vallant, and so is Rion. It makes zero sense for him to describe Vallant as "big".

quote:

“About time this thing got here,” he muttered as he settled into his seat. “I was just finishin’ my third cup of tea when they told me it was approachin’.”

Should I be incrementing the counter three times for this? Are we talking Asian yum cha (dim sum for you Americans) sized cups or large British tea cups?

quote:

“I barely had time to finish my first cup,” Lorand replied with a frown,

Why is this even a point of discussion?

quote:

then he suddenly understood. “I’ll bet they wanted to let the coach pick us up in order again,

Just watch the world's worst transition to a recap in action!

quote:

so they had to wait for me to finish performing. I was third, and there was a delay when the second participant had to be forcibly put to sleep and carried out. He cracked under the pressure when he made a mistake, and tried to attack the Adept running things.”

“You should have sent him over to my practice area,” Ro came back, but with a bit less annoyance. “I could have found him a few people I would have enjoyed seein’ attacked.

These poor casual jokes about magical violence aren't getting any funnier.

quote:

So you went third. I was up first, happily, but I think I managed to lose anyway.”

“If they know about your problem and we’re right about this having been an evaluation, it makes sense that they called you first,” Lorand commented. “They’d want to give you every break in order to judge just how strong you really are, just in case you find a way to use that strength in the more important competitions.”

“They do know about me, so you’re probably right,” Ro agreed, now looking thoughtful.

Still no new information in this chapter.

quote:

“My former Adept guide tried to get me inside too early, but I had the feelin’ he was actin’ on his own and tryin’ to be vindictive. When I told him straight out that I was uncomfortable inside buildin’s, he looked like somebody broke his toy.”

“What a shame,” Lorand said with a grin, then joined Ro in interrupting the conversation while they picked up Mardimil.

How do you join someone in interrupting the conversation when the conversation was only happening between the two of you?

Normal people just call this breaking off the conversation.

quote:

Rion looked his usual calm and easy self, and the first thing he did once he settled himself to Lorand’s right was to turn to Ro.

“Were you able to complete the competition?” he asked, clearly seriously concerned. “Was my suggestion of any use to you?”

Rion is the real heart of the group.

quote:

“Yes and yes,” Ro answered with a smile. “I completed the exercise, but mainly because addin’ moisture to the air around my face made me more comfortable. But I’m fairly sure I failed, so my tryin’ real hard didn’t help.”

“Yes, alas, I’m certain I failed as well,” Mardimil agreed with an easy grin, now apparently relieved. “A young lady was called up before me, and despite my earnest efforts I believe she outdid me. And what fate did you find, Coll?”

“Sadly, the same,” Lorand replied, but not as lightheartedly as he’d wanted to. “As I was telling Ro, there were two people called up ahead of me. The girl did fine, but the man following her cracked under the strain. I could almost hear him thinking about how foolish he would feel if she bested him, and when it became certain that that would happen, he broke.”

Not one, but TWO recaps in this chapter.

quote:

“The man running our competition suggested there would be shame and worse for any male contestant whose efforts fell below those of the young lady, but I couldn’t quite see that,” Mardimil commented, his expression now puzzled. “If the girl happened to be stronger, how would that become my fault?”

“It would be your fault because men are supposed to be stronger than women,” Lorand explained, unsurprised that Mardimil had missed the point. “I’m sure your mother never taught you that, but it’s something every other man is taught. We’re supposed to be stronger than women, and if we aren’t then the fault is ours.”

“You sound as if you wanted to outdo that girl,” Ro put in thoughtfully, gazing at Lorand. “Was that your own idea, or did the one runnin’ your competition do some ‘suggestin’’ with you also?”

“Well, now that you mention it…” Lorand responded slowly, his frown back. “Lidim did make something of a point of it, which surely helped to drive that man over the edge. You think he did it on purpose?”

“It seems more likely than not,” Ro decided, looking at Mardimil as well. “Both of you were told the same thing, and it happens to be somethin’ that most men respond to. Bein’ bested by a woman is shameful, and not the same as bein’ bested by another man. A man has to be real sure of himself not to respond to that.”

Five paragraphs spent on toxic masculinity

Sometimes I can't tell whether Green wanted to point out the toxicness of this stuff or whether she's unaware she's still perpetuating the same toxicity with how her characters are portrayed and relate to each other.

quote:

“Or determined to overlook it,” Lorand said with a nod. “Or, as in Mardimil’s case, not knowing about it in the first place. That seems to be another point in favor of our guesswork, that this ‘competition’ was really an evaluation. I wonder why the ploy didn’t work with all the contestants.”

“What do you mean?” Ro asked, joining Mardimil in looking at him. “What makes you think it didn’t work with everybody?”

“I believe Coll is referring to something I noticed myself,” Mardimil supplied when Lorand hesitated in trying to put a passing feeling into words. “Only the young lady and myself and two other men seemed actually interested in what they were about to do. The others appeared to be downright bored, which struck me as being odd.”

“That’s exactly right,” Lorand confirmed. “Only the girl and the man following her—and me, of course—seemed to be there to compete. The others could have been waiting for a long-delayed ride home.”

“Believe it or not, I think I noticed the same thing,” Ro added, his gaze turned inward. “I was too busy fightin’ the need to leave to really be aware of it, but most of those people in the seats were just markin’ time. I wonder if that means they weren’t goin’ to be competin’ at all?”

“Of course!” Lorand exclaimed, suddenly seeing the truth. “They were put there to pretend there were a lot of competitors, so the officials would have an excuse not to announce the results while we real competitors were still there. I can’t imagine why they would want to do that, but I’m willing to bet that that was their aim.”

“It might have something to do with the fact that they don’t want us talking to or associating with any other competitor,” Mardimil put in, not the least doubt in his voice. “I found that out when I tried to join the young lady who performed before me. My guard refused to let me go near her, claiming that ‘fraternization’ could ‘compromise the integrity’ of the competition. I took that to mean they’re afraid we’ll learn things from each other, and although I can’t imagine what those things could be—or how we would locate other residences—it seems to be something we ought to consider trying to accomplish.”

“I agree,” Ro said as Lorand nodded. “I don’t yet know how we’ll do it either, but we ought to be thinkin’ about it. The more we know that they don’t want us to, the better off we’ll be.”

That had been obvious for quite some time, and Lorand remembered his earlier thoughts about a nightly meeting with the women. The idea seemed even more important now, as they might have seen or figured out something to satisfy all their unanswered questions. Lorand was about to mention the point, but a glance at Mardimil and Ro showed the two men sunk into thought. It made no sense to disturb them now, so Lorand decided to wait until they’d returned to the residence, and found thoughts of his own to occupy him.

We just had a meeting in a coach ride where one of the characters is remembering an earlier internal monologue about having a meeting and then tries to organize the meeting, fails and therefore means we're going to have a later meeting about organizing the meeting.



Somebody tell Green that organizing meetings is the most agonizing and uninteresting thing you could possibly write about.

No, scratch that. Somebody go bet Jim Butcher he can't write an interesting series that's about organizing meetings.

quote:

The most compelling thing on his mind was the odd way he’d begun to feel. He’d responded to that deliberate attempt to make him try his hardest without even noticing it, which wasn’t at all like him. Only men who were unsure of themselves would have responded, Ro had suggested, but Lorand had never before been unsure of himself. Unsure about using too much of the power and burning out, yes, but not unsure about himself.

Vallant is now the official authority on what being a real man is/means. I guess it makes sense (but is horrible because Vallant is a horrible sexist rear end) since he's got the most life experience of main cast, but we never see any of it.

quote:

So why had he responded to the point of being unhappy about needing to lose the competition? Lorand shifted on the coach seat, trying to understand the attitude that still hadn’t left him. He’d started out being well and truly relieved that he wasn’t going to have to win the competition, and had ended up disappointed that he couldn’t do more. It was crazy to feel that way when worse than death awaited the careless practitioner, so what was wrong with him?

The question remained unanswered even when the coach pulled up at the residence, so Lorand dropped it with a sigh and joined the others in getting out. Maybe later, once he’d taken Mardimil’s place with Tamrissa, he’d ask her for an opinion. He would have preferred to ask Jovvi, but still couldn’t bring himself to face her.

Great. Now we have characters actively looking for sermons from the church of Tamrissa!

quote:

The servant letting them in provided the information that the ladies had already returned, but both had gone to rest after having asked not to be disturbed. That left very little to do, since Mardimil went to his bedchamber and Ro announced he meant to use the bath house.

Go forth and join hit on Vallant in the bath Lorand! It's only fair!

quote:

Lorand took himself to the library instead, and spent the time until lunch reading a popular history about the empire.

This would have been a convenient place to infodump interesting facts about the empire which will become relevant later in the series!

quote:

Only Mardimil and Ro came to the dining room for lunch, and when they questioned Warla they found out what the ladies were doing. Jovvi, apparently, was sound asleep, having left word that she needed rest more than food. Tamrissa had asked for a tray in her apartment, also a bit too weary for a formal meal. Lorand and Mardimil discussed what might have happened to make the ladies so tired, but naturally could come up with nothing but guesswork. They’d have to wait until later to find out the truth, but Ro didn’t seem as interested. He made no comment at all, and simply concentrated on his food.

The worst attempt at trying to write fantasy cafeteria boy talk.

quote:

After lunch Lorand decided to use the bathing house himself, but discovered he wasn’t in the mood to soak. So he went back to his bedchamber and dressed again,

OMFG why should I care about any of this?

quote:

then returned to the library. But not to read the same book. All that raving about how wonderful and perfect the empire was had begun to turn his stomach. If the empire was all that wonderful, it would hardly contain so many unhappy people.

Oh look, another opportunity for Lorand to do some musing on plot relevant stuff that might also help his chances with Jovvi (not that he knows that because he doesn't see her as an actual person).

Will it go anywhere?

quote:

Lorand was still trying to decide what to read when a knock came at the door.

Nope! Of course not, this is a Green book.

quote:

A moment later the door opened, and when he turned away from the shelves it was to see a servant.

“Excuse me, sir, but there’s someone here to see you,” the servant announced. “Shall I show him in here?”

“Yes, please,” Lorand agreed, surprised that Meerk was back so soon. It couldn’t be anyone but the tough, although he obviously didn’t have Hat with him.

It's not what you guys think.

quote:

The servant had said “show him in,” not “show them in.” Lorand hoped it wasn’t bad news, but braced himself just in case. And then the servant returned leading the visitor, and Lorand was doubly glad that he’d braced himself.

“A representative from the testing authority,” the servant announced, stepping aside to let the stranger in. Lorand simply stared, vastly surprised and instantly wondering if he weren’t about to be ejected from the competitions after all.

For what? You didn't do anything.

quote:

“Dom Coll, congratulations,” the man said with a smile as soon as he saw Lorand. “I’ve been sent to tell you that you’re the winner of our competition, and to deliver your prize—in gold, of course.”

The man held out a pouch Lorand had never expected to see, but all the lucky winner could do was stand and stare. He’d won? He’d won? How could he have made such a terrible mistake…?

An attempt at a cliffhanger, when Jovvi already figured it out seven chapters ago.

Summary:

Day 8
Jovvi/Rion/Lorand/Vallant/Tamrissa realizes the whole thing is a sham. She has to/he doesn't get to/Vallant/Tamrissa gets to go first because she's/he's not a woman/no women are competing/reasons even though there is another woman competing. The competition involves changing a bunch of emotions on six drugged people deliberately/guiding a ball to ring ten bell towers/dissolving a painted cube/smashing a bridge and parting the Red Sea tank water/burning solid objects from the inside out. She/he/she does it deliberately oh so slowly and is sent home to await the results. It turns out that Lorand "won".

After the competition, she's kidnapped by Allestine and frees herself/he's accosted by Meerk, who agrees to locate Hat in response to Lorand's threat of magical violence/Mirra and her parents/Lanir (the Seated High in Fire magic) who intends to breed her like a brood mare.

Delin, Bron and Kambil witness the public arrest of Rigos for Elfini's murder while making a not so cunning plan to gather intel about their competition at the reception.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 40 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim, Arkow, Odrin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 21 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast, post-competition snack, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol, Lanir (who is the Seated High in Fire magic and he's just made it personal)
Vallant: Mirra Agran and her parents, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 55 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 43 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 12 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 11 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 46 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 24 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 44 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 23 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33, 34, 35, 37)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
  • You won! (Book 2: Chapter 38)

Possible fixes:
We just wasted a whole chapter reading about Lorand killing time so that he could be told he "won" a sham competition when we already knew the results were fixed seven chapters ago.

Green, this whole chapter should not exist.

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 

Vallant sat in a chair in his bedchamber, sprawled out in what should have been a comfortable posture but wasn’t. He’d bathed and gotten into clean clothes, rested and had lunch, but some vague discomfort continued to disturb him. Part of it was the fact that the women hadn’t come down to lunch, but that was more of a general concern. Apparently they’d had a much harder time of it than the men, but they’d also obviously survived without having been given any real harm.

Nice to see our leading man is so wonderfully dismissive of mental trauma.

quote:

So Vallant’s discomfort had another source, and his thoughts were skittering around and making him feel as though he ought to be off and doing things. It finally occurred to him that if he were off and doing things he would have no time to think, so that was what his mind was trying to avoid: thinking, and obviously about some particular subject. One that he didn’t want to think about…

And just that easily the barriers fell, immediately making him wish they hadn’t. Many people had envied Vallant’s family life while he grew up, and there was no doubt that it had been incredibly happy. But once a boy becomes a man his interest turns toward making a family of his own,

I would hate this monologue a lot less if I didn't get the feeling that Green's just using Vallant as a mouthpiece to spout off her views.

Like I get annoyed when people criticize an author for having views they disagree with, when in actual fact the author doesn't share those views–the reader has conflated a character's views with the author's own views. The dead giveaway for me is whether the author can convincingly write characters with very different world views.

Green doesn't even get a pass on her protagonists, let alone all of her other characters.

quote:

and in that Vallant had failed miserably. Mirra, the first woman he’d thought about sharing his life with, had proved to be in love with her own desires rather than him, and was more manipulative than he’d ever thought was possible.

So he’d left Mirra after swearing off women completely, and the next thing he’d known he was chasing after Tamrissa. He’d really believed it was possible to make a wonderful life with her, and foolishly, in his fantasies, still did. But Tamrissa Domon had made it perfectly clear that she wanted nothing to do with him, going well out of her way to prove the point. His attentions were unwanted, and he’d made a big hairy beast of himself in trying to press them.

Yes, you have. Because instead of being mature and respecting her decision to not get into a relationship with you, you decided to be sneaky and underhanded in order to sleep with her because you're convinced you're the Highest Aspect's gift to women and amazing sex will automatically make for a good, lifelong partnership.

quote:

The pain of those two experiences was more than Vallant would have been able to put into words, as they clearly showed there was something terribly wrong with him.



quote:

He’d been seriously attracted to two women, both times the attraction had turned to disaster, and he’d never felt so lonely in his entire life. Or such a loser. He was used to winning in everything, but that everything apparently failed to cover the most important aspect of his life.

that's not the correct takeaway from all this.

quote:

Vallant closed his eyes, mentally searching for the will to try again, but for the first time in his life it wasn’t there. He had no interest at all in trying again, not when associating with women brought such pain. And not when the picture of himself that he now carried in his mind was so distorted. A vain, shallow woman was determined to drag him into marriage, and a gentle woman with beauty both inside and out wanted nothing to do with him. What that said about him was an aching throb in his insides, and enough to make him deeply ashamed.

hey, what do you know, he got there!

quote:

It was really too bad that grown men weren’t supposed to cry, Vallant thought, his eyes still tightly closed. He hadn’t even done much crying as a small boy, and that included the time he’d been so frightened. But now he felt a real need to cry, to sob his heart out the way women did when they found themselves helpless in some situation. Vallant was now just as helpless, but tears, like happiness, weren’t permitted him.



quote:

Deep depression has a way of overcoming restlessness, so Vallant just sat in the chair and brooded. Even accomplishing something in the competitions had lost its urgency, especially now that they were all deliberately trying to lose. There seemed to be nothing left in his life to strive for, and he couldn’t even care about that. What would the testing authority do, he wondered, if he simply walked away and went back to the sea?

Probably go straight to Daddy and tell him that Vallant is being a naughty boy.

quote:

If they tried to reclaim him, he could always threaten to expose their slimy little arrangement. If he covered himself before making the threat, he might even be able to—

A knock at the door interrupted Vallant’s thoughts, and when he called out his permission to enter, a servant opened the door.

“There’s someone here askin’ t’ see ya, sor,” the girl said shyly. “He says he’s frum th’ testin’ a’thority.”

Vallant frowned at hearing that, switching to unease from the dread he’d felt when he’d thought Mirra and her parents were back. That would have been bad enough, but this… What could the testing authority possibly want? To tell him he was no longer part of the program? That would fit all too well with everything else which had happened…

Yeah, like give a character an opportunity to be somewhere and do something that they actually want, instead of being railroaded into this plot.

quote:

“I’ll come down,” Vallant said to the serving girl as he rose to his feet. No sense in hearing the bad news in private, not when his absence would be perfectly clear come dinnertime. And the others had been so sure that they were all going to be put into a challenging Blending.

When Vallant followed the girl downstairs, he found two men waiting rather than one. His first thought was that they were together, a precaution against the possibility of his arguing about being thrown out. But by the time he reached the bottom of the stairs he’d realized that the two men didn’t know each other, and then the serving girl confirmed his speculation.

“That’s ’im on th’ right, sor,” she said, pointing to the man before dropping a quick curtsey and hurrying off. The man on the right had noticed the exchange as well, and now came forward with a smile.

“Dom Ro?” he asked, and when Vallant nodded, the man’s smile grew even broader. “Congratulations, sir! I’ve been sent to tell you that you’ve won your first competition. Here’s your prize, which I’m sure you were expecting.”

Vallant would have expected having the ceiling fall on him or a herd of wild horses trample him. Being told he’d won the competition and then being handed gold was a stunning shock, but his hand went out automatically to accept the offered pouch, and then the messenger bowed and left. Vallant would have also enjoyed moving the way living people are supposed to, but right now that seemed to be beyond him.

And then the second man at the door came to attention, and Vallant managed to turn his head to see Jovvi coming down the stairs after another serving girl. Jovvi wore a wrap and acted as though she’d been awakened from a sound sleep, but the second man didn’t seem to notice.

“Dama Hafford?” he asked, and when Jovvi nodded to that, the man beamed at her. “You must be thrilled to be part of such an impressive residence. I’m not the first to say this, but that doesn’t change the delight of it. Congratulations, Dama Hafford, on winning your competition. It’s my honor to bring you the word of that, as well as your gold.”

Jovvi seemed to be moving in her sleep as she accepted the pouch being offered to her, and Vallant knew exactly how she felt. The messenger bowed and left, and only then did she turn disbelieving eyes to Vallant.

“Am I still asleep and dreaming this?” she asked in a very soft voice. “I must be, since it wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Why the hell are YOU confused? You're the only one of these numbnuts to have figured it out beforehand!

quote:

“Let’s go into the library and send for some tea,” Vallant suggested, no longer too stunned to be able to think. “We can sit down and be comfortable, and incidentally congratulate each other.”

“Yes, of course,” Jovvi agreed in a normal voice, giving him a smile for reminding her about not saying anything she didn’t want the servants to overhear.

These guys are tiptoeing around trying to be stealthy operators but they're coming off more like this:



quote:

“Tea sounds marvelous, and so does the idea of sitting down.”

With that settled they headed for the library, and Vallant used the pair of moments to try to figure out where he could have gone wrong. He hadn’t been in any condition to notice much and he had gone first, but that shouldn’t have won him the competition. The problem still nagged at him as he opened the library door for Jovvi, and then the problem instantly became more complex. Coll, Tamrissa, and Mardimil were there ahead of them, and each of them sat holding the same sort of pouch that he and Jovvi did.

“I don’t believe it,” Tamrissa said, staring at the newcomers. “You two also? I don’t believe it.”

Well, we saw this coming an entire book away! At least Green has learned and we only had to suffer through two POV chapters of this.

quote:

“I believe the fact of it, but can’t make sense of it,” Mardimil said as Vallant and Jovvi went forward to join the group. “Tamrissa told us that the ladies came to the same conclusion we did, so this certainly makes no sense. Surely at least one of us would have attained the objective.”

“Maybe our objective and the testing authority’s were entirely different,” Jovvi told him, glancing back at the door they’d left open. “Lorand, would you mind standing guard all alone? I’m not as exhausted as I was, but I’m far from being back to normal.”

“I’d be glad to,” Lorand responded, looking at her with clear concern. “The closest trace of human life is in the back hall and not moving this way, so tell us what you meant about different objectives.”

“It’s fairly obvious once you think about it,” Jovvi said, letting Vallant seat her before he took a chair of his own. “In my own competition, we weren’t allowed to learn what anyone’s time was, including our own. Now we’ve been told that we won, but how do we know it’s true?”

“Why would they lie?” Vallant asked, really wishing he’d been able to pay more attention to what had gone on around him. “If they’re doin’ this because they have too much gold and need to get rid of it, they could have just given it to us.”

“There’s no such thing as too much gold,” Mardimil put in, obviously speaking seriously. “They’ve arranged this for a reason, and that’s what we need to discover. I have the strongest feeling that we’ll be badly at a disadvantage if we don’t.”

“I think Jovvi is right and they have to be lying,” Coll said, decision strong in his voice. “I’ve been going over and over the competition in my mind, and although I could have done better than the girl who went first, I’m certain I didn’t. Is that why they hurried her out so fast, do you think? To keep her from knowing that the prize went to someone with a slower time?”

“That would mean they chose us to win over everyone else who competed,” Tamrissa said slowly, while Vallant and the others murmured in confusion. “I can’t believe we’re that important to them, not when they haven’t done anything special for us until now. So the question arises: how do we know we’re the only ones who were told they won?”

“You mean they lied to everyone?” Coll asked with a frown. “That sounds just like them, but what would be the point? All winners are supposed to go to that reception at the palace tomorrow night, and if the people we competed with show up, we’ll recognize them.”

I don't need to see Jovvi being smarter than everyone else twice, thanks. Also, you can probably guess how Green's going to get around this.

quote:

“And they’d recognize us,” Tamrissa agreed glumly. “I’d forgotten about that, but you’re right. And yet I still have the feeling that my guess was close.

Tamrissa is the author's self-insert so she's right all the time, though she's always gracious to admit when she's "wrong" but the plot will eventually always prove her to be right and the other person wrong.

quote:

We know nothing about the other competitors including where their residences are, and that can’t be an accident.”

“I agree completely,” Jovvi said, rubbing at her forehead with one hand. “I have the same feeling, but I’m still too tired to think clearly. I need to get back to bed after I eat something, but first let’s tell each other about what the competitions were like while we have the chance.”

No, no, no, no, no.

NO!

quote:

Everyone thought that was a good idea, so they took turns filling each other in.

Oh thank the Highest Aspect for that.

quote:

Vallant couldn’t help noticing that Tamrissa looked faintly drawn and also seemed to be leaving something out of her story, but it was none of his business. She’d finally made that clear to him, and he’d made sure he would remember it.

Not-spoilers: he won't.

quote:

Once all the descriptions were over, Coll, Mardimil, and Tamrissa went upstairs to get ready for that night. Vallant remembered Coll saying something about how he and Tamrissa were going to help Mardimil see some girl, but knowing that didn’t help to make him feel any less left out.

You know, it's your own damned fault. Rion's been super nice to you and you've done nothing but wallow in your stupid self-inflicted misery.

quote:

That meant he couldn’t stand the idea of going back to his room alone, so he chose instead to join Jovvi in the dining room.

“No, I don’t mind the company at all,” Jovvi said when he put the question, giving him a warm, easy smile. “Or, to be more specific, I don’t mind your company. There’s some I’d prefer to do without even if I had to be alone for the rest of my life.”

“You sound as if you’re referrin’ to someone specific,” Vallant said, leaning back in the chair he’d taken near her. Jovvi had already asked a servant for whatever happened to be left over from lunch as well as tea for the two of them, so they were alone in the dining room.

“I am referring to someone specific,” Jovvi agreed. “My former sponsor, Allestine, showed up at the practice area with her two bullies, and tried to kidnap me. I always knew she wasn’t very bright, but believing she could simply drag me away without anyone official noticing… I had to use my ability to get away from them after using it during the competition, and that’s why I’m so drained.”

Green just couldn't resist more recapping of events we saw.

quote:

Vallant waited until the servant appearing with the tea had poured and left, and then he said, “How did the testin’ people react when you told them what had happened? I’d think they would send out guardsmen to arrest those fools right away.”

Even when the other character doesn't reveal anything new with their reactions.

quote:

“I didn’t report the incident, and also asked Tamma not to report it,” Jovvi answered, looking at him with serious blue-green eyes. “I can’t explain why I don’t want them arrested, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything either. I’ll think of an unofficial way to discourage them as soon as I’ve had enough sleep.”

“It’s your decision,” Vallant agreed, disliking that decision but feeling it wasn’t his place to argue it.

We should all take a moment to appreciate this. I think this might be the first and only time that Vallant respects someone else's right to make their own decisions about their own lives.

quote:

“Now I understand why you ladies both look so strained. Kidnappin’ attempts tend to do that to people.”

“Oh, Tamma wasn’t there when it happened,” Jovvi immediately corrected. “She came by in our coach later, and picked me up. What’s bothering her is that the man who was there after her very first test showed up again this morning, and said something that frightened her badly. I wasn’t able to find out exactly what that was, but I will. I didn’t want to add to her fright by saying the man is probably a noble, and if he’s decided he wants her she could be facing a serious struggle.”

Aren't you supposed to be best friends with Tamrissa now? Why are you deliberately spilling the beans on an event that Tamrissa made sure to gloss over, to this guy of all people? You have freaking Spirit magic, you know how they both feel about this and you should not be doing this!

Jovvi is approaching Peter Pettigrew levels of Secret Keeper.

quote:

Vallant had to fight for a moment to keep from reacting to that news, but after the moment it became a good deal easier. If Tamrissa Domon had wanted his help she would have asked for it, and his continuing pain underscored the fact that she’d done nothing of the sort.

That's right. Stay out of it!

quote:

“What I said bothered you, but now the disturbance has changed,” Jovvi observed, studying him over her teacup. “Does that mean you no longer care what happens to Tamma?”

How is a High in Spirit magic this bad at reading people?

quote:

“Not at all,” Vallant denied, reaching for his own tea. “Dama Domon’s well-bein’ concerns me as much as that of everyone else in this residence. We all do have to stick together, after all… So what do you think the testin’ authority will try next?”

“Vallant, you’re deliberately changing the subject,” she accused, a very accurate description of his intentions. “I have no right to speak for Tamma, but I happen to know that she doesn’t want to see you hurt. If she did something to make you change your mind about her, you have to remember what her life’s been like until now. Encouraging a man goes against every sense of survival she has—even if most of her wants to encourage him. Be patient with her, and hopefully you won’t be disappointed.”

No, Jovvi, bad! You stay out of it too!

quote:

“I know how much she dislikes hurtin’ people,” Vallant said tonelessly as he got to his feet, remembering with a twinge how much Tamrissa had been prepared to sacrifice just to avoid hurting him. “I appreciate the goodness of her heart, but that’s not what I’m lookin’ for in a woman. Please excuse me now, I really do need to return to my bedchamber.”

Remember your earlier resolution about courtesans? Now would be a really good time to remember. You might get some pity paid sex from Jovvi! And then you'd get the chance to prove that you are the Highest Aspect's gift to women and maybe Jovvi would stop with her ridiculous mooning over Lorand.

I have no idea why the official ships aren't Tamrissa/Lorand and Jovvi/Rion/Vallant, with an additional Rion/Naran thing. Maybe because then there wouldn't be any stupid drama, since Tamrissa and Lorand would be united in their desire to win at whatever cost and they actually talk to each other, and Jovvi could help Rion and Vallant go back to their former lives in exchange for loads of gold and casual sex.

quote:

Vallant felt her sympathy and attempted comfort all the way into the front hall and to the stairs, but that just made everything worse.

Jovvi just casually using her magical powers on Vallant when she's supposed to be still exhausted and wasn't up to even reaching out to see whether servants were listening in to their earlier conversation.

quote:

What he wanted in a woman was for her to love him, just the way he was prepared to love her. But he couldn’t seem to inspire that even in someone who disliked giving pain,

It might have something to do with the fact that you're an rear end. Just saying.

quote:

and pity was something he would not accept. Better never to be accepted at all, than to be accepted out of pity…

He took the stairs two at a time, to avoid running into anyone else. He’d never be able to handle that now, any more than he could ease that blasted, ever-present ache…

Who exactly do you think you're going to run into? The other three are going out and you just left Jovvi in the dining room!

Summary:

Day 8
Jovvi/Rion/Lorand/Vallant/Tamrissa realizes the whole thing is a sham. She has to/he doesn't get to/Vallant/Tamrissa gets to go first because she's/he's not a woman/no women are competing/reasons even though there is another woman competing. The competition involves changing a bunch of emotions on six drugged people deliberately/guiding a ball to ring ten bell towers/dissolving a painted cube/smashing a bridge and parting the Red Sea tank water/burning solid objects from the inside out. She/he/she does it deliberately oh so slowly and is sent home to await the results. It turns out that Lorand they all "won".

After the competition, she's kidnapped by Allestine and frees herself/he's accosted by Meerk, who agrees to locate Hat in response to Lorand's threat of magical violence/Mirra and her parents/Lanir (the Seated High in Fire magic) who intends to breed her like a brood mare.

Delin, Bron and Kambil witness the public arrest of Rigos for Elfini's murder while making a not so cunning plan to gather intel about their competition at the reception.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 40 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim, Arkow, Odrin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 21 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast, post-competition snack, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol, Lanir (who is the Seated High in Fire magic and he's just made it personal)
Vallant: Mirra Agran and her parents, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 55 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 43 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 12 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 12 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 47 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 24 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 45 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 23 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33, 34, 35, 37)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
  • You won! (Book 2: Chapter 38, 39)

Possible fixes:
There's not even small things that could be done to fix this. The whole "you won a fake competition" and the fake competition itself layered on top of stupid relationship drama for no other reason than to have drama is just uninteresting and unsalvageable.

Liquid Communism
Mar 9, 2004


Out here, everything hurts.




I think if I was trying to fix the whole 'fake competition' thing, I'd make it public like the challenges against Seated Highs, and let our cast get suspicious when they are each made to go first. Still have one try to lose, and fail, which should hopefully clue them in on at least a wrong assumption that the other 'contestants' are in on a rigged contest.

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 

It was only late afternoon, so I had plenty of time to dress for dinner. I spent a while in the bath house, soaking and trying not to think, but it was useless. My mind kept insisting that I go back over the scene when that man came to my table in the practice area, and consider what I would do about it. That part of it was downright funny, since there wasn’t anything I could do. I hadn’t mentioned my suspicion to Jovvi, but I was certain that the man was a noble. That made me doubly powerless if he turned out to be seriously interested in appropriating me, a thought that kept turning around and around in my head. Doubly powerless … doubly powerless…

Now we have the leading woman objectifying herself. This was such a great and mentally healthy book to read as a fourteen year old girl.

Is anyone following this thread a school librarian or knows anything about being a school librarian? I never thought about this as a kid but as an adult, I would sure hope that anything going into an elementary/primary/high school library gets vetted by the school librarian(s) personally. And if that's the case, well, I don't know what my high school librarian was doing/thinking with this series!

quote:

By the time I got back to my apartment, a realization had forced its way through the roiling. My position in the competitions, the very thing keeping my father currently at bay, had to be doing the same with that noble. That should mean I didn’t need an immediate solution to the problem, only an eventual one. As long as I stayed in the running, that is, something I meant to do anyway.

Educational theory distinguishes between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation when it comes to effective learning. Basically, any kind of motivation will result in learning of some sort, but intrinsic motivation is required for deep learning–the kind where you're pursuing knowledge for its own sake because it's interesting to you, instead of just cramming to pass an exam, and so it sticks with you for life.

I feel like this principle is relevant in storytelling and writing characters as well. Green's protagonists just suck because 3/5 want nothing to do with the competitions, so their entire reason for being in this plot is author railroading (i.e. extrinsic motivations which are directly in conflict with the character's intrinsic motivations).

Vallant should be doing everything he can to go back to his ship and crew. Jovvi should be doing everything she can to disappear and start her new courtesan residence. Rion–well okay he's a special case since he's realized how horrible his home life is, but he should be doing everything he can to escape and start a new life with Naran.

Yet anytime any of these characters even think about it, Green automatically cuts off that potential avenue with a "oh well I can't because the testing authority this" and they don't even try.

It makes the book incredibly boring to read, because the characters themselves don't even want to be there and they aren't actively trying to do anything about it either. They're just passively suffering through it with us all.



quote:

Thinking the thing through that far made me feel a bit better, so I went to my wardrobe to decide what to wear. Rion and Lorand would be dressed in their gray trousers and white shirts the way they usually were, but not because they had nothing else really appropriate.

Pretty sure they don't have anything appropriate, unless you want Lorand back in his hick farmer clothing and Rion looking like a cross between a clown parrot and a peacock.

quote:

We wanted them to look as much alike as possible, and identical clothing would help the effect enormously.

I finally decided on my favorite party gown, very plain in design but classically rich. It was dark blue silk with long panels of cream lace, which matched the cream lace at wrists and throat. It was also nearly brand new, since I’d been able to wear it only once before my late husband’s illness had forced him to stop going to parties.

This sounds awful to me, but okay, let's not pick on fake 17th/18th century fantasy British fashion.

What I'm interested in is WHY Tamrissa picked this dress, other than the fact it's brand new. Did she actually enjoy going to parties with her dead husband? Was it because it got her out of the house? Did she make friends with the other wives/mistresses of the horrible men at those parties? (because this is a Green book, we know that they're all cishet pairings)

Or was there a whole Lancelot/Guinevere situation where there was a guy she loved and who loved her but her husband is way more powerful and insanely jealous and therefore nothing would come of it? Or did that guy make her a lot of promises and then broke them which is why she's got trust issues with Vallant?

We'll never know!

quote:

It was a bit dressy for what the men would be wearing, but the cloak Rion would have on—and would give to Lorand—should balance that.

When I found myself humming as I brushed my hair, I was surprised. I’d expected to be trembling over that scene with the awful noble for quite some time, but simply thinking about it for a while had let me dismiss it. I didn’t understand why that was, but I had no intention of arguing. There would be enough to worry about in trying to keep up with the testing authority; I had no need of anything to add to it.

Green: "I need some way of making Tamrissa 'grow' as a character and develop internal strength but I have no idea how to do that convincingly so I'll just magically handwave this as the author"

Spoilers for the next book: it's cos Tamrissa's constantly touching the power, and the power is magically curing her mental issues with self assurance/confidence

quote:

When I made my way downstairs, I found Rion waiting for me in the front hall. Lorand would have left some time earlier, following the directions I’d given him to the eating parlor. Rion looked very handsome in the black and gold cape he wore, and he smiled when he saw me.

Poor Rion. This is probably the only bit of finery from his previous life that he's willing to hang on to.

Also I understand that clothing in this sort of setting is extremely expensive so Rion should have decided to sell all of his ridiculous costumes for money if he really wanted to treat Naran or just start building an emergency fund. Even if he got 1/10th or 1/20th of what it cost, it'd be better than nothing, especially since he's already resolved not to wear anything like it ever again.

quote:

“You look absolutely ravishing this evening, dear lady,” he said, coming forward so that he might take the cloak I carried over one arm. “I very much appreciate your agreeing to celebrate with me tonight, and our carriage is here. As soon as I help you into your cloak, we can be on our way.”

“That’s good, because I’m starving,” I said with my own smile as I turned to let him put the cloak around my shoulders. “I was too tired to eat much of the lunch I had sent up, and I remember how good the food is at that dining parlor we’re going to.”

Rion made a sound of amused agreement, and as soon as I settled the cloak around me I was ready to leave. Our little conversation had been for the benefit of anyone who might be listening, telling them why we were suddenly going out. We’d decided to “celebrate” our getting through the first of the competitions, but now we had something much more tangible to celebrate.

I would normally complain about Green telling us exactly what that dialogue was about right after said dialogue, because it's insulting to my intelligence as a reader. But then I realized that all of her dialogue is just as inane so if she hadn't put that there, I would be complaining about why we had to have three paragraphs of stupid dialogue about nothing.

At this point in the Let's Read, I think it's fair to say that the bar has fallen so low that I'm on whether or not I should criticize this or give her a pass.

quote:

Rion opened the door for me, but I got no farther than two steps outside before I stopped short. My father and the man he wanted me to marry, Odrin Hallasser, were on their way in, and surprise stopped them as well.

Every time you think we're done with these random encounters...



quote:

“Why, isn’t this convenient,” my father said with a smile, recovering his balance first—as usual. “Odrin and I were coming by so that he might take you out to dinner, and here you are, already prepared to leave. I’ll just accompany you two until we reach that stables with carriages for hire just a mile or so down the street, and then I’ll leave my daughter and her betrothed alone.”

“Yes, just the way you left me alone with Gimmis,” I couldn’t help saying despite the pounding of my heart. “Real fathers protect their daughters, I’ve learned, and every one of them would spit on the sort of father you are. Now take your disgusting friend and get away from my house.”

“Struggle all you wish, child, but you won’t escape me,” Odrin Hallasser spoke up for the first time while my father showed a flash of furious insult. The man’s voice was deep and smooth, and the dead look in his eyes glittered sickeningly in the lamplight. “I make a practice of getting what I want, no matter how difficult it is to attain. Our nuptials are all arranged, so that once you’re released from this testing nonsense I’ll be able to take my wife home.”

“If it’s a wife you want, fellow, you would do well to seek elsewhere,” Rion said suddenly and lazily, somehow knowing I couldn’t quite find the nerve to answer Hallasser. “You lowborn peasants are all alike, believing that a bit of gold makes you someone of importance, but it doesn’t, actually. If you bother this lady again I’ll have to speak to some friends of mine, but right now she and I are on our way to dinner. Why don’t you go and do whatever it is you people do for entertainment, and stay out of the way of your betters.”

I’d never heard Rion sounding like so much of a noble before, at least not since his very first days at the residence.

This is why Rion is more fun than any of the others.

quote:

His hand in my back guided me between two really furious and frustrated men, and a few steps later we’d reached our hired carriage. Rion handed me in and then followed, and once the carriage began to move I let out a very deep breath.

“Thank you,” I told Rion very sincerely. “That man frightens me down to my marrow, and I couldn’t think of anything to say to him. What you said was absolutely perfect, and was probably the only way to reach him.”

“I detest his sort, so the pleasure was mine,” Rion returned, an unusual hardness in his voice. “And it strikes me that their appearance was too much of a coincidence. If you were in the house you could have refused to see them, so they arranged their arrival to meet you as you left. That suggests there’s a servant in your father’s pay, otherwise the timing couldn’t possibly have been so good.”

“Is there a servant in the house who isn’t in the pay of someone or other?” I asked, finding the situation ludicrous.

Well there's a good question! Considering that it's your house–therefore your staff, because it's only been just over a week since this became an official residence–shouldn't you know all of their loyalties? You've been living here for two years after all. And I thought you enjoyed running the household and resented having to hand it over to Warla!

Either Tamrissa spent her entire married life locked in her bedroom and crying whenever she wasn't being sexually assaulted by her dead husband (pretty horrifying) or she was an awful mistress who is unable to inspire any loyalty or dedication so virtually all of her staff don't like her and are willing to spy on her, for money or to spite her.

quote:

“The only one I can think of is Warla, who isn’t really a servant, so maybe I ought to have a talk with her. She’s missing out on a lot of extra silver.”

“I’d be inclined to believe that selling information to outsiders is beyond her,” Rion answered with a wry chuckle for my comments.

Spoilers for Book 5: hahahah you think Warla's not passing information to anyone! She totally is; she's passing it all to Ristor Ardanis, the leader of the hidden community of Sight magic people

quote:

“Which really is too bad, since you’re obviously correct about its being a thriving business.”

“Her main problem would be finding what to sell,” I decided, enjoying the silliness of the topic. “She’s been put in charge of the house while it remains a residence, but she never pries. When I told her you and I would not be home for dinner tonight, she smiled and said she hoped we’d have a good time. A paid spy would have at least asked where we were going.”

More spoilers for Book 5: yeah, no, that's not relevant to Warla's agenda

quote:

“Very true,” Rion agreed. “And speaking about where we’re going, I need to ask if there are any decent shops in the area. With five gold dins in my pouch ready to be spent, I’d like to buy Naran a gift.”

“That’s a lovely idea, and I think I know just the place,” I said, now feeling even better. “Just three doors down from the dining parlor is a shop with some beautiful things, and I’ve always wanted to go in there. Gimmis never allowed it, of course, because their merchandise wasn’t expensive enough. He never bought anything that wasn’t extremely expensive.”

“A common error of those with more gold than taste,” Rion said with a grimace, and then he smiled. “That shop sounds as though it will do perfectly, so let’s indeed get you your first look at it.”

Stop. Writing. Dialogue. Like. This!

Rion: "I'd like to buy Naran a gift. Could we stop somewhere along the way?"
Tamrissa: "That's lovely. There's a beautiful little shop near the dining parlor; I've always wanted to go inside but Gimmis never allowed it. He thought their merchandise wasn't expensive enough."
Rion: "Typical crass merchant. Let's go!"

quote:

By then the carriage was pulling up to the dining parlor, which was just as close to the house as I’d said. Lorand had decided against taking a carriage here himself, preferring to walk as though he intended to go only a very short distance. It would ease the suspicions of anyone watching, he’d said, and at the same time would give him the chance to get some exercise.

Rion helped me out of the carriage and paid the driver, and while he did so I glanced casually around. I expected to see nothing out of the way, but those following Rion weren’t as subtle as I’d thought they’d be. A brown carriage pulled up and stopped a short way up the street, but no one got out. It was possible that the driver was simply waiting for someone to come out of one of the smaller houses nearby, but for some reason I doubted that.

Spoilers for later: these people are professionals too, but they're incompetent enough that our inexperienced and unobservant protagonists can pick them out

quote:

So as soon as Rion finished paying off our carriage driver and returned to me, I put a hand on his arm.

“Oh, look, Rion, the shop I’ve always wanted to visit is still open,” I burbled with enthusiasm as I pointed. “Would you mind terribly if we stopped for a few minutes before going in to eat?”

“Not at all, dear lady,” he answered with a grin for my very obvious playacting.

Which the spies following you won't find suspicious at all!

quote:

“Your slightest whim is my command. We shall browse for as long as you like.”

He offered his arm then and I took it, and we went together to “browse.” I happened to have brought one silver and one gold din of my own along, never before having had the experience of being financially independent even for a single evening. I’d been curious about how it would feel, and now I knew: it was the headiest, most wildly and exhilarating experience I’d ever had.

This character development will just sit here and not get picked up again until Book 4 or 5.

quote:

A bell on the shop door tinkled as we walked in, and an older woman came through closed curtains all the way at the back. She parted her lips, probably to tell us she was about to close, but then she looked at us again and simply smiled.

“Please take your time looking about, gentles,” she said in a tone that told us she would never have done the same for anyone but us. “If you see something that pleases you, I’ll be standing right here.”

Right where she could see into the many mirrors arranged discreetly around the shop, she meant. Those mirrors would let her know if we stole something, without her having to be right on top of us. I’d learned all about that years ago, as a girl, but Rion seemed to know nothing about it.

“Decent of her not to hover,” he murmured, obviously intent on looking at her merchandise. “I detest clerks who hover…”

I too hate shops where the shop assistants pounce on you the second you walk through the door.

quote:

His voice trailed off as he drifted toward a case of jewelry on the right, but I went the other way. Attractive bolts of cloth were closest to the door with a riot of ribbons beyond them, but my eye had been caught by the blown glass ornaments just past the ribbons. I’d always loved things made of blown glass, but none of it had ever been expensive enough for Gimmis to buy. Now that I had money of my own, I could consider buying anything I pleased.

Half of the glass items were beautiful little animals, the facets in the glass making them gleam in the lamplight with all the colors of the rainbow. The rest of the glass had been made into variously-shaped perfume bottles, most of them delicately and carefully tinted or decorated in different colors. I immediately fell in love with everything on display, which was very depressing. How was I supposed to choose one—or at most two—of them to buy?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=379MKwjpJuw#t=6716s

quote:

“I see you’ve found something to attract your eye,” Rion said suddenly from my left, sounding amused. “We can return here in a moment, if you like, but now I would appreciate your opinion on something.”

“Of course,” I answered with a sigh, momentarily giving up on deciding among the little glass figures. Possibly once I helped Rion, I’d come back to discover that I’d made up my mind. I walked with him to the other side of the shop, where he stopped in front of the jewelry case to point.

“Which of those three brooches do you think Naran would like best?” he asked in a murmur. “I’ll pretend I’m buying it for you, and then I’ll take it with me.”

“They’re all beautiful,” I granted him, and I wasn’t lying. “That silver one with the diamonds is probably the most expensive, then the gold and ruby one, and then the silver and pearl. The workmanship on each is above average, but certainly isn’t the product of a master jeweler. They’ll probably be priced at more than they’re worth, but if you really like one of them there’s no reason not to buy it.”

“Forgive my stare,” Rion said automatically, and he was staring directly at me. “I find myself very surprised, and indeed a bit amazed. I’ve never heard a summation like that from anyone who wasn’t a jewelry expert.”

“If you think I’m good, you should try my sisters,” I said a bit sourly. “Mother wanted us all well-prepared to gauge the value of any gifts given us, and to be able to know what to choose if the choice happened to become ours. I learned it all because I wasn’t allowed not to, but what I learned most thoroughly was an indifference to all of it. I’d prefer gifts with less cost and more thought behind them.”

“Less cost and more thought,” Rion mused, glancing at the brooches before looking over to where the glasswork was. “Something tells me Naran may feel the same, so why don’t we go back to what you were looking at.”

Actually good characterization! It only happens when her characters are doing things they want to do, that are not related to her main plot whatsoever (because they mostly don't want to be involved in it) and in chapters that are not copy/paste versions of each other.

quote:

I agreed rather happily, and led him back to what I intended to buy. Unfortunately I discovered that I still hadn’t made up my mind, which was more a disappointment than a surprise.

“Madam, a moment of your time, please,” Rion called, and the woman who was in charge of the shop came over looking less pleased than she had. She’d obviously wanted Rion to buy one of the brooches, but her expression said that any sale was better than none at all.

“Tell me something about these figures,” Rion continued once she stood on the opposite side of the counter from us. “Do you have others that aren’t out here on display?”

“Only near duplicates of the ones you see,” the woman replied. “Even though they’re all made by the same glassblower, no two are exactly alike. That gives each piece a unique quality that many people envy when they see it.”

“Unique is a quality that has always attracted me,” Rion answered her sales ploy with a charming smile. “In fact, I really appreciate the concept of unique in quantity. Which of these pieces do you have the fewest number of left?”

“Why … I believe it’s that one,” the woman responded, pointing to a darling little seated cat. “That and this particular perfume bottle over here. If I recall correctly, I have only one more of each of them.”

“Perfect,” Rion said, still showing his charming smile. “Then I’ll take this entire display, and the last two of the ones you pointed to. Please wrap the additional ones separately, as their rarity makes them especially valuable.”

“Why, yes, of course, I’ll certainly do that, sir,” the woman exclaimed, clearly as startled as I was. “I’ll wrap the more valuable ones first, and then return to do these. The price of the whole purchase is seven silver dins.”

Rion handed over a gold din, and the woman went happily away to get the other figures and Rion’s change. I sighed as I watched her go, feeling the old feeling that the world had passed me by.

“Is something wrong?” Rion asked as soon as she’d disappeared through the curtains. “Your sigh sounded rather forlorn.”

“I hadn’t realized that I could have bought all the figures,” I admitted ruefully. “If I hadn’t spent so much time trying to decide on one or two, all of them could belong to me. Now I can’t even get the one or two, or the woman will start to wonder. You are supposed to be buying them for me, after all, and anyone questioning the woman later will become suspicious if I buy more of the same.”

“Your analyses continue to be extremely accurate, except for one minor point,” Rion said, reaching over to touch my hand. “I also expect someone to come here with questions, and that’s why I gave the woman a reason for my buying duplicate figures. The two duplicates are what I’ll be taking to Naran. The rest of the figures are yours.”

“Mine?” I whispered, not quite believing my ears. “You bought them for me? Why?”

“Perhaps because I saw how you were unable to decide among them,” he replied with a gentle smile. “Or perhaps it’s because I’ve never before bought a gift for a friend. It’s odd how delightful the feeling is, to give a gift to someone you care about. I often gave gifts to Mother because I was taught that they were expected, but giving them never felt like this.”

“Rion, thank you,” I said, unable to rid myself of the whisper—or the tears which had begun in my eyes. “No one has ever given me anything like this—”

I found I couldn’t go on, not all choked up as I was. The little glass figures were the most wonderful things in the world right now, and it didn’t even matter that I hadn’t bought them for myself. Being able to buy them meant I no longer cared who actually did the buying. We stood there for a few moments with Rion grinning and me sniffling, and then the woman came back with a small box and Rion’s change.

This little exchange is way more touching than the whole conversation about "I also have had people tear my clothes off me" right before they had sex back in Book 2 Chapter 14.

quote:

Rion put away his change and then took the box, holding it while the woman packed the rest of the figures into a larger box. She had paper trays with forms pressed into their surfaces to set the figures into, and then the trays went into the box one at a time with thick cotton wool between each layer. When she finally closed the box I was fairly certain the figures were protected from being broken,

Most of an entire paragraph on watching a store clerk pack their shopping.

quote:

but there was a moment of awkwardness when Rion tried to take the larger box, too. He needed both hands to manage it properly, and one of his hands was already occupied.

So he did the only practical thing: he put the small first box into his cloak, and then his hands were free for the large one. His plan had been a clever one, but I’d almost ruined it by volunteering to take the small box before I realized he wanted to put it in his cloak. The people watching him would see only the one big box that he would give to Lorand. The second, smaller box would then be able to go with him.

Rion is officially the only one with any skill for intrigue.

quote:

We left the shop with the woman’s warm invitation to come back ringing in our ears, and once outside I drew my cloak a bit more tightly around me. The evening was beginning to be chilly, and the short walk to the dining parlor made me eager for its warmth. We walked inside calmly and easily, closed the door behind us—and then all three of us went into a frenzy of activity. I held the big box while Lorand and Rion quickly exchanged cloaks in the dim entranceway, Rion took the gift for his lady and put it in his new cloak, and Lorand told Rion where the stables was and what arrangements he’d made. It couldn’t have taken more than a minute, and then Rion was heading for the back door while Lorand relieved me of the box.

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

quote:

“And that should do it,” Lorand said with a smile once Rion was gone. “Now all I have to do is remember to keep my back turned, and everything should be fine.”

Unless their observers went in first!

quote:

“I hope so for Rion’s sake,” I said with a headshake. “He really deserves to be rid of his mother’s manipulations, and maybe this will be the start of it. And now you and I can get something to eat.”

“About time, too,” Lorand agreed, gesturing me ahead of him out of the dimness and toward the host’s station. “I got here earlier than I expected to, and immediately began to get hungry.”

How much earlier did Lorand leave? I guess he wasn't spending any time smelling the roses along the way?

quote:

Since the aroma of marvelous food permeated the air like teasing perfume, I could understand that perfectly. The host greeted us and quickly led us to a table, and we lost no time in ordering. Once the servant had brought us tea and small meat and cheese pastries to hold us until the food came, Lorand leaned back in his chair to study me.

Complimentary pastries? I've been to some fancy three Michelin starred French places and even the complimentary stuff was only free breads, never pastries.

quote:

“I wonder if you would mind helping me think about something I don’t understand,” he said, his fingers toying with one of the pastries that he hadn’t yet tasted. “It isn’t all that important, so if you aren’t in the mood…”

“Just remember what I said last time about wanting to give advice,” I returned when his words simply trailed off. “If you ever hear me say I’m not in the mood, you’ll know there’s something seriously wrong with me. Now, what is it you don’t understand?”

“It’s … the way I felt today, after the competition,” he said with a vague gesture, obviously groping for the right words. “I think you know how I’ve been feeling, which is … worried about the amount of power I’ve needed to use. When I got to the competitions building this morning, I was incredibly relieved that I wasn’t going to have to push myself to win.”

I nodded encouragement and agreement, glad that the pleasant background music covered most of Lorand’s soft words. We were now discussing some things that others shouldn’t know about.

Safe...unless their observers are lip readers too!

quote:

“Well, while I was actually performing during the competition, I remember wishing the exercise could have been harder,” he continued, now looking deeply disturbed. “Afterward I felt dissatisfied over having had to lose, and not in the least relieved. Now I’m afraid there’s something wrong with me, and I don’t know what to do about it. Whatever the condition is, it’s dangerous.”

“Because part of you is no longer worried about being burned out,” I said with another nod, finding it surprisingly easy to see the point. “You’ve lived with the fear for so long, that you feel naked and vulnerable without it. I felt the same way at first about obeying my father. I’d done it for so long that stopping in order to save my sanity and life still felt wrong.”

“But that’s hardly the same thing,” he protested, his soft brown eyes troubled. “Breaking the habit of obedience did save you, but breaking the habit of intelligent caution does the exact opposite.”

“Now I think you’re getting to the heart of the matter,” I said with a faint smile. “You said ‘intelligent caution,’ but is that what it really is? We’re all now in a position where we have to be as strong as possible, or we could end up losing our lives in any number of different ways—most of which we don’t even know about. Can something which interferes with that demanding a survival need be called intelligent caution?”

He couldn’t seem to find the words to answer, and again I found it easy to understand why. Pulling myself out of the deadly habit of blind obedience had been unbelievably hard, and I still hadn’t accomplished it all the way.

“Our … situation is forcing you to rethink the beliefs of a lifetime,” I continued gently, drawing his gaze again. “Without your crippling fear you’re obviously a natural competitor, and now your true nature is trying to force its way through the bindings you’ve kept on it. It knows you need it in order to survive, so for the first time it’s fighting the unnatural restrictions you’ve imposed. In my opinion there’s nothing wrong with you, only something starting to be right.”

“Even if ignoring the warning could get me killed?” he asked, still looking horribly uncertain. “Or, as it happens, worse than killed?”

“There are a lot of things worse than getting killed, but having your mind wiped out isn’t one of them,” I told him bluntly, forcing away thoughts of what waited to take me. “As long as you have no idea about what’s going on around you, you might as well be comfortably dead. And if you think being dead isn’t comfortable compared to … being appropriated and used like a slave, for instance, I have even more news for you. It is.”

“You’re probably right, but I’m going to have to think about this,” he said after a moment with a sigh. “Maybe if I can keep just a little of the fear, I won’t do anything too stupid… Thanks, Tamrissa, for listening to my problems again. You really are a good friend.”

Reality check: when has friendship ever looked anything like this? Even when you are already good friends to start, people don't just overcome lifelong habits and crippling fears through a single conversation, that mostly consists of "the way you think is stupid".

quote:

“My pleasure,” I said with a smile that didn’t last very long. Both Lorand and Rion were good friends I really valued, but when my thoughts took off in a direction of their own, it wasn’t either of them I thought about. Another man always seemed to be there, a man I hadn’t had much luck in getting along with. It was a stupid waste of time, especially now when he wasn’t even speaking to me any longer, but—

But I still couldn’t wait to get home and go to my apartment. This was week’s end night, the night I’d promised him, and maybe … just maybe … please…!

Maybe please what? You'll suddenly both develop into mature adults who can communicate with each other? You'll suddenly be ready for a relationship because the sex is amazing? The relationship will suddenly be perfect because the sex is amazing?

Wow, Vallant was right. In this world, he can literally his way into a relationship with Tamrissa. Because Green.



Summary:

Day 8
Jovvi/Rion/Lorand/Vallant/Tamrissa realizes the whole thing is a sham. She has to/he doesn't get to/Vallant/Tamrissa gets to go first because she's/he's not a woman/no women are competing/reasons even though there is another woman competing. The competition involves changing a bunch of emotions on six drugged people deliberately/guiding a ball to ring ten bell towers/dissolving a painted cube/smashing a bridge and parting the Red Sea tank water/burning solid objects from the inside out. She/he/she does it deliberately oh so slowly and is sent home to await the results. It turns out that Lorand they all "won".

After the competition, she's kidnapped by Allestine and frees herself/he's accosted by Meerk, who agrees to locate Hat in response to Lorand's threat of magical violence/Mirra and her parents/Lanir (the Seated High in Fire magic) who intends to breed her like a brood mare.

That night, Lorand/Tamrissa/Rion execute their cunning "switch places" scheme so Rion can go on a date with Naran.

Delin, Bron and Kambil witness the public arrest of Rigos for Elfini's murder while making a not so cunning plan to gather intel about their competition at the reception.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 40 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim, Arkow, Odrin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 15 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee, dining parlor near Tamrissa's house, shop near dining parlor

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 21 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast, post-competition snack, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS: 11 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 5 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x1), my fleeting love (x1)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol, Lanir (who is the Seated High in Fire magic and he's just made it personal)
Vallant: Mirra Agran and her parents, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 55 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 44 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 12 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 12 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 49 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 25 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 46 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 24 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 5, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33, 34, 35, 37, 40)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
  • You won! (Book 2: Chapter 38, 39)

Possible fixes:
This chapter is probably the high point of Book 2, because it has the best character moment in this book (which, as you guys have seen, are few and far between in this series). It's so frustrating because Green keeps on showing these flashes of being capable of writing better stuff through the rest of the drivel. Tamrissa's little shopping scene with Rion should have come before propositioning Rion for sex. Then I would find their rapport and friendship a whole lot more believable!

The whole "Lorand is scared of burnout thing" I already talked about earlier and fixed during the rewrite of Book 1.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




Falling behind in this thread is hell because it just means more Blending to binge all at once

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 slipped out of the back of the dining parlor, excitement beginning to rise in him really strongly.

Green probably didn't mean this as an innuendo, but you guys all know what's coming so I'm reading this as

quote:

Now he was actually on his way to see Naran, something he hadn’t fully believed he’d manage. He was so used to being thwarted at every turn rather than being helped…

If only we had seen this happen in the books, instead of seeing Rion get his way constantly. For a guy who's supposedly been raised to be completely out of touch with society, he really hasn't messed up much.

quote:

A quick glance around showed no one in sight, so Rion moved through the deepening darkness toward the stables where Coll had rented a horse for him. Traveling on horseback would be faster and easier than using a carriage, even though he would probably need a bath house after the trip. He hadn’t been allowed to ride more often than was fashionable, but he’d been on horseback often enough to know that much.

Er, what? Does he plan on galloping the horse the whole way? That's not suspicious or anything.

quote:

The horse was saddled and waiting for him, and when the stableman said something about Rion’s “brother,” Rion knew approximately what Coll had told the man. It was fortunate that they two looked so much alike; a number of problems had been circumvented because of it.

Someone write an alt universe fanfic where Jovvi gets super drunk and follows Rion into the bath house instead of Lorand, doesn't realize it until afterwards at which point she's like, well I think this works out better.

quote:

Carriage coach traffic was light at that time of the evening, so Rion made good time finding his way to Naran’s new place of residence. The street was an upper middle class neighborhood, meaning it was fairly wide but not comfortably so, and the houses had very little in the way of grounds around them. The houses themselves were also small, and the largest of them couldn’t have contained more than four or five bedchambers. Rion had never visited a neighborhood like this, but for Naran he was willing to dare anything.

Oh the horrors of slumming it in an upper middle class neighborhood! He doesn't even have this reaction on being driven through Tamrissa's neighborhood. He also didn't react this badly to Ginge's tavern and that neighborhood (and he didn't get drunk until further in that chapter) so what gives for this sudden reversion to the noble mama's boy?

Maybe I'm being harsh but he's also shown no compulsion with using deadly magical force to defend himself and others, so there's nothing "scary" other than the fact that this is a poorer neighborhood than he's used to, which I guess is sufficiently icky if you're part of the plutocracy.

quote:

A large stable seemed to serve a good portion of the area, and that was where Rion left his horse. He felt tempted to ask directions to the house he sought, but instead took Naran’s gift from his saddlebags, where he’d cushioned it with his cloak, donned the cloak, then left without asking. No one could have followed him, but discretion was the much wiser course.

Coll’s dark brown cloak let Rion move invisibly through the darkness, and it wasn’t long before he found the proper house. Feeling extremely proud of himself,

I'll give Rion this; wayfinding in a strange neighborhood in the dark is hard and there probably aren't any street signs.

quote:

Rion began to head for the front door—before he remembered that the fewer people who saw him, the better. Decorative lanterns lit the front of the house, and anyone walking up to the door would be visible to anyone who happened to be looking out of any of the neighboring houses.

So Rion took a lesson from Naran, and went looking for the servants’ entrance. He looked all the way around to the back of the house, in fact, but the thing must have been on the other side of the house. All Rion found was a back door, dimly lit by a very small lamp, so he tried knocking there instead.

He's also the only character who you'll see to be learning from his experiences! Everybody else just miraculously remembers One Magic Trick (or sometimes, One Brilliant Insight) that gets them out of a sticky situation, with Tamrissa being the worst offender.

quote:

A very long moment passed, and then Rion heard someone unlocking the door. Thinking it would be a servant, he began to put together a semi-coherent explanation of what he was doing there. The door opened and he parted his lips, but all explanations became suddenly unnecessary. It was Naran herself who stood there, dressed in a high-necked and long sleeved gown of gold velvet, and her beautiful face lit up when she saw him.



Don't know about you guys, but I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to pull off velvet. I'm assuming in this universe, Naran is wearing silk velvet, and not the horrible synthetic stuff that high street clothing is made of.

quote:

“My lord, you came after all!” she exclaimed softly as she stepped back to allow him entrance. “I prayed that you would, and now I’ve been answered.”

“Nothing short of death could have kept me away,” he told her quite sincerely as he moved inside and closed the door behind himself. “I’ve thought of little else but this moment since you came to the residence, and now we’ve finally reached it.”

“Yes,” she breathed, moving into his arms, and then their lips were finally touching. Rion kissed her with all the growing hunger of his heart, and she seemed to respond in the same manner. They joined in a serious attempt to devour one another,

I can't read the words "serious attempt to devour one another" with a straight face here.

Someone write a horror version of this where one or both of them turn out to be carnivorous monsters/aliens in disguise.

quote:

and after a long, satisfying time she reluctantly eased back.

“What a terrible hostess I am,” she murmured, touching her lips to his again very briefly. “Keeping you standing here in the hall with your cloak on, when dinner is all ready to be eaten. Are you hungry?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I am,” Rion replied with a bemused smile. He’d intended to take Naran to the best dining parlor in the neighborhood,

Which you've never been to before and so you would have no idea what "the best" is?

quote:

but if she preferred to stay in he was not about to argue. “For the most part I’m hungry for you,” he continued, “but also in that other, trivial way.”

“Trivial,” she repeated with that lovely tinkling laugh, and then she took his hand. “Well, let’s see to the trivial first, and then we’ll have as long as we like for the more important. You sit here, and I’ll take your cloak.”

“Aren’t there any servants to see to that?” he asked, first removing the box from his cloak. She’d led him to what seemed to be a sitting room at the front of the house, only a ridiculously short distance from the back. “I brought you something, and I’d rather watch you open it than see you fuss with my cloak.”

Uh Rion? This is not how you give a romantic gift.

quote:

“I have only one servant, and she goes home at night,” Naran said, her tone telling him that there was nothing unusual in what was, to him, such an odd practice.

Spoilers for later in this chapter/the rest of this series pretty sure she's lying here.

quote:

“And seeing to your cloak will only take a moment. There’s a coatrack here in the side hall… There, it’s all done. Now may I see what you brought?”

Her request was polite and attentive, but Rion had the definite feeling that polite thanks was all she expected to feel.

Green uses the phrase "definite feeling" over and over again. It's bad prose, but also this phrase will be Significant later on, though it's being used in a normal context here.

quote:

For some reason Naran seemed uninterested in what he’d brought, and Rion felt a moment of uncertainty. Would such paltry things as the glass figures tell her he had no real interest in her? Having no experience with things of this sort, he’d chosen the two figures which were most often purchased. Should he have bought her a full set instead, or perhaps one of the brooches?

“What I brought,” Rion echoed her last words, looking down at the cheap paper box. It should have been silver or gold instead, and the figures the same… “What I brought will probably bore you, so let’s forget about it, shall we? Next time I promise to bring something that will truly take your breath away. Now—”

“Oh, please, my lord, please let me see it,” she interrupted, her expression having suddenly changed. “There’s something about it… Please say you don’t mind my opening it.”

Spoilers for Book 5 how the hell does Sight magic work? Clearly Naran just Saw that she's going to love Rion's gift but prior to that she Saw nothing. So did she deliberately check or is this one of those unlooked for visions that pop up randomly?

quote:

The earnest openness in her expression touched Rion, and before he knew what he was about he’d handed the box to her. He was convinced now that he’d made a grave error, and he watched with dread as she opened the box and began to remove the cotton wool it was filled with. She would be expecting gold and jewels, and all he’d brought was—

“Oh, my lord!” she said with a gasp, staring down into the box before reaching into it. “And there’s something else beneath the glorious cat—Oh! How exquisitely lovely! I’ve never seen anything lovelier than these two—Oh, my lord, can you ever forgive me?”

“Forgive you?” Rion echoed for the second time, staring disbelievingly at her radiant face. “Whatever would I need to forgive you for?”

“Why, for believing even for a moment that someone as wonderful as you would bring an ordinary gift, like jewelry,” she said with a laugh, carefully cradling the glass figures against herself. “You spent thought on me rather than gold, and I’ll treasure these beautiful things forever. How can I possibly thank you?”

Spoilers for Books 4 and 5 Naran has no permanent place of residence and they're on the run for the last two books of this series so these gifts will never make another appearance, even in the sequel series unless spoilers for Book 3 it was in her trunk when they bring her into Tamrissa's house which it very well could have been but we'll never know because Green loves to give us loads of unnecessary detail about unimportant stuff and then never mentions important little things like this.

quote:

“You already have,” he assured her, knowing his smile must look exceedingly strange. Spending thought rather than gold… When she and Tamrissa met, they would most likely become friends instantly. “Do you really like them? I must confess that I had help in picking them out.”

“Listening to good advice is the mark of a great man,” she said with a smile,

Actually, listening to good advice is the mark of a wise person.

quote:

and then she rose from the chair in which she had been sitting. “And no, I don’t like them, I love them. I’ll be back in just a moment.”

With that she walked carefully out of the room, and when she returned in the specified moment, she no longer had the figures.

“I wanted to put them somewhere safe,” she explained,

Look at all this useless detail.

quote:

then held out her hand. “Come, you’ve waited long enough for your dinner.”

Rion rose and joined her, and she led him into the next room. It had to be the smallest dining room he’d ever seen, but with the tiny table set for two, he would have been happy even in a windowless pantry. Naran made him sit down, and then she went into the next room. Five minutes later she reappeared carrying a platter and a bowl, and that was only the first of it. An entire meal was brought out two plates at a time, and then she finally joined him at table.

“I made all this hoping you would be here,” she said with a smile as she touched his hand gently.

More spoilers for the rest of the books: pretty sure she's also lying here. There's an entire thing and Rion subplot about cooking later on and no mention is ever made of Naran's chef skills

quote:

“If you hadn’t come it would have gone to waste, but now it can be appreciated instead. Will you pour the wine?”

Rion smiled and touched her hand in answer, and then he poured the wine while she served the two of them. The food was extraordinarily good, or maybe it was just the company—and the fact that the two of them were alone in the house. Rion couldn’t remember ever being entirely alone without even a single servant,

Did all those times in your room at Tamrissa's house not count?

quote:

and especially not with a beautiful woman. He swallowed his food and drank his wine while gazing at Naran, and she did exactly the same.

For dessert there was tea and cherry cobbler, and they sat a while after that just holding hands and gazing at one another.

This sounds super awkward.

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

I have done this exercise for a minute with a colleague. Yes there were sniffles during and afterwards. I can't imagine doing this for "a while" which sounds a lot longer than 4 minutes.

quote:

At last Naran smiled and rose, and Rion did the same without hesitation. He’d been waiting for her to be completely ready, and now he knew she was. She led him to yet another room on the ground floor which turned out to be a bedchamber, and its relatively small size almost went unnoticed by him. They were finally up to what he’d been dreaming about, and Rion had no time for noticing the unimportant.

And being with Naran was just like a dream, only incredibly better. Rion removed her clothing slowly, reacquainting himself with her body as he kissed and touched her everywhere, and she moaned with pleasure, then returned the attention. By the time they merged

Hahahahahaha, "merged".

Sorry.

Green describes this with all the sensuality of someone explaining how to do a merge of two data tables.

I kid you not, that is what Green's prose made me think of.

quote:

they were both in a state of frenzy, and release came to them all too quickly. But then they were able to begin again, and this time the pleasure went on and on.

This book is just going on and on. Kind of like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U2zJOryHKQ

quote:

Hours went by, and at one point Rion even napped for a short time. He and Naran couldn’t seem to get enough of each other, and when he used Air magic to increase her pleasure she laughed with delight.

We're caught between too much information and not enough here.

quote:

The time took hours but seemed like moments, especially when it was clearly time for him to go.

“I don’t want to leave,” he murmured, stroking her hair. She lay with her head on his chest and her arms about him as he lay on his back holding her, and his words were nothing but pure truth. “I want to stay here forever, and never leave you again.”

“But you can’t,” she replied with a sigh of resignation, making no attempt to change her position. “You do have to go back, and I have my own duties and obligations.

We will never find out what these are because the entirety of Naran's backstory is explained in like two pages of vague dialogue in Book 5 and it doesn't mention anything of what she does when she's not pretending to be a tavern sex worker or hooking up with Rion.

quote:

Don’t be sad, my love. Wishing for what we cannot have will only ruin the pleasure we shared. I mean to treasure every moment we spent together, and will continue to dream of possible future moments.”

“There will be many future moments,” Rion told her firmly, taking her arms to raise her so that he might look her straight in the eye. “I’ve sworn that vow to myself, and now I swear it to you. We will share our lives until the end of them, Naran—unless you don’t want to.”

“I would give up breathing before giving up the hope of that,” she answered quietly, putting one hand to his face. “I’ve loved you forever, my beloved lord, and will continue to do so. I even love you enough to let you go if you should ever tire of me, so—”

“Enough of that!” Rion ordered sternly, not in the least amused. “I will never tire of you, not in this lifetime nor any other, so I forbid you to speak like that again. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, my beloved lord, I understand you,” she responded with a lovely smile, and then they kissed again.

Spoilers for the sequel trilogy there's a whole subplot around this

quote:

It was a kiss filled only with love and completely without passion, and when they reluctantly parted, Naran smiled again. “And now you must dress. Would you like some help?”

“No, or I’ll be here all night,” Rion replied with a grin as he sat up. “Your ‘help’ seems to have only a single purpose.”

“Are you complaining, my lord?” she asked with arched brows, a teasing smile playing around her beautiful lips. “If so, then I’ll certainly have to change my ways.”

“If you change your ways, then I may have to begin beating you,” Rion said, looking directly at her as he stood.

Rion just dropping a casual "joke" about beating women in here. After his whole self righteous Knight in Shining Aspect speech about men beating women too.

quote:

“I would hate having to beat you, so…”

“So I simply won’t change my ways,” she finished with a laugh. “I’ll just sit here and watch you.”

She sat with her arms wrapped about her knees studying him as he replaced his clothing. The process was entirely too short, and when it was over he leaned down to kiss her again.

“Don’t bother getting up, I know where my cloak is,” he said, only glancing at the glass cat and perfume bottle where they stood on a table beside the bed. “The next time I come, I’ll bring you an entire glass menagerie.”

Just hammering the reference home.

quote:

“Bring yourself, and I’ll be completely satisfied,” she returned, apparently meaning what she said. “Be safe and happy until we meet again, my love.”

“And you, my love,” Rion said, delighting in speaking the words. “Until we meet again and forever beyond that.”

With every Rion and Naran chapter, the dialogue is so sappy because they have to outdo the number of endearments they used to address each other in their last chapter together.

quote:

They shared what really was a final kiss, and Rion quitted the bedchamber to find his cloak and leave the way he’d come in. Reluctance choked every movement and step, but he truly had no choice about returning to the residence. Outside the night was still and quiet, and he moved through the darkness to the stables where he’d left his horse.

The night in general may have been quiet, but the stables was the scene of organized chaos. Hire-carriages were lined up waiting their turn to be placed in a neat row before their horses were stabled for the night, and all the stabling workers seemed taken up with the chore.

What? Didn't "hours" pass already? Shouldn't it be the middle of the night? How early was this dinner?

quote:

Rion considered interrupting to demand his mount, but he truly wasn’t in a demanding mood. He chose to wait a short while instead, and leaned against the wall to enjoy the crisp cool of the night.

Rion’s thoughts didn’t have to return to Naran, as they hadn’t yet left her. His memory was filled with the delight and … completion of being with her, and his reluctance to leave had increased. That was primarily why he had decided against asking for his horse immediately. Simply remaining in the same neighborhood with Naran for a few minutes longer was easier than riding away, not knowing when he would find it possible to see her again.

Rion began to brood about that, the uncertainty of the future where he and Naran were concerned. Between the testing authority and his mother, it could be weeks or even months before he was able to free himself again. The concept forever came up again, but this time in an extremely unpleasant way. If only he could simply stay with Naran…

And that was when Rion realized that he really didn’t have to be back to the residence before morning. No one would expect to see him before then, so returning just before dawn would accomplish the same as returning now. He could spend the night with Naran, sleeping while holding her in his arms, and then the coming separation might be a bit easier to bear.

I'm pretty sure your tails would have cottoned on to your little switch-a-roo with Lorand by now. And if the residence is full of spies, then one of you will still be reported as "missing". Though all of this is beside the point; Eltrina listed a whole bunch of rules, but "curfew" wasn't one of them!

quote:

Most of the hire-carriages had been settled into place, so Rion quickly left the stables before someone offered to get his horse. His heart pounded with what he was about, as staying out all night was another thing he’d never tried.

Oh bless your little heart.

quote:

He hurried through the darkness, picturing Naran’s smile of delight when he appeared at her door again. She might well be asleep already, but if so, she would hardly mind being awakened.

The house looked just the same when Rion got there, the night lanterns keeping the front door well illuminated. Once again he made his way around to the back door, and then he knocked. There was a very long delay without an answer, so he knocked again. If Naran were asleep, which it seemed she was, she would need time to rouse herself.

The wait after the third knock produced the same nothing the first two had, bringing Rion a touch of worry. She might well be a heavy sleeper, but there was just the chance that something might be wrong. That thought made Rion reach out in frustration to try the doorknob, even though he knew the gesture would be useless. The door had a springed deadbolt, which he had set before leaving—

Rion froze when the door opened easily, but a heartbeat later he was in motion and running through the house. That door should have been locked, and the fact that it wasn’t couldn’t possibly indicate anything good. All the lamps were still lit, the dirty dishes still on the table in the dining room, but the bedchamber—The bedchamber was empty, of Naran and her clothing both. Not a single trace was left, not a stocking nor a handkerchief…

The wardrobe and the chests were equally empty, and Rion felt completely dazed. It was as though Naran had never been there, but she had been there. And she was supposed to be living in that house; if that were true, then where were her personal possessions? Rion slowly went through the entire house including the upstairs chambers, but there was nothing. No possessions and no Naran.

After the search, Rion simply stood in the short, narrow hall in shock. He simply didn’t understand what could have happened to her in the few minutes he’d been gone. If he weren’t completely sure of himself, he might begin to doubt that she’d ever been there. He couldn’t possibly have been hallucinating—could he?



quote:

The uneasiness of that thought brought to mind another so he strode back to the bedchamber where they’d shared themselves.

It was just the same as it had been when he’d first returned, but this time Rion noticed that something else was missing. The glass figures that he’d given to Naran, the ones she’d put on the beside table…

They had disappeared as well, presumably having gone with Naran.

Well you'd certainly hope so, wouldn't you?

quote:

But where, and even beyond that, why? In the name of every aspect, why…?

Dun dun DUN! An actual, proper cliffhanger! I'm astounded!

Summary:

Day 8
Jovvi/Rion/Lorand/Vallant/Tamrissa realizes the whole thing is a sham. She has to/he doesn't get to/Vallant/Tamrissa gets to go first because she's/he's not a woman/no women are competing/reasons even though there is another woman competing. The competition involves changing a bunch of emotions on six drugged people deliberately/guiding a ball to ring ten bell towers/dissolving a painted cube/smashing a bridge and parting the Red Sea tank water/burning solid objects from the inside out. She/he/she does it deliberately oh so slowly and is sent home to await the results. It turns out that Lorand they all "won".

After the competition, she's kidnapped by Allestine and frees herself/he's accosted by Meerk, who agrees to locate Hat in response to Lorand's threat of magical violence/Mirra and her parents/Lanir (the Seated High in Fire magic) who intends to breed her like a brood mare.

That night, Lorand/Tamrissa/Rion execute their cunning "switch places" scheme so Rion can go on a date with Naran, then have magically aided sex with her.

Delin, Bron and Kambil witness the public arrest of Rigos for Elfini's murder while making a not so cunning plan to gather intel about their competition at the reception.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 40 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim, Arkow, Odrin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 16 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee, dining parlor near Tamrissa's house, shop near dining parlor, Naran's "house"

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 21 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast, post-competition snack, dinner)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 13 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)
Sex acts: merged (x1), shared themselves (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 16 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x4), my fleeting love (x1), my lord (x5), my beloved lord (x2)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1), my love (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol, Lanir (who is the Seated High in Fire magic and he's just made it personal)
Vallant: Mirra Agran and her parents, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 55 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 44 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 12 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 12 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 50 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 25 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 47 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 24 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 6
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33, 34, 35, 37, 40)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
  • You won! (Book 2: Chapter 38, 39)

Possible fixes:
I don't really have anything against the plot points in this little sequence. However: the prose is bad, the sex scene is bad, and there's very little character revealed throughout even though this should be one of the most intimate chapters and foundational to building a strong Rion/Naran relationship.

For someone who's trying to write all of these relationships as fated and inevitable and (eventually) the perfect model of what romantic relationships should be like in this universe, Green hasn't put in much effort in showing there's attraction between the characters other than physical attraction.

Contrast this to say, the scene with Mara and Kevin in Chapter 6 of Servant of the Empire by Feist and Wurtz. It's about 3300 words long (same length as this chapter) and begins with Mara in her garden. Kevin, her slave from a different world, comes to find her after being dressed in new clothes in the style of his homeland. There's a beautiful interplay between the two characters that cover both the differences in their culture, her past, a tiny role reversal between the two characters that plays on their power dynamic. The bulk of the scene focuses on the lead up to sex rather than the act itself (which is covered by like less than 30 words packed with evocative sensual detail) and it's all very, very effective.

Anyway, my point is, for all of these declarations of love between Rion and Naran to mean something, we need to see some substance to their relationship.

Spoilers re: Naran maybe Sight magic is a bit trippy in how it affects things, and in all honesty, I'm reminded of Alice and Jasper in Twilight, though Naran's backstory indicates she's not as sheltered as Rion so she should really have some idea about this.

Rion, on the other hand, hasn't had any examples of what love looks like and therefore should get a bit of leeway in mistaking physical arousal for love. But since this is supposed to turn out to be True Love, we should be getting some sort of foundation for that here!

At a scene level, I think I would pull forward pieces of Naran's backstory from Book 5 and drop it here, along with what Hallina Mardimill is doing, so we can get a microcosm of what the Rion/Naran dynamic is like (him being extremely protective and her being extremely enabling).

At a book level, some of the other random background plot that gets dropped about Naran (Book 5 spoilers: like the fact that Tamrissa's dad is after her) should get pulled forward as well, so there's some actual threat to their relationship.

So all up, the relationship plot archetype here is "forbidden love" across a class divide. He's rich and noble, she's not; his family disapproves of her, she has a mother who left everything behind and committed fraud to save her and is basically penniless; she's on the run because a sex pest is after her and also she's got fraudulent papers and he wants to protect her but has been temporarily stripped of his money, power and influence.

All of that is enough to carry a plot for a book; we don't even need the manchild discovering sex aspect of things to fill out the word count!

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-TWO 

Jovvi filled her breakfast plate at the buffet and brought it to the table, but the appetite she’d come into the dining room with was quickly disappearing. The other four members of her group were already at the table eating, but the outward silence was in direct contrast to the whirling screams and shouts of their emotions. Every single one of them was badly bothered by something, and the emotional noise was so loud that Jovvi could barely hear her own disturbance. She no longer felt exhausted, but that had only been a minor, passing problem.

Overpowered as Spirit magic is, it might possibly be one of the worst talents to have. Imagine being privy to everybody's thoughts and emotions all of the time. It would drive me crazy.

quote:

By closing her senses down as far as possible, Jovvi was able to give herself enough quiet to eat in. To her surprise she wasn’t able to sever herself entirely from the power, not the way she’d once been able to do. Maybe the increasingly heavy use of power did that to people. She’d have to check with the others—later!—and find out if it was the same for them.

This is going to be a (completely pointless) subplot in the next book.

quote:

With no one dawdling over the food, breakfast was through rather more quickly than most meals. Vallant seemed ready to be the first to get up and leave, but his intention was interrupted when Warla appeared in the doorway to the hall.

“Excuse me, but Lady Eltrina Razas would like to speak to all of you,” she announced in her usual, nervous way.

Look at Green mixing it up with Eltrina coming at BREAKFAST instead of dinner!

quote:

She also seemed about to add something, but the testing authority representative pushed her way past her.

“Good morning, all you lovely people, and congratulations,” Lady Eltrina sang, obviously in the best of moods. “I came first thing to tell you how proud I am that each of you has won the initial competition in your respective aspects, and I’m very proud. But words are easy to say, so I’ll show my pride in another way. Since you’ll all be attending the reception tonight, I’ve brought you special outfits to wear. I guarantee that you’ll be the most beautiful and handsome people there.”

She clapped her hands then, and two servants holding large boxes came in. The boxes were put down on the floor and opened, and then the servants straightened up with their contents. The one on the left held a man’s shirt in sequined silver with what looked like narrowly cut trousers in blue silk, and the one on the right held a gown. The gown had a sequined silver bodice and sleeves, and the skirt was blue silk.

I'm sorry, despite that description, all I can picture is this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJ5bF__X3-Q

Look at these horrible things:



Though maybe Green was just being prophetic about the Elsa cosplay craze?



quote:

“The colors are different, but that still looks like the sort of uniform we’ve been wearing to the practices,” Jovvi deliberately observed aloud.

Now I'm picturing everyone wearing 70s ABBA-style pantsuits as their not-Adult Magic School uniforms.

quote:

“Will everyone else attending also be wearing a uniform?”

“No, silly, because it’s a costume, not a uniform,” Lady Eltrina answered with a laugh. “The Five have decided to make the reception a masked ball, and this way everyone will know who you are even behind your masks. You do want the Five to come over and congratulate you, don’t you?”

“It’s what I’ve been dreamin’ about,” Vallant replied when no one else did, somehow keeping the dryness out of his tone. “I do have a question, though… You must have gotten our measurements from when we were fitted for the practice clothes, but how did you get these outfits made up so fast? None of us knew we would be goin’ tonight until the messengers arrived yesterday afternoon.”

“Were you expecting me to say that I had the dressmakers and tailors working all night?” Eltrina countered with a smile that should have taken a large bite out of Vallant. “Well, if so, you were being really silly. The truth is that I had these costumes made up days ago, when the Five decided on a masked ball. I had confidence in you, you see, and possibly even more confidence than you had in yourselves. The coaches will be by to pick you up at seven, so you have all day to relax before it’s time to dress. I’ll see you again tonight, at the palace.”

She smiled around at them all again, and then she was gone with a wave and a flurry of skirts. Jovvi wasn’t the only one who sat silently and watched the servants repack the costumes before taking them out of the room, but afterward she was the first to sigh and stir in her seat.

“Well, that takes care of my worry about what to wear tonight,” she said brightly enough to capture everyone’s attention. “With that off my mind, I think I’ll spend some time walking in the garden.”

“And I’ll join you,” Tamma said in agreement as she stood. “I could use some undisturbed fresh air.”

“Well, if you ladies are going to stroll, I think I’ll stroll with you,” Lorand said, also getting up. “What about you, Mardimil, and you, Ro? Are you going to let two lovely ladies stroll about a beautiful garden with just a single escort?”

Both Rion and Vallant agreed that a decision like that would be out of the question, so they joined the other three as they headed for the back of the house. Jovvi knew that in a very short while the servants who were spying on them would grow suspicious about what was being said in private—if they weren’t suspicious already—but there was no help for it. The group had to talk about what had just happened, and that no matter how suspicious it made people.

Instead of being so blatantly transparent about it, why don't you use your magical powers? We've already seen Rion is perfectly capable of setting up a privacy barrier with Air magic and presumably Jovvi could just create an emotional field of "boring stuff here, nothing to see" around them. Then it wouldn't be so freaking suspicious!

quote:

They walked well out into the garden, making sure not to hurry, and finally Jovvi muttered, “So now we know how they expect to get away with having everyone at the competitions think they won and therefore show up for the reception: masks, because it’s also a masked ball. We’ll be lucky if we recognize each other.”

“But we won’t have any trouble recognizing each other,” Tamma pointed out. “We’ll all be wearing the same outfits in the same colors. They’ll know who we are, while we know nothing at all about them.”

“But those outfits were made because she had confidence in us,” Vallant said bitterly to everyone in general. “In a world of lies, that’s one of the biggest. It was the testin’ authority who had those things made, because they knew they would be usin’ us.”

“Wait a minute,” Lorand said, looking around at them. “If those outfits were ordered by the testing authority, then they had to have made the decision about them well before we earned our masteries. One of my mother’s friends once asked her help in putting sequins on her daughter’s dress, and it took the two of them days to get it done in spite of the fact that they’re both really good seamstresses. No one could have sequined up those outfits overnight, not even if they somehow found a way to use the power.”

This is the only time when Lorand has actually made an observation that Jovvi has missed. And it's a weird one to come from him, considering that Jovvi is the fashionista of the group. Though arguably the costumes are really more up Rion's alley, considering how much glitz and feathers he was wearing as part of his normal wardrobe previously.

quote:

Everyone exclaimed over that, obviously agreeing, which brought Jovvi another thought.

“That in turn has to mean we were chosen as a group only because we ‘qualified’ in those first exercises at just about the same time,” she pointed out. “The two people in our residence who didn’t qualify then were moved elsewhere, but not dropped from the program. I think that says quite a lot about whether or not they want the very best for the important competitions.”

“They probably would have taken Beldara and Eskin instead of me and Lorand if they could have gotten away with it,” Tamma put in, also sounding horribly disillusioned. “All this competition business is nothing but a farce, and they’ll end up giving all the positions to their nobles as usual. That means we’re more than wasting our time doing as they ask, so why don’t we show our contempt by picking up and leaving Gan Garee? Goodness knows I won’t miss this place.”

Yes! Do this! Or at least, attempt to do this! Do anything, other than follow along this stupid railroad of a plot like compliant little sheeple.

quote:

“Do you really think they’ll just allow us to leave?” Rion asked, his own bitterness a bright and blazing torch. “They need a certain number of challenging Blendings to make their show look good, and if we try to ruin their plans they’ll return the favor by ruining our lives. I haven’t been really living long enough to want that to happen.”

So are fake identities not a thing in this universe? Spoilers for the sequel trilogy they exist and are a thing and a secondary character will be given one of them.

quote:

“Then why don’t we ruin their plans in another way?” Jovvi asked against the general ocean of dismay and disappointment and disturbance. “We’ve suspected for some time that they were using us, but now we can use them as well. If they teach us how to Blend and we work really hard, we might be able to best their noble Blending. Then we’d be the Seated Five, and there would be nothing they could do about it. What do you say? Are you all willing to try?”

There was a long moment of hesitation as they all considered her question, but nothing in the way of the full, instant agreement she’d been hoping for. The men had responded more positively to Tamma’s suggestion of walking away, even Rion, despite his protests. Jovvi shared their lack of enthusiasm more than they could know, but she was certain that trying to run away would be deadly for them.

So as a reminder, we're almost at the end of Book 2 of a five book series, and the protagonists are still at the freaking "refuse the call to adventure" stage of the hero's journey.

This is why I had so much trouble trying to figure out how to do the rewrite in a way that would make trying to win in the competitions a character driven reason - because per the canon, NONE of the protagonists actually want to be involved in this. They would all–including Tamrissa and Lorand, who are the two most enthusiastic about the whole "become a High" thing–rather go about living their own lives than get dragged into these competitions.



quote:

She waited nervously, and finally Vallant broke the silence.

“I’ve never been one to just stand by quietly when people are tryin’ to do me harm,” he stated, not really looking at anyone. “It burns me to have to take it now, so if there’s a way to strike back then I’m for usin’ it. We may not win, but they’ll surely know they were in a fight.”

“I’ll go along with Ro,” Lorand said slowly, also not looking at anyone in particular. “I never let anyone push me around back home, and I don’t see any reason to change that just because the bullies around here are bigger. Like Ro said: we may not win, but we can make them know they were in a fight.”

“I don’t like any part of this, but I am one of you,” Rion said, his tone more depressed than supportive. “For that reason I’ll agree to whatever the rest of you decide.”

Jovvi nodded to Rion with a smile of thanks, then she looked at Tamma. The beautiful, innocent-faced girl knew it was up to her now, and her previous anger had drained away.

“I wish you could do it without me, but you can’t,” she said, speaking mostly to Jovvi and showing a humorless smile. “I’d much rather turn and walk away, but I believe Rion when he says they’d never allow that. So I suppose that means I’m also in.”

Wow. So convincing.

quote:

“You won’t be sorry,” Jovvi assured her with a warm smile, then she looked at the men. “None of you will be, and you have my word on that. We can win this thing—if we want to badly enough.”

One or two of them nodded agreement, but all enthusiasm was conspicuous by its absence. Jovvi watched the group break up as most of them began to wander in different directions,

Jovvi: We can totally do this, if we can bother giving a gently caress.
Everyone else:

Also this is like the second time they've conspicuously gathered in a "we're having an impromptu group meeting" in the garden and then just ended it by everyone individually wandering off like they're NPCs in an RPG.



quote:

and all she could do was hang onto her own inner balance. Realizing the truth of what the testing authority was trying to do to them had stolen all their previous feelings of pride and accomplishment. The master’s bracelets they all wore had become meaningless, of no more importance than the identification cards they’d begun with.

This is diametrically opposed to "we can just win the competitions because we're so strong" that I don't buy it at all.

quote:

But Jovvi herself refused to feel that way. She’d worked too hard to drag herself out of the gutter to let a pack of smug, useless parasites knock her right back in. Those nobles had had things their own way for much too long; it was time someone taught them that inheriting a title was nothing at all like having to earn it. The idea of becoming one of the Seated Five had been tarnished, but the next Seated Blending, no matter who they turned out to be, would be able to say they’d fought for and won their place.

This is a really odd sentiment for Jovvi. It feels like it would be more natural coming from Tamrissa.

quote:

Now all Jovvi had to do was get the others to feel the way she did … especially the one somebody she couldn’t stop caring about even more than herself…

Just a little over a week ago, everybody was just speculating on the absolute safety and power that being one of the Seated Five would bring. Every single one of these characters had not just one, but TWO moments of wishful thinking about this, but none of them seem to remember it right now!

ARGH GREEN WHY

Also, cue immediately jumping into each POV so we can get on meaningless introspection on self-inflicted drama from everybody that will reveal nothing new about either character or plot or setting.

quote:

* * *

Vallant began to move through the garden alone, enjoying the outdoors the way he always did.

For the love of the Highest Aspect, please SHOW us WHAT he enjoys about it instead of just TELLING us he does and always did!

quote:

But that was all he felt able to enjoy, despite the decision he’d just made. Or maybe because of it. Fighting to keep from being left by the wayside was a reflex reaction with him, but this time it left him depressed. As badly as everything else was going, he had very little hope that their fighting back would accomplish anything. Besides making things worse, that is.

This defeatist attitude from Vallant is also very out of character. He's a rich kid who's had to work his way up to captain from cabin boy scrubbing decks in order to prove his worth so this doesn't make any sense. Does he keep all of his self respect and confidence in his pants?

quote:

Vallant looked nowhere but ahead of him as he wandered, but that didn’t keep him from being aware of the others. Or one of the others in particular. Once again Tamrissa was acting as though he were invisible, but he still hadn’t figured out the trick of doing the same with her. In point of fact he’d slept very little the night before, struggling with all his strength to banish Tamrissa from his thoughts.

But his strength hadn’t been enough, not against the awareness that that was the night he might have had her in his arms. If she’d had even the least interest in him … if there hadn’t been something about him that insisted on attracting the wrong sort of women. Why hadn’t he realized sooner that Tamrissa had fallen for his cute little joke because she’d wanted to be fair, not because she wanted him?

Because you're an rear end in a top hat.

quote:

In a definite way she was as bad for him as Mirra, but one small part of him refused to believe that.

Agreed. You two are terrible for each other. Why aren't you sticking with your original resolution of visiting courtesans again?

quote:

And yet he had to learn to believe that, or he might as well drop out of the group right now. Maybe if he concentrated on winning… Surely the idea of winning to the most powerful position in the empire would be enough to distract him from thoughts of a girl who was wrong for him anyway? It should be able to … it had damned well better…

Not-spoilers: it won't and because Green and sex mechanic, it will be plot critical.

quote:

* * *

Lorand moved away from the others to let the beautiful garden calm his mind, but for some reason it wasn’t working. For some reason. It was embarrassing to think that even a small part of him would be that innocent, especially when the rest of him knew better. His agitation stemmed from what he’d committed himself to, a situation where his new ambivalence might well drive him insane. Half of him wanted to charge right out and challenge everyone trying for the Throne to individual combat, and the other half trembled in fear over what might happen if he ever did.

Running a hand through his hair also didn’t help, but Lorand did it anyway out of habit. And out of weariness, since he hadn’t slept much last night. After talking to Tamrissa over dinner, he’d very much wanted to run back to Jovvi and tell her joyfully that he seemed to be getting over his problem. He no longer lacked confidence when wielding the power, so she no longer had a reason to keep herself from him.

Yes really. One magical Tamrissa sermon laden with Facts and Logic fixed Lorand's confidence problems!

quote:

But Jovvi had been asleep again when they’d returned to the residence, so he’d gone to his own bedchamber to relax and do some thinking. No matter what lay ahead of them, he’d thought, Lorand Coll would no longer drag everyone down to his level of fear. He now had the confidence necessary for anything demanded of him, even if it threatened his very mind—

That was the point that Lorand had sat bolt upright. The end of that declaration of confidence had had a very familiar tinge of fear, one he’d thought he was done with. He’d worried about being too reckless now that his problem was gone, but suddenly he’d discovered that it wasn’t gone. It still hung around his neck like a millstone, and it helped not at all that now it was just half a millstone…

This is a mathematically impossible statement.

quote:

Lorand took a deep breath and let it out slowly, now grimly glad that he hadn’t spoken to Jovvi. Anything he told her would have been a lie, and she deserved better than a liar. A crippled liar, crippled because he hadn’t the courage to stand on his own two feet without trembling at shadows. He hadn’t refused to join the others, not when he had nothing else to do with his life, but he didn’t expect to be of much help to them. He’d end up fighting himself rather than the enemy, and if there had been anyone else to take his place he would have stepped aside without argument.

Hat: "Me! Pick me! Pick me! Over here, me! Me me me!"

quote:

But there wasn’t anyone else, so he would stay. And ignore the pain of knowing he’d never be the man the woman he loved both wanted and needed…

Who is quite happy to have a friends with benefits relationship with you! Stop going around proposing marriage to people you have no actual relationship with besides one hookup within a week of meeting them! This is not normal!

quote:

* * *

It worried me for a moment that one of the others would come with me when I walked away from the group, but I needn’t have bothered. Apparently most of them were as disturbed as I felt, and seemed to want the same isolation. But not for the same reason, that I was sure of…

A thick bush caressed my skirt as I passed, but I barely noticed and didn’t even check to see if there was a catch in the material. I seemed to have finally learned that Gimmis was dead and didn’t have to be worried about any longer, but that didn’t mean I had nothing to worry about. That stupid ultimate competition, and those awful, mean-spirited people…

Disappointment hit me like a blow to the face a second time, only a shade less forcefully than the first. I’d actually thought I’d found a way out of the trap of being used, but I’d simply found other, more subtle people to do the using. I had no hope of winning a High practitioner position at all, and as for being a part of the winning Blending… Of course I would be.

I hate this false humility so much. All of the protagonists keep swinging between "you call THIS a mastery exercise? It's so easy I could do all of the tasks AT ONCE in my SLEEP without breaking a sweat" and "oh woe is me, I suck at magic and I have no chance of winning, even though everything I've seen to date indicates that the whole system is rigged because I can single handedly go toe to toe with two Adepts and win".

quote:

An old, small, broken branch lay on the ground near one of the trees, and I bent to pick it up. It looked very lonely just lying there after having been severed from the tree, but obviously it didn’t know how lucky it was. The tree wasn’t trying everything in its power to get the branch back, and certainly wasn’t laughing at it for thinking it had escaped.

What. The. Hell.

This is the weirdest personification/metaphor yet.

quote:

The way my father kept laughing at me.

I'm laughing at you for the whole lonely broken branch thing. It's so terrible.

quote:

No wonder he hadn’t taken my status as an entrant seriously.

Yeah I'm having a lot of trouble taking you seriously too.

quote:

He must have known the truth all along.

But when it came down to it, he didn’t know the whole truth. He was still busily trying to sell me to Odrin Hallasser, when a member of the nobility had apparently “noticed” me. If that nameless noble was serious about claiming me for his own purposes, my father and his disgusting friend would find themselves out of luck. Considering what the noble wanted me for, I should have been terrified. But thinking about how angry my father and Dom Hallasser would be did a good job in chasing the terror away.

Tamrissa getting in some good schadenfreude.

quote:

But not the depression. That had been hanging on since last night, even keeping me from sleeping very much. I’d been glad when Lorand hadn’t wanted to dawdle after we’d finished our dinner, and I’d gone straight to my apartment once we were home and hadn’t left it. That was supposed to be the night when Vallant Ro would come to lie with me, the night I’d been thinking about for what seemed like forever. I’d meant to tell him then that I’d decided to risk a relationship, even with all the hounds baying at my heels.

Maybe you should have gone to TALK TO HIM like a real adult about this?

quote:

But Vallant Ro hadn’t shown up, and hadn’t even sent a note to say he wouldn’t be there.

Because miracle of miracles, it turns out that he isn't THAT much of sex pest. Just an rear end in a top hat who veers over the line. Often.

quote:

He’d grown so cold and distant, but common courtesy should have come into play—unless he’d reached the point of caring nothing about me. I’d waited hour after hour, hoping and then praying for a knock at the door, but there had been nothing. I’d known the truth then, and I actually couldn’t find it in me to blame him. By involving himself with me, he would have offended a large number of very wealthy and influential people…

None of which you've told him about. Because you're bad at communicating.

quote:

I felt tears start in my eyes, but there was really nothing to cry about. When every hope you have comes crashing down in ruins, you find yourself well beyond tears. I’d agreed to Jovvi’s suggestion just to keep from needing to argue, not because I expected us to get anywhere. Being surrounded by ruin tends to take your belief away about building; I mean, if that’s the way everything ends up anyway, what’s the sense in bothering? There isn’t any sense in it, so why not just go through the motions?

And that’s what I was doing, going through the motions of living. It wouldn’t be long now before every thread of the woven life we’d been leading began to unravel, but I couldn’t make myself care. All I could do was hold a lonely little branch close to me, envying the peaceful death it had already found…

Oh FFS.

quote:

* * *

Rion deliberately walked away from the others, in no mood to do anything but be barely civil.

Green, I don't think "be barely civil" is actually the right turn of phrase you want here.

quote:

He’d gotten back to the residence late last night, but hadn’t been able to sleep despite all the exercise he’d had.

Narrated completely unironically.

quote:

The question of where Naran could be kept demanding an answer, but he couldn’t find one. She’d disappeared into thin air, and if there had been any signs of struggle he would have been worried as well as baffled to the point of insanity.

But he’d finally noticed last night that the bed he’d shared with Naran had even been neatly made, which seemed to rule out someone coming in and kidnapping her. She’d taken the gifts he’d given her and had left—but to go where? And even beyond that, why?

This is my headcanon for what Naran's been doing her whole adult life, basically:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFJB4ETWYCo

quote:

“Excuse me, sir,” Rion heard, and looked up to see that he’d been stopped by a servant. “There’s a gentleman at the door who has asked to speak to you. Are you available, or shall I send him away?”

“A gentleman?” Rion wondered aloud. He couldn’t think of a single man who would come to speak to him,

Rion: "because I don't have any friends"

quote:

but the matter might just have something to do with Naran. “It’s all right, I’ll see him.”

The servant nodded and turned back toward the house, and Rion followed with growing impatience. If the visit didn’t have something to do with the woman he loved, he might well end up losing his temper.

And accidentally commit murder by strangling someone!

quote:

The front door stood closed, of course, and when the servant opened it before disappearing discreetly, Rion was able to see that the sloppily dressed visitor was a complete stranger.

“Are you Lord Clarion Mardimil?” the man asked, a sneer in his voice as he pronounced the name and title. “I’m not supposed to speak to anyone but him.”

“The name is Rion Mardimil, not Clarion,” Rion corrected shortly, ignoring the man’s rumpled coat and trousers and well-worn shirt. “What do you want?”

“I have a message from … your mother,” the man replied, sounding as though he’d meant to say something else entirely—until he’d realized how much larger Rion was. “I’ve only seen you from a distance, since I’m one of the ones working for the man who works for her … if you can follow that.”

One of the ones watching his every move, Rion knew the man meant. But when he didn’t comment aloud, the smaller man seemed to regain a certain amount of confidence.

“The message they want me to pass on is as follows,” the visitor continued with now obvious relish. “You didn’t fool us for long last night when you changed places with one of your friends, and we know the neighborhood you went to. It’s only a matter of time before we also know which house you visited, and then we’ll have your little playmate. Mommy says to tell you that she means to make the filthy slut sorry she dared to despoil her precious baby, but if you come home right this minute you might be able to talk her out of it.”

The man’s sneer was now completely visible, but Rion was too confused to take offense. He’d managed to elude his watchers only for a very short time, but the news of that wasn’t as disturbing as it might have been. If he hadn’t been able to locate Naran, these men would be lucky even to find the proper house. He still didn’t know why the girl had disappeared, but now he was heartily glad she had.

“I have a message for you to take back to my mother,” Rion said after only a very brief pause. “Tell her she might as well forget about putting on her best corset, because I’m not coming anywhere near her. And now I have a message for you and your … associates.”

The man had lost his sneer rather quickly, but when Rion used the power to push the man closer with a block of hardened air behind him, the fool actually went pale.

“In case you’ve somehow missed the point, I’m informing you that I’ve earned a master’s bracelet in Air magic,” Rion said softly, holding up his arm to display the bracelet. “With that fact firmly in mind, I’ll now add that I truly hate being followed around and spied on. From now on I mean to take a very good look around every time I leave this residence. If I happen to find someone following me, I expect I’ll do something … unpleasant about it. Now you can tell me what you expect to do.”

The man swallowed hard, his dark eyes showing a good deal of fear. When Rion had first used the power, the man had tried to counter Rion’s efforts.

Throughout basically the entire first five book series, except for The Final "Boss" Encounter, every single battle/match up will be within the same aspect. Seriously. It's like some grown up version of magical cooties cliques where instead of thinking about the aspect best suited for the job, you just send in any numbskull who has the same aspect.

Of all the people watching Rion, this guy just HAPPENS to be an Air magic talent? What if they'd sent in an Earth magic talent? How's Air magic going to defend against Earth magic? We don't know and won't find out until Book 5! And it'll be super lame because Green!

quote:

He seemed to be a rather strong Middle talent, but next to Rion he might as well have been a talentless Guild member.

It's so wonderful to know that in this universe, skill and dedication and work ethic counts for basically nothing. Whatever innate talent you're born with, that dictates your lot in life.

quote:

Mother’s agent must have sent this man in particular with the message, thinking he would be able to defend himself. It hadn’t worked out that way, and the man was quick to admit it.

See previous!

quote:

“Wh-what I expect to do is play it smart,” the man stuttered in his haste to supply the right answer. “The others and I will find something else to do, and then you won’t be bothered again.”

“Wrong,” Rion told him, using the block of air to push him another step closer. “What you will do is not mention any of this part of the conversation, except to the others who watch along with you. What you will tell them is that they’ll now be earning easy silver, as they’re to take their posts and then read or sleep. If I appear I am not to be followed, and you may make up any details for your reports that you like. Have I made myself clear?”

Rion continues to be the best protagonist because he actually does stuff instead of wallowing around in self-inflicted misery.

quote:

“Very,” the man agreed with a gulp, but Rion could see the instant calculation in his eyes and decided against letting it pass.

“Don’t think you can find a way around my orders,” he said, suddenly but briefly blocking the air the man was currently breathing.

Look at that. He's now strangling someone, but on purpose. Is that better than accidentally strangling someone?

quote:

“I mean to hold you responsible for the actions of all the rest of your friends, and if one or more of them follow me they won’t be the only ones to experience my displeasure. Now what do you say?”

“Yes, all right, you’ve made your point,” the man gasped out, finally able to breathe again. “I’ll keep it quiet, and make sure the others do the same. In the name of the Unknown Aspect, how did you get so damned strong?”

This is the first (and I believe only time) that there is any reference to the Unknown Aspect. Book 5 spoilers I wish I could say that this looks like a reference to Sight magic, but it just makes no sense in the context even knowing Sight magic exists

quote:

“Practice,” Rion answered dryly,

By which you mean "winning the genetic lottery".

quote:

then stepped back and closed the door in the man’s face. Whether or not his orders would be followed was still up for debate, but at least he’d made some effort to increase his freedom. If it happened to work, all fine and good; if it didn’t, he’d have to try something else.

Like leaving an actual dead body.

quote:

But in the meanwhile, he had another question to ruin his sleep: would Naran eventually return to that house and end up being found? He hoped not, or he would probably lose his head and do something horrible.

Like leaving many actual dead bodies?

quote:

He wished he knew where she was, and why she’d left like that. Where … and why, why, why…?

Rion is also the best protagonist because this is a legitimate plot relevant mystery instead of stupid character drama for no reason!

quote:

* * *

Lady Eltrina Razas settled back in her seat as her carriage pulled away from the residence, which finally let her show the laughter she’d been holding in. Even the densest, most trusting member of all the groups would finally see the truth today, and none of the people she’d just left fit into that category. They were all smart enough to have grown suspicious about what the testing authority was doing some time ago, and this latest interview would have clinched matters for them. They might not have all the answers, but by now they ought to know that they’d be formed into a challenging Blending—and should also have decided to ruin things for the authority by seriously trying to win the Throne.

In which case, I really don't get why the hell you guys even bother with all these smoke and mirrors. It just creates so much more work for you. Just have it be a straight out "you're eligible for the competitions and we're forcing you to participate" and be done with it!

quote:

Eltrina laughed aloud in delight at such colossal naïveté. She hadn’t really believed that all the peasants would react that way, but Ollon Kapmar had been absolutely right. He spoke from the experience of having gone through a previous twenty-fifth year, of course, so Eltrina wasn’t as impressed as she’d pretended to be when he’d told her. But the idea of letting them think they’d learned things they weren’t supposed to know was marvelous, no matter who had originally thought of it. It made the poor little things so much easier to manage…

I fail to see how...

quote:

Another laugh escaped her, this time one of anticipation. She couldn’t wait until all those naive little fools learned the real truth,

I.e. that they've all been drugged and brainwashed, thanks Green for dropping that Book 3 spoiler in the first third of Book 1.

quote:

only far too late for it to do them any good.

FORESHADOWING!

quote:

And by then she would have all the power she needed to choose among the males for a toy or two, to keep her entertained for a while. But not too long a while. Lord Kagrin’s father would begrudge her every minute she kept them, and Lord General Trepor Axtin wasn’t a man to trifle with. He might refrain from criticizing her openly, but only if she were firmly seated in Ollon’s place.

Can't even keep her characters straight. It's Lord Kogrin, not Kagrin! I also feel sorry for a general saddled with the burden of a name like Trepor. It must strike such laughter into the stomachs of his enemies.

quote:

Sudden annoyance made Eltrina shift in her seat as it chased away her amusement. All her planning had gone extremely well, and she’d been poised on the brink of arranging Ollon’s sadly fatal accident when circumstances had turned briefly against her. Ollon’s sister had been brutally murdered, and Ollon’s rage over the loss had caused the man to change his habitual actions. He had been spending most of his time haunting the investigators, demanding that they find the one responsible for killing his sister. Eltrina had known Elfini, of course, and personally couldn’t see what the fuss was about. It wasn’t as if someone useful had been killed…

Despite how much Green has demonized Eltrina, I like her a lot. She's competent, knows it, and doesn't bother sugarcoating her opinions. I choose to read that last sentence as a major side eyes at the authorial choice to murder an inconsequential character which the author is not even aware of!

quote:

But Ollon raged on and on about the loss of his precious sister, leading Eltrina to suspect that there had been more between them than a sibling relationship. That part of it didn’t matter in the least,

Just casually dropping in some incest in here. Because otherwise you wouldn't know the antagonists are Evil, because non-consensual BDSM wasn't enough of a red flag.

quote:

but the fact that Eltrina was no longer able to know when Ollon would be in a particular place did. He hadn’t even slept with her since the murder, and how was she supposed to arrange his accident when she never knew where he would be?

I hate this because it's uncharacteristic. It's the thought pattern of someone who is incompetent, in the inner voice of someone who we've seen characterized as solidly (if not ultra) competent.

quote:

Eltrina took a deep breath to calm herself, hoping the rumor she’d heard this morning was true. Just before she left the house, her husband had mentioned that someone had been put under arrest for the murder. His informant had said it was one of their own, a member of the nobility, but no one seemed willing to believe that. A peasant, yes, but a member of the nobility? That was too ridiculous to consider.

How do you guys have a noble society that's full of backstabbing without any actual backstabbing happening? It's not like there's any semblance of an honor code that's been established in this empire.

quote:

But it really didn’t matter who had been arrested, if the action served to return Ollon to his usual habits. She’d been the one doing all the work for the past few days, and that was definitely not part of her plans. Ollon was supposed to do the work before he died, not spend all his time looking for vengeance. If he wasn’t careful, the Advisors would replace him before she had the chance to arrange his accident.

Uh, doesn't this achieve exactly what you want? You're doing the work anyway, your boss is MIA, so logically the Advisors would just replace him with you? Spoilers for Book 3 they don't, because this is a super sexist society and a better author would have reflected this knowledge here

quote:

Time was growing very short, but Eltrina refused to abandon her ambitions. If Ollon wasn’t there to oversee the final arrangements for the competitions, then Eltrina would just have to coax someone else into doing it and then take the credit for herself. She’d already had to pick a replacement for the entrant who had lost his mind during the first competition, and she hadn’t enjoyed having to interrupt her own private schedule to do it. And now she had to drag herself to that tiresome meeting this afternoon in Ollon’s place.

Thoughts of that meeting made her very tired, but the people involved were simply too important to ignore. She would be expected to report on the results of the measurements taken from the peasants, and would confidently tell them the truth: none of them was too strong to be easily handled, so the right people had nothing to worry about.

Spoilers for Book 3 Puredan works regardless of strength of talent so this makes no sense.

quote:

The second part of it, though, concerning that idiotic worry about the Prophecies… Ollon appeared to be just as concerned as their superiors, but she certainly wasn’t that foolish.

So she would have to pretend to be concerned, no matter how ridiculous the pretense made her feel. Yes, we’ve had all the applicants closely watched, but no, not a single sign was seen to manifest. Big surprise, as though they’d have to look hard to see the signs the Prophecies spoke of.

You really have no excuse for missing the first sign. Fireballs don't just randomly appear and attack people every day. Word of that should have spread in all cases, except for Tamrissa's since that happened in her own garden, but everybody else's fireballs happened at a coach depot in broad daylight around the same time!

quote:

They were all fools, and maybe she would do well to consider taking one of their positions once she had Ollon’s.

The first part of this statement could apply to any character in these books.

quote:

Well, that was for the future. Eltrina smiled again, pleased that she’d stuck to her determination despite all those ridiculous little snags. It meant she was destined for greatness, just as she’d always known…

What does Green have against ambitious women? I really want to know.

Summary:

Day 9
Eltrina delivers sparking custom tailored ABBA-esque cosplay gear for the gang to wear to the masked ball at the palace. Our protagonists have a Very Conspicious Not-Meeting in the garden where they agree to try and win the competitions and become the next Seated Five with as much enthusiasm as someone agreeing to a root canal. One of Hallina's spies delivers verbal threats to Rion regarding Rion and Naran; the spy is magically assaulted by Rion and agrees to convince all of the spies to abandon the mission out of fear for their lives.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 40 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim, Arkow, Odrin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 16 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee, dining parlor near Tamrissa's house, shop near dining parlor, Naran's "house"

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 22 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast, post-competition snack, dinner), Day 9 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 14 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)
Sex acts: merged (x1), shared themselves (x1), exercise (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 16 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x4), my fleeting love (x1), my lord (x5), my beloved lord (x2)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1), my love (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol, Lanir (who is the Seated High in Fire magic and he's just made it personal)
Vallant: Mirra Agran and her parents, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 56 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 44 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 12 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 13 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 62 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 31 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 47 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 24 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 7
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33, 34, 35, 37, 40, 42)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
  • You won! (Book 2: Chapter 38, 39)

Possible fixes:
This is 5703 words of complete filler that could have been avoided with one sentence of dialogue from Eltrina somewhere back in Book 1 that goes something like "Congratulations, I'm pleased to inform you all that you have qualified as a competing Blending in this twenty-fifth year!"

Liquid Communism posted:

I think if I was trying to fix the whole 'fake competition' thing, I'd make it public like the challenges against Seated Highs, and let our cast get suspicious when they are each made to go first. Still have one try to lose, and fail, which should hopefully clue them in on at least a wrong assumption that the other 'contestants' are in on a rigged contest.

Basically this. There is no reason to hide the fact that they are participants from the protagonists! No examples are given about how they're "easier to manage". The competitions are fixed at every step of the way, with nonsensical fairness theatre throughout. She's trying to smush together an underdog sports story with a mystery plot and it's just stupid. The mystery is a non-mystery since she dropped all of the answers back in early Book 1. Just have a straight underdog sports story!
  • Nobles have been running covert breeding programs based on academic studies for centuries–on average, they can field more strong magical talents than any other class in society
  • Nobles administer the competitions–they can give noble competitors advantages in terms of scheduling, training, choice of facilities, etc etc etc
  • Nobles have loads of money–so noble competitors have the best schooling, more time to train/practice, better equipment/training resources, better food, etc etc etc
  • Nobles will win at any cost–they can hire thugs/assassins to rough up/seriously injure/incapacitate/kill any competitors that appear threatening
We don't even need the corrupt administration stuff! Just look at any number of underdog sports stories–they all do fine without any corruption drama thrown into the mix.

WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY I just can't fathom why Green thought any of this would be a good idea, or even the smart way of running a corrupt empire.

Anyway. We're 4 chapters away from the physical end of Book 2 and 9 chapters away from the actual end of Book 2, so I think we'll have wrapped it up at the end of March. I will need to take a break from this thread for sanity's sake, and while Script Frenzy as a separate event has been long dead, it is another thing on my bucket list, so I'll be carving out April to do that. That means we'll most likely get into Book 3 in May.

Leng fucked around with this message at 13:12 on Mar 6, 2021

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-THREE 

Homin was actually the first to get to the new residence. When the servants who came out for his baggage told him that, it improved his mood to a small extent. And his mood needed improving, there was no doubt about that. Annoyance had been an unfamiliar emotion to him, but the past few days had begun to teach him a number of unfamiliar things.

In-text confirmation that Homin is basically Fat Rion.

Also spoilers for the next book you would think that this is because Homin no longer has to live in fear of Elfini, which is partially correct, but it's also because Kambil's been meddling with his head

quote:

It took only a few moments to follow the servants to his assigned quarters, where he left his coat and new hat. He’d been told that tea was ready before he’d come upstairs, so he went back down to the sitting room to have a cup. He’d only just gotten sugar added when he heard someone else’s arrival, and turned in time to see Delin Moord enter.

“Homin, dear fellow, what an incredible surprise!” Delin exclaimed, obviously in a happily expansive mood himself. “You’re actually the first of us to arrive, something I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”

“There are any number of things not to be believed around here,” Homin replied with a grimace. “My apartment has only two rooms, Delin, and I seriously doubt if there are enough servants to see to our needs. Why couldn’t they have left us where we were?”

“You can’t join people into a Blending when they’re scattered all over the landscape,” Delin replied, now eyeing him curiously.

Book 3 will go into this and not-spoilers, where you live doesn't matter.

quote:

“What’s come over you, Homin? I scarcely recognize you from just a few short days ago.”

“I’m no different than I was,” Homin protested, knowing he spoke the truth. “It’s simply that I’ve only just begun to … get things moving smoothly at home, and now they’re forcing me to come here. I intend to suggest that we all move to my place, where we’ll certainly be a good deal more comfortable.”

“Your place,” Delin echoed, still looking at him strangely. “You sound as though you’ve forgotten that it’s your father’s house, not yours, and I believe that’s the key to your odd behavior. This is the first time you’ve been on your own, isn’t it? There’s no one at—‘your place’—to tell you what to do, and on the contrary the servants have been taking your orders. Independence is a heady wine, isn’t it, Homin?”

“Yes, it certainly is,” Homin granted him grudgingly after gulping a swallow of tea. He had forgotten somehow that the house was Father’s rather than his, and that Father could conceivably return at any time. Homin found that he disliked that idea intensely, especially since Father was almost certain to blame all his troubles on him. As though he were the one who had married that Elfini…

Book 3 spoilers wow Kambil

quote:

“Well, it so happens I’m glad you’ve had a taste of that particular wine,” Delin said, looking at him with the sort of approval Homin had never seen before. “You seemed to be the only one of us who didn’t fully appreciate what our aim was, but now it’s clear that you do. Our success will mean that you never have to go back to someone else’s house, Homin. What you find around you will be yours, and you’ll have guaranteed your independence for the rest of your life.”

“How odd, Delin,” Homin commented in surprise. “You’re absolutely right, and I didn’t realize that. Or wasn’t able to appreciate it, just as you said. Now that I can, you can be certain of my full support and maximum effort.”

“I’m delighted to hear that, old fellow,” Delin said with a smile, then turned to see who was arriving now. It turned out to be Bron, who strode into the sitting room with a scowl on his face.

“My driver almost couldn’t find this place,” he announced as he headed for the tea service. “It’s more than a little out of the way, and it’s smaller than I expected. Do they seriously intend for us to live in each other’s laps?”

“Homin and I were just discussing the fact that one must sometimes put up with minor annoyances for the good of more important aims,” Delin told him smoothly with a wink behind Bron’s back for Homin. “We’ll need you to stress that point with the others, Bron, as they’re certain to require your guidance. Not all of us understand these things as clearly as you do.”

“That, old man, is why I’m leader of this group,” Bron replied comfortably, turning with teacup in hand and scowl nearly gone.

I don't know anyone in real life who is this oblivious.

quote:

“And of course I’ll explain the matter to the others, so you needn’t worry. How soon will that new Advisory agent be here?”

“In about an hour,” Delin replied, just as though he knew exactly what Bron meant. “Giving us time to get all settled in, I imagine.”

“What’s this about a new Advisory agent?” Homin asked, looking back and forth between the two larger men. “Has Lord Rigos been replaced? I never thought we’d see the day we were rid of him.”

“Homin, where have you been?” Bron asked with that superior sort of amusement Homin detested. “Surely someone has told you that Rigos was arrested for—Good grief.”

“Yes, discussing the matter with Homin could be somewhat difficult,” Delin said when Bron stopped short in unexplained embarrassment. “What our leader began to say was that Rigos has been arrested for the murder of your stepmother. No one from the investigators or guard came by to tell you?”

“Possibly they sent word to Father,” Homin suggested, his brows still high with shock. “Rigos killed Elfini? I knew there was bad blood between them, but I never would have expected him to–What reason did he give for doing it?”

“So far he hasn’t even admitted to the crime,” Delin said, speaking to Bron as well. “His father learned of his arrest almost immediately, and has actually been working to get Rigos freed. All he’s accomplished so far is to keep them from questioning our beloved former overseer, and rumor has it that that’s about to come to an end. The Advisors want someone punished for that terrible crime, to be certain that no one loses himself to such an extent again.”

“For once I agree with them,” Bron said, sounding as though he meant it. “If we don’t press our right to be untouchable in all ways, we could lose the right. A crime like this has to be severely punished, or one of us could conceivably be next.”

I liked Feist's depictions of the Assembly of Magicians in the Tsurannuanni Empire as being outside the law much better. It's like Green looked around at her contemporaries, pinched a little bit of everything, except instead of doing anything notable with it, she just made a pallid and lamer copy of it.

quote:

Delin nodded sober agreement, but Homin simply drank his tea. He’d begun to feel extremely grateful to whomever had removed Elfini from his life, and it was odd to think of Rigos as the one. Was it now necessary to forgive the man for the way he’d treated them? Homin decided to try, but wasn’t sure he would succeed.

The three of them sat down to drink their tea, and Homin was forced to admit that the chairs and couches were more comfortable than the ones in his father’s sitting room. The house itself wasn’t particularly new, but it had obviously been repaired and refurbished with fairly decent items and touches. The smell of fresh whitewash was enough to give one a headache, but that was better than the smell of rot and decay.

Uh. What. I assume Green meant to convey that Homin thought being assaulted with whitewash is better than smelling a dirty house, but the way she's constructed this paragraph made me read it as Homin being used to living in a stupid expensive mansion that also happens to be falling apart because of his father's sentimentality and refusal to throw away anything his mother had picked out. Especially after the rest of the noble gang all remarked on it in their second POV chapters.

quote:

Delin and Bron continued to chat about Rigos for a time, and Homin had the impression that they knew something they weren’t mentioning. After a while the sound of a new arrival came, followed closely by a second arrival. Neither of the newcomers appeared immediately, which presumably meant they’d gone to their apartments first. Another short while passed, and then Selendi and Kambil walked into the room together.

I don't care about any of this! I wish Green would skip all of the stage directions and just cut to the bit where STUFF HAPPENS in the scene.

quote:

“That’s one way to avoid being last,” Delin commented with a grin. “Arrive at the same time someone else does, and then neither of you is last.”

“I would never think to burden a lady in such a way,” Kambil said solemnly, obviously teasing. “The onus of being last will rest squarely on my shoulders, to spare Selendi the ignominy of it all.”

“Not to mention the fact that he was last,” Selendi put in dryly as she walked to the tea service, apparently not amused. “But as far as being first to leave goes, that will definitely be me. Expecting us to live in this squalor is completely unreasonable.”

“Not when you consider what we’re here for,” Bron disagreed, just as though he hadn’t said almost the same thing when he’d arrived. “It will only be for a short time, and then we’ll be able to move to much larger quarters.”

They all chuckled at that, realizing that Bron referred to the Five’s palace. There were six wings on the palace, and only one of them was used for public functions of all sorts. Each of the others belonged to a different member of the Five, and he or she had the final word there. It was said that even the Advisors couldn’t interfere with that prerogative, which sounded to Homin like absolute utopia.

The operating and maintenance costs on that must be insane.

quote:

“If living in a box drives me crazy, how far do you expect the rest of you to get?” Selendi asked, turning with her tea to inspect each of them. “The four of you need me, and you’d better not forget that.”

“The truth is that we all need each other,” Delin put in smoothly before Bron could lose his temper and snap at the silly girl. “Individually we’re just a group of unimportant people,

Hahahahaha none of them believe this.

quote:

but together we’re a force to be reckoned with. So which would you rather be, Selendi? Unimportant or a major force?”

The answer to that was too obvious to put into words, and Selendi didn’t even try. Instead she sipped at her tea in a way that said she didn’t care to discuss the matter any longer, and Delin acceded to her unvoiced wishes with a smile.

“So, Kambil, tell us if you’ve had any luck,” he went on smoothly to another subject. “No one seemed to know who would be put in charge of us in Rigos’s place when I asked, so I’ve been hoping that your contacts are better informed.”

“I found out that the decision wasn’t made until the last moment,” Kambil said, coming over to sit down with the cup he’d filled. “Apparently there were people lined up from wall to wall who had been waiting for a chance like this, and they all descended on the authority together. They finally settled on the son of a man who was owed the largest favor, someone by the name of Hiblit Rahms. I think I’ve heard the name, but I can’t quite put a face to it.”

“I can, so take my word for the fact that you’re lucky you can’t,” Homin said while everyone else frowned in thought or simply shook their head. “I was forced to attend social functions with Hiblit when we were both boys because his father and mine were working closely together at the time. The best thing I can say about him is that he made me look as handsome and charming as Delin, which should tell you something. I haven’t seen him in years so there’s a good chance he’s changed, but whether for the better or the worse I don’t dare try to guess.”

Hello to both an infodump and the obligatory trope of a fat person making a joke or remark at their own expense.

quote:

“Now I can’t wait to meet him,” Delin said with raised brows, a curious amusement flickering in his eyes. “If he’s really worse than you, Homin, we should have it made.”

“Homin isn’t as bad as I used to think,” Selendi shocked everyone by saying, her gaze resting directly on an even more shocked Homin. “He seems like someone else now, even though I can’t pinpoint what’s different about him. I’ll have to study the matter.”

It's Kambil and his grandmother

quote:

And with that she came to sit next to Homin on the couch he’d chosen, surprising him even further. He’d never expected Selendi to do anything but laugh at him, and he suddenly discovered that he was beginning to be aroused. Quite a lot of his thinking had changed in the past few days, each morning bringing new things for him to discover about the world, but this was far and away the best. He’d never even had the nerve to pay for a woman, but maybe now…



quote:

“I know we’re supposed to be close to one another, but this is ridiculous,” Bron stated, staring darkly at Selendi. “Don’t you think you’ll be entertained well enough by the rest of us, Lady Selendi?

More but in the waving contest sense, but also foreshadowing.

quote:

Adding a probable virgin is almost an insult.”

“He’s jealous, so just ignore him,” Selendi said comfortably to a Homin who was staring at Bron with burning hatred. “I happen to find the idea of a man who’s never known another woman extremely exciting, so I hope he’s right about that part at least. We’ll have to talk about it later.”

Who wants to bet whether Homin's first time turns out to be like Rion's?

quote:

Homin looked back at Selendi to see the flames of need in her lovely eyes, and he shivered with excitement. He’d never had a woman look at him like that before, and suddenly he couldn’t wait for the meeting to be over.

Is he, like Rion was, also unaware of what is? Though I suppose Selendi's reputation precedes her so he's probably counting on some happening.

quote:

“Bron, Selendi is simply doing her part to prepare us for Blending,” Delin said, his voice its usual smoothness. “The closer we are to one another the better a Blending we’ll be, and as our leader I’m sure you know that. We depend on you to help us see things properly, and we could use some of that help now.”

Very. Obvious. Foreshadowing.

quote:

“Yes, well, sometimes it’s hard to be a leader,” Bron grumbled, then he took a deep breath and began to drone on in a repetition of what Delin had just told him. The fool sounded as though he thought no one else had heard Delin, and Homin suddenly realized that that wasn’t the first time it had happened. In fact it happened all the time, only Bron never noticed.

You didn't either! Until now. Because Kambil did something extra to you

quote:

Delin used calling Bron their leader as a tool to lead the fool around by his nose, and Bron didn’t know it! Homin found that very funny, but it wasn’t the time to mention it. Maybe once Selendi stopped looking at him like that…

“Aha, I think I hear the arrival of a carriage,” Kambil said as he rose. “Since this sitting room is at the front of the house, I’ll just take a peek out the window.”

He walked over to one of the windows and glanced out, then immediately hurried back to his chair with a nod. That meant Hiblit had indeed arrived, and in a moment they’d see how he’d turned out. It was possible to hear a servant open the front door without the least need for straining, and then two sets of footsteps approached the sitting room.

I am so bored.

quote:

“Lord Hiblit Rahms,” the servant announced, then stepped aside to let the visitor enter. The man who appeared looked very much like the boy Homin had known, but he was no longer so fat that he made Homin look thin. He was of average size in both height and weight, but his face was almost gaunt. His clothes were obviously expensive, but he wore them as though they were filled with pins. Pins that stuck him at every step, Homin thought with a chill as Hiblit approached them. And there was something about the look in his very light eyes…

“Lord Hiblit, welcome to our group,” Delin said as he stood, charm pouring out like a falls. “We have only tea here, but I’ll be pleased to send for anything else you might want.”

“I’m not permitted to eat anywhere but at home,” the man replied in a very soft voice without looking at Delin. “Please sit down, sir, and we’ll soon be finished here.”

Delin exchanged glances with everyone as he resumed his seat, most especially looking toward Homin. In turn Homin raised his brows and shook his head once, hopefully telling Delin that he had no idea what was wrong with Hiblit. It was obvious that something was wrong, but exactly what, Homin couldn’t imagine.

“As I’m sure you already know, I’ve been given the task of taking over for Lord Rigos,” Hiblit said once he stood in their midst, looking directly at none of them. “At the moment I have little to do but remind you about the reception at the palace tonight,

This. This is a glorified post of being a messenger boy and there were loads of applications.

quote:

where you’ll have the chance to engage the lowborn challengers in conversation. They haven’t yet been officially informed that they’ll be put into Blendings, but you may assume that they’re nevertheless aware of it. Use the time to find out as much as you can about them.”

Hiblit paused then, as though to allow an opportunity for questions, but instead Homin and the others exchanged glances again. The man’s voice had been very soft but also uneven, as though he were being forced to recite a prepared speech. Even Bron looked disturbed, and Delin had lost all trace of his charm.

“When you look in the wardrobes of your assigned apartments, you’ll find your costumes for tonight,” Hiblit continued when no questions were forthcoming. “There are matching masks, of course, since the reception is also a masked ball. The colors of your costumes are gold and orange, and the challenging Blending you’ll face first will be dressed in silver and orange. Silver for the lowborn, gold for the high. You’ll be given additional details about the challengers in orange once you’ve met and spoken to them, but not many.”

The last outfit from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vf2qM3rpdc but with sequins all over it.

quote:

“Why were we moved to this residence today rather than at the beginning of the next new week?” Homin asked when Hiblit paused again. He would hardly mind being answered, but that wasn’t why he’d put the question. He wanted to see if there would be any recognition on Hiblit’s part, especially since the man presumably knew Homin was there.

“The decision to move you over today came from my superiors without a supporting reason,” Hiblit recited, still staring at the wall somewhere. “Two coaches will be sent to take you to the palace, and I’ve been asked to remind you that being fashionably late is unacceptable tonight. I’ll be there as well, so if any questions occur to you later, you may ask them when we meet at the ball. Until later, then.”

With that he headed for the door, his entire attitude showing that he didn’t expect to be stopped. He was perfectly correct, of course, since everyone seemed as taken aback as Homin felt. They all sat in silence until the sound of a departing carriage came, and only then did it seem possible to breathe freely again.

“He didn’t seem to remember you, Homin,” Delin said at last, not the least trace of condescension or ridicule in the words. “Was he really like that as a child, too?”

“No, not in the least,” Homin replied, his heart pounding in the same old way again. “I don’t understand what’s happened to him, Delin. He was badly overweight and very fidgetty as a child, and most of the time it was impossible to get him to stop talking. He had a loud, raucous voice that would drive everyone insane, and occasionally he liked to play nasty tricks on some of the other children. But not when there was the chance of his victim finding out who had played the trick, never then.”

Hello second infodump about a new character that we've just met who is boring and I already don't care about.

quote:

“Are you sure he’s still alive?” Selendi asked with a shudder from beside Homin. “I’ve never felt such … emptiness in a man before, and I hate it. Do we really have to see him again? Emptiness like that makes me sick.”

Wow, a guy that Selendi doesn't want to bang. That's some achievement.

quote:

“It isn’t emptiness,” Kambil said in a strained voice, and Homin looked up to see that the big man was actually pale. A glance at Bron, who should have been ridiculing Selendi’s comments, showed Homin that their supposed leader was too shaken to ridicule anyone, and Kambil looked at least as bad.

“Our new Advisory agent is quite full rather than empty,” Kambil said into the troubled silence, his tone heavy. “Full of strict orders he’s been given about everything, orders he doesn’t dare even consider disobeying. They seem to cover everything including the proper way to breathe, or at least it feels that way. He doesn’t seem prepared to do anything without thinking about it first, not even walk across a floor. I’ve seen repression before, but nothing to match that.”

“Why would he watch himself so closely?” Delin asked with a worried frown. “And more to the point, is he also going to be watching us like that?”

“I don’t know,” Kambil admitted, his color only now coming back. “If he’s told to watch us that closely, he will, but I think I made myself less than clear. He isn’t doing that to himself, he’s been trained into doing it. And whoever or whatever caused the condition, it’s been going on for quite a long time.”

“I think it has to have been his father,” Homin said slowly, forcing himself to remember back to the unpleasant days of his childhood. “Hiblit had an older brother, and their father never missed a chance to point out how useless Hiblit was in comparison. Their mother was this nervous little woman who would pet Hiblit whenever she was near him, but who never stood up for him. I had the feeling she wasn’t allowed to go near Hiblit’s brother at all, and then the brother was killed in a freak accident. I never saw Hiblit again after that, since our fathers had gone on to different projects.”

Is Hiblit a rabbit?

quote:

“Apparently Hiblit was forced to take his dead brother’s place,” Kambil said with a sigh. “If people understood just how dangerous that was, maybe they’d stop doing it. Hiblit is all control and proper action on the outside, but on the inside all those orders are making him scream. As long as he can keep the scream from escaping, there won’t be any trouble. If it ever gets out of his control, though…”

Kambil didn’t finish the sentence, and Homin was extremely glad he hadn’t. Whatever horrors Hiblit might be capable of, Homin would be happier not knowing about them.

Foreshadowing!

quote:

People had always pointed out the similarity in their names with a snicker, suggesting he and Hiblit were just alike, but that had never been true. Now, more than ever, he was delightedly glad of it.

“I’ve got to take a long walk,” Kambil said suddenly, rising to his feet. “I need to be alone to clear my mind and regain my balance… If I’m not back in time, don’t hold lunch for me. I’ll have something when I do get back.”

They all nodded and watched him leave, Homin, at least, wondering how much harder that experience had been for Kambil than for the rest of them. He’d gotten so much from Hiblit, more than Homin had known was possible, and it must have been very painful. Kambil was usually so easygoing…

So these guys have all been through training since childhood. How do they show the same ignorance with regards to what Spirit magic can do as the protagonists?

quote:

“I think I’ll go to my apartment until lunch is ready,” Selendi announced suddenly, getting to her feet. “Homin, will you escort me there, please?”

“Yes … delighted … of course,” Homin babbled as he struggled erect.



quote:

“Please take my arm.”

For a wonder, she did, and Homin could feel envious eyes on him all the way into the hall. Then he began to worry, and doubt himself, and wonder if she were really serious … and whether or not he would be ill…

I am so glad that we didn't need to suffer through a Homin/Selendi sex scene.

Summary:

Day 9
Eltrina delivers sparking custom tailored ABBA-esque cosplay gear for the gang to wear to the masked ball at the palace. Our protagonists have a Very Conspicious Not-Meeting in the garden where they agree to try and win the competitions and become the next Seated Five with as much enthusiasm as someone agreeing to a root canal. One of Hallina's spies delivers verbal threats to Rion regarding Rion and Naran; the spy is magically assaulted by Rion and agrees to convince all of the spies to abandon the mission out of fear for their lives.

Homin, Delin, Bron, Selendi and Kambil are also forced into a communal living situation and meet Hiblit, a living automaton version of Eltrina.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 40 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim, Arkow, Odrin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 17 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee, dining parlor near Tamrissa's house, shop near dining parlor, Naran's "house", noble antagonists' residence

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 22 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast, post-competition snack, dinner), Day 9 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 14 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)
Sex acts: merged (x1), shared themselves (x1), exercise (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 16 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x4), my fleeting love (x1), my lord (x5), my beloved lord (x2)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1), my love (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol, Lanir (who is the Seated High in Fire magic and he's just made it personal)
Vallant: Mirra Agran and her parents, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 56 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 44 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 12 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 14 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 62 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 32 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 48 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 24 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 7
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33, 34, 35, 37, 40, 42)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
  • You won! (Book 2: Chapter 38, 39)

Possible fixes:
The whole reason this chapter exists is to set up something that happens in Chapter 3 of Book 3, which is part of the real end of Book 2. And by set up, I mean clumsily foreshadow so that when it happens we already know everything about it and therefore there is no mystery.

And the whole point of that event is to reinforce how super amazing our protagonists are and how dumb/incompetent/incapable everyone else is , so I'm going to deal with the fixes in one go when we get to that chapter.

Leng fucked around with this message at 11:58 on Mar 10, 2021

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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 FORTY-FOUR 

Delin watched Bron as Bron watched Selendi leave the room with Homin. Bron’s scowl said he just might be thinking about following and interfering, so Delin leaned over to tap the other man’s arm.

“I would recommend against doing whatever it is you have in mind,” Delin said in his best coaxing tone when Bron’s scowl was switched to him. “If I’m reading Selendi right, she’s going after Homin only to get your attention. She wants to make you jealous enough to let her into your bed, but that’s the worst thing you could do right now. She’ll probably need some sort of encouragement to Blend with the rest of us, and promising to let her enjoy our leader might be the only thing capable of reaching her.”

“She’ll know about it when I finally do reach her,” Bron growled, getting to his feet. “I hate the idea of that fat nothing touching her before I do, but she probably won’t let him do more than walk her to her door. And he might not even be able to do more than that. Yes, of course, he won’t be able to do anything but shiver and beg. She’ll be sorry she ever spoke his name, but that’s her problem now. I’m going for a soak in the bath house, and then maybe a rubdown.”

It would sure be inconvenient if Bron had Spirit magic! On that note, we will never see a dumb Spirit magic user. All of them are manipulative people, which is the way Green's set up her magic system. Still, I can't help but think that there should be some diversity in the kinds of characters who are Spirit magic users. Green just uses aspect to typecast and shortcut all character development.

quote:

Delin nodded and watched Bron leave, then he sat back in his chair with a smile. Bron fell for that same trick every time, but it might be wise to use it as little as possible from now on. If their “leader” ever managed to notice he was no such thing, Delin would have a good deal more trouble controlling him. Let the fool continue to believe as he was supposed to, and that would be one less problem to overcome.

The thought of problems erased Delin’s smile, although there was only the new Advisory agent who currently fell into that category. The man chilled him as much as he obviously did the others, but on top of that Delin was also disturbed. He’d been hoping to get someone usefully manageable in Rigos’s place, but instead they’d gotten someone who could prove to be worse. When a man follows the orders of certain others like a puppet, there was usually no reaching him.

And they needed an Advisory agent who could be reached, in one way or another. Once the group began to practice as a Blending, there would be no more pretense or half measures. They would have to do their absolute best at all times,

Uh, no? See Exhibit A, our protagonists.

quote:

and the effort would certainly be noticed by whichever servant was there to watch them. The watcher would report to the Advisory agent, which meant the agent would have to be someone who was willing to keep from passing on the report. Someone other than Hiblit, obviously…

Also no? Nobody outside of the Seated Five knows how to Blend or anything about Blending. This knowledge is literally used to purge the ranks of the nobility.

quote:

“Maybe he’ll affect the other groups in the same way,” Delin murmured to himself as he looked around at the very understated room. “If so, we can all stand together and demand someone else in his place, and they’ll have to accommodate us. If all they have left on competition day is their one chosen Blending, someone is very likely to notice.”

Delin's whole strategy is to Karen. In fact, pretty much every antagonist's strategy is to Karen. The whole series kind of goes like this whenever the antagonists try to one up each other:



Fortunately for our protagonists, Green's Karens are weak to Facts and Logic, which of course is Tamrissa (and co's) super power.

quote:

Delin chuckled at that as he got to his feet to stroll around the room, examining the accent pieces as he went. Using the other three groups similar to his against Hiblit was a marvelous idea, but not as good an idea as he would have gotten if Rigos were free of confinement. Providing another body which Rigos could be blamed for would be absolutely delicious, but as long as the former agent was kept locked up, Hiblit’s continuing good health was assured. A pity that, since Rigos’s supposed jealousy of the man who had taken his place would not even have to be pointed out…

Delin puttered around for a while, then decided to do as Bron had and go for a soak. The other man was gone so Delin was able to relax and enjoy himself, luxuriating in the temporary freedom from his father in the same way he luxuriated in the water. Now that he was out of his father’s house he meant to stay out, no matter what the cost.

Major failure to launch vibes.

quote:

Everyone apparently chose to have lunch in their apartments, so Delin also had the rather small dining room to himself. The servants told him that Kambil hadn’t yet returned from his walk, which made Delin think about the big man. Kambil had reacted so strongly to Hiblit’s presence that Delin had been concerned, seeing more of Kambil’s softness than he liked. There was no room for weakness in their group, so something would have to be done about the man. Delin did have one idea, but it would be a while before it was time to use it…

The afternoon passed even more uneventfully than the morning, the only break in the boredom coming when Kambil finally returned. And the man didn’t even have the decency to look around for any of his groupmates. Delin saw him speak to a servant on his way upstairs, most likely to order the lunch he’d missed, and then the man disappeared in the direction of his apartment. Standing to one side of the doorway of the sitting room, Delin decided that Kambil looked considerably better than he had. The change was a fortunate one where the group was concerned, but hadn’t done anything to effect a similar change in Delin’s plans. Once Kambil’s active cooperation was no longer needed, Delin would make absolutely sure of his reliability in the best way possible.

Literally just spending paragraphs here killing time between the brand new communal living situation and the masked reception ABBA cosplay party at the palace.

Spoilers for Book 3 Delin's secret plan is to give Kambil Puredan

quote:

When it was time to dress in his costume, Delin put it on and then examined himself in the mirror. Tightly fitted orange trousers were something he would normally never even be caught dead in, but as part of the costume they weren’t bad at all. They went perfectly with the collared and long-sleeved shirt all done over in golden sequins, both together giving him the look of a dashing figure out of popular fiction. The mask that went with the outfit was also sequined in gold, with orange feathers adding to its size. His measurements must have been gotten from his tailor, but the clothing certainly hadn’t been made by the man. Delin’s tailor would have screamed and fainted at the very thought of orange trouser material or sequins on a shirt, an attitude Delin had always approved of.

Thread challenge: find someone who looks unironically good in this kind of costume. Because I think Delin's tailor has the right idea here. Bright orange sequined pantsuit with feathers sounds horrible.

quote:

But tonight was a party, and even more importantly it was time to find out about the peasants who would be facing them. Delin had already been asking very proper questions along those lines, and had had Kambil doing the same. The big man might be weak, but he was the only other one in the group who could be trusted not to make a mess of the attempt. They hadn’t yet had the time to compare notes, but the ride to the palace ought to be long enough for that.

Well. This is the ONE meeting in a carriage ride that might actually be potentially interesting.

quote:

When Delin strolled downstairs with his cloak over his arm, the others were already there. Bron and Kambil looked almost as dashing in their identical costumes as he did, and Selendi looked quite fetching in her orange skirt and golden blouse. Homin was the only one of them who now looked absolutely ridiculous, with his fat and shortness emphasized by an outfit designed for the tall and slender. But Homin didn’t seem to know he looked ridiculous, and in a moment Delin found out why.

“Homin and I will be sharing one of the coaches to the palace,” Selendi announced as soon as Delin had joined the group. “We’ve discovered that we have quite a lot in common, and would like to continue our … conversation on the way to the party.”

Delin saw Homin stop himself from laughing aloud at the word “conversation,” and an easily defined difference now marked the short, fat figure. Obviously Selendi had granted him her favors after all, and the boy had finally been turned into a man. But Bron’s sneer suggested that he didn’t see the obvious, and the fool apparently still believed that Selendi spoke only to taunt him and raise jealousy. That was fortunate, as Bron would be better off elsewhere when Delin and Kambil talked.

“We don’t mind you and Homin sharing a coach at all,” Delin said amiably in answer to Selendi’s announcement. “In point of fact that sounds perfect, as Bron has already said he needs to speak to you two again about what we’ll be doing tonight. His presence should also make sure that your … conversation doesn’t cause you to arrive late for the party.”

Bron looked smugly pleased with that idea, but Homin and Selendi weren’t. The two began to protest the presence of someone else in their coach, but they must have remembered what Hiblit had said about being fashionably late—a memory that Delin’s comment had been designed to elicit. They both fell silent again almost immediately, and Delin smiled around at them.

How the hell does Selendi and Homin banging in the coach affect its arrival time in the slightest? Like unless they get particularly acrobatic and then Homin tips the thing over onto its side due to his sheer physical bulk (which would be impossible unless Selendi is also using Air magic to assist), the coach's travelling speed is independent of whatever activities its occupants are engaging in.

quote:

“That’s all settled, then,” he said with finality. “Now, does anyone know if the coaches have arrived yet?”

That's two statements in a row that Delin's made which kind of destroy the illusion of Bron the leader. Delin is bad at this.

quote:

It turned out that the coaches had arrived a short while ago, so they all donned cloaks and went out to board them. Selendi went straight for the leading coach, of course, and Homin trotted after her with Bron strolling along in their wake. That was perfectly acceptable to Delin, who glanced at Kambil before going to the second coach. Kambil had smiled faintly when their eyes met, and then had followed Delin. As soon as they were settled and the coach had begun to move, Delin looked straight at Kambil through the darkness.

“I trust you’re feeling better than you were earlier,” he said, adding warm concern to the tone of the words. “Tonight we all need to be at our most alert.”

“Yes, thank you, I’m feeling much better,” Kambil returned, gratitude in his own tone. “And you’re right about our needing to be alert tonight. Have you learned anything worthwhile in your inquiries?”

“One or two minor items,” Delin agreed, pleased to see how quickly Kambil had gotten down to business. “I was commended for my diligence in preparing properly for the competition, but I also learned something I didn’t care for. I wasn’t the only one making inquiries, which means at least one of the other groups may have plans similar to ours.”

“Or they may simply be doing what’s expected of them,” Kambil countered with a shrug in his voice. “In any event, I can’t see that it makes much difference. The chosen group will also be planning to win, and we haven’t let that affect us.”

“A nice point,” Delin agreed, and he certainly did feel less concerned now. “With that in mind, I should tell you that Rigos did only fairly well with giving us the full picture. I was told during my inquiries that each of our groups will face one of the challenging groups of peasants, which will leave five winning groups after the first competition. One or two of those five could conceivably be peasant groups, and then our one or two strongest will stand to face them. That will leave either three or four winners, which at that point should be all ours.”

“Should be,” Kambil mused. “I wonder how they can be so certain of that. An objective view of the real world suggests that one lowborn group might be able to best most of ours. In that event they’d be the ones to stand in the final event, and then we’d have to oppose them with our best rather than those who were prechosen.”

“You’re not naive enough to believe that that would be allowed to happen?” Delin asked with true amusement. “Our noble leaders don’t believe in leaving things to chance, my friend, so they’ve covered that point. Somehow all the peasants have been fixed so that they respond to specific orders at a specific time. That means they’ll lose a competition if ordered to do so, and that order will be given to any group which makes it to a second competition.”

In case you'd forgotten that Green spoiled her own series back in Chapter 16 of Book 1.

quote:

“That’s comforting to know,” Kambil said, sounding as though he meant it. “So that could leave four of our groups to face one another. Two against two then, and the two winners left to face one another.”

“That’s supposed to be possible, but I don’t believe it actually is,” Delin told him, crossing his legs thoughtfully. “drat these trousers. They’re too tight even for comfortable leg-crossing.

I... is that supposed to be a not-so-subtle comment on the size of Delin's ?

quote:

But to get back to the final number of groups which will be competing: my research showed that in the last hundred years, the first competition always eliminated three peasant groups and two noble groups.”

“Leaving three noble groups and two of peasants for the next level,” Kambil said, sounding thoughtful. “Yes, that would make sense, public image-wise. If the lowborn were all eliminated in the first round, the crowd would probably become hard to calm. But once they’re eliminated in the second round…”

“Then the other peasants accept their loss more easily,” Delin finished with an automatic nod. “Yes, it does work out that way, as does the following level. Can you guess how they’ve arranged it?”

“With three groups left?” Kambil said. “Two of those groups would then face each other, with that winner being in the final confrontation. They probably hold their chosen group back until the very last, and then let them show their ‘strength’ by defeating the last group to challenge.”

“You’re almost right, but the plan is a bit more subtle,” Delin told him with grudging approval. “They make sure to announce that the two strongest noble groups will face the peasants who are left, leaving the third noble group to stand there looking embarrassed. When the two ‘strongest’ groups stand triumphant over the peasants, it’s then announced that they’ll toss a coin and the winner will face the final noble group.”

“And the final noble group somehow manages to defeat the stronger group they’re made to face!” Kambil exclaimed, obviously understanding immediately. “It should drive the crowds wild, to see an underdog come out on top. They’ll then be rooting for that underdog in the final challenge, and when they manage, against all expectations, to actually win, the crowds will be completely behind them. The prechosen Five will be a popular Five as well.”

“Exactly,” Delin agreed. “I admire the thinking that went into the idea, but I believe we can use the framework for our own purposes. We have to be one of the three last groups, of course, but that shouldn’t be hard to accomplish. The Advisors don’t care which of us is left after the first competition, as long as we number the requisite three.”

“And then?” Kambil asked. “Do we win the coin toss and go on to defeat the ‘worst’ of our groups?”

“Certainly not,” Delin denied, beginning to be amused. Kambil was so bad at planning these things… “If we defeat the underdog immediately, the crowds could very well turn against us. What we’ll do is lose the coin toss, and then stand and watch our fellow winner be defeated. But instead of coming out belligerently to face the upstarts we’re certain we can best, we’ll come out frightened and humble, and we’ll stand where the peasants’ groups stood.”

“So that the crowds will at least identify with us,” Kambil said, again sounding thoughtful. “That might very well work, and then give us a matching acceptance when we just manage to win. We’ll need the sympathy that just pulling it off will bring, but I do like the idea. I’m glad you can come up with these things so easily.”

Delin made a modest sound in response to the compliment, doing nothing to disabuse Kambil of his admiration. The truth was that he’d awakened one morning to find the complete plan already formed in his mind, a product of the research he’d done. In that way the effort was his rather than a lucky outcome, so nothing needed to be said.

Book 3 spoilers Kambil's manipulation of Delin continues. So this is really Kambil's plan, but it's a dumb plan, since as far as I can tell, nobody knows any of these groups compared to any other and as we'll see, there's nothing to identify them to the public when they compete. So as an audience member, you're literally left cheering for either Faceless Nobles in White Group #1 vs Faceless Nobles in White Group #4 so who cares?

quote:

“I’m sure any of us would have thought of the same thing if they’d done the research,” Delin nevertheless made sure to say. “And I wasn’t the only one checking into things. What have you learned about our supposedly worthy opponents?”

“The first thing I learned is that they are worthy, at least a good number of them,” Kambil replied. “As you probably know, the earliest competitors are sabotaged in some way in their final attempts at mastery. That lets the authority brush them out of the way to make room for those coming after. No sense in feeding and housing people all year, when they’ll only be needed at the end of that year.”

According to this, Our Heroes are apparently the only ones who noticed and were able to overcome their Adepts' attempts to block them from passing. This is a major plot hole because 1) we've seen failed mastery candidates just hang out casually to try and keep re-attempting and 2) they should all be going to Lord Kogrin's father whose army is being worn down.

quote:

“So our opponents won’t have had the chance to get to know each other really well,” Delin said, pleased with the information. “What a tragic shame for their hopes and aspirations.”

“Yes, I thought the same,” Kambil commented dryly. “The ones we’ll be facing are all relative newcomers, and the various groups have been kept from meeting one another. They know only the members of their own residence, and won’t even get to see much of each other tonight.

Green: "I'm too lazy to write these scenes so I've conveniently railroaded the plot in this direction because "

quote:

Half of them were rated yesterday and the other half early today, but they were told the effort was a ‘competition.’ And then they were all told that they’d won.”

“And I’m sure the fools believed that,” Delin said with a laugh. “Peasants always want to win something, and never doubt you when you tell them they have.”

“Especially when that victory allows them to attend a reception at the palace,” Kambil agreed. “They’ve been told that their testing authority representative had such ‘confidence’ in their ability to win the first competition, that costumes were made for them even before they reached the competition. Being allowed into the palace is probably expected to make them forget any suspicions they might have.”

Delin laughed, thinking that someone ought to write a play with such farce in it. Imagine, ignoring your doubts and suspicions because you’re being allowed into a building.

OMFG we just got this like two chapters ago, we really didn't need this repeated.

quote:

“I made sure to speak to many of the people who worked with the entrants as guides,” Kambil continued. “They aren’t very good judges about how strong the entrants really are, since in too many cases their own strength was barely above the level of ordinary. And a curious fact came to light: they allowed more entrants to qualify for Blending status than are usually allowed to do so, but they claimed there was nothing strange about it. It simply happened by error, they insisted, since they worked in pairs against all entrants they meant to eliminate.”

In-text confirmation regarding Our Heroes as the Chosen. If the blatantly obvious signs haven't already clued you in. And I've always been disappointed that there were only signs from the elemental aspects and none from Spirit magic.

quote:

“And it would clearly be a matter of their inadequacy to do the job properly if it weren’t a simple mistake in counting,” Delin said, appreciating the point. “That means they must have been lying, and some of the entrants are considerably stronger. Were you able to find out which?”

“Since nothing unusual happened, the guides had no one to point to,” Kambil reminded him. “I tried gold on one or two of them, but those I picked were honest about having nothing to sell. Looking for the ones who did could take longer than we have before we need the information.”

“So we’ll have to get it in a different way,” Delin decided. “I’ll think about possible methods and let you know. Were you able to get access to the test results?”

“Yes, and it didn’t even cost me anything,” Kambil replied with a chuckle. “When I heard that the entrants had been rated, I asked with full innocence if the results were going to be made available to all the noble groups. I was told that no, all our groups would not be given the results, only the ones who were intelligent enough to ask for them. And then I was given an already prepared copy of who did what, color coded with tonight in mind.”

“I’ll want to see that as soon as we get back,” Delin said, faintly annoyed that Kambil hadn’t already shown it to him. Another annoyance to be laid at the feet of that fool Hiblit… “What were the results of the entrants marked as orange?”

“I checked that before we left, and found that our first opponents are one of the two strongest groups,” Kambil told him, now speaking slowly. “The other will be wearing blue, and none of the remaining three really need to be worried about. Just orange and blue, with orange having scored fractionally higher.”

“I’ll bet that bastard Rigos arranged that before his … fall from grace,” Delin growled, heavy anger flaring inside him. “We’re scheduled to face the best of the peasants, which means we’re expected to lose to them. Can you imagine what that would do to our social standing if we hadn’t made up our minds to do more than simply participate?”

“Yes, I have a very good imagination,” Kambil said, sounding just as angry. “The loss would also ruin our chances at any political position we might be under consideration for, no matter who tried to support us. So much for the promises Rigos made when he asked me to spy for him.”

Not-spoilers because you already saw this coming: the orange and silver group is Pagin and his new housemates. Vallant is an rear end for not sharing intel and the "hide how strong you are" strategy with Pagin back in Chapter 34.

Spoilers for the next book: how has nobody put together that they'll be dead or enslaved? A quarter century isn't that long with respect to life expectancies; if losers in the last competitions survived, you would know who they are and that they exist! They should be celebrities!

quote:

“Well, now he’s in no position to laugh at the gullible fools he lied to,” Delin said with a good deal of satisfaction. “But let’s forget about him and think over what we mean to do tonight. We’ll have to concentrate on the group in orange, but the ones in blue also need to be investigated. If they make it past the first round they should be neutralized in the second, but I dislike depending on the doing of others to keep me safe and happy. I’ll feel much better if we find out as much about them as we can.”

“I agree, so I have some good news,” Kambil said, his tone now grimly pleased. “The blue group has a member who turns out to be someone I know. I have no idea why he’s there, but it’s Lady Hallina Mardimil’s son Clarion—who’s now calling himself Rion.”

“That clod?” Delin asked with immediate derision. “I also know him, at least in passing. He’s the laughingstock of our peer group, and if it weren’t for Lady Hallina’s incredibly high social position—Which leads me to wonder how they managed to get away with putting him in with peasants.”

“She must have offended someone even higher,” Kambil replied, and Delin could hear the shrug behind his words. “She’s far from a pleasant person, and embarrassing her like that must have gained someone a large number of points, politically speaking.

Spoilers for Book 3 (I think): Embisson Ruhl put him there, because he knew the truth of Rion's parentage and he outranks Hallina so much that she couldn't do anything about it. It wasn't about Hallina at all, just Embisson being a classist rear end.

quote:

But none of that is as important as the fact that Mardimil is right there in the middle of the blue group. And he and I were briefly—but pleasantly—friendly at one time.”

Unfortunately for Kambil, we know from Rion's POVs that he doesn't remember Kambil at all!

quote:

“Which means that he won’t hesitate to tell you all about the peasants,” Delin pounced happily. “Especially when you point out—What aspect is Mardimil? I’m almost afraid to ask…”

“Believe it or not, it’s Air,” Kambil supplied. “And by now he must be furious over having been ignored by the two females in his group. Since I’m certain he’s never had any experience with females, they might even have laughed at him.”

“So he won’t hesitate when you offer him Selendi’s place in our group,” Delin finished, beginning to feel drunk on good fortune. “He’ll tell you all about the blue group, and then will sit back to wait for his shift to our group. No need to mention that I wouldn’t have him with us even if we had to do without Air magic. In many ways he’s worse than Homin, who’s certainly the least of us.”

The Fourfold Blendings are really interesting to think about and I wish Green had done more with this concept. If you can Blend without including all of the aspects and your entity is just missing what that aspect gives, could you double up on another aspect? What is the difference between Blending and linking anyway? Green never goes into it because she's on her moral soapbox and it's such a missed opportunity.

quote:

“Then you’ll see personally to the orange group?” Kambil said, slightly less enthusiasm in his voice than had been there a moment ago. “I’d been thinking maybe I ought to approach them—”

“And waste that Aspect-sent rapport you have with Mardimil?” Delin interrupted smoothly. “We wouldn’t be foolish enough to do that, would we? You’ll see to Mardimil and I’ll see to our primary opponents, and later we’ll fill each other in.”

“Yes, I suppose it makes sense that way,” Kambil agreed after a moment with a sigh. “But later we will have to fill each other in.”

“Certainly,” Delin agreed with heavy warmth and sincerity. “We’ll each know everything the other does.”

Or almost everything, Delin amended silently as he made himself more comfortable on the coach seat. Only the true leader of their group needed to know absolutely everything, so Kambil would just be out of luck. Once he spoke about everything concerning the blue group, he would be told only what directly concerned him regarding the orange group. It was for his own good, after all. Burdening so weak a man with too many details would never do, not while they still needed Kambil…

Delin conveniently forgetting that Kambil's aspect is Spirit through this whole chapter is just something else.

Summary:

Day 9
Eltrina delivers sparking custom tailored ABBA-esque cosplay gear for the gang to wear to the masked ball at the palace. Our protagonists have a Very Conspicious Not-Meeting in the garden where they agree to try and win the competitions and become the next Seated Five with as much enthusiasm as someone agreeing to a root canal. One of Hallina's spies delivers verbal threats to Rion regarding Rion and Naran; the spy is magically assaulted by Rion and agrees to convince all of the spies to abandon the mission out of fear for their lives.

Homin, Delin, Bron, Selendi and Kambil are also forced into a communal living situation and meet Hiblit, a living automaton version of Eltrina. Delin and Kambil have discovered the competition structure will be 5v5 in round 1, 2v2 in round 2, 1v1 in round 3 (with the pre-selected winners sitting this one out), then 1v1.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 40 (24 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla, Emar Rumil, Leta Vas, Grami Arstin, Deever, Pracer, Oshin, Arnot, Morin, Rilin, Kinge, Lomad, Worlen, Lidim, Arkow, Odrin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 17 (9 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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
Book 2: Nialla's house, Vas residence, Weil residence, Arstin residence in Gan Garee, dining parlor near Tamrissa's house, shop near dining parlor, Naran's "house", noble antagonists' residence

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 23 (15 in Book 1)
Book 1: 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, dinner), Day 7 (post-mastery snack, dinner), Day 8 (breakfast, post-competition snack, dinner), Day 9 (breakfast, lunch)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 14 (9 in Book 1)
Male: <character name>'s body (x2), discomfort (x1), manhood (x1), desire (x2), renewed need (x1), large and hard, the most perfect of men (x1), dignity (x1)
Female: womanhood (x1), entrance of ultimate bliss (x1), desire (x2), incredible tunnel (x1)
Sex acts: merged (x1), shared themselves (x1), exercise (x1)

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: 16 (3 in Book 1)
Male: love (x4), my fleeting love (x1), my lord (x5), my beloved lord (x2)
Female: sweet girl (x1), my sweet (x1), sweetling (x1), my love (x1)

ANTAGONISTS: 26 (11 introduced in Book 1)
General: Unnamed Chairman/Ollon Kapmar (?) and the five Seated Highs in each aspect, Eltrina Razas, Bron Kallan, Selendi Vas, Homin Weil, Kambil Arstin, Delin Moord
Lorand: Eskin Drowd, group of mystery thugs who hold Hat's gambling debts Meerk, Hestir, Morin
Jovvi: Allestine and her henchmen Ark and Bar, Genovir, Algus
Clarion: Hallina Mardimil, Eskin Drowd, Padril, Arnot
Tamrissa: Storn and Avrina Torgar, Beldara Lant, Odrin Hallasser, Soonen, Gerdol, Lanir (who is the Seated High in Fire magic and he's just made it personal)
Vallant: Mirra Agran and her parents, Wimand, Rilir

PLOTHOLES: 58 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 45 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 13 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 14 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 62 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 32 (18 in Book 1)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1)
TEA DRINKING: 48 (22 in Book 1)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 24 (19 in Book 1)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 7
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1)

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), Round 2 (Book 2: Chapter 21, 31, 33, 34, 35, 37, 40, 42)
  • 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, 18, 19), Level 2 (Book 2: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
  • Animal cheer squad (Book 2: Chapters 1, 4, 5, 22, 24)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
  • You won! (Book 2: Chapter 38, 39)

Possible fixes:
The main function of this chapter is to give us a sense of the competition and it's so clumsily done. Delin and Kambil didn't have to work particularly hard for the information (or at least, I assume not because we don't see it and they don't comment on it really, other than Kambil mentioning it would be hard to interview all of the Adepts). It would have been so much more enjoyable and effective if Jovvi and Rion had gone sneaking around using Spirit magic to suss this out. That actually might be quite fun! You get Rion moving through noble society, and Jovvi dealing with the wealthy and the underground.

Welp, I think I know who the main POV characters are gonna be if I do a Rewritten Book 2 (Book 5 spoilers and being a Rion centric book, I would be able to throw in 1-2 minor Naran POVs to fit in the Sight magic reveal. Which would leave me with the Vallant and Tamrissa dreamboat as the POV characters for Rewritten Book 3 if/when I get to that point, I hope that I've found a way to make them not horrible during the process of doing Rewritten Book 2.

Leng fucked around with this message at 12:02 on Mar 10, 2021

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