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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-FIVE 

“I … think I’m impressed,” Rion heard Tamrissa say, the darkness in the coach keeping him from seeing her as well. “The palace has always been the one place in Gan Garee that my father and his friends could never gain access to no matter how much gold they accumulated, but I’m almost there. And it looks so … so…”

“Big,” Jovvi finished for her in a gently amused voice. “Palaces are supposed to be big, I’m told, so I try not to let myself get carried away with awe. But if you feel you have to be impressed, go ahead and do it.

Two books of anticipation building up to the home of the Seated Five (which is also their literal and metaphorical seat of power) and the best Green can come up with is "big".



quote:

Just try not to forget what we have to do tonight.”

“How can I forget?” Tamrissa returned ruefully. “It was partially my idea. But to be honest, I still don’t understand why I suggested that we try to get in touch with the other entrants. Even if we do, how will that change anything?”

“We won’t know until we’ve done it,” Jovvi pointed out, the gentleness firming. “Exchanging information can’t possibly hurt, and on the plus side it’s something the testing authority doesn’t want us to do. It would be worth trying for that reason alone.”

“If you say so,” Tamrissa agreed with a sigh, sounding even more depressed than Rion himself felt.

And she still hasn't figured out how to not rely on butler and maid dialogue.

quote:

“But right now I’d like to ask—Rion, have you ever been here to the palace before?”

“Once or twice, many years ago,” Rion answered after the briefest hesitation. “Mother does happen to know some of the Blending, but exactly what the relationship is, I have no idea.”

Green doesn't know either. Because this is never elaborated upon. Even though you would think knowing everybody's genealogy would be one of those things that any nobility who are obsessed with bloodlines would be all over.

quote:

And whatever it is, Rion thought, it wasn’t enough to keep someone from having him put in with a low class group of applicants. He’d done a lot of thinking during the hours just past, and he’d come to the inarguable conclusion that he could well lose Naran because of that fact. If he were still in his proper position he could hire people to search for her, as it was a virtual certainty that his peer equals involved in the competitions had not been cut off from their personal funds. But he had been, and the piddling few pieces of gold allowed him were all but useless.

Except Book 5 spoilers no one would be able to find her unless she wanted them to, Sight magic and all though Book 6 spoilers Rion actually comes up with what seems to be a super lame way to defeat that.

quote:

Rion couldn’t yet see the palace from where he sat in the coach opposite Jovvi and Tamrissa, and was in no mood to turn around and look. The fact was that he would have stayed at the residence if that had been possible, partially in the hope that Naran would get in touch with him again. For the rest, he felt a great reluctance to be in a place where he just might run into someone he knew. His feelings of helplessness put him at a great disadvantage, but he would never again be the innocent fool he once was. If someone he knew came over to play the game of bait-the-victim, he’d probably cause a scene.

But you guys are masked so...? You could just pretend to not know them? Except we know that Kambil's going to be looking out for him, and you can't pull one over on someone with Spirit magic like that.

quote:

The ladies continued on with occasional comments, but happily none were directed at him. He’d volunteered to be the one to accompany them in their coach as he’d really had no stomach to keep up his corner of a conversation with the other men.

Not that you guys actually have much conversation anyway. You all just sit there and brood broodingly out the windows, unless Green needs you to rehash some boring stuff that we already saw happen.

quote:

He was there in case the other coach was somehow delayed, as having two ladies arrive at the palace unescorted was unthinkable. None of them had known that, of course, not having had experience with the palace before this. Protocols were incredibly inflexible, and the ladies would have been left standing on the approach despite their invitations if they had arrived unescorted.

is this. Did Green pull some BS from the turn of the 18th century Buckingham Palace protocols after it was newly constructed?

quote:

Rion and the other men hadn’t told the ladies that, however, as there had been enough disturbance in everyone’s mind without that point.

Because the Highest Aspect knows that women just wouldn't be able to cope with that knowledge! Also would it be so bad to be left standing on the approach? Sounds like a good excuse to me to make myself scarce and head for better entertainment elsewhere.

quote:

Where only a short while ago they had all been members of a closeknit group,

when was this? Because despite all of my copious notes, I really don't remember this at all.

quote:

now they’d somehow withdrawn into their individual selves. Jovvi, apparently the only one left with any sort of enthusiasm for continuing on, had somehow gotten them all to agree to try to reach members of the other groups. Rion had agreed as well and would keep his word to make the attempt, but it remained to be seen how successful it would be.

Inconsistency within a single chapter.

quote:

All too soon their coach pulled up to the near approach, so Rion got out and turned to help the ladies. Behind him the palace blazed with the multicolored light of a hundred lanterns,

The palace is "big" and lit like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old. Got it.

quote:

and others could be seen arriving in coaches and carriages. All of them were costumed and masked just as Rion and the others were, but not in the same costumes and masks. Jovvi had been quite correct to say that they’d been marked for some purpose, and that fact simply added to Rion’s depression.

I want to go back to reading Baru where masks have significance and thematic importance.

quote:

The ladies held Rion’s arms as they all strolled up the approach toward the main entrance, Ro and Coll following right behind.

So...like this?



But with blue and silver ABBA pantsuits instead?

quote:

Their coach hadn’t been delayed by anything after all, so the group would be able to enter as a group. Those who stood about the approach and on the verandah talking or waiting for friends stared at them, then began to exchange low-voiced, excited comments.

ok so this palace is "big", lit up like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old and has a verandah?

quote:

“Isn’t it nice that so many people are impressed by our arrival?” Jovvi murmured. “After a single look they know exactly who we are, and they’re very impressed. Now why would people like them be impressed by a group which has ‘won’ only a single, low-level competition?”

“Possibly because they know something that we supposedly don’t?” Tamrissa murmured in answer from Rion’s other side. “Like the fact that we’ll be competing in more than that single, low-level competition? Why do they know all about it while nothing has been said to us?”

“They’re all members of the nobility,” Rion supplied, knowing it for a fact. “Apparently word has spread about our status, so they may make a general announcement tonight. Or not, just as it pleases them.”

“I should mention that they’re also faintly afraid of us,” Jovvi said, much more soberly. “I wonder if they’ll be just as afraid of our noble counterparts.”

“Probably not,” Rion told her when Tamrissa failed to venture an opinion. “Our counterparts will be considered civilized human beings and known quantities, while we…”

“Are neither,” Jovvi finished with a nod when Rion let the sentence trail off. “Yes, I quite understand.”

Rion was certain she did, but not quite as thoroughly as he did himself. She hadn’t grown up among these people, or at least on the fringes of them while being taught the same values…

“Look who’s waiting for someone just inside the entrance,” Tamrissa said as they mounted the stairs to the verandah. “And without a mask, to be certain we recognize her.”

“Lady Eltrina Razas,” Jovvi supplied with distaste. “At least she’s delighted to see us. Not a trace of fear in the woman, unless it’s due to the possibility of someone showing up in the same costume. But that’s hardly likely, considering the number of roses outlined in sequins on her skirt and bodice. There couldn’t be enough roses left in the empire to do a second costume like that.”

I'm picturing this:



But with everything sequined in an eye-blinding pattern like this:



quote:

Tamrissa giggled over the comment, and even Rion was forced to smile. He disliked Lady Eltrina even more than they did, although the disparaging comment about her costume would have been laughed at by the woman. She’d obviously spent a fortune having it made, and that would be all that concerned her.

Sigh. Remember when Eltrina was tastefully fashionable with a suit that Tamrissa envied?

quote:

“Yes, let that group through, they’re my people and expected,” Lady Eltrina was saying to the guardsmen on duty as they reached the huge, double-doored entrance. “I’ll take charge of them, and show them where to go.”

"Big", lit like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old, has a verandah and a huge, double-doored entrance.

quote:

The head guardsman nodded and spoke softly to his men, so no properly engraved invitation was demanded of them.

I'm confused why Eltrina even had to let them in, since they're in uniforms, albeit horribly gaudy ones. Nobody else is going to be wearing these. The doorguard should just have orders to let anybody in these stupid uniforms through, because (as you'll see) there are very specific color combinations too.

quote:

Those guests at the entrance before them stepped aside to allow them through, and Lady Eltrina gave them a wide, pleased smile.

“You’re right on time,” she told them approvingly.

What a useless comment. So far, they've been chauffeured everywhere by testing authority coaches/drivers. They have had nothing to do with arriving on time!

quote:

“Just follow me, and I’ll show you to the ballroom.”

She turned and moved off then, sailing along without turning back even once, and Jovvi murmured, “I wonder how she recognized us. We are wearing masks, after all. No, Rion, let’s not hurry after her.”

Oh come on, YOU'RE IN UNIFORM–you know, the ones that she personally brought you?! Because that was such a good use of her time?

quote:

Rion discovered that he’d unconsciously begun to increase his pace to match Lady Eltrina’s, and was therefore glad that Jovvi had brought it to his attention. Hurrying in that woman’s wake was the last thing he wanted to do, even if it ruined Lady Eltrina’s good mood. Especially if it ruined her mood.

So they strolled up the central hall as though they really belonged there, with both Jovvi and Tamrissa looking around at the uninterrupted carvings on the marble walls twenty feet to either side of them. The ceiling was carved as well, Rion knew, but it was really too far above them to be easily seen at night. Jovvi looked at everything with only moderate interest, but Rion was amused to see that Tamrissa all but gaped. She was such an innocent child, to be impressed with her surroundings like this. She would certainly learn better eventually, but for now it was kinder to allow her the innocence.

"Big", lit like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old, has a verandah and a huge, double-doored entrance, which leads to a central hall forty feet (~12m) wide with carved marble walls and ceiling.

quote:

Eltrina eventually discovered that they weren’t right behind her, and her annoyance was clear when they finally caught up. She’d stopped at the entrance to an enormous ballroom, which seemed nevertheless to be well filled with people. They could hear music playing and see that some people were dancing—at least until Eltrina blocked their view.

“Now isn’t the time to go sightseeing,” she lectured, looking at Jovvi and Tamrissa sternly. “I have to get you settled inside, as there are other things I must do. Please try to keep up this time.”

Once Eltrina turned away to continue on into the ballroom, Rion exchanged an amused glance with Jovvi. It had felt good to annoy the testing authority representative, but it proved impossible to repeat the performance. There were too many people standing about for Eltrina to resume her sailing stride, and in order to keep from following closely, they would have had to stop walking altogether.

Eltrina led them a good quarter of the way around the extremely large room, having moved to the right once they were all inside. They were only a couple of steps behind her when she stopped and turned to them again, at the same time gesturing to a nearby servant.

“I’m going to assign this servant to fetch whatever you may want in the way of refreshment,” she said, addressing all five of them. “You are not to move from this spot unless I return and tell you to, or the consequences will be much more serious than you can imagine. When the Blending decides it’s ready to have you introduced to them, they won’t be amused to get here to discover that you’ve wandered off. Do you all understand what I’m saying?”

“You may not think so, ma’am, but we are used to speakin’ and hearin’ the language,” Ro told her in a drawl. “But if you still doubt that, you could start lookin’ around for an interpreter.”

“An excellent suggestion, Dom Ro,” the woman returned immediately, a faint blush in her cheeks. “The only problem is, I’d never find one in this particular crowd. I’ll be back to check on you all in just a little while.”

Remember when Eltrina was an ambitious woman with her own agenda who wielded her sexuality like a weapon instead of just another person vulnerable to Vallant's immeasurable "charm"?

quote:

With that she swept away, leaving a group of grimly satisfied people. Despite the masks, Rion could tell that the others had enjoyed Ro’s comments just as much as he had.

“This turns out to be a rather interesting place for her to have left us,” Coll commented in a voice too low to reach the servant who now hovered just a short distance away. “Am I mistaken, or are those people down there wearing almost the same costume we are? Their sequined parts are also silver, but the rest is yellow. And all the way beyond them—is that a group wearing silver and brown?”

“I think I also see silver and green all the way down near the far doors,” Ro put in, confirming Coll’s observations. “That makes four groups of us, so unless we just aren’t seein’ one, there’s a group missin’.”

“That could be the ‘business’ Eltrina talked about,” Jovvi murmured. “Meeting the last group of us to arrive. But that’s not the only interesting thing about our position. Has anyone yet glanced across the room?”

Rion did his glancing in the same casual way the others accomplished it, but he couldn’t hold back a faint sound of disgust.

“That group across the way is wearing gold and blue, and down a bit to the right is one in gold and yellow,” he said. “Apparently we’ve been positioned for the benefit of our noble counterparts.”

“I’m sure it’s nothin’ but an accident,” Ro said after making the same sound Rion had. “But isn’t this a little too obvious even for those fools at the testin’ authority? How are we supposed to miss seein’ that we’re here for them to look over?”

This is the most awkward layout for a ball masked reception ever.

quote:

“Maybe the point will be that we’re supposed to look them over as well,” Jovvi suggested. “If we don’t take advantage of the opportunity it won’t be their fault, not when we ought to be bright enough to have figured it out for ourselves. So I don’t know about the rest of you, but if any of them come over here to ‘chat’ with us, I’m going to be doing some definite looking.”

What would be smarter is MOVING AROUND. Just leave a lookout for when the Seated Blending is coming.

quote:

Murmurs of agreement came in answer to her suggestion, but Rion wasn’t certain he cared to add his own. He detested the idea of being looked over as though he were a horse or a bolt of cloth about to be bought, which was undoubtedly the way those heavy-handed fools would manage it. Ah well, he’d already resigned himself to the probability of being a part of an unpleasant scene…

“I believe I’ll ask for a glass of wine,” Rion said to everyone in general. “Would any of the rest of you care for something?”

They all decided they did, so the hovering servant was summoned and given their drink orders. The man bowed and hurried away to fetch them, returning rather quickly with the drinks and a platter of fried cheese bits. The snack seemed rather cheap—until one tasted the breading on the outside and the seasoning within. The cheese bits had been prepared by a High artist of a chef, possibly a chef of one of the Five themselves.



but reinvented by Heston Blumenthal. Except if it was reinvented by Heston, it'd look like mozzarella sticks but turn out to be pureed cat tongue or something which sounds disgusting except it'd actually turn out to be the most delicious thing you've ever tasted.

quote:

Only a short while went by while they sipped their wine and devoured cheese bits, and then suddenly there were people joining them. The people only just happened to be wearing costumes of gold and blue, and they all seemed to be rather amused.

“I was told I would be impressed,” one of them, a woman, drawled as she looked around with obvious scorn. “‘They’re to be your opposite numbers,’ they said, ‘and you’ll find them formidable adversaries.’ So I checked your test results and now I’m over here looking at you, but somehow I’m not impressed. You lowborn fools won’t stand a chance against us.”

“Stand a chance against you in what?” Jovvi asked, really emphasizing her pose of wide-eyed innocence. “The only thing you’re clearly capable of is showing bad manners, but I think we’ll prove to be better even at that.”

“Watch how you speak to us, woman,” a man in gold and blue growled while his female groupmate gasped in insult. “If no one has ever taught you how to address your betters, it isn’t too late for you to be taught right now.”

“Oh, we already know all about that,” Ro put in at once, smiling at the man without the least sign of amusement. “And as soon as people better than us start showin’ up, we’ll be glad to demonstrate.”

“I told you it would be a waste of time to talk to these peasants,” another woman in their group announced huffily. “They have no idea how much weaker they are than us, and it was a mistake to think they’d be grateful if we told them we planned to be gentle. Now I don’t want to be gentle, even if they decide to give us no reason to hurt them during the competition.”

“But we did have to try, my dear,” the man said, sounding as though he scolded her mildly. “Those in our position have a certain duty, and it would have been dishonorable if we’d simply overwhelmed them. Now we’ll do as we must with a clear conscience, knowing they flatly refused our offer. Come, let’s return to where we belong.”

The five nobles turned with almost the same toss of the head, and then they were strolling back to where they’d come from. Rion was as silent as the others as he frowningly watched them go, and then Jovvi clicked her tongue.

“What an absolute shame that we’ve now lost our only chance to get through the competition without being hurt,” she commented then. “With people so much stronger than us, we should have been exquisitely polite and thanked them sincerely for their big-hearted offer. I wonder if it’s too late to accept it after all.”

“If we did some beggin’, there’s a small chance they’d change their minds again,” Ro answered dryly. “That has to have been the worst actin’ I’ve seen in a long while, not to mention the dumbest idea. Were we really supposed to have agreed to ‘givin’ them no reason to hurt us?’ Just because they said they’re stronger?”

“They still expect the ploy to work,” Jovvi answered him. “The lowborn are supposed to take the nobility at their word, so that’s what they expected to happen now. They’re pleased with how well they’ve frightened us, and probably think we’ll accept their offer by the time we reach the competition.”

“But we’re not supposed to know that we’ll be facing them,” Tamrissa pointed out with disturbance in her voice. “If they know we know, so should the testing authority. And how could they believe that we’re afraid of them? Didn’t they have their Spirit magic member checking us over?”

“Not as far as I could tell,” Jovvi responded, still staring at the retreating nobles. “They apparently did no more than assume we would believe them, and thereafter made no attempt to check. Even the way that woman started an argument with us was part of their plan, but—I don’t like the rest of it. They shouldn’t have told us as much as they did, not without the least feeling that they were giving away secrets. I’m going to have to think about this.”

So spoilers for the next chapter, that was Adriari's Blending, i.e. the handpicked Blending of spoilers for Book 3 Middles that has been set up to win.

I can't even work out what this strategy of attempted intimidation is supposed to do. Frighten your opponents into throwing the competition? That's a stupid motivator, and Green is trying to set up these antagonists as stupid, I know, but this is so on the nose it's on the level of Mean Girls Karen, which means you only get one pass for including one character like that per story and you'd better give them some other attribute to go along with it.

Kambil's plan (which had flaws of its own) is so much better than it's not even in the same plane of existence.

quote:

Rion exchanged disturbed glances with the others, also disliking the implications. The group of people who had approached them were mindless fools, but they knew things that Rion and the others didn’t. Were those things important enough to mean an absolute defeat in the competition? If they weren’t, how could people raised in the midst of political backstabbing and social intrigue be so unconcerned?

Well, yeah, considering you've all been dosed with mind control drugs, you're headed for absolute defeat. Not-spoilers, because we've known that since Chapter 16 of Book 1.

quote:

And even more importantly, was there any chance that he would survive what lay ahead of them even so far as to see Naran again? Somehow, he was beginning to doubt that…

I would like one character–just one–whose "cliffhangers" don't revolve around their love interest.

quote:

* * *

Lord Kambil Arstin stood at the fringes of his group, watching his peers in gold and blue walk away from their counterparts in silver and blue. His fellow nobles were fully convinced that whatever they’d said to their future opponents would bring about the desired result, but Kambil knew better. If their Spirit magic user had bothered to check, he or she would have felt the same anger/derision/stubbornness/refusal that Kambil did.

Spirit magic is so useful that I don't know why you wouldn't be constantly checking everyone around you if you had that talent.

quote:

But it seemed that their Spirit magic user hadn’t checked, so they all rode a cloud of happy accomplishment that was meant to turn into openly acknowledged victory. Kambil still found it hard to believe that supposedly intelligent people could assume success at something without making more than a token effort to cause it to happen. He found it hard to believe, but knowing the way most of his peers had been raised, he also didn’t doubt it.

Well, spoilers for the next chapter the gold and blue Blending technically has the basis for it which you're going to be pointing out yourself.

quote:

And yet, that made his chore a good deal easier. He’d gently felt around the group in blue and silver with his talent, and had already located Clarion Mardimil. Or Rion Mardimil, as he now called himself. Being on the receiving end again of the same sort of contempt he’d gotten all his life from his supposed peers would disturb Mardimil even more, and Mardimil’s disturbance would be Kambil’s advantage.

Waiting until Mardimil had taken a step or two away from his group, Kambil began to make his way toward the man. Delin had told him to wait until after he’d spoken to their own opponents before going after Mardimil,

why? What difference does the order in which you investigate the competition matter?

quote:

but this was too good an opportunity to miss. Their opponents in orange hadn’t yet arrived, and if Kambil waited it was likely that Mardimil’s mood would change to one a good deal less usable.

As Kambil moved, he readily admitted to himself that he disliked the idea of what he was about to do. If he’d had any choice at all he would have done something else entirely, but being a part of his particular group left him no choice. He’d simply have to go through with it, and worry about possible consequences at another time.

Spoilers for Book 5 I wonder if this is part of Grami's programming of Kambil, or if Green's trying to remind us that we're supposed to like Kambil but not really.

quote:

Mardimil’s distraction wasn’t so deep that he didn’t realize Kambil deliberately approached him, so Kambil nodded as he came in speaking distance.

“Yes, I recognize you, but I don’t expect the recognition to be mutual,” he said as he came to a halt. “I’m Kambil Arstin, and we knew each other a number of years ago.”

“I remember the time,” Mardimil replied after a brief hesitation, displaying a great deal of surprise. “But as you said, it’s been a number of years. How did you happen to know who I was?”

“I’m sure you realize there’s nothing involving ‘happen to’ about it,” Kambil replied with a smile of wry amusement. “Even if we’d been meeting fairly often at receptions and things, tonight we’re both masked and costumed. But at that, my costume should be enough to answer your question.”

“You’re a part of one of the groups who will be contending as a Blending,” Mardimil obliged him, making no attempt to play coy. “You probably noticed my name on a list somewhere, and that way knew I’d be here tonight.”

“Absolutely correct,” Kambil agreed, also refusing to play coy. “And I came to speak to you with a particular purpose in mind, but first I’d like to ask an intrusive question: what in the name of the Highest Aspect are you doing with them rather than with us? You don’t belong here any more than I would.”

“Someone apparently disagrees with that point of view,” Mardimil returned evenly, but Kambil was able to feel his continuing sense of having been betrayed. “I was put where I currently am and wasn’t permitted to argue, so someone rather powerful must be behind it. Who that would be, I have no idea.”

“Neither do I,” Kambil muttered, letting the man see that he seriously considered the question. “It could be any one of a dozen people, and we would find out which only if he or she wanted us to. It doesn’t pay to pursue the matter, at least not directly.

A dozen? It's really hard to keep track of how large each rank of the nobility is.

quote:

But if you would be interested in some oblique payback…?”

“What do you mean by oblique?” Mardimil asked, his slowly appearing interest completely real. “And how is it possible to repay someone whose identity you don’t know?”

“You don’t have to know who they are in order to ruin their plans,” Kambil pointed out. “They obviously want you to stay right where you are, so the best thing you can do is move. Which brings me to the favor I came over to ask: would you please take a moment to consider leaving this group and joining mine? You have no idea how badly you’re needed.”

The clang of shock in Mardimil’s mind was so loud and strong that Kambil would have felt it from the other side of the room. It was exactly the sort of reaction he’d been looking for, but he made certain to keep nothing but desperate hope in his manner.

“You want me?” Mardimil demanded in a choked voice, bewilderment now rising up. “All my life I’ve never been good enough for anything but to be laughed at. How can I suddenly be the answer to someone’s prayers instead?”

“None of us was allowed to do anything but laugh at you,” Kambil replied with the one point Mardimil was likely to believe. “Your lady mother always placed you in a position where you would be an object of ridicule, and we were all too young to do anything but give her the reaction she wanted. Now it would be different, but by now you’ve undoubtedly lost your taste for associating with your peers.”

How long ago did you last see each other? Because if it's been years, then these social circles are huge. Is this Green's excuse for not doing any worldbuilding around her ranks of nobility?

quote:

Mardimil remained silent, but his emotions betrayed him by loudly denying the contention. The man positively yearned for acceptance by his peers, a truth it took no talent at all to know.

“You asked if I would be willing to change to your group,” Mardimil said at last, his emotions now spinning. “Have you forgotten that it wasn’t my idea to be here in the first place? Making decisions that you haven’t the power to put into effect is useless.”

“It isn’t useless when we need you as badly as we do,” Kambil countered at once. “I’m sure you know that the real contest will be among the challenging Blendings from our people, but in order to have any hope of winning you need someone decent in all of the aspects. Our biggest lack is in the area of Air magic, but we’ve been told that there isn’t anyone else available to replace our current member. All those with really decent strength are already part of other groups.”

“And you believe they’ll let you choose me to round out your Blending?” Mardimil asked, his emotions still roiling. “I consider that rather unlikely—”

“You’re wrong because I’ve already checked,” Kambil interrupted the reluctant protest. “If you’re willing to agree, they’ll get it done no matter who dislikes the idea. Everyone wants the strongest Seated Blending possible, so they’ll help us in any way they can to produce another viable group. What do you say? Will you at least consider the idea?”

“I’ll be glad to consider it,” Mardimil agreed after taking a deep breath, but the promise was a lie. The man had already made up his mind to agree, and would say so in just another moment or two. Kambil had won, then, so there was no reason not to continue to the end he’d come over to accomplish.

So as far as I can tell from how this is written (and remember we're in Kambil's POV, so if he's actively doing something, we should know about it!), Kambil is doing nothing with his Spirit magic other than to keep tabs on Rion's emotions. I am so disappointed by this because why would you send your Spirit magic user into a critical situation like this and NOT use them to full effect?

quote:

“I know you’ll make the right decision,” he said with as warm a smile as he could manage. “The girl we now have in your proper place is just a girl, and as incompetent as they all are. You must have had your hands full with the ones in your own group, and I can’t wait to hear the stories you must have. Just imagine, a girl trying to get somewhere with Fire magic, the position that requires the most strength in a Blending. You’ll have to tell me just how womanly weak she really is.”

This is maybe the second reference to the importance of Fire magic to a Blending, after Tamrissa's mastery chapters. I hate this mechanic so much because it will turn out to be completely nonsensical and doesn't make a practical difference until Book 8. Yes really.

quote:

Mardimil smiled and parted his lips, about to tell Kambil exactly what he wanted to know. Kambil could feel it, and that brought him a sense of triumph. Despite even his own misgivings, he’d actually managed to pull it off!

Wait, so you had misgivings before not because you had moral objections but because you doubted your chances of success? Because this is NOT how that read. I call Green retconning this because she accidentally made Kambil too sympathetic for one of her antagonists.

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.

Everybody shows up to the palace, which is "big", lit like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old and has a verandah. Once inside, all of the competing proto-Blendings are positioned like color coded chess pieces. Kambil flatters Rion with a fake offer of switching Blendings in exchange for intel on Tamrissa and co.

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: 19 (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, the Seated Five's palace, the ballroom inside the palace

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 24 (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, canapés at the masked reception at the palace)

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: 31 (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, group wearing gold and blue costumes at the ball (Adriari's Blending)
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: 61 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 46 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 14 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 14 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 62 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 33 (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:
We'll get to this at the end of the whole palace sequence. Which won't be in this book (which physically finishes in the next chapter on a stupid cliffhanger) but in the beginning of Book 3 which has the actual "ending" of Book 2.

EDIT: fixed broken spoiler tag, sorry!

Leng fucked around with this message at 11:32 on Mar 21, 2021

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Liquid Communism
Mar 9, 2004


Out here, everything hurts.




I suspect that the bit with Adriari's Blending was supposed to be them having some pretty cruel fun given they know they are being set up to destroy the protagonists as they are helpless.

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


Liquid Communism posted:

I suspect that the bit with Adriari's Blending was supposed to be them having some pretty cruel fun given they know they are being set up to destroy the protagonists as they are helpless.

That makes more sense though it's really hard to tell the difference between that characterization and Green's general characterization of antagonists as obliviously arrogant people who are completely out of touch with reality.

I can't help thinking that Adriari would have been a really interesting choice of POV for an antagonist. She's a Middle in the midst of all these Highs, has been handpicked to be part of the next set of puppets–it could have been a much more nuanced take on somebody within the nobility taking apart the nobility itself and seizing power for real. Or any of the other various noble-turned-ally storylines where they realize how sucky their corrupt system is.

Hell, combine it with spoilers for the sequel trilogy Edmin's whole arc and it could have been much more interesting than it turned out to be.

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-SIX 

Rion felt lightheaded and delirious over the offer he’d been made, one he’d been longing for ever since that business of testing had begun. He’d be part of a group with his peers, among people who had, until now, wanted nothing to do with him. He smiled and parted his lips, ready to tell Arstin all about Tamrissa’s little quirks and problems-—until he remembered the touching way she’d confided in him after they’d lain together. She’d also said something about not being used to having friends, and that now she finally understood how friends kept each other’s secrets. To say anything about her at all would be a betrayal, much more of one than simply leaving the group.

Spoilers for two pages into this chapter: Did we just see Jovvi use Spirit magic on Rion? Because this is a very abrupt change in internal monologue.

I can't tell because Green writes all of her monologues in the same style!

quote:

“Our Fire magic user is a lovely lady,” Rion said instead, looking at Arstin levelly. “But rather than talk about her, tell me how soon I’d be able to transfer to your group.”

“Why, I’m sure it can be arranged by next week’s end,” Arstin replied, a flash of frustration showing very briefly in the man’s eyes.

I do not believe that Spirit magic users have this level of poor self control over their public display of emotions. IT'S LIKE PART OF YOUR MAGIC AND EVERYTHING.

quote:

“If that means you’ve decided to join us, I couldn’t be more pleased. But don’t you have anything you’d like to say about the lady of Fire? Surely she’s joined the others in treating you quite intolerably?”

Maybe you should try to string Rion along and be a little more subtle about your investigations? Like this is not exactly a conducive environment for confidential discussions of this nature? Kambil is so bad at this.

quote:

“As a matter of fact, they’ve all treated me rather well,” Rion told him, suddenly and belatedly suspicious. It would take an entire week to arrange something Arstin claimed everyone wanted? When people had previously been shifted out of the residence in half a day’s time or less?

And especially since Kambil literally said in the last chapter he's already spoken to everyone and gotten approval for it.

quote:

“And I’d like to know why you keep asking about Dama Domon. One question on the subject can be considered casual conversation; two questions in as many minutes is not in the least casual.”

“I merely thought you’d enjoy discussing the outrage you’ve been made to suffer through,” Arstin replied soothingly—just as Rion became aware of the man’s talent trying to accomplish that soothing as well. “Talking about things which disturb us lets us finally put those things out of our mind. We need you to be as relaxed as possible when you join us, after all, so why not take advantage of a friendly ear?

OMG this is the worst attempt at saving ever.

And here's in-text confirmation of Jovvi swooping in!

quote:

Begin by discussing one of the others instead, and return to Dama Domon when you feel more comfortable discussing her.”

OMFG Kambil, abandon mission if you want any hope of salvaging this, you're just making Rion more suspicious!

quote:

“Your friendly ear doesn’t seem to hear very well,” Rion observed, forcing himself to face the unpalatable truth. “I told you that I was treated well, but you ignored that in an effort to get me talking. You and your group don’t want me, you simply want the information I can give you.”

“I’m sorry you choose to see it that way, Mardimil,” Arstin said with a sigh, now sending the emotions of regret and uncertainty. “My offer was a good one, and nothing but your unnatural suspicions are ruining it. It still isn’t too late for you to change your mind…”

Arstin let his words trail off in a coaxing way, as though waiting for the regret and uncertainty to make Rion more easily manipulated.



How is a High in Spirit magic THIS BAD at reading people? I don't even need Spirit magic to be reading this situation. Kambil should have started backing off like 4 exchanges of dialogue ago!

quote:

But Rion understood what was happening now, and simply showed a faint smile.

“You know, Arstin, I’d actually forgotten how everyone of our class loves to control and use others,” Rion told him. “You have my thanks for reminding me, but that’s all you’ll have when you walk away from here. Which you would be wisest doing right this minute.”

The flash of frustration in Arstin’s eyes was stronger this time, and the man’s head came up as though he were indignant over having been discovered at his little game. But he wasn’t foolish enough to try adding any more words. He simply nodded curtly, turned on his heel, and walked away.

Well I guess we ought to give Kambil credit for this. He's like the one antagonist in this series who has/will openly admit to being bested when confronted with reality. Which automatically makes him the best.

quote:

“I hope you don’t mind if I say how well I think you handled that,” a soft voice murmured, and Rion turned his head to see Jovvi beside him. “I noticed him come up to you and begin to touch you with his talent, so I … helped out.”

“Helped out,” Rion echoed, perplexed for a moment before understanding came. “So that’s why I was aware of what he tried rather than being affected by it. What did you do?”

“I’m not really sure,” Jovvi admitted, a small frown creasing her beautiful brow. “I wanted to protect you by letting you know what that man was trying to do, and suddenly it was happening.



There are violations of Sanderson's First Law everywhere.

Stop. Having. Protagonists. Pull. Unforeshadowed. Magic. Solutions. Out. Of. Their. Asses!

quote:

Just exactly what I did… I’ll have to think about that for a while before I make any attempt to describe it.”

Not-spoilers: she won't, and it won't come up again, other than Jovvi telling people "I'm protecting them so you haven't got a chance, haha", which we will see happen in Book 6.

quote:

“Take all the time you need,” Rion said, smiling at her fondly. “But you must also take my thanks, for keeping me from making a fool of myself. I wanted so very much to believe Arstin—after having conveniently forgotten that my … ‘own kind’ can’t be trusted not to betray even the people they consider friends. I expected to feel bitter disappointment over having lost an opportunity, but what I feel instead is relief. It’s you and the others who are ‘my kind,’ not them.”

“I’m glad you now see it the way the rest of us do,” Jovvi replied with a smile filled with warmth that couldn’t be doubted. “You earned your place among us even before you helped Tamma so much, so I’m just glad I was able to do my part.

this is all so on the nose.

quote:

But what did that man want from you? I know he was trying to make you believe something, but I don’t know exactly what.”

Please don't do a recap of what JUST happened on the page.

quote:

“He tried to make me believe that he and the others of his group wanted me to be one of them,” Rion answered, anger coming to him in place of hurt.

Oh you are, you are going to do that. Just so we can watch Rion move through all of the stages of grief in the space of 5 minutes.

quote:

“I’ve spent all my life on the outside looking in, and he offered to unlock the door to acceptance. But the price of the key was betrayal of the rest of you, which I should have realized would not have gotten me inside. If I left at this stage of things, there would be no one to take my place. So why would information on everyone’s shortcomings and problems be at all important? Without a full Blending, none of you would compete.”

Facts and Logic!

quote:

“Someone else in your position would not have seen that,” Jovvi said, putting a gentle hand to his arm. “I spent a long enough time alone on the streets to know how strong the lure of acceptance is, and I’m not sure I could have been as strong as you were. You’re wonderful, Rion, and I’m proud to be part of something with you.”

Does ANYONE buy this load of crap from Jovvi?

quote:

For once Rion was at a loss for words, but it was a very pleasant loss. He returned Jovvi’s smile as he briefly put his own hand over hers, feeling—no, knowing—that words were his only loss.

:barf:

quote:

He had more with these people than Arstin and his group could ever provide, and even the thought of Naran no longer disturbed him. His real friends would help him to find her again, just as they’d helped him to see her in the first place.

You know what, I almost prefer the chapters with Naran where the two of them are constantly using sappy endearments to refer to each other.

quote:

Rion’s gaze found Arstin as the man stalked back toward his group, and all thoughts of warmth and happiness disappeared.

Those very insistent questions about Tamrissa … would that gentle, damaged child really turn out to be the most important one in their Blending?

A reminder: you took sexual advantage of "that gentle, damaged child" in circumstances where it was extremely dubious whether or not she gave uncoerced informed consent. So what does that make you?

quote:

The point was one he’d have to discuss with the others, but until then he’d worry about it all by himself…

This. This is the quality of cliffhanger we're getting at the end of the second book. Where I still don't care about Tamrissa. Because being told over and over again how wonderful she is and how I should care about her so much surprisingly doesn't work!

Spoilers for Book 3 Tamrissa is important but not important because basically everyone makes a big hoo ha about Fire magic being the talent that attacks and guards, which is a massive plot hole since EVERY TALENT can do that and Book 8 later they basically figure out there's a stupid nuance in the mechanic around initiating the state of Blending where the initiating aspect turns out to be the "lead" talent in the Blending and Fire magic results in the Blending entity being stronger and more aggressive.

quote:

* * *

Vallant was far from comfortable. The room they stood in was more than large,

As a matter of fact, Rion of all people described the ballroom as "enormous" and "extremely large" in the last chapter.

quote:

but the number of people in it turned it into something the size of a middling box. And the fact that they’d been told not to leave the area they now stood in … only the absence of a locked door had kept Vallant from bolting.

This ballroom in the palace is not made of resin! And even so, Rion gave you a coping mechanism! It's like Green needed to have Vallant forget about it so she can have the most socially competent person in this group handicapped for authorial reasons.

quote:

As long as whether or not he stayed put remained his own idea, it also remained somewhat tolerable.

Looking around at the people attending the ball wasn’t very interesting, but it had the benefit of being something of a distraction. Everyone seemed to be inspecting the fascinating animals who had been dressed up in distinctive, color-matched costumes, even those nobles who were pretending to dance. Staring alternated with whispering, and Vallant might have been curious about what they were saying if their behavior hadn’t filled him with so much disgust and outrage.

Vallant's self narration referring to him and the other commoner Blendings as "animals" sticks out. I know Green's going for irony here but it does not work for me.

quote:

So he looked away from those staring at him, only to find that one of the five people in silver and yellow was also staring at him. Indignation flared immediately, that someone in his own position would be as rude as those so-called nobles, but then Vallant’s mind began to work in place of his emotions. The man who stared at him was on the small side, and he stood at least two steps away from the rest of his group…

“Holter, that’s got to be Holter,” Vallant muttered to himself, the obvious having finally come to him. “And what was that Jovvi said about us gettin’ in touch with other groups…?”

The idea appeared fully formed,

STOP USING PHRASES LIKE THIS IN A BOOK WITH SPIRIT MAGIC!!!

quote:

so Vallant lost no time acting on it. Holter must have been told the same thing about not wandering around, but there was one instance where leaving the area had to be permitted. He gave Holter the thumb-up sign they’d exchanged more than once, and the small man returned it immediately—and almost eagerly. He couldn’t have been certain that he was looking at Vallant or that he himself would be recognized, but now he knew he’d achieved both.

Their secret hand signal is a Facebook like.

quote:

Once recognition was established, Vallant moved on to the idea he’d gotten. After glancing around casually to be sure no one was watching too closely, he gestured at himself and went into the small, brief dance that young children sometimes did when they had to relieve themselves.

I want you to imagine Chris Hemsworth, wearing a sequined ABBA pantsuit, doing the pee pee dance:



quote:

Holter stared for a moment with his head to one side,



quote:

but then he nodded with understanding and turned away.

That was the signal for Vallant to also turn away, in order to find the servant assigned to them to ask directions to the nearest sanitary facilities. The man looked as though he were prepared to lead Vallant to them, but before he could make the offer he was called by Tamrissa. Frustration flashed briefly across his face before he turned to point out a door to Vallant, and then he was off to find out what Tamrissa wanted.

Vallant took immediate advantage of not being accompanied, and made for the door which presumably led to the sanitary facilities. As he approached he saw one man go in and another two come out, all of them dressed like nobles rather than participants. Looking around for Holter would have been stupid, so Vallant simply walked to the door while silently hoping. Holter could be sent to a different facility, as it was unlikely there would be just one…

The door led into a smaller, narrower corridor than the one they’d used to reached the ballroom, and a short distance down on the left was a door with the standard sign for men. On the right and a bit closer to the ballroom was the sign for women, which was only to be expected. There were no women going in or out, though, while the men’s facility had fairly brisk traffic.

Vallant stepped into the outer room casually, but there was nothing casual about the response of the other occupants. All eyes were suddenly on him, and he didn’t need Jovvi’s talent to tell that most of the men were frightened. The rest were at least uncomfortable, and in a moment they were all heading for the way out. Vallant smiled to himself as he pretended not to notice, instead enjoying how large the facility entrance room was. With everyone else leaving, it was actually almost bearable.

A minute or two after the room emptied, the door opened again and Holter came in. Vallant had used the time to see that at least two of the small facility rooms in back were occupied, so he gestured silence to Holter and led the smaller man to the far side of the entrance room. The place was beyond the line of small tables holding wash basins and stacks of towels, just in front of a large, clearly comfortable couch.

Okay I kind of appreciate this early 90s flipping of the gendered trope of important meetings happening in bathrooms.

quote:

“They don’t want any of us talkin’ together, so we’ll have to make this fast,” Vallant said softly once Holter stood beside him. “Jovvi thinks we all should talk, so we’re tryin’ to find out the locations of the other groups. What do you think?”

“I think th’ lady’s right as rain,” Holter said with a slow nod. “We gotta do somethin’ t’keep ’em frum gittin’ us, but th’ fools in m’new residence prob’ly won’t go along. I’ll tell ya where I am, but first I gotta tell ya ’bout th’ new Earth magic user we got. Three guesses who he is.”

“Eskin Drowd,” Vallant answered promptly, remembering what Lorand had said. “I take it he still doesn’t have much in the way of ordinary manners.”

“An’ never will,” Holter agreed with a nod, pushing at his mask. “This drat thing’s too tight, but we ain’t allowed t’toss it… Man who wus in Drowd’s place t’start with never come back frum that there first comp’tition. They said he’s sick ’r sumthin’.”

“Lorand said he went crazy when he messed up durin’ the competition,” Vallant supplied, unsurprised that the people in the man’s residence hadn’t been told any details. “They had to put him to sleep by force, then he was carted off somewhere. But Drowd hadn’t yet qualified, or so Lorand also said. Did he manage to get through the tests, or did they just throw him in without requirin’ it?”

“Drowd ain’t tellin’, so there’s no way a knowin’,” Holter replied with a shrug. “He’s just walkin’ around smug as ever, makin’ trouble ever’ time he opens his mouth. But what’s happenin’ with this here thing t’night, an’ how cum yer here? They said I won th’ comp’tition.”

“We think they told that to everyone,” Vallant said, “and your bein’ here confirms the guess. They probably want the noble groups to get a look at us, and maybe even pick up a hint or two about defeatin’ us. The group we’ll be facin’ came over and tried a fool’s trick to make us afraid of them, but all it did was get us annoyed.”

355 words of exposition that basically recaps stuff we already know or can surmise. In the "last chapter" of Book 2.

quote:

“Gotta tell ya sumthin’,” Holter said, the visible part of his expression looking worried. “Ran inta a old friend th’ other day, an’ she ain’t worried none ’bout whut I kin do. So we talked some, an’ she said there’s lots a gold floatin’ around in bettin’. Coulda guessed that, but th’ other part ain’t so good. None a th’ gold’s on any a us.”

“And at least some of it should be,” Vallant put in, suddenly very worried. “There’s no way of knowin’ one of our groups won’t get lucky—unless things are arranged so that none of us can get lucky. Any idea about what the arrangement can be?”

“Nobody’s sayin’,” Holter denied with a headshake. “M’friend’s tryin’ t’find out, but prob’ly she ain’t gonna get very far. All she culd tell me wus that th’ gold’s been agin us all along.”

“Which might or might not mean somethin’,” Vallant acknowledged as he nodded. “I’ll tell the others, and if we come up with any ideas I’ll pass them along.

All good, Jovvi already knows. In fact she's known for a few days now.

quote:

How do I get in touch with you?”

Holter gave him an address which meant nothing to Vallant, but he memorized it with the hope that Tamrissa would know where it was. Then Holter added, “I’ll ask m’friend t’see if’n she c’n get th’ other addresses. Meanwhile we gotta keep in touch.”

We will never find out who this well-connected and resourceful friend of Holter's is, other than as a convenient plot dispenser.

quote:

“If you don’t hear from me in two or three days, see if you can sneak back for a visit,” Vallant said, again agreeing. “But don’t let any of the servants see you. Some of them have got to be watchin’ us for the testin’ authority—but you already know that. Just take care of yourself, and don’t let Drowd get to you. Chances are he didn’t pass the sort of tests the rest of us did.”

“I mean t’say thet durin’ breakfast t’morra,” Holter replied with a grin. “Th’ sonuvabitch awready got t’me, an’ now it’s my turn. You take care, you an’ th’ others.”

Vallant simply nodded in an effort to ease the man’s very obvious embarrassment, as though there were anything wrong with being concerned about people you liked. Holter matched his nod and then left, clearly reluctant to return to his new group but having no choice in the matter. Vallant had almost offered to trade places with him, but there was no sense in disturbing the man even more. The testing authority would never allow them to switch places, even though Vallant wouldn’t have minded in the least.

Hahahaha, lies.

quote:

Or at least wouldn’t have minded much. His mood wasn’t likely to lighten no matter what he did, so there was no sense in not helping out a friend. Ah well, it would probably all be over soon for all of them…

Being in Vallant's head is really boring when he's not being a sexist rear end in a top hat or having murderous rage fantasies in a sexist rear end in a top hat way. What does that say about him?

quote:

Vallant waited another moment before following Holter out, having no more use for the facilities than the smaller man had. If that servant had known Vallant’s talent was Water magic, he would certainly have wondered why Vallant needed to go to the facilities. Simply knowing where they were would have been enough, but some Water magic users were too fastidious to relieve themselves the easy way. He could always have claimed to be that sort…



quote:

Taking a deep breath before stepping back into the ballroom didn’t help, but Vallant did it anyway. All he wanted to know at the moment was when they’d be allowed to leave. He wanted out of there, even if it meant leaving the ladies behind. Neither of them really needed him, especially not that particular lady, so there was no reason to feel reluctant. No, he would not be abandoning her—them, not in the least…

Green sucks at writing people lying to themselves.

quote:

* * *

Delin saw Kambil making his way back to the group, and it was fairly clear where the man had been. A touch of annoyance fleeted through his mind at having been disobeyed, but maybe Kambil had had a reason to approach Mardimil sooner than he’d been told to. Delin would wait to hear what Kambil had to say before pointing out the man’s error.

This is the only good paragraph of introspection that Green has written in the last dozen or so chapters. I wish she would do it more often.

It's not even that good; all that is remarkable about it is the deliberate word choice of "disobeyed" in reference to Kambil, coupled with the fact he intends to point out Kambil's error anyway regardless of whatever reason Kambil gives. It reveals how Delin secretly thinks of the power dynamics in this group and of his own beneficence.

Read in context of the entire book, it basically goes unnoticed, since she's used a sledgehammer in the past of painting Delin like a cartoon villain who sits in his lair cackling like a maniac about being the true leader of the group and when he'll rule the world.

But it's still rare enough that I wish someone had pointed out to Green that she should write more like this and less of...everything else.

quote:

“Well, my part of it is finished,” Kambil said once he stopped beside Delin. “Mardimil has changed since I knew him last, and he actually figured out what I was doing. Needless to say, he parted with no information beyond the contention that the commoners have been treating him extremely well.”

“As if we believe that,” Delin returned with a sound of ridicule. “But possibly you would have gotten a bit farther if you’d waited until later to approach Mardimil. As I suggested earlier.”

“I thought the same at first, but a moment’s consideration changed my mind,” Kambil countered with a dismissive wave of his hand. “I approached him to begin with because of the unstable state of mind he happened to be in, but it turned out to be something other than a general instability. Generally he’s gained a remarkable amount of self control, and that ridiculous stuffiness he always used to show has disappeared entirely. After speaking with him, I’m sorry we can’t find a way to make him a member of our group.”

It's like Rion got an entire personality makeover in less than 2 weeks!

quote:

“I find it hard to believe that the man has changed so much,” Delin said with a frown, partially diverted from his annoyance. “His attitude of superiority used to be unbearable, especially since there was nothing to base it on. You believe he would do more for our efforts than Selendi could?”

“There’s no doubt about it,” Kambil said, his nod very certain. “I had the impression that ‘good enough’ would never satisfy him the way it does her, and he could very well be stronger. I wonder if there’s any way we could have him transferred to us that wouldn’t arouse everyone’s suspicions.

In an alternate universe, Green actually wrote this plot line into the book instead of leaving it as a hypothetical. And it was so much more interesting!

quote:

Seeing him just thrown away disturbs my habit of avoiding waste.”

“I’ll think about the problem and let you know,” Delin promised, then the last of what Kambil had said really came through. “But what did you mean about him being wasted? Being part of a challenging Blending isn’t quite the same as being thrown away.”

This isn't really the moral high ground Delin thinks it is.

quote:

“In this instance it is,” Kambil disagreed, gesturing behind himself. “Didn’t you see who will be facing Mardimil’s group first? I missed the point myself to begin with,

Way to retcon this Green!

quote:

but his turning me down made me think about it. It seems that the testing authority is taking no chances with the second strongest group of commoners.”

Delin followed the gesture to see the group in gold and blue, but for a moment the sight meant nothing. Then he noticed that most of the group’s members were women, and that meant—

“It’s Adriari’s group,” Delin blurted, surprised in spite of himself. “They’re putting Mardimil’s group up against their pet Blending!”

“Which means the poor sods can’t possibly get past the very first competition,” Kambil agreed, also turning to study Adriari’s group. “The authority can’t be counting on an honest win, not with the opponents chosen for them, so they’ll be using their unmentioned edge. If Mardimil stays in that group, he’ll go down with the rest of them.”

The first time that the threat actually feels credible! And it's delivered completely flat.

quote:

Delin nodded, knowing Kambil spoke nothing but the truth, which probably meant there would turn out to be no possible way to shake Mardimil loose. The authority had everything arranged, and they really hated having their arrangements disturbed … unfortunately for that predoomed group…

And according to Green, this is the satisfying ending to Book 2.

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.

Everybody shows up to the palace, which is "big", lit like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old and has a verandah. Once inside, all of the competing proto-Blendings are positioned like color coded chess pieces. Kambil flatters Rion with a fake offer of switching Blendings in exchange for intel on Tamrissa and co. Thanks to Jovvi, Rion cottons on and turns down the offer–to Kambil's regret, since Rion's group has effectively been consigned to death as they're slated to face, Adriari's Blending: a bunch of Middles pre-selected by the nobility to be the next Seated Five. Meanwhile, Vallant makes contact with Pagin; they exchange intel and contact details.

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: 19 (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, the Seated Five's palace, the ballroom inside the palace

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 24 (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, canapés at the masked reception at the palace)

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: 31 (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, group wearing gold and blue costumes at the ball (Adriari's Blending)
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: 62 (39 in Book 1)
COACH RIDES: 46 (21 in Book 1)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 14 (4 in Book 1)
OTHER MEETINGS: 15 (3 in Book 1)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 62 (31 in Book 1)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 34 (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:
We're almost there! We just gotta get through the first five chapters of Book 3 and then we can talk about this stupid palace reception fiasco.

Leng fucked around with this message at 04:20 on Mar 17, 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


Book Three: Challenges



The blurb:

quote:

The competition has begun. The band of five which best combines elemental magics into the most powerful alchemy will be chosen to win the throne and ward off doom for the kingdom. But the stakes are much higher than anyone suspects.

Actually, the stakes are pretty much what everyone has suspected since the beginning of Book 1.

quote:

Each magical adept possesses a potent preternatural talent. Stunning Tamrissa is Fire; Vallant the sailor, Water; Jovvi the lissome ex- courtesan, Spirit; farmer Lorand, Earth; and blue-blooded Rion, Air.

also who uses "lissome" to describe someone on the back cover unironically unless you intend this book to be marketed as a bodice ripper? Also also notice how the women are primarily described by their physical attributes/sexual desirability whereas the men are described by their professions/stations (I know Jovvi's profession is mentioned but there is a huge emphasis on the "ex" part of "ex-courtesan" and I'd bet the "courtesan" part was only included because it's related to sexy fun times).

quote:

But their fragile union threatens to disintegrate when Jovvi and Tamrissa discover a secret sensuality that would make their Blending supreme. And the dissension within is nothing compared to the perils assailing the enchanted quintet from competing nobles and judges alike, all determined to see the peasant mages perish. For as they vie for the Palace of Five, the brave but unwary team rushes headlong into desperate danger...and unknowable jeopardy.

And there it is, right on the cover: this is the book where the sex mechanic happens! By the way, the overwrought drama promised in the blurb will not be delivered, what were you thinking, this is a Green book after all.

Book 3 opens with a nothing chapter from Jovvi's POV:

quote:

CHAPTER ONE

Jovvi brushed at the skirt of her costume, a blue that was nicely set off by the silver sequins of the gown’s top, her thoughts filled with faint satisfaction.

Jovvi has to be the only one who's actually HAPPY about these costumes.

quote:

Rion had resisted that noble’s tempting offer all by himself, showing the strength of personality they’d all begun to expect from him. The changes in him had been nothing short of incredible, and even the noble who had tried to get information out of him had been surprised.

Uh, no he didn't? You were shielding him? Like I get that there was a year between the publication of the last book and this one, but seriously?

quote:

The man was a member of one of the noble challenging Blendings, and hadn’t been quite as strong as Jovvi had thought he would be.

and there goes any possibility of suspense.

quote:

She paused to smile encouragingly at a still-nervous Tamrissa, then went back to her musing. Possibly the noble hadn’t been using his full strength in Spirit magic on Rion, and that’s why she’d been able to block his attempts so easily. It would be dangerous to start believing that the nobles weren’t any good, even though it would be nice to think so. That would give her and the others an even better chance to win the Fivefold Throne…

Green: "Oh crap I just went and spoiled the end of this book so I better fix it by making my protagonists point out how absurd it would be that they never encounter anybody who's stronger than them. Yeah, that'll do."

quote:

Sight of Vallant closed that line of thought rather abruptly. Vallant had actually managed to get in touch with Pagin Holter, and the small ex-groom who had originally been in their residence had given Vallant more than the address of his new residence. He’d also found out that the betting on the upcoming competitions was completely one-sided, all the gold having been placed on one or another of the noble groups. That no one was betting on one of the common groups meant those with the gold knew something everyone else didn’t: that the common groups had no chance at all no matter how strong they were.

This is not news to you, Jovvi, you figured this out days ago! This totally undisguised info dump doesn't even bother with character continuity.

quote:

“Is something wrong?” a voice asked, and Jovvi looked up to see Lorand staring down at her. His worry was clear despite the mask hiding most of his features,

You have Spirit magic! It would be clear to you regardless of anything!

quote:

so she smiled at him.

“Nothing more than the usual,” she replied, working to sound more lighthearted than she felt. “Vallant managed to speak to Pagin Holter, and learned from Holter that no one is betting on any of the common challenging Blendings to win. That doesn’t count the ordinary man or woman who bets a few coppers or even a piece of silver. Those with gold to bet are placing it only on the noble groups.”

FFS Green, if you were going to recap this in the dialogue, why was this even in Jovvi's introspection? We're 1 page into Book 3 and we've already had repetition.

quote:

“That doesn’t sound very good,” Lorand said with a frown, his dark eyes filled with disturbance. “It means that they intend to do something to make us lose, and the … ‘smart money’ knows it. Do you think we’ll be able to find a way around whatever it is?”

“First we’ll have to find out what it is,” Jovvi replied, sharing his disturbance.

No kidding, Captain Obvious. If I were Lorand, I would feel so patronized.

quote:

“I don’t expect it to be something simple, like the drugged tea they tried to give us before the qualifying tests, but we’ll still have to keep that in mind. If we eat or drink anything before the competitions, we’ll deserve to lose.”

FORESHADOWING.

quote:

“Is that why they tried so hard to get me to drink that tea?” Lorand asked, now looking surprised. “I hadn’t realized it was drugged… So now I have something else to thank Eskin Drowd for. If I hadn’t seen him there, smirking and expecting me to fail, I probably would have taken the tea.”

Why are we recapping stuff from the BEGINNING of the previous book/real end of Book 1? Like what purpose does this serve other than to reveal that Lorand is oblivious and not suspicious of stuff at all, which we already got from his POV in that rotation of repetitive events?

quote:

“Holter also said that Drowd was added to his residence to replace the man who went insane during that supposed competition,” Jovvi told him, her thoughts now busy with this new point. “From what you said about his very late appearance at the testing and qualifying area, it’s possible they added him to that group without first making him qualify. If so, that suggests something else I don’t like very much.”

“That they don’t care how good or bad one of us is, as long as they have the required number of warm bodies,” Lorand agreed, putting her thoughts into words. “That seems to confirm the theory that we’ll just be there to make the event look good, and the idea is beginning to get me angry. I don’t like having people use me for their own purposes without caring what I want.”

I feel like these books were meant to be doctor's office/hospital waiting room/airline reading material. The kind you read over the space of a year so by the time you finish one you've forgotten what happens in the beginning and then you don't get the next one for another year or so and need the reminder of what happened.

Maybe reader expectations have changed over the decades or something, but I believe recaps should happen outside of the books: the books should just be the story, so that if I binge read them, it flows seamlessly without repetition. These days, I go into a series expecting to either binge read in one go (first time through when I'm unsure of the quality or whether I'll like it), or to re-read the whole series whenever the next instalment comes out (series that I love without reservation only).

Recaps, if needed, can go on websites and be part of marketing stuff.

I know, I know, back in the 1990s people were on dial up and stuff, I do remember those days. Still, I preferred Jordan's approach of including a book summary in the book itself OUTSIDE OF THE ACTUAL CHAPTERS so that readers who needed the recap could read it, and those who didn't and were annoyed by the repetition, could skip it and get straight into the book.

quote:

“But that’s all we can expect from the testing authority,” Jovvi pointed out. “They’re there to make sure their fellow nobles look good when they win, so anything we accomplish will have to be done on our own. That’s one of the reasons I want us to try our best: to get even with the testing authority for treating us so badly. If we actually manage to win, we can tell those cheats to go home and not come back.”

“Right now that’s a better incentive than winning the Throne,” Lorand said with a grin. “Kicking them out after telling them what incompetents they are should also get even for all the people they ganged up on. And the others should enjoy it as much as we will.”

I'm getting flashbacks to that one coach ride with Rion, Jovvi and Tamrissa all going on about how they are all going to be the strongest/the best and all the horrible things they're going to do to people when that happens.

quote:

The laughter they shared had felt wonderful to Jovvi, but after no more than a moment Lorand’s grin faltered and died.

“I … think I’ve bothered you enough,” he said, his gaze no longer meeting hers. “I know you want me to stay away from you, and except for matters involving the group, I mean to do exactly that. I care for you too much to want to see you upset…”

that is not what she said, dude. She just didn't want to be exclusive and marry you.

quote:

He began to turn away then, his thoughts and emotions a roiling mess, and Jovvi found it impossible to let that go on.

“Lorand, don’t,” she said, stopping him with a hand to his arm. “You’ve been incredibly wonderful about understanding how I feel, something most men wouldn’t have found possible.

he didn't understand at all!

quote:

It isn’t you I’m trying to avoid, it’s the uncertainty brought about by your fear of burnout. Uncertainty is something I can’t handle, so you could say we both have problems that need to be worked on. And since we’re both still here, maybe we can work on them together…”

At least this is in character.

quote:

Jovvi hadn’t known she was going to say that, but the hunger she felt for Lorand had been growing stronger rather than fading. He’d come to mean more to her than any other man she’d ever known,

Because authorial reasons, rather than any character driven reasons.

quote:

and a stab of pain flared in her chest when he slowly shook his head.

“I don’t deserve to be made an offer like that,” he said in a choked voice, very deliberately not looking at her. “I thought I’d gotten past the fear of burnout and I felt twelve feet tall—until I discovered that the fear was still right where it had always been. I’m a helpless fool, Jovvi, and I love you too much to saddle you with someone like me. You deserve better, and as long as I stay out of the way I’m sure you’ll get it.”

In Jovvi's worldview, love and casual sex are not mutually exclusive things. Just take the offer!

quote:

This time he did move away, and Jovvi’s frantic thoughts could find nothing to say that would stop him. She’d been the one who had told him how much she needed security in her life, something his fear kept him from giving her. Neither one of them had changed, so there were no words to keep him beside her. Jovvi could look at his tall, broad-shouldered, blond-haired form and ache to have his arms around her again, but finding a way to bring them together again seemed impossible.

Actually, the true hang up is Lorand demanding Jovvi marry him and give up her career and identity in order to be exclusively his wife and mother to his future children.

I really dislike Green's characterization of Jovvi's struggle as a need for security, because she clearly has piles of gold stashed at Tamrissa's house! By Lorand's standards, Jovvi's got a level of financial security beyond belief. It's also incredibly bizarre that despite Green's soapbox about the social need for courtesans, that her main character who is a famous courtesan who enjoys the life is immediately willing to give that all up for a guy she's met for barely a week, because reasons.

quote:

Rather than staring at him where he stood only a few steps away, Jovvi turned to look elsewhere as she fought not to cry.

Yes. Made up drama cliffhanger at the end of this infodump recap laden chapter at the very beginning of Book 3. If you guys are still here and following along, I'm sure you're all feeling the same way I am:

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.

Everybody shows up to the palace, which is "big", lit like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old and has a verandah. Once inside, all of the competing proto-Blendings are positioned like color coded chess pieces. Kambil flatters Rion with a fake offer of switching Blendings in exchange for intel on Tamrissa and co. Thanks to Jovvi, Rion cottons on and turns down the offer–to Kambil's regret, since Rion's group has effectively been consigned to death as they're slated to face, Adriari's Blending: a bunch of Middles pre-selected by the nobility to be the next Seated Five. Meanwhile, Vallant makes contact with Pagin; they exchange intel and contact details. Jovvi and Lorand act like they're star-crossed lovers.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 40 (24 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
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: 19 (9 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
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, the Seated Five's palace, the ballroom inside the palace

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 24 (15 in Book 1; 9 in Book 2)
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, canapés at the masked reception at the palace)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 14 (9 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
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; 13 in Book 2)
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: 31 (11 introduced in Book 1; 20 introduced in Book 2)
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, group wearing gold and blue costumes at the ball (Adriari's Blending)
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: 63 (39 in Book 1; 23 in Book 2)
COACH RIDES: 46 (21 in Book 1; 25 in Book 2)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 14 (4 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
OTHER MEETINGS: 15 (3 in Book 1; 12 in Book 2)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 62 (31 in Book 1; 31 in Book 2)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 35 (18 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
TEA DRINKING: 48 (22 in Book 1; 26 in Book 2)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 24 (19 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 7 (6 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1; 4 in Book 2, including 1 rape scene)

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 fiction writing thread has been discussing dialogue and what I've realized is Green's dialogue sucks because there's never any subtext. Everybody says exactly what they're thinking (especially if they're an antagonist and realistically wouldn't blab about their Evil Plans) and feeling all the time. And given the high proportion of dialogue in these books, just putting subtext in all of the conversations would improve the quality dramatically, without even having to tinker with the stupid plot.

Only 4 chapters to go before we can talk about this stupid palace sequence! They are fairly short chapters in the scheme of things so I think we'll be done by the end of next week or early the week after (and thank goodness for that because I think we all need a break).

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWO 

Rion didn’t deliberately listen to the conversation between Jovvi and Lorand Coll, but he wasn’t so far away that not hearing it would have been possible.

I don't think Green's ever been to a party before. Because if you've positioned a group of five people and asked them to stay in one spot, and there's no food or drink to distract them, normally everyone just gathers in a loose circle, instead of whatever Green's got going on here.

On second thought, maybe they're all just socially distancing. Not because there's a pandemic on, but because they're not actually real people.

quote:

It could have become a matter of embarrassment if either of them had noticed, but both seemed too wrapped in pain to see the trivial. Which Rion could understand, once he thought about it for a moment. Jovvi and Coll had been attracted to one another almost from the first moment they’d all entered the residence. They were the last two people Rion would have expected to have trouble between them, but it had happened anyway. Tamrissa and Vallant Ro had spent more time disagreeing than getting along, so the coolness between those two was perfectly understandable,

And if all of these "adults" would just COMMUNICATE with each other, we wouldn't be sitting here reading about their totally uninteresting relationship drama.

quote:

but—

Rion’s thoughts on personal interaction came to a sudden halt, shoved aside by an abrupt and unpleasant idea. He considered it alone for a moment, then moved over to where Vallant Ro stood. Ro glanced at him, then shook his head with a small grimace.

“That wasn’t any fun to overhear,” Ro said softly, clearly knowing Rion would understand his meaning. “Someone might think I’m glad not to be the only one with woman trouble, but that isn’t so. Those two are too decent for anyone to be enjoyin’ their pain.”

“I agree,” Rion answered just as softly with a nod. “They shouldn’t be having that problem,

NO KIDDING!?

quote:

but speaking of problems, I think we all have one. Do you remember when Holter said he’d never be chosen over you to round out our group because he didn’t belong? We were in the coach coming back from practice at the time.”

“Of course I remember,” Ro agreed, his brows raised behind the mask. “What about it?”

“It just occurred to me that he was beginning to belong, and that could be why he was transferred to another residence,” Rion replied slowly, searching for the proper words of explanation. “A short while ago, a former acquaintance of mine came over to … chat. He’s a member of one of the noble challenging Blendings, and what he most wanted to chat about was Tamrissa’s weak points. He said something about Fire being the most important aspect in a Blending.”

Which does bring up the point that I didn't discuss in the earlier chapter: how does Kambil know about this? Is it common knowledge among the nobility (if so, Bron surely should be more aggressive about it and Rion should know about it) and if not, how did Kambil find out?

quote:

“I think I see what you’re gettin’ at,” Ro said after a moment, his brow furrowed in thought. “Holter was gettin’ along with Tamrissa and I’m not, and that’s why I was the one who stayed. I told her once that she and I had to be close or the Blendin’ wouldn’t work, and at the time I thought it was somethin’ I made up. Looks like I might have been tellin’ the truth after all.”

“I’m afraid so,” Rion agreed, still disturbed by the idea. “We knew that the testing authority was doing its best to sabotage us, and now we seem to have discovered one of its methods. I wonder just how important this will turn out to be.”

“If that noble was questionin’ you about it, the answer’s probably, very important,” Ro replied, his frown beginning to look permanent. “The next answer we need is what to do about it, but that one’s not as easy to find.”

Rion felt the urge to say that it wasn’t as difficult as Ro seemed to think, but he held the words back as a struggling understanding of Ro’s position forced its way to his notice. Rion liked Tamrissa and had no trouble getting along with her, but Ro couldn’t say the same—at least not about the getting along part. The matter might turn out to be even more of a problem than Rion had first imagined.

The conversation with Ro might have gone on a bit longer,

I can't imagine why.

quote:

but a definite stir in the crowd took their attention. Rion joined everyone else in looking toward the entrance doors, and saw that someone of apparently great importance had just arrived. It was also possible to see that another common challenging Blending had arrived earlier, the members of which, in silver and orange, now stood closer to the entrance than their own group did.

People swirled around the new arrivals, but when they approached the group in silver and orange it was possible to see the ones who had been surrounded. There were five of them, all dressed in white, which told Rion that the Seated Blending had arrived. The Blending always wore white for formal public appearances, and Eltrina Razas, their residence’s testing authority representative, wasn’t far from the Five. She seemed to be introducing the participants in silver and orange, most of whom looked nervous and awed despite their masks.

“It looks like we’ll be next,” Ro commented from Rion’s right. “I know this is supposed to be a great privilege, but if they passed us by I would not sit down and start cryin’.”

“Nor I,” Rion agreed, oddly pleased to find that his groupmate seemed less impressionable than the fools in the orange group. He’d never been as close to the Five as Mother was and therefore hadn’t had much to do with them, but he’d seen them from a distance on more than one occasion. They’d seemed as petty and vicious as any other noble, and he’d never really wanted a closer acquaintanceship.

I'd like a flashback from young Rion meeting the Seated Blending; that would have been a much better prologue to the series than the one we got.

quote:

But that didn’t stop the entire entourage from heading for them. Tamrissa moved to Jovvi’s side as the crowd approached, Coll came to stand on Rion’s left, and then all three men drifted a bit closer to the ladies. Personal difficulties or not, they were a group who had begun to support each other automatically. Eltrina Razas hurried ahead of the very important newcomers, and when she reached the group she wore a frown.

“Will you people stop looking as though you’re about to be attacked?” she hissed, annoyance and a touch of being harried clear in her manner. “You’re going to be introduced to the Five, not set in opposition against them. Smile!”

Did Eltrina just expect them to stand all spread out?

quote:

Obeying her own order about smiling, Eltrina turned just in time to greet the arrival of the entourage. Most of the Five looked bored and sullen, leaving all of the interacting to Damilla Sytoss, their Water magic member.

“And this, Excellencies, is the second group,” Eltrina purred in a sleekly burbling way that Rion had seen others use many times before.

Can anyone make sense of how Eltrina is supposed to sound like? If I wrote "purr in a sleekly burbling way" as a direction in a stage play/musical, I'm pretty sure any actor worth their salt would just cross it out.

(in fact, a director once told me that's how actors and directors treat stage directions by default)

quote:

“In order, they are Tamrissa Domon, Fire magic, Jovvi Hafford, Spirit magic, Lorand Coll, Earth magic, Clarion Mardimil, Air magic, and Vallant Ro, Water magic. They’re—”

“That’s Rion Mardimil, not Clarion,” Rion interrupted to correct, ignoring Eltrina’s immediate outrage and the expressions of startlement on most of the Five.

Atta boy. Hallina's related to three of the Seated Blending, so she's definitely gonna have a heart attack over this.

quote:

“If you insist on doing this, you can at least make an effort to get it right.”

“How dare you speak to us like that?” Eltrina gasped, now reddening with embarrassment. “Haven’t you learned yet that you’re of no consequence whatsoever? You—”

“Nonsense,” Jovvi took her turn at interrupting, adding to Eltrina’s fury. “If he—and the rest of us—are of no consequence at all, why are we here and going through this farce? You really can’t have it both ways, you know.”

“The girl is quite right, Eltrina,” Damilla Sytoss said with a grin, also interrupting the testing authority representative. “These people aren’t of no consequence, not when they’ll be formed into a challenging Blending at the start of the new week. I was supposed to have the pleasure of telling you that, my dears, but obviously you already knew. That leaves me nothing to do but congratulate you and wish you luck, and yet that’s actually quite enough. Perhaps we’ll meet again when the last of the competitions is over.”

Her smile showed too much amusement for that final word of encouragement to have much meaning,

What? That last sentence seems to make sense, until you really look at it, and then it just doesn't.

quote:

and then they were all drifting on toward the next group in silver and yellow. All but Eltrina, that is, who gestured to a young man to hurry ahead and be ready to make the introductions,

I think this might be Embisson's son, Lord Ophin Ruhl, who will appear later in this book.

quote:

while she lingered for a moment with another purpose in mind.

“I meant to pass on this news earlier, but with the group in orange arriving late I simply couldn’t manage it.” The one Eltrina addressed was Jovvi, and the older woman’s expression had turned to one of sly satisfaction. “That person from your home town and her two cohorts—they were arrested today, and a special session of court will be held tomorrow at which they will be tried and sentenced. Attempting to kidnap a participant in these competitions brings fearful penalties if convicted, which I have no doubt they will be. We won’t need your testimony, but you may attend if you like. The particulars are here.”

She thrust a folded sheet of paper at Jovvi, then hurried off after the entourage with an almost gleeful step. Rion didn’t understand why that was until he saw Jovvi’s pallor and the way she held the paper crumpled in her fist. Clearly she was disturbed by what she’d been told, and Tamrissa put an arm about her shoulders.

Actually quite nice of Eltrina to save this news for AFTER they were paraded around in front of the Seated Five. And I don't blame Eltrina for being mad, because Jovvi just gave her loads of attitude in front of the supreme rulers of all Gandistra, which for an ambitious person is worse than death.

quote:

“That was a disgusting thing for her to do,” Tamrissa commiserated while patting Jovvi’s hands. “She wanted to get you upset, and used the one way she could be sure of. I wonder how they found out about the kidnapping attempt.”

When Jovvi simply shook her head, Ro stirred where he stood to Rion’s right.

“There were servants bringin’ you food and drink when you told me about it in the dinin’ room,” Ro said in a musing way. “If that was the only time you mentioned it in the house, that must be when it was overheard. And I’ll bet the bitch expected you to blame one of us for informin’. Anythin’ to drive us as far apart as possible.”

“Yes, you’re probably right,” Jovvi agreed after taking a deep breath, obviously working to pull herself together. “I hate the idea of getting anyone involved with the authorities and the courts, and my feelings must have been perfectly clear.”

“For all we know, the servant listening could have had Spirit magic,” Tamrissa pointed out, exasperated annoyance clear. “Talk about taking unfair advantage!

But they'd probably be Lows or Middles, so it wouldn't actually make any difference!

quote:

We’ll have to be a bit more careful from now on, but in the meantime, what are you going to do? You don’t have to attend the trial, you know…”

“Actually, I do,” Jovvi said, her sigh filled with resignation. “I know I’m not responsible for Allestine’s stupidities, but I still need to be there to find out what happens to her.

Correction: the author needs you to be there so she can engage in convenient info dumping for plot purposes! Jovvi as a character doesn't give a whit about Allestine and has never once thought of the woman fondly, so would not actually want to go.

quote:

I just wonder why they don’t need me to testify. How else can they get the details of what happened?”

Use Spirit magic?

I mean, wait.

Foreshadowing!

quote:

“Personally, I’d like some details about what happened,” Coll put in, his brow creased with disturbance. “And am I the only one who didn’t know about this?”

“I hadn’t heard about it either,” Rion said, which calmed Coll’s intense stare to a small degree. “Would someone like to inform us now?”

Green: "This happened almost a whole book ago, I need to find some way of shoehorning in yet another recap!"

quote:

“That woman Allestine, who ran the residence where Jovvi was a courtesan, tried to kidnap her after one of the practice sessions,” Tamrissa said when Jovvi herself hesitated. “She and those two bullies forced Jovvi into a coach, and were going to drag her back to the town she came from. Jovvi used her talent to stop them, and that’s why she was so exhausted the night you and I helped Rion, Lorand. That’s probably also why you didn’t know. There were too many other things going on to remember about an attempt that didn’t work.”

“Yes, you’re right about us being involved in other things,” Coll agreed, most of the intensity now gone from him.

It's like Green writes all of these conversations with a checklist:
  • Character A demands to know something
  • Character B summarizes an event that took place over two chapters in a few sentences, and makes a concluding remark
  • Character A concedes/agrees with the concluding remark, for no reason other than to agree with Character B

quote:

“And if Jovvi didn’t want the authorities to find out about it, I can understand why no one discussed it. But I’d also like to know why they don’t need her to testify.”

Green: "Oops, putting the recap in kind of derailed the chapter, how do I get back to where I needed to go? Oh I guess I'll just have Lorand make a U-turn in the conversation."

quote:

“Probably because it’s a criminal trial,” Ro put in when everyone else either shrugged or shook their head. “I saw part of one once, when a member of my crew was involved, and they don’t have anyone testifyin’ but the people who are accused. They get the truth out of them somehow, because my crewman was cleared.”

Vallant: "My turn to interject with a random anecdote that adds nothing to either our understanding of the world building, the plot, my character or any other characters, because my author forgot to show that I'm supposed to be a well-traveled and worldly kind of guy and thought this would be a handy way of doing that."

quote:

“I expect I’ll find out all about it tomorrow,” Jovvi said, her smile still on the weak side. “Right now I’d like to tell you all how wonderful you are, working so hard to make me feel better.



quote:

And we still haven’t even discussed that official announcement. It’s now no longer a secret that we’ll be a challenging Blending.”

Because it was bloody obvious.

quote:

“No, and I wonder how many of the groups had the nerve to tell them, rather than wait to be told,” Rion said, glad to help change the subject.

Yes, yes, you're all such very brave, wonderful Heroes.

quote:

“Damilla considered the matter amusing, but her sense of humor has become notorious over the years. Her Blendingmates seemed more annoyed.”

“They’re annoyed about this entire affair,” Jovvi supplied, her smile slightly better now. “They hate being put on parade like a team of dressed up horses, but they had no more choice about coming tonight than we did.

Honestly, the whole power regime in Gandistra is extremely problematic with succession planning. It's a fixed term pentonarchy based on magical prowess as determined in an arena based magical competition. Most empires/kingdoms try to aim for a peaceful transfer of power to the successor(s), and this strikes me as anything but. Like what's to stop the reigning Blending from competing again if they really are the strongest? What if the next generation of talents suck (both magically and as potential leaders) and there's no worthy heirs?

quote:

And I couldn’t help noticing that their Spirit magic user hadn’t even the most tenuous hold on the power. What about the others?”

Rion had to think only for a moment before he realized that the same was true of the Air magic user. Keeping a touch on the power had become automatic with him, but apparently the Air magic member of the Seated Five didn’t do the same.

“The woman doin’ all the talkin’ for them flexed her talent for a moment,” Ro offered with a shrug. “It was when Mardimil said his piece, and she seemed to be reactin’ to that. But it wasn’t a very strong response, and then it died away again completely.”

“And she was the only one?” Jovvi asked, looking around to get everyone’s nod of agreement. “Now isn’t that strange. I’d have to really work at it to sever myself completely from the power, and I’m certain the rest of you are in the same position. So why does the reigning Five do it differently? Because there’s a danger in maintaining contact that we don’t know about, or…”

Or because the members of the Five are so ordinary, they never should have been seated. Rion finished Jovvi’s uncompleted sentence silently, and judging by their expressions the others were doing the same. Both parts of that speculation gave them something to think about … as though they needed any more…

There shouldn't be any need for this cliffhanger, because as we've seen/will see being in touch with the power lets you sense the strength of other people with the same aspect who are also touching the power at the same time! So not-spoilers: (because you've all figured this out by now) Vallant should be able to point blank tell them all right now that Damilla is just a Middle, which would give them all confirmation that the rest of her Blending are also Middles.



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.

Everybody shows up to the palace, which is "big", lit like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old and has a verandah. Once inside, all of the competing proto-Blendings are positioned like color coded chess pieces. Kambil flatters Rion with a fake offer of switching Blendings in exchange for intel on Tamrissa and co. Thanks to Jovvi, Rion cottons on and turns down the offer–to Kambil's regret, since Rion's group has effectively been consigned to death as they're slated to face, Adriari's Blending: a bunch of Middles pre-selected by the nobility to be the next Seated Five. Meanwhile, Vallant makes contact with Pagin; they exchange intel and contact details. Jovvi and Lorand act like they're star-crossed lovers. The Seated Five makes the rounds to meet all of the competing Blendings and both Rion and Jovvi mouth off to Eltrina in front of them. Eltrina tells Jovvi that Allestine and her minions will be tried for attempting to kidnap of a High practitioner tomorrow.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 41 (24 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
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
Book 3: Damilla Sytoss

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 19 (9 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
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, the Seated Five's palace, the ballroom inside the palace

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 24 (15 in Book 1; 9 in Book 2)
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, canapés at the masked reception at the palace)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 14 (9 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
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; 13 in Book 2)
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: 31 (11 introduced in Book 1; 20 introduced in Book 2)
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, group wearing gold and blue costumes at the ball (Adriari's Blending)
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: 64 (39 in Book 1; 23 in Book 2)
COACH RIDES: 46 (21 in Book 1; 25 in Book 2)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 14 (4 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
OTHER MEETINGS: 15 (3 in Book 1; 12 in Book 2)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 62 (31 in Book 1; 31 in Book 2)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 36 (18 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
TEA DRINKING: 48 (22 in Book 1; 26 in Book 2)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 24 (19 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 7 (6 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1; 4 in Book 2, including 1 rape scene)

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:
An entire useless chapter to "officially confirm" something that's already been confirmed repeatedly for the last two books. Only three more of these to go before we can discuss fixing this whole sequence.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER THREE 

Delin Moord stood watching the Five making the round of introductions to the commoners, his expression carefully free of what his mind felt. Those five people represented the most power it was possible to have, the highest social and political positions, the ultimate in safety and independence. He needed all that to be his, his and his group’s, and there was nothing he would refuse to do in order to satisfy that need. Nothing whatsoever…

You are so lucky that nobody with Spirit magic remains in contact with the power, other than Jovvi. This one little conditioning thing allows Green to just basically pretend her magic system isn't there whenever it's convenient.

quote:

“Now isn’t that interesting,” Kambil Arstin murmured from Delin’s left, also watching the Five. The Blending had paused in front of the peasants in silver and blue, the group meant to be first to face—and lose to—the Advisors’ chosen noble Blending.

“What is there to find interesting?” Delin asked languidly, automatically covering his annoyance with Kambil. The man was the only other member of the group Delin could depend on to be really effective where subtlety was concerned,

Hahahaha, neither of you are particularly subtle. Like you could say that spoilers for this book Kambil's puppeteering of his Blending is subtle except that we just saw Kambil in action and it was the complete opposite of subtle.

quote:

but that didn’t mean he liked him. Anyone who made cryptic comments without immediately explaining them had to consider himself superior on one level or another.

“What was interesting was the combined reaction of the entire Blending,” Kambil answered without looking away from the Five, who were now moving on toward the third peasant group. “Something that was said surprised them, and it wasn’t a pleasant surprise. Damilla is the one doing all the talking, and she shifted rather quickly to being amused. I think we both know what that means.”

“It means she was picturing someone being hurt, most probably badly hurt,” Delin replied at once.

this is not how you do two people talking about insider knowledge, Green. Besides the large swathes of butler and maid dialogue, there are so many smaller examples of this all over the place–this particular instance being case in point.

quote:

“I wonder if she intends to continue indulging her private pleasures once her Blending has been retired. If so, we may be asked to take action against her.”

“With her strong habit of being discreet, I doubt we’ll have the problem,” Kambil returned with amusement. “Everyone knows what she’s like, but I’ve never heard anyone claim to have seen her doing it. Now that we’re discussing it, I wonder if it’s true after all.”

“You think she encouraged the rumors for her own reasons?” Delin asked in startlement, suddenly realizing that what Kambil had said was true. “That could very well be the truth. If you want to keep people from trying to take advantage of you, the first step is to make them afraid of you.

This reveal about Damilla is not going to be relevant whatsoever, other than for Green to set up the strawman for her moralizing.

quote:

I wouldn’t have expected such clear and intelligent thinking from a woman.”

“You’d be wise not to judge all women by Selendi and—the other women you know,” Kambil advised, his words and tone gentle. “Underestimating people can and does lead to disaster, and with our current undertaking we’ll do well to avoid as much obvious disaster as possible.”

How the hell does a work of fiction manage to feel so preachy? Like I don't disagree with these sentiments but every time I run across one of these things I just get so annoyed with the books.

quote:

Delin murmured neutral agreement, but on the inside his mind seethed. Was Kambil really lecturing him, the true leader of their group? The fool had some nerve trying to tell him how to behave, not to mention diplomatically holding back on what he’d originally meant to say. He’d intended to mention Selendi and Delin’s mother as examples, and at the last instant had changed his mind. Delin had caught the hesitation, and fiercely resented having the point brought up even obliquely.

Because Delin’s mother was even worse than Selendi. Lady Talvine Moord had never had an original thought in her life, and paid attention only to what her husband told her. She doted on the man as the force which powered her own life, and put him and his wishes above everything else in the world—including her children. Delin could still remember that first time with his father, a small boy terrified of what would be done to him. He’d run to his mother, expecting to be protected, but his mother had smiled vaguely and turned her back, pretending she saw nothing of the way her husband dragged her sobbing son back with him…

Delin shuddered as he always did at that memory, the one that returned to him time and again in dreams. It had been his first experience with his father’s ways but not his last, and to this day Delin couldn’t imagine himself standing up to the man. Even though they stood eye to eye physically and Delin’s talent was worlds stronger, the least thought of disobeying the man sent Delin into a trembling funk. Challenging the man simply wasn’t possible, not on any level whatsoever. Being out of his house and in a position where he couldn’t simply be ordered back was an incredible relief, but Delin still needed more…

And there's Delin's tragic backstory.

From which we are meant to draw the conclusion that child abuse is bad, because it makes the children Evil People who get off on murder.

Unless you're one of the protagonists.



quote:

“Delin,” Kambil hissed, and Delin looked up to find that he’d fallen into the blackout time of his memories again. More time had passed than he’d expected, and the Five’s entourage was leaving the vicinity of Adriari Fant’s group and heading toward his own. He’d thought they would only have the peasants introduced to them, but apparently everyone was to be given the “honor.”

Well it'd be pretty suspicious otherwise, wouldn't it?

quote:

“And here is the next to last group,” Hiblit Rahms said as the entourage approached, his speech and mannerisms distinct despite the costume and mask he wore. Hiblit had replaced Rigos as the one in charge of the noble challenging Blendings when Rigos had been arrested for the murder of Elfini Weil, and at first Delin had been delighted to have someone other than Rigos assigned to watch them. Delin’s group wasn’t meant to win the Fivefold Throne, Adriari’s group had been chosen for that, but Delin and his groupmates meant to forcibly change that decision. Rigos would have seen what they were up to and would have reported them immediately, but Rigos’s replacement wasn’t likely to be as observant or vindictive.

And Hiblit was completely different, only not in a way that would prove beneficial to Delin and the others. There was something seriously wrong with the man, in that he moved as though his clothes were filled with pins that constantly stuck into him, and he never made eye contact with those he spoke to. He merely recited what he’d obviously been told to say, and had even refused a simple cup of tea because he “wasn’t allowed” to eat or drink anywhere but at home. That statement had been made without any visible emotions, but Kambil, who was their Spirit talent, said the man was twisted impossibly tight on the inside. Not only would Hiblit never take a bribe to ignore what Delin’s group would be doing, but he’d certainly even report the bribe attempt itself.

Yet another recap.

quote:

“The people in this group are as follows,” Hiblit said as the Five’s entourage stopped in front of them, his tone distant and his gaze fixed on some invisible object in the distance. “Lord Bron Kallan, Fire magic, Lord Kambil Arstin, Spirit magic, Lord Delin Moord, Earth magic, Lady Selendi Vas, Air magic, and Lord Homin Weil, Water magic. The empire greatly appreciates their cooperation in this matter.”

“Of course it does,” Damilla Sytoss said with one of her enigmatic smiles, clearly ignoring the emotionlessness of the recital Hiblit had made. “We all appreciate their cooperation. And how is your father, Lord Homin? Recovering from his ordeal, I trust?”

“He—he’s gone to our country house to recuperate, Excellency,” Homin stuttered in answer, obviously startled to be personally addressed. Then the fat little man startled Delin by pulling himself together and rising to the occasion. “When I see him again, I’ll be sure to mention that you asked after him.”

“Yes, please do,” Damilla told him with a wider smile, and then they were all moving on toward the last of the noble groups. Hiblit led the way, but Delin had the feeling that the man walked alone through a completely private world.

“Wasn’t that impressive?” Selendi cooed, and Delin turned to see that she’d taken Homin’s arm. “The only one of us spoken to directly was Homin, and I was the one standing right next to him.”

“What do you think that makes you?” Bron commented with a snort of ridicule while Homin’s flabby chest swelled with Selendi’s praise. “Most of us were standing next to him, and I certainly didn’t even see him turned magically into someone important. He’s the same short, fat—”

Except that spoilers for this book his mind has been hijacked by Kambil

quote:

“Bron, I need your help,” Delin interrupted immediately, before the fool could finish insulting Homin and starting a fight. “You know we still have to talk to the group we’ll be facing in the first competition, and since you’re our leader I have to ask your advice. Will you step over to one side with me for a moment?”

“Oh, all right,” Bron grudged, obviously unhappy about being torn away from the sport of picking on the helpless, but still willing to go. So far he’d always responded to the nonsense about his being the group’s leader, although from the sneers of derision on the faces of Selendi and Homin, Bron was the only one who still believed the lie. And would probably continue to believe it no matter what anyone said, as long as the ploy wasn’t used to extremes. Bron was truly stupid, but even the terminally stupid eventually saw the light if it was shined in their eyes often enough.

Delin led the way to a spot a short distance away from the others, then he began to fabricate the problem he wanted Bron’s “help” with. He was in the midst of mentioning the obvious, that the first group they would face was composed of three men and two women, when an interruption came. But not an ordinary interruption, and Delin turned with Bron and everyone else to watch what was happening in the middle of the dance floor.

Oh look, here it is, finally the point of this whole sequence!

quote:

At first the only thing happening was Hiblit Rahms standing there in the midst of everyone and screaming. Head thrown back, eyes closed tight, fists held up and clenched, Hiblit looked like a tortured soul in the Caverns of the Damned.

The Caverns of the Damned are never mentioned again! It's unclear whether this is another term for the Deep Caverns (a.k.a. Demon Caverns) or whether these are the in-world equivalent to hell.

quote:

His screams sent a chill through Delin, and he could see he wasn’t alone in feeling that way. All the people who had been dancing were backing away from the man, most of them with shudders of fear. The scream was like that, something to bring unknown and unexplained fear to all those who heard it.

I would feel a lot more scared if there was more description of the quality of the scream, rather than being told that it is scary, so scary that people are backing away in fear and shuddering with fear because it is so fearful that it strikes fear into the hearts of all within hearing distance.

Did I mention fear?

quote:

“What’s wrong with him?” Bron demanded unsteadily in a low voice. “Why is he doing that, and why doesn’t someone stop him?”

Bron’s bewilderment was clear, but this time Delin felt that it wasn’t stupidity making the man say what he had. He, too, wished someone would stop Hiblit, most especially as he himself seemed helpless to accomplish the task. To stop the man one would have to go close to him, and somehow Delin was certain that even his talent would be fouled if he sent it to touch the screaming man.

This reaction is just weird AF.

quote:

Obviously Kambil had been right about how tightly strung Hiblit was on the inside.

And then others began to scream as small gouts of flame erupted to life in more than half a dozen places. Some of the places were the clothing of those people still closest to Hiblit, and the rest described a circle of sorts around the screaming man. Almost a protective circle, Delin thought, one meant to keep people from reaching Hiblit. Guardsmen had come rushing in from the hall when the screams first began, and now they stood with members of the Five’s personal guard, clearly at a loss about what to do.

In this universe, EVERYBODY is capable of wielding elemental magical talents! How is "somebody with Fire magic loses control" not like the FIRST risk in the palace guard training manual?

quote:

“Look at that,” Bron said, pointing to a woman whose costume skirt had begun to blaze. “The flames just went out, and the skirt isn’t even singed. It looks like all the clothing fires have been put out, and now the ring around Hiblit is being extinguished. Damned strong talent, whoever he is. I can feel the vibrations in the power without needing to reach out.”

this is also never mentioned again, so I had completely forgotten it!

quote:

“Reaching out might be a good idea,” Delin said, trying not to snarl through his teeth. “It would help to know who has a talent that strong, especially if the person turns out to be a member of one of the peasant groups. Give it a try, Bron, and tell me what you learn.”

“Oh, all right,” the mindless fool grumbled, as though the point were completely unimportant. Everyone in the room had probably reached for the power automatically, even those with minimal talent. It was a reflex of self protection in which Delin had fully participated, but awareness of the power used by someone of a different aspect wasn’t possible. Only same aspect awareness worked, and anyone but an imbecile like Bron would already know the source of the great strength he’d mentioned.

This is a weird and arbitrary limitation Green put in her magic system but at least she is consistent about it throughout all 8 books.

quote:

“It’s gone now,” the imbecile announced after a moment with a dismissive shrug. “He put out all the fires then released the power, so I can’t tell who it was. But it was probably Edril Lanton, the Five’s Fire magic user. It’s certainly something he should have done.”

Delin limited himself to a noncommittal grunt as he felt the Earth magic members of the guard begin to exert magical force on Hiblit, but on the inside he was furious. Edril Lanton was as lazy and unimaginative as Bron, so he was probably the last—after Bron—to have wielded his talent. It might even have been Adriari showing off for her group, the group that the Advisors meant to have Seated this time, but now Delin would never know. And all because Bron was such an incredible ignoramus…!

“They’ve put him to sleep, for all the good it’s done,” Kambil’s voice came as the man stopped beside Delin. “Those little noises he’s making mean he’s still screaming even though he’s unconscious. I have a feeling we’ll be getting another new agent … and I’m curious about who put those fires out. Would you like to ask Bron, or shall I?”

“I already have, and he doesn’t know,” Delin growled, finding controlling his anger almost beyond him. “He said a large amount of strength was being used, but didn’t bother to find out who was using it. By the time he tried, the user stopped. I’m now wondering if it was Adriari, showing off to everyone without putting the arrogance into words.”

“If it was, we may have a problem,” Kambil murmured as Delin watched the guard members carefully carrying Hiblit out. “I couldn’t sense the amount of power being used myself, of course, but I also couldn’t miss the fact that no one and nothing was actually burned. Both clothing and flesh should have been charred, and that it wasn’t can only be attributed to the user’s quick response and greater than ordinary ability.”

“Faster and better than Bron, you mean,” Delin murmured back, the very important point pushing his anger aside. “It won’t be possible to get the results from the testing of Adriari’s group no matter how much gold we try to offer, so we might be wisest assuming the worst. If Adriari is stronger than Bron, we certainly do have a problem.”

So Adriari is a Fire talent? Also how does Delin not have any idea that Adriari's group are Middles? Like you don't need their test results to do that, because presumably you know who these people are and have known them your whole lives? And can you guys honestly not think of any other methods at your disposal other than bribery? You're HIGH TALENTS.

quote:

“One which would be less troublesome if we didn’t have to face her group,” Kambil agreed with a sigh. “But it’s foolish to think about that, as there’s only one way we can avoid facing them. That way isn’t at all practical, so we’ll have to think of a way that is.”

Delin was about to ask what the impractical way was, when the answer suddenly became clear. If Adriari’s group lost in the first set of competitions, Delin’s group would be able to forget about them. But that would mean having the peasants defeat them, which wasn’t about to happen. The Advisors had made certain that the peasants couldn’t defeat them…

Various ideas fleeted through Delin’s mind, their appearance and disappearance like the flickering flame of a candle. There was a way to let the peasants win after all, and the thought of having to face them later with his own group caused not the slightest bit of worry. He and his people were good enough to defeat any peasants, especially if they happened to have personal problems. Delin decided to look into the matter, and then he’d make his final decision…

And behold, how Facts and Logic are impossible for antagonists to wield! This is not rock, paper, scissors; if you don't think you can beat Adriari's Blending in a magical contest, how do you think you're going to beat the group that beats them? And if your basis for your superiority are your bloodlines, then how does that not apply to Adriari's Blending?



The real reason is because spoilers for this book Green needs a way for her protagonists to get free of the mind control drug they were given back in Book 1 without have to do any work themselves, hence Delin needs to go off and drop some information in their literal laps at Kambil's prompting.



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.

Everybody shows up to the palace, which is "big", lit like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old and has a verandah. Once inside, all of the competing proto-Blendings are positioned like color coded chess pieces. Kambil flatters Rion with a fake offer of switching Blendings in exchange for intel on Tamrissa and co. Thanks to Jovvi, Rion cottons on and turns down the offer–to Kambil's regret, since Rion's group has effectively been consigned to death as they're slated to face, Adriari's Blending: a bunch of Middles pre-selected by the nobility to be the next Seated Five. Meanwhile, Vallant makes contact with Pagin; they exchange intel and contact details. Jovvi and Lorand act like they're star-crossed lovers. The Seated Five makes the rounds to meet all of the competing Blendings and both Rion and Jovvi mouth off to Eltrina in front of them. Eltrina tells Jovvi that Allestine and her minions will be tried for attempting to kidnap of a High practitioner tomorrow.

Towards the end of the Seated Five's rounds, Hiblit loses control and starts throwing fire around, until a mysterious and very powerful Fire talent smothers all the flames.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 42 (24 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
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
Book 3: Damilla Sytoss, Edril Lanton

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 19 (9 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
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, the Seated Five's palace, the ballroom inside the palace

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 24 (15 in Book 1; 9 in Book 2)
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, canapés at the masked reception at the palace)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 14 (9 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
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; 13 in Book 2)
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: 31 (11 introduced in Book 1; 20 introduced in Book 2)
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, group wearing gold and blue costumes at the ball (Adriari's Blending)
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: 65 (39 in Book 1; 23 in Book 2)
COACH RIDES: 46 (21 in Book 1; 25 in Book 2)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 14 (4 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
OTHER MEETINGS: 15 (3 in Book 1; 12 in Book 2)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 62 (31 in Book 1; 31 in Book 2)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 36 (18 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 12 (11 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
TEA DRINKING: 48 (22 in Book 1; 26 in Book 2)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 25 (19 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 7 (6 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1; 4 in Book 2, including 1 rape scene)

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:
Only two more chapters to go until we can talk about this mess. The next one is a Tamrissa chapter.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER FOUR

I didn’t quite feel shaky as they carried the unconscious man out, but that was only because I still held to the power.

To no one's surprise, it was Tamrissa who stopped the fires. But hold up–Bron said he couldn't figure out who it was because they had released the power. Except in the very next chapter, we can clearly see that Tamrissa's still hanging onto the power!

Which is it Green? You're now doing this in back to back chapters, not even entire books apart.

quote:

Once I released it and my usual reactions took over again, I’d probably tremble like a hut in an earthquake. That screaming had been so horrible, so utterly lost and abandoned…

“That was a marvelous exhibition you put on, Tamma,” Jovvi said very softly from beside me. “When those flames appeared, all I could picture was fire spreading and burning everything in reach, including us.”

Jovvi, you calmed a raging fireball by yourself in Chapter 2 of Book 1! Without any assistance or magical training or even amateur levels of messing around with your talent! And now you're a proven master of your aspect and exponentially more powerful.

Not to mention that Vallant, your Water talent, is standing right there?! Like did everyone just go oh noes, the fire brigade isn't standing by, I suppose we'll all just burn to death now!



quote:

“That’s what I pictured, so I had to stop it,” I whispered back. “The man isn’t even a Middle talent so it wasn’t hard,

So this isn't even as bad as the fireball that you all defeated in the first 5 chapters of the book?



quote:

but I can’t believe that no one else tried to do the same. There are supposed to be how many High practitioners in this room?”

“I think you’ve just discovered that there’s a big difference between ‘supposed to be’ and ‘are,’” she murmured, letting her gaze move around the room. “Almost everyone in here was terrified, and their reaching for the power forced me to use my ability to protect myself rather than help even a little.

This should get more appreciation and played for more by Green. Canon proof that Jovvi's first reaction is to look after herself, not others.

Unfortunately, instead of this being part of Jovvi's character arc (which doesn't actually get fulfilled until Book 8 and takes all of 1 dialogue exchange for character growth to magically switch on) it only happens whenever it's authorially convenient. Because Highest Aspect forbid that someone other than Tamrissa gets to save the day.

quote:

But before I blocked everything out, I got a small look into that man’s mind. It was horribly painful but it was also strange, only I don’t know in what way. If I’d had even a minute or two longer…”

So at this point, the only way Jovvi is beating Kambil is in sheer strength, not skill.

quote:

“Everything in this place seems to be strange,” I said, joining Jovvi in gazing around. “The Five are leaving through a door other than the one the guardsmen carried that man through, and now everyone else looks to be getting ready to leave. What really bothers me, though, is that most of those people seemed to know the man who had the fit, but not one of them is following along to find out how he’ll be when he wakes up. Maybe they know where he’ll be taken and mean to follow after he’s taken there, but somehow I doubt it.”

So this is supposed to paint all of the nobility as selfish assholes. Except this is a public event, with high profile people attending, and one of those just posed a security threat to all of the invitees because his mind snapped.

Yeah under those circumstances, if you're just a random attendee it's probably not appropriate for you to run after the guardsmen who carried Hiblit out. It'd be like if I happened to get a ticket to the 2019 Met Gala and Harry Styles went nuts and started shooting everyone using a concealed weapon and then me following along after he's restrained and carried out by security just so I can find out if he's okay when he wakes up.

quote:

“You’re unusually perceptive,” Jovvi said with a nod of agreement, still studying people. “They’re all working very hard to forget what happened, and most of them even seem to have managed it. They’re treating it like a bad dream you’re best off not even discussing, but they can’t stay here and do it. That’s why they’re getting ready to leave, so they can put the incident out of their minds.”

“Which means they’ll make no effort to find out why it happened,” I said, hearing the disgust in my voice.

It is literally not their place to do this. See above.

Also Green's going to use this exact schtick again in the early chapters of Book 6.

quote:

“They stroll around pretending to be so very superior to commoners, but they’re no better than my parents and their cronies. Why are decent human beings so rare in this empire?”

“They’re rare because you usually have to be raised by decent human beings in order to become one yourself,” Jovvi answered, finally turning back to look at me.

Oh look some moralizing from somebody who's NOT Tamrissa for once. I don't like it any better.

quote:

“Most of us in the group seem to be exceptions to that rule, but largely it came about after we all met.

Green, puppeteering Jovvi: "We're the only Nice People who overcame our abusive childhoods because I the author can't write any real characters we are the Heroes. Also we only became Nice People after we met each other about 9 days ago."

quote:

And now I think it’s just about time for us to leave, since Lady Eltrina is hurrying in this direction. Apparently there’s a benefit in having been one of the last groups to arrive.”

“Please stay together, people,” Lady Eltrina said as she came up to us, again looking harried. “Your coaches will have to be moved in order to let the other guests’ carriages out, so you might as well be taken back to your residence. I’ll call you in just a few minutes, and when I do I’ll expect you all to come as quickly as possible.”

Also Green: "I don't know how to transition this scene so I'll just do it abruptly!"

quote:

With that she was off again, probably to keep one of us from saying something that would upset her even more. I thought about the fairly large amount of power I still held to, wondering if I should release it to be sure I wasn’t the one who said something which I’d certainly be sorry about later—but decided not to. I’d really been looking forward to seeing the palace, but now I felt that I’d be much happier if I held to the power until I was out of there.

I hope you were happy seeing a big place with a verandah lit up with Christmas lights like it was decorated by a five year old.

quote:

“Excuse me, Dama Domon, but I need to speak to you privately for a moment.”

The male voice was so serious that I had to turn and look before I was completely certain it was Vallant Ro who had spoken. There was the oddest air about him, which was why I didn’t flatly refuse the way he’d refused me just a short while ago. The urge was definitely there, but curiosity won out.

“All right, Dom Ro,” I said just as formally once I’d followed him a few steps away from the others. “What is it you wanted to talk about?”

“Not many minutes ago, it was pointed out to me that I was the one left in the residence rather than Holter because you and I aren’t gettin’ along,” he said, not quite meeting my gaze. “The doin’ is part of the testin’ authority’s plan to ruin us as a Blendin’, so continuin’ with our … disagreement would just be playin’ into their hands. For the good of the group, I want to propose a truce.”

Uh oh here we go.

quote:

“A truce,” I echoed, staring straight up at him. “And for the good of the group. You chase after me until I can’t think straight and then suddenly won’t even speak to me, and that’s what you call a disagreement? Anyone else would have come to me with some kind of explanation, but you—you just want to foil the plans of the testing authority. All right, Dom Ro, if that’s the most pressing thing on your mind, let’s by all means foil the testing authority. Consider me one hundred percent willing.”

By then his direct stare had a frown to keep it company, and he parted his lips to say something else. But I no longer had any interest in anything he might say, so I turned and stalked back to the others before he produced the first syllable. Distantly I knew that if I hadn’t still been in touch with the power I’d probably be in tears, but that realization didn’t do much to calm my anger. I’d barely been able to keep him out of every thought I had, and all he’d apparently thought about was getting even with the testing authority.

Jovvi glanced at me with her own frown, but she seemed to know better than to ask me any questions. Which was very wise of her, since I was more than ready to make a scene even worse than that unknown Fire talent. I suddenly understood that when frustration reaches a certain level, the only possible reaction becomes the screaming out of it for all the world to hear. But I wasn’t quite at that level yet, since I would have much preferred making someone else do the screaming…

Tamrissa's lack of control over her emotions coupled with her power enhanced rage is scary–and SHOULD be scary!

Reading this makes me wish that this was all happening not because Tamrissa is a barely hinged character with murderous rage issues (and I know some of you disagreed with me on this, but it's passages like this which make me stand by my reading of it), but there is an emotional drawback associated with each aspect and rage happens to correspond with fire.

Oh wait, Brent Weeks already did that in Lightbringer and it was much better than Green's system! Not that I'm saying to go read Brent Weeks, because I had so many issues with Lightbringer, and the way Weeks writes women most of all.

quote:

Dom Ro actually tried to speak to me again, but Jovvi quickly drew him aside and saved his breeches as well as any sense of modesty he might have had. The desire to burn the pants off him was an almost living thing inside me, and if you don’t believe I could have done it without harming him in the least, you haven’t been following our adventures very closely. He would have been bare before he could even think about protecting himself with Water magic, and the picture that evoked drove me even crazier. I had to forcibly push it away with another thought, and my mind came up with just the thing.



I don't even know what to say here. This reads like the creepy prelude to a hate-rape humiliation scene for Vallant. Which Book 4 spoilers why Green felt the need to put another rape scene in order to beat Vallant down, I'm not sure but it was a cheap tactic that I hated and I dread getting to that chapter and dealing with it

quote:

Rion had gone to join Jovvi and Dom Ro, so Lorand now stood all alone. He gazed toward the place where the group in orange and silver had stood, possibly watching the way every noble in sight moved with the sort of short, jerky motions that proclaimed them to be horribly annoyed.

In an alternate universe, the reason the nobles act like this is because they're all secretly sophisticated robots whose programming malfunctions whenever they can't execute their code within acceptable time parameters.

You know what, I choose to read all of the annoyed nobles like this going forward, because then their one dimensional characters would make sense instead of being an egregious failing on the part of the author.

quote:

Their annoyance probably stemmed from the fact that they couldn’t simply leave when they wanted to, but had to wait around like commoners until it became their turn. My parents would have fit in perfectly, but I didn’t care to waste time realizing that you don’t need a title to be self-centered and heartless.

Instead I walked over to Lorand, trying to forget what I’d heard pass between him and Jovvi. They really cared for each other, and there shouldn’t be so much pain between people who cared so deeply. Maybe I could help to make him forget for a while, too…

Please don't proposition Lorand the way you did Rion.

On second thought, please do, because if you did, then there would be no reason for the stupid drama that happens later in this book. Instead, actual character driven drama would happen instead!

quote:

“You don’t look like yourself,” Lorand observed suddenly, proving he wasn’t as distracted as he’d seemed. “Is something wrong?”

“I’m about as angry as it’s possible to get without exploding,” I told him, “but I’m really trying to calm down. This is no place to lose control, especially not when you’re still touching the power.”

“That must be it,” he said with sudden understanding in his voice. “You’re still touching the power. I seem to be a different person too when I’m still in touch with it, one who’s a good deal more confident. Does this mean you were the one who stopped those fires earlier?”

“Somebody had to do it,” I answered with a shrug.

Will Wight's Traveler's Gate trilogy has a protagonist with this core philosophy. It was his first novel and it shows in the writing, but it was still handled way better than Green does here, in what is most definitely not her first published novel.

quote:

“Our very noble hosts and fellow guests seemed to find it beyond them, so I made the effort. Wouldn’t you have helped to put that poor man to sleep if the guard hadn’t been able to do it?”

“It so happens I did,” he admitted, looking rueful. “I doubt if anyone noticed, though, because I discovered that I could … disguise my efforts by hiding them behind the efforts of others. I have no idea how I was able to do that, and standing here thinking about it hasn’t given me any answers.”

Oh look, it's happening to Lorand too! I think I should go back and update all of my counters to reflect when the protagonists magically come up with a random trick out of nowhere. I'll do that when I do the Book 2 summary.

quote:

“I’ve noticed an odd ability growing up every now and then too,” I said, feeling the frown I’d developed. “I think this is something we ought to discuss with the entire group, but not in this place. Besides, I actually came over to ask you a favor. There’s a very good chance you won’t want to, and if so that’s perfectly all right, but I still thought I would ask. Do you mind?”

“If you ask?” he said with brows raised. “Of course not. We do happen to be friends, so if I can I’ll do it. What’s the favor?”

“I need to be distracted from something,” I admitted, distantly wondering how I could say all that so calmly and coherently. “If you feel the same, you might not mind lying with me even though we don’t mean something special to one another. If you really don’t think you should, I’ll understand completely.”

His mouth opened and closed a few times, as though he couldn’t decide what to say first, and then he shook his head.

“Someday I’ll have to tell you how hearing that made me feel,” he said, his smile odd. “Right now I don’t think I can find the proper words to describe it, so let me say instead that most girls don’t make that offer quite so … flatly and openly. If they do it at all they just sort of hint around, so if I looked surprised that’s the reason.”

“I suppose most girls have more experience with this sort of thing,” I said with a nod for the information he’d given me. “I’m only first starting to get that experience, so I’m bound to do something wrong. Does your response mean you aren’t interested?”

“No, it so happens it doesn’t,” he answered with a grin. “I’m really not used to talking to you with you showing such an … overt personality, and the experience is fascinating. What I was going to say is that you’re right about my need to be distracted, but wrong to think you don’t mean something special to me. I may not be the sort of man a woman can count on for every minute of her lifetime, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do an occasional favor for a very good friend. Were you thinking about tonight?”

“Tonight or tomorrow,” I agreed, now studying him with my head to one side.



This is supposed to be coming across as earnest and vulnerable but it reads like she's a robot going beep boop insert dongle to initiate program.

quote:

“But you don’t really believe that nonsense, do you? About you not being a man a woman can count on? Jovvi may have said that at some time, but that hasn’t stopped her from constantly worrying about you. Or thinking about you. You’re as important to her as she seems to be to you, so why can’t you take it a bit easier on yourself?”

“Mainly because I’m a disappointment to myself,” he said, the grin long gone. “When we spoke that night we had dinner together, I actually believed I was over my problem of fearing burnout. It didn’t take long to find I was mistaken, though, so I’m completely disgusted with myself. Wouldn’t you be?”

“I usually am when it comes to standing up for myself without leaning on the power,” I told his indignation. “I can’t seem to act or speak or feel the way I want to when it’s just me, and that’s very frustrating. But then I remind myself that no serious problem disappears overnight, and that I’ve actually made a lot of progress when you consider how I used to be. I’m not a fully independent person yet, but someday I will be.”

“You know, that’s something I’ll have to consider,” he said, his expression less intense and more pensive. “If you stop to think about it, I’ve made some progress, but I just don’t know if it’s enough.

I can't read this much navel gazing in dialogue form.

quote:

Well, that’s for later, so let’s change the subject.

Green! Work on your damned transitions!

quote:

What is it that you need distracting from?”

“Vallant Ro,” I pronounced, struggling to keep that giant rush of anger from returning. “The man’s impossible, even more now than he used to be. Do you know what he had the nerve to say?”

“I’m almost afraid to ask,” Lorand ventured, his brows high again. “And I thought he’d decided to avoid you.”

“So did I,” I agreed with a short nod. “After trapping me into agreeing to lie with him and then making me wait most of the night before it became clear that he wasn’t coming after all—Now he wants us to put aside our disagreement for the good of the group. When he said that, I almost set his breeches on fire.”

“I’m glad you didn’t,” Lorand said after choking just a little, an odd glint dancing in his eyes. “And not just because our Blending will need him. But what was that about waiting for him most of the night? Am I wrong in thinking you sounded … disappointed when you said that?”

“Well, maybe I was looking forward to the time just a little,” I grudged, discovering that the subject was hard to discuss even in the presence of the power. “He drove me so crazy that he was almost the only thing I could think about, and then he—”

“Didn’t show up,” Lorand finished when I couldn’t. A tiny amount of tears had begun to moisten my eyes, mostly from the unavoidable realization that the man I found so attractive had lost all interest in me. And the memory of how alone and abandoned I’d felt that night, almost as much as I’d felt since the day my parents married me to a monster…

“But I can’t really blame him for stepping clear of the difficulty I represent,” I said, blinking away those foolish tears. “I seem to attract powerful men who like to own things, and my father’s plans are far from secret. No sensible man would want to get in the way of all that, so—

This scenario, as Green intended, is not bad in and of itself.

As written though, because it's all based on stupid contrived misunderstandings.

Don't get me wrong, having the plot turn on misunderstandings is fine–but when they're stupid and contrived like this, it makes my blood boil.

quote:

Oh, look. There’s Lady Eltrina, waving at us. Our coaches must be here…

Should have started a counter for bad transitions. Too late now!

quote:

Lorand, would you mind if we waited until tomorrow to lie together? I—don’t think I’m quite up to it tonight.”

“No, I don’t mind,” he replied gently as he took my hand and put it on his arm. “But right now I insist on escorting you to the coach, and I don’t care who doesn’t like it.”

you little chicken.

Actually, not Tamrissa's fault, this one is Green making her characters act against their inclinations because she wants this to play out a certain way.

quote:

I gave him as strong a smile as I could just now, then joined him in heading out of the ballroom. The music had started up again a few minutes earlier, but I hadn’t noticed sooner. Not that it mattered.

Exit music? Seriously?

quote:

All I wanted to do right now was get back to my apartment and release my hold on the power. After that … well, I thought I knew what would happen. Tears and Water magic do go rather well together, don’t you think?

This pathos is not endearing at all.

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.

Everybody shows up to the palace, which is "big", lit like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old and has a verandah. Once inside, all of the competing proto-Blendings are positioned like color coded chess pieces. Kambil flatters Rion with a fake offer of switching Blendings in exchange for intel on Tamrissa and co. Thanks to Jovvi, Rion cottons on and turns down the offer–to Kambil's regret, since Rion's group has effectively been consigned to death as they're slated to face, Adriari's Blending: a bunch of Middles pre-selected by the nobility to be the next Seated Five. Meanwhile, Vallant makes contact with Pagin; they exchange intel and contact details. Jovvi and Lorand act like they're star-crossed lovers. The Seated Five makes the rounds to meet all of the competing Blendings and both Rion and Jovvi mouth off to Eltrina in front of them. Eltrina tells Jovvi that Allestine and her minions will be tried for attempting to kidnap of a High practitioner tomorrow.

Towards the end of the Seated Five's rounds, Hiblit loses control and starts throwing fire around, until a mysterious and very powerful Fire talent Tamrissa smothers all the flames. Vallant proposes a truce to Tamrissa, who blows up at him and propositions Lorand instead. Lorand accepts, but Tamrissa decides to defer their rendezvous by one night because she's not feeling up to it authorial reasons.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 42 (24 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
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
Book 3: Damilla Sytoss, Edril Lanton

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 19 (9 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
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, the Seated Five's palace, the ballroom inside the palace

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 24 (15 in Book 1; 9 in Book 2)
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, canapés at the masked reception at the palace)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 14 (9 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
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; 13 in Book 2)
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: 31 (11 introduced in Book 1; 20 introduced in Book 2)
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, group wearing gold and blue costumes at the ball (Adriari's Blending)
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: 66 (39 in Book 1; 23 in Book 2)
COACH RIDES: 46 (21 in Book 1; 25 in Book 2)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 14 (4 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
OTHER MEETINGS: 15 (3 in Book 1; 12 in Book 2)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 62 (31 in Book 1; 31 in Book 2)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 36 (18 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 14 (11 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
TEA DRINKING: 48 (22 in Book 1; 26 in Book 2)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 26 (19 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 8 (6 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1; 4 in Book 2, including 1 rape scene)

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:
One more chapter to go before we can discuss this mess. Highest Aspect save us all.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER FIVE

Vallant watched Tamrissa Domon march away from him, giving him no chance to say the ten things he wanted to—all at the same time. She’d agreed with his suggestion just the way he’d hoped she would, but not quite in the expected way. There was something odd about her, something different, and what had she said during her controlled tirade about how she felt? That was something else he felt a strong need to question her on, but when he followed her back to the immediate vicinity of the rest of the group, Jovvi stepped out to block his way to her.

“No, Vallant, you don’t want to speak to her again right now, take my word for it,” Jovvi admonished, urging him back a few steps. “She was the one who stopped the fires a few minutes ago, and she’s still touching the power. I promise you that if you try to speak to her now, her anger will make you truly regret it. What in the world did you say to get her that angry?”

“All I did was propose a truce between us for the sake of the group,” Vallant replied, finding it difficult to keep his voice down—and his eyes away from Tamrissa. “Are you tryin’ to tell me she’s actin’ so strange because she’s still touchin’ the power? Why should that make any difference at all? I don’t get strange when I’m touchin’ the power.”

“You mean being fully open doesn’t change you at all?” Jovvi asked, the question gentle but sounding as if she already knew the answer to it. “Personally, I always feel different with the power coursing through me. I’m more alive and alert, more ready to cope with anything that might happen. But you’re not affected in any way?”

“I didn’t say I wasn’t affected,” Vallant pointed out, still oddly disturbed. “I get the same feelin’s you do, and a sense of … freedom, I suppose it is, as well. But I don’t get all strange and different, which Tamrissa has. Are you absolutely certain there’s nothing wrong with her?”

“What’s wrong is what her natural personality has been made into,” Rion interjected, drawing Vallant’s attention. “She’s a sweet, warm, and lovely person who hasn’t been allowed to exhibit any of those traits. Being in touch with the power makes her more whole and assured, the same way it does with me. Perhaps I should have mentioned that since coming to Gan Garee, I’ve been more or less in touch with the power all the time. Living with Mother has given me the strong habit of circumspection at all times, and that’s probably why you weren’t aware of the situation.”

“That, Rion, could be why you’ve changed so much so quickly,” Jovvi said, just about taking the words out of Vallant’s mouth. “You were able to see what more normal behavior consisted of, and the power helped you to adapt to it. I wonder why no one ever mentioned the power can do things like that.”

“There’s a lot about the power that no one ever mentioned,” Vallant said, and this time Rion looked as though the words had been taken from between his teeth.

We start the "final" chapter of what should have been Book 2 with a convenient infodump to explain that the power is Literally Magic that helps you become your True Self.

quote:

“We need to do some discussin’ on the point, but first things need to come first. Rion told me that that noble who came to talk to him wanted most to know about Tamrissa. He said somethin’ about the Fire talent bein’ the most important one in a Blendin’.”

The way Green bounces around all of her plot threads makes me feel like I'm following a table tennis match. Better authors would have more focused scenes so we don't have all of this waffle all over the place.

quote:

“Oh, dear,” Jovvi said with raised brows, and Vallant had the impression she would have preferred to have used a stronger phrase, but had limited herself to the understated.

Behold, the birth of yet another running gag in these books. Except for it to be a gag, Green would have to realize it's stupid.

quote:

“Do you think he was telling the truth, Rion? Misleading us would be easy since we don’t know any better, and it could only be a benefit to our opponents.”

“The way he approached the subject leads me to believe that misdirection wasn’t his goal,” Rion answered with a small headshake. “The very first thing he asked was about Tamrissa’s flaws and problems, and that was when he fully expected me to answer. When I simply said she was a lovely lady, he tried to press the point. Finally he urged me to speak about everyone else first if I found it easier, but he still wanted me to come back to Tamrissa.”

“You’re right, Rion, there’s too much there for it to be subtle misdirection,” Jovvi said with a distant look. “Comparing your emotions with his at the time, he knew you were about to say something and he felt elation and victory. The satisfaction wouldn’t have been so strong if his goal had simply been to pass on false information.”

“You remember emotions the way other people remember words?” Vallant asked, curiosity suddenly piqued. “That’s somethin’ else I didn’t know.

She has Spirit magic!

Why couldn't we get this bit of world building exposition SHOWN to us in a Jovvi POV instead of being TOLD in dialogue and then having the point sledgehammered into our faces in an uncharacteristic way by Vallant?

quote:

It looks like we’ll have a lot to talk about, but we still haven’t settled the other matter.

This sentence/sentiment will come up like 3 out of 5 times whenever the protagonists have a meeting from this point forward.

quote:

And a strange thought just came to me: Coll and I discovered that the testin’ authority knows all about our respective problems. If everythin’s set up for the nobles to win, wouldn’t they be told all about us? The answer ought to be yes, so why would that group need to hear it from one of us?”

Jovvi frowned over the point, obviously agreeing, and so did Mardimil. They all considered the question in silence for a moment, and then Mardimil made a sound of understanding.

“Of course, I should have thought of this immediately,” he said then. “I simply keep forgetting what my former peers are like. It’s common knowledge that the Advisors never leave anything to chance if the matter is important, so it’s hardly likely that they’ve left the matter of who the next Blending will be to that same chance. They’ll already have chosen one of the groups, and that group alone will have all its support.”

“So the others have to find out for themselves, or do without the information,” Vallant summed up with a nod. “Now it makes sense, along with why that friend of yours came over. He and his group don’t want to end up lookin’ like fools by bein’ unprepared and maybe losin’ to us.”

“But according to the colors of our costumes, we won’t be facing them first,” Jovvi pointed out, again looking thoughtful. “Why would they bother to question us … unless … Rion, is it possible that your friend and his group have decided to go against the wishes of the Advisors and intend to try to win the Throne themselves?”

“Certainly,” Rion agreed with a shrug. “Backstabbing and intrigue are the favorite pastimes of the noble class. If they’re successful they won’t have anything to worry about, but a question still remains: why us? I saw nothing to show that they approached the other groups as well, so singling us out makes no sense.”

“It does if they’ve had access to our test results,” Jovvi countered, which statement immediately shifted Vallant away from supporting Mardimil’s. “We don’t really know how we did, remember, but we weren’t able to hold back too far. We could well have ended up close to the top of the list…”

“Which would make us a force they decided they’d have to reckon with,” Vallant finished when Jovvi let her words trail off. “That should also mean we’re expected to win in the first competition—shouldn’t it?”

“I’d rather not count on that, and I’m glad to see that you’re as doubtful as I am,” Jovvi replied. “The noble groups know a good deal more than we do, but Rion has pointed out that they don’t know it all. We’ll have to think long and hard about this…”

“And finish discussing it at another time,” Mardimil added, looking past them. “Eltrina is over there and gesturing at us, which ought to mean our coaches are here. What a disappointment that we have to leave so early.”

there needs to be a point to having a meeting Green!

I don't understand Green's meeting fetish. Maybe she's one of those people who call meetings to have meetings about when to have a meeting to discuss having a meeting. Nothing ever happens in these meetings, other than to reveal information that we already know to the protagonists and to serve as a recap of things we've already seen happen on screen. Status update meetings annoy the hell out of me, because it's just purely information sharing. Just post an update on the appropriate Slack channel and be done with it!

I've decided that the same principles of choosing whether to email or call a meeting apply to writing: if information needs to be conveyed, then it should be done primarily via description/action unless it makes sense for one character to be giving another character an infodump; if decisions need to be made, then it should be done via dialogue/action during a character interaction, where characters go in with distinct goals, and come out either having achieved those goals or not.

quote:

Vallant made a sound of amused support for that sarcasm, and Jovvi chuckled her own agreement. For a group of “peasants who were being honored,” they weren’t being very appreciative.

Four explicit mentions of emotion rather than any attempt at showing it.

quote:

Instead they lost no time following Coll and Tamrissa, who once again seemed to be extremely friendly. Vallant had once discussed the matter with Coll, and had been very relieved to learn that it was Jovvi whom Coll was most interested in. But considering the discussion Vallant had overheard earlier between Coll and Jovvi, it might be time to raise the matter again—

Vallant forced himself away from that line of thought with disgust, wondering if he would ever learn and remember. How many times did Tamrissa have to show her extreme disinterest in him before he got the message? And how many times would he have to decide to stay away from all women before he could make his inner mind remember it? If Tamrissa and Coll became more than friends, it was none of his business. Even if it did hurt like blazes…

Good man. Maybe ask Jovvi to help you make that resolution stick. You and Jovvi are a much better ship anyway.

quote:

What seemed like hundreds of nobles stood around in dozens of groups, and all of them glared at the commoners who were getting to leave before them. That was true for the ballroom itself, along the very wide corridor leading to the front entrance of the palace, and even outside on the approach. Vallant could see the rest of his group ignoring the glares so he did the same, but the urge to teach the useless fools some manners was really strong. If they hadn’t been so aware of his presence, he might have indulged in some of those childhood tricks everyone played once their talent grew strong enough.

Like lining someone’s shoes with a very thin layer of frozen water. Vallant grinned to himself as he remembered the ploy, which was designed not to be noticed immediately. The ice simply sucked the heat out of the victim’s body through the soles of his feet, and before he knew it, the poor victim was shivering with cold. The moisture involved wasn’t enough to let you know what was happening, at least not until you began to squish a bit when you walked. That usually let the cat out of the bag—or the ice out of the shoe.

Except you can also remove moisture from stuff and return it to the skies so in theory you could run this prank in infinite cycles?

quote:

“Since there’s no longer a need for me to accompany the ladies, I’ve decided to return to my usual place,” Mardimil said when they stopped at their coach. “Not to mention the fact that Coll needs to be filled in about our discussion.”

We just had a recap!

quote:

“Before we get back to the residence and all those ears,” Vallant agreed, lowering his voice just the way Mardimil had. Coll had looked at them with quickly suppressed startlement, and Vallant had had to keep his own feelings out of his expression. His problem with Tamrissa was not Coll’s fault, a fact he kept reminding himself about as he climbed into the coach after his two groupmates. It isn’t Coll’s fault, so don’t start a fight with the man…

Settling back in the seat next to Mardimil, Vallant worked to keep to his decision. He listened to Mardimil’s recital of what they and Jovvi had talked about, and even added a comment or two of his own. Coll was just as surprised to learn of Tamrissa’s importance as they’d been, and finally he shook his head.

“I don’t know how she’s going to take finding that out,” he said, sounding worried. “She seems to be really strong when she’s touching the power, but I have a feeling it’s more … cover than reality. She lacks the confidence of a truly strong personality, which means all her doubts and uncertainties are still there under the surface. What are we going to do if she can’t handle it?”

“She can handle it, and she will,” Vallant found himself stating very flatly. “She may have her doubts, but I know she’s strong enough to handle anythin’ they throw at her. As long as the rest of us are there to support her, she’ll do just fine.”

“That’s a fairly strange sentiment coming from a man who’s treated her the way you have,” Coll said, and it seemed to Vallant that the man’s tone had grown considerably colder. “If your idea of supporting her is to make her cry, we’ll probably all be better off if you support our opponents instead.”

“Make her cry?” Vallant echoed with a snort, beginning to lose control of his temper. “You seem to have missed the fact that she tore me to shreds before stalking off in a fury. If that’s the sort of thing makin’ her cry, I won’t mind seein’ the practice stopped here and now.”

“Are you trying to claim that your attitude had nothing to do with it?” Coll demanded, the ice in his words beginning to heat up. “‘He drove me so crazy he was almost all I could think about,’ she said. ‘He trapped me into agreeing to lie with him and I waited most of the night, but he never showed up,’ she said. If that’s what you consider you being torn to shreds, you’d better get some help with your definitions. You—”

“Wait just a minute,” Vallant interrupted, stunned and disbelieving. “She was never thinkin’ about me, not with the way she spoke to me. And she hated the idea of lyin’ with me, so why would she stay up waitin’ most of the night? You’ve got to be mistakin’ what she said…”

“Ro, I’m not mistaken,” Coll said slowly and clearly, his anger having backed off quite a bit. “She had trouble admitting that she actually looked forward to being with you, but when she had to say you never showed up, she couldn’t even get the words out. She almost cried instead, but being in close touch with the power let her refuse to allow it to happen. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t start to happen.”

“But … I still don’t understand,” Vallant groped, not caring how bewildered and lost he sounded. “If she really was interested, why did she keep pushin’ me away?”

“I believe it’s because she fears beginning a relationship,” Mardimil put in, speaking as gently as Coll had. “Her first experience with one was so far from pleasant that the idea of starting a second must be nothing short of terrifying.”

“She also said she didn’t blame you for stepping out of the way of the plans of very powerful men,” Coll added. “She took that as the reason for your sudden avoidance of her, which seemed a fairly safe guess. Nothing else had happened which would have explained your abrupt lack of interest.”

“I … thought I was doin’ what she wanted,” Vallant muttered, his head spinning. “She kept snappin’ at me and tellin’ me to leave her alone… I decided I was bein’ pathetic, chasin’ after a woman who didn’t want me around. I knew she wasn’t sure about associatin’ with a man after what her husband put her through, but—I thought she didn’t want to know me.”

Vallant knew his speech was just short of plaintive, but he was still too stunned to care about that, either. Tamrissa didn’t hate him? She’d almost cried at the thought of his not coming to her? Well, he’d just have to change that oversight…

Finally!

quote:

“You seem to have changed your mind again,” Mardimil remarked, apparently staring at him through the darkness of the coach. “If so, perhaps I ought to remind you about the beliefs of the testing authority. If you and Tamrissa suddenly stop feuding, it’s possible the testing authority will decide to replace you in the group.”

“Or her,” Coll added in startled agreement. “They could suddenly decide that she gets along too well with the rest of us, and replace her with someone none of us could stomach. We were blind for not considering this sooner, but I think there’s a way we can fix it. Tomorrow we’ll have to have a group discussion that ends in a five-way fight.”

“Now, that sounds like an excellent idea,” Mardimil said with a grin clear in his voice. “Not only will Ro still be feuding with Tamrissa, but the rest of us will have started to bicker as well. If the testing authority has any thoughts involving shifting us around, that should end them. They’ll decide that any changes can only make the situation better rather than worse, and better won’t be what they want.”

“That’s fine for the rest of you, but what about Tamrissa and me?” Vallant demanded, only just suppressing the urge to curse. “She’s miserable thinkin’ I don’t care any longer, and I’ve got to tell her the truth. There’s a lot I want to tell her, and it’s waited too long already.”

OMFG.



quote:

“Ro, it’s just going to have to wait a bit longer,” Coll said, sounding as though he were forcing patience. “If it doesn’t, you and she could find yourselves in separate residences. What good will it do you to make up with her if the two of you are immediately separated?”

“And it shouldn’t be for long,” Mardimil added, as though he could sense the wall of stubbornness which had risen high in Vallant. “Once they actually form us into a Blending, there shouldn’t be any more danger of relocation. In the meanwhile, you can ask Jovvi to tell Tamrissa the truth. That will stop Tamrissa’s being miserable without putting your places in the group in jeopardy.”

That suggestion made Vallant pause, even though he still hated the idea of waiting. As long as he knew Tamrissa wasn’t suffering it would be easier for him to wait, but he still didn’t like the restriction. He wanted to go straight up to Tamrissa, take her in his arms, tell her how wonderful it felt not to be hated by the woman he loved, and then kiss her. He also burned to give her his physical love, but that didn’t have to happen right away. A delay of an hour or two would be perfectly acceptable…

OMFG

quote:

“All right, you’ve both made your point,” Vallant conceded after a moment, knowing they were waiting to hear his decision. “I’ll tell Jovvi to pass on the word to Tamrissa and then I’ll join all the rest of you in pretendin’ to fight, but only until we’re formed into a Blendin’. After that…”

Adding details was unnecessary, especially since the details were no one’s business but his and Tamrissa’s. He’d need to find a time to speak privately to Jovvi, though. Possibly tomorrow, if no one else decided to go with her to that trial. But she’d need someone with her anyway, so he’d definitely plan on going… After she got through the unpleasantness, there would be time enough to talk…

What a sensitive guy. "After seeing the substitute mother figure who raised you sentenced for attempting to kidnap you into slavery, can you pretty pwease pass this love note to Tamrissa for me." *puppy dog eyes*

quote:

And tonight he could dream about Tamrissa without calling himself names. Vallant grinned despite the impatience choking him, feeling as though a great burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Hopefully he’d be there to see Tamrissa’s expression when she found out the truth. It would be wonderful, absolutely wonderful…



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.

Everybody shows up to the palace, which is "big", lit like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old and has a verandah. Once inside, all of the competing proto-Blendings are positioned like color coded chess pieces. Kambil flatters Rion with a fake offer of switching Blendings in exchange for intel on Tamrissa and co. Thanks to Jovvi, Rion cottons on and turns down the offer–to Kambil's regret, since Rion's group has effectively been consigned to death as they're slated to face, Adriari's Blending: a bunch of Middles pre-selected by the nobility to be the next Seated Five. Meanwhile, Vallant makes contact with Pagin; they exchange intel and contact details. Jovvi and Lorand act like they're star-crossed lovers. The Seated Five makes the rounds to meet all of the competing Blendings and both Rion and Jovvi mouth off to Eltrina in front of them. Eltrina tells Jovvi that Allestine and her minions will be tried for attempting to kidnap of a High practitioner tomorrow.

Towards the end of the Seated Five's rounds, Hiblit loses control and starts throwing fire around, until a mysterious and very powerful Fire talent Tamrissa smothers all the flames. Vallant proposes a truce to Tamrissa, who blows up at him and propositions Lorand instead. Lorand accepts, but Tamrissa decides to defer their rendezvous by one night because she's not feeling up to it authorial reasons. Lorand and Rion finally clear up the misunderstanding between Tamrissa and Vallant during the coach ride home.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 42 (24 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
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
Book 3: Damilla Sytoss, Edril Lanton

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 19 (9 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
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, the Seated Five's palace, the ballroom inside the palace

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 24 (15 in Book 1; 9 in Book 2)
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, canapés at the masked reception at the palace)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 14 (9 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
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; 13 in Book 2)
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: 31 (11 introduced in Book 1; 20 introduced in Book 2)
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, group wearing gold and blue costumes at the ball (Adriari's Blending)
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: 66 (39 in Book 1; 23 in Book 2)
COACH RIDES: 47 (21 in Book 1; 25 in Book 2)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 15 (4 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
OTHER MEETINGS: 16 (3 in Book 1; 12 in Book 2)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 63 (31 in Book 1; 31 in Book 2)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 36 (18 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 14 (11 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
TEA DRINKING: 48 (22 in Book 1; 26 in Book 2)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 26 (19 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 8 (6 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1; 4 in Book 2, including 1 rape scene)

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:
Wow. Where do I even start. So, that whole palace sequence exists to do the following:
  1. Throw more clues to the protagonists that the game is rigged even though they already suspected this
  2. Give them a mechanism to get in contact with the other commoner Blendings
  3. Set the chain of events into motion that will allow them to deprogram themselves
The first was unnecessary, due to how the book had already been written. Everyone knows it's rigged; we can move on. Getting confirmation that it's rigged over and over again is not interesting; reading about characters finding ways around the rigged game is what's interesting! And "we'll just try really hard to upset their plans and win instead" doesn't count when you literally do nothing other than "be the strongest magically" because you were born that way.

On the second point, spoilers for Book 3 this will go entirely underutilized: from here on Vallant will meet up with Pagin once, to pass on critical intel about the fact they've all been drugged, and then Pagin will get a message back to them offscreen about what the original implanted instructions were which pisses me off no end.

On the third point, spoilers for Book 3 Delin will drop this info on their doorstep, literally which is a massive copout that makes me even angrier than the above two points. We never see these protagonists work for anything. Ever.

All of these are a waste. They could have happened at any other point in the book and at any other location. Hiblit losing his mind in particular really annoys me, because the threat level is nowhere near the fireballs that we began the series with, and will turn out pretty much inconsequential.

The palace should be a unique setting used for so much more. If we were going to do intrigue and backstabbing, then that should have been the focus of the palace scene! Green had it in the right place in the book but failed to set up all her plot threads so their climax points all converge on the masked reception.

Rewrite Book 2 will take a page from The Final Empire (Mistborn 1) for the first part:
  • There will be regular, recurring social events that happen as part of noble society.
    - balls are boring, so I'm leaning towards public competitions, either like the time trials that we saw at the end of Canon Book 2 or like the Seated High challenges which we will see later in Canon Book 3
  • The highlight of the social calendar will be some sort of event hosted by the Seated Blending at the palace.
  • Whoever the main POV character is (and at this point, I'm tossing up between Rion or Jovvi), they will have a series of goals to accomplish as part of their attendance at said social events.
    - they will discover various unsavory plots by other competitors to cheat along the way
  • Most likely the biggest change I'd make is instead of being randomly thrown into Blendings by the testing authority, the whole premise of the competitions is you enter and compete as a Blending.
    - that means most of the networking at these events is going to be about convincing people to join your Blending
    - and possibly finding patrons to bankroll your attempt, because we're now getting into basically deadly competitive sports which is guaranteed to cost loads of money
  • This arc ends once the members of the various competing Blendings are established, whereupon we go into the tournament arc proper

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Book 2 (+ first five chapters of Book 3) Summary:


(interactive version here and CSV of word frequency here)

Words appearing more than 300 times:
pre:
One
Now
Time
Out
Rion
Even
Delin
Man
Jovvi
More
Look
Way
Know
Lorand
Up
Vallant
Back
Something
Group
"Tea" appeared 149 times, "coach" 106 times (with "carriage" featuring 61 times) and "bath" only a mere 20 times—probably because this book only covered three days with 10 POVs (ignoring Eltrina), so like enough for everybody to have taken/talked about taking two baths each!

Lightly edited supercut of all chapter summaries for Book 2 (including the five chapters that got shoved at the beginning of Book 3) follows.

Day 6 (continued)
We're introduced to the primary antagonists, only a whole entire book late. Bron Kallan (Fire magic) is a hot dumb jock who casually vandalizes his lady friend's antique piano because she insulted his ego during their post-coital conversation. Selendi Vas (Air magic) is a hot rich bimbo who is a spoiled brat. Homin Weil is the token fatty who's been abused his entire life and is currently being abused by his stepmother. Kambil is basically a male version of Jovvi minus the sex work. Delin is an acknowledged psychopath.

Jovvi and Tamrissa girl chat about Vallant and Lorand in the coach ride home, bonus Green lecture included. Vallant, Lorand, Rion and Pagin rehash the point about being a challenging Blending, then Vallant and Lorand finally clear up their misunderstanding about their respective romantic targets in yet another bath scene. Tamrissa propositions Rion for sex, he delightedly obliges and it's really hard to tell if she gave informed consent. After dinner, the main crew + Pagin hold a meeting during a sad pretend garden party to recap the recap in the first five chapters of the book. Hat shows up to Tamrissa's house with two thugs who attempt to collect Hat's gambling debts from Lorand. Vallant tricks Tamrissa into agreeing to sleep with him and is an rear end about it.

Meanwhile, Homin waits for Delin at the local entertainment district, who has excused himself to meet a lady friend but has secretly gone to rape and then kill Homin's step-mother, Elfini. Except Delin fantasized the whole thing, so when he and Homin show up at the Weil residence, Elfini's pissed and only lets them go after Delin threatens to get his father to ruin her husband.

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. Delin is annoyed he can remember everything except the moment he killed Elfini. 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.

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.

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, Jovvi is kidnapped by Allestine and frees herself/Lorand is accosted by Meerk, who agrees to locate Hat in response to Lorand's threat of magical violence/Vallant is accosted by Mirra and her parents/Tamrissa is accosted by 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.

Day 9
Eltrina delivers sparkling 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, who delivers identical ABBA-esque costumes. 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.

Everybody shows up to the palace, which is "big", lit like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old and has a verandah. Once inside, all of the competing proto-Blendings are positioned like color coded chess pieces. Kambil flatters Rion with a fake offer of switching Blendings in exchange for intel on Tamrissa and co. Thanks to Jovvi, Rion cottons on and turns down the offer–to Kambil's regret, since Rion's group has effectively been consigned to death as they're slated to face, Adriari's Blending: a bunch of Middles pre-selected by the nobility to be the next Seated Five. Meanwhile, Vallant makes contact with Pagin; they exchange intel and contact details. Jovvi and Lorand act like they're star-crossed lovers. The Seated Five makes the rounds to meet all of the competing Blendings and both Rion and Jovvi mouth off to Eltrina in front of them. Eltrina tells Jovvi that Allestine and her minions will be tried for her attempted kidnap of a High practitioner tomorrow.

Towards the end of the Seated Five's rounds, Hiblit loses control and starts throwing fire around, until a mysterious and very powerful Fire talent Tamrissa smothers all the flames. Vallant proposes a truce to Tamrissa, who blows up at him for not sleeping with her after he tricked her into it and propositions Lorand instead. Lorand accepts, but Tamrissa decides to defer their rendezvous by one night because she's not feeling up to it authorial reasons. Lorand and Rion finally clear up the misunderstanding between Tamrissa and Vallant during the coach ride home.

Counts so far:

TOTAL WORDS: 342,616
Book 1: 181,539
Book 2 (first five chapters): 12,137
--> Actual Book 1 total = 193,676
Book 2 (remaining chapters): 136,649
Book 3 (first five chapters): 12,291
--> Actual Book 2 total = 148,940

By the way, Sanderson's The Way of Kings is 383,181 words long. But hey, let's forget Sanderson's own stuff, let's look at Jordan's Wheel of Time, being a roughly contemporaneous work with a similar magic system. Per this analysis here, when you combine these two books of Green's, you get more than the median per book word count for WoT, but like 1/100th of the story:



Let's just take The Eye of the World: in 305k words, Jordan's teen protagonists have (spoilers, for anyone following this thread who hasn't read WoT) left Emond's Field, visited Shadar Logoth, had their party split and make their separate ways to Camelyn, learned most of them are powerful channelers, traveled through The Ways to the Borderlands, reached the titular Eye of the World where one of the main protagonists battle two Forsaken, fulfilling ancient prophecy and realizes he is the Dragon Reborn.

Meanwhile, in a little over 340k words, Green's adult protagonists have generally been absorbed in petty teen relationship dramas, show no inclination whatsoever to investigate/break free of the rigged/corrupt competitions process and still haven't learned how to Blend, but somehow manage to pull magical tricks that save the day from out of nowhere. No antagonists have been vanquished, no forward momentum on the conspiracy, no progress on two out of three main romances and no real progression in the overall plot.



NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 42 (24 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
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
Book 3: Damilla Sytoss, Edril Lanton

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 19 (9 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
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, the Seated Five's palace, the ballroom inside the palace

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 24 (15 in Book 1; 9 in Book 2)
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, canapés at the masked reception at the palace)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 14 (9 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
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; 13 in Book 2)
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: 31 (11 introduced in Book 1; 20 introduced in Book 2)
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, group wearing gold and blue costumes at the ball (Adriari's Blending)
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: 66 (39 in Book 1; 23 in Book 2)
COACH RIDES: 47 (21 in Book 1; 25 in Book 2)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 15 (4 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
OTHER MEETINGS: 16 (3 in Book 1; 12 in Book 2)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 63 (31 in Book 1; 31 in Book 2)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 36 (18 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 14 (11 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
TEA DRINKING: 48 (22 in Book 1; 26 in Book 2)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 26 (19 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 8 (6 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1; 4 in Book 2, including 1 rape scene)

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)

Leng fucked around with this message at 14:06 on Mar 26, 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


Let's Read going on break!

With Book 2 wrapped up, I'm going to pause the Let's Read because I think we're all feeling a bit of Blendingverse fatigue. April is Script Frenzy, the script equivalent of NaNoWriMo, so I'll be working on a musical for the next month. There are some other folks joining me and writing cool screenplays and stuff so if that interests you, come on over to CC and follow along, or join in if you're so inclined!

This thread will stay open for discussion and we'll pick up Book 3 in May!

Liquid Communism
Mar 9, 2004


Out here, everything hurts.




Enjoy your break!

A Small Car
Aug 24, 2016




Indeed, you've more than earned a break slogging through all of 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


We're back! And we're picking up from the real beginning of Book 3.

quote:

CHAPTER SIX 

Jovvi came down early to breakfast, expecting to find that everyone else had slept late. She and Tamrissa had gone directly to their respective beds last night when they got home, and the men had done the same. But Jovvi hadn’t been able to sleep, and the fact that the others seemed to have the same trouble had added to her wakefulness. She’d finally had to be firm with herself and use an exercise that forced sleep, partly by cutting her off from an awareness of the people around her.

Based on this and previous Jovvi POVs, I assume that she's walking around constantly in touch with the power just as much as Tamrissa is. I'd like more details about this exercise and where Jovvi learned it, but alas, we will never hear anything else about it ever again, or see any of the other characters mention similar exercises.

quote:

So when she walked into the dining room to find Vallant and Rion already there, her brows rose in surprise.

OH COME ON, we're two paragraphs in and we already have a plothole. How does it make sense for Jovvi to be IN BED TRYING TO SLEEP still holding on to the power and therefore sensing everybody all tossing and turning to the point that they're contributing to her insomnia yet when she's awake and heading down to breakfast to be totally shut off and therefore surprised at Vallant and Rion already there?

Like if I lived in this universe and had elemental magical powers and wasn't subject to the brainwashing that the nobility had done due to interrupted schooling in my formative years and relied on my Spirit magic to survive life on the streets, I'm thinking that the FIRST thing I'd do upon waking up is REACH OUT TO THE POWER and get a sense of who's around me and their current mental state.

quote:

They both looked up and nodded to her, but then Vallant gestured to his eyes and produced a broad wink. Even more surprisingly Rion did the same, and then Rion held up a finger.

“Ro here is being rather foolish,” he said, sounding petulantly annoyed but not looking or feeling the same. “He’s decided to accompany you to court this morning, and that despite my disapproval. His being there will make it seem as though you’re unable to act for yourself and by yourself.”

“Mardimil still doesn’t understand what it means to be a gentleman,” Vallant put in, the annoyance in his voice also unmatched by his emotions. “My goin’ with you will be seen as nothin’ more than common courtesy, somethin’ his sort has given up on. But then it is called common, so what else can you expect?”

“From you?” Rion countered stiffly, greatly amused on the inside. “No more than what I usually get. What a pity that your jealousy over my already knowing the palace and some of its people has gotten completely out of hand.”

Vallant made a loud sound of ridicule, but went back to his food rather than adding to the argument. But it wasn’t a real argument, Jovvi realized as she continued on to the buffet. They’d warned her with gestures that they were about to do something and then they’d started their unreal argument. Obviously they were doing it for the benefit of the servants who were surely listening, but the reason behind it would have to be found out only after she and Vallant were out of the house.

This is taking butler and maid dialogue to a whole new level. We've got butler and maid pantomime accompanied with butler and maid introspection. This would fail so bad if just one of the spies had Spirit magic, because Rion and Vallant aren't even trying to work up the surface emotions to match.

The protagonists are only getting away with their incompetence thanks to even more incompetent antagonists. I feel like this is a fantasy novel equivalent of "Funniest Home Videos" (does anyone remember that show during life before YouTube fail videos?) except instead of being self-conscious about the fails the author wants us to take all of the characters and their situations seriously. The disjunction makes me hate this so much.

quote:

Jovvi filled a plate and took it to the table, discovering that she was hungrier than she’d expected to be.

In case you missed it, this is a sign that Jovvi is Developing Her Magical Powers. Because part of the magic system is using your magic makes you hungry. What I can't work out is whether it's related to Jovvi's little awareness shield at the palace or her generally being in contact with the power more.

quote:

There was no question about her going to court to see what happened to Allestine, but the prospect of going alone had tied her stomach in knots. She never minded doing things by herself, but this time… Thank the Highest Aspect that Vallant had decided to go with her.

Highest Aspect forbid we have a female protagonist actually be strong and capable.

quote:

The rest of the meal was coldly silent, with Vallant and Rion deliberately ignoring each other. Right at the beginning Jovvi wondered if they were unobserved and actually wasting their time, but spreading her senses just a bit showed immediately that they weren’t. One of the male servants stood just out of sight near the kitchen, probably pretending to be on hand just in case one of them wanted something not on the buffet. But the eagerness with which he listened said he was there for another reason entirely, certainly so that he’d have what to report later. Luckily, though, there was no trace of his using Spirit magic.



quote:

Rion was the first to leave, which he did with a courtly bow to Jovvi while ignoring Vallant as though the second man were a piece of furniture. Vallant snorted again to show his opinion of that, but Rion ignored the reaction as well. As soon as he was gone, Vallant looked at Jovvi.

“We both know Mardimil was just bein’ foolish,” he said, actually sounding somewhat stuffy. “Women need a man to lean on, so I’ll be right there to supply the shoulder. When are we leavin’?”

“Right after breakfast,” Jovvi told him, doing her part by adding stiffness to her voice. If Vallant hadn’t winked again to show he wasn’t serious, she would have been good and insulted.

So you're still in contact with the power but now you need the wink? Did Vallant suddenly get good at acting/projecting emotions or is Jovvi just as bad at Spirit magic as Kambil?

I think it's because Vallant is just a sexist rear end in a top hat!

quote:

As it was… “You really don’t need to bother going, you know. I can—”

“Now, now, not another word,” he interrupted, definitely sounding stuffy. “A true gentleman never finds somethin’ like this a bother, so we’ll say no more about it.”

Jovvi nearly giggled at the way Vallant rolled his eyes after saying that, knowing exactly how narrow-minded he sounded. Instead of laughing she simply sighed in exasperation, thereby making sure his playacting wasn’t wasted. She could always giggle later—before they got to court.

He's playacting in the same way that men who pretend they're feminists/allies are playacting. *coughJOSSWHEDONcough*

quote:

Vallant waited until she was finished eating, and then he escorted her out of the house. The coach she’d arranged for last night

Uh what? How? When did you have time to do that? Is this a private coach or did you borrow Tamrissa's coach?

For all my bitching and complaining about Green's obsessive focus on logistics in Book 1, things like this also annoy me when stuff appears out of nowhere.

quote:

was just pulling up, so they waited for it to stop and then climbed in. Once they were settled and the coach was moving again, Jovvi eyed Vallant.

“I think you can tell me now what you and Rion were doing,” she said. “And in case you’re interested, there was a servant standing just out of sight, taking it all in.”

I cannot wait until Jovvi starts being able to mind read, so we can skip crap filler scenes like this.

quote:

“Actually, I already knew that,” he replied with a grin. “It came to me that I can judge if any people are nearby by the amount of body water humans have.

We're going to have to see this revelation happen three more times.

quote:

And Mardimil and I were doin’ what he and I and Coll agreed to do last night: make sure the testin’ authority has no reason to break us up. If they think we’re gettin’ too friendly, they just might do that.”

“You’re absolutely right!” Jovvi exclaimed. “I missed that, but happily you three didn’t. You and Rion will be arguing with Lorand next, I suppose?”

“Mardimil first and then me,” Vallant agreed with a nod. “At first we were goin’ to do it after the next group meetin’, but then we decided we might not have the time to wait. It’s gettin’ too close to the time they’ll be formin’ us into a Blendin’, and we’re hopin’ they won’t do any separatin’ afterward. If they think we can’t stand each other, they ought to leave us alone.”

“I certainly hope so,” Jovvi agreed fervently. “I’ll have to speak to Tamma as soon as we get back, to let her know what’s going on. After that I can blame her for the fact that Allestine was arrested, and she’ll know I’m not serious.”

“Coll and Mardimil are supposed to tell her while we’re gone,” Vallant said. “They’ll both try to get her alone, and at least one of them ought to succeed.”

And now we're going to have to read about all of this through all of the various POVs and then have to read further recaps from the opposing POVs.

This is particularly aggravating me because I've just finished binging all of John Bierce's Mage Errant books and he tends to be pretty good about not repeating stuff. He generally makes a choice between:

1) having his characters discuss the plan in dialogue for the benefit of the reader, then either
a) skipping over the action if it went according to plan, or
b) showing the action if it DOESN'T go to plan;

OR

2) skip over by summarizing like "Character A explained the plan and then Characters B through E reacted in these ways" with the successive chapters showing the characters enacting said plan

Green's books are full of characters taking five chapters to come up with a plan, then doing the plan and having the plan go exactly as planned over another five chapters, then holding a debriefing meeting to discuss how the plan went exactly to plan so everybody can spend more time talking about the plan for yet another five chapters.

quote:

His words stopped there, but Jovvi could see that there was something he ached to add. His emotions had rippled wildly when he’d mentioned Tamma, and Jovvi couldn’t stand it.

“You might as well tell me whatever you’re holding back on,” she said, smiling faintly at his startlement.

What exactly is Vallant startled about?

quote:

“If you don’t, we’ll probably both explode.”

“But imposin’ now would be wrong,” he protested, actually meaning it. “This court business has got to be botherin’ you, and I meant to say right away that I don’t have to go in with you if you really don’t want company. I can walk around outside the buildin’ until the whole thing is over—”

More like, YOU don't actually want to go inside because of your random crippling claustrophobia, not because you actually care about what Jovvi wants.

quote:

“Vallant, please,” she interrupted, leaning forward to touch his hand where it rested on his knee. “I’m very glad to have you going with me, and talking about what’s bothering you won’t be imposing. I’m badly in need of something to distract me, so you’d actually be doing me a favor.”

If I had read this for the first time as an adult and not a fourteen year old, I would have thought that this was going to be yet another horribly written sex scene.

quote:

“To tell the truth, I feel like a damned fool just thinkin’ about it,” he admitted heavily, his very handsome face strained. “Talkin’ about it is worse, but neither is as bad as not doin’ somethin’ to change it. Last night Tamrissa said some things to Coll, and he got mad and repeated them to me. It seems I was wrong to believe she has no feelin’s for me.”

Oh nope, we're just going to have some horribly belabored contrived relationship drama instead. I'm not sure which option is worse. At least with the badly written sex scenes we can laugh about how bad they are. This is just annoying.

quote:

“I think I tried to tell you that at one point, but you were in too much pain to hear me,” Jovvi commented with a smile and a nod. “I expect Lorand put it a bit less delicately than I did… And now you’ve decided to do what? Change your mind again?”

“The only reason I changed it the first time was to keep from botherin’ a woman who wanted nothin’ to do with me.” Now his expression was just serious, and it was clear that he was telling the truth.

YOU HAVE SPIRIT MAGIC!

quote:

“I also felt pretty worthless, to have a woman like Tamrissa hate me so much.”

Honestly, she's in good company. I'm pretty sure you have quite a lot of women who hate you. Have you considered possibly that you might be the common denominator here?

quote:

“It wasn’t hate, it was fear,” Jovvi felt compelled to tell him. “She’s very much afraid of getting involved again, and the fact that she only treated you that way said clearly how attracted she was to you. It was rather easy for me to see that, but discussing it without her permission was another matter entirely.”

A reminder these protagonists are supposed to be grown rear end adults. But they're behaving like ten year olds who just figured out crushes are a thing but they are super awkward about it because they have under developed social skills so instead of going to talk to their crush, they run up to them and punch them in the face instead because that's guaranteed to get their crush to pay attention to them.

quote:

“And now we have an even bigger problem,” he said, leaning forward to rest his arms on his knees and clasp his hands. “I was all for talkin’ to her right away and gettin’ the misunderstandin’ straightened out, but Coll and Mardimil talked me out of it. They pointed out that I was probably kept in the residence while Holter was moved elsewhere because he was startin’ to fit in too well. And he also got along with Tamrissa, which seems to be the major point. If I start gettin’ along with her, I could end up bein’ transferred elsewhere.”

“Yes, you certainly could.” Jovvi was forced to agree even while she hated the idea. “So that means you can’t change the way you’ve been acting with Tamma, but she has to be told something. The way things are now, she’s completely miserable.”

“And I refuse to let her go on feelin’ like that,” Vallant said flatly. “This happened because I acted like a fool, and I won’t have her sufferin’ over my mistake. I’d like you to tell her the truth—and that I’ll be lookin’ for a chance to get her alone. What the testin’ authority doesn’t know can’t hurt us.”

“Well, I’ll tell her, of course, but I’m not sure how she’ll take it,” Jovvi said, needing to tell the man the truth. “She took a very big step forward when she decided to try a relationship with you, but that was just before you apparently changed your mind. Now that you’ve changed it back, there’s no guarantee she’ll do the same.”

“I feel like I’m ridin’ a runaway horse,” Vallant said after letting out a long, deep breath. “And not only runaway, we’re both blindfolded. But you can tell Tamrissa that I offer my apologies in advance, because this time I won’t be changin’ my mind back again. She’d better do the same, or she’ll end up very unhappy with me.”

The meta theme throughout all of Green's works: no matter what the woman says or how she acts, she secretly wants you your SO BAD (which means it's True Love) and just needs you to be a Real Man who forces himself on her in order to make her realize that she's been repressing her True Feelings for him.



quote:

“Vallant, you have to promise me that you won’t push her too much,” Jovvi asked, suddenly nervous. “She’s gotten into the habit of reaching to the power in order to protect herself, and she could accidentally cause you a great deal of harm.

FORESHADOWING.

quote:

You have to remember what she’s been through—”

“I do remember, but it’s time she forgot,” Vallant said as he sat back, his mind solidly made up.

Sure, she's got massive PTSD, but she can just get over with a snap of her fingers, no problem.

You know what, Vallant with Spirit magic would be horrifying.

quote:

“I won’t ever do anythin’ to harm her, but it may be time to stop thinkin’ of her as breakable. Real women aren’t that fragile, and she’s as real as they come.”

His thoughts slipped into a private area then, and Jovvi didn’t have to work very hard to guess which one.

Probably because he's got a raging from the rape fantasy he's in right now.

quote:

She felt the definite urge to press her warning, but usually tried to avoid wasting her time and breath. Vallant’s earlier determination about Tamma was like a single flame to the current conflagration raging inside him,

Is this supposed to be a euphemism? You know what, I'm gonna count it as one.

quote:

and Jovvi could only hope that the comparison would not turn out to be literal.

No, we'll never see Tamrissa use "invisible fire" on anybody.

quote:

Having no more conversation to distract her, Jovvi looked out of the coach window to see that they were entering an area of the city that seemed to have a large number of official-looking buildings. The sight caused her to shiver just a little, so similar was it to that time she’d had her own brush with the law. The official-looking buildings appeared just the same, only slightly less imposing than they’d been to a very frightened young girl.

The time had been just after she’d met the family which had offered to take her in, but before she’d decided to accept the offer. The people had seemed unbelievably decent, but young Jovvi had seen too much of the other sort to give her trust that easily—even if her gift tried to tell her they were sincere. She’d eaten the food they’d given her and then had returned to the streets, going back to the house twice in five days when finding food elsewhere proved impossible. Each time they’d told her she could stay and live with them, but they hadn’t tried to keep her from leaving again.

And then the day came when the guardsmen suddenly appeared everywhere, their aim being to arrest every street child they could catch. There had finally been too many complaints about burglary and trespassing in locked warehouses for the officials to ignore, so they sent out a large number of guardsmen to sweep up the dregs who were causing so much trouble. Very few of the children and older street people avoided the net, and Jovvi wasn’t one of them. She’d been caught easily and thrown into one of the cages-on-wheels the guardsmen had brought along to hold their prizes, and had been too frightened to use her ability in an effort to escape.

There had been so many others in the cage that Jovvi had found it difficult to breathe despite all the open spaces between the cage’s bars. It had also been almost impossible to stand, especially when the wagon the cage was sitting in began to move. Everyone had reeked of fear even before that; once they were definitely on the way out of the neighborhood some of them never left, the fear turned to choking terror.

They’d passed the official-looking buildings before the wagon was driven into the back of one, and then they’d been pulled out of the cage and dragged to a series of large cells. The cells afforded more room, but the stink of urine and vomit added to terror and hopelessness had made Jovvi throw up. The filthy straw underfoot hadn’t really absorbed what she’d produced, even though it wasn’t much. She hadn’t had a decent meal in a few days, so there’d been little more than liquid to give up.

They’d been kept in that cell for three days, and once each day they’d been given a bowl of thick gruel and a cup of water. Jovvi had had to force herself to eat the terrible stuff, which had tasted worse than day-old garbage, but she hadn’t been able to force herself to sleep. At most she’d catnapped, and then only for a few minutes at a time. Constant fear is exhausting, but it also refuses to let its victim rest. When Jovvi was finally taken out of the cell with five of the other children she knew, she was close to complete collapse.

Before that day Jovvi had never been in a courtroom, but she had no difficulty recognizing it when she and the others were dragged inside. They were made to sit down on a bench at the front of the wood-paneled room, and a man seated at a nearby table had risen to address the panel of judges. He recited the list of crimes they were accused of, and the first of Jovvi’s group, a boy she knew and disliked, was pulled off the bench to stand in front of the judges’ dais. One of the judges asked if there was anyone in the courtroom who was willing to be responsible for the boy, and when no one spoke up to volunteer, the boy was told he’d been found guilty and was then sent away to work off his sentence.

The fact that they weren’t told what the sentence was only made things worse for Jovvi and the others. She sat there in pure terror as one by one the other children were done the same as the first, and finally it was her turn. She waited numbly for her fate to be sealed—but suddenly a voice spoke out, saying it would be responsible for her. The voice belonged to the father of the family which had invited her to live with them, and Jovvi never understood why she hadn’t fainted with relief.

The man had been required to pay three silver dins in reparation for her crimes, just about every penny the family had. After feeling dizzying relief Jovvi had felt guilty, but Nolin, the man, had just told her she could pay him back when she grew up. He took her home, his wife Minara had helped her to bathe before giving her an old but clean dress to wear, and then they’d fed her. By then it had been impossible to keep her eyes open, and she’d ended up sleeping for a full day. And she’d never gone back to the streets again…

Green: "I don't know what else to do here so um, here, have all 905 words of my character backstory notes for Jovvi, that'll do"

quote:

But now she was going back to a courtroom, and the thought of it threatened to make her throw up all over again.

This just...does not land. At all.
 
Summary:

Day 10
Vallant and Rion fake fight (badly) for the benefit of the various spies in the residence. Jovvi heads off to Allestine's trial, accompanied by Vallant.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 42 (24 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
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
Book 3: Damilla Sytoss, Edril Lanton

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 19 (9 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
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, the Seated Five's palace, the ballroom inside the palace

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 25 (15 in Book 1; 9 in Book 2)
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, canapés at the masked reception at the palace), Day 10 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 15 (9 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
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), conflagration raging inside (1x)
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; 13 in Book 2)
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: 31 (11 introduced in Book 1; 20 introduced in Book 2)
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, group wearing gold and blue costumes at the ball (Adriari's Blending)
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: 67 (39 in Book 1; 23 in Book 2)
COACH RIDES: 48 (21 in Book 1; 25 in Book 2)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 16 (4 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
OTHER MEETINGS: 16 (3 in Book 1; 12 in Book 2)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 63 (31 in Book 1; 31 in Book 2)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 37 (18 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 14 (11 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
TEA DRINKING: 48 (22 in Book 1; 26 in Book 2)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 26 (19 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 8 (6 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
MIND CONTROL: 6 (5 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1; 4 in Book 2, including 1 rape scene)

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)
  • Hey I just figured out magical radar (Book 2: Chapter 15; Book 3: Chapter 6)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
  • You won! (Book 2: Chapter 38, 39)

Possible fixes:
It's always so jarring going from a competent writer back to Green's crap:
  • This applies to every character but Jovvi's POVs are completely inconsistent with her backstory. With a traumatic event like that, Jovvi should be the one who's sensitive about her personal space and claustrophobic in crowded places.
  • Green is so bad with flashbacks. She always uses them as a longwinded explanation of something that shouldn't need to be explained if she would just do a better job of "show, don't tell". It'd be more effective if Jovvi's backstory was parcelled out in small snatches so the reader could piece it together from little asides or observations from Jovvi, rather than being assaulted with a gigantic infodump. There's a time and place for those kinds of infodump flashbacks (like if it's used as a way of showing growth in the relationship between two characters by way of one character being open and vulnerable in confiding in the other character) and this is definitely not one of those times.
  • The tone is all messed up in this chapter. We should open feeling Jovvi's dread about going to the courthouse instead of this banal crap about how she couldn't sleep because everybody had trouble sleeping last night. And it should be shown in her behavior being off rather than being told in narration that she dreads it
  • There should be no chapter break between this one and the next chapter! The two chapters are halves of the one arc, which is to have the plot move forward thanks to new information dumped on the protagonists at Allestine's trial

EDIT: There are 49 chapters in Book 3 (44 if you exclude the 5 chapters at the front that were really part of Book 2) and I plan for us to finish by mid October (roughly 24 weeks away) so I can attempt NaNoWriMo again in November (so roughly 2-3 chapters a week).

Leng fucked around with this message at 13:31 on May 1, 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 SEVEN 

It took some doing, but by the time the coach stopped in front of the large stone building, Jovvi was projecting outward calm. Inward was another matter entirely, but she refused to let herself think about that.

“This whole neighborhood looks like a ghost town,” Vallant commented as he helped her out of the coach. “I haven’t even seen anybody walkin’ in the street for two or three blocks.”

“This is supposed to be the second rest day,” Jovvi reminded him with a brief smile of thanks for his help. “It’s odd that they didn’t wait until tomorrow to hold this trial, and I’m tempted to think that there’s an ulterior motive involved. But the whole thing might just be standard practice, and I’m simply being overly suspicious.”

I'm having trouble with Green's calendar system here. It's Day 10 by my count, and "week's end" (when Tamrissa was expecting Vallant for sexy times and Rion was out having sexy times) was on Day 8. Are we working on a 10 day week here with an 8 day long work week and 2 rest days? I kind of assumed she was going with a 7 day week (because she keeps things the same as our world for the most part) or a 5 day week (because FIVE FIVE FIVE), so going to 10 is kind of unexpected.

quote:

“In our position, overly suspicious is the safest thing to be,” Vallant murmured as they started up the wide stone steps. “Don’t forget that I’ll be actin’ superior and insufferable, and maybe you ought to be actin’ more than a little upset. If they’re doin’ this just to ruin your balance, it would be a shame to make them think they wasted the effort.”

Jovvi considered that an excellent idea, especially since it would be easy to arrange. Showing her true feelings rather than hiding them would do it, and that way even another Spirit magic practitioner would be convinced. Yes, that was definitely the way to play it, and the realization made her even more glad that Vallant was there. Normally she would probably have come up with the idea herself, but where courtrooms were concerned there was nothing normal about her reactions.

I hate how Green consistently contrives to put characters who would otherwise be competent into situations where she can force them to act uncharacteristically incompetent. There's an interview floating around where Green is on record as saying that she prefers stories about ultra competent characters struggling with super basic life skills. I don't disagree with that premise, but what she's done is...not that.

quote:

The heavy wooden front doors of the building were unlocked, and just inside was a guardsman standing a post. He directed them to the room where the trial was being held, on the second floor and in the daylight court, whatever that was.

A passing detail so unimportant even Jovvi is meh about it.

quote:

She and Vallant produced rather loud footsteps as they crossed the wide, empty floor to the proper stairway, and Jovvi was relieved to see that her companion was only faintly disturbed about being indoors. With all that emptiness around them, there wasn’t much feeling of confinement.

This prose. THIS PROSE.

quote:

The second floor corridor had windows at either end, but there were still lamps lit around the first set of double doors on the right. Opening one of the doors showed them where everyone had gathered, more than a dozen people in addition to the defendants. But the three high chairs up on the dais were empty, which meant that court wasn’t yet in session. An older man dressed like a bailiff stood near the doors they entered by, and when he saw them he came over.

“Good mornin’,” he greeted them pleasantly, his accent sounding just like Vallant’s. “Can I help you folks with somethin’?”

In the hands of a competent author, this detail would reveal something about the world. Are Port Entril accents common? Are they rare? What does this mean?

Who knows I'm pretty sure Green doesn't even remember where Vallant is from, hence the vagueness.

quote:

“This lady is here to observe the trial,” Vallant answered with a smile. “She’s the one they tried kidnappin’, but the officials said they wouldn’t need her testimony. Is it all right if she and I just sit down back here somewhere?”

“You’re welcome to sit any place you like,” the bailiff replied with a smile of his own, one that seemed a bit warmer than the first one he’d produced. “If anyone has a right to observe the trial, I’d say this lady is it. And if one of you has any questions about what you see, don’t hesitate to ask.”

“That’s really lovely of you,” Jovvi told him with one of her own best smiles. “I just might have some questions, so we’ll sit down right here.”

The bailiff nodded to show that it was fine with him, so Jovvi urged Vallant to move to the bench first and let her sit on the end.

Why are we wasting words on this boring description and dialogue exchange that is pure blocking information that doesn't advance plot, character or setting?

quote:

Vallant hesitated very briefly, but the room was rather large and he wasn’t far from the door. It was possible to feel his clench-jawed efforts at self control, but they were successful enough to let him do as she wanted.

Wait wait wait wait wait - is this an ebook typo? Can someone with a physical copy confirm that it says "she" and not "he"? Is Jovvi messing around with Vallant's emotions right now? Or is this just a terribly written section where all Green meant to convey was Jovvi wanted Vallant to sit on the inside away from the aisle, which would put him further from the exit (and require him to clamber over her if he needed to get out in a hurry), and he struggled with it but deferred to her in the end because he's a caring person? And why does Jovvi need to sit on the end anyway? I thought the place was fairly empty - and a dozen or so people isn't enough to fill an entire courtroom.

quote:

Once they were seated, Jovvi made herself look around a bit more deliberately. Ark and Bar were seated not far from Allestine at the front of the room, but her two bullies were wearing chains while she was not. Jovvi had expected to find Allestine frantic and terrified, but in point of fact the woman was calm and a bit impatient. It was as though she considered the proceeding a formality, and was just waiting to have it over and done with.

For a moment Jovvi wondered whether someone had lied to Allestine about what would happen, and then she realized that it didn’t matter. Someone could have lied, but it was just like the spoiled-brat Allestine to expect to get away with whatever she did. She’d gotten her own way for so many years that it was probably beyond her to picture any other outcome.

Apparently Green used to work as a sales person at a steel company. This description of Allestine is so far removed from what it would realistically take to run a highly successful business in the competitive sex work industry that I can only conclude Green has no idea how business works either, among many other things.

quote:

Jovvi sighed and braced herself, anticipating what would happen if things went against the woman. Which they probably would…

Um, spoilers?

quote:

Everyone sat or stood around for a number of minutes, some of those at the front of the courtroom speaking together in soft, secretive voices. They were the prosecuting officials, Jovvi suddenly understood, and their thought patterns suggested that they didn’t know why they were there on a rest day. So much for the practice being an ordinary one.

Look at Jovvi, conveniently developing the ability to read minds out of nowhere! Previously at the time trial competitions she only had a vague sense, now she's getting more specific reads!

quote:

And there was someone probing gently at Jovvi with Spirit magic. She’d noticed as soon as the attempt began, but had made no effort to keep the practitioner away from her surface thoughts and emotions. As Vallant had said, if they were trying so hard to upset her, it would be foolish to make them think their efforts were wasted. Not to mention the fact that she was upset. If someone closer to her than Allestine were the accused, she would probably be as much of a nervous wreck as she now only pretended to be.

What? You closed the last chapter and opened this one with a big hoo hah about how courtrooms and the law freak you out. This is not an acceptable retcon.

quote:

At the end of the double handful of minutes,

So...ten minutes later? I don't understand the need for this convoluted phrase

quote:

a door opened on the left side of the room and three men appeared. They all wore the heavy purple robes of judges, and filed up onto the dais and took their places. Once they were seated, everyone in the courtroom stood up and bowed their respect. The judge in the center, the presiding judge, nodded acknowledgment to let everyone sit again. The judge on the right, who oversaw the procedures used by the prosecution, and the judge on the left, charged with looking out for the accused, made no effort to add their own nods.

Yawn.

quote:

“Now,” the presiding judge said once everyone was settled. “Will someone please tell me why we’re all here this morning?”

“The circumstances are rather special, Your Honor,” the chief prosecutor said after getting to his feet. The man had Spirit magic, and although he was no more than a Low to Middle talent, he must certainly be able to feel the judge’s vast annoyance.

That's quite the wide range in the level of talent. How is it every other time characters are able to pinpoint talent levels exactly and yet Jovvi is having trouble doing so now, for a minor unnamed character we will never see again?

quote:

“As I’m sure the court knows,” he continued, “we’re in the midst of preparing for the competitions which will choose our next Seated Blending. The matter before you this morning concerns the attempted kidnapping of one of the participants who qualified for the competitions. The special section of Advisory law therefore comes into play, which mandates the speediest trial possible.”

“I can’t see that waiting one more day would have caused the entire system to break down,” the judge grumbled, dissatisfaction clear on his broad, middle-aged face. “But since we’re already here, we might as well get on with it. Go ahead and start giving us the facts.”

I wish I had started a counter for the number of times a character says "go ahead". It is one of the most overused expressions in these books.

quote:

“Really, Judge, this is all such foolishness,” Allestine interrupted as she rose gracefully to her feet. “The charges are absolutely untrue, and—”

“Dama, this isn’t the time,” the judge on the left interrupted in turn, his face expressionless. “You’ll be allowed your say, but not until the prosecutor has his. Sit down now, and wait until you’re asked to speak.”

Allestine was extremely annoyed, but she still nodded and smiled at the judge and resumed her seat. She seemed to think that she’d done something to help her cause, but Jovvi knew better. All three of the judges were Low talent Spirit magic users, and not one of them had missed Allestine’s very transparent emotions.

There is no way a successful business owner would be this stupid. Change my mind!

quote:

The prosecutor went on to describe the attempted kidnapping in surprising detail, ending with the fact that the victim hadn’t tried to press charges. That was why the empire, much less soft-hearted and forgiving than a young, inexperienced woman, was bringing the matter before the bar.

“Very simply put, Your Honor, this isn’t an attempt that can, or should be, overlooked,” the prosecutor wound up. “Qualified participants for the competitions are rare enough that they must be thoroughly protected, to be certain that no one tries the same again. We respectfully ask the court to make an example of this woman and her cohorts.”

But the whole process is entirely rigged? Is this like turf protection to make sure nobody else is absconding with High talent that the Gandistran armies require as slaves?

quote:

“Why are the two men in chains?” the judge on the right asked after the prosecutor bowed. “Since there’s a squad of guardsmen around them, chains seem rather unnecessary.”

“A squad of guardsmen was also sent to arrest the three, Your Honor,” the prosecutor explained, faint embarrassment over the omission clear in the man’s thoughts. “The two men still tried to resist, apparently at the orders of the defendant. They’re in chains now to avoid a repetition of the incident.”

“Very commendable,” the judge on the right commented dryly, his tone telling the prosecutor that the point was an important one and shouldn’t have been overlooked. His thoughts seemed to indicate that the man was new, and therefore wasn’t yet used to all parts of the proper procedures.

None of this is going to be relevant whatsoever.

quote:

“All right, Dama, now it’s your turn,” the judge on the left said to Allestine. “Were you telling us earlier that the charges are a bit harsh?”

“Not harsh, Judge, completely untrue,” Allestine said as she rose again, completely ignoring the hint given her by the judge. “That silly bit of fluff was lying when she told everyone what happened. The truth is that I’d come to say goodbye to her, and she begged me to take her back to Rincammon with me. She said she hated everything about this city and wanted to go home, back to my residence in our city. I tried to be as gentle as possible when I refused her, but she still flew into a rage. She made me stop the coach then and there to let her out, but not before she said I’d be sorry for refusing her. I had no idea what she meant until the guardsmen came to arrest us. Her story is a lie, Your Honor, from beginning to end.”

This is the stupidest story ever and no one with the capacity for logic and planning involved in running a highly successful business would be caught dead trying to pass this off as the truth.

quote:

She used her smile on all three of the judges then, moving her body very slowly and gracefully. Jovvi recognized the subtle movement as one all courtesans are taught, to show prospective patrons that the courtesan is completely available.

What the hell is this move supposed to be?









quote:

Allestine considered her speech and offer—a full success, but that was because she had Low level Fire magic. Spirit magic showed Jovvi how unhappy the three judges were with Allestine’s story, the judge on the left disgusted with the way she’d ignored his suggested defense.

“Dama, are you saying you weren’t overcome by emotional loss and therefore found yourself doing something foolish?” he tried again, this time spelling it out for her. “The young lady had lived in your residence long enough for you to become sisterly—or motherly—fond of her, so perhaps you weren’t able to face the idea of leaving her behind all alone. That would explain—”

“Nonsense, Your Honor,” Allestine interrupted with a small laugh, actually trying to make the words sound coy. “The girl was a terrible troublemaker in the residence, and she wasn’t even particularly popular with my patrons. With that in mind, you can see that the idea of my trying to kidnap her is pure nonsense. The truth is that I was very relieved to be rid of her.”

“So that’s the truth, is it?” the judge on the right said while the one on the left sighed with exasperated resignation. “Then why don’t you tell us, Dama, why you came all this way just to visit a girl you don’t like? You’ve conducted no business of any sort in this city, nor have you visited anyone else. Court investigators checked the point thoroughly, so there’s no mistake.”

“I’m afraid they weren’t quite as thorough as all that,” Allestine disagreed, apparently prepared for the question. “I came to Gan Garee to see if it was practical to open a residence here. I’ve been thinking about expanding for quite some time, and finally decided to look into the matter. Courtesy forced me into visiting that stupid girl while I was here, which I certainly now wish I hadn’t.”

“Looking into expanding your business would mean seeing what properties are available and assessing the competition you would face,” the judge on the right pursued, his expression hard and unyielding. “You may now tell this court how you found out what was available, and the method you used to gauge your future competition.”

“Why, Your Honor, the answer to those questions is very simple,” Allestine purred, privately feeling a ridiculing delight. “I meant to do those things, but I’m afraid I disliked this city the moment I laid eyes on it. As soon as I got here I decided against opening a residence after all, and so had no need to do any investigating.”

“I see,” the judge on the right responded stiffly, vastly annoyed with Allestine’s inner amusement. “You came all the way from Rincammon just to change your mind once you got here. Would you now like to explain how a woman with High ability in Spirit magic can possibly make an unpopular courtesan? Or how such a woman could possibly prefer the life of an unpopular courtesan to the chance of becoming one of the new Seated Blending? Those points are still rather unclear.”

“Not to me they aren’t,” Allestine all but snapped, resenting the fact that the prosecuting judge had brought up the very same argument that Jovvi had. “The girl just isn’t very bright, and she never seemed to realize that my patrons didn’t like her. She would boast about having first standing in the residence, and never noticed that the other girls were laughing at her. That, Your Honor, was the way it was.”

“That, Dama, is a crock,” the prosecuting judge countered, completely out of patience. “A High practitioner in Spirit magic would have to be dead not to notice unpopularity and laughter at her expense. You leave me no choice but to ask for an unbiased accounting.”

He looked at the other two judges then, and the defense judge simply shrugged and nodded. It seemed to Jovvi that he couldn’t think of a reason to counter the request, and therefore was forced to agree to it. The presiding judge nodded when he saw that, and then raised his arm.

Somebody write a fanfic where the prosecuting judge is the protagonist. It would be more interesting than anything Green has written.

Also this is a weird judicial system of having a prosecuting judge, a defense judge and a presiding judge. If she had better world building I probably would have cut Green some slack here but methinks Green also doesn't understand how the judicial system works.

quote:

“It’s the unanimous decision of this court that the defendant be required to give an unbiased accounting,” he announced to everyone in general. “The chief court clerk is authorized to make the necessary preparations.”

Oh look, it's time for the infodump which is the entire point of this little detour from the main plot!

quote:

People got up and began to move around and talk to each other then, leaving Allestine feeling confused and vaguely worried. Jovvi was also confused, so she took the opportunity to turn to the friendly bailiff.

“Can you tell me what that’s all about?” she asked in a soft voice, looking up at him. “I’ve never heard that phrase before.”

“It’s only used when the defendant denies all the charges lodged,” the bailiff replied just as softly after bending to her. “The court wants to know the truth, and the only one here who can give it to them without question is the defendant herself. She’ll be given the drink, and once it starts workin’ on her she’ll tell the court everythin’ it wants to know.”

“What drink is that?” Jovvi asked with a frown. “Is it a truth drug of some kind?”

“Better than those phony truth drugs,” the man replied with a smile. “It’s called Puredan, and when it’s inside somebody they have to do as they’re told. They keep a careful eye on the stuff, because once somebody under its influence is told somethin’, they’ll still obey the command once the Puredan wears off. And since it’s supposed to taste like funny water, people could have it fed to them without knowin’ about it. That’s why they’re so careful about who can use it.”

Jovvi nodded her thanks, and turned back to what was going on in the courtroom again. Allestine was in the process of drinking a glass of clear liquid which one of the men in the room had brought to her, and the judges were watching carefully as she drank. Her mind said she didn’t know what it was that she drank, but had accepted it despite her annoyance over the delay in her release.

And then Jovvi started, as an unexpectedly swift reaction began in Allestine. The woman hadn’t even finished the entire glass of liquid when her thought processes came to a sudden halt. All voluntary cogitation seemed to be gone, and she paused in the drinking until the court clerk quietly urged her to finish the liquid. She did so immediately, then stood in docile thoughtlessness, waiting patiently for the next thing she would be told.

DUN DUN DUN! Here's the payoff for the clues dropped in Chapters 10 through 15 and then outright spoiled in Chapter 16 of Book 1.

Conceptually it's just fine but Green's execution is just so...bleh. Anyway, the protagonists are still in the dark and they won't figure it out for another ten chapters or something like that.

quote:

There was something of a stir over near where Ark and Bar sat, and Jovvi suddenly noticed how agitated their minds were. It had taken them a moment to realize what Allestine was being given, and by the time they tried to interfere it was too late to stop her from drinking. The guardsmen got the two bullies quieted down again, and by then Jovvi had noticed the two men seated a few rows behind the squad of guardsmen. They weren’t at all happy about what was going on, but the frustration level inside them said there was nothing they could do to stop it.

“Why don’t we start with a simple but obvious point,” the prosecuting judge said suddenly, quieting all other conversation in the room. “In your initial statement, Dama, you said that your two male companions didn’t realize at first that they were resisting arrest. You claimed that they thought they were protecting you from some sort of attack, and now I ask if that statement was true.”

“Of course not,” Allestine responded at once, her voice soft and entirely free of reluctance. “They knew the guardsmen were there to arrest us, so they tried to prevent that from happening. It was what they were supposed to do.”

A not-quite ripple went through the people in the room, a voiceless reaction to the easy and damning admission. Jovvi could tell she wasn’t the only one who had never seen the results of Puredan use, and the others seemed as shaken as Jovvi felt.

Spoilers for the rest of the series, and particularly the sequel trilogy: from this point forward, Puredan is gonna get thrown around like it's water, and everybody who can't afford it or doesn't need to bother with it is just going to outright puppet people around with Spirit magic, and nobody will give a drat about it besides this one instance

quote:

“That sounds more like it,” the prosecuting judge said with satisfaction. “And now you may tell us about the reason for your presence in Gan Garee. Did you really come here to see about expanding your business?”

“It would be rather impractical for me to expand all the way here,” Allestine replied calmly. “The residence at home requires my close personal supervision, and so would any other residence I opened. I might be able to divide my time if the two were in the same city, but not with them being so far apart. No, the only reason I came here was to see what Jovvi was doing.”

“Didn’t you know what she was doing?” the judge asked next. “She came here to test for High practitioner, didn’t she?”

“Certainly, and that’s why I had to follow,” Allestine agreed. “She’s always been so quick to do just the right thing for herself, that I knew she would choose to stay here if she passed those tests. And maybe even if she didn’t, since any residence in the city would have accepted her gladly. But she brings in more gold than all the rest of my ladies combined, so I simply couldn’t afford to let her go. I made up my mind to come after her and bring her back, knowing no one would notice the absence of one single girl.”

“Didn’t you realize that she’s more than just another girl?” the judge pursued. “How could you think that no one would notice the disappearance of a competitions entrant?”

“Everyone knows that competition business is nonsense,” Allestine said, almost adding a small laugh. “Real people never bother about it, so why should I? Besides, I wanted her back in my residence, and I usually get what I want. Ark and Bar make sure of that, so why shouldn’t I have tried to kidnap her? It didn’t even matter that she said she would report me to the authorities. I wanted her back.”

This is supposed to be a shocking moment except Allestine sounds exactly like...how she always sounds in every chapter she's appeared in other than Chapter 2 of Book 1.

quote:

“Is that why you didn’t leave the city when your attempt failed?” the judge asked next. “You had all your possessions with you and you’d paid your inn charges in full, our investigators told us, but then you went back to the inn. Were you going to try again?”

“Of course, but that isn’t why I didn’t leave,” Allestine answered, her hands folded comfortably in front of her. “It wasn’t possible to leave, it just wasn’t, and that’s why I decided to try again. We would have made sure she was unconscious that second time, but I’m not certain about what I would have done with her. It wasn’t possible to leave…”

Allestine’s voice trailed off as though she were confused about something, but she really had nothing in her mind that could be confusing. Jovvi, however, wasn’t in the same position, and she was both confused and disturbed. Something wasn’t right here, she knew,

DUN DUN DUN! Can you figure it out before Jovvi?

quote:

but before she found it possible to figure out what, the defense judge spoke.

Don't worry, there's no pressure; you have until Chapter 20 of this book!

quote:

“Did you regret your actions at all?” he asked, his mind weary with the necessity. “Weren’t you the least bit sorry that you tried what you did? Wasn’t there the smallest chance that you would have changed your mind about trying again?”

“No, I wasn’t sorry,” Allestine admitted quickly and easily. “Why would I be sorry about taking back what’s mine? She belongs to me, you know, and always will. Just like the other girls in the residence, only she’s much more valuable than them. When I get her back, she’ll make my fortune even larger than it already is.”

“I think that’s clear enough,” the presiding judge said while Jovvi’s insides twisted and knotted. Allestine really did consider her a slave, and would not have hesitated to keep her a prisoner if she’d gotten her back to the residence.

So much for Jovvi being a High in Spirit magic. This should be blindingly obvious! Based on this, Allestine's argument isn't as implausible as the judge made it out to be.

quote:

“I now direct the senior court clerk to bring the defendant out of it, so that she’ll be fully aware when sentence is pronounced.”

As the clerk approached Allestine again, the three judges began to speak softly among themselves. The prosecuting and defending judges seemed to be making suggestions, and the presiding judge listened and asked an occasional question. Jovvi could feel his effort to keep an open mind, but it wasn’t possible to deny completely that he’d already made a decision. In the interim the clerk had been speaking to Allestine, and now her thoughts had returned as quickly as they’d previously disappeared. When the clerk walked away from her, she looked up at the three judges with faint puzzlement.

“Does the defendant have anything she’d like to add?” the presiding judge asked, sounding downright solemn. “This, Dama, will be your last opportunity to do so.”

This is a pretty stupid question when the standard procedure seems to be to leave the person under Puredan with no recollection of what happened under Puredan.

quote:

“How many times can I repeat that the silly little chit is lying?” Allestine asked sleekly, as though she had no idea about what she’d said only a few moments ago. “I’m completely innocent, and I think I’ve shown that no one can prove differently.”

Once again she didn’t quite smirk, but that was only on the outside. The presiding judge saw the same thing Jovvi did, but wasn’t nearly as upset by it.

“But the opposite of your claims has been proven, and in a way no one can doubt or discredit,” the presiding judge said in a ponderous voice. “Allestine Tromin, stand forward and hear the penalty for your crimes.”

“What are you talking about?” Allestine tried to shrill, suddenly frightened by what she’d heard. “Who could have—”

“Allestine Tromin, you have been found guilty of a terrible crime through the testimony of your own words,” the judge plowed on, overriding Allestine’s protests. “Kidnapping with the intent to enslave is vile enough, but to take as your victim a rare resource of the empire is unforgivable.”

Allestine now stood with her mouth opening and closing, but no sound emerged. Her face had gone completely pale, and her mind clanged with shock. No one had ever challenged her word before, and not only challenged it but declared it a lie.

How is it even possible to get through childhood like this? Like I get it, overindulgent parents spoiling the child as the theme, blah blah blah. But other children have no qualms about pointing these things out, especially when they're like four or five.

quote:

Jovvi could see that she began to believe the scene unreal, as though it were nothing but a nightmare.

“For those reasons I shall pronounce an equally monstrous sentence,” the presiding judge continued, his talent closed down to separate him from the woman he spoke to. “You are hereby remanded to the department of justice, which will transport you to one of the empire’s deep mines. There you will remain, performing hard labor, for five full years. And those two men, who accompanied you in perfidy, will also accompany you in your sentence. They will suffer the same fate, but at two other mines, to exclude the possibility of continuing your mutual support. Take them all away.”

The final ritual words seemed to release everyone, meaning Ark and Bar began to fight being taken out. A guardsman went and wrapped a big hand around Allestine’s arm, but she refused his urging to go with him. She simply stood there and shook her head, denying everything she couldn’t accept, and the guardsman had to call someone to help him with her. When the two men began to drag her out she started to scream and struggle, and the screaming didn’t stop until a door closed to cut off the sound.

I'm pretty sure the deep mines = Deep Caverns = Demon Caverns so this in theory should be a horrifying chapter. Except it's really not horrifying because Green seems incapable of writing in a way that evokes emotion in a reader.

quote:

“Jovvi, are you all right?” Vallant asked, somehow from a long distance off. “Just hold on, it’s all over with now. Would you mind fetchin’ her some water?”

The last was to the bailiff, Jovvi knew in a dreamy, distant way, and then she became aware of how Vallant had begun to rub her hand and wrist. The brisk action brought her back a short way, and that was when deep shock moved aside for extreme pain.

Um, what? Are you back to caring about Allestine again?

quote:

“No, it’s all right,” Vallant said quickly and softly when she started to sob. “That sentence was terrible, but no one can say she didn’t earn it. She was the one who came after you, and no one was makin’ her do it. She went ahead and acted as she pleased because she refused to believe she’d ever be caught and punished. This is all her fault, not yours.”

“I … should have … looked harder for … a way to … stop her,” Jovvi sobbed, dizzy with guilt and horror. “It’s all … my fault, and … now she’ll die just … like my father did.”

That part was the hardest for Jovvi to bear, the knowledge that Allestine had been sent to the deep mines. They were a hundred times worse than the mine her father had died in, and all the workers were prisoners. Allestine was a hundred times more likely to die, and Jovvi knew it was all her fault.

I'm sorry, Jovvi's relationship with Allestine and her feelings about it are so inconsistent that all I can do is burst out laughing at this sentence.

quote:

“That witch won’t die,” Vallant said as Jovvi cried against him, holding her tight in his arms. “Once she comes out of the shock, she’ll start hatin’. She’ll hate the man who made her pay for what she did, she’ll hate the law that let him do it, and she’ll hate you for bein’ the cause of it all. It won’t be her own greed and stupidity that caused her downfall, it’ll be all your fault. So you see you don’t have to blame yourself, because she’ll be doin’ it for you.”

That line of reasoning was so absurd that it got Jovvi’s attention, and after a moment she was forced to admit that Vallant was probably right.

This is like the second nice thing that Vallant has done, though I can't figure out whether his POV would still be objectifying Jovvi even when she's in deep distress. It's probably a good thing that we're not in his POV.

quote:

It took away only a very small amount of the pain, but enough of it that she was able to sit straight and accept the water the bailiff brought. After sipping at it she noticed that they were the last ones left in the room, everyone else having gone without her seeing it.

“As soon as you feel a bit stronger, we’ll start to take you home,” Vallant said, and oddly enough his tone had shifted to pomposity again. “I knew a weak little thing like you couldn’t handle somethin’ like this alone, and I mean to tell Mardimil I was right as soon as we get back to the residence.”

Vallant had reverted to the game he and Rion had been playing earlier that morning, and Jovvi didn’t understand why—until she suddenly realized that there was someone lurking behind one of the partially closed doors at the front of the room. The someone was a Spirit magic user, and he was delighted with what he heard and felt.

“I’m not weak,” Jovvi protested stiffly as soon as she understood what was going on, putting the proper sense of insult on the surface of her mind. “This was all a terrible shock, and anyone in my position would have reacted the same.”

“Of course any woman would have acted the same,” Vallant returned with grating indulgence. “But that just proves I know women a lot better than Mardimil does. Are you ready to get goin’ yet? I promised myself a good long soak in the bath house, and I’m lookin’ forward to it.”

Because it's been way too long since anybody mentioned taking a bath.

quote:

“Yes, certainly I’m ready,” Jovvi muttered as she handed the water glass back to the bailiff, who was fighting not to show his extreme disapproval. Then she rose stiffly to her feet, her inner self rigid because of the contact with Vallant’s supporting arm, and let herself be urged out of the room. She felt as though she’d been put through that very first test again, and was incredibly grateful that Vallant had noticed that eavesdropper. Now they were leaving the properly false impression behind them, and they could go home feeling they’d accomplished something.

But it would be quite some time before Jovvi got over what she’d been forced to witness.

Not-spoilers: it won't.
 
Summary:

Day 10
Vallant and Rion fake fight (badly) for the benefit of the various spies in the residence. Jovvi heads off to Allestine's trial, accompanied by Vallant. Allestine is convicted by her own testimony, thanks to the use of Puredan (a mind control drug that tastes like funny water).

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 42 (24 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
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
Book 3: Damilla Sytoss, Edril Lanton

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 20 (9 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
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, the Seated Five's palace, the ballroom inside the palace
Book 3: a courtroom

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 25 (15 in Book 1; 9 in Book 2)
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, canapés at the masked reception at the palace), Day 10 (breakfast)

EUPHEMISMS FOR BODY PARTS/SEX ACTS: 15 (9 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
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), conflagration raging inside (1x)
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; 13 in Book 2)
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: 31 (11 introduced in Book 1; 20 introduced in Book 2)
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, group wearing gold and blue costumes at the ball (Adriari's Blending)
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: 69 (39 in Book 1; 23 in Book 2)
COACH RIDES: 48 (21 in Book 1; 25 in Book 2)
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 16 (4 in Book 1; 10 in Book 2)
OTHER MEETINGS: 16 (3 in Book 1; 12 in Book 2)
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 64 (31 in Book 1; 31 in Book 2)
"CLIFFHANGERS": 37 (18 in Book 1; 16 in Book 2)
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 14 (11 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
TEA DRINKING: 48 (22 in Book 1; 26 in Book 2)
BLATANT MORALIZING: 26 (19 in Book 1; 5 in Book 2)
BATH SCENES: 10 (9 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 8 (6 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
MIND CONTROL: 7 (5 in Book 1; 1 in Book 2)
BADLY WRITTEN SEX SCENES: 6, including 1 rape scene (2 in Book 1; 4 in Book 2, including 1 rape scene)

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)
  • Hey I just figured out magical radar (Book 2: Chapter 15; Book 3: Chapter 6)
  • Foot races: (Book 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
  • You won! (Book 2: Chapter 38, 39)

Possible fixes:

This whole attempted kidnapping and court trial sequence is 8000+ words long and exists purely so the protagonists can discover that they've been given Puredan without the need to do any actual investigation themselves. I HATE HATE HATE this. If I keep this in the rewrite, the protagonists need to actually work for this information, not just have it dropped into their collective laps.

I'm feeling a little out of practice with prose writing so let's do another bloat identification exercise! Same rules as the Book 2 Chapter 31 edit challenge: improve Book 3 Chapters 6 and 7 as much as possible by only deleting or moving text and making minimal changes (changing/inserting punctuation/tenses as needed, and condensing multiple words into one or two words is allowed, but no rewrites of entire sentences):
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xFWxnpxdNcoSIRCBrhLRK3bQ2Qcd_tS5FtuxBU1E5Wc/edit?usp=sharing

This still isn't great, because the whole scene sucks, but it's 2849 words instead of 8023–a 64% reduction! Most of what I removed were the spelling things out to be obvious and redundant statements, as well as the contradictory stuff with Jovvi's feelings regarding her relationship with Allestine. So much of Green's dialogue is terrible that it's hard to salvage without doing rewriting it completely and cutting out too much would make the scene bizarrely short. It's like she doesn't understand how people talk!

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