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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


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


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


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

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

Sibling of TB posted:

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

wizzardstaff posted:

The Blending by Sharon Green.

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

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


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

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

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

Selachian posted:

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

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

Sharon Green on the premise of The Blending

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

Green's response on the inspiration for the story

Sharon Green posted:

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

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

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

Green on using multiple POVs

Sharon Green posted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Index
Book 1: Convergence

Book 2: Competitions
Book 1 Summary (No, this is not a typo/misplacement when I edited the OP. Book 1 did not "end" until five chapters into Book 2 because Green)

Leng posted:

Here, have a tag cloud of Book 1, including the 5 chapters that got stuck at the beginning of Book 2 (courtesy of WordArt.com which has an interactive version):



Book 3: Challenges
Book 2 Summary (Also not a typo/misplacement when I edited the OP, because Green didn't learn her lesson from Book 1 apparently)

Leng posted:


(interactive version here and CSV of word frequency here)

Status as at 4 Dec 2020: Let's Rewrite The Blending - Book 1 is done!
4/12/2020: And is available as a crappy ebook if you're curious
3/12/2020: Rewritten Book 1 is done!
26/11/2020: NaNoWriMo is drawing to a close and the Let's Rewrite is almost done with Rewritten Book 1 (projected to finish some time next week)! The Let's Read will resume on 7 December (give or take a day).
13/10/2020: November approaches and we've now reached the promised pause point! I'll be spending the next two weeks making a plan for rewriting Book 1 as a NaNoWriMo project. If you're interested, you can follow along in the Let's Rewrite thread in CC. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who's been reading along with me - I hope I've been able to do this hate-read so far with justice, lack of thematic analysis notwithstanding. This thread will stay open for discussion on Green's books and we'll pick up on Chapter 6 of Book 2 in December.

STATUS AS OF 27 MARCH 2021:

Leng posted:

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!

Leng fucked around with this message at 13:06 on Mar 26, 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


Book 1: Convergence



Book 1 opens with a prologue.

quote:

HISTORY AND PROPHECY

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


StrixNebulosa posted:

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

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

StrixNebulosa posted:

- The art on the covers is AMAZING

wizzardstaff posted:

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

fritz posted:

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

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

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

wizzardstaff posted:

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



Web 1.0 ness aside, Green actually was pretty ahead of the curve as far as ebooks go - she used to sell them directly on her website, especially copies of her older, out of print stuff.
http://web.archive.org/web/20190112023045/http://www.sharon-green.net/

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

wizzardstaff posted:

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

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

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

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

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

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 ONE

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

Hello hamfisted attempt at foreshadowing.

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 1

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We're just racking up the counts now:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

Counts so far:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


HopperUK posted:

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

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

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

calmly destroying his family members with Facts and Logic

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

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

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

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

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

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

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

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

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

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWO

Jovvi HAFFORD—SPIRIT MAGIC

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

Of course she overheard, she interrupted that conversation.

quote:

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

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

quote:

Jovvi stood so they might touch cheeks in farewell,

No air kisses?

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

It was a cool and comfortable morning, really pretty,

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

…what is the point of those ellipses?

quote:

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

TAMRISSA!!!

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

Counts so far:

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

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

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

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

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


Selachian posted:

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

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

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

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

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

Selachian posted:

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

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

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

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

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

Kchama posted:

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

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

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

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

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

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

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

...

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

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

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

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

Leng
May 13, 2006

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

CLARION MARDIMIL—AlR MAGIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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



but for everyone.

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

Hallina Mardimil sounds like a wonderful mother.

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

WHY DO I HAVE POINTLESS NARRATION DURING AN ACTION SEQUENCE?

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

Counts so far:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

This was a bit triggering for me. I don't know how widely this news made the rounds globally, but back in 2006 a certain high profile religious leader in Australia referred to women who didn't conform to his standard of modesty as "uncovered meat" and said that it was their fault if they were sexually assaulted, because men were simply animals who couldn't be blamed for being tempted and taking advantage. It was a big deal in Australia at the time:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/oct/26/australia.marktran

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

...

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

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

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

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

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


I've seen that one before as well, managed to find it here:
https://fantasyworlds.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/interview-with-sharon-green/

Sharon Green posted:

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



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

Edit: Okay, here we go.

Green on world building

Sharon Green posted:

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

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

Green on writing characters and character arcs

Sharon Green posted:

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

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

Sharon Green posted:

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

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

Green on her soapbox about violence

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

Sharon Green posted:

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

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

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER FOUR

TAMRISSA DOMON—FIRE MAGIC

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

Hello not-so-subtle foreshadowing!

quote:

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

Uhhh, you said you were full crazy before.

quote:

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

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

quote:

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



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

Counts so far:

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

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

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

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

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


StrixNebulosa posted:

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

I wish you good luck!

wizzardstaff posted:

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

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

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

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

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


TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

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

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

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

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


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

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

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

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

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

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER FIVE

VALLANT RO—WATER MAGIC

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

Well that was anti-climatic.

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

Damned right you did.

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

Also hello, completely unsubtle reference to

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

STOP OBJECTIFYING WOMEN.

quote:

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

I wish you would "give up women entirely".

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

I. Do. Not. Care.

At. All.

quote:

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

Counts so far:

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

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

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

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

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

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

---

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

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

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

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

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

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

Hey's that's interesting! I bet you write awesome dialogue.

wizzardstaff posted:

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

Yes, the concept is very exciting. The execution - as with everything else - is rather lacking.

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

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

Sanderson's big themes that he explores over and over again in most of his books are religion and redemption. These are fundamental to both Stormlight Archive and Mistborn, and for me, he does it rather well. Is your main critique of his writing that you are not a fan of his prose and his tendency to use modern terms? Sanderson made very deliberate choices in that regard (he's said in his YouTube lectures that he prefers Orwellian "window glass" prose over stained glass windows):

Brandon Sanderson posted:

Questioner
One of the characters in this book replied with "I've got this," or "I got this." It seemed really modern, like colloquially modern.

Brandon Sanderson
I've got an answer for this. So here's the thing. I use Tolkien's philosophy on this, which is that you are reading the books in translation, and the person translating the English tries to use the closest English approximation to the same sentiment that would happen in the books.

And we try to move away from being too modern colloquial, and things like that, but the actual answer is they said something that's a similar saying in this, and people did talk colloquially even if they didn't have modern slang. Like, the name Tiffany is a medieval name, people don't know that. There's all these sorts of things that people did even back then. But we try to find something that is not going to kick people out. We are less worried about historical accuracy, and more about what's going to convey the right idea. So just kind of pretend that. Pretend that it's being translated by someone like me, Brandon Sanderson, who can read the original Alethi and be like, "Oh, they said something that means this. What's the modern equivalent?"

https://wob.coppermind.net/events/324/#e9334

Anyway, if that's what you like, then I'd suggest you look at Janny Wurtz. She writes beautiful "stained glass" style prose. Another author I'd suggest is Helen Lowe - Wall of Night is her debut series and she's currently working on the last book - note that because it is a debut series there's some pretty cringe-y barely disguised blatantly obvious infodumps (one character literally says to another in Book 1 "please tell me a story") but the later books are much better.

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

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

...

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

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

Lift is divisive even amongst hardcore Sanderson fans; I can't stand her (and all the "awesomeness"), even after reading Edgedancer, though maybe my view will change once I finish Rhythm of War. Lift aside, you've picked lines from Celeborn and Galadriel versus Kaladin and Syl (or someone from Bridge Four) - the former are wise leaders of their world who are thousands of years old and the latter is an unusually well educated soldier (but still waaaaaaaaaay beneath the former) and his magical child-like non-human companion. By definition, the dialogue is not going to be on the same level in terms of sophistication of the prose, turn of phrase or vocabulary.

A Shallan-Jasnah dialogue is probably a fairer candidate for comparison, but it's still not really fair since it's a master-apprentice conversation between a world-renowned scholar and her ward, and neither have even a hundredth of the elves' lived experience:

quote:

"There is a secret you must learn, child," Jasnah said. "A secret that is even more important than those relating to Shadesmar and spren. Power is an illusion of perception."

Shallan frowned.

"Don't mistake me," Jasnah continued. "Some kinds of power are real –power to command armies, power to Soulcast. These come into play far less often than you would think. On an individual basis, in most interactions, this thing we call power–authority–exists only as it is perceived.

"You say I have wealth. This is true, but you have also seen that I do not often use it. You say I have authority as the sister of a king. I do. And yet, the men of this ship would treat me exactly the same way if I were a beggar who had convinced them I was the sister to a king. In that case, my authority is not a real thing. It is mere vapors–an illusion. I can create that illusion for them, as can you."

"I'm not convinced, Brightness."

"I know. If you were, you would be doing it already."

I think the differing views comes down to the reason we read fantasy - I read it primarily for escapism (when I'm completely braindead from a stressful day week month continuous existence at work) and it sounds like you read mainly for literary appreciation?

Selachian posted:

While not a Southerner myself, I understand that down there it's not unusual to call your father "Daddy."

And my brother and myself never use "brother," "bro," or any variation thereof to address each other.

Kchama posted:

It's VERY unusual if you're an adult man. Women, girls, and young boys it's not unusual. Adult men? Yeah you're definitely going to get weird looks about calling your father 'daddy'.

Me and my brothers all called each other 'brother' in some form, so that didn't really bother me.

Perhaps the true idiot here is me; it did not occur to me that Green was trying to write a Southern accent because Port Entril is...in the southern part of the Empire. The "Daddy" thing (especially from two grown men) was not enough to get me there, though perhaps I should have realized when both Mirra and her father refer to her mother as "Momma".

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 now in the first chapter that kicks off the main plot and it's 6218 words long. Here's what Grammarly had to say:


quote:

CHAPTER SIX

"We made it, Lor, we're actually here!" Hat's voice was low but intense, underscoring the way Lorand felt himself. "And I can't believe how big this place is! It took an hour of driving through the city for the coach to reach here."

"We'd better get our cases before the coach leaves with them," Lorand told him, reluctantly pulling his stare away from the immense walled area they'd been brought to. "I wonder if that's where we're supposed to go."

"Sure is," the coachman unpacking their cases from the rear of the coach said with a grin. "You go up to one of them guards, tell 'im you're here for testin', and he'll let you know where you go next. Good luck t'you, an' have fun."

Lorand thanked the man as he took both cases, Hat still being too immersed in staring openmouthed to join him. But once the coach pulled away, Lorand moved the few steps to Hat and pushed his case at him.

"Take this thing, will you?" he said, nervousness making him faintly irritable. "It feels like you packed half the county along with your clothes."

"Well, I had to, now didn't I?" Hat replied with a laugh as he took the case. "Since I won't be going back again, I had to take what I'll need. I wonder if they'll give us time to find a pretty lady or two first—or maybe they'll supply some after we pass."

"First worry about passing," Lorand advised, beginning to lead the way toward the gated wall. "If we don't, none of the rest will matter."

"Women will always matter," Hat countered, but not as lightheartedly as before. It was now really beginning, and Hat was starting to feel that as strongly as Lorand already did.

299 words to fail at two things in this banal exchange: establish the capitol city of Gan Garee and further develop Hat and Lorand as characters. All I know is Gan Garee is "big" and Hat seems like he might be a closeted incel.

quote:

The immense wall clearly surrounded an area that wasn't open to the general public, the presence of sword and spear and armor-clad guardsmen reinforcing that observation. Lorand slowly approached one pair that were already staring at him and Hat, but when he reached them he didn't quite know what to say.

In a world where virtually everyone has elemental magic, these guardsmen are carrying swords and spears. WHY? I don't believe we see this ever again - from Book 4 onwards, guardsmen fight in link groups of like aspects (five per group).

quote:

"We're—we're supposed to test," Hat stumbled in explanation, now sounding as uncertain as Lorand felt. "Can you tell us where we're supposed to go?"

'Let's see the coach tickets you used," one of the guardsmen rumbled without inflection, putting out a large, bluntfingered hand. Lorand and Hat exchanged an uneasy glance, then dug for what was left of the coach tickets they'd been given. They'd had to relinquish an inch of ticket for each leg of their journey, which had left them with little more than tubs. But they produced those stubs and handed them over, and the guardsman inspected them briefly before handing them back.

Can you guys believe that we're going to have to read this drivel four more times? Yeah, that's right. These ticket stubs are so important that Green writes this exact thing in Chapters 7, 8, 9 and 10.

quote:

'You go to the main building right behind this gate," the guardsman told them, drawling the words in a way that said he'd repeated them any number of times before. "Use the entrance second from the right, and turn in these tickets when you're told to. They'll let you know what to do next."

If you're guessing that we'll have to see this same song and dance again WITH IN THE SAME CHAPTER, you'd be right.

quote:

And then the two guardsmen were stepping out of their way, giving them clear access to the gate. Lorand felt the strangest urge to wipe his sweating palms on his tunic, but he couldn't stand the thought of doing it in front of the guardsmen. There was already a definite gleam of amusement in the dismissive glances he and Hat had been getting, as if the guardsmen knew these two bumpkins had no chance to pass the tests. Well, Lorand did have a chance, and he meant to make the most of it. Hat still stood unmoving beside him, so he took a better grip on his case and resolutely moved through the gate . . .

. . . only to stop again just a few steps beyond it. The wall had hidden the most—utilitarian area Lorand had ever seen. A very large building with arched entrances stood before them, made of uniform gray stone three or four shades lighter than the stoned approach. It took no effort to feel the controlled strength that had been used to construct the building and approach, but less had gone into the planting and care of the grass surrounding the stone of the approach. The grass struggled to survive without Encouragement, an odd situation where there were supposed to be so many strong talents.

The only time Green bothers to spend on description of the setting and she chooses this. I mean, I don't need her to spend five pages on describing the city like some other authors, but it would be nice to get three vivid sentences so I can use my own imagination to fill in the gaps. Right now I'm trying to use my imagination to paint the whole damned canvas.

quote:

"Look at all the people coming in," Hat murmured from his left, obviously having stopped when he did. "They're using all those other gates, but only a few are heading toward the entrance we were told to use."

This does not turn out to be even mildly relevant to the plot whatsoever.

quote:

It was strange that Lorand had actually missed noticing the people, but Hat's mentioning them brought sight and awareness of them. There were dozens of people moving in and out of the immense building, men and women alike. Those coming out moved briskly in a businesslike way, as did some of those going in. Most of the others, though . . . Most of the others seemed like himself and Hat, nervous, unsure, hesitant, maybe even frightened. And most of them were alone, which made Lorand grateful for Hat's presence.

Green will never get any better at description. Crowds of people are only ever described as "men and women", their approximate number and their emotional state.

quote:

"No sense in just standing here," Lorand said after taking a deep breath. "It's already past noon, and we'll have to find someplace to stay before it gets dark. Let's go tell them we're here and find out when the testing will start, and then we can go looking for a place to live until it's our turn."

Please, no. We're going to have to watch Lorand and Hat door knock at every inn and hostel to ask if there are rooms available.




Just kidding. This is here to characterize Lorand as the responsible one who looks after Hat. But I bet I got you there for a second, didn't I? Also I want you to remember that Lorand said the words "No sense in just standing here."

quote:

"Which won't be too long after our silver runs out," Hat agreed sourly, joining him in walking toward the building. "I don't know why official doings have to take so long to happen, but they always do. Remember the five-year-old tests?"

Have a flashback in the middle of this conversation that will be made redundant by Lorand's next line of dialogue:

quote:

It had been a long time ago, but Lorand did remember. Every child in every district went to registration at the age of five, when they were enrolled in school and given their first tests. Lorand could also remember his father muttering about fool wastes of time, the elder Coll hating the need to allow anyone else access to his children. And allowing them a say over those children. Camil Coll would have kept his children illiterate if the law hadn't refused to let him do it, but Lorand hadn't known that at the time.

All the five-year-old Lorand had known was how strange everything looked, since that was his first trip off the farm.

He hadn't been allowed to go along when his older brother had been registered, but he'd been a baby then, not even three. Now he was five and it was his turn, and his walk had become a strut every time his father wasn't watching.

The registration for school had taken only a few minutes, but then had come the wait for the testing. Lorand had started out eager to find out what would happen, then he'd grown impatient, and then finally he'd gotten bored. It was taking so long to get to him, and he didn't know any of the other boys and girls there, and his father was watching him so closely despite the conversations he had with some of the other fathers there . . . That was probably why Lorand had forgotten the strict orders his father had given him before leaving the farm.

Remember back in Chapter 1 how it was confusing Lorand's dad had such a yokel accent and Lorand had none? Instead of working to build characters Green just reverts to stupid stereotypes. Like HopperUK pointed out, it makes no sense because according to this flashback, Camil Coll would have had to go to school too.

quote:

"I'll never forget how long it took for them to get around to me at the five-year-old testing," Lorand answered ruefully. "It was so long that I forgot all about what my father had said about not showing off. I really wanted everyone to know what I could do, but if I'd remembered the orders I'd been given . . . Do you think that's why they made us wait so long? So we'd forget what we'd been told?"

This is a dumb theory.

quote:

"Since my father didn't tell me anything but to do my best, I doubt it," Hat answered distractedly, his gaze on the entrance they meant to use. "They were just acting true to form, and showing everyone how important they were by keeping us waiting. What do you think these tests will be like?"

...you're seriously telling me that you guys were cooped up in a coach for an unspecified amount of time (but based on the other chapters, likely to be at least a week or more since you are coming from basically the western edge of the Empire) and you guys did not spend the majority of the time speculating on this fairly important point?

quote:

"I . . . don't know." Lorand hesitated before answering the question they'd both been careful to avoid all during the trip. "And I'd rather not even think about it. Master Lugal said we have to be ready for anything and everything, and you can't do that if you decide something has to be a certain way—"

Idiot. There's a middle ground between deluding yourself into knowing what the test will be and not preparing at all. "Failing to plan is planning to fail" and all that. And it's not like this is some mystery pop quiz either! It's a test for High practitioner of your aspect! You should be able to extrapolate the kinds of things that they would ask you do to. Encouraging crops has been mentioned twice so far, working with animals once and we saw Lorand put out a fireball by moving around a lot of dirt. I'd say these are all pretty good bets as to what the test will be about!

For the record, this is a pet hate of mine. I've worked in post graduate education for the last five years and it continues to astound me that grown rear end adults will do the same thing as college and high school kids - i.e. try to guess what's in the exam and cram for that by relying on rote memorization, instead of just studying properly in the first place and doing some actual learning.

quote:

"Well, I am ready, and I'll bet I know what they're going to do," Hat interrupted as if he hadn't heard what Lorand had said. "I know what they'll do and I can handle it easy, so I don't have to worry about passing. I will pass, and after it's all over I'll be a High."

Hat spoke with such intensity that Lorand was sure he really spoke to himself, unaware of having actually voiced the thoughts. And he made no effort to share his conclusions with Lorand, which was faintly disturbing. It was true that they would be competing against each other, but they were supposed to be friends . . . Did their friendship come down to so little that it was put aside so easily? Lorand didn't really want to know what Hat had thought of about the testing, but what hurt was that Hat hadn't even offered to share. . . .

It's your own fault for avoiding the topic during your journey. Just saying.

quote:

Lorand was disturbed as they reached the archway they'd been told to use, but once he stepped through it was awe that suddenly filled him. The area inside was nothing less than vast, the ceiling so far above their heads that it was difficult to see. People walked as quietly as possible inside that vastness, and those who spoke to one another whispered. Every ten feet or so a torch burned in an ornamental sconce on the walls, but the torches did little beyond making the inner dimness a bit less intense. All the way down at the other end of the building it was possible to see some daylight through other arches, but that also did nothing to brighten the place.

It's remarkable how many words Green uses to describe things so vaguely. What do you guys make of: "archway", "awe", "vast", "ceiling so far above...it was difficult to see", "quiet", "whispered", "torch burned", "other end", "some daylight", "arches" - inside the "most utilitarian gray building"?

Also I watched this Shadiversity video on torches the other week and now I can't ever read about torches used inside ever again without thinking :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsBNHbWGdbY

quote:

"Coach tickets, please," a brisk voice said, and Lorand took his attention from the vastness to look at the man who sat behind a small table just a few feet inside the entrance. The man was dressed in the sort of wide-sleeved shirt Master Lugal usually wore, and he hadn't spoken in a whisper. But the silence around them seemed to soak up the sound of the words so that no one more than five feet away would hear them. Lorand moved closer to the table and produced his ticket stub again, and he and Hat handed the stubs over together.

"Well, well, you're both right on time," the man said, looking at a long piece of paper that had what looked like lists of names. He made checks beside two of those names with a marker, then looked up at Lorand and Hat again while reaching into a small box.

"I'm going to issue you identity tags," the man said slowly and clearly, as if he spoke to those who weren't very bright. "You'll wear these tags at all times, even out on the street. They identify you as participants in the testing, and won't be taken away again until and unless you fail your test. Do you understand?"

Here's part two of this fascinating stuff about ticket stubs, paperwork and dog tags. We will need to read this crap another four times as well.

quote:

"Of course we understand!" Hat snapped before Lorand could answer a bit more civilly. "We may not come from this city, but we're not complete idiots."

"The man was just explaining things, Hat, not trying to insult us," Lorand said quickly and soothingly, putting his hand to Hat's shoulder. "A lot of the people coming here must be too frightened and confused to think, so spelling everything out is really a kindness. No sense in getting hot over something like that."

"He should have known we're not like that," Hat muttered as he shook free of Lorand's hand, but at least most of the belligerence was gone. Lorand saw that the man at the table was busy writing on the rectangles of heavy paper he'd taken from the box, but the tightness in the man's jaw said an apology would have been in order. Lorand briefly considered suggesting that to Hat, then immediately rejected the idea. Hat was too wound up to apologize to anyone, and trying to talk him into doing it anyway would just make things even worse.

Another poor attempt at characterizing Lorand as the reasonable peacemaker.

One reason why Green's writing sucks is because she prioritizes everything in the wrong order: she relies first on internal monologue, then dialogue, then action and description is basically an afterthought. Better authors tend to reveal character through action first, then description and dialogue, followed by internal monologue.

quote:

"All right, here are your tags," the man finally said after another few minutes, pushing them toward Lorand and Hat. Once their names had been put on the tags, the man had attached a wide loop of fine chain to an eye in the middle top of the tags. Those loops would fit over their heads, and the tags would hang in the middle of their chests.

I have not googled this, but I'm guessing swipe cards were invented after these were published? I thought the general concept of IDs would have been prevalent enough that I don't need TWO SENTENCES explaining what an ID looks like.

quote:

"Thank you," Lorand said with as much warmth as he could muster, taking the tag with his name on it. "Can you give us any idea of how long it will be before the first test? We know we're not the only ones here for the purpose, but even a guess would help us to—"

"I can do better than guess," the man interrupted, leaning back and looking only at Lorand. "I can tell you exactly when your first test will be, since you'll be going for it as soon as you leave here. We don't believe in wasting time here in the capitol, so you'd better get used to it. Take these papers, and Jamrin will show you where to go."

Green has wasted 2247 words so far, rambling about coach ticket stubs, paperwork and IDs. You'd think we'd be done, but oh no, we're not done, not by a long shot.

quote:

Lorand took his set of papers woodenly, shocked to hear that the testing would begin so soon. But it wasn't his expression that the man behind the table was watching. The man's faint smile was a reaction to the way Hat had paled, as well as to the visible unsteadiness of Hat's hands as he took his own sheaf of papers. The sudden appearance of another man, from a group of three in the dimness to the right rather than out of thin air, caught Lorand's attention, but Hat had to be nudged with an elbow before he could gather himself together well enough to follow the newcomer.

You should not use the phrase "out of thin air" in a story where people have magical powers. Book 8 spoilers yes teleportation becomes a power that the main cast can use at the end of the second series.

quote:

Their guide led the way across the vastness of the building without looking back, and Lorand had to deliberately keep himself from running to keep up. Lengthening his stride did the job well enough, not to mention keeping him from looking like a scatterbrained fool. He still felt shaken at the idea that the testing would start so soon, but he refused to lose himself to mindless fright.

Hat, though, seemed to be another story. Lorand's longtime friend did run a few steps in an effort to keep up, after having almost forgotten to take his case of clothing and possessions with him. And it looked like he had forgotten that Lorand was there. All his attention centered on the man they followed, his thin shoulders hunched as if in an effort to block out the rest of the world. Hat radiated terror, but this was the chance he'd been waiting for and he obviously had no intention of missing it.

Lorand would have tried speaking to Hat if they hadn't been moving so briskly, so he decided it might be a good thing they were. Hat clearly wasn't going to let anything interfere with his dream, not even someone who had been a lifetime friend. Lorand could understand his attitude to a certain degree, but beyond that his understanding broke down in confusion. He had no more intention of crawling home in failure than Hat did, but it didn't seem necessary to reject everything else in his life in order to get what he wanted.

I see Vallant isn't the only drama king in this crew. Look Lorand, it'd be fair for Hat to not feel particularly chatty right before he's supposed to do a big exam that has the potential to be life altering when it's just been sprung on him - especially if you've been lifelong friends going to school together because you should have seen this multiple times each year at school. Cut Hat a little slack here, will you?

quote:

At the brisk pace their guide Jamrin set, they crossed the wide stone floor rather quickly. Lorand wouldn't have been surprised if they'd been taken to one of the flights of steps that led higher in that gray stone building, but instead they were guided to one of the far archways leading outside again. Jamrin went down the two steps at the same brisk pace and headed across another stone walkway, which meant Lorand had no chance to stop and stare at the five buildings which stood in a circle beyond the building they'd just left. The five buildings were each rather large in their own right, but not as incredibly big as the one which guarded the approach to them.

Jamrin began to circle to the right, but they didn't have far to go. The first building on the right had a brass plaque with the symbol for Earth magic right beside its front door, and Jamrin stopped about ten feet in front of that door.

So much time spent trying to describe a place we will never see again. At least, I don't think we do. This place is so forgettable that I can't remember.

quote:

"That's where you go," he said, negligently throwing a thumb over his shoulder toward the building. "They'll tell you what to do next once you're inside. Now you can give me my tip."

"A tip for what?" Lorand began to demand. "You didn't do anything but race us here, so why—"

"Come on, Lor, don't be so bloody provincial," Hat interrupted with a strange grin, looking almost fevered. "We're here and we're about to test, and once we pass we'll have all the gold we want. What's a little silver more or less?"

He tossed a piece of silver to Jamrin before striding away toward the building's door, which meant he missed the flash of amusement in their former guide's eyes. Hat had fallen for some trick, then, but at least he'd saved Lorand from also being taken. Ignoring the expectant look Jamrin now wore as he held his hand out again, Lorand walked past the man and followed Hat to the building.

Green continually tries to shove random attempts at characterization in between important plot moments and doesn't seem to be aware that it's possible to develop characters while moving the plot forward - and that in fact those moments would be better for characterization!

quote:

And now that Lorand had the time to notice, he could see that the building was made of oak resin rather than stone. The resin could only be extracted from trees by the concerted efforts of three talents, Earth, Water, and Spirit. It came out in a semi-liquid state, and hardened so slowly that it was possible to shape almost anything out of it before it reached its final solidified state. Lorand had never seen an entire building made out of resin, but he'd heard they were popular in areas which had regular earthquakes. Even solidified, the resin had a slight rubbery resilience which would let a building move with an earthquake rather than fall. But that left the question of why they had one—no, five—such buildings here in Gan Garee.

This is actually a kind of important world building point. Resin has special properties in this world and we will see resin buildings again and again throughout the first series.

quote:

But Lorand had no time to consider a question like that, not when he'd reached the doorway leading into the creamy-white building. Hat was already inside, standing in front of another table with another man behind it, so Lorand joined him. The entrance area was fairly large and completely unfurnished except for the table and the chair the man sat in, but the lamps on the walls turned the area warm and friendly. The cream-colored resin was responsible for that, of course, being a good deal more cheerful than even light gray stone.

Green's used the word "another" twice in one sentence here. Maybe she's getting just as bored of this as we are.

quote:

"All right, Hattial," the man behind the desk said, looking up from the sheaf of papers Hat had given him. "Everything is in order including Lugal's final evaluation, so we'll get right to the testing. Go through that doorway all the way to your left, and you'll be taken care of."

Lorand looked toward the doorway at the same time Hat did. The front entrance had had a large metal door on strong hinges standing open, but this inner doorway had nothing but a curtain covering it. The curtain was brightly colored in reds and yellows and oranges and pinks with white running through, which helped add to the friendly atmosphere of the room.

This sounds like it's probably a shower curtain from IKEA.

quote:

"Let's wish each other good luck now," Lorand began as he looked back toward Hat. "We may not get the chance later, so—"

He let the words break off as Hat just strode toward the curtained doorway, ignoring Lorand as if he weren't there. He'd heard what had been said to him, Lorand knew he had, but he'd obviously decided not to do even so little as exchange good wishes. Lorand tried to pity his friend, but annoyance and disgust were rising too sharply to allow much room for the kinder emotion.

Remember this moment. From everything we've seen on screen of Hat and Lorand's friendship, it's a pretty shallow one though we're supposed to take that they're best friends. Either people don't know how to be friends in Widdertown or Lorand just doesn't actually have any real friends.

quote:

"It often goes like that," Lorand heard once Hat had disappeared through the curtain. It was the man behind the table speaking, so Lorand turned back and handed over his set of papers as the man continued, "The ones with the smallest chance are often the ones who want it the most, and by the time they get here they can't see anyone or anything but those wants and wishes. He has every ounce of himself invested in what he's about to face, so don't think too unkindly of him."

"There's nothing wrong with wanting something with every fiber of your being," Lorand answered slowly with a faint frown. "I feel the same way myself, but I happen to look at it differently. I decided a long time ago that if you can't get what you want without stepping all over other people, you aren't a winner, you're a loser. A real winner doesn't have to sacrifice all sense of decency."

"There aren't many people in this world who would agree with that," the man returned with a faint smile. "They would point out that someone with your strength of talent can afford to be generous, since most will never be able to match you. But that's a philosophical discussion to be engaged in at another time. Your papers are all in order, so please go through the doorway on your extreme right."

Oh, oh, here we go! It's our first instance of blatant moralizing! What an exciting thing to find in my fantasy novel, which I primarily read for the purpose of escapism! I'm so ready to be lectured at by minor characters espousing some pet view of the author's!

quote:

Lorand nodded his thanks, but was suddenly aware of an uneasy feeling that wasn't for himself. Hat had been sent to the left, and the man behind the table seemed to know Master Lugal's opinion of Hat's chances. Were they going to put Hat through something that he couldn't possibly hope to handle? Maybe if he followed after he could do something to protect Hat . . .

"It's no longer possible for anyone to help your friend," the man said with faint annoyance as Lorand stared at the doorway to the left. "He'll be facing the same thing you will, the same thing all hopefuls face when they come here. Go and take your own test, and let the Fates see to the both of you."

Now I'm wondering how many instances of academic misconduct Lorand and Hat both committed individually and together while they were at school. There's universities in this world so I assume academic misconduct is a thing.

quote:

Lorand took a deep breath and nodded, thanked the man, then walked to the doorway to the right. There was nothing left he could do for Hat, and he did have his own test ahead of him. But somehow the brightness of the curtain over the doorway had lost some of its warmth and welcome.

Stepping through the curtain brought Lorand into a hall, one that was well-lit by wall lamps. Three people sat in an alcove to the left, two men and a woman, and all three rose to their feet while one of the men nodded expressionlessly.

"Follow me," was all the man said before he headed up the hallway, the other man and woman coming along behind Lorand. They made a small parade to the end of the hall and around a gentle curve, until they reached a closed doorway made of the same resin as the rest of the building.

Yes, we will also get see the rest of the protagonists on their intriguing journeys through the different buildings, hallways and rooms of the testing facility. Four more times.

quote:

"Leave your case out here and go inside, then sit on the stool," the man who had been in the lead said, gesturing to the closed door. "You'll be given further directions in just a few minutes."

Lorand felt an odd tingle of... something in the air, but he put his case down and did as he'd been told. The resin door swung smoothly and quietly inward to show him a round, high room that was empty of all furniture, except for the stool which stood beside the wall directly opposite the door. Lorand headed for the stool and didn't notice that the door had swung shut again until he turned to sit on the stool. For some reason that bothered him and he half rose to go over and open it again, but instead he just sank back down onto the stool. The lamplight coming through the large squares of transparent resin which circled the room at several points showed there was nothing on the inside of the door to open it with. It fit so perfectly in the space in which it was hung, the door seams were almost invisible.

We are 4076 words or about two thirds of the way into the chapter and we're finally about to see some plot relevant action.

Most authors would have just skipped over all this filler with a sentence or two along the lines of: "A week after leaving Widdertown, the coach dumped Lorand and Hat at a nondescript tightly guarded facility on the outskirts of Gan Garee, where they were separated by their handlers after several rounds of paper shuffling. He prayed to the Highest Aspect that both of them would pass, despite Master Lugal's reservations about Hat. Conscious of his handler's gaze, Lorand wiped his palms on his travel stained tunic and pushed open the door to his testing room."

quote:

"That's right, you can't get out again unless we let you out," Lorand heard, but from somewhere above. He looked up to see that a large square panel high in the wall had been opened, and the man he'd followed looked out of it. And now that he'd noticed the one square, he could see the others, smaller and still closed, which completely circled the room well above his head.

Did anyone else hear this an unwritten "nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah" school yard taunt to this? By the way this is supposed to be a government official.

quote:

"This is the first of your tests, but it can also turn out to be the last," the man continued, sounding as if he spoke a prepared speech. "It doesn't matter whether or not you want to pass, you have to pass if you intend to continue living-Failure in this test means death, so you'd better keep that in mind during the next few minutes. Good luck or goodbye."

And with that the man shut the wide panel, leaving Lorand shocked and disbelieving. They couldn't be serious about that, about it being his life if he failed! That was ridiculous and totally unreasonable, not to mention insane! People don't kill you if you fail, they just—

Green is such a master of building tension. We've gone straight from incredible boredom to immediate peril. Wait, I still don't care because Lorand still hasn't done anything as a character to make me like him, so we're still at incredible boredom.

quote:

All thoughts of protest died when the smaller square windows opened all around, and soil began to pour through them. Lorand was already on his feet, and reflex sent his head down and his arms up to keep the cascading earth away from his face. His last glimpse said they meant to drop tons of earth on him, enough to bury him alive. But they also hadn't told him what to do, what way they expected him to save himself!

You have Earth magic, you can move this dirt around however you like! Did you expect them to hand you an instruction manual?

quote:

And that was when the chills hit, despite the dust and closeness generated by the falling soil. How Lorand avoided dying was for him to figure out, there on the spot, in the middle of the cascading earth. It had already begun to pile up on the floor, showing how little time it would take to fill the room completely. He would be dead long before that happened, of course, buried under the first tons of earth to rise above his six-feet-plus worth of height.

Yet another awkward reminder that Lorand is six-foot-plus of hot blond muscular farmer. Because I care so much at this point.

quote:

Lorand had never been so frightened in his entire life, but when he began to cough and choke on the dust rising into the air he also began to get angry. He wanted to be there and show what he could do, but no one had stopped to find that out. They'd simply assumed he had to be forced into trying his best, and had put his life at risk to accomplish that. They were ignorant fools and would-be murderers, and he'd show them the error of their ways if it was the last thing he did!

Are you literally just standing there? AFTER your earlier remark about there not being any sense in just standing in one place?

quote:

And that was when he reached for the power, finding it leaping to join with him even more eagerly than it usually did. He used it first to cause the earth to fall around rather than on him, at the same time clearing the dust from the air he breathed. That gave him a place to stand and think in peace, at least for a handful of minutes. After that he'd start to run out of time, but he hadn't yet reached that point. He still had time to think of something . . .

You WERE literally just standing there. A mystery fireball comes at you and you react instantly, but massive amounts of dirt are obviously a different ballgame.

quote:

He sent a searching gaze all around the room, looking for something, anything that would help to save him, and he almost missed it. With all that earth pouring out of the walls it was hard to see anything clearly, but he finally noticed that the large panel his guide had opened and spoken from wasn't joining the others in pouring dirt on him. Beyond the stream of earth he could just see that it remained closed and quiet, and even more importantly didn't have mounds of earth piled in front of it. The door he'd come in by did, and trying to clear it would have been futile even if he could have opened it. It was possible to do many things using Earth magic, but making earth go against its nature and not mound wasn't something that would work for long.

You can almost hear the lightbulb switching on.

quote:

So that left the large panel as Lorand's only chance for escape. The biggest problem with that, however, was the panel's location, a good six feet above Lorand's head. The falling earth had already mounded knee-deep around Lorand and got deeper by the minute, but it wasn't deep enough—or firm enough—to stand on to reach that panel.

Oh wait, no, not yet. Lorand still wants to just stand there some more.

quote:

Lorand automatically pushed his clear space out a little farther as he looked around again, wasting no strength or effort on keeping his feet and legs free. When he thought of something to do he'd free himself, but right now he needed to figure out how to get a lot higher. If only there was something to climb on! The short stool was useless, of course, not to mention being half buried already. There had to be something—!

How about now?

quote:

And then the obvious answer came to Lorand with a groan. The panel was the only way out of that room, and the only way to reach it was to climb something. The only thing available to climb was the falling earth, which he'd be able to fashion into a flight of stairs. It was just about certain he was meant to use the earth to fashion a stairway, but the solution wasn't as easy to do as it was to say. Magic had all the limitations of the element of its affinity, and earth was notoriously stubborn about not allowing the impossible.



The throwaway line about "limitations of the element of its affinity" has never mattered and will never matter.

quote:

Like stacking it up to make a stairway, for instance. Even a temporary stairway had to be properly and firmly based, otherwise the whole construction would come tumbling down at the worst possible minute. Even a ramp would need a usable angle, one that could be climbed in some way that wasn't straight up. That room wasn't big enough to allow the construction of a decent ramp so it would have to be stairs after all, but that brought up one very important question: was there enough earth to build a usable stairway with?

Yes, let's have a discussion about basic engineering principles during a life or death situation.

quote:

Lorand looked up at the earth pouring out of the panels and groaned again. It was already deep enough in the room that his knees were covered, but that didn't mean there was enough earth to construct a stairway almost twelve feet high. His base would have to be the entire width of the room, otherwise he'd run out of tread space before he reached the necessary height. Or run out of building material.

I am trying to picture this as a scene from a movie and all I can see is a tall, blond dude standing in the middle of a dirt shower and groaning repeatedly. It is the most boring scene ever.

quote:

Lorand cursed under his breath, suddenly realizing what he would have to do but not knowing if he could. He'd have to begin to build his stairway with the earth already available, and then would have to hold it together until enough new earth fell through to continue and complete the job. It would be one of the hardest things he'd ever done, requiring as it did that he split his attention and ability. While knowing that if he faltered, it would all come crashing down to bury him . . . Right, no problem at all.

I do not understand how this is actually any different to how he formed the whirlwind of dirt to smother the fireball.

quote:

A small stream of falling earth hit Lorand in the face, showing him the direct way that he'd let his attention wander. He wiped away the dirt even as he reestablished full control, realizing it was a good thing the lapse in attention had happened. It had been a mild lesson in what would happen if he let his attention wander again, when he would pay for the distraction with more than a dirty face. He knew what had to be done, so he'd better get started doing it.

He is still just standing there.

quote:

Another minute of thought before beginning brought Lorand a small revelation. If he made his stairway only wide enough to hold his foot, he'd need less earth to make it which would in turn take less time. He'd been picturing fairly wide treads, but those weren't necessary. He only needed enough width for stability, and a base as wide as possible would help with that. Now to get down to it. . .

This is the most boring minute of all time. And also, it took you a minute to think of that? Guess Lorand didn't win the jackpot in the brains department. *checks how long he's just been standing there* yep, confirmed.

quote:

"Me and my big mouth," Lorand muttered after many long minutes of sweat-filled effort. Getting "down" to it had proven to be the first of his problems, since the earth that had already fallen was neither properly placed nor solidly packed. Lorand had to move the soil away from where he meant to construct his base, hold it back while placing his building material properly, then begin the first treads. He also had to keep the newly falling earth from damaging his stairway, while at the same time keep it off his face so that he could see. Not to mention breathe, which was becoming harder rather than easier.

It's been six paragraphs since Lorand made a big hoo hah about how you can't make earth do things against its elemental nature. But if I understand his plan correctly, he is going to escape by packing the falling dirt into a staircase just wide enough for him to stand on to reach the window at the top of the room.

How exactly does dirt NOT want to get packed together tightly? You understand that this is literally how rocks are made, right? I would have thought that you've already made dirt act against its nature when you CAUSED IT TO FLY AROUND IN A WHIRLWIND when you don't have Air magic.

quote:

By the time Lorand had half a dozen steps built, the stairway was better than five feet high, all the available earth had been used, and he himself had turned to mud because of the sweat pouring out of him. The magic flowed into him just as strongly as it ever had, but his handling of it wasn't the same. The more tired he became the harder it was to control the magic, and suddenly a new worry added itself to the rest: would he continue to be able to stay merged with his magic?

We've spent more paragraphs on Lorand standing there, wondering how to save himself, than we have on watching him actually struggle to save himself. I'm sorry Green, but I don't buy that he's having a hard time here. Well, I guess if he's got low intelligence, that is a pretty big combat penalty:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MTKcRgoSQQ#t=216s (if you've never seen Tripod vs the Dragon and you like musical comedy about D&D, you should watch this)

quote:

A spurt of falling earth broke through the shield he had over himself, adding itself to the mud already smeared on his face.

Important point about how magical talents work just buried (heh) in here. Shields will be used by multiple characters throughout the series.

quote:

Lorand wiped at it with the back of his hand, making the mess worse rather than better, wishing he could be impatient with himself over the brief lapse. But what he felt now was more fear than impatience, since every childhood horror story he'd ever heard was suddenly coming back to him. All those warnings against trying to do more with the power than you were naturally able to . . . How naughty children who didn't listen turned themselves into mindless vegetables that people had to put down like the poor, maimed animals they were . . .

Are you ready for another pointless flashback???

quote:

If Lorand had had the strength he would have shuddered, knowing as he did that all those stories hadn't been exaggerations on the part of adults trying to keep their children manageable. He could still remember that little girl at school, when he'd been nine or ten and she'd been about the same. Her talent had been Water magic, she'd been incredibly strong for her age, and the indulgence of her parents had made her more arrogant than anyone should have been allowed to be.

This is a really ham-fisted attempt at building on your theme, Green.

quote:

Lorand carefully filtered more of the dust out of the air around him, needing to take a deep breath without tiny pieces of grit filling his mouth and lungs. That little girl had ignored the words of caution from their teachers, and had constantly searched for new ways to show how good she was. When spring came that year with its thunderstorms, the little girl had been delighted. She decided to gentle a thunderstorm the way Middle practitioners sometimes did, not realizing it took more than one Middle and more than Water magic. Lorand could still see her quietly slipping out of the schoolroom with a triumphant smile on her face . . .

Just randomly dropping in the fact that Lorand can filter particles out of the air, something that I would have thought was an Air magic thing.

quote:

Her screams had brought everyone running outside, but by then it was already too late for the girl. Afterward their teachers had explained that she'd summoned enough power to handle the thunderstorm, but hadn't herself been able to handle that much power. It had filled her beyond bursting, raging through her when her control slipped. The teachers had quickly herded the other children back inside the school building, but not before Lorand had seen the girl.

She'd been sitting slumped on the ground, the most horrible blankness and slackness in her face, a still-breathing body with no one at home any longer. No one home now, and never, ever again. . . .

Just like how saying something was "frightening" doesn't make it feel frightening, saying something was "horrible" doesn't make it feel horrible. Green has a real talent for draining the emotion out of a scene.

quote:

Lorand did shudder then, and then another spurt of earth into his face brought him a frightening awareness. The soil was now coming faster and harder out of the openings, almost as if it meant to batter down his stairway along with himself. Now it would be more difficult to shield everything, not to mention harder to slow the rain of earth in order to work with it.

"I have no idea what to do here to keep up the suspense so uh, I'll just keep on pointing out that more dirt is falling down on Lorand."

quote:

Lorand felt the aching weariness in both his body and his mind, at the same time becoming too aware of the increasing strength of his magic. He would need that much strength and more to do what had to be done, but would he be able to handle it? A sickening picture of that little girl's face rose up before him, bringing with it a terrible chill. He'd have to find a way to handle the magic, but what if he failed and ended up the same way? How was he supposed to do what was necessary with that hanging over him? How . ..?

"I've got it - I'll just end the chapter right here!"

Summary:
Since we've now actually kicked off the main story, I'll begin making a note of what day it is in the timeline from here on. As we're not given dates or anything concrete, I'm just going to arbitrarily start counting from Day 1.

Day 1
Lorand and Hat arrived in Gan Garee (still no clue what the city is like). They get shiny IDs but do not part on good terms. The test involves escaping live burial and Lorand ends the chapter still stuck in the testing room with dirt falling on him (turns out Lorand is not so smart).

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 8
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 3
COACH RIDES: 4
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 7
"CLIFFHANGERS": 3
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 6
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 1

Possible fixes:
While my version of Chapter 1 stuck pretty close to Green's original sequence of events. From Chapter 2, I made more changes:
  • Instead of having Seated Blendings rule for twenty five years, I changed things so the first Fivefold Blending were still in power
  • I opened with Lorand and Hat experiencing Gan Garee as the coach winds its way through the city towards its destination
  • I kept the registration scene, but made the man doing the registering one of the Seated Blending in disguise instead of a random person
  • Hat getting uppity (with one of the Seated Blending) has actual consequences
  • I gender swapped and pulled forward a character from later in Book 1 to be Lorand's tester here
  • Changed the actual test from "buried alive" to one of the qualification exercises we'll see in Chapter 28

Edit: typos

Leng fucked around with this message at 14:12 on Aug 17, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


TheGreatEvilKing posted:

Redemption I'll grant is present, but honestly Sanderson's treatment of religion is weird to me because there's very little faith involved. The only character I can describe as actually faithful is the priest from Elantris whose faith convinces him to side against the evil monk invasion but people who actually engage with their religion instead of spouting platitudes about how you have to fake worship the evil brother god are rare. It's doubly weird because all the magic systems are supposed to be the power of a splintered god that is invested in people, yet people granted the ability to perform actual miracles is just reduced to what is basically experimentation with anti-gravity technology like it's Star Trek.

Hrathen is awesome indeed. Sazed is another good example - his entire arc in Hero of Ages is about religion requiring faith. Spoilers for those who haven't read the third Mistborn book:

Brandon Sanderson in Hero of Ages posted:

For some reason, he had assumed that the truth would be different. The scholarly side of him argued with his desire for belief. How could he believe in something so filled with mythological clichés?

He'd come all this way, believing that he'd been given one last chance to find the truth. Yet, now that he studied it, he was finding that it was shockingly similar to religions he had rejected as false.

"You seem disturbed, child," Haddek said. "Are you that worried about the things we say?"

"I apologize," Sazed said. "This is a personal problem, not related to the fate of the Hero of Ages."

"Please, speak," one of the others said.

"It is complicated," Sazed said. "For some time now, I have been searching through the religions of mankind, trying to ascertain which of their teachings were true. I had begun to despair that I would ever find a religion that offered the answers I sought. Then, I learned that my own religion still existed, protected by the kandra. I came here, hoping to find the truth."

"This is the truth," one of the kandra said.

"That's what every religion teaches," Sazed said, frustration mounting. "Yet, in each of them I find inconsistencies, logical leaps, and demands of faith I find impossible to accept."

"It sounds to me, young one," Haddek said, "that you're searching for something that cannot be found."

"The truth?" Sazed said.

"No," Haddek replied. "A religion that requires no faith of its believers."

In terms of his Cosmere works, there's "gods" (e.g. any Vessel who holds the power of a Shard of Adonalsium, who are sometimes worshipped as gods - see Ruin and Preservation on Scadrial in the Mistborn books and Honor in Stormlight Archive) but there's also a notion of a greater "God Beyond" (discussed most prominently I think in Mistborn: Secret History, Alloy of Law and the short story Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell) which Sanderson has said he will never definitively answer:

Arcanum posted:

Questioner
After people die, in this universe, where exactly do they go? Because, at first they appear in this one world, and then they go somewhere else.

Brandon Sanderson
So where do people go when they die. *laughter* In the cosmere. One of the things that's very important to me as a writer, when I am writing stories, is when we get to these kind of fundamental questions about faith and religion and things like this, that the narrative is allowing multiple characters' viewpoints to be plausibly true, if this makes sense. For instance, I am not gonna come out and say, "Is there a capital-G God of the cosmere, is there an afterlife?" These are not questions I'm gonna answer, because in-world, they can't answer them. What they can say is, your Investiture will leave what we call a Cognitive Shadow, which is an imprint of your personality that can do certain things. And that most of those fade away, and you can see them, glimpse them, and then watch them go. But, are they going somewhere? Or are they not? Is that simply the Investiture being reclaimed, Is it more of a Buddhist thought, where your soul is getting recycled and used again? Is it nothing, you return to, you know, being-- yeah, is it a different type of matter? Or is there a Beyond, is there a capital-G God? Things like this. These questions are not answered. I'm never gonna answer those.

Now, the characters will try to answer them. But it's important to me that both Dalinar and Jasnah can exist in the same universe, and that the story is not saying "This one is right, and this one is wrong." The story is saying "This is how this one sees the world; this is how this one sees the world." It's very important to me from the beginning to do that, just because-- Like, I hate reading a book where someone espouses my viewpoint only to get proven wrong by the entire structure of the narrative, and in that universe, that person is wrong. But I'm like, "In our universe, I don't think that I am. Just the way you constructed everything makes it so that I have to be wrong, if I were living in your universe, even if it's a universe that's not a sci-fi/fantasy one." If that makes sense.

This is just kind of for respecting my characters and for the people who hold the viewpoints of my characters, in particular if they happen to be different from my own viewpoints. I feel there are certain lines I'm not gonna cross.

So, the answer is: who do you believe? Which of the philosophies in the books do you look at and say "Yeah!" Or, even better: listen to lots of different ones, and maybe these different viewpoints are all gonna have interesting points that'll give you things to think upon.

https://wob.coppermind.net/events/332/#e9596

I find that pretty admirable and respectful of him as an author.

TheGreatEvilKing posted:

All this said, I hope I'm not just crapping in the thread here, I do enjoy vitrol.

All good! A thread is not a thread without discussion, and this has been interesting discussion for me. I like looking at things from different perspectives. Let me know how you find Wurtz!

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

Jovvi waited for the guard to come to the door after the coach had stopped, and then let the man help her to the ground. The neighborhood was odd, not the middle-of-town or residential area she'd been expecting the coach to stop in. A very large stone wall stood directly ahead with guardsmen in front of the openings, and it was even possible to see other coaches a short distance away to either side of her own. The coach to her right disgorged two men who were, by their bucolic clothing, obviously from the country, and neither one even glanced in her direction. They were too busy staring at the massive wall with their mouths open.

Hi Lorand (and Hat)! This will be the only time that we see any character look at Lorand without thinking he's hot.

quote:

The single man leaving the coach to Jovvi's left was dressed in the height of fashion, and his annoyed movements and sullen frown directed toward the coach he'd just left told her he was probably newly arrived and therefore would be just as useless for her purposes.

Hi Clarion! This will also be the only time that a female character will consider him useless.

quote:

She needed someone who could tell her which neighborhood to rent her house in, something she intended to see to before getting around to that testing. That way she'd be all ready to begin her new life as soon as she failed that tiresome test.

Jovvi, the brilliant wantrepreneur, has only one idea of how to do market research and doesn't bother to do any of it before arriving in Gan Garee. She's had at least a one week journey by coach (judging by Clarion and Vallant's estimates) which is plenty of opportunity for a woman with supposedly amazing social skills to chat up any traveler or hospitality staff she happens to encounter and glean a ton of information.

Is she a closeted antisocial introvert? In which case, being a courtesan AND talented in Spirit magic would suck. It'd be better to have Air magic so you could literally block out the sound and sight of other people (Book 8 spoilers: eventually Jovvi does get to use Air magic).

quote:

"Just step this way, ma'am," the coach guard said to her gently and carefully, gesturing toward the closest entrance through the wall. "Hark and me'll carry your trunk that far, and then the gate guards'll get somebody to take over."

"That's so sweet of you," Jovvi told the man with a warm, encouraging smile, trying to remember what his name was. "I feel so safe and comfortable with you looking after me, but I must confess that this place frightens me. I was hoping to be taken somewhere . . . nicer, where I'll find it possible to rent a house. You don't happen to know a neighborhood like that, do you?"

Wow. Laying in on a bit thick with the "safe and comfortable", aren't you Jovvi? Male goons, please tell me that you would not actually fall for this kind of line. She's not even trying.

Also, witness Jovvi's sophisticated questioning and conversational skills in action! She's been very particular about the kind of neighborhood she needs but all she comes up with is "nicer"? Why yes, Jovvi, there's a lot of places in a capitol city where there are houses for rent that would all arguably be "nicer" than some industrial complex. I doubt most of them are what you have in mind.

quote:

The wistfulness Jovvi put into the question nearly melted the man where he stood, but he still found it possible to shake his head regretfully.

"We can't take you no place else than here, ma'am," he said, sounding as if he were admitting some terrible crime. "Your ticket says you're here to test for High practitioner, and this is where all applicants got to be taken. First you gotta register, and then you can ask about that house."

Jovvi felt thoroughly annoyed, but her small sigh of defeat and weak, tremulous smile told the man that she'd realized she had no choice. She had to register for that foolish test first, and only then would she be free to find her perfect house. Well, if she had to she had to, and she'd done harder things in her life. Besides, the people registering her might know more about the sort of neighborhood she wanted than a coach guard would.

I'm trying to picture how she plans for the next conversation to go: "I asked my coachman where I could find nice houses to rent and he had no idea. You look like a nice person, can you help me?"

quote:

Feeling considerably brightened by that thought, Jovvi followed the two men with her trunk to the opening in the wall, where the guardsmen who stood the post were already studying her. In point of fact they'd had their eyes on her since she'd left the coach, and their attitudes were perfectly plain. She'd seen the same on every man who had come to the residence and then had discovered her, which hopefully meant that the residences there in Gan Garee weren't stuffed full of courtesans of her caliber. When the gentlemen of this city found out she'd taken up residence here, she would hopefully have more gold than she could easily count.

Jovvi knows that people can find more than one person physically attractive at the same time, right? Just because you have men leering at you doesn't actually mean that you are the hottest person in the city; it actually means that you're the hottest one in their immediate line of sight.

Which (assuming everyone here is straight, isn't saying much) since the only competition right now is Lorand, Hat and Clarion. And none of those three noticed you - not even the closeted incel, so...

quote:

"This lady's here for the testin'," the coach guard told the gate guards as soon as they were all close enough. "This here's her trunk, and you'll need to call somebody to carry it for her."

"Set it down just inside the gate, to the left," one of the gate guards directed, gesturing behind him without taking his gaze from Jovvi. "We'll keep an eye on it while she's inside, and when she comes back out we'll find somebody to help her with it."

As if the bloat in this book isn't bad enough, Green is now spending dialogue lines describing what happens to Jovvi's luggage. This is relevant because...oh wait, it's not because Jovvi sewed all of her gold into tiny pockets in her travelling clothes. She could lose her entire trunk and it wouldn't matter, except then we'd have to spend a chapter following Jovvi around while she goes clothes shopping, which is something I have no interest in reading.

Anyway, spoilers for the next Jovvi chapter and another chapter later in this book: her trunk will not be lost and we still have to read about Jovvi going for a dress fitting. Green is the worst.

quote:

The coach guard and driver did as they'd been told, then took an awkward minute saying goodbye and wishing her luck. Jovvi was as gracious to the two as she made a habit of being to all men, since a girl never knew which of them would turn out to be most significant in her life.

In Jovvi's previous viewpoint chapter, she made a point about how it never paid to make enemies when it was possible to make friends instead. Now she's just reducing that from all people to just men.

quote:

When they finally went back to their coach Jovvi turned her attention to the gate guards, but before she could speak one of them held out his hand.

"I need to see your coach ticket, ma'am," he said, the words polite but the tone inflexible. "We heard what the coachmen said, but we have to see for ourselves."

This is the stupidest way of verifying someone's identity. Only people of Middle strength or higher are supposed to go in right? Why wouldn't you just put a Guild member at the gates and dispense with this stupid coach ticket business?

quote:

The request surprised Jovvi, but not so far that it completely disrupted her plans. She reached into her bag for the stub which was all there was left of her ticket, and tremulously smiled as she handed it over.

"Everything here is so strange and frightening," she said to the guard, letting him see the helplessness in her eyes. "Are they going to . . . hurt me in there? If only I knew what to expect it might not be so bad."

Foreshadowing! Though I guess it probably doesn't count since we already know how it's gonna go from Lorand's POV.

Also, I thought Jovvi was going to ask some more about houses, or how to register. Technically at this point, she's got no reason to assume that she's going straight into the test. This is another stupid plothole - Lorand has an excuse for not knowing any more details, since he probably got told by Master Lugal to tell his dad he needs to leave the farm, was disowned and then attacked by a fireball while Master Lugal was running late, and then had to bolt for the coach before it left without him.

In Jovvi's case, she still had to wait for the coach to arrive after the fireball attack. The Guild man was one of her clients, so she would have had a pretty good pre-existing relationship with him (even if she can't remember his name), plus the benefit of literally being a damsel in distress. If you are a deft, socially savvy manipulator, that would have been the perfect time to gather some intel! He's a Guild dude who sends people off for this testing every year - whatever you can get out of him is going to be vastly more informative that Nameless Gate Guard #1 over here.

quote:

"I wish I could help you," the guardsman said quite sincerely, apparently caught in the depth of her eyes. "If I knew what they did in there I'd tell you all about it, but all I know is what I tell every applicant: use the archway directly behind this post to enter the building, and then hand over this stub. They'll let you know what to do next. I'm really sorry."

"I understand," Jovvi said warmly and gently as she took the stub back. The man was really quite attractive,

It's things like this that make me think Green doesn't actually have any clue how to describe an attractive person in specific terms. She simply just describes them as "really quite attractive" and leaves it at that EVERY SINGLE TIME.

quote:

and although it was unlikely he'd ever be able to afford to become one of her regular patrons, there was no sense in hurting him. He would have helped her if he could have, after all. His inability simply meant she'd have to find someone else.

Jovvi be walking around rating everyone's net worth and disposable income as their key stats. If this were a first person camera view game from Jovvi's perspective, we'd have a HUD where there's dollar signs floating over every NPC's head.

quote:

The second gate guard hadn't said a word, but he stepped aside just as quickly as the first when Jovvi moved toward the gate and through it. She could see the archway she was supposed to use to enter the very large building straight ahead, as well as other people heading for that building. Most of the others seemed rather hesitant about approaching, and although Jovvi could understand that, she didn't share the emotion. She wanted this registering business over and done with, and then she'd be able to get on with what was really important.

I want your chapter over and done with too.

quote:

The archway took her from afternoon sunshine into lamplit dimness, but it wasn't so dark that she couldn't see a table to the right of the archway with a man seated behind it.

Oh hey, she got my editorial note about the torches!

quote:

The table was clearly being used as a desk, and when the man looked up, Jovvi produced her tremulous smile again.

Uh, what? When would a table not be used as a desk? Though, given Jovvi's profession, I suppose it's not unreasonable that they had a dedicated room for office/schoolroom BDSM kink fantasies. What I don't get is since Green's going to go there eventually anyway, why she doesn't make things more interesting by injecting some characterization into the description! Instead of that nonsense sentence, she could have done something like this:

"The way he beckoned her to come forward reminded Jovvi of a particular patron who liked to play at 'headmaster and naughty school girl' in one of the residence's specially outfitted rooms."

which would have changed how Jovvi is perceived as a reader - i.e. actually being observant, taking cues from other characters and responding in a calculated way that is specific to the character she is interacting with to achieve her goal:

quote:

"I was told someone in here is supposed to take what's left of my ticket," she ventured, hesitantly holding out the stub. "Is this the right place?"

"It certainly is, my dear," the older man answered with a gentle smile, taking the stub. "Just a moment, and I'll locate your file."

There had been a number on the ticket stub, and the man searched through a box of papers, apparently looking for a match to the number. When he found it he put the stub aside, then reached into a box with cards of some sort. Another moment and he'd written Jovvi's name on the card, and then he looked up again.

WE DON'T NEED TO READ THIS WHY

quote:

"You'll need to wear this identification at all times, my dear," he instructed in a kindly way as he attached a chain to the middle of the card. "Just slip it over your head and take the paperwork, and then I'll have someone show you where you go next."

"But . . . my trunk is still outside near the entrance gate I used," Jovvi protested weakly and helplessly as she took the card and chain. "It's been such a long trip and I'm so very tired ... It won't really hurt anything if I find a place to rest and leave my things first, will it? I'd be so very grateful. . ."

"For your sake, I wish it were possible," the man answered with a sigh, his sadness as real as any Jovvi had ever seen. "Unfortunately the procedural rules are very clear, but please don't let that disturb you. I'm sure they'll help you find a nice place to stay once you've finished speaking to them."

Jovvi voiced her own sigh, but the accompanying smile and nod of surrender were harder to accomplish. These people were really beginning to be tiresome, especially since she did need some rest. After days of traveling, it was difficult to remember what sitting still in one place for more than an hour felt like.

You are already tiresome, Jovvi, and it's only your second viewpoint chapter.

quote:

"Reshin here will accompany you the rest of the way," the man said, gesturing to the woman he'd called over from a small group of people to one side of his table. "Just go along with her, and you'll be on your way to proper lodgings before you know it."

Jovvi thanked him with automatic warmth as she slipped the chain carefully over her head, settled the card against her chest, then took the set of papers he'd held out. The card now blocked a proper view of her cleavage, but with another woman as her only companion, it didn't really matter. The woman crooked a finger and began to head toward an archway all the way over on the other side of the building, and Jovvi had no choice but to follow. The woman walked slowly enough to let her catch up, and once Jovvi did, the woman looked at her with a surprisingly friendly smile.

Uh, Jovvi? As a fellow hater of wearing lanyards and other badges around my neck, it is totally possible to wear one at all times on your person without it being around your neck. The easiest one is to loop it around your belt so it hangs around your waist.

Gay characters will later show up, so presumably LGBTQ people exist in this universe, yet Jovvi doesn't seem to know about them despite being a sex worker. This is pretty bizarre, since we'll later see that non-heterosexual relationships are kind of shunned so technically there should be a huge demand to cater to that market.

quote:

"I love that suit you're wearing," the woman Reshin said, sounding as if she really meant it. "Did you buy it here in Gan Garee?"

"No, actually I had it made for me in Rincammon, where I live," Jovvi answered, trying to put the same sort of friendliness into her voice. She never got along as well with women as she did with men, but that was usually because of their jealousy and resentment. Very few women were able to be successful courtesans with all the benefits which went with the position, and that naturally turned them resentful. Jovvi understood the feeling very well, and would have shared it if she hadn't been able to live the life.

I think Green is trying to paint the sex work industry as having a bitchy backstabby work culture and poor Jovvi doesn't have any real female friends because of that. Again, not having researched much into this, I'd be betting it's just like any other industry - some places are like that, some places are not.

Right now, based on what we've got in the text, Jovvi is a self-centred operator who doesn't care about anyone. Eldra, who genuinely likes her and is about to be forced into sexual slavery, gets dismissed with an "oh well, that's life". There were "some girls" whom Jovvi would miss, but not apparently enough to think of them by name.

And somehow we're supposed to buy the line that Jovvi doesn't have any real female friends because they're all jealous and resentful? I don't think so. Jovvi is a Regina George:



quote:

"Well, that pale violet really suits you," Reshin continued in the same friendly way. "I wish it suited me as well since I love the color, but I've learned that it doesn't love me back. But that's just as well, I suppose. My husband-to-be likes to see me in red, and that color I do get along with."

The woman's black hair made that a given, and there was nothing really wrong with the red-trimmed gray dress she had on. It was a bit too severe for Jovvi's taste, but it seemed to go well with the dimness and distance of that building.

Anyone into fashion want to explain to me why pale violet wouldn't suit a black haired woman but a red-trimmed gray dress is apparently fine? Like...black hair is about as neutral a hair color as you can get.

quote:

Jovvi remained silent until they had almost reached the far archway, but then she simply had to ask about what lay ahead. Making decent plans without knowing what you were about to face just wasn't possible, and there was too much at stake not to take the chance.

Nothing wrong with the sentiment but you basically did zero research about your predicament and you have no actual plan besides "ask people where I can rent a nice house".

If Green was a more talented author, I'd say perhaps she's trying to develop Jovvi as an unreliable narrator or something, but no, we're supposed to perceive Jovvi as the mature, responsible one.

quote:

"Reshin . . . what's supposed to happen next?" she asked diffidently, deliberately slowing the pace they'd both been walking at. "I'm , . . not really used to things like this, and I hate to admit it but I'm . . . frightened. Is there anything you can tell me?"

"I could tell you everything I know, but none of it would help you," Reshin answered, flashing her a compassionate smile before touching her arm to increase her pace again. "My job is to accompany applicants to the proper testing area, but I don't even get to go through the door. What goes on in the building, I'm told, is none of my business, and if I'd tried to find out anyway they would have dismissed me. Since I'd rather not give up this position until I marry, you can understand why I've curbed my curiosity."

That's your entire job? It sounds boring as hell and requires lots of walking. Why do you even want to keep this job if (presumably) your fiancé is rich enough that you don't have to work?

quote:

Jovvi nodded, understanding the woman's position perfectly. There were few enough positions for women in the business world as it was. Losing a good one for being too nosy would have been horrible, but that left her swinging in the wind. Well, there were bound to be people inside that building Reshin had mentioned, and at least one of them would have to be a man. . . .

Walking people from the gate to a building is NOT a job in the "business world". The last time I checked, "business world" would refer to merchants and trade. Since this is testing required by law, I'd say it's more properly termed "public sector" or "government" work: very little skills required, no promotion or career progression opportunities, very little to no value add - yep, checks out.

quote:

Stepping outside again was something of a relief, at least until Jovvi got a good look at the circle of buildings beyond the wide walk separating them from the very large entrance building. The buildings that were part of the circle were made of resin, a material Jovvi had seen only once before in her life. It had been used by a very wealthy man to form his "playroom" just beyond his back garden, and Jovvi had almost ended up inside it. She'd been very young at the time and hadn't yet met Allestine, and hadn't known what that very wealthy man did to young girls in that room of his. If he hadn't decided to take that other girl in first, and if Jovvi hadn't been lucky enough to hear the girl's screams when a servant had opened the door . . .

And here's a flashback of Jovvi narrowly escaping rape and battery in order to tell us that resin buildings are soundproof. I'm assuming that this property only applies to "oak resin" as per Lorand's chapter.

quote:

"Well, this is it," Reshin said, drawing Jovvi back from nightmare memories. "Just go straight in, and try not to worry. They really do need people like you, remember, so they can't possibly do anything too terrible to them."

The point was a good one, and helped Jovvi pull herself together. Reshin patted her arm in comfort and support, then waited while Jovvi forced herself to walk inside. At least the door was open, and hopefully looked as if it would stay that way.

I think we're supposed to read this as Jovvi overcoming the trauma from her past due to her own mental fortitude and resilience, but this whole passage is so flat that I don't feel anything.

quote:

Inside there were lamps to brighten up the cream-colored resin of the walls, not to mention colorful hangings covering what seemed to be multiple doorways. Seeing hangings rather than actual doors made Jovvi feel even better, enough so that she was able to approach the man at another table with something like her usual confidence.

"Is this what you're supposed to have?" Jovvi asked the man, shyly proffering the papers. When he took them with a smile Jovvi felt even more encouraged, and so decided not to waste any more time. "I . . . was told you might be able to help me find a decent place to rest for a while," she ventured carefully. "I've been traveling for days, and I'm absolutely exhausted. It's—"

This is how the guy's supposed to know you're looking to rent a house in a specific neighborhood that would be a good residence for courtesans? You're really bad at this.

quote:

"All in good time, child," the man interrupted gently, his smile still very evident. "We'll make sure you have what you need, but first you have to speak to some of our people. Just go through that doorway all the way to the right, and they'll take care of you."

Jovvi was getting very tired of thanking people for being of no help at all, but she did it again anyway and then walked to the proper doorway. Beyond the hanging was a long hall, and in an alcove to the left sat three men. They got to their feet when they saw her, and the one in the lead smiled faintly.

"Come this way and I'll get you settled into a room," he said before Jovvi could try to get somewhere with him. "There are things we need to know, and after we get our answers we'll answer any questions you may have."

Jovvi sighed as she followed the man, but she wasn't so impatient that she didn't know the other two men also followed her. That made her faintly uneasy, but she forced herself to keep in mind what Reshin had said. People with talent like hers were needed, so it wasn't likely that the government would allow her to be savaged. They didn't know she meant to fail their very first test, after all, so she ought to be perfectly safe at least until that happened.

I don't know why Jovvi's only feeling "faintly uneasy" at this point. If it were me, being forced to follow a man deeper into a resin building (which is associated with a past traumatic event) while his two buddies are blocking my escape route to the rear, then my brain would be screaming " DANGER DANGER POTENTIAL GANG RAPE ATTEMPT ABORT ABORT " no matter how much it is supposed to be passed off as a government thing (and in some cases, particularly if it is being passed off as a government thing).

quote:

The man who walked ahead led her around a curve in the hall, then stopped in front of a door. It was made of the same resin as the rest of the building, but opened easily when the man pushed on it.

"This is the place," he said, stepping aside in the gentlemanly way to let her walk in first. She began to do just that, but stopped short only one step in. The room was as dark as a moonless night, maybe even darker. It wasn't even possible to see the floor under her feet where she stood.

How did you NOT notice that the door is leading to a pitch black room? Like, usually when doors are opened, you can see into a room and whether it's dark. This should not be a surprise to you. And if your isn't going off right now, then you have a terrible sense of self-preservation and I literally don't know how you made it through your harsh childhood on the streets.

quote:

"Oh, good grief, some fool turned down all the lamps," the man holding the door behind her said in annoyance. "If you'll just step forward one more pace, I'll be able to reach this lamp right by the door."

This is the worst excuse. Also in a preindustrial world, I'm assuming there's no light switches, so if he's not a Fire talent, then he'd have to get a striker of some sort out - which begs the question of how would he even see what he's trying to light? Unless he's saying he's going to grab the lamp out of the dark, light it in the hallway and then put it back? And if he's a Fire talent, then it shouldn't matter!

quote:

Jovvi didn't like the idea of moving forward into all that pitch darkness, but the promise of immediate lamplight helped her to do it. "Just stand still now," she heard the man say, but instead of producing more light she suddenly had less. Rather than light a lamp he had closed the door, and now even the feeble light from the hall was gone!

Oh no, no one could have possibly guessed that this would happen!

quote:

"Oh, no!" Jovvi tried to scream out, but the terrified protest turned into a whisper. She had been left in the dark with who-knew-what, and couldn't even bring herself to try to retrace her steps to the door. Darkness like that had always terrified her, and it was so bad that she couldn't even begin to think of anything to do!

Hold on, you're scared of the dark and you...couldn't recognize from outside the doorway that the room was dark?

quote:

It seemed like forever that she stood trembling mindlessly there in the dark, but then she heard a noise from somewhere above her. It sounded like a scraping of some sort, but she was distracted from it by the sudden brightening of lamps being turned up. She saw the lamps as soon as they began to glow, and it didn't matter that they sat behind windows of clear resin higher in the walls of that place. They were providing the light she needed so badly, which soothed her terror—until she was able to look around.

"That's right, you're perfectly safe as long as you stay on the walkway," the man who'd led her there said over her horrified gasp. That's who it was who had
opened a small doorway in the wall above the lamps, a place she was now afraid to look up toward. "The drop to either side of the walkway is very deep and very deadly, but you'll be fine as long as you don't fall off."

The light source is above you and you're scared of the dark which is around and below you, so why would you be scared of looking up?!

quote:

Jovvi wanted to scream that she was about to fall off that very narrow walkway, but she wouldn't have been able to get the words out even if they'd been true. Even as terrified as she was, she would not let herself do anything stupid like fainting, which would certainly have plunged her off into the unlit depths to either side of where she stood. Only the four-foot-wide walkway stretched across the abyss, providing footing between the door she'd come in by and another door at the far end.

"very narrow walkway" =/= "four-foot-wide walkway" That's more generous than a typical staircase?

quote:

"In order to leave that room, you have to reach the doorway you can see at the other end of the walkway," the man above her continued. "The door behind you can't be opened from your side, but the other one can be. All you have to do to reach it is exercise your talent. If you do it properly you'll survive to reach the other side, but if you don't you'll die. The choice is yours, and I certainly hope you'll make the right one. Good luck or goodbye."

Jovvi heard the sound of the small door closing again, but still couldn't make herself look up. And even beyond that, she was confused by what the man had said. Walking that four-foot-wide stretch would be nerve-wracking for her, but she wouldn't need her talent to do it. She'd simply get herself moving, and before she knew it she'd be on the other side. She took a slow breath, getting herself ready to start, and that was when it began.

It's...nerve-wracking to walk across a four-foot-wide walkway? Is Jovvi scared of heights as well as of the dark?

I mean, I get that there's an abyss of unknown fathomless depths on either side, but this is plenty wide. If you're that scared of falling off, get on your hands and knees and crawl for ultimate stability.

quote:

Jovvi had served men of every aspect there was, and suddenly it felt as if the room were filled with every one of them—and all of them were either angry or upset. All those people were probably hidden somewhere below, but it did feel as though they were right there in the room. The heavy feelings battered at her where she stood, almost knocking her over, as palpable and real as if someone stood beside her pushing at her. Jovvi knew then she'd been wrong. She would have to use her ability, or she'd never be able to stand up under the assault.

So...don't stand? Crawling is an option, just saying.

quote:

And "standing up" had taken on a very special, very important meaning. Jovvi could feel the sweat begin to bead her forehead as the mass of projected feelings grew even stronger, threatening to knock her around like some invisible wind. When she almost staggered under the load her terror increased; staggering now could mean falling off the walkway, into the depths and certain death.

Look, I don't know about you, but usual strategy for managing headwind or crosswinds is to minimize surface area. This is "emotionwind" but if it's affecting your actual physical sense of balance, then there is a very simple thing you can do that will enhance your physical sense of balance. Like crouching down to lower your center of gravity and crawling, because that would give you at least 3 points of contact with the walkway which is significantly more stable than 2.

quote:

Jovvi had been frightened many times in her life, and each of those times she had reached out blindly with her skill, learning the best ways to keep herself safe. Now she no longer reached out blindly, but with the experience of practice and a certain maturity. It was her place to soothe all those raging feelings, to calm them to a proper balance that would let her maintain her own balance.

In the last chapter maybe a week ago, you said you still had no idea what you were doing with Spirit magic. Are we supposed to understand from this that Jovvi was practicing during her entire trip to Gan Garee? If so, that would be completely out of character with what we've seen from her!

quote:

She had no more than about twenty-five or thirty feet to walk before she reached safety, but she needed to be steady on her feet to do it.

That's all? DROP AND CRAWL, COME ON.

quote:

So she pushed her fear aside and reached out with that very special part of herself, knowing she first had to calm the storm before she might escape. There were women as well as men raging about, she could tell that easily, but reaching and calming them all wasn't quite the same. Bringing one or two or three to balance took no more effort than it ever had, but when she released them to touch the others they immediately went back to raging. It was like trying to gather up a bunch of frightened chickens without using an enclosure to hold them. As soon as she took her attention from the ones she'd caught to catch the others, the first bunch scattered again.

"But how am I supposed to catch them all at the same time?" she whispered, feeling like whimpering. "They're all running in a different direction . . ."

YOU DON'T HAVE TO CATCH THEM ALL; THIS IS NOT POKEMON.

quote:

Which wasn't precisely what was happening, but the analogy was close enough. She had to touch and soothe and balance all those minds at the same time, something she'd never tried before.

Just

quote:

And something she wasn't sure she could do. Her body had begun to tremble from being held so rigidly, but she didn't dare relax. And the storm felt as if it were growing stronger again, which would make it all that much harder to do. But if she didn't find a way to succeed she would die, and she didn't want to die. She wanted to live, but how was she supposed to accomplish that? How . . . ?

YOU. GET. DOWN. AND. CRAWL.

Summary:

Day 1
Lorand and Hat, Jovvi and Clarion (yay, we'll get to relive the whole thing yet AGAIN from his perspective in the next chapter) all arrived in Gan Garee (still no clue what the city is like). They all get shiny IDs. The test involves escaping live burial raging emotions across a narrow decently wide walkway which cannot be crossed without calming all the emotions which could totally be crossed by crawling for 25-30 feet and Lorand Jovvi ends the chapter still stuck in the testing room with dirt falling on him emotions raging around her (turns out Lorand Jovvi is not so smart).

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 10
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7)

PLOTHOLES: 4
COACH RIDES: 4
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 7
"CLIFFHANGERS": 4
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 6
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 1

Possible fixes:
Bury smother this chapter (all 3918 words of it) with dirt apathy (i.e. delete it).

Let's see how many element specific ways I can say this for the rest of the remaining repetitive POV chapters from now until the end of the series. Fair warning, I will be pulling out a thesaurus because there are SO MANY OF THEM.

Edit: typos and a messed up count

Leng fucked around with this message at 02:33 on Aug 21, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

These sections make me think that Green would be absolutely horrible as a GM in a roleplaying game, because she loves to present contrived scenarios where there is only one acceptable escape. She would create an intricate trap room that requires a specific sequence of rolls to disable and punish any improvisation or creative solutions from the players. (And I bet she'd love the "forced moral choice" scenarios where you have to kill a baby goblin or something to solve a puzzle.)

Jovvi should be able to crawl across the floor. Lorand should be able to stand on a pile of dirt instead of sculpting it into a staircase. But that's not the scene she had in mind, so she makes her characters pass their trials in the hardest way possible.

Yes, exactly! She's approaching storytelling like a maths problem she's constructed where there's only one answer. Her characters are so wooden and lifeless because you never feel like any choices that they make are choices, because they're just arbitrary ways of getting to Green's solution.

In addition to being able to crawl, we learned in the Lorand chapter that you can SHIELD. Later, in Book 8 we'll see a Middle in Spirit talk about a shield that he's developed which is plot critical. There is nothing to indicate that the concept of shielding shouldn't apply to all elements and there's also nothing to indicate that you can only affect other people with your talent. So other valid options would be:
1) Jovvi creates a shield around her own mind, to block out the emotions of others (spoilers for Book 4 or 5 I think during the endless stupid Tamrissa/Vallant relationship drama that is about to kick off in a few chapters, Jovvi specifically mentions she's having trouble blocking Tamrissa the way she's been able to do for a while); or
2) Jovvi uses her talent to take away her own fear and then give herself a massive boost of confidence

I'd bet that if Green's asked why Jovvi can't do these things right now, it's because Jovvi doesn't know how her talent works. Given Jovvi's opening chapters were all like "what do I know about magic and talents and all that stuff", I'd buy that if Green hadn't put in that specific line about how Jovvi's now reaching out with "the experience of practice and a certain maturity".

wizzardstaff posted:

Speaking of authors as RPG players and jumping in on the Sanderson chat, I see his treatment of religion as the same kind of mental trick that some conservative Christians feel helps them reconcile playing a game with gods and demons. Despite seeming omnipotent to mere humans they aren't real gods, they're mechanistic aspects of the universe left behind by an absent or hidden Creator. Which is why his magic systems lack the sense of wonder that TheGreatEvilKing has mentioned here and in other threads: they are explicitly not wondrous, they're just strange physics.

Sanderson himself is very religious but tries to incorporate other perspectives. Traditionally he is praised for his worldbuilding and not his characterization but I think his approach to both stems from trying to write outside his own perspective: he writes stiff YA romance because he's not comfortable with premarital relations, and he writes magic like a Prima strategy guide because his natural viewpoint is to see divine hand in everything.

I think there's two parts to this:

Sanderson actually talks a lot about why he writes magic the way he does and I don't think it's actually tied to his own religious beliefs. He discusses how he views it as writing magic on a spectrum of "sense of wonder" to "magic as science". Here's him specifically talking about how it applies to Lord of the Rings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATNvOk5rIJA#t=952s

I also wonder whether there is an issue of pantheism vs monotheism. If you believe in a religion that emphasises there is a singular omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent deity who is absolutely benevolent then it follows that it would be difficult to build a pantheistic world where the deities don't come off as simply more powerful mortals - because what else distinguishes your gods from your mortals?

I'm trying to think of some non-Sanderson examples where they have been able to create a sense of wonder in religion and I'm struggling:
  • Tamora Pierce's Tortall books have a fairly standard "Greek pantheon" type of religion (we see them doing very typical Greek mythology type things in the books) and her Circle books have gods corresponding to the different elements (they do not appear onscreen however)
  • Trudi Canavan's Age of the Five trilogy is also a pantheon, but the twist is (spoilers for the whole trilogy) the gods turn out to be super powerful mages who did something extra to become "gods"
  • I don't recall any specific mention of religion in Janny Wurtz's Wars of Light and Shadow, broad as the scope of that world is. She does create a definite sense of wonder though, with the lost Paravians (basically elves, centaurs and unicorns)
  • There's a definite sense of wonder in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom books (the first trilogy is the best; I've read Book 4 but there was a definite drop in quality and it didn't work; I have vague recollections of reading Book 5 and also thinking it was not as good) but that's less to do with religion and more to do with how both Charter magic and the realm of Death work

The only thing I've read recently where there's a clear sense of wonder is the Wurtz and Feist collaboration on Empire - there's a very strong pantheistic religion throughout all three books and two beautiful moments in Book 2 Servant of the Empire and Book 3 Mistress of the Empire where the gods act through their priests and it's amazing.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


There's only 2901 words in this chapter. It's like Green realized partway through that she really shouldn't be writing about this but couldn't bear to not show every aspect's trials individually. This is the kind of thing you should release as "bonus content" on your website for hardcore fans who care about seeing the minutiae from every character's perspective, not include in your actual published book.

quote:

CHAPTER EIGHT

Clarion stepped out of the coach in a part of Gan Garee he'd never seen before, but that wasn't surprising. He'd never been the sort to frequent that kind of neighborhood, and especially not by public transportation. He turned for a final look at the coach, knowing he'd never forget the experience of traveling in it—and would do his best never to repeat it-He couldn't remember ever being so uncomfortable in his entire life.

Green's attempt at trying to develop character by showing how each of them react differently to the same setting is awful. I think Hat and Lorand were supposed to be awed since they are mere country bumpkins, except they were focused on guardsmen and Lorand describes the place as ultra utilitarian (is that even a word he should know? I know he's been to school and all, but still). All Jovvi remarks on is that the neighborhood is "odd" since it's not "middle-of-town" or "residential" and Clarion doesn't do any better.

Is "coach rides are uncomfortable" the icebreaker in this world? Every single character has remarked on this particular point so far.

quote:

But that statistic was in danger of being topped by whatever his next experience would be. He turned to study the guard wall again as the coachmen struggled to remove his trunk from their vehicle, trying not to be incensed a second time over their refusal to take him anywhere near his and Mother's house there in the city. His ticket demanded that he be brought here, they'd insisted, and even an ordinary coach stop deeper in the city wouldn't do. He was supposed to "register" in this place, whatever that meant.

"Just follow us to th' guard post, boy," the coach driver said as he and his assistant carried the trunk past Clarion on his right. "They'll get you straightened out, or at least squared away."

The other man carrying the trunk guffawed at something he considered amusing, but Clarion couldn't see the joke. The commoners had been rude to him at every opportunity, usually in some indirect way that Clarion hadn't been able to protest, and he was heartily sick of it. They must have been related to his mother's house servants in some manner, but the time of indignity was finally over. At least that was one benefit in being here: he would never have to see those miserable commoners again. The thought of that let Clarion smile as he strolled after the two over to the guard post.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RovF1zsDoeM

quote:

"This here one's yours," the driver said to one of the guardsmen before setting Clarion's trunk down just beyond the men and inside the gate. "You boys have yourselves a real nice day."

And then the men were heading back to their coach, depriving Clarion even of the pleasure of refusing to tip them! That entire situation had long since turned intolerable, but even the intolerable should have had limits.

Ding ding ding! That makes all three male protagonists more melodramatic than their female counterparts. I don't know if this is an attempt by Green at inverting the stereotype but if so, then trying to do it via inner monologue is not effective.

quote:

"Let's see your ticket, friend," one of the guardsmen said, taking Clarion's attention. The hand he held out was large and meaty and blunt-fingered, clearly marking another member of the lower classes.

What? Rich people can't be born large, meaty and have blunt-fingers? Or is it because they all hire Earth magic practitioners to sculpt their hands into the genteel noble ideal?

(overpowered as Earth magic is, no, we will never find out if cosmetic surgery via Earth magic is a thing)

quote:

"Ticket?" Clarion echoed, thoroughly confused. "No one told me I needed a ticket to enter here. Are you trying to charge me for something I have no real need of, my good man? If so, then—"

"Your coach ticket," the guardsman interrupted with what looked suspiciously like a swallowed sigh. "I need to see the coach ticket you used to get here."

Clarion frowned in thought, trying to remember what he'd done with the remnants of the coach ticket. It wasn't his habit to collect keepsakes even of pleasant occasions, so there was an excellent chance that he'd thrown the useless stub away. Searching his coat pockets was proving fruitless, but just as he was about to say so, his fingers finally brushed the thing. It was something of a surprise that he hadn't thrown it away, but at least it saved him from having to order the guardsmen to overlook the stub's absence.

Please write this scene instead, rather than rehashing the same stupid "present ticket at gate, present ticket at desk, register and get ID, then proceed to testing do not pass GO do not collect $200" sequence. I want to read about Clarion getting himself thrown into jail because he tried to assert his nobleman's "rights" and having to grow up because he gets beaten up by all the other inmates.

quote:

"Okay," the guardsman grunted after inspecting the stub, now offering the useless thing back. "Take this inside to the archway just to the left of the one directly behind this post. When you give it to them, they'll tell you what to do next."

"Who do you mean to have carry my trunk?" Clarion asked as he reluctantly took back the ticket stub. "Since there doesn't appear to be anyone else around, you and your companion will probably have to—"

"The trunk will be fine right where it is," the man interrupted again, now appearing fractionally more impatient. "We're not about to let anyone walk off with it, and you can reclaim it once you come out again. Dragging it along with you would be a waste of time and effort."

Clarion would have enjoyed arguing that opinion, but it had become obvious that he would have to drag the trunk if he took it with him. These two oafs were clearly refusing to carry it for him, so it was either leave the trunk here, or look a fool dragging it behind him. So Clarion swallowed what he would have said under other circumstances, nodded curtly, then took himself through the gate the two men guarded.

Since I already pointed out the uselessness of this to the actual plot in Jovvi's chapter, I guess we should talk about where all the other trunks are. These guys are not the only people who are arriving for testing. There should be a giant cloakroom or luggage store for all of this stuff! Also how is it possible none of the three POVs have noticed luggage from other people? They all took a public coach service right? Shouldn't they all have been travelling with other people? In this world there is no COVID-19 so they shouldn't be required to socially distance in a coach or have passenger limits.

By the way history was my worst subject so I'm literally picturing Skyrim carriages as my reference, with maybe like some sort of enclosure:


Like this perhaps?


Plenty of room in there for other passengers! And yes, if you're travelling like this, then I agree, that looks like an uncomfortable ride. My point is, the physical uncomfortableness of the ride is the least relevant part of the discomfort. Surely as a noble, accustomed to his own private carriage and driver, Clarion should have been complaining not about the actual coach itself, but about having to be crammed in next to five or so commoners who don't shower and having to stay overnight in public inn rooms smaller than the size of his tiniest closet at the Mardimill's fourth estate that they only ever go to once every three years.

quote:

Inside was one of those would-be grand administrative buildings one could find in various parts of the city, but this one lacked the doors of the last one Clarion had seen. The structure had nothing but simple archways, and the one he'd been told to use was the next one to the left of the archway straight ahead. Clarion had the urge to pick an archway at random and use that instead,

Write this scene instead! I would love to read about Clarion randomly bullying his way into the testing room of some other aspect and then just breezing through the test.

Falling earth? No problem, create an umbrella of hardened Air to shield himself from the dirt and then effortlessly walk up an invisible staircase of his own construction (with fancy invisible wrought Air railings none of those commoners could possibly appreciate because they lack his refined artistic tastes). Raging emotions threatening to tumble him into the bottomless pits on either side of the walkway? Easy! Just put up two sturdy fences of hardened Air on either side and stroll on through, unbothered by the unimportant emotions of peasants who are always undoubtedly upset or angry by one thing or another since that's their natural state.

But no, that would make the plot much more interesting and have Clarion behaving in ways that is consistent with his character and we can't have that in a Sharon Green book.

quote:

but being frivolous would only delay his reaching Mother's house and some true comfort. He therefore strode to the proper entrance and walked inside.

Just to the right of the archway was a table with a man behind it, and when Clarion stopped in front of the table the man looked up.

"I'm told you're to be given this thing," Clarion said to him, handing over the ticket stub. "Once you've done whatever it is you do with it, I'll require two strong men to carry my trunk, and the summoning of a public carriage to take me to my house."

"What you'll require is putting on this identity tag as soon as I finish filling it out," the man countered dryly without looking up from the rectangle of heavy paper he wrote on. "After that you'll follow the guide provided you to the proper building, and then the people inside will tell you what you'll require next. Do you understand that?"

Clarion's jaws were clamped together in anger when the man glanced up at him, but apparently that was enough of an answer to satisfy the lout. He continued writing for another moment, attached a thin chain to the paper when he was through, then handed the whole thing over. Clarion disliked putting on the foolish thing, especially since he had to remove his hat to do it, but better that than dignifying the man's remarks with words. When the thing hung around Clarion's neck the man silently handed over a small sheaf of papers, then gestured to one of two people who had sat a short distance away.

Oh no, not the hat! I think, but I can't confirm for sure, this is the last time we see Clarion wear a hat (mainly because I can't be bothered searching for "hat" through the next seven books).

quote:

"This is Fellar, and he'll take you to where you have to go," the man behind the table said. "Give them that set of papers when you get there, and they'll tell you what to do next."

"You're repeating yourself," Clarion commented in as offhand a manner as he could manage while turning away from the man. "That's one of the first signs of old age, I'm told. Do have a nice day."

And with that he walked off after the man Fellar, who was already heading for the far side of the building. Nothing in the way of a countering comment was shouted after him, which made Clarion feel inexplicably good. He'd never before found it possible to use that smooth but distant and superior tone he admired so much, but this time it had come flowing out as if he'd used it all his life. The general situation was still intolerable, but apparently even the intolerable had its bright side.

I don't think Green understands what "intolerable" means. If it really is intolerable, Clarion should have straight up strangled someone with Air magic by now.

quote:

Fellar moved at a brisk pace ahead of Clarion, but Clarion made no effort to hurry and catch up as he might have done earlier. He'd gotten to Gan Garee completely on his own without the least difficulty,

...you got on a public coach, the physical motions of which are no different to getting into a private carriage. You didn't even have to buy your own ticket, which would have required you to demonstrate some basic skill in handling money and logistics.

quote:

and soon he would be free of these stupid people and their nonsensical requirements. With that in view he had no reason to put himself out hurrying after some nobody who was there for no other reason than to guide him. If the man found himself too far ahead of Clarion, he'd have to stop and wait.

Which was exactly what happened. Clarion reached the archway in the far side of the building which Fellar had disappeared through a pair of moments earlier, and stepped through himself to find the man waiting only a short distance ahead on the stone approach. Beyond him was a wide circle of rather large, odd buildings, and it took Clarion a moment to realize they were made of resin. Why that would be so he had no idea, but it wasn't possible to ask about them. That foolish guide had taken off again, and all Clarion could do was follow.
The man Fellar circled to the left, and eventually stopped in front of one of the buildings. Clarion strolled up to it a moment later, ignoring the fleeting expression of annoyance on the man's face.

"This is where you hafta go," Fellar said, jerking a thumb at the building before holding out his hand. He was obviously asking for a tip, something not quite unexpected. Clarion smiled faintly as he handed over the two coppers he'd already taken out of his pocket, then he entered the building without a backward glance.

Two coppers? What a scrooge. Even Hat tipped a whole silver!

quote:

The symbol for Air magic had been next to the door on the outside of the building, but the first inner room was perfectly ordinary. Soft lamps lit cream-white walls of resin, garish hangings covered various doorways, and another table held another man sitting behind it. This man was fractionally younger than the one in the other building, and he looked up at Clarion with a neutral smile.

"I was told these are to be given to you," Clarion said as he handed over the small sheaf of papers he'd been carrying. "Now I'd like to be told how soon I'll be free to go home for a bit of long-denied rest."

"All in good time, sir," the man soothed as he checked through the papers, his attitude more mollifying than dismissive. "There's just another question or two to be answered, and then you'll be finished. If you'll step through that doorway all the way to your right, they'll show you to a room where you can sit down for a while."

Arguing would have been a waste of time, so Clarion swallowed his annoyance and simply walked to the indicated doorway. He stepped through to find three people in an alcove to the left, two women and a man. All three rose to their feet at his appearance, and the man stepped forward.

Not one, but TWO women! I thought there were very few jobs for women per Jovvi? Is Jovvi wrong? Jovvi's probably wrong.

quote:

"Follow me, please," he said, then began to lead the way up the hall they stood in. But at least this new guide moved slowly enough to be followed easily and looked back to be sure his charge was with him, so again Clarion made no protest. He followed the man while the two women followed him, and in a moment they reached a closed door.

"Just make yourself as comfortable as possible in here, and we'll be right with you," the man said, pushing open the door with very little effort. Clarion sniffed to show his displeasure, but still stepped inside to look around. A bare room of resin it was,

A boring chapter, this is.

quote:

lit by lamps hidden behind windows of clear resin high in the walls, with no furniture but a single low stool. Clarion turned to demand what sort of joke that was supposed to be, but the man was gone behind the door which had silently closed.

"This is far too much," Clarion muttered in instantly increased annoyance. His limit for accepting the unacceptable had now been reached, and he would stand for no more.

It's not unacceptable if you're able to accept it - particularly if you've only grumbled about it internally to yourself. That's called an annoyance. Hope that helps!

quote:

He stepped back to the door, intending to throw it open and march out to confront the fools, but there was nothing on the inside of the door to grasp. And it was closed so tightly the joining of door and jamb seemed almost seamless, giving Clarion the fleeting impression it was also sealed.

"What is going on here?" he demanded aloud, turning back to the rest of the room to confirm his impression that there was no other door. His question had been rhetorical, but a moment later he got an answer anyway. A scraping noise from above made him look up to see that a small door had been opened in the wall well above his head, and the man who had led him to that room now looked out.

"Your first and possibly last test is now before you," the man told him solemnly. "You must find a way out of the dilemma you will soon be presented with, otherwise you will die. Only you can save yourself, and if you don't accomplish it, no one will do it for you. Good luck or goodbye."

I already didn't when I read this line in Lorand's POV, I was bored when I saw it again in Jovvi's POV and now I'm just...

*snore*

quote:

Clarion was so appalled, the man had pulled back and pushed closed the small door before Clarion had gathered his wits together enough to speak. By then it was too late, of course, but that didn't seem to matter much. Any demand for further explanations would probably have been ignored, and even if they'd been given, Clarion would certainly have had trouble understanding. Never before had his life been threatened, and he couldn't believe it was happening now. The man must have been joking, if not simply lying . . .

Did you forget last week's fireball attack? Or do you mean to say that you didn't feel threatened by the fireball?

I had to check Clarion's last chapter to be sure, and yep, he didn't feel threatened. Fine, one point to Green for being consistent with this aspect of Clarion's character.

quote:

But that was when Clarion became aware of something else that had never happened. The air in the room ... although he no longer consciously noticed it, he was always aware of the air in any place he happened to be. The pressure and shape of it changed according to the elevation of the place where it was, but the volume of it had never varied. Now . . . now the volume in that room was changing and lowering, as if someone or something slowly drew out the air and refused to allow it to flow back in. If something wasn't done, he would eventually lack enough to breathe!

The shock of that reached Clarion more directly than any words could have. The man hadn't been joking or lying; Clarion's life was in danger! His skill was with Air magic, but if someone didn't do something quickly, he'd have nothing left to work magic with.

No, not someone, me , Clarion thought with fear clutching at his heart. He took off his hat, intending to put it carefully on the stool, but simply dropped it to the floor instead. He was faced with the need to save himself, and the preservation of a hat came a long way down the list of what had to be done first. But what could he do? What was there to do?

Stop with the hat. I don't understand why you need to take off the hat. Does wearing a hat affect your ability to do Air magic? Or possibly to think?

quote:

The answer to that came quickly, as though part of his mind had waited all his life to begin functioning. The first thing he had to do was keep from losing any more air, and stretching out the fingers of his ability soon found the place where the air was being drawn out. He thickened the air at that point to keep it from flowing through the set of tiny holes in the wall, and the stratagem worked perfectly. No more air was drawn out through those holes, but that was when he became aware of the second set.

A number of frantic minutes went by while Clarion located one set of holes after the other, and once he'd found them all, the fright began to touch him again. There were almost a dozen sets, and if he took his attention from any of them, he would begin to lose air again. Which meant he had to keep them sealed, but he also had to have enough of his ability free to search for a way out of that room. It had become perfectly clear that only his talent would get him out of that horrible situation, so he had to do two things at once.

Or maybe three. Clarion wiped at the sweat on his brow with the back of his hand, suddenly aware of how hard he was breathing. The air around him had grown just a little too thin for his lungs to work without effort, so he'd have to bring down what air there was up near the ceiling. It did him no good there, but gathering it closer to his face produced even more sweat. He now worked harder than he ever had in his life, but it still wasn't enough.

Oh the horror of having to do multiple things at once!

quote:

For he still had no way out of that place, except for the wild idea he'd gotten in passing. The small door his guide to that room had looked out of; it had closed inwardly, so it ought to be possible to push it open from his side. The only problem with that idea was how high the small door was, more than six feet higher than the top of his head. Standing on the stool would be a waste of time, but what else could he stand on?

I swear Green wrote this whole chapter as the setup for an extremely unfunny punny ending of having Clarion the Air magic practitioner "walk on Air".

quote:

And how long would it be before his strength gave out, bringing an abrupt end to his life? Clarion tangled his fingers in his hair, feeling the fear inside him grow stronger. He had to find a way out of there, but how? How? How . ..?

Green's not even trying at this point, compared to the two previous cliffhangers.

Summary:

Day 1
Lorand and Hat, Jovvi Clarion arrive in Gan Garee (still no clue what the city is like). They all get shiny IDs. The test involves escaping live burial raging emotions suffocation and Lorand Jovvi Clarion ends the chapter still stuck in the testing room with dirt falling on him emotions raging around her not a lot of air to breathe (turns out Lorand Jovvi Clarion is not so smart).

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 11
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 4
COACH RIDES: 4
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 7
"CLIFFHANGERS": 5
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 6
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8)

Possible fixes:
Bury smother suffocate this chapter with dirt apathy thickened air (i.e. delete it).

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER NINE

I was given a very early appointment at the testing center, just past daybreak, in fact, but that wasn't a problem. I didn't get much sleep the night before anyway, and finally gave up trying. Getting up and dressed and simply waiting while everyone else slept was much easier, and had the benefit of letting me be sure I wouldn't end up late.

I had no real appetite for breakfast but I ate it anyway, stuffing down every last crumb without tasting any of it. I'd heard that the first test would be the hardest, and applicants needed all their strength to pass it. I had to pass it, and was prepared to do anything I had to to make that happen.

And I'd also picked up a very interesting point. Housing in Gan Garee is usually difficult to find for transients, but right now, with so many competitors around, it had become impossible. For that reason, any large residence that took in applicants as roomers during this time of testing enjoyed a very special status, like being immune to court actions which would change its ownership. I'd registered my house for that purpose just the day before, and now should be able to concentrate on the test without being distracted.

Green manufactures a lot of stupid plot points, but this probably takes the cake. There are so many plothole issues with this:
  1. There's always going to be a constant stream of people coming to Gan Garee to test for High practitioner, so there's no way this is a seasonal increase in demand for temporary housing.
  2. If finding new High talents is important for the Empire (which logically, yes, it is and spoilers yes, they need Highs to keep their armies going) then you want to keep them under close tabs in locations you control. Privately owned volunteered houses would be a logistical nightmare to manage.
  3. Governments that need assets usually just seize them - either by force or by law (e.g. compulsory acquisition). No government simply relies on private citizens volunteering their housing in order to fill a temporary housing shortage is stupid

There's so many other ways you could get the protagonists into a communal living situation that don't involve this convoluted plot point. Green did this purely in order to try and give Tamrissa an appearance of being strong and independent, as well as to kick off the eternally stupid Tamrissa/Vallant conflict that will last for basically the rest of this series.

quote:

Should be able to. I sighed at that thought as the public carriage took me toward the testing center, the city just beginning to wake up all around us. At the moment all I could concentrate on was the knot of fear in my middle, which twisted and tightened with every breath I took. My life and sanity depended on my passing that test, and determination isn't quite the same as confidence.

I'd been given a small card along with the appointment time, and that card got me past the guards and through the outer wall.

This is just as dumb as the coach tickets.

quote:

I'd heard that people of lesser ability were always trying to sneak in to take one of the tests, most of them being convinced that their evaluations had been wrong and they did have the potential to reach High if only they were given the chance to try. I could understand that outlook all too easily, but although I sympathized with those poor unfortunates I didn't think much of their intelligence. Even marginal talents were sent for testing, just to be on the safe side, so misevaluations weren't very likely.

Or just post a freaking Guild talent at the gates, geez.

quote:

There weren't many people around at that early hour of the morning, and the coolness of the air made me glad I wore a long-sleeved dress. I'd been directed to a particular archway into the building, and when I stepped through it I saw a man to the right, sitting behind a table. Even as I watched he patted back a yawn, and I knew exactly how he felt.

"Good morning, young lady," he said pleasantly enough when I stopped in front of his table. "Since you're here this early you must live in the city, so I'll ask for your appointment card rather than your ticket stub."

"Don't applicants from the provinces ever get here this early?" I asked as I handed over the card, trying to divert myself just a little. If I didn't calm down, I'd probably end up exploding.

"Applicants from the provinces have their journeys here planned very carefully," he answered, digging through a box of papers before pulling out a set of them. "They arrive sometime between just before noon and midafternoon, and they're brought directly here. No sense in turning 'em loose in the city to get into mischief before they have the chance to test."

...why? There's literally no reason I can see how this benefits anybody. The test is the test, when they take it makes no difference.

quote:

He flashed me another neutral smile, then gave all his attention to writing on a larger card than the one I'd given him. He was being very polite and pleasantly distant, but I knew it wasn't simply good manners making him act like that.

The people who came here to test for High were all strong Middles, meaning they were nobody you wanted to get angry at you. It might be against the law for us to use our talents against ordinary people, but that doesn't mean it never happens. If a drowned body is pulled out of the bay, it's almost impossible for the investigators to determine if that person drowned in the bay, or because of someone with a Water talent.

Tamrissa just having idle homicidal thoughts here. Totally perfectly normal.

quote:

And then there was the matter of the tests. No one knew in advance who would or would not pass, and insulting an applicant could turn out to mean having insulted a High. At that point the man who did the insulting would certainly be out of a job, and possibly even finding it difficult to get another. Those who claim gold and silver mean nothing have never been in the position of needing to support a family, otherwise they would have learned better.

Besides the "love your children" stuff, I feel like Green's secondary theme in the books is "strength is the only thing that matters". She kind of laid some groundwork, with the whole "the strongest Blending rules" in the Prologue, and the magic system itself. There's also quite frequent attempts to draw parallels between magical and physical strength and the relative strength of a parent vs a child, in the context of convincing everybody to do what you want and disciplining/raising a child.

Spoilers for the first series: the main cast will be the strongest High talents ever discovered, and they basically use their strength to do whatever they want, and it is totally okay because they're Good People so everything they do is Right

Book 8 spoilers: at the very end, Tamrissa asks why the advanced nation of full Blendings manipulating things from the shadows didn't just make everyone do the right thing, and the answer is "because making people do what we believe is the right thing by force isn't very fair minded".

quote:

"All right, here you are," the man behind the table said, recapturing my attention. "This is your identification as an applicant, and you must wear it at all times. You have a number of stops to make throughout this building, and then you'll be taken to the place you have to go. Don't lose these papers, since you'll need to show them at all the stops."

This time, we're even told in advance there's going to be a "number of stops" IN THE BUILDING. And yes, we're going to have to read about Tamrissa making every single one of them.



quote:

By then I'd slipped the chain attached to the card over my head, so I accepted the set of papers as a woman came up to the table. I'd seen the man gesture the woman over, so she had to be the one who would show me where to go. She touched my arm before heading toward a stairway, proving my theory, so I quickly followed along.

People only usually use the word "theory" in relation to conjecture they've made about a relatively nuanced or difficult problem. Figuring out who your guide to the next stop in the building does not qualify.

quote:

The stairs were made of the same stone as the building, and we climbed quite a few of them before reaching the second floor. I would have asked my guide about where we were going and how long the stop would take, but she moved just far enough ahead of me to make conversation awkward. She also had no trouble using both hands to raise her skirt high enough to avoid stepping on it, but one of my hands was full of papers. Also using it to hold up my skirt took concentration, which worked even more against getting involved in talk.

What?



That is a picture of my actual wedding dress from the dressmaker. There was sufficient fabric in the skirt that I required assistance from my maid of honor to go to the bathroom (yeah that was a new experience). The amount of concentration it took me to hold up my skirt on my wedding day with ONE hand whenever I was moving faster than a walk (because you really don't need to hold it up if you're just walking and you also don't need two hands if your gown is properly fitted which Tamrissa's should be since she's a rich merchant's widow) was...let's see...ZERO.

How elaborate and badly fitting a gown is Tamrissa wearing that she needs both hands and enough concentration that it would be too difficult to hold a conversation?

quote:

At the top of the stairs the woman turned left, walked a short distance to a door also on the left, then opened it and went through.

Because these vaguely specific directions are so vital to our understanding of the story.

quote:

When I followed I found myself in a small room with a man behind a table, a row of plain wooden chairs, and two closed doors behind the man and his table. My guide waited until I was inside, then silently left, closing the door behind herself.

"Please have a seat," the man behind the table said with no more than a glance for me. "Someone will be with you as quickly as possible."

After that he went back to being engrossed in whatever work he was doing, so I had no choice but to do as he'd said. I chose a chair and sat in it, but it had to be one of the most uncomfortable chairs I'd ever experienced. It had none of the padding it so badly needed, its seat slanted at an odd angle, and its height was wrong for a chair. I didn't know how long a wait I had in front of me, but even five minutes would have been too long in that chair.

A lot more than five minutes went past, during which time I tried two others of the line of chairs. Each of them turned out to be uncomfortable in a different way, and that fact upset me more than it should have. I had just about worked myself up to asking how much longer it would be, when a man came in the same door I'd used to enter. He also wore an identity card on a chain around his neck, and the man behind the table looked up at him.

"Please have a seat," he said in exactly the same tone he'd used earlier. "Someone will be with you as quickly as possible. And you may now follow me, ma'am."

Yep, they are literally playing "musical rooms" with all of the Gan Garee applicants. And we're going to have to read about Tamrissa sitting in all of these stupid rooms for no good reason other than because Green doesn't know how to control pacing in her own narrative.

quote:

The relief was exquisite when I rose to my feet and followed the man to the righthand door behind his table. He opened it to allow me through, then closed it behind me without entering the room. It was smaller than the first, and had only another man behind another table without any other chairs in sight.

"Good morning, ma'am," this new man said with another of those pleasant but neutral smiles. "Your papers, please."

I handed over the set of papers, then stood there while the man read every word written on them. When he was through, he looked up with the same sort of smile.

"Everything appears to be in order," he said, handing the papers back. "You may now go through that door to room twenty-two, which is your next stop."

For someone who identifies herself as a sci-fi writer, I am extremely disappointed that Green did not call it room forty-two.

quote:

The thought that my next stop might well be the test itself kept me silent until I'd walked out the indicated door, and then I was occupied with finding room twenty-two. It turned out to be on the other side of the building, but when I opened its door I saw an exact copy of the outer room I'd so recently left.

"Please have a seat," the woman behind the table said to me. "Someone will be with you as soon as possible. And now you may follow me, sir."

The man with the applicant's identity card got immediately to his feet and followed the woman, then went through the door she opened. Once he was through she closed the door, went back to sit behind her table, and was immediately immersed in her work again.

"All right, tell me the truth," I said from where I stood, knowing the line of chairs would be just like the first group. "How long will I have to keep doing this, and why do I have to do it? You can't tell me it isn't pointless."

I knew the woman heard every word I'd said, but she let a moment go by before she looked up from her "work."

"Please have a seat," she said in exactly the way she'd said it before. "Someone will be with you as soon as possible."

Meaning she wasn't going to tell me a thing. My temper stirred at that, making me want to do something outrageous,

Please, do!! Give in to your homicidal urges Tamrissa! It'd be disturbing but more entertaining reading about you committing mass murder.

quote:

but I simply didn't dare. I couldn't do anything at all that might jeopardize my chance to be tested, not even raise my voice to protest. I'd have to continue on with the pointless, and put up with it for as long as necessary.

"As long as necessary" turned into hours, most of it spent in one or another of those horrible chairs. At one point I just had to get up and walk around a bit, but the current man-behind-a-table looked at me in a way that quickly sent me back to a torture chair. I had to do things their way, his stare said, and it still wasn't possible for me to argue.

Our fierce would-be murderer is so brave that it takes a LOOK to cow her into sitting on an uncomfortable chair.

quote:

When the time finally came for it to be over, it took a moment before I realized it. I'd had nothing to do all that time but think, and it occurred to me that the government wanted the tests to be as equitable as possible. That way fewer mistakes in evaluation would be made, since it was far easier to come in for testing from one of the city's neighborhoods than it was to come in from one of the provinces. Some people spent a week in a coach before reaching Gan Garee, and their strength would necessarily be less than that of someone who came from the other side of the city.

I think we're supposed to buy this as a legitimate and genuinely good in-world reason for why the coach arrivals are timed so carefully. Not having done the full cost/benefit analysis for the Gandistran Empire, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that prima facie it'd be less expensive and more logical to just schedule all tests the day after any non-local applicants arrive, and the local ones as and when their appointments are. Not to mention less irritating for us readers.

quote:

So they'd developed a method of wearing down city residents to the point of feeling as if they'd spent a week in a coach. All that endless waiting in incredibly uncomfortable chairs, of being sent from one side of the building to the other for no reason other than being told to do it. After countless hours I felt as wearily impatient as it was possible to be, and that was why it took a moment before I noticed the first deviation from what had become the norm: when I was shown into an inner room, there were two men in it rather than one.

"Good morning, ma'am," the man behind the table said in the prescribed way. "Your papers, please."

I handed over the papers quickly, then spent the waiting time staring at the second man. He stood beside the table with his hands clasped behind him, staring at nothing and remaining silent. But he was there, which hadn't happened before, leading me to hope with all my heart that the time of torture might be over.

"Everything seems to be in order," the man behind the table said far more quickly than any of his predecessors had done, holding out the papers toward me. "If you'll follow this gentleman, he'll take you to your next stop."

His mentioning another "stop" made my heart lurch with disappointment, but that reaction turned out to be premature. Instead of being led to yet another room in that building, my guide found a staircase and began to descend.

Going down a staircase in long skirts can often be worse than going up,

Sharon Green obviously has no experience in wearing long skirts. Skirts have a penalty to overall dexterity in proportion to their length and bulkiness, not a particular direction of travel on stairs.

quote:

but that time I think I discovered the secret of flying. The man I followed walked too fast for me to take my time without also taking the chance of losing him, so flying was the only way to keep up. I reached the bottom of the stairs without remembering anything of how I got there, and then I nearly ran to keep my guide in sight. If I lost him I'd probably kill myself, and I really didn't want to die.

This is some weirdness going on with Green and how fast she thinks women are capable of moving in a dress. Unless it's 15 kgs (30 lbs) of heavy crystal beaded brocade ballgown with a cathedral train, it's not going to slow me significantly. If I'm in five inch stilettos...maybe, but probably not even then because if you actually are wearing a pair of well-fitted heels, you can run in them. I have played soccer whilst wearing stiletto boots in social settings; all they did was make my opponents fear the possibility of me stepping on their feet.

quote:

I was led outside to the back of the building, and was shocked to discover it was only somewhere around noon. I'd been ready to swear I'd spent a long enough time on the second floor for it to be past sundown, but obviously I'd been mistaken. There were a lot more people around now than earlier, and some of them were moving as close to a run as I was. But I noticed that only in passing, since most of my attention was on the man I followed.

That man led me to one of the very large resin buildings standing in a circle beyond the testing center's main building, to a doorway with the Fire symbol hanging beside it. Rather than continue on in he stopped to one side with his hand out, so I automatically offered the papers I'd handed over so often today. Rather than take them he gave them back with a sigh, then began to retrace his steps while shaking his head and muttering. I didn't know what his problem was, but I also didn't care. I was already on the way into the resin building, trying to ignore the renewed thudding of my heart.

Hahaha, Tamrissa is so sheltered she doesn't understand the concept of a tip. Actually good characterization from Green.

quote:

Inside the doorway was a rather large room, and once again there was a man behind a table. This one was slightly older than the others had been, and his smile looked a bit more real.

"Good morning, young lady," he said, holding out his hand. "And how are you today?"

"I'm not sure," I answered cautiously, giving him the papers. "I suppose it depends on how many more rooms I'll need to sit and wait in."

"Ah, yes, you're from here in the city," he said, glancing through the well-worn papers. At one point I'd tried to read them myself just to have something to do, but had quickly discovered it wasn't possible. They were filled with jargon of some sort as well as meaningless abbreviations and referenceless numbers, and therefore were as informative as a child's scribblings.

"Well, I have some moderately good news then," he said, looking up after putting the papers aside rather than returning them to me. "There's only one more room you'll need to sit in, and that for only a short while. There are some final questions we need answers to, and once we have them everything will be finished. Just go through that doorway all the way to your right, and you'll be shown where to go from there."

There was a rather loud-patterned hanging over the doorway he'd directed me to, and I gave him something of an answering smile and then quickly went toward it. I couldn't quite believe there was only one more session of waiting ahead of me, but the hope of finding an end to that terrible day was enough to keep me from hanging back. I stepped through to see a long hall ahead and three men in an alcove to the left, and as soon as I appeared the three men rose to their feet.

"Please follow me," one of them said as he stepped forward, and then he led the way a short distance up the hall to the first door on the left, which he opened. "If you'll just wait inside, someone will be with you very shortly."

The other two men had followed along behind me, but I was alone when I stepped through the doorway. Or at least I thought I was alone. The room was too pitch black to see anything in it.

"Oh, for goodness' sake, some fool has turned down all the lamps," the first man said from behind me where I'd stopped, only half a pace into the room. "If you'll just step forward a bit more, ma'am, I'll be able to reach the lamp right beside the door."

The request was perfectly reasonable,

Uh no, it really is not. The same " ALERT ALERT POTENTIAL GANG RAPE ABDUCTION ABORT ABORT " that should have gone off in Jovvi's head should have been going off in Tamrissa's head as soon as she saw three men waiting. I guess despite her history of being sexually abused doesn't make her survival radar any better. Nor does Tamrissa also notice the PITCH BLACK ROOM from the hallway. And as a Fire talent, instead of instinctively summoning a bundle of candle-sized flames to see, she just goes and steps into the dark.

What. The. Hell.

quote:

but despite my eagerness to see that experience over and done with, I suddenly found myself suspicious. Even in the perpetual dimness of the main building, none of the rooms had been this dark.

"If you'll point to the lamp, I'll be glad to light it," I said, wondering if the man could possibly have forgotten what my talent was. "There's no need for you to—"

I'd been turning as I spoke, but that was as far as I got. The man's hand came to my shoulder with a shove, and I was sent stumbling away from the door. Terror hit me then, the sort my husband had taught me so well, and I responded so quickly it would have been frightening at another place and time.



quote:

I reached toward the man with one hand and all my ability, and a raging inferno roared toward him where he stood beyond the now-closing door.

About time! I'm actually cheering for Tamrissa, who's been the only one to actually DO anything so far. Part of me wonders whether Green intentionally had the others appear like idiots just so she could have Tamrissa look proactive in comparison.

quote:

I could feel him trying to raise and hold a barrier with his own Fire talent, but his strength seemed only a small fraction of mine.

Another clear mention of the ability to shield, even by a Low talent.

quote:

I would reach him and keep that door from closing, and then I would— And then I would run into a heavy sheet of rain produced by Water magic! The curtain of rain appeared right in front of the man my flames were about to reach, and the resulting steam made everyone flinch back. That included the other two men, who now stood behind the first, and it was obvious that they were the source of the Water magic. Not a very strong source even working together, and not one that could have stopped my flames for long, but they'd stopped them for just long enough. The resin door finished closing between us, and by the light of the fire raging uselessly against it, I was able to see that there was nothing I could use to open it again.

We now get the belated explanation on why there are so many people accompanying each applicant. It's actually logical but Green is so bad at description that whenever she does do something that makes sense it always hits as a bit of a surprise.

quote:

I slumped in defeat where I stood, the chill of fear spreading through my bones, and let all but a slender flame of fire die. Once resin hardens it refuses to burn, and even melting it takes hours and hours of effort by a team of Middles. I had no idea why I'd been locked into that room, but it couldn't have been for anything good. I'd learned that lesson from my husband as well, a thought which made me sick to my stomach.

The slender flame I'd kept alight didn't relieve more of the darkness than what was immediately around me, but I had the impression of a rather large area. It took a few moments before my trembling and agitation were under control, but once they were I intended to use enough light to see everything in that place. I was just about to start when the room began to brighten from a different source, so I let my last flame die and looked around.

Lamps were being turned up all around the room, but they stood in little niches high up in the resin walls behind windows of dear resin. And I'd been right about the room being big, I could now see, but more in its length than its width. Behind me was the door I'd come in by, to the left and right were the side walls about twenty feet apart, and ahead about fifteen feet was another door. I could see that door beyond the large U of metal standing between it and me, a construction that seemed to have no purpose. And the door seemed to have a bar of some sort on it, something to keep it closed rather than something to help open it.

Just so everyone's clear, the exit is fifteen feet away (about 4.5 meters), through a barred door.

quote:

"I sincerely hope you've regained control of yourself, ma'am," a voice said, and I looked up to see the man who'd pushed me into the room. He now looked out of a small door high in the wall, and he seemed almost as shaken as I felt.

"I demand that you let me out of here at once," I said, fighting to keep my voice from shaking. "I came here for a reason, and being manhandled wasn't it."

"You came here to have your talent tested, and so it shall be," the man retorted, now sounding more sure of himself. "Your task is to find a way to free yourself from there, and if you fail at the task you will die. If this test seems harsh, consider how harsh most failure is. In this instance, you will not live to regret the defeat. Good luck or goodbye."

He drew back and closed the small door again, and all I could do was stand and stare at the place where he'd been. This was the test, and if I didn't pass it I would die? If I didn't pass I would want to die, but what was there in this room to harm me? And in what possible way could my talent be tested?

That was when I heard the rumble and felt the vibration, and looked around to see that the walls to my left and right had begun to move inward! Each wall had ten feet to cross, and then they would meet in the middle of the room! Panic flared as I looked wildly from one moving wall to the other, but then I realized the two couldn't meet. That strange U-shaped thing of metal in the middle of the room would stop them.

Time to run Tamrissa! You can do it - you're the most proactive one so far! Surely you won't just stand there like the others?

quote:

Hope rose in me briefly, only to die out again as I made some mental calculations. The U of metal was narrow, so narrow I would barely have the room to stand when it stopped the walls. And I certainly would find it impossible to pass the U in order to reach that second door. Not that reaching it would help. The moving walls would end up covering most of it, hiding it behind the resin I could do nothing against.

Oh, you are. Of course you are.

quote:

Terror came again as those walls rumbled steadily toward me, a terror that screamed at me to do something! I wanted to do something, anything that was possible, but nothing was. I put my hands to my mouth to keep from screaming aloud, the words of defeat ringing in my mind: there's nothing to do! Nothing to do! Nothing to do ... !

Look if you want to scream, go ahead a scream. But how about you do it while RUNNING TOWARDS THE EXIT?

Summary:

Day 1
Lorand and Hat, Jovvi Clarion Tamrissa arrives in Gan Garee at the testing facility in Gan Garee (still no clue what the city is like). They all get shiny IDs. The test involves escaping live burial raging emotions suffocation being crushed alive and Lorand Jovvi Clarion Tamrissa ends the chapter still stuck in the testing room with dirt falling on him emotions raging around her not a lot of air to breathe the walls closing in (turns out Lorand Jovvi Clarion Tamrissa is not so smart).

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 11
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 5
COACH RIDES: 4
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 8
"CLIFFHANGERS": 6
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 6
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9)

Possible fixes:
Bury smother suffocate burn this chapter with dirt apathy thickened air fire (i.e. delete it).

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Technically the in-world explanation that we'll get five times from Chapters 11 through 15 is "pass or die" thing is for people like Jovvi and Vallant who intend to fail so they can return to their own lives.

Though if you mean the bit about tricking them into walking into the room, yeah, that makes no sense whatsoever. The pitch black excuse I assume is presumably to prevent them from "seeing" the test in advance (like the equivalent of "do not turn over your exam paper until you are told to do so").

They could have even constructed a small entry way like those horse stalls before a race where it's one way only.

It's plotholes galore whichever way you look at it. From somewhere at the back end of Book 1, we'll get some noble POVs this the sole purpose of pulling back the curtain on the ridiculous amount of pageantry put on by the nobility that serves no purpose other than to create a convoluted plot that is not interesting at all. Green would have been better served by thinking through some of these plotholes rather than trying to explain them away but

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


Only 2320 words until we get to the...middle of this overdramatized travesty that is the initial test for High practitioner. There's another five chapter slog to watch them all finish it, but on the plus side, from Chapter 11 onwards, they'll all be more or less in the same location so we start seeing them interact with each.

(I just flipped ahead to Chapter 11 to refresh myself on what happens and maybe I should not have used the phrase "on the plus side", but whatever, we'll talk about that in Chapter 11)

quote:

CHAPTER TEN

Vallant Ro felt stiff as he climbed down from the upper coach seat at what had to be his final destination. He was a man used to the freedom of the seas, so first he'd been stuffed into a box of a coach, and now he stood before a massive wall with guards at all of its openings. Someone had apparently decided to see just what it would take to break him, and that someone was actually making a damned good start.

Hello terrible D&D style character building! Because Green couldn't be bothered creating real characters with real flaws, she gave them quirky not-a-real-flaw flaws. Here's the list so far:
  • Lorand - fear of burnout
  • Jovvi - fear of the dark
  • Vallant - fear of enclosed spaces

You'll notice Clarion and Tamrissa aren't on the list because I think those two are Green's favorites. Both of their flaws are basically "they have terrible abusive parents".

quote:

But it still wasn't going to happen. Vallant's basic love of life pushed its way through his depression, making him smile faintly with self-ridicule. No one was trying to break him, they just didn't understand what true freedom meant. To them what they did was ordinary and everyday, not an imposition on a man's right to be unencumbered. Vallant could have felt sorry for them if he hadn't been working so hard not to feel sorry for himself.

I'm pretty sure this will be the last or close to last time we will ever see a character point out their own genuine idiocy in an inner monologue.

quote:

"Just take what's left of yer ticket to them guardsmen, Val," the coach driver, Ennis, said as he handed over Vallant's sea bag. "They'll tell ya what t'do next."

"What I'd like to do next is go home," Vallant grumbled as he took his bag, then he held his hand out. "Thanks for makin' this trip better for me, Ennis. I've enjoyed knownin' you."

"Same here, Val," the driver responded with a crooked-toothed grin, taking Vallant's hand. "Ya made th' run a lot shorter with all them stories you got. Hope t'hear the rest of 'em some day."

"If we meet again, I'll see that you do," Vallant assured the man as they shook. "Most people back home have stories of their own to tell, so I always have to wait my turn. Take care, Ennis, and try to remember not to believe everythin' you hear."

Ennis laughed aloud at that, obviously remembering how he'd swallowed every tall tale Vallant had come up with at first, and then he went to climb back up on his coach. That left Vallant with nothing to do but head for those guardsmen, so he tightened his grip on his seabag and did just that.

It would have been nicer character building if Green had actually written a scene with Vallant telling Ennis outlandish tales.

quote:

"I'm told you need to see this stub," Vallant said to the guardsmen when he reached them, handing over the item. "What would have happened if I'd thrown it away?"

"You would have spent more'n a week waiting for somebody to get here to identify you," the guardsman answered neutrally as he handed back the stub. "You'd be long out of coin, livin' on the street, an' real hungry by then, but you'd still have to go through with the test. Use the second archway to the right of the one directly behind this gate, and give them the stub. They'll tell you what to do next."

This is why this stupid coach ticket stub system is terrible.

We've also got another obvious plothole - 3 of the 5 protagonists (Jovvi, Clarion and Vallant) don't want to have anything to do with this test. Two of them are using it as an excuse to get away from people trying to control them. Despite this, they all merrily proceed as told and Clarion is the only one who even considers doing anything different.

I could buy Vallant deciding to play it by the book because he made up his mind in his previous chapter to not bring dishonor on his family. Technically Clarion is in the same boat because his mother is obviously getting some form of political pressure to force him through it; except Clarion doesn't have a fraction of the life experience that Vallant does so he shouldn't be able to understand this subtext and therefore should have just wandered off like the noble rear end he is to do whatever he pleases.

Jovvi makes the least sense of all. She grew up on the streets so she's got skills from before she was a courtesan. She's got definite "plans" (they're really sucky plans but still) of what she'd rather be doing instead. She's at least a strong Middle in Spirit so she's the best placed to just give her coach driver the slip along the way by disappearing or faking her death, or something. She's got enough gold on her to bribe someone into silence, and came prepared to start life over - which you would think involves PICKING A NEW PERSONA.

We literally just got in text confirmation that the Gandistran Empire doesn't even do a proper check to make sure no one goes missing along the way - it's so lax that anybody claiming to be here when they shouldn't is kept waiting for a week - and not even in a secure location so they can't disappear.

Jovvi, our savvy Littlefinger wannabe manipulatress, should have been all over this and just gone "oops, I can't find my coach ticket", been sent on her way and hey, her character's goal is achieved without any struggle.

But that would have completely derailed Green's plot so instead of FIXING THE PLOTHOLE, her characters just act like lemmings.



quote:

Vallant grunted noncommittally and headed for the gate, glad he'd asked the question even if he hadn't liked the answer. Without the ticket stub he wouldn't have starved or had to live on the street, not when the bank his family used had its main office there in Gan Garee. It was the extra time he would have wasted that made him glad he hadn't tossed away the means of identifying him when Ennis had first told him about it. The tickets of applicants for High were special and different, and that's why those who were sent to Gan Garee weren't left to buy their own.

Remember Vallant's thought about the bank. This will be relevant later in Book 1.

quote:

The sun above him told Vallant it was just about noon, and the people hurrying in and out of the large building he walked toward seemed to be ready for lunch. Vallant had already eaten his at Ennis's suggestion while they were still on the road. He'd bought the food at the roadhouse where they'd stopped for breakfast while the horses were being changed, and the sliced beef sandwich had been kept fresh because he'd thought to form and hold some ice around it.

Vallant is a walking fridge.

quote:

He'd done the same for Ennis's sandwich and the driver had returned the favor by heating both sandwiches and melting some cheese on them when he and Vallant had been ready to eat. Lucky Ennis's coach guard had taken sick at the beginning of the run and hadn't been replaced. That had let Vallant ride on top of the coach rather than leaving him cooped up inside. . . .

He's also the only one with any actual social skills in this group of protagonists.

quote:

The building was large on the inside as well, which came as a relief to Vallant. Small areas and crowded buildings tended to make him uncomfortable, especially when there was no easy access to the outside. His cabin aboard the Sea Queen wasn't enormous, but it had large bow windows which he usually left wide open. This building didn't have much in the way of windows, but its very high ceiling and open floor let Vallant ignore that fact as he walked up to the table a short distance from the archway he'd used to enter.

We get it, dude is claustrophobic.

quote:

"I believe this is supposed to be given to you," Vallant said to the man behind the table, once again handing over his ticket stub. "And I would also appreciate knowin' how long I'll be here. After a week on a coach seat, I could use some place stationary to stretch out for a while."

"They won't be keeping you for any unreasonable amount of time, I'm sure," the man answered with a glance and a smile as he went through a box filled with papers. "I'll have your identity card filled out in just a minute, and then you'll be able to get on with it."

Vallant watched for not much more than the specified minute while the man wrote on a rectangle of heavy paper, attached a thin chain to the rectangle, then handed the combination to him with instructions to put it on. Vallant removed his cap before doing so, and by the time he'd replaced it there was a woman standing beside him.

"Vosin here will take you where you have to go," the seated man said, gesturing toward the woman. "You must wear your identification at all times, and you have to hand over these papers when you reach your destination. Good day to you."

The man was being polite about it, but Vallant knew a dismissal when he heard it. He looked for the woman who was supposed to guide him, and felt annoyed when he discovered her already on her way to the far side of the building. She kept going without a backward glance, and Vallant had to stretch his stride a bit in order to catch up with her. That was something of a surprise, since none of the inn and roadhouse girls along the way had been that unfriendly.

Annnd we're back to Vallant being an rear end. Dude, she's just not that into you. Get over it. It happens. You are not the Prime Aspect's gift to women, believe it or not.

quote:

But he wasn't here to involve himself with women, after all. He was here to fail a test and then head home, so he followed along behind the pretty little thing without complaint. If he wondered what she might look like under that very plain gown she wore, it was only to give himself something to occupy his mind.

rear end in a top hat

quote:

So far his first trip to the legendary Gan Garee was even more boring than being becalmed.

Us too. Green had a chance to show us this supposedly legendary capitol city in Lorand's POV and wasted it. Instead of treating us to the sights and sounds of Gan Garee as the coach winds its way through the city, we got a description of a large wall surrounding a grey compound. Nobody else actually cares since Tamrissa's a local and Clarion is a noble, Jovvi doesn't notice anything unless dollar signs are involved and Vallant is a well traveled sailor.

quote:

The woman led Vallant out of the large building and across the outer walkway, obviously heading toward a group of odd-looking buildings standing in a circle a short distance away. They passed two of the buildings before the woman stopped, and the relatively small doorway she gestured to wasn't particularly encouraging. But the door had the symbol for Water magic on the wall beside it, and it was standing open. That was enough to let Vallant walk inside, which he did without giving the woman more than one final glance. But she was already on her way back to the large building, so Vallant shrugged and forgot about her.

I too would like to forget about you.

quote:

This smaller building immediately made Vallant uncomfortable, but not so much so that he was willing to show it. He walked up to another man seated at another table, and handed over the set of papers he'd been given.

"Good morning, sir," the seated man said with a friendly smile as he took the papers. "You've obviously traveled quite a way to be here, so we'll get right to the questions we have without delaying you very long. You can leave that bag here with me and go through the doorway on your far right, and they ' ll take you to a place where you can sit down."

Vallant tried not to hesitate very long before handing over his seabag, and a glance at the curtained doorway helped. Curtains were easy to go in and out of, and there were probably even windows in the room they would take him to. Ignoring the sweat beginning to bead his brow, Vallant went to the curtained doorway and through it. Beyond was a very narrow hallway, and if there hadn't been three people in an alcove to the left, Vallant might well have turned and run out. But he couldn't do that with people watching, especially since one of the three was a woman. He'd just have to grit his teeth and think about the windows the room he'd be taken to would have . . .

How does this guy manage to survive living in a room in the Roaring Sailor tavern when his claustrophobia's so bad he can't even walk down this hallway?

quote:

"Please follow me," one of the men said, and began to lead the way up that horribly narrow hall. Vallant followed, giving all his attention to the man rather than what they walked through. And it wasn't even a very long walk. In just a couple of minutes the man stopped and opened a door on the left, so Vallant immediately passed the man and plunged into the room. His breath wanted to come in gasps to match the whirling behind his eyes, but as soon as he found those windows he would be fine. He just had to shake his head hard enough to clear his vision . . .

And that turned out to be the biggest mistake yet. It took a moment for him to be able to see that room, but the first thing he noticed was the absence of windows. The room was fairly large and more than ordinarily high, with lamps burning in niches covered over with clear material. There was no sign of another door, and when Vallant turned back to the one he'd come in by, he found it closed. He lurched over to it, nearly frantic to get it open again, but there was nothing to hold to. He wanted to claw at the edge of it where it met the jamb, but there wasn't room in between even for his fingernails.

And that makes all five of them stupid enough to walk into a place without looking ahead. Observational skills are not this crew's strong point.

quote:

"You can't get out that way," a voice said, making him whirl around. The man who had led him to that trap looked out of a small door he'd opened fairly high in the wall opposite, too far out of reach for Vallant to get his hands on him.

"Let me out of here," Vallant demanded hoarsely, fighting to keep some vestige of control over himself. "Open this door and let me out now!"

"Finding a way out of that room is your job," the man answered, his tone and attitude neutral rather than gloating. "This is your first test, and if you aren't successful it will also be your last—the last of everything, including your life. Work hard to find an answer, sir, for your life most certainly does depend on it. Good luck or goodbye."

And then the man withdrew, an instant later pushing closed the small door he'd looked out through. Vallant shouted, demanding that he come back and explain himself, but the small door remained closed. The sweat of fear was so heavy on Vallant's face that he had to wipe it off with his coat sleeve, at the same time struggling to understand what he'd been told. He had to find his own way out of there? But how could he, and what had the fool meant about his life being at stake?

That answer, unfortunately, was the first one given him when flames of fire suddenly erupted all around the circle of the room. Vallant reached automatically for whatever moisture was at hand, and found that the air was heavy with it. Somewhere close by was a rather large amount of water, a fact guaranteed by the heavily-laden air. He quickly gathered the moisture and used it to douse the nearest flames, then began to do the same with the rest of the ring of fire.

Finally! Vallant is the only one who automatically DOES SOMETHING SENSIBLE when in danger instead of freezing in place like the others. Yes, this is all part of Green's grand plan to characterize him as the resourceful commander in charge. I guess it can't be helped if he's saddled with idiots instead of sensible people.

quote:

Began to. Vallant had only just gotten started with putting out the fires when the first of the flames began to burn again. Only this time they were somewhat closer to where he'd retreated to, the approximate center of the room. That had to mean the circle of fire would continue to tighten until it met inside him, and he would probably find it impossible to put out all of it. Even now sparks were beginning to fly at him, trying randomly to set him afire. He had to get out of that room in order to survive—not to mention stay sane— but how was he supposed to do that?

He stood with frantic intensity flaring all through his body, an ache already beginning in his muscles from the tension, a sickness deep inside his gut. In the name of everything right, how was he supposed to get himself out of there?

And of course she immediately ruins it by having the experienced Captain Ro, who probably has survived any number of life threatening storms at sea, freeze in place just like the rest of the protagonists. This is totally out of character, since potential loss of life is basically an occupational hazard for a sailor.

quote:

Now do you see what I meant when I said we all had a terrible time? There can't be anyone reading this who doesn't know we survived, but what it cost us to survive is another matter entirely. And not long after that was when we met, with not a single one of us at his or her best. The biggest surprise isn't that we survived the tests, but that we all survived the meetings. Now let's see, in what order did we finish those tests . . . ?

Just when you thought we had the benefit of Green dropping Tamrissa's odious narration that hasn't appeared in the last four chapters, here it is again!

Summary:

Day 1
Lorand and Hat, Jovvi Clarion Tamrissa Vallant arrives in Gan Garee at the testing facility in Gan Garee (still no clue what the city is like). They all get shiny IDs. The test involves escaping live burial raging emotions suffocation being crushed alive a ring of fire and Lorand Jovvi Clarion Tamrissa Vallant ends the chapter still stuck in the testing room with dirt falling on him emotions raging around her not a lot of air to breathe the walls ring of fire closing in (turns out Lorand Jovvi Clarion Tamrissa Vallant is not so actually smart but Green refuses to let her characters behave characteristically and decides make him be dumb instead, lest he upstage all her other protagonists by actually nailing his test).

Counts so far: (I'll start bolding the changes so it's clearer)

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 12
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 6
COACH RIDES: 4
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 9
"CLIFFHANGERS": 7
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 7
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Possible fixes:
Bury smother suffocate burn drown this chapter with dirt apathy thickened air fire by making it walk the plank (i.e. delete it).

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Get ready for a disruption to the order of the rotating POVs! According to Tamrissa's narration, it apparently is important for her account of these events to be done in the order that they finished the tests for...reasons. I'm pretty sure the only reason they were able to figure out the order of events is because everyone's first action was to go have a bath and therefore they were able to figure it out because everyone meets each other in the bath house.

(you think I'm joking but no, I'm not. Here begins the first bath house sequence)

Anyway, since this chapter is so boring, I've decided to try and translate the rest of the test into what it would have looked like in Arena.xlsm (which is an awesome little game):

pre:
D = first door
T = Tamrissa
U = U shaped piece of metal
B = barred door

We start the chapter with the walls closing in:

+----------B---------+
 |                  |
 |                  |
 |         U        |
 |                  |
 |                  |
 |         T        |
+----------D---------+

quote:

CHAPTER ELEVEN

I stood staring at the walls that slowly but steadily came toward me, almost too terrified to think. I really wasn't in danger of being crushed, not with the U of metal in the way, so why had that man said I would die? Fail the test, yes, but die?

So Tamrissa does not believe she's in danger of being crushed but she's "almost too terrified to think"?

pre:
The walls continue to close in:
+----------B---------+
  |                |
  |                |
  |        U       |
  |                |
  |                |
  |        T       |
+----------D---------+

quote:

That was when a terrible thought occurred to me, so I moved over closer to that U and took a really good look at it. Sure enough, it wasn't made of steel the way I'd thought at first. It was made of some very light metal I wasn't familiar with, which brought my terror back full force.

This is almost as bad an error as the "lavishly sponging" error in Jovvi's first POV chapter. If Tamrissa is almost "too terrified to think" then her terror certainly hasn't gone anywhere to be coming "back full force". By definition, being almost too terrified to think implies that Tamrissa's terror-o-meter is at close to max already, as opposed to having nearly subsided.

The Twilight thread complains a lot about Meyer using a thesaurus but I feel like Green really could have benefited from one. She's used "terrified", "terrible" and "terror" in the first two sentences of this chapter already.

quote:

It might keep those grinding walls apart for a time, but if they continued to push on it they would crush the U between them. I could feel that the metal wasn't tempered with heat, which would have made it significantly stronger.

We've now seen all five aspects in action, and it's pretty basic elemental magic:
  • Air - manipulation of gases (air molecules), including air pressure
  • Water - manipulation of liquids (primarily water), including removal of heat (i.e. create ice)
  • Spirit - manipulation of human minds, the basis for all of the mind control stuff is forthcoming
  • Fire - manipulation of flames, basically the ability to combust things
  • Earth - manipulation of solids (we've only really seen soil so far, but we'll see metal, wood and other materials in Book 3), control over plants, animals and human bodies
  • Guild - ability to sense and rate the strength of all aspects, including the ability to conduct a Search (though we will never find out what that is)

Spoilers for Book 5 onwards: Sight - perception of the probability of certain events occuring, basically futuresight

Earth is overpowered by a significant margin. I have a feeling the reason we mainly see like aspect combat/contests (the author being overly obsessed with her concept of FIVE FIVE FIVE) is because she couldn't figure out how to make it work because her magic system is so unbalanced. wizzardstaff's earlier comment about Green being a really crappy DM is so on point.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make here is that it is pretty weird for Tamrissa, a Fire talent, to be able to sense that this U-shaped piece of metal is not tempered. According to everything else we've seen and will see on the page, Lorand should be the only one who can feel the composition of metals through Earth magic and therefore know this particular piece of metal not tempered.

quote:

Which meant that I was in danger of being crushed, only not right away. I'd be able to stand there and watch the metal being destroyed, knowing my own destruction would come immediately thereafter. A shudder rippled through me, turning my knees weak, threatening to send me to the floor in the midst of swirling blackness.

First Jovvi, now Tamrissa. Green's really feeling like she needs to hit the fainting female trope here.

quote:

In just a few minutes I would die horribly, proving my parents had been right to believe I'd never pass this test.

pre:
The walls continue to close in:
+----------B---------+
   |              |
   |              |
   |       U      |
   |              |
   |              |
   |       T      |
+----------D---------+

quote:

And that thought, strangely enough, immediately began to give me back some control over myself. I hated the idea of my parents being right about anything that concerned me, knowing how scornful and demeaning their thoughts would be even while they were being told I was dead. They would also be furious that I'd escaped them, but that wasn't the way I'd planned to escape. I wanted to be there to see their faces when they learned I was free, had to be there to see it, so there was only one thing I could do. Pass that test and survive.

Thanks for needlessly repeating things you already told us in your first viewpoint chapter.

pre:
The walls continue to close in:
+----------B---------+
    |            |
    |            |
    |      U     |
    |            |
    |            |
    |      T     |
+----------D---------+

quote:

But that was more easily decided than done. I put a trembling hand to my hair as I really looked around, my mind searching for ideas.

This is such a bizarre action to do right now.

quote:

I'd been thinking that nothing was possible, but that couldn't be true. There had to be something, and the trick would be to find it. Maybe a closer look at the barred door would help . . .

NO KIDDING?!?~?!!??@!!

pre:
Tamrissa heads north:
+----------B---------+
    |            |
    |            |
    |      U     |
    |            |
    |      T     |
    |            |
+----------D---------+

quote:

I slid around the U of metal even though the moving walls weren't close enough yet to be a real problem, and hurried over to the door.

pre:
Tamrissa runs north:
+----------B---------+
    |      T     |
    |            |
    |      U     |
    |            |
    |            |
    |            |
+----------D---------+

quote:

It was barred closed all right, but not with a metal as light as what the U was made of. In order to open the door the bar would have to be slid from the rings it had been run through, but there was no room on either side to do that. The bar would have to be cut in two places at the very least, and the only thing available to cut it would be my flames. It would take time and a lot of effort, but I suddenly began to think it might be possible.

What?
  • How wide is this door (or the bar) that there's no room on either side to remove the bar? The room was twenty feet (~6m) wide to start! Do we have a door (and/or bar) that's ten feet (~3m) wide?
  • How the hell did they get the bar in position in the first place?

Also there were four paragraphs at the end of Chapter 9 and another six paragraphs up to this point of hand waving in despair. It could have all just been avoided in two sentences. "I ran for the exit, a barred door on the other side of the room. The bar was welded in place; in order to escape I would have to cut through it in at least two places by summoning fire."

quote:

That, of course, was when I remembered about those moving walls. I didn't have a lot of time, especially since one end of the door seemed to have some mechanism to open it, and the ends of the door were what would be covered first by the walls. I had to stop those walls long enough to give me time to work on the door, but how was I supposed to do that? The walls and floor and ceiling were made of resin, and hardened resin can't be affected by the Fire magic of one individual . . .

I came very close to giving up then, but the thought of allowing my parents to win came back to help stiffen my resolve again. It was possible to pass that test, so I just had to figure out what that way could be. My talent could get me through the door, but only if I stopped the walls long enough to give me the chance. But I couldn't stop the walls, not in any way involving my talent, so what—

I'd been looking around frantically as I thought, and when the answer finally broke through my upset I felt really stupid. That U of light metal . . . There was no reason for it to be in the room unless it was part of the problem—or part of the solution. Since it did nothing to threaten it had to be there to help, and that line of thought led me to understand in what way. If I opened the U out into a straight line, it would stop the walls before they moved over the ends of the door.

pre:
The walls continue closing in:
+----------B---------+
     |     T    |
     |          |
     |     U    |
     |          |
     |          |
     |          |
+----------D---------+

quote:

But the walls would not be stopped easily and not for long. I took a shaky breath as my mind raced, trying to estimate time and strength factors. I would have to heat the light metal to a high enough temperature to change its shape, and then I would have to temper it to higher strength—but without water. Whether or not it would work was questionable, especially since I'd also have to cut through the bar on the door. After the horribly tiring day I'd had, would I have enough strength to do it? Maybe being dead would be enough of a triumph over my parents . . .

My hands turned to fists at my sides, telling me in no uncertain terms that being dead would no t be enough. I had to survive and pass that test, but the self-doubts I'd been taught all my life would not help to accomplish it. I had to get beyond the doubts and stay there, and plunging right in might let me do that.

pre:
The walls continue closing in:
+----------B---------+
      |    T   |
      |        |
      |    U   |
      |        |
      |        |
      |        |
+----------D---------+

quote:

So I turned my attention and talent first to the U of metal. Reaching out with fingers of fire I began to caress it, following its shape and learning the feel of it as it now was. Even as I explored I heated my flames higher and higher, and after a moment I was able to detect the beginning of the change. Everything changes when fire is applied to it, and awareness of those changes is all part of learning your talent.

It has always amazed me how sensitive a sense of touch I have through my flames. I can feel the very texture of what I'm in the midst of burning, follow every stage of its change, sometimes even anticipate what will happen next. Now I could feel the metal under my flame-fingers begin to soften, the first step necessary in changing its shape.

pre:
The walls continue closing in:
+----------B---------+
       |   T   |
       |       |
       |   U   |
       |       |
       |       |
       |       |
+----------D---------+

Tamrissa attacks the U with Fire!
The U is critically hit! (5/10 hitpoints remaining)

quote:

By the time I had both arms of the U flattened down to a more or less straight line, the walls were almost up to them and I was close to drowning in sweat. I'd not only been exerting a lot of strength, I hadn't been able to block all of the heat from my fire. Blocking it completely would have meant losing contact and control, so the only real choice I had was to sweat. But I'd slowly been lowering the temperature of my flames and feeling the metal begin to harden again, so it was time to withdraw from that part of it.

pre:
The walls continue closing in:
+----------B---------+
        |  T  |
        |     |
        | --- |
        |     |
        |     |
        |     |
+----------D---------+

Tamrissa attacks the U with Fire!
The U takes 2 points of damage. (3/10 hitpoints remaining)
Tamrissa attacks the U with Fire!
The U takes 1 point of damage. (2/10 hitpoints remaining)
Tamrissa attacks the U with Fire!
The U takes a critical hit!
The U is now a flat metal brace!

quote:

I took a moment to rest then, using the time to check on the position of the walls and judge their rate of speed. They were still almost two feet away from the ends of" my metal brace, and the longer they took to reach it, the cooler—and therefore harder—it would be. What I didn't know was how long the brace would hold, how long it would take me to cut through the bar on the door, and whether or not I was wasting my time. If I'd guessed wrong about what the proper response to the test situation was . . .

I'm gonna pause here for a second to point out that while I don't know much about metal working, I'm pretty sure that none of the above made any sense. I feel like Green tried to act out this scene with some cling wrap that was shaped into a U and a hairdryer. I would have thought that trying to melt a U shape (which I still can't figure out if it's suspended in mid air or if the bottom of the U is sitting on the floor) just kind of...doesn't work? In all of the metal working I've seen (other than casting which is not an option here), you need to heat up the metal to its forging temperature where it is malleable enough to be shaped with tools by applying some form of physical pressure. And it kind of takes a while for the metal to cool down.

If there are any metal working goons from DIY who happen to be following along, please shed some light.

quote:

But I couldn't afford to spend effort doubting myself, not when there was so much left to do. I wiped the sweat from my eyes with the back of my right hand and turned to the door, then gave the bar my attention. Four cuts would make removing it effortless, but I might not have the time to make that many. The only thing I could do was start with the two most important cuts, and see how things went when they were done.

Concentrating my flames down to a very small point wasn't something I'd done before, and in the process I learned why it wasn't often done. It felt like compressing a living, squirming entity between my hands, balancing the need to keep it small but hot and the need to keep it alive. The flames actually almost fought me in that shape, but I had to concentrate them if the cutting wasn't to take forever. Smaller and smaller but hotter and hotter would also keep the bar from melting and sealing me in, so it had to be done.

I was so deeply involved in cutting through the bar, that the arrival of the walls at the metal brace almost made me jump out of my skin. The first cut was about three-quarters done, but I left it to jump and whirl around at the thud— screech! from behind me. The thud had come from the walls hitting the ends of the brace, and the protesting screech came from whatever moved the walls. It disliked the idea of the walls having been stopped, and apparently announced its intention to change that state of affairs.

pre:
The walls continue closing in:
+----------B---------+
         | T |
         |   |
         |---|
         |   |
         |   |
         |   |
+----------D---------+

Tamrissa attacks the bar with Fire!
The bar takes 3 points of damage. (7/10 hitpoints remaining)
The walls hit the flat metal brace!
The flat metal brace blocks the attack (5/5 hitpoints remaining)

quote:

I used a very light and gentle flame to check on the condition of the brace, and found myself less than encouraged. It was holding for the moment, but the pressure of the advancing walls strained the metal in a way it wasn't going to be able to resist for long. If I didn't have the bar out of the way before it collapsed completely, I'd never get out of there—or pass the test.

Tamrissa feeling things through her flames has pretty gross implications for the rest of the series. Also this is a plothole within the same chapter - since she didn't have to run a flame over the U in the first place to feel that it wasn't tempered.

quote:

That thought made me turn quickly back to what I'd been doing, but before beginning again I realized I couldn't simply ignore the brace. I had to stay aware of its condition, and do whatever might be possible to hold off its final collapse. That meant splitting my attention, something else I'd never done before, but this was obviously a day for firsts. Fear returned briefly as I fought to maintain flame in two places and at two intensities, but then insight came to make the new practice easier. Only a small part of my attention was necessary to simply watch the brace; the rest of it was free to control my active work.

I was almost halfway through my second cut when the first crisis came. The walls had been pushing at the brace relentlessly, and the time finally came when it began to buckle. I had no idea what they were using to move the walls, but it proved to be enough to begin forcing the metal arms back up, returning them to their original position.

pre:
The walls continue closing in:
+----------B---------+
         | T |
         |   |
         |~~~|
         |   |
         |   |
         |   |
+----------D---------+

Tamrissa attacks the bar with Fire!
The bar takes 6 points of damage. (3/10 hitpoints remaining)
The walls hit the flat metal brace!
The flat metal brace takes 3 points of damage. (2/5 hitpoints remaining)
The flat metal brace begins warping.

quote:

For an instant I had no idea what to do, then a crazy idea came. If the lower side of the arms were heated to softness in a couple of places, the arms might buckle downward and counter the upward pressure they were currently under. Since I'd never worked with metal in quite this way before, I had no idea if the plan would succeed. All I could do was try, but at the same time I had to maintain the cutting. The test had now turned into a real race against time, and faltering would certainly mean losing.

Tamrissa's "never worked with metal in quite this way before" - so does she just wander around her house melting her silverware or what?

quote:

By the time I had everything moving properly, I was beyond sweating. The flames on the underside of the brace had to be concentrated almost as narrowly as the flames cutting the bar, but the intensities remained different. If I became confused and altered the intensities it was probable everything would be ruined, so careful concentration became my foremost need. It felt as if I were in two places at the same time, living two different lives as I performed different tasks, but I couldn't think about that. Cutting through that bar was the only thing to consider, the only objective in a narrowed-down world.

And finally it happened! Heating the bottom of the brace had made the arms crumple downward, but I'd used that delaying tactic twice and wasn't sure if the metal of the arms was up to going through it a third time. It felt as if the metal was ready to fold into pleats, and that was when the second cut made it through the bottom of the bar. The part of the bar that had been threaded through the central brace on the door now sat there severed at both ends, and if I got it out of the way I could free the bar section at the side of the door and reach the opening mechanism.

pre:
The walls continue closing in:
+----------B---------+
         | T |
         |   |
         |^~^|
         |   |
         |   |
         |   |
+----------D---------+

Tamrissa attacks the bar with Fire!
Tamrissa attacks the metal brace with Fire!
The bar takes 2 points of damage. (1/10 hitpoints remaining)
The walls hit the metal brace!
The flat metal brace takes 1 point of damage. (1/5 hitpoints remaining)
The metal brace crumples. 
Tamrissa attacks the bar with Fire!
The bar takes 1 point of damage. (0/10 hitpoints remaining)
The bar is severed at both ends!

quote:

I actually reached toward the small section of bar with my physical hands, but happily the residual heat was intense enough to stop me a short distance away. I couldn't touch the thing as it was but I had to get it free, and then another ridiculous idea came. Without wasting a moment I took off my shoe, used a heavy fold of my skirt to push the large section of bar on the left as high up as it would go, then beat at the small section in the brace with my shoe heel.

pre:
The walls continue closing in:
+----------b---------+
          |T|
          | |
          |~|
          | |
          | |
          | |
+----------D---------+

Tamrissa attacks the severed bar with her shoe!
The severed bar resists the attack.

quote:

It felt as if I beat at the small section forever before it let itself be knocked out of the way, but a frantic sense of hurry let me keep at it. The metal brace holding the walls apart was in the process of collapsing into a mass of useless tangle, and I had to reach that door release before everything fell apart. Once the small bar section was out of the way I straightened the lefthand section and pulled with all my strength—which at that point wasn't very much at all. But it proved to be enough to move the bar section just out of the way, letting me reach to the small lever that was hopefully all that kept the door closed. I fumbled the lever open, pushed hard against the door—

pre:
The walls continue closing in:
+----------T---------+
           ||
           ||
           ||
           ||
           ||
           ||
+----------D---------+

Tamrissa attacks the severed bar with her shoe!
The severed bar falls to the floor.
The walls hit the metal brace!
Tamrissa opens the door.
The metal brace collapses!
Tamrissa escapes to the north.

quote:

—and almost fell sprawling into the hall beyond the door. The door itself had moved so easily once the lever was released ... it was over and I'd gotten out. . . now I could let go . . .

All at once I found myself seated on the floor of the hall, my back against one of the walls, a dark and distant whirling just receding from my mind and eyes. When I'd finally released every last spark of flame, the relief had been so exquisite . . . and now I could feel that I hurt just about everywhere, so I had no idea whether I'd seated myself deliberately, or had simply fallen. Strands of my hair floated well out of reach of the pins meant to hold it up, and I didn't even care. So what if I looked like a hag. I'd passed the test . . . hadn't I?

Not sure about you guys, but I felt a faint spark of suspense there. I think it was only because I was having fun drawing out my crappy little ASCII depictions, not because of anything the author wrote.

quote:

"Just rest there, young lady, and drink some of this," a voice came, and suddenly the man from the front room was beside me and holding a cup to my lips. I thought it was water and gulped at it greedily, but it turned out to be more than water. The taste of the drink was sweet, and once it slid down my throat it seemed to spread all through me. Still-tense muscles began to relax, and a small but steady influx of strength began to return to my limbs.

Green's flat out stopped trying to foreshadow poorly, in Chapter 11, and gone straight to putting in Blatantly Suspicious Things.

quote:

"There, that's much better," the man said encouragingly once I'd drained the large cup. "Sit where you are for another moment or two and pull yourself together, and then we'll get you back on your feet."

"I may never stand or walk again," I whispered, resting my head against the wall behind me. I felt almost too terrified to ask, but I just had to know. "Did . . . did I pass?"

"You most certainly did pass," the man said with a broad smile from where he crouched beside me. "I would have offered my congratulations at once, but you were more in need of refreshment. And it should please you even more to know that you're the only one to pass in this facility today."

For an instant hearing that did please me, but then I remembered what failure meant and felt ill instead. How many Middle talents had been tested here today? And how many hadn't lived . . . ?

"Why did you do that?" I asked in the strongest whisper I could,

The redundancy in that dialogue tag is killing me. And Green's not done either.

quote:

finding it impossible not to shudder. "I came here determined to pass your test, but you didn't care. You put my life on the line, then turned your back and walked away."

"Explaining is always so difficult," he said with a sigh, no longer smiling. "Please try to understand that not everyone looks at the matter as you did. Many come here with the intention of deliberately failing the test so that they might return to their former lives, and we simply cannot allow that. A High practitioner must be the best of the best, so we force all applicants to show their best with the most effective means at our disposal. A life-threat always brings out the most in people, no matter what they meant to show or hide."

Alright so this explanation really bugs me in multiple ways. As a first time reader, you sit here and you're like, this is stupid. If it's all about incentivizing people not to sandbag on a test, then either: 1) change the incentives so passing is worth their while - carrot or stick or both would work here; and 2) set things up so that they don't know that they're being tested.

As a re-reader (if you've made it past...oh, say Book 4), you're thinking is this possibly Green wanting you to realize that this is a dumb reason because any intelligent reader would go, things aren't adding up at this point: all Middles are tested, but there's very few Highs; even assuming a distribution of talent like a pyramid with many Lows, less middles and not a lot of Highs, there should be enough confirmed Highs that their fates are generally known; nobody knows anything about people who test for High; ergo, High talents are being kidnapped and being enslaved in an army.

I said earlier in Chapter 4 that I felt like Green tried to write a mystery plot and just didn't do it well, at all. This is one of the instances where it becomes pretty apparent.

quote:

"And if their best isn't good enough, they die," I summed up, no longer looking at him. "I can understand your need, but I hope you'll forgive me for not having much sympathy with it. When can I go home?"

"As soon as the coach we've sent for arrives," he answered with another sigh. "You should be somewhat returned to yourself by then, and you'll have a day or two to rest before your next session. Remember to wear your identification at all times, and please refrain from discussing your experience with anyone. Disclosure penalties are rather strict, and I would dislike seeing you incur any of them. And—oh yes, I'm also supposed to discuss your house."

"What about my house?" I asked, suddenly frightened again. Could it have been claimed by my father while I was in the midst of struggling to save my life? I wouldn't have been surprised . . .

"You've registered your house as a residence for applicants," he reminded me, smiling faintly again. "Now that you've passed your own test, the registration is automatically accepted. You've said you can accommodate eight lodgers in addition to yourself, so they'll begin sending people now and the testing centers will pay for their lodging. Any food, clothing, or other needs will have to be paid for by the individual applicant."

"What are they supposed to supply it from?" I asked, delighted and relieved that my house would be safe for a time. "Are they expected to find jobs?"

"Hardly," the man answered with a chuckle. "They'll be too busy with their regularly scheduled sessions for that, and shouldn't need a job in any event. Assuming they continue to do well they'll be eligible for the competitions, the winning of which will bring a bonus in gold. That, of course, goes for you as well as your guests. You'll be given the name of someone to contact in case of any difficulties with your guests, and that's all there is to it for the moment."

I wonder if Green moonlighted as a technical writer of instruction manuals for a while. There's just sections and sections of these books which all involve exchanges like this where Character A asks Character B what will happen to them, Character B explains the exact steps to Character A and then we have to read Character A going about those exact steps.

It's like instead of learning to "show not tell", Green got her wires crossed and went "yep, got it, tell and then show".

quote:

"At the moment, that's all I can cope with," I muttered, finally feeling enough recovered to look down at myself. My dress was probably ruined beyond repair, part of my hair was flyaway and the rest hung in greasy strands, and the shoe I'd used to hammer at the piece of bar still lay where I'd dropped it, just past the doorway into this hall. Whether or not it was usable, I still meant to wear it home. Looking like a hag was one thing; going half barefoot like some wild woman was quite another.

This is so weird. Does this world have a foot fetish or is this supposed to be characterization of Tamrissa as a lily footed lady or a characterization of the setting as a gross dusty typical fantasy town? We've so little specifics about what Gan Garee is like that I have no idea whether we're talking cobblestone roads, stone paved roads or dirt in the streets. Either way, she's going to be chauffeured home, why not go barefoot? It's not like anyone would see, since Tamrissa had to HOLD UP HER DRESS WITH GREAT CONCENTRATION USING TWO HANDS to walk through the testing facility before.

quote:

"Let's see now if you're able to stand," the man said, straightening to walk to where my shoe lay and bending to retrieve it. "This seems somewhat the worse for wear, but it should still serve to get you home. Dama?"

He'd come back to put his hand out to me, so I took it and used his help to stand. I was still a bit unsteady, but his arm about my shoulders helped to keep me erect until my balance returned, and then he bent to replace my shoe.

"A perfect fit," he commented with a smile after straightening again. "But with a lady like you, that comes as no surprise. Your coach should hopefully be here by now, so I'll take you to it. And I do hope we'll meet again after your time with the sessions."

He wrapped my right arm over his left, but suddenly the look in his eyes said the gesture was for more than offering support. If I'd had the strength I would have shivered at the intensity of his stare, but I'd seen the same so often that weariness won out over my usual reaction. Even after having been turned into a hag, I still held interest for the man beside me.

And there's that "I think I'm a hag but I'm really not because I'm so beautiful that it's impossible for me to look ugly" trope.

quote:

The idea was very depressing, but right now I had too many other things to worry about. He'd said there would be "sessions" and competitions; what did that mean? Did I have enough strength left to stand knowing what it meant?

The answer to my last question was absolutely not, so I made no effort to question my companion as he guided me around the hall and finally to a door that led outside. Just beyond the door a coach stood waiting, and once the man had helped me inside, he paused to study me in a different way.

"One more thing before you leave," he said after a moment. "The way you reacted at the beginning of the test, being so quick to strike in attack . . . I'm sure you know that under other circumstances, the authorities might well have been informed of your behavior. Please do try to curb that particular impulse, as someone might mistake you for a talent out of control. That would surely interfere with any future meetings between us, so I'd hate to see it happen. Get some rest, but keep the point clearly in mind."

We'll see this guy again (Book 4 spoilers: this is Lord Lanir, the ostensible Seated High in Fire magic)

quote:

I could feel my cheeks go even more pallid as he closed the door and told the coach driver he could leave. The man had reminded me of what I'd done when I'd been pushed into the testing room, which was strike out with all my talent. Doing that to people was against the law, since most unpleasant situations can be avoided with the use of a good deal less than full strength. If I were charged with being out of control and then convicted, I could end up condemned to the Deep Caverns for the rest of my life.

I shuddered and trembled for a while at the thought of such a fate, but then I discovered that it is possible to be too tired to be afraid. I had no strength left to sustain the fear, so just let it go as I looked out of the coach window. I did have to be more careful in the future, which I should be able to do once I'd had a good night's sleep. And once I really understood that the first battle in the war with my parents was over, and I'd won it more completely than I'd dared to hope.

What? You got exactly what you hoped for.

quote:

Smiling out into the late afternoon streets felt strange, but I felt strange. I'd wanted to pass that test more than anything in the world, and despite a small but intense core of doubt deep inside me, I'd actually done it. Even now that was hard to believe, but the thrill of the realization still felt marvelous.

I'd passed the test and survived, and my house would remain mine for at least a little while longer.

Tamrissa's entire character arc (such that it is) is supposed to be about overcoming self doubt and developing self confidence, basically through mastery of her Fire magic. It doesn't work at all because Green started the character arc at the point where 90% of the inner battle is already done (i.e. she's already put a plan into motion on how to defy her parents) and it's just the execution left. The Fire magic part of it just happens along the way with Tamrissa figuring things out as she goes so it feels unearned.

Passing the test for High is meant to be this huge emotional point but since we have no connection to the character and we don't feel her struggle, the resolution just falls flat.

quote:

The coach took me right to my door up the winding driveway, and only after I'd gotten out did I discover that the driver had already been paid and tipped. Warla met me at the door with wide-eyed concern for my condition, but that changed to a stunned expression when I told her I'd passed. Apparently she hadn't had any more faith in my doing that than my core of doubt had, and it felt wonderful to tell her she'd been wrong. Then I sent her to my bedchamber to fetch a change of clothes, and spoke to the staff about expecting house guests until she returned. Once she had I told her the same, took the clothes, and headed directly for the bath house.

quote:

There are bath houses all over the city for the use of ordinary people, but those of my late husband's class took pride in never having to use them. Our private bath house stood just beyond the back of the main house in its own little bower, a pretty addition to one side just before the gardens. I'd grown up being used to a private bath house, so it had taken me awhile to understand Gimmis's pride in the one he had. Once I understood that my husband hadn't been raised by an affluent family, I began to understand more than one thing about him.

Paper lanterns had been lit along the short path to the bath house, and once I reached it I paused to hang the "occupied" sign on the door. Gimmis had always been very strict about that, always hating the idea of being disturbed in his bath. That was because of the physical abnormalities his illness had long since begun to cause in him, and his bath time had always been one of freedom for me. Short-lived freedom, perhaps, but treasured all the same.

All four of the lamps had been lit in the bath house as well, which was definitely a lucky thing for me. After what I'd been through I couldn't imagine lighting so much as a spark, and would have had to resort to mechanical means if the lamps hadn't already been lit. As I closed the door behind me and went to the towel cabinet, I tried to remember the last time I'd used a flint to strike a spark. I couldn't quite remember the time, but that wasn't surprising. At the moment I was having trouble remembering my own name.

Stripping off my filthy dress and ruined shoes was delightful, as was freeing my hair for washing. The bath house was just the right size, small enough to be cozy and intimate and warm, large enough that the polished wood of its walls gleamed only a little in the lamplight. It was dim and comfortable with padded chairs in bright floral patterns to sit on, thin cotton rugs to keep your feet from the tiled floor, padded mats to stretch out on, and molded areas inside the large bath itself that held your body gently while you soaked. That was what I really looked forward to: soaking some of the aches out of my body.

Four paragraphs describing the bath house. I think Tamrissa's bath house has legitimately received more characterization than the main cast.

I also can't figure out what Green was going for here in terms of bath house decor. Asian bath houses have a very clear separation between wet areas and dry areas for many reasons, but practical ones first and foremost. Given that the concept of wet and dry areas still applies to modern construction, I'm reasonably certain that it should also apply to fantasy construction. Why the hell would there be padded mats and chairs in there?!

quote:

The water was delightfully warm as I stepped down into it, kept that way by the efforts of two of the house servants who had minor Fire talents. After submerging completely for a moment I moved to one of the molded areas and sank down into it, letting free a deep sigh as I did so. The water felt marvelous to my tired, aching body, and I thought about spending the entire night right there without moving. If I hadn't been so hungry I would have considered the idea more seriously, but I felt hollow all the way down to my toes. I had only a limited time to soak before dinner would be ready, but coming back again after dinner was always an option . . .

I must have drifted off to sleep for a while, my head supported and cushioned by the padded headrest positioned just above the molded area. The gentle current of the recirculating water—provided by another servant with Water magic—was more than lulling, and I remember thinking myself in some private underground cavern, being carried off by the warm waters of its hidden stream.

Sucks to be the Water talent, it's the magical equivalent of stirring a giant bowl of water your whole shift. At least the Fire talents can take a break once the water is heated, since water is a pretty good heat sink.

quote:

I floated along, finding the experience delicious—and then I jerked awake at the sound of the door opening! At first I thought it was Gimmis and my heart began to race, but then I remembered that Gimmis was dead. The man who had simply walked in was a stranger, and fear suddenly changed to outrage.

"Who are you and what are you doing in here?" I demanded, trying to shield my naked body with my arms. "No, never mind about answering that. Just get out of here!"

"Not until I've had my share of that water," the fool replied in a deep voice, looking directly at me as he made his way to the towel cabinet. "I feel singed from head to foot, not to mention broken and stomped on and covered in old sweat. I need that bath, but don't let me hurry you. Stay as long as you like."

Hi Vallant!

quote:

I almost sputtered in outrage at that, as well as at the way he glanced at me before starting to search for a towel. He was a very large man with long pale-blond hair, light eyes, a deep tan, and broad shoulders. Obviously he was very used to getting his way with women, but this wasn't going to be one of the times he did. I used the opportunity of his back being turned to scramble out of the bath and wrap myself in my towel, and then I turned back to him. What a shame I was too exhausted to do anything but talk . . .

"I don't care what you need, or even who you are," I told him firmly, more than simply annoyed. "This bath house belongs to me, and I want you out of it this minute. If you refuse to leave, I'll call the guardsmen and have you arrested for breaking in here."

Uh, what? The last thing you did before you headed to take a bath was to tell Warla and the staff to expect other successful applicants. Based on your own experience, you should be expecting them all to descend on the bath house.

quote:

"I didn't break in, I walked in," he countered calmly, having turned back to look at me as he began to unbutton his shirt. "And if you own this house, I was told you would be expectin' me. I'm Vallant Ro, here in this accursed town to test for somethin' I never wanted. If you dislike havin' me here, you can thank the fools in our government for my presence. If not for them, I'd already be on my way back home."

Here we go.

quote:

I stared at him openmouthed for a moment, suddenly so furious that it was a good thing I'd have trouble reaching fire now. I'd had to go through hell because of people like him, people who didn't want to test for High and therefore had to be forced into doing their best! I grew so furious that I barely noticed he now stood bare-chested, his body as well-tanned as his face.

Tamrissa deciding to blame individuals who annoy her, rather than the messed up system and those in power.

quote:

I did notice, however, when he reached to his trousers and began to open them without hesitation. I lost most of what I'd meant to say, and could only turn quickly to face the wall.

"I'm going to speak to someone about having you put elsewhere," I finally choked out, hating the heavy heat of embarrassment I felt in my cheeks. "You haven't the first idea about civilized behavior, and I refuse to have you in my house a moment longer than absolutely necessary. And if they can't find another place for you, I hope you'll need to sleep in the street!"

Rather than hearing words in reply, I heard the definite splash of water in the bath that said a large body had plunged into it. My cheeks flamed hot again, and not just because I'd never seen a naked male body despite having been married. Gimmis had always forced me to close my eyes, even in the dark of his bedchamber. It was the rudeness of this lout that disturbed me so, a rudeness made up of his intrusion and his stare and the way I hadn't been able to say what I wanted to him. I stepped barefoot into my shoes, gathered my clean clothes awkwardly with one hand while the other kept the towel closed about me, and simply got out of there.

This is a stupid plothole. Culture informs and drives design. Whatever a society's bathing customs are, would naturally be reflected in how a bath house is designed. In Japan, mixed bathing was traditional until the Meiji Restoration banned it. These days, most bath houses in Japan are built into separate male and female baths.

Since there is ONE bath house with ONE entrance only, this would imply that the bathing customs in Gan Garee (if not the Empire at large) is mixed by default - in which case Vallant's not being uncivilized here.

That said, Tamrissa's specifically noticed that he's looked at her twice and based on what we've seen in his POVs, these looks would be creepy as hell. Add in being freshly widowed off the back of two years of domestic violence and sexual abuse, Tamrissa's got plenty of reasons to be all jumpy about the situation. My biggest problem with this entire scene is that Green doesn't use any of these actually legitimate reasons to inform Tamrissa's actions, thoughts or dialogue.

quote:

But once outside, I paused to remove the "occupied" sign from the door. If this Vallant Ro didn't mind intruding on me, he shouldn't mind having someone else doing the same to him. And his presence guaranteed the other applicants couldn't be far behind, hopefully with one among them who was as rude and intrusive as Ro himself!

What are you, eight years old? Come on, that's just petty.

Summary:

Day 1
Tamrissa escapes being crushed alive by melting and cutting pieces of metal. Her house is officially deemed an official residence when she passes. A creepy dude gives her "water" to drink. She goes home and falls asleep in the bath house. Vallant wakes her up when he walks in unexpectedly. They exchange angry and she leaves.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 12
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 10
COACH RIDES: 5
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 9
"CLIFFHANGERS": 7
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 7
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 1
BATH SCENES: 1
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 1

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapter 11)

Possible fixes:
Melt all 5500 words of this chapter into a pile of slag.

Edit: forgot to talk about the "fixes".

Leng fucked around with this message at 11:18 on Aug 27, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWELVE

Vallant Ro looked around at the fire circling him, at the same time fighting to clear his thoughts. All his basic self wanted to do was escape the confines of that room, going straight through a wall if necessary. The fact that it obviously wasn't possible to go through the walls didn't seem to matter to that basic part of him, but it mattered to the rest. There did have to be a way out of there, and only rational thought would find it.

I can't get over how dumb the internal monologues are. Green seems to be going for a Jane Austen style kind of humour and she fails so badly at it every single time.

quote:

Vallant looked around for a third time, distantly finding it strange that the fire concerned him less than the confined space of the room. That had to be because holding off the fire was fractionally easier, even if it wasn't possible to put it out completely. He'd hung a curtain of light moisture all around himself not far from the inner ring of flames, and so far the flames hadn't gone past it.

But that didn't mean they wouldn't, so he had to get moving. A way out ... a way out ... As he continued to look around, he felt heavy frustration mounting. There didn't seem to be a way out, but he'd already decided that that was impossible. Something had to be there, but without a usable door and with no windows except for that small, windowlike door high in the wall—

It's like this chapter exists to erase any positive emotion I had in Chapter 10 when we saw Vallant actually behave like the man of action he should be as a captain of a large trading vessel.

quote:

Vallant briefly cursed his stupidity under his breath, at last understanding one of the reasons his recent guide had appeared at the window-door. That was Vallant's way out, but how was he supposed to reach it? He'd never managed to learn to fly like a bird, although people claimed he swam like a fish . . .

I would be enormously entertained if Vallant passes the test by filling the entire room with water and swimming his way out.

quote:

And of course that was it. Water, the element of his talent, what he was there to be tested in. In order to save himself he'd have to use his talent, an act he'd intended to refrain from. This time it was the government he cursed under his breath, hating the way they'd manipulated him into doing his best. It wasn't fair, and he meant to tell them so as soon as he was out of there.

You were explicitly told that you'd be sent to test for High practitioner. How did you think you were going to get away with not using your talent at all? It's a practical exam, not a theoretical one. They weren't exactly going to give you a piece of paper and ask you to write down your answers about how to use Water magic.

Another issue I have is with all these protagonists whining about things not being fair. They all do it in a way that makes them sound like they're five years old. Green doesn't seem to know how to write the difference between someone not being a pushover and a whiner.

quote:

But first he had to get out, which wouldn't be easy. That large amount of water he could sense somewhere nearby wasn't large enough to flood the room and float him up to the door, at the same time quenching those flames. It would have to be used differently, but how? How could that large but limited amount of water get him out of here?

This is such a stupid way to plug a plothole.

Vallant isn't limited to water that exists in liquid form and he has quite the range. In Chapter 5, we saw him condense moisture out of the air and pull it down from the clouds. The fact that he's pulling liquid water from a nearby store (room? tank? who knows?) into what seems to be a closed room implies that this room is not sealed.

I'm picturing Vallant standing inside a ring of fire with water droplets steadily streaming inside the room, kind of like how water was dripping into the Titanic:


Since the room isn't sealed, he should actually be able to flood the room, he's just got to pull moisture out of the air from everywhere in the building!

But that would mean Vallant gets to complete the test in a way that is different and unique to his element, so we can't have that.

quote:

Vallant noticed that he was sweating harder, and not just from his terror at being looked in such a small room. That ring of flames had somehow moved past his curtain of water, and now burned that much closer to him. It was circling tighter and tighter, intent on surrounding and smothering him as well as burning . . .

There's like five redundant statements in that paragraph alone.

quote:

Once again Vallant had to fight blind panic, and this time pulling out of it was harder. The thought of being enclosed by the fire really was harder to deal with than being burned by it, but putting out one section of it and escaping the circle wasn't likely to help. It was logical to expect the fire to follow wherever he went, and would undoubtedly trap him against the wall if necessary. He had to get out of that room to escape the double trap, and he had to use his Water magic to do it. But how . . . ?

How severe is Vallant's claustrophobia exactly? Green writes him as if he has severe claustrophobia but this is a really unrealistic depiction if that's the case. Not surprising I guess, given the time period in which this was written.

quote:

He began to wipe the sweat from his face again, wishing the room could be cooler, and just that easily he had his answer. Ice, he would have to form ice from the water, and that way he'd be able to reach the window door. But with most of the room's heat coming from that fire, how was he supposed to form and maintain ice? Curse those codding bureaucrats! That was why they threatened him with fire! To make forming ice that much harder!

"Codding"? So we are in 17th century fantasy Britain?

quote:

Vallant briefly considered clamping down on his temper, then dismissed the idea with a snarl. He needed every advantage he could get, and anger—directed anger—often increased his strength. And took his attention from other things, like a crippling fear. He just had to stay angry long enough to get the job done, which would be hard enough even that way. Ice, in all that heat , . .

It's so great how we'll be getting an entire romance subplot about the woman with rage issues and the man with anger issues failing to get together for five books.

quote:

But it could be done in a small way, so it ought to be possible on a large scale with enough strength behind the effort. First he would have to establish some protection from those flames, and then he could start building his ice bridge. But what shape should it be in? And did he really want a bridge . . . ?

Does Green mean this:



Or this:



This is hella confusing because the first one doesn't make any sense since it wouldn't actually get Vallant up higher to the exit since the actual part of the bridge he would traverse is flat, and while second one is plausible - since a) it is actually raised up higher from the deck and b) it would be in character for Vallant the sailor to mean a ship's bridge - it's also a ridiculous amount of ice to create in a room that's on fire, to the point where flooding the room to put out the fire would honestly be a lot easier.

quote:

It would have been nice if Vallant could have spent a while considering those questions, but he simply didn't have the time. Everything including his own mind pushed at him to hurry, but he had to hurry cautiously. A serious mistake would mean needing to start all over again, and by then the flames would be right on top of him . . .

I know Green's putting these constant reminders in here in an attempt to make this chapter feel fast-paced and intense, but all it does is drag down the action. It's like she doesn't have any idea what a person's thought process is like in a high stakes time sensitive situation. If she had simply used short sentences and cut paragraphs like this one, that alone would make a big difference.

quote:

Reaching out to every bit of moisture in the air, Vallant caused a fairly heavy cascade to form over the arc of fire that was in the way of where he needed to put his ice platform. And platform was what it would have to be, since there might not be enough water—or time—for anything more involved. And if things worked properly, he'd even bypass the need to climb up to that platform.

Ok, creating a waterfall by rapidly condensing moisture out of the air is pretty cool. I'm guessing that's how he's doing it because there's no other way to move the water from the nearby source since he's in an enclosed room, in which case Vallant works faster than the fastest dehumidifier on the market. And also defies the laws of physics because I'm pretty sure he'd be stripping the air of the available moisture faster than the "large but limited amount of water" can evaporate AND for the air from where that water source is to circulate into Vallant's enclosed but unsealed testing room.

But Vallant is about to do something cool-er.

quote:

But first he had to move around behind that cascade, closer to the wall where the window-door was. Everyone knew that fire melted ice without needing to think about it, but it took some people a moment to realize that pouring water did the same. He would have to protect his ice platform from both things, as well as maintain the cascade while he built the ice.

I feel incredibly patronized by this paragraph.

quote:

Just thinking about it was a waste of time and strength, not to mention taking the edge off his anger by increasing his fear. He'd never had to do so much with his talent before, but worrying about whether or not he could would just lessen his chances. For that reason he quickly reached to the large supply of water, established a bridge to the room he stood in, and began bringing the water through. As soon as it reached him he added frozen chips from way up in the sky, which froze the rest of what it touched.

Err...what now? Is this a magical bridge? Because it's clearly neither a nautical bridge or a land lubber bridge. Does Vallant's Water magic defy the space time continuum by creating a tiny wormhole to a nearby water source that he doesn't even need to see to be able to do this? And he's STILL able to reach "frozen chips from way up in the sky" - presumably meaning the ice crystals that exist in cirrus clouds. How far is his range exactly? What if it's a sunny day and there are no clouds in the immediate vicinity?

quote:

And the ice began to form under his feet, or more precisely, under his shoes. He would have been happier about his balance—if more uncomfortable—if he were barefoot, but his body heat would make the problem a lot harder to handle. He'd keep one hand on the wall he built his platform in front of, and try to maintain his balance that way.

The plan seemed to work, although Vallant had to ignore how hard it was to do everything at once. Maintaining the cascade to keep the fire put out, channeling in the water from wherever it was being kept, and bringing down the frigid chunks of ice from high up to freeze what was forming under him. It was like a crazy game, where everything demanded your attention at once if you weren't going to lose and lose badly. Vallant played the game, but he came close to drowning in sweat.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rog8ou-ZepE



Now if Vallant can teleport ice from like 20,000 feet/6 kms away in the sky to underneath his feet to create his own personal ice elevator, will Lorand and Rion be able do something similar? We'll soon find out in Chapters 13 and 14!

quote:

It took a number of very difficult minutes, but his ice platform finally brought him high enough to reach the window-door. He reached out to it gingerly with his free hand, briefly afraid that it would refuse to open, but the wood pushed back out of his way with very little effort. The only problem that left was sight of the space behind it, an area only a little larger than his body. There was a much wider opening beyond the very cramped area, but in order to reach it he would have to go through that tiny, airless, confining space . . .

Vallant almost lost it then, so strongly did his terror surge up. He'd considered the room confining, but that tiny crawl space was a thousand times worse. He had to use it in order to get out, but could he? He'd spread his talent out in three different directions, almost emptying himself of ability, but crawling through that tiny area could well be beyond him. He swallowed from a bone-dry mouth, fighting to keep his eyes from closing—and suddenly felt his ice platform trembling under his feet. Fear was interfering with his talent, and a single mental touch told him the platform was about to come apart!

That time Vallant used fear to his benefit, letting it propel him toward the only path to safety there was. He plunged through the window-door before he could lose his footing, at the same time closing his eyes. There's lots of room in here, he told himself frantically, struggling to picture an area as large as the inside of that first building. Lots of room, but you still don't have to be in here long. The other side of it is completely open, and all you have to do is reach it.

Vallant kept repeating that to himself, even though crawling slowly didn't get him to the other side very quickly. But he had to crawl slowly, or he would have brushed up against the sides or top of that tiny area. His fear didn't really believe the lies he'd told it, but as long as he didn't actually touch anything around himself he could pretend to believe. If he lost even that pitiful amount of pretense, he'd probably lose control as well.

So he crawled carefully toward the opening ahead with his eyes shut tight, and because of that he almost crawled over the edge. His hand came down on nothing, throwing off his precarious sense of balance, but there was also a slight breath of moving air. That encouraged him to open his eyes, which heartened him even more. He would have to climb down a narrow ladder to reach the floor of the hall below, but off to the right only a few steps away, a door to the outside stood partially open.

Twisting around in the mouth of that narrow opening to get his feet to the ladder rungs was hard, but not nearly as hard as the rest of what he'd done. Once on the ladder he felt his mind begin to open out, filled with an agonized yearning for the outdoors that he hadn't experienced since childhood. He went down the ladder fast, stumbled to the door and out as quickly as he could move, then sank to his hands and knees in blessed relief. He was outside, finally and completely outside at last.

Any goons with experience in claustrophobia here able to comment on how realistic this depiction is? It reads to me like an unresearched take.

quote:

Vallant lowered himself to the meager grass on his left side, concentrating on nothing but breathing and trying to gather some small amount of strength. If for nothing else he'd need it eventually to stand up, and right now he felt completely emptied. He'd also closed his eyes again, but the sound of footsteps made him open them quickly. The man who had been in the outer room of this building now walked toward him, holding a cup of something.

"Don't be upset, it's all over for now," the man said quickly as Vallant began to struggle into a seated position in preparation for getting to his feet. "And I believe you need what's in this cup."

Vallant hated to take anything from these people, but unfortunately the man was right. Between sweating like a waterfall and using every bit of moisture he could touch with his talent, Vallant was as close to being a dried out husk as anyone with Water magic could be. So he hesitated only an instant before taking the cup and draining it, finding its contents to be more than simple water and a good deal more refreshing. After a moment he could actually feel some strength beginning to come back, so he returned the cup with a grudging nod.

In case you missed the blatantly obvious in Tamrissa's, this is Not Water and is Significant. But don't worry if you miss it here, we'll see it three more times!

quote:

"Thank you for that, at least," he allowed, less of an edge to his tone than he'd wanted it to have. "Now that your game is over, you can just point me to the nearest coach stop. I'm goin' home whether you like it or not."

"My likes don't enter into the matter," the man replied with something of a shrug from where he crouched beside Vallant. "If it were my choice you could go or stay as you please, but my employers tend to have a different view of the matter. And by the way, congratulations on passing the test. Not everyone does, you know, and in fact more don't than do."

"That must keep you people really busy movin' bodies out of here," Vallant commented, unimpressed by what he'd been told. "And I don't care what your—employers—want either. Give me my seabag and show me the way out."

"I'm afraid it isn't that simple, Captain Ro," the man said, looking only faintly apologetic. "Now that you've passed the first of your tests, you can't be allowed to simply return home. You must participate in and complete the sessions scheduled for you, or you'll be taken into custody by the guard—with the help of two High practitioners. You'll be given a trial, of course, but the mandatory penalty for attempting to flee before the tests are over is five years at hard labor in one of the empire's deep mines. Those with Earth magic can't bear to work in them, I'm told, so manual labor is necessary. We can't force you to participate in the tests, sir, but we can and will punish your refusal."

Go on Vallant, call his bluff! Granted, you're completely tapped out right now so it wouldn't be much of a fight.

Book Four spoilers: There are literally no official High practitioners around in Gan Garee - anyone who actually is a High was enslaved in the armies invading Astinda and Gracely; those who haven't are being kept around as cannon fodder for the competitions.

quote:

Vallant stared at the man, trying to read the truth under the words the way he did with the merchants he dealt with, but the effort was useless. Either the man was a most accomplished liar, or everything he'd said was the truth. Not that it really mattered. Even if their "punishment" had been something he could bear, he still couldn't have allowed himself to run that far afoul of the law. He had his family to think of and the possibility of ruining the excellent reputation they'd always enjoyed, which meant he was well and truly trapped.

"The bunch of you should be really proud of yourselves," he commented, letting the other man see his disgust. "You'd all better hope I don't pass all the tests you have ... So where do I go now? The nearest jail cell?"

"Certainly not," the man replied, straightening from his crouch as Vallant forced himself to his feet. "You've been assigned lodging with someone of the city who volunteered their house as a residence. Others who pass their tests will be staying there with you, so please remember that discussing anything at all about your own test is strictly forbidden. We'll be paying the cost of your lodging, but you must bear the expense of your food and clothing and other wants and needs. But after the sessions you ought to be eligible for the competitions, the winning of which will earn you a bonus in gold. For that reason I would not let the current state of your funds distress you. We'll be in touch again in a few days, but at the moment I believe your coach has arrived."

I think Green subscribes to the "if we didn't see it on screen, it didn't happen" school of thought.

The prohibition on discussing the tests with other people who have already passed them is stupid. The people you don't want knowing about the nature of the tests is anyone who hasn't taken them. And to be honest, does it really matter if it did get out to the public? There are laws in the Empire saying that all Middles have to test, and fleeing/avoiding the tests is punishable by five years of hard labor (and the implication is most people are unlikely to survive that long).

As far as the average person is concerned, it's basically a death sentence either way - so what does it matter if everybody knows? I'd argue that this whole story would be WAY MORE INTERESTING if this was known in advance. Green's going to be dealing with mind control, enslavement, etc for most of the series anyway, and it would be way more interesting to explore how a group lacking power enslaves a group with power. Not to mention it would cut through about 2-3 books' worth of "let's figure out the sinister plans" part of the main plot.

quote:

Vallant could also hear the creak of wheels and springs accompanied by the clip-clop of hooves, which meant the coach was undoubtedly on the outer side of the building, but Vallant had had more than enough of that place.

"Meet me around front with my seabag," he directed as he made his own way toward the path that separated this building from the next in the circle. "I'd hate to tempt you people into tryin' me again, so I'll get to the front by the long way."

Vallant felt the man staring at him as he walked away, but he didn't particularly care. His fear of that building didn't show, he knew, and a bit of suspicion was hardly out of place. He would get to that coach the long way, and enjoy every painful step of the trip.

The assertive man of action is now back. It irks me that Green's given Vallant this not-flaw of claustrophobia, because he's plenty flawed already given what an rear end in a top hat he is to women. The claustrophobia is a plot-convenient device (for very bad reasons) and Vallant will never have to deal with it in any meaningful way (Book 5 spoilers: Jovvi basically messes around with Vallant's memories right before the final confrontation with the antagonists for the first series. She does the same thing for Lorand's fear of burn out. Neither fears ever come up again in the sequel series.).

quote:

By the time Vallant circled the building, the man he'd spoken to waited beside the coach with his seabag. Vallant took it silently with a curt nod and entered the coach, which at this point looked more spacious than confining. Sitting down also felt incredibly good, especially when the coach began to move. He was finally on his way out of that place, even though it wasn't to go home.

And that part of it bothered him quite a bit. He couldn't very well humiliate his daddy and the rest of the family by getting himself arrested, and the thought of five years spent underground—as well as away from the sea—couldn't even be considered. That meant he had to stay there and take their blasted tests, but there had to be a way to fail one yet still survive. If he could just find it. . .

Vallant took a deep breath and let it out slowly, turning his attention to the unfamiliar city he rode through. Finding a way home couldn't be done right now, which in a way was a lucky thing. What he needed most at the moment was a long bath and a change of clothes, to rid himself of the clammy feel of his underthings. He'd sweated hard enough to float a skiff, and until he bathed he'd find it impossible to rest.

It wasn't a very long trip to the house that would be his residence, but Vallant was able to see the neighborhoods change before they got there. Official-looking buildings were replaced by surprisingly large houses with drives, and when the coach turned into one of those drives Vallant leaned a bit through the window. The house they approached was at least as large as his daddy's, a three-story affair with what was probably servants' quarters under the gables. Gardeners tended the front lawn carefully and lovingly, shaded by the presence of large trees. It looked like it might not be too much of a hardship to stay there for a while . . .

Six chapters after our first protagonist arrives in the capitol, we finally get a description of the city in passing - and it's weird and bland. How fast is this coach going (or alternatively, how small is this city?) if it's not a long trip and Vallant still passes through several neighborhoods?

The blandness comes from the fact that Green always writes at the highest level in the pyramid of abstraction (here's Sanderson talking about this concept), which is just so lazy. Descriptions like "official-looking" and "surprisingly large houses with drives" are so abstract that it completely relies on the reader to picture the details of this world.

Also this proves my point from Chapter 5: Vallant's rich and powerful merchant "daddy" does have a massive house in town but Vallant chooses to hire room(s) in a tavern. What a missed opportunity for characterization.

quote:

When the coach pulled up at the front of the house, a young woman stepped out timidly to meet it. There was only a single step between the drive and the approach to the house, and the fact that Vallant noticed the one step said quite a lot about the woman. She was a plain little thing in a plain dress of gray, medium brown hair and eyes doing nothing to add to her attractiveness. Actually it was her very obvious timidity that put Vallant off most, but he still gave her his best smile once he'd gotten out of the coach.

"I'm told I'll be stayin' here for a short while, ma'am," he said gently so as not to frighten the poor little thing. "I'm Captain Vallant Ro, and I'll be with you as soon as I see to the coach driver."

But Vallant turned to see that the driver was already on his way down the drive, which had to mean his charges had been taken care of in advance. That was perfectly all right with Vallant, since it let him turn back to the woman with a small but gallant bow.

This thing about not having to pay or tip the coach driver will again come up five times. It is not remotely interesting and doesn't add anything to the story.

quote:

"Apparently I'm to be all yours without delay," he said with another smile. "Are you the owner of this lovely house?"

Extremely odd for Vallant to say this; he's a rich kid who grew up in a house full of servants. He should know that rich people don't come out to greet new arrivals. Unless he's just being flirty here which...ugh.

quote:

"Oh, my, no," the girl said with a timid and embarrassed laugh, now looking even younger than she had. "This is the house of Dama Tamrissa Domon, and I'm Warla, her companion. We've been told to expect you, Captain Ro, and your room is ready. If you'll follow me?"

The girl said that as if she expected he wouldn't, so he smiled and bowed again and gestured her ahead of him. She kept glancing back as she moved, apparently afraid she might lose him, and once inside she did manage to lose his attention. The large entrance hall was decorated with paintings and obviously expensive tables with vases and statuettes standing next to ornate chairs, all of which managed to overcrowd the area. It was as if someone were trying to prove how much gold they had, and they'd decided to show the world rather than say the words.

If only Green would take the hint to show rather than tell!

quote:

"Your room is this way, Captain." Warla's gentle reminder that he'd slowed almost to a stop pulled Vallant away from the unkind assessment he'd been in the midst of. The girl waited at the foot of the very wide staircase, but she began to climb it as soon as it was obvious that he was ready to follow again.

"Dom Domon must be a very wealthy man to have furnished his house the way he did," Vallant commented as he moved up the stairs. "I assume I'll be meetin' him later at dinner?"

Vallant should get together with Jovvi instead of Tamrissa. He's a rich kid who likes leering at women and she's a gold digger accustomed to men leering at her - it's a match sent by the Highest Aspect!

quote:

"Oh, but the dom is gone," Warla told him over her shoulder with more upset than the statement called for. "He's dead, I mean, and Tamrissa lives here alone now. Or at least she used to be alone."

Warla just casually referring to her boss by name to a stranger, even though we saw that they have a very proper and formal relationship in Chapter 4.

quote:

It sounded to Vallant as if the girl had swallowed a giggle at the end of her comment, which made him sigh. So his hostess was a widow, probably an older lady who had no children, and that was why she'd offered her house as a residence. And Warla seemed to expect that her employer would take an interest in him, which wasn't the best of news. Back home a number of the older ladies had seemed to declare open season on him and his brothers, and when one of his brothers had decided to accommodate them, the young fool had barely escaped with all his parts intact.

Dude resolved in Chapter 5 that he was sick of women and concluded if he needed to get his rocks off, he'd find courtesans. You'd think that a wealthy cougar would be exactly what he's looking for, but since we're talking about Vallant the rear end in a top hat he probably thinks women have a short shelf life.

quote:

"With me around, the dama will probably still think she's alone," Vallant commented carefully. "I'm under a vow for as long as I stay away from home, and I'm sure you know how things like that go. I've had cause to regret the vow, but there's no getting out of it now."

Warla gave him an uncertain glance and a tremulous smile, undoubtedly having no idea what he meant but was too shy to say so. As a matter of fact Vallant had no idea what he meant either, but the tale sounded good enough for something made up on the spur of the moment. People usually hesitated before trying to interfere with "vows," and hopefully Vallant would have found his way out of the trap by the time the dama talked herself into trying.

Vallant is a liar for no good reason - he could have just...not responded?

quote:

At the top of the staircase Warla led him to the left, and then left again into the first room. Vallant was relieved to see an entire wall of windows opposite the door, and that let him stroll inside after Warla.

"This will be yours while you're with us," she said, already edging back toward the door. "If there's anything you need, just ask me or one of the servants."

Vallant was about to ask where the bath house was, but the girl left so quickly that she all but disappeared. He realized then that they'd been alone together in a bedchamber, and he chuckled in understanding while beginning to open his seabag. It had been years since any female had disliked the idea of being alone with him in a bedchamber, but that could be because he hadn't involved himself with girls. Women were more to his taste, but right now he needed a bath more than he'd ever needed a woman.

Tamrissa is 19, referred to herself as "getting on in years" and was married to a sadist for two years. I don't know how they define "women" in this world but I suppose if we go by Eldra, then I guess they come of age at 15. That's a pretty short shelf life.

quote:

Vallant took his coat off and dropped it to the floor, knowing it needed cleaning as much as his cap and the rest of his clothes. After his bath he'd have a servant see to all of it, but first he had to see to himself. He carried his change of clothes downstairs, found a servant and asked the way to the bath house, then followed directions to the back garden. Every room in that house seemed to have been furnished with more money than taste, so Vallant had really high hopes for the bath house.

He found the place easily and followed the path to it, but stopped abruptly with a mutttered curse when he saw the "occupied" sign on the door. That was just the way his luck had been running lately, badly and with terrible timing. Well, he'd waited this long, so another five or ten minutes shouldn't kill him.

Twenty minutes later, Vallant decided he'd waited long enough. For all he knew the person inside could have died, possibly of old age. The wait had felt long enough for that to him, and on top of it all the sign might have been left accidentally on an empty house. But even if it hadn't, he'd waited as long as he intended to.

So Vallant opened the door and went inside,

Why didn't you knock and yell out first?

quote:

only to discover that the occupant of the bath house hadn't died, and certainly not of old age. The way the girl jumped said she'd probably fallen asleep in the water, and before her arms came up to cover her Vallant could see that she certainly had what to cover. A ripely rounded body despite the slender frame, long, shapely legs easily visible through the clear water, light hair darkened now from being wet, a face of unexpected and exceptional beauty. High yet gentle cheekbones, a straight and delicate nose, ripely full lips , . . Hadn't he already used that word "ripe" in connection with her? He wasn't sure any longer, not with those gorgeous violet eyes there to fall into . . .

Remember Tamrissa's amateur porn self description? We actually didn't need that, because we get an actual porn description from Vallant, right here.

quote:

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" the vision suddenly demanded, pulling Vallant back from the edge of stopping to stare.

What edge? You fell off that cliff already!

quote:

"No, never mind about answering that. Just get out of here!"

After what Vallant had gone through he was in no mood to take orders from anyone, not even an incredibly beautiful naked woman. Or especially not a beautiful woman. Every time he thought about Mirra and what her intentions had been, he quickly lost interest in all women. Happily the condition was temporary, but this time he was still able to use it for his own purposes.

I assume Vallant means using his break up to go from to quickly, but this reads weirdly, particularly the temporary condition bit. Male goons??

quote:

"Not until I've had my share of that water," he answered her demand that he leave, spotting the towel cabinet and starting for it. "I feel singed from head to foot, not to mention broken and stomped on and covered in old sweat. I need that bath, but don't let me hurry you. Stay as long as you like."

Vallant had meant to sound casual and uncaring, but somehow the words came out more as an invitation than a challenge. Obviously he found the girl even more attractive than he'd first realized, but her reply helped to take care of that. She'd gotten out of the bath while his back had been turned, and now stood muffled in a towel.

"I don't care what you need, or even who you are," she came back, sounding as sharp-tongued as any harridan he'd ever met. "This bath house belongs to me, and I want you out of it this minute. If you refuse to leave, I'll call the guardsmen and have you arrested for breaking in here."

Well, of course the bath house belonged to her, how else could she justify ordering him out? Never mind that all the property belonged to an elderly widow, he probably wasn't supposed to know that. It bothered him that the girl would lie, but he'd obviously have to get used to being lied to by beautiful women.



quote:

So he said, "I didn't break in, I walked in," at the same time turning to look at her and beginning to remove his shirt. "And if you own this house, I was told you'd be expectin' me. I'm Vallant Ro, here in this accursed town to test for somethin' I never wanted. If you dislike havin' me here, you can thank the fools in our government for my presence. If not for them, I'd already be on my way back home."

Vallant felt a good deal of satisfaction at her appalled expression, certainly a result of having heard he was in the midst of testing for High. Most people refrained from starting up with strangers in any way, because it was impossible to know how strong their talent was simply by looking at them. This girl had started an argument with him anyway, but ought to be regretting it right now. Vallant was sure she would be, but her next words proved she didn't learn very quickly.

Are there laws against the use of magic or not? On the one hand, we get all this info dumping about laws that are strictly enforced, then we get crap like this which seems like the use of magic is just like using another limb. I'm getting whiplash from chapter to chapter.

quote:

"I'm going to speak to someone about having you put elsewhere," she announced in a voice that trembled slightly. She'd also turned to the wall with supposed ladylike modesty when he began to take off the rest of his clothes, probably trying to impress him with the gesture.

Uh, no. I don't care how impressive you think Little Captain Ro is, unsolicited dick waving from a stranger is generally unwanted, especially when that stranger wandered in uninvited.

quote:

"You haven't the first idea about civilized behavior, and I refuse to have you in my house a moment longer than absolutely necessary. And if they can't find another place for you, I hope you'll have to sleep in the street!"

Vallant was too busy finally getting himself into blessed water to answer the girl's silly tirade, and by the time he came up again she was gone. He'd been ready to tell her that he knew she didn't own the house, but he'd have to save that for the next time they met. Which was just as well, since he was more ready for soaking than for arguing. So he moved through the water to the place the girl had been relaxing in, set his head into the headrest, then with a sigh let all his muscles release. He'd been tensed up for so long and for so many different reasons ...

The warm water was delightful, and he closed his eyes even as he wondered again why he never minded the confines of a bath house. Every time he relaxed in one the same question arose, but he'd never found an answer. Other places could twist him into knots in an instant, but bath houses, even small private ones like this, never bothered him at all. The situation made no sense, and he really wanted to get to the bottom of it. Having the answer might help him with his problem elsewhere . . . especially since he'd never been able to talk to anyone else about it . . . admitting his weakness to others appeared to be beyond him . . .

Hello toxic masculinity!

quote:

But falling asleep proved to be anything but beyond him. With his eyes closed Vallant simply drifted off, floating away to a world where there were no problems. He stood again on the deck of the Sea Queen, the wind playing in his hair, gleaming water all around and as far as the eye could see. He was just about to turn to his crew and give the necessary orders, when someone dropped a belaying pin—

But it wasn't a belaying pin, and it wasn't one of his crew. Vallant opened his eyes to see that a stranger had entered the bath house, a man dressed in the most foppish clothing he'd ever seen. He also seemed to be carrying another outfit of the same sort, which made his purpose in coming in more than clear.

"Common courtesy suggests that you knock before comin' into a bath house that's occupied," Vallant said in annoyance over having been yanked back to the real world. "Or don't you know what that sign on the door means?"

Why didn't you knock earlier?

quote:

"There was no sign on the door, but common is certainly the proper word," the fop returned in a baritone so pettish that Vallant expected the man to start fluttering a silk hankie. "Your courtesy is very common, my man, but I haven't the strength to argue with you. Nor do I intend to share that bath. I'm accustomed to bathing alone as a gentleman should, so you will take yourself out of there at once."

"Will I," Vallant murmured, studying the fool a bit more closely. His height was close to Vallant's own, but the delicate motions of his hands suggested there was nothing but flab under those ridiculous but very expensive clothes. Vallant had seen fops like this one before, the useless sons of those who considered themselves noble. He needed a real man's experience with life to get that petulant, little-boy look off his face, but chances were good that the fool would die of old age before that happened.

"What if I decide I don't want to get out of this bath?" Vallant drawled, letting his measuring stare tell the fop what he thought of him. "You'd then have to decide between throwin' me out and waitin' until I was ready to go. I really wonder which one you'd choose."

Vallant: "bro, do u even lift?"

quote:

The fop colored at the very clear implication that he'd never try to throw Vallant out by himself, but he wasn't stupid enough to deny the claim. Instead he stiffened in insult, then straightened to his full height.

"A real gentleman makes his choices without being influenced by the lower classes," he retorted, the words as stiff as his stance. "If I had the strength I'd make an issue of your crudity, but at the moment I'm too badly in need of that bath water. Tomorrow, after I've had the opportunity to rest, we can discuss this matter again."

And with that he turned and walked toward the towel cabinet, leaving Vallant unexpectedly surprised. The fop had been embarrassed by what Vallant had said, but he hadn't really backed down. He'd obviously decided instead to share the bath, and since there was enough room for another six or seven people, the decision wasn't unreasonable. But to lower himself that far, the man must really be played out. . .

Every character only has one gear and therefore one predominant adverb. Tamrissa demands, Vallant drawls and Clarion does everything stiffly.

quote:

"I think I've been blind as well as insensitive," Vallant said with sudden insight, sitting up in the molded part of the bath bottom.

If only you possessed this kind of insight whenever you interact with a woman.

quote:

"You're an applicant just the way I am, and you're too tired because you just passed your test. What did they do to force you to participate?"

"The Blending refused to listen to my mother's very reasonable and courteous request," the man answered, slamming the cabinet door after removing a towel. "Now they dare to threaten me with the unthinkable, but I refuse to be intimidated. I will find a way out of this insanity, and return to where I belong."

"It looks like we have somethin' in common after all," Vallant conceded as he rose to his feet. "I also intend goin' back to where I belong, so let's talk later. I'm Vallant Ro, Water magic."

We're getting a recap of things we've already seen. And we'll get to see THIS EXACT SAME CONVERSATION AGAIN in the next chapter.

quote:

"Lord Clarion Mardimil, Air magic," the man grudged, apparently finding the conversation distasteful but necessary. "And yes, let us indeed compare notes later. Getting free of this horror would be worth any price. A pity it can't be accomplished with gold."

"What makes you think it can't be?" Vallant asked, automatically ignoring the man's title as he stepped out of the bath and used what was left of his talent to remove the water from his body and hair. He sent it back to the bath with more effort than it had ever taken him, showing how tired he really was. He then picked up the towel to use on the bottoms of his feet, and that was an effort as well.

"I never thought about offerin' gold, which makes me feel like a fool," Vallant continued, looking at the man Clarion thoughtfully. "Since I can afford to pay any amount they care to name, and everybody knows bribin' is the largest industry here in Gan Garee, I wonder why I didn't think of it."

"Possibly you didn't think of it because you dislike wasting your time," Clarion answered sourly, beginning to remove his eye-hurting clothing. "I, on the other hand, must enjoy it immensely, as I spent much too much time engaged in the useless practice. If there's an answer, it definitely lies elsewhere."

This is probably the best dialogue exchange in the book so far.

quote:

"There has to be an answer," Vallant said, shaking his head stubbornly against the suggestion that there wasn't. "High practitioners are supposed to be willin' to do the job, so those who are unwillin' have to be let go at some point. That's the point we need, as long as it isn't one that involves dyin'. . ."

The comment was true enough that Clarion made no attempt to add to it. Or maybe the man was just too intent on getting into the bath water. Vallant had been dressing slowly while Clarion undressed, and with the last of his clothing tossed aside Clarion made for the water. Once again Vallant was surprised, because the man certainly wasn't built like your ordinary fop. His musculature was almost as good as Vallant's own, which had been developed by long years of hard work on the decks of various ships.

Clarion: "check out my guns, abs and rock hard butt"

quote:

"We'll speak again later," Vallant said when he'd finished dressing, gathering up his dirty clothing but leaving the towel for the servants to see to. "Enjoy your bath."

Another redundant paragraph.

quote:

Clarion made a sound of some sort that might have been agreement, so Vallant took it like that and simply left. If the man needed to relax as badly as he had, leaving him alone was the most considerate thing he could do. And Vallant meant to be very considerate to someone who apparently had access to the Blending. If they came up with the right thing to say, that access might well get the two of them out of that waking nightmare.

We will find out later that Hallina Mardimil is related to three out of five members of the Seated Blending. This should be an advantage that the main characters pursue! Unfortunately, because none of the characters are actually skilled political players, and it would require writing a different plot instead of copy/pasting the same chapter and changing the names and aspects, Green just writes in a crappy justification for why it won't work and it gets left at that.

quote:

But in the meanwhile, Vallant trudged back to the main house wondering how long it would be before dinner was ready. He was hungry enough to eat a shark, teeth, fin and all. And maybe he'd even see that girl again. She was probably one of the servants, and would be embarrassed at the need to serve him. He'd let her squirm for a while, thinking he might have her fired, but then he'd . . . let's see, just what would he most enjoy doing to—or with— her ... ?

Obligatory rear end in a top hat.

Summary:

Day 1
Tamrissa Vallant escapes being crushed burned alive by melting and cutting pieces of metalconjuring an ice elevator. A creepy dude gives her him "water" to drink. SheHe goes homeis taken to Tamrissa's house and wakes Tamrissa up when he walks in on her in the bath house. They exchange angry and she leaves. Vallant proceeds to fall asleep and the whole thing is repeated with Clarion.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 12
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 12
COACH RIDES: 6
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 9
"CLIFFHANGERS": 7
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 7
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 1
BATH SCENES: 2 (yeah, I'm gonna count this twice)
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 2

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapter 11, 12)

Possible fixes:
This chapter should be put on ice and forgotten forever.

The main cast is comprised of characters who are superficially different but are pretty much the same cardboard cut out underneath the differences. There's no sense of the various characters having different strengths that complement each other. You could condense Tamrissa/Jovvi into one female character and Lorand/Clarion/Vallant into one male character and the only thing that would break in the main story line is the FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE aspect of things. Even at the point when the women and men get together to do things separately, both groups end up thinking and doing the same damned things, so you could make a strong argument for rolling all five protagonists together into a single protagonist.

Leng fucked around with this message at 11:17 on Aug 27, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


wizzardstaff posted:

The bathhouse scenes are one of the most blatantly lazy sequences in the whole series. It's easy to describe the rest of this book as copy/paste when all the characters go through nearly identical trials, but this is literal copy paste where we see the same dialogue twice from two perspectives.

It's a gimmick that would work better if you actually had two strong opposing characters.

I honestly really liked it when LE Modesitt Jr wrote The Magic Engineer from Dorrin's perspective, and then we got to see the other side of the story from Cerryl in The White Order and Colors of Chaos. Will Wight has also done this with his Elder Empire series which is made up of two parallel trilogies from opposing sides of the story.

In both of these cases, we got authors who established strong characters who are largely doing their own thing independently of each other for most of the story. The scenes they share are generally at key turning points in the overall plot, so seeing the other side's perspective adds to the overall appreciation of the nuances in the conflict. And we get these scenes in SEPARATELY PUBLISHED BOOKS, not back to back to each other (though some fans of both series do rereads in parallel for fun).

wizzardstaff posted:

I'll admit that I didn't see the foreshadowing with the cups of water the first time I read the book. I actually kind of like it, to be honest. I don't remember if we get to see what happened during the "lost time" while they were under the influence of Puredan or if we're just told about it, but it would make a good flashback scene. Maybe a better flashback in a visual medium though.

Nope, we never actually see the list time, though we get a scene with them figuring it out due to how quickly the coaches came around. We do get to see Naran triggering the command phrase on Rion and him having no sense of the passage of time, and we see it again when Vallant does the same on Holter.

wizzardstaff posted:

It's hard to think of how to fix this book because the repetition is really baked into the core concept. Ripping out four chapters and making one stand on its own to represent the others would ruin the symmetry of the viewpoints, and Green is really committed to giving them all equal screen time.

The idea of symmetry is an interesting one, but I think Green's execution of it is just so lazy. She only goes so far as to do surface level symmetry with plot beats.

The way Sanderson executes the same concept in Stormlight Archive is on another plane entirely: you have the physical geography (Roshar is a super continent shaped like the Julia set), in world writing, how places and people are named, entire artforms (keteks) as well as characters whose narrative arcs are in opposing symmetry (see Dalinar and Taravangian, or Kaladin and Moash), and each book itself being structured as a ketek.

wizzardstaff posted:

So if you're going to break that symmetry then maybe the right move is to just really lean into it and tell the story from a single point of view.

That being said, adding another viewpoint would also be a way to fix the bathhouse chapters. Tell it from Warla's perspective as she greets everyone and overhears confrontations within the bathhouse. We don't need to eavesdrop on every line of dialogue since most of it adds nothing to the characterization or plot.

Yep, the options I see are:

1. Pick one POV character and stick with them throughout

1A. As above, but sprinkle in other POVs occasionally to mix things up.

2. Rotate through all the main cast as POV characters, but give each of them a distinct self contained character arc within all of their POV chapters, and tie each of those character arcs to key points in the overall story arc so their character grown actually drives the overall plot

A Warla POV could actually work quite well as a Prologue, particularly given Book 5 reveals. There's a question of whether we even need to see the tests for High, since the main plot is all about competitions and there's still a bunch of additional qualifying round that happen after that first test. That's plenty of time to explain how magic works, plus the actual competition itself.

wizzardstaff posted:

I appreciated the ASCII recap, by the way. And that's a nice dress.

Thanks!

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


It will create an interesting problem in that much of what happens in the rest of Book 1 is also redundant. Arguably, you could start in the middle of Book 2 and it'd still be fine.

Essentially what Green did was mash up a tournament plot with a mystery plot and a rebellion plot, executing all three pretty badly. It's hilarious, because the original Hunger Games trilogy takes the same concepts (minus the magic and add the technology), and executes it SO MUCH BETTER.

Just taking the tournament plotline alone and comparing it to say, Goblet of Fire or Will Wight's Uncrowned (which had its own flaws so I should really come back and do this comparison again once Wintersteel comes out and look at it together), we can see Green fails to do the most basic things:
  • Establish the tournament structure so there's a clear sense of what progress looks like - instead the tournament structure is a big secret, that the main cast needs to discover as part of the mystery plot, and they only ever figure things out one step at a time so the mystery plot never comes to a satisfying conclusion
  • Raise the stakes in each round of the tournament - we start off with two events that are life-and-death (fireball, first test) and then continue with a series of further tests that are most definitely not life-and-death and then we will eventually go to the main event. It's like Green was never introduced to any of the dramatic writing structures.
  • Make each round of the tournament test something different - the solution is always the same more strength is needed so just take in more of the power and the characters who are able to do so are arbitrarily determined by the author, so it feels completely unearned

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 THIRTEEN

Clarion stood in the middle of the resin room, sweating so hard that an observer would have thought him a common manual laborer. His talent still sealed off all those tiny holes that had tried to suck the air out of the room, and he also continued to pull down the air from the high ceiling so he might breathe more easily. Beyond that he was frantic, for he couldn't seem to think of a way to reach the only exit from that room. The small door in the wall so far above his head, the door he couldn't reach because there was nothing to stand on . . .

Nothing to stand on. Clarion's searching mind suddenly seized that phrase, just as if it were the answer he'd been looking for. But that was foolish. How could someone stand on nothing? There had to be something, and if there were, then that person would be standing on—

"Standing on the nothing that's only something to a person with Air magic," Clarion muttered, actually disgusted with himself. He should have seen that at once, considering the experience he'd had with the phrase during childhood. Mother would come into his apartment and find him playing with his magic, and. would ask him what he was doing. "Nothing, Mother," had been his usual answer, mostly to avoid one of those lectures on what a gentleman of quality did and did not do to fill his time. He should have remembered sooner . . .

Clarion's test is confusing for many reasons. Air is getting sucked out of the room - presumably if he does nothing, he will end up being inside a vacuum and therefore die from asphyxiation, assuming the room is strong enough to not implode due to the differential in air pressure. But if he can grab air molecules with his talent, then...why would you bother sealing off all the holes? Why wouldn't you just grab all the air molecules and hug them close with your talent like your precioussessses? Is it because grabbing air molecules is like herding lots of microscopically sized cats?

quote:

But remembering still wasn't getting him out of there. The nothing he had to stand on was obviously supposed to be air, but simply thickening it enough to hold him wasn't the entire problem. He also had to keep the air from being drawn out of the room, as well as hold it near him so that he might breathe. Any one or two of those things might be managed, but all three? He could feel the strength draining from him by the moment, so even two tasks might soon be beyond him. What was he to do?

Fear tried to take hold of him again, but he brushed it aside almost impatiently. For the first time in his life he was expected to do something for himself, and as much as he detested the situation he also refused to lose to it. More than his life was at stake, since a man was nothing without his pride. He would take a moment to think things through, and only then would he act.

In case you forgot that Clarion has never done anything independently in his life. I don't know what being a noble in fantasy 17th century Britain is like, but presumably you did not have servants assist you with going to the bathroom when you're an able young man.

quote:

Clarion straightened to his full height, and began by examining the matter logically. He still had the strength to do two of the tasks necessary to free himself, so the obvious first question was which of the three actions were basically unnecessary? He couldn't very well dispense with breathing, and if he released the thickened air in front of the holes, he'd not only have nothing to breathe, but also nothing to work with.

But that left thickening enough air to climb on as the unnecessary act, which just wasn't so. He needed to get himself out of that room in order to survive, and simply standing there would certainly not accomplish it. Too bad there wasn't another means of escape, but obviously there couldn't be. The only other door was the one he'd come in by, and it was tightly sealed and locked—

Clarion paused for a moment with his brows raised, realizing that that wasn't entirely so. It was true the door had to be sealed if no further air was entering the room around its edges, but he'd seen both sides of the thing and hadn't noticed any sort of locking mechanism. With the building material being resin it wasn't likely there was any interior mechanism, so maybe the door wasn't locked . . .

That brought him to another line of thinking entirely, specifically what sort of effort it would take to break the seals. Opening the door without any inner handholds wasn't as impossible as he'd thought at first, not when he looked at the problem from the point of view of his talent. The matter of the seals did bother him, however, because they were sure to add a drag on the door that could mean the difference between opening it widely enough and simply moving it a little. Clarion considered the matter for another moment, then concluded that he had very little choice.

"And it will require quite a lot of strength, so I'd best begin at once," he muttered, taking his air supply with him as he walked to the stool. He might turn out not need the thing, but opening the door only to have it close again before he could reach it wasn't to be considered. Better to be prepared for all contingencies at the outset. . .

I wonder if Green included this in response to wizzardstaff's comment. "What do you mean I refuse to let my characters engage in original solutions? Here try this one! Clarion's going to go back through his ORIGINAL DOOR instead of the exit everybody else takes because he THINKS DIFFERENTLY thanks to his unique isolated childhood of abuse, take that critics!"

quote:

Happily the stool proved to be fairly light, so he would have little trouble pushing it into the doorway with his talent once the door was open. Clarion placed it directly against the wall a good number of feet to the left of the door, where it would hopefully be out of the direct line of his efforts. Those efforts would be at maximum strength, and anything with less than significant weight would certainly be caught up—

Along with the sealed door, Clarion hoped. He was very much tempted to doubt his plan, but couldn't afford the distraction. Time was running out, and soon the air he'd saved would become completely unbreathable. He was already beginning to detect a taint in it that threatened to make him dizzy, which, meant he had to act now.

I don't understand why these two paragraphs are broken up like this. There is no break in actual thought.

quote:

Pushing away all doubts and fears, Clarion gathered up every bit of air in the room and forced it together in front of the door. That left him able to breathe from the edge of the mass, while at the same time left nothing that could leak out of the now-unblocked holes. He forced the mass harder and harder against the door, compressing it so tightly that he soon withdrew his breathing supply. When that happened he quickly released the mass with a snap, also pulling with every ounce of his talent's strength.

And the sudden rushing away of the air around the door did manage to pull the door open behind it! There had been a momentary drag and then a sucking snap as the seals were forced open, and then the door flew open violently against its stops. Clarion himself was fighting to keep from being swept back at that moment, which meant the door would have swung closed again before he could reach it. But with the opening of the door came a rush of new, fresh air, which he immediately grabbed and thickened and used to push the waiting stool into position by the door jamb.

Clarion acting like a giant...toilet plunger I guess?

quote:

The returning door tried to knock the stool out of its way, but Clarion had anticipated that and used his talent to keep the stool in place. If the door closed he'd have to start all over again, but this time with most of his strength already spent. Clarion swiped at the sweat on his face with the sleeve of his coat, forced himself into motion, and reached the door as quickly as possible. Opening it wide again would normally have taken very little effort, but right now Clarion could only just get it done. Then he staggered out into the hall and to the wall opposite the door, where he let himself fall slowly to a seated posture on the floor.

I think that's a record. Test done and over with in less than 1300 words!

quote:

Clarion spent a few moments simply breathing, the only effort that wasn't currently beyond him. Then he heard approaching footsteps, and looked up to see the man from the outside room coming over with a cup in his hand.

"Don't worry, sir, it's all finished now," the man said soothingly as he stopped to crouch beside Clarion. "You've completed the test successfully, which means you're due congratulations. And I'm certain you're in need of this."

He held out the cup, and despite Clarion's reservations he couldn't refuse to take it. Every drop of moisture in his body must have fled in the form of sweat, and the need to replace even some of it had become a desperation. Clarion gulped the liquid, at first thinking it was water, but simple water had never been that refreshing. By the time he lowered the emptied cup, a trickle of strength was already beginning to return to him.

"This vileness will not go unnoticed," he said at last to the man watching him, finally able to voice his anger. "When my mother hears of what was done to me, the next ones to hear of it will be certain members of the Blending. After that you people will be properly punished, and you can be certain that I'll be present to watch. Get someone to fetch my trunk and summon a coach. I'm going to my house now."

"A coach has already been sent for, and your trunk will be on it," the man responded as he took back the emptied cup. "It won't be your own house you'll be going to, however, and you won't be discussing this test with anyone at all. There are further sessions you'll be required to attend now that you've passed the initial test, and not even the entire Blending can excuse you from them. Hasn't anyone explained this to you?"

"I was told nothing but that I was required to appear here," Clarion answered, still angry but now faintly disturbed as well. "What do you mean that even the Blending can't excuse me from further outrage? In case you've failed to notice, the Blending does anything it wishes to."

"Not when it comes to discovering the abilities of High practitioners," the man disagreed, a faint satisfaction to be seen in his eyes. "That process is inviolate, being the basis as it is for the ultimate choosing of the Blending itself. The only thing able to keep a man or woman from participating is their firm refusal, and then they're subject to the mandatory penalties. Mandatory, to be certain no one can avoid them."

Here's the handwaving. Which end of Book 2/early Book 3 spoilers is a lie, since the Seated Blending are only figurehead Middles who don't hold any real power in the Empire and wouldn't have been able to pass the first test.

quote:

"And what penalties are those?" Clarion asked, wondering how he could have missed the fact that the Blending had begun by passing these very same tests. It must have been because Mother had been so certain she'd be able to get him excused. It had obviously been wishful thinking on her part, with nothing of the clear logic she usually demanded from him . . .

"The penalty for refusing to participate is immediate arrest and trial, the culmination of which is that mandatory sentence I mentioned," the man obliged. "It consists of five years at hard physical labor in one of the empire's deep mines, working twelve hour shifts with rest days coming only once a month. The harshness of the penalty reflects the fact that the felon has attempted to steal the fruits of his talent from everyone in this empire. High practitioners work to the benefit of everyone, you understand, so refusing to exercise a High talent is—"

"Is stealing from everyone," Clarion interrupted impatiently, refusing to believe something like that could happen to him. No one of his class had to worry about such barbaric treatment . . .

This would be a great bit of cultural world building, except it doesn't actually stack up since Green has done nothing to show us how High talents work to benefit anyone in the Empire. Book 4 spoilers enslavement in the army doesn't count since a) it's enslavement and b) pretty sure invading neighboring nations are not to the benefit of most people in the Empire.

quote:

"But that would apply only to someone who passed the first test and refused to continue. How much will it cost me in gold for the records to show that I failed? Just name the figure, my man, and you'll have it within two days."

"You seem to have forgotten something, sir," the man said with the faintest of smiles curving his lips. "There are only two outcomes with these initial tests, and those who fail to pass end up dead. The cost of being recorded as a failure would be your life, and afterward the body would have to be identified by the guild master who sent the applicant here. Does that still sound like a viable alternative to you?"

Clarion made a sound of disgust to show his opinion of the ridiculous suggestion, dismissing the idea of finding a dead body to substitute for his own. Even if Lord Astrath, the guild man, could somehow be bribed into keeping silent about the substitution, Clarion would have to hide out for the rest of his life. He'd never again be able to show himself among the people of his class, and after the loneliness of his solitary childhood he'd find it impossible to withdraw from the company of others now that he had it. Even the presence of commoners was preferable to being alone, so for the moment he was trapped.

There are things called false identities, you know. Well, to be fair, maybe Clarion doesn't know, given his upbringing. We'll find out later that he read a lot of romance novels growing up though - surely at least one or two of them mentioned the concept of mistaken identity or false identities? I am very disappointed that more of the romance novel reading doesn't translate through to his character, because it would be hilarious.

quote:

"We've arranged accommodations for you with someone who volunteered their house as a residence," the man said after a moment, taking Clarion's silence for the admission of defeat that it was. "Your place there will be paid for by us, but your meals and other requirements will need to be seen to by you. After the sessions will come the competitions, and if you qualify for those you will have the opportunity to earn bonuses in gold. You will be given a short time to rest, but the first of the sessions will be scheduled in just a few days. Please remember that you're not to discuss the details of this test with anyone, a caution that will have been given to the others at the house as well. Now let's see if your coach has arrived."

The man straightened and waited rather than beginning to retrace his steps, as though he thought Clarion incapable of standing without his help. For that reason Clarion struggled erect alone, and then followed the man back toward the front room of the building. Walking and standing straight was difficult, and Clarion blessed the exercises he did on a regular basis for helping him to accomplish it. That servant Mother had had for a while so long ago had done him a greater service than he'd known, showing Clarion the exercises that would fill part of the emptiness of his days. It had also kept him from developing the unsightly paunch of so many of his class-equals, and it now kept him from looking weak in front of his inferiors.

This is why Clarion is shredded - he's been building his own home gym with Air magic since he was a kid and constantly works out because he has no friends.

quote:

Clarion followed the man back out the front door of the building, to find that a coach was indeed waiting. His trunk was also stowed in the boot and secured firmly, so all Clarion had to do was climb into the coach. He did so without showing the aches the action caused him, and looked out the window once he was seated and the door had been closed behind him.

"I've just remembered that I left my hat in your... unusual waiting room," he told told the man who had been in the process of gesturing the driver to leave. "I have no intentions of waiting now until it's fetched, so you'll have to send it to me to wherever I'm being taken. Don't make the mistake of forgetting about it, for I certainly won't. Driver, you may now proceed."

His last sight of the man from the building was a casual nod accompanied by far too much amusement,

Spoilers: they won't send the hat and Clarion doesn't do anything about it. I wish Green would have written that because I would have been more entertained by his side quest to track down the ridiculous hat than by what he eventually ends up doing.

quote:

and then the coach had begun to move away from that outrageous place. If Clarion hadn't been so tired, he might have ordered the driver to wait while he made a sharp comment or two about the building man's misplaced sense of humor. As it was he simply leaned back in the seat with a grunt, wishing local public coaches were better upholstered. It wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as the long distance coach had been, but discomfort came in too many degrees for that difference to be at all uplifting.

Clarion watched the streets as the coach moved along at a brisk pace, and wasn't at all surprised that they made no approach to the neighborhoods he was familiar with. He couldn't imagine people of his class being foolish enough to open their homes to a pack of unwashed strangers, which most of the other applicants must surely be. His time among them would be a great trial, but one he would do his utmost to shorten. There had to be a way out of that insanity, and he meant to find it.

After a short while the coach turned into the drive of a house, one of those that attempted to copy the regal splendor of the houses belonging to people of true quality. It was rather a smallish place, about the size of his and Mother's summer houses, but at least it wasn't the shanty he'd been half expecting. He wouldn't have put it past those people to house him somewhere impossible, just to add to his misery and humiliation.

Book 2 spoilers: we will see the noble antagonists do their thing as well. Based on the information we get from their POVs, Clarion's childhood is REALLY WEIRD because it seems he was excluded not just from social events but also magically by the Guild and Air magic instructors.

quote:

"But one day I'll see the score evened," Clarion murmured as they approached the house, giving himself a solemn oath. "At the moment it's their turn to win, but one day the turn will be mine. And when that happens , . ."

Clarion didn't need to finish the thought for it to bring a smile to his face, not when he would certainly find enough time to decide on what the perfect revenge would be. The coach stopped, ending that train of thought for a while, and a young woman came out of the house, followed by two male servants. The servants went immediately toward the back of the coach, but the young woman stood waiting while Clarion left the vehicle. Once he stood before her, she smiled tremulously.

"Good day to you, sir," she said in a breathless, timid voice. "We've been told to expect you, and when I saw your trunk on the back of the coach, I brought two of the men out to carry it. I give you welcome in the name of my mistress, and will show you at once to your room."

"Room?" Clarion echoed before the woman could turn away. "Surely you mean apartment. No one could seriously expect me to survive in just one single room."

"I'm sorry, sir, but the only apartment is occupied by my mistress," the girl returned, her trembling voice now no stronger than a whisper. She also wrung her hands, and her very plain face looked close to tears. Clarion had never encountered a servant like her, nor any other woman for that matter. He was accustomed to grandly confident women, and this one made him feel like a gross and hairy bully.

We will also see the Mardimill household a few times later in these books. There are definitely female servants on Hallina Mardimill's staff. Either this is a continuity error or subtle characterization from Green. I'm tempted to bet on continuity error based on her track record so far.

quote:

"Perhaps it would be best if I discussed the matter with your mistress later," he said quickly, certain he would be completely out of his depth if the girl began to cry. "For now you may show me to this . . . room, an offer I greatly appreciate the kindness of."

Clarion added a small bow to his ridiculous little speech, and was then astonished to see that it worked! The girl blinked back her tears completely, and curtsied with the return of her timid smile.

Any romance fans want to guess at what Clarion was reading while growing up based on this interaction?

quote:

"Yes, sir, thank you, sir," she said, acting as though he'd saved her from execution. "Please come this way."

The servants with his trunk had already entered the house, and the coach was already on its way back down the drive.

That surely meant the driver had been seen to in advance, which was just as well. Clarion had meant to send the man back to that building to collect his fare, as this destination had been none of his own choice. He believed in paying for his own desires, not those of others.

Maybe Green took a writing course some time on how to develop characters by having them describe and react to the same things differently. Did she accidentally turn in the character studies she did as part of a workshop instead of a manuscript to her editor?

quote:

The house's entrance area had been decorated with a trowel, spreading expensive items everywhere one looked. The action was typical of those commoners who happened to acquire gold, and seemed to be painful only to those with decent taste. Clarion carefully looked away from the garish display to keep himself from growing ill, and followed the girl up the wide staircase and to the left. She proceeded up the hall to the first door on the right, threw it open, then stepped aside.

"I hope you find this comfortable, sir," she said with a brief curtsy and a blush, "If you need anything, just ask one of the servants."

With that said she left rather hurriedly, as though it might be improper in some way for her to remain longer. Clarion wondered at that as he stepped aside to allow the servants to carry in his trunk, then followed to tip each of them for their efforts. Their thanks were unexpectedly profuse, as though they hadn't anticipated being tipped, and that made Clarion glad he'd done it. These servants, at least, seemed to know their place, a delightful change from those who served in Mother's house.

But as he sat down in one of the small room's only two chairs, he still found it difficult to understand the attitude of that girl. She'd acted as though she didn't dare to enter a bedchamber with him, as though he were someone she might have cause to fear. His reaction to that assessment should have been heavy insult, to have his honor questioned by a mere slip of a serving girl . . .

But somehow he felt pleased rather than insulted.

So. Much. Toxic. Masculinity.



quote:

No female had ever seemed to fear him as a man before, most especially not the serving girls of his and Mother's household. Some of them had actually flaunted themselves before him when Mother hadn't been able to see them do it, their belief in their safety always perfectly correct. One of the first times it had happened, when he was still rather young, he'd caught the girl and pulled her into his arms. That, of course, had been when Mother had walked in, and the resulting scene was a memory which still caused him to flinch.

"For shame, Clarion, for shame!" she'd cried, nearly swooning where she stood. "That my own flesh and blood should act so! Oh, the humiliation of it, and after all I've sacrificed for you! Perhaps the fates will smile on me, and I'll fall dead this very moment!"

Clarion had rushed to her side and helped her to a couch, begging her all the while not to say that she would die. He would never be able to bear losing her, and would do anything if only she would return to her usual self. She'd rallied then and had made him swear that he would never look at or touch one of the serving girls again, and he'd been more than eager to give his word. Anything to keep from losing her . . . !

Well, he hadn't lost her, but he also hadn't been able to approach one of the serving girls ever again. Even if he'd wanted to break his word, Mother had always been right there to help him keep it. She'd also been right there the first and only time one of the girls of his own class had agreed to go driving with him, an excursion that had turned stiff and awkward. Mother had been the only one with anything to say, except for when the girl had asked to be taken home early. After that all the girls of his age group had avoided him, at the same time giving him the impression that they were laughing at him . . .

Hahahahahahahahahahaha what.

quote:

Mother had assured him that that was only his imagination, and then had gone on to explain why the girls avoided his company. She'd said the girls had quickly come to understand how high above them he stood, and didn't dare aspire to such exalted heights. Perhaps one day he would find a woman worthy of him, but until that day arrived he could rest untroubled, secure in the knowledge that he still had his mother.

"But at the moment I don't have Mother, and that girl feared being alone with me," Clarion murmured, experiencing the oddest feelings. "I am a man and by myself in Gan Garee, and suddenly the possibilities are endless. I think I'll bathe while I ponder my options."

Unfortunately for us, Vallant is the wonderful role model that he's going to run into first.

quote:

He chuckled as he rose from the chair, and wasn't even more than mildly annoyed when he realized that without a personal manservant, he would have to unpack clean clothes for himself. He opened the trunk and took the first outfit to come to hand, each motion making him more and more aware of how badly he needed that bath. This would be another day he'd never forget, and certainly wasn't any less unpleasant than the rest of those days.

After retracing his steps downstairs, Clarion got directions to the bath house from one of the servants. Stepping outside he saw a modestly pleasant garden ahead, with a side path to the left that led to his destination. His stroll hurried itself a bit as he neared the bath house, the prospect of submerging himself in soothing water even more attractive than the thought of food. He was certainly hungry enough, he decided as he entered the bath house, but that could wait until—

His thoughts broke off sharply and he came to a halt when he realized the bath house was occupied. He was completely unused to that circumstance, of course, since Mother had only bathed in the morning after breakfast, and the servants had all used their own, smaller, bath house.

We now have interrupted monologuing DURING totally redundant monologuing that adds nothing to character or plot or setting whatsoever!

quote:

The man in the water started, as though Clarion's entrance had awakened him from sleep, and then he frowned.

"Common courtesy suggests that you knock before comin' into a bath house that's occupied," the stranger growled, his accent marking him as one of those who weren't native to Gan Garee. "Or don't you know what that sign on the door means?"

"There was no sign on the door, but common is certainly the proper word," Clarion retorted, more than annoyed that the lout would speak to him so. "Your courtesy is very common, my man, but I haven't the strength to argue with you. Nor do I intend to share that bath. I'm accustomed to bathing alone as a gentleman should, so you will take yourself out of there at once."

"What if I decide I don't want to get out of this bath," the stranger returned almost immediately, looking Clarion over in a most insulting way. "You'd then have to decide between throwin' me out and waitin' until I was ready to go. I really wonder which one you'd choose."

Clarion was enraged that this creature would dare to question his manhood, but rage didn't carry him far enough back toward his usual store of strength. He'd simply expended too much of himself today, and there was no getting around it.

"A real gentleman makes his choices without being influenced by the lower classes," Clarion rejoined stiffly, determined to make his position perfectly clear. "If I had the strength I'd make an issue of your crudity, but at the moment I'm too badly in need of that bathwater. Tomorrow, after I've had the opportunity to rest, we can discuss this matter again."

Clarion saw startlement cover the stranger's features before he turned and walked toward the towel cabinet, a reaction which was grimly satisfying. Bullies had thought to take amusement from him before, but the strength of his talent had always let him teach them a sharp lesson. They all knew better than to try themselves against someone they weren't acquainted with, since it was always possible that a stranger might prove to be stronger than them. Clarion had shown that even the familiar face could be dangerous to antagonize, and had earned himself peace from harassment without having to appeal to Mother.

Just casually dropping in the fact that Clarion's used to doing violence with magic. I think Green wants this to come across as self-defence, but based on how off kilter Clarion's sense of how normal social interactions are supposed to go, I'm gonna bet that not everyone he thought was a bully was actually engaged in bullying.

quote:

"I think I've been blind as well as insensitive," the stranger's voice came suddenly, no longer sounding mocking. "You're an applicant just the way I am, and you're too tired because you just passed your test. What did they do to force you to participate?"

"The Blending refused to listen to my mother's very reasonable request," Clarion answered, anger at the memory making him slam shut the cabinet door. He wasn't sure why he'd responded to the fellow, unless it was because the man had actually apologized. And also sounded as unhappy about being there as Clarion felt. . . "Now they dare to threaten me with the unthinkable, but I refuse to be intimidated. I will find a way out of this insanity, and return to where I belong."

"It looks like we have somethin' in common after all," the stranger said with grim agreement, standing up in the water. "I also intend goin' back where I belong, so let's talk later. I'm Vallant Ro, Water magic."

"Lord Clarion Mardimil, Air magic," Clarion responded, disliking the need to converse with a commoner as though he were an equal, but finding it easier than he'd thought it would be. In point of fact he was receiving more courtesy from this Ro stranger than he got from his own class brothers, and honor demanded that he respond in kind. "And yes, let us indeed compare notes later. Getting free of this horror would be worth any price. A pity it can't be accomplished with gold."

The phrase "class brothers" really irritates me. As does "class equals" and other similar phrases Green loves.

quote:

"What makes you think it can't be?" Ro asked as he actually left the bath, ceding the possession of it without argument. The man was Clarion's own size and must be at least as weary if he'd also passed his test, which he must have done in order to be there. Ro had a look about him that shouted of a familiarity with physical labor as well as being accustomed to command, and yet he'd still given up the bathwater without needing to be forced to it. Clarion was even more impressed than surprised, and both feelings brought him to an attitude of indulgence which he'd never before experienced with an inferior.

"I never thought about offerin' gold, which makes me feel like a fool," Ro continued after banishing the water from his body and hair. "Since I can afford to pay any amount they care to name and everybody knows bribin' is the largest industry here in Gan Garee, I wonder why I didn't think of it."

So the man wasn't a copperless peasant after all. Clarion now felt a good deal more comfortable, especially since he'd discovered the perfectly logical reason behind his urge toward indulgence.

This is as deep as Green's portrayal of the nobility will ever get. Despite loads of real world history across many different cultures to draw on, she just goes with "nobles good because they are rich, peasants common and therefore bad, unless they have money in which case they are not so bad".

quote:

"Possibly you didn't think of it because you dislike wasting your time," Clarion answered, remembering his failure with a great deal of distaste. "I, on the other hand, must enjoy it immensely, as I spent much too much time engaged in the useless practice. If there's an answer, it definitely lies elsewhere."

"There has to be an answer," Ro responded, looking as determined as Clarion felt. "High practitioners are all supposed to be willin' to do the job, so those who are unwillin' have to be let go at some point. That's the point we need, as long as it isn't one that involves dyin' . . ."

Clarion almost paused in his undressing, suddenly remembering how close he'd come to dying. Somehow he hadn't really believed in the possibility at the time, hadn't considered his death something that could actually happen, but now . . . Looking back made him want to shudder with the realization of how close he'd come, and that in turn forced him to drop the last of his clothing and plunge into the water. At least it was as warm as it was supposed to be, and immediately began to warm the chill ice out of his blood.

"We'll speak again later," Ro said after a moment, and Clarion looked around to see that the other man was completely dressed. And rather than stand about gawking like some infantile voyeur, he added, "Enjoy your bath," and simply left. Clarion made a sound of agreement to the suggestion, finding he no longer had the strength for conversation. What he needed was to unwind in the warmth of the water, letting it soothe away all tension and fear.

Choosing a molded area in the bath diagonally opposite the one Ro had used, Clarion submerged for a delicious moment then leaned back into the head brace. He hadn't stopped to look for soap, but that could be done later. Right now he needed to soak the ache out of his bones . . .

Who's next??? Can you guess? Well, we were talking about symmetry before, and Green's certainly tried to go for it here. Complete this oh-so-tricky pattern:

Tamrissa -> "meet cute" with Vallant -> has initially angry then friendly words with Clarion -> has initially friendly then angry words with ??? -> "meet cute" with ???

quote:

Clarion fell asleep for a while, but not a long enough while. He was still tired when the sound of the door opening woke him, and he looked around to see another stranger entering. This one was dressed in what Clarion considered low-class farm fashion, and he apparently had no idea anyone else was in the bath house. He looked around at the cabinets ranged to the left of the door, and actually had to open each of them before he located the one with towels. Then he went back to the one with soap, and carefully withdrew a jar.

Clarion considered ordering the lout to wait outside until his own bath was finished, but memory of his conversation with Ro caused him to hold his tongue. Here was certainly another ally in the war to attain freedom, and Clarion was desperate enough to accept help from whatever source it might originate with.

"Good day to you, friend," Clarion said as he sat up in the water, startling the lout into whirling around despite his carefully pleasant tone. "I'm sure you're in need of this bathwater as badly as I was, so please don't hesitate about coming right in."

Clarion: "Lorand, will you be my friend?"

quote:

"I didn't intend to hesitate," the mudfoot answered, returning to removing the sacks he obviously considered clothing. "You startled me because I thought the bath house was empty, but it isn't as if I've never used a bath house before. Our town has a large one for the use of the public, and week's end night usually had the place filled to capacity."

"You've used a public bath house?" Clarion blurted, unable to help himself. "With crowds present? But surely your own home had a bath house?"

"In summer we used the creek's swimming hole, and in winter we used a tub in the kitchen," the mudfoot answered with a shrug as he made for the water. "What's the difference where you bathe, as long as you come out clean?"

Lorand: "No"

quote:

Clarion couldn't answer that question, not in any words the mudfoot was likely to understand. It made a good deal of difference where one bathed, and anyone capable of questioning that truth would certainly be incapable of comprehending it. Instead of continuing with the subject, Clarion waited until the lout had settled himself in the place Ro had vacated, and then he spoke more to the point.

"I assume you're weary because of what was necessary to pass your test," he said after clearing his throat, then borrowed the rest of Ro's successful opening gambit. "What did they do to force you to participate? I'm Lord Clarion Mardimil, by the way. Air magic."

Clarion: "Please? Look, I'm being very nice"

quote:

"Lorand Coll, Earth magic," the man responded, raising his head to frown at Clarion. "What do you mean, how was I forced? I didn't have to be forced to participate, I wanted very much to try."

"You want to be here?" Clarion demanded incredulously, finding it impossible to keep from rising to his feet. "Well, I don't know why I'm surprised. Of course someone like you would be eager to fight for that nonsense, it's worlds above anything you're likely to get under any other circumstance. A pity they don't believe in taking all their applicants from the lowest segment of our society."

"At least I'm not from the useless segment of our society," the lout had the nerve to rejoinder, his face darkened with anger as Clarion stalked past him on the way out of the water. "If I end up without a High position, I'll still be able to contribute more than I use up. If you end up without one, all you'll be able to do is go back to being a worthless sponge. If you suddenly lost all your mountains of gold, you'd starve to death in a week. Since I'd survive no matter what, I'd say you need to rethink your conclusion about which of us is really the lowest."

Lorand: "Die of starvation, you useless leech"

quote:

Clarion was out of the water by then, and he refused to dignify the lout's moronic claims by commenting. Instead he used air to force all the water from his body, finding that even so small an effort as that was nearly beyond him. He quickly used the towel on the bottoms of his feet and then dressed, still maintaining his silence. Of all the mindless, idiotic things to say, calling him low class and worthless! If he weren't so tired, he'd show that lout exactly how worthless he was!

Fury took Clarion out of the bath house once he was fully dressed and had gathered up his soiled clothing. He also slammed the door behind him to punctuate his exit, and quickly strode back to the tiny accommodations he'd been forced to accept. He slammed that door as well, then hurled his soiled clothing away with every ounce of strength he had left. Calling him useless and worthless! Daring to question his ability to survive! Low class indeed!
Clarion stalked back and forth across the room countless times, fighting in vain to control his anger. It wasn't true that he was useless, the lout simply didn't understand. Those of his class had no need to justify their existence with crude manual labor, they were above such foolishness! And if the unthinkable happened and he and Mother did lose all their gold, he'd simply—why, he would just—

When the proper ending to his argument refused to come, Clarion discovered that he'd also stopped pacing. He didn't know what he would do if he no longer had Mother's gold behind him, but he'd do something. He was a gentleman of quality, and that lout had had no right to question his worth. Why, he'd passed that first test, hadn't he? That proved clearly enough what he was capable of, even though he'd had to use his talent to do it. The talent was his, after all, and no one had given it to him . . .

An actually good use of an interrupted monologue!

quote:

But the mudfoot had come far too close to thoughts of doubt that Clarion himself had had from time to time. When Mother had occasionally gone away without him, leaving him with a few of the male servants to see to his needs, he'd sometimes wondered what would become of him if she never returned. He had no idea where her funds came from, or how much was actually there. All he knew how to do was draw his allowance from the bank, that and how to spend it. . . . If Mother had failed to return he would have been completely on his own, without support and companionship, without funds, and without the ability to care for himself. Useless. ...

A literal man child.

quote:

Clarion threw himself into a chair and covered his eyes with his palms, struggling with all his might to force those horrid thoughts away. He didn't want to be where he was, bowing to the demands of others and risking his life at their whim, but perhaps this was the answer to his dilemma. If he did qualify as a High practitioner, he would have a career if he needed or wanted it, one that no one without greater talent could deny him.

Yes . . . that might be the best way to handle the matter. Clarion lowered his arms to the chair's armrests, but didn't open his eyes. He was too tired, and now felt a good deal more at peace. He would continue to search for a way out of the trap of having to compete, but in the interim would make a point of showing what he could do. That way the choice of direction in his life would be his rather than everyone else's . . . Yes, that was the way. . . .

As he drifted off to sleep again, he was only distantly surprised that his glimpses of the future included women who were definitely not Mother. . . .

Clarion's Oedipal complex is extremely messed up.

Summary:

Day 1
Tamrissa Vallant Clarion escapes being crushed burned alive asphyixiated by melting and cutting pieces of metal conjuring an ice elevator pretending to be a giant toilet plunger. A creepy dude gives her him "water" to drink. SheHe goes homeis taken to Tamrissa's house and wakes Tamrissa Vallant up when he walks in on her him in the bath house. They exchange initially angry , agree to work together to get out and she Vallant leaves. Vallant Clarion proceeds to fall asleep and the whole thing is repeated with Clarion Lorand.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 12
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 12
COACH RIDES: 7
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 11
"CLIFFHANGERS": 7
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 7
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 1
BATH SCENES: 3
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 2

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapter 11, 12, 13)

Possible fixes:
This chapter should be strangled and put out of its misery.

I don't know about Clarion's whole character arc either, which is "Oedipal man child learns to adult" and therefore includes an incredibly cringey B plot of "discovers sex is a thing". I'm leaning towards getting rid of it entirely and replacing his character arc with the political intrigue stuff that starts popping up in Books 2-5 and becomes important in the sequel series. Green attempts to do some political intrigue plot through various other secondary characters that no one cares about. Moving this away from the secondary characters to Clarion entirely would cut down a lot of character bloat and make his arc actually interesting.

Leng fucked around with this message at 23:37 on Aug 27, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Lorand stared at his still-incomplete stairway of earth, trying to figure out how to handle the increased flow of soil that now poured down. Pulling in more power was out of the question, not when he was so tired. But he'd have to do something. The stronger flow of earth threatened to knock down the steps he'd already built, not to mention trying to bury him where he stood. He'd have to protect both himself and the steps, but his strength was failing almost by the minute.

He stewed mentally for another long moment, then could have kicked himself when the obvious answer came. If he stood on the stairway, he could protect both the stairs and himself with the same effort. Cursing himself under his breath, Lorand carefully mounted the first step then put his left foot on the second step. The treads were too narrow to hold both of his feet and he wobbled a moment getting his balance, but then he had it.

Combining the two shields against the falling earth was easier, and after clearing the air immediately around him of dust, Lorand took a minute to rest. He'd pictured building his stairway all the way up to that small wooden window-door, but by now he knew it wasn't going to happen. The strain of holding the stairs together—along with everything else—was getting to be too much, so as soon as he could actually reach the window-door he'd try to get through it.

The rapidly falling earth was now coming through in enough quantity to let Lorand hurry his building job a little. He formed another three steps of the same size as the first five, and then decided to try his luck. Every minute of delay meant a little less strength, and it would be stupid to wait until he was reduced to crawling. Not that he didn't feel like crawling right now . . .

Pushing that thought aside, Lorand began to climb his stairway to its top—where he then had to walk the top tread like an Airealist, one foot in front of the other while he maintained his balance. The shield against the falling earth kept him from being knocked off, and when he reached the wall he found that his face now looked directly at that window-door.

How about we change Lorand's backstory from farm boy to animal tamer in Camil Coll's Cirque du Magnifique? Power over animals is cool and we do not see enough of this in the actual books. There's one scene in Book 2 and another one in Book...6 or 7 and that's pretty much it.

quote:

Lorand wiped his muddy right palm on his trousers before reaching to the square of wood, his left hand flat on the resin wall to help maintain his balance. If he found the square barred on the other side and unmoving he knew he'd probably cry, but happily he was spared that. The wood pushed in easily, and once opened stayed that way. Now all he had to do was climb through, and then he'd be able to rest for a while.

That last, simple "all" nearly undid him. Lorand had done at least as much climbing as any other child as a boy, but his boyhood was a number of long years behind him. And it had never been resin that he'd tried to climb, which offered nothing at all in the way of toeholds. The inside of the window-door was just as smooth when it came to handholds, and that left only one thing to do: Lorand would have to use another, shorter step of earth to give him a boost up.

Lorand, a farm boy used to physical labour and presumably would significant core and upper body strength, is unable to do one pull up to get through the exit. Putting your characters in situations that force them to grow is generally good but this not-choice happening in Lorand's third POV chapter. The stakes go from nothing (fireball non-event) to 100 ("open to more power or die!") so there's no indication Lorand is even capable of pushing through his debilitating fear of burnout.

quote:

But that meant using even more of the power, and Lorand wasn't sure he had the nerve to try it. Every other adult he knew used their talent almost carelessly, either not knowing or deliberately ignoring what could happen if they drew in too much power. Lorand often did the same when it came to casual use, but something inside refused to allow that when he had to increase the amount of "usual" power. He knew he was good and could handle a lot more of the power than most people, but . . .

No, no buts. Another spurt of earth in his face, coming through the shield, quickly convinced him of that. He had to banish all doubts and use everything he had, otherwise he would end up dead anyway. Pushing himself to the limit wasn't much of a risk under the circumstances, and all the doubt did was waste time he couldn't afford to lose.

So he turned his attention to the earth which had fallen in the last few minutes, gathered it together between the hands of his talent, and formed it into a single step right up against the wall. He nearly covered his own foot doing that, but now he was seriously in a hurry. He could feel his strength draining out even faster than it had been doing, so there wasn't much time left.

This time he stood one foot on the mound against the wall before trying to climb through the window-door, and that made all the difference. A small jump got him far enough through that he was able to wriggle and squirm the rest of himself in, and then he looked around as he panted air that didn't need much cleaning. The area was narrow and not very long, but it was wide enough for his shoulders and there seemed to be a ladder below the opening on the other side.

When I first read this, I remember thinking that Lorand had to take in more power in order to pass. Re-reading this section again, I can't see where Green explicitly says he does so, other than "No, no buts". Every single other time, we're specifically told when a character opens to the power or draws in more power.

quote:

Crawling the few feet to the far opening and twisting around to put himself feet-first toward the ladder was almost harder than everything else he'd done. But Lorand finally managed it, then slowly got himself down the ladder. Only when he finally stood in the narrow hallway below did he let go, sitting down hard on the resin floor and not even feeling it. Exhaustion had that one benefit of dulling the pain of other happenings, and Lorand meant to take full advantage of it.

Simply sitting still and breathing normally was marvelous, but after a moment Lorand's peace and quiet was intruded upon. The man from the front room of the resin building appeared carrying a cup of something, and when he got close enough he crouched beside Lorand.

"Congratulations, young man, on passing your test," the man said with a pleasant smile. "You performed excellently well, but now I think you need this."

He offered the cup then, and Lorand was tempted to refuse it just to show how disgusted he was. But he needed something to drink too badly to refuse, and once he cleared his mouth and throat he'd be able to put his feelings into words. The contents of the cup was more than just water, and Lorand felt some strength trickling back even before he'd drained the thing. That was great, since he knew exactly how he wanted to use that strength.

"How can you people do something like that?" he demanded as soon as he put the cup down. "I came here intending to do my best, but not to gamble my life! Why don't you give people a decent chance?"

"How much more decent a chance is there than winning your life along with passing the test?" the man countered blandly as he took back the cup. "It gives people the best motivation possible for doing their utmost, a level some might not reach without that strongest of drives. And you must also remember that some who come here plan to hide their ability, so they won't need to serve the public good. Don't the people of this empire deserve the best High practitioners it's possible to find?"

Lorand's sense of duty kept him from arguing that point, especially since he knew of someone like that. The boy had been two or three years older than Lorand and had been rated a strong Middle in Air magic, but he hadn't been happy about going to test for High. He'd told all his friends that he would be back as soon as they discovered he didn't quite measure up, and then he'd put his feet up again and let his widowed mother continue to support him the way she'd been doing until then. The boy never had come back, and everyone had assumed he'd found someone else to sponge off. . .

Foreshadowing! Book 4 spoilers: unfortunately we won't find this kid when they liberate the enslaved Highs. Which is a pity, because it would have impacted events in Book 5

quote:

But that wasn't the most important point the man had made. The one that affected Lorand personally was the one about reaching a level he might not have reached if his life hadn't been at stake. He couldn't very well argue the truth of it, not when it had actually happened to him, but he still felt a formless yet definite sense of unhappiness.

Later we'll get info about how there's a barrier Middles can't push through, so this is in-text confirmation that Lorand took in more power.

quote:

"I understand all the reasons you've mentioned, but I still think you're . . . not doing it quite right," Lorand said hesitantly. "There ought to be a way to accomplish the same thing without risking people's lives."

"Well, if you can think of the way, by all means let us know," the man said as he straightened.

In-text excuse for Green not doing her homework.

quote:

"Right now your coach ought to be here soon, so let me explain a few things. Now that you've passed this test, you'll be scheduled for other sessions in the applicant process. The first of the sessions won't be for a few days, so we've arranged for you to stay at a residence along with other applicants."

"How much will that cost?" Lorand asked as he struggled to his feet. "I don't have much left of the silver I was given, so I need to know how far it has to be stretched. And do you have a washbasin handy? Separating the earth out of the mud covering me is a little bit beyond me right now."

"Of course," the man answered, gesturing behind him. "We have a washbasin set up just around this curve. And as far as your accommodations are concerned, we'll be paying for that. What you have to pay for is your food and any other necessities, but don't despair about making ends meet. After the sessions you should be eligible for the competitions, the winning of which will provide bonuses in gold. That will help you to refill your purse."

Lorand nodded absently as he followed the man around the curve, delighted that he could soon have a source of income. He intended to pass all the tests they gave him anyway, so winning in competitions could be considered the same thing. And being paid in gold for the effort would be a great . . . bonus. Lorand grinned at the thought, then extended the grin when he saw the large basin filled with clean water and the towel folded beside it on the stand. He'd be careful not to spend the gold before he had it in his hand, but that water was about to be spent until he was completely mud free.

Washing in the water with mildly scented soap made Lorand feel a good deal better, but even as he dried his face and hands on the towel he knew he'd have to find a bath house as soon as possible. His body felt almost as covered as his hands and face had been, but trying to fit himself into the basin wouldn't have worked very well.

No, no, no! Please write Lorand being torn between trying not to be a country bumpkin and money conscious to the point where he doesn't want to pay 1 silver to take a bath. Also has Green never had to do a quick shower using a washbasin? It's not that hard assuming you a) have privacy or b) don't care who sees.

quote:

He put the towel back down to find that his clothes case had been leaned up against the basin stand, so he picked it up and joined the man he'd been speaking to at the door the man had opened in the wall.

The doorway led them outside, where a coach stood waiting as if he were someone really important. Lorand climbed in and the man closed the door behind him, then looked up at him with a smile.

"I know you'll understand when I say that discussing the details of your test with anyone at all is strictly forbidden. Enjoy your rest until the next session, and perhaps we'll meet again."

Lorand came up with something of a smile as he nodded, but he wasn't certain he wanted to meet him again. There was something . . . different about the man, an attitude that said he was engaged in an odd but interesting game rather than real life. Of course, it had been Lorand's life at stake rather than his own, which made the attitude more than a little cold-blooded.

The coach began to move when the man outside gestured , and Lorand settled back to enjoy the ride. He'd never been in any vehicle but a farm wagon where he was the only passenger, but the privacy wasn't hard to take. Especially when the coach simply rolled through one of the gates without being required to stop. They hadn't had it that easy on the way in—

They. Lorand suddenly straightened in his seat, finally remembering about Hat. Shame flooded him at the realization of how easily he'd forgotten about his friend, but then he felt the blood drain from his face. Those who didn't pass the test died, and Master Lugal had sent Hat anyway. Did he know? He'd been fairly certain Hat would fail, but did he know the cost of failure? If he did and had still sent Hat. . .

We won't see Lorand taking any action on this point at all, the side plot will basically get shoved in his face.

quote:

Lorand leaned back slowly, the urge to ask the driver to turn around and go back draining out of him. Right now he wasn't strong enough to face the reality of Hat's death; the possibility alone was almost more than he could handle. There was always a chance that Hat had survived and had even passed the test, and Lorand would end up seeing him at the residence he was being taken to. He'd wait, and ask discreet questions if necessary, and above all get some rest. After that he'd be able to decide what to do if Hat did turn out to be dead. Continue on as if nothing at all had happened, or turn around and walk away in disgust . . . ?

Look, a "cliffhanger" in the middle of a chapter!

quote:

The rest of the ride wasn't as pleasant as Lorand had expected it to be, not with painful thoughts clanging around in his head. Gan Garee was a giant city completely filled with strangers, and Lorand had never known it was possible to feel so alone. He watched those strangers on the street as his coach passed them, dressed in their odd clothes and going about business he couldn't even imagine. Most ignored the vehicle as if it were invisible, but some, not as well-dressed or prosperous-looking as the rest, glared at it and him with a sense of personal insult. As if to say, "How dare you ride like that when we have to walk? Who do you think you are . . . ?"

It's so great that Green decided not to show off the wondrous, near legendary city of Gan Garee through the eyes of a character who should be genuinely amazed by everything he encounters, firstly by skipping over his initial experience as he arrives in the city and secondly by having him sudden succumb to faux depression about his "best friend". This is the laziest description writing yet - Green couldn't be bothered imagining things so she just has her character state that he couldn't imagine it. And that's a terrible way of establishing "unhappy general populace with the current status quo, ripe for rebellion".

quote:

Closing his eyes and leaning his head against the seat back for a moment let Lorand banish that foolishness. It was the tiredness inside him that caused those thoughts, that and the guilt he felt about Hat. Objectively he knew that Hat would have come alone if Lorand hadn't come with him, but emotionally Lorand was hearing one of his father's lectures on the damage it was possible to do by trying to reach too far above yourself. You hurt others even more than yourself, the elder Coll had been fond of insisting, knowing better than most how sensitive Lorand was over the well-being of others.

...why didn't you just write a short flashback? We're literally in Lorand's head. I don't think to myself "I am emotionally hearing one of my parents' oft-repeated lectures", I would be recalling a supercut of the exact words, phrasing, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language of my parents delivering that lecture over a decade or so of my life.

quote:

"Yeah, he always knew how to reach me," Lorand murmured, but memory of his father was lessening the feelings of guilt rather than increasing them. Hat had been just as determined as Lorand to escape the life they'd been born into, and the most telling point was the one he'd have to think about : would he rather have to go home a failure, or would he prefer to be dead? There were usually other options besides those two, but what if the others didn't count? And what would he have done if he'd known about the risk beforehand? Would he have tried anyway?

What do you mean the other options don't count?!

quote:

There was still too much weariness in him to make any firm decisions, so Lorand let the whole thing go while he looked at the scenery again. They'd reached a really nice neighborhood with big houses on both sides of the street, and Lorand expected the coach to continue on through it. When it turned into one driveway instead he was startled, but then the most obvious answer came to him. The coach was meant to take someone else to that residence, and this was where they'd pick them up.

So Lorand simply enjoyed looking around as the coach drove up to the front door. The lawn to either side of the drive was healthy and well cared for, but he couldn't detect any of the . . . hum of satisfaction, was the best thing to call it, of truly thriving greenery. The beautifully arranged flower beds were also only minimally happy, but that might be because of the soil composition. The earth mixture in this area wasn't—

Is plant life in this world sentient? Who knows! We'll never see Lorand do anything with plants for the rest of the books.

If anyone likes reading about this kind of thing, then I'd recommend Tamora Pierce's Circle Universe books. In that universe, plants are sentient and "green mages" (basically druids with power over plants only) are a thing. Rosethorn is a boss and Briar's POVs are very fun to read.

quote:

"Excuse me," a woman's voice interrupted his mental rambling, and Lorand looked down at a rather plain girl who had apparently come out of the house they'd stopped near.

"You are one of the applicants for High practitioner, aren't you?"

"Well, yes," Lorand admitted, feeling confused. "Was there something you wanted to ask me?"

"Actually I was wondering why you aren't getting out of the coach," the girl confessed shyly, her cheeks faintly pink. "You have been assigned to this residence, haven't you?"

Lorand began to deny that with a laugh of ridicule, but then he remembered being told that the coach would take him to the place he was supposed to stay. He hadn't expected anything like this, but a lot of things were happening lately that he hadn't been expecting.

"I suppose I have been assigned here," Lorand replied, now feeling slightly foolish. "I didn't mean to sit here and daydream—"

He broke off the lame excuse before he made himself look even more like a backward hick, took his case, and left the coach. After closing the door he meant to ask the driver how much the ride would cost him, but the driver got the coach moving again before he could even open his mouth.

"It seems the coach drivers are paid in advance," the girl ventured, apparently knowing what Lorand was thinking about. "At least the other coach drivers all did the same thing this one did ... If you'll follow me, I'll show you to your room."

"Is this house yours?" Lorand asked as he followed the girl. "I mean, does it belong to your parents or husband or someone like that?"

"Oh, no, I just work here," the girl answered with a timid laugh and another faint reddening of her cheeks. "I'm the companion of the lady of the house, and she's an applicant, too. I'm Warla."

"And I'm Lorand Coll," Lorand answered, suddenly distracted by the incredible number of expensive things arranged all over the entry hall. He couldn't judge the value of everything he saw, but just by the gold and jewels alone . . . half the farms in his county were worth less. Lorand had the definite urge to drag his feet while he stared openmouthed, but the humiliation of doing that would have been unbearable. He had to get rid of these small town reactions he kept coming up with, or he'd put his foot in his mouth for sure.

Foreshadowing!

quote:

The girl Warla was already climbing the beautifully grand staircase, so Lorand hurried to follow even though the idea of any sort of stairs still disturbed him. His hurry lasted for all of three steps upward, and then he was forced to remember how little strength he had left. He was also forced to slow down, but Warla didn't try to lose him the way his previous guide had. She waited at the top of the stairs until he'd joined her, and then she led him to the left.

The door she opened was the second one up the hall on the left, and the room it opened into threatened to take Lorand's breath away. It had real furniture rather than handmade make-dos without the least amount of craftsmanship, and the size of it was three times what Lorand had lived in at home. The curtains and quilts and linens were all embroidered, and the incredible bed stood on a real carpet. They'd had a carpet in their visiting room back home, but it was older than his brother Mildon and had probably been threadbare even when it was new . . .

"I'll leave you to get settled in now," Warla said, and Lorand turned quickly to see that she stood just outside the door. But she wasn't laughing, even though she must have seen him gaping like a fool. "If you should happen to need anything, just ask one of the servants."

Servants. Lorand nodded mutely and watched her close the door, then he went to a wide chest against one wall and put his case down on it. He should have known there would be servants in a house like that, and he didn't know how to behave with servants. Obviously he would soon find out, but the prospect wasn't as appalling as it should have been. If he managed to live long enough to win to High, he'd eventually have servants of his own.

It is never explained why Lorand finds the concept of servants "appalling". We already know from Clarion's POVs that a servant's life is pretty crap if you're serving in a noble household and it's just luck of the draw as to how terrible your boss is. It's not farfetched to assume most merchant households wouldn't be any better, given Tamrissa's POVs (since Vallant hasn't thought about this much, except to mentally undress the women around him, and it's hard to tell whether that's Vallant being an rear end in a top hat or representative of the merchant class).

Spoilers for Book 4: when the general populace are getting whipped up into a rebellious frenzy, the servants unionize and blacklist a bunch of nobles and merchants who are horrible employers, but we'll never get to see any of this way more interesting stuff, other than as a side note in a chapter with Storn and Avrina Torgar, and Hallina Mardimill.

quote:

Whether or not that meant Lorand had decided to continue on with the testing was something he didn't care to consider at the moment. His first and most pressing need was a bath and a change of clothes, but he hadn't seen any bath houses in the neighborhood. He'd have to ask someone, but the nearest bath house had better not be too far away. If it was, he'd find a stream or something and use that instead.

Please write this instead of the ultra lame bath house sequence!

quote:

Lorand unpacked a change of clothes, then went downstairs again and found someone to put his question to. Happily the man misunderstood, and answered, "Yes, sir, I certainly can tell you where the bath house is. Just follow this hall to the back of the house, and step outside. A few feet to your left is the pathway to the bath house, which stands between this house and the gardens."

Lorand thanked the man and began to follow the directions, but how he managed to keep from muttering, "A private bath house. A private bath house!" was a complete mystery. He was really beginning to hate the way everything he saw impressed him, but he didn't know how to make the feelings stop. He was a hick from the boondocks, and as humiliating as that truth was, it also couldn't be denied.

The gardens made their presence known as soon as Lorand stepped outside, but his energy was draining out of him again and only the sight of the bath house interested him now. He headed for the building as fast as possible, happy that using it would cost him none of his small hoard of silver. He'd been told he had to pay for his own meals, and right now he felt as if he could eat himself copperless. If he hadn't needed a bath fractionally more, he would have asked about places to eat. The cheapest places possible . . .

He walked into the bath house wrapped in thoughts about just how little he could afford to eat without losing vital strength,

Dude, you're an Earth magic practitioner which in theory means you're the closest thing to a nutritionist. Just eat carbs and fibre, that's cheap. You grew up on a farm, so you should know how to harvest seeds from edible plants, plant them and magically Encourage them to grow so you can harvest your own food. And you have control over animals so if you really needed to, you can probably call some pigeons to you and count that as game. If they are parasite infested, well, you can heal yourself.

Lorand has the most overpowered magical talent, the training and background to be super capable with it, and doesn't do anything with it at all. He will make this observation out loud at some point in Book...7 or so.

quote:

but was yanked back to reality when he saw the series of cabinets to the left of the door. Soap and towels must be in there, but Lorand had no idea of what would be where. In the public bath house, he'd been given soap and a towel when he'd paid his use fee. Here, the only thing he could do was search.

Lorand was in the midst of doing just that, when a voice said, "Good day to you, friend." He whirled around to see that someone was already in the bath, a man he hadn't noticed when he'd first come in. The stranger continued, "I'm sure you're in need of this bath water as badly as I was, so please don't hesitate about coming right in."

The man was obviously trying to be friendly, so Lorand ignored the faint tone of condescension in his voice and tried to be the same.

"I didn't intend to hesitate," he answered, going back to the undressing he'd started after finding the towel and soap. "You startled me because I thought the bath house was empty, but it isn't as if I've never used a bath house before. Our town has a large one for the use of the public, and week's end night usually had the place filled to capacity."

Lorand wasn't in the habit of boasting, and certainly not about something as foolish as having used a bath house, but something in the other's manner had pushed him to it. The stranger's expression seemed to demand that Lorand justify his being there, but his choice of justification turned out to be another backwoods mistake.

"You've used a public bath house?" the stranger immediately demanded, sounding as if Lorand had confessed to murdering helpless women and small children. "With crowds present? But surely your own home had a bath house?"

The stranger made the lack of a private bath house also sound like a crime against nature, and Lorand suddenly found himself very annoyed. He'd been struggling not to look like a backward hick, but this easily-shocked stranger turned his mood perverse.

"In summer we used the creek's swimming hole, and in winter we used a tub in the kitchen," he returned with the most outrageously bucolic picture he could think of. But his need for a bath hadn't lessened, so he headed for the water as he added, "What's the difference where you bathe, as long as you come out clean?"

The only thing that comes up consistently in Lorand's POVs is this worry to not appear like a backwards hick, which will be plot relevant later on in Book 8. Unfortunately Green always writes this sentiment as coming from other people and Lorand repeating the thought in his head without any connection to a particular motive for Lorand to feel that way. We don't get the sense of a lack of self-assurance in Lorand the way we do in Hat so I don't buy that Lorand cares, it just depends on Green's whim at the time.

quote:

The stranger didn't seem to have an answer to that, so Lorand used the opportunity of his silence to duck completely underwater. It felt wonderful to be wet all over, but it felt even better to know that the stranger had believed him. Lorand's family had a tub installed in one corner of the barn, and that cramped area was where they all bathed. There was a small hearth near it to heat the water, which they'd used in the winter to also warm the area. It was crude but usable, which had always been his father's standard of good enough.

Pushing away thoughts of his father, Lorand headed for a corner of the bath where there was clearly a molded resting area. He'd never had the chance to try relaxing in one, not with all the older men in the bath house claiming the comfort first, but now he could. He had just gotten himself settled into it when the stranger decided to try starting a conversation again.

"I assume you're weary because of what was necessary to pass your test," he said, this time managing to make it sound as if Lorand had probably jumped up and down a little before being given the passing of the test, rather than having earned it like this very self-important stranger. "What did they do to force you to participate? I'm Lord Clarion Mardimil, by the way. Air Magic"

It had been obvious that this Mardimil was also an applicant, but the title he'd added suggested it, and the name would be familiar to anyone with the least pretensions of being civilized. The title meant little to Lorand, and he'd never heard of the man—happily!—but he had heard the rest of what he'd said and that got to him.

"Lorand Coll, Earth magic," Lorand responded with automatic courtesy, then dove straight to the really important part. "What do you mean, how was I forced? I didn't have to be forced to participate, I wanted very much to try."

"You want to be here?" Mardimil demanded, once again declaring Lorand guilty of some horrible crime as he rose to his feet. "Well, I don't know why I'm surprised. Of course someone like you would be eager to fight for that nonsense, it's worlds above anything you're likely to get under any other circumstance. A pity they don't believe in taking all their applicants from the lowest segment of our society."

That sneering ridicule was more than Lorand was willing to put up with. His home town might be small, but it still had its share of monied snobs who considered themselves too good to breathe the same air as common folk. Their children had been just like this Mardimil, but Lorand hadn't been allowed to tell them what he thought of them. His father had been afraid of reprisals and had refused to "mix in," but his father wasn't here right now.

Another example of why I think Green's theme (if any) in these books is "raise your children with love". There's so many instances of the main characters explicitly doing something as a reaction to their parents that it's pervasive.

quote:

"At least I'm not from the useless segment of our society," he growled at Mardimil, who was in the midst of leaving the bath. "If I end up without a High position, I'll still be able to contribute more than I use up. If you end up without one, all you'll be able to do is go back to being a worthless sponge. If you suddenly lost all your mountains of gold, you'd starve to death in a week. Since I'd survive no matter what, I'd say you need to rethink your conclusion about which of us is really the lowest."

Lorand expected the man to come back at him with something, but Mardimil maintained an infuriated silence while he dried and dressed, then left the same way. His anger had been perfectly clear, and Lorand wondered why he hadn't said anything in his own defense, even a flat refusal to concede Lorand's points. Mardimil could have laughed and called Lorand a jealous fool, and there would have been no easy way to defend against the charge. So why had he done nothing more than dress and leave? It made no sense, unless . . .

"Unless I told him something he'd been suspecting was true," Lorand muttered, suddenly more disgusted with himself than with Mardimil. He'd been in a self-embarrassed mood, so he'd let the man's attitudes push him into speaking a very cruel truth. There was no denying that the vast majority of offspring from wealthy parents were useless, but most of them were perfectly happy to have it that way. What must it be like to be one of the minority, aware of feelings of worthlessness, but refused the chance to do anything about it?

Nobody is preventing Clarion from learning any useful skills. He's got gold and lots of spare time - he can afford to hire tutors and things if he wants to.

quote:

"It would be like living with my father, only worse," Lorand decided with a sigh. For him, leaving home hadn't been much of a hardship, and wouldn't have been one even if he'd had to do it on his own. Aside from his mother and brothers, there hadn't been anything left behind that he would miss. He also had a trained ability to offer an employer, and hadn't been raised to consider honest work a shame and a scandal. And he hadn't gotten used to things that only a large amount of gold would buy.

Yes, there were times when wealth was more of a burden than a blessing, Lorand decided as he forced himself to leave the molded rest area in order to reach the jar of soap. He'd left it near his towel, and the jar was full enough to let him wash once now and then a second time before he left the bath. In between he intended to soak and nap, even though the warm water had already soothed away much of the ache in his body. Later he'd look up Mardimil and apologize, even if it meant accepting a belated and sneering rebuttal.

Lorand just conveniently glossing over the fact that anybody who passes the test for High practitioner will have at least the same level of facility with their magical talent as himself.

quote:

Lorand washed his body first, knowing his eyes would end up filled with soap when he did his hair. He'd been thinking his hair was too long, but most men in Gan Garee seemed to wear it even longer. If that was the current style he'd have to learn to live with it, or else stand out even more than his clothes would make him do. Master Lugal had been right about those clothes, and as soon as he won some gold he'd have to see about buying new ones. Tight breeches and wide-sleeved shirts, in all colors but drab green, dull blue, and lifeless gray. Those were the only colors his clothes came in now, but once he had that gold . . .

This sudden obsession with clothes makes no sense for Lorand.

quote:

His hair seemed to be as full of earth as the testing room had been, so Lorand just kept scrubbing at it even when he heard the door open and close again. He thought it might be Mardimil coming back to get in his rebuttal now, but it wasn't possible to open his eyes and look. When the silence continued Lorand decided it was some, other applicant coming in to wash away the sweat of his efforts, and simply continued scrubbing at his hair. Once he got his strength back he'd be able to remove any still-present grains of earth easily, but right now scrubbing was all that could make him feel clean again.

Lorand rinsed and washed his hair three separate times before deciding he'd done all he could. He'd been able to hear the newcomer moving around without speaking, and it was possible that this man would be friendlier than the last. The least he could do was introduce himself, but that sort of thing went better when you looked a man in the eyes. He reached for the towel he'd positioned right at the edge of the bath, but his groping hand couldn't even find the bath edge. He must have moved too far the last time he rinsed, and now he needed help to get back where he needed to be.

How do you lose the edge of the bath while scrubbing and rinsing your hair? You're in a bath, presumably with water that comes up to at least waist level when standing or chest level when sitting, so you rinse by either submerging yourself or bending over to dunk your hair or using a towel or other container to pour water over your head. None of this requires moving in any significant way!

For the record, I am super grossed out by the fact that everyone is both RINSING OFF BODILY GRIME and then lounging in the SAME WATER that nobody is cleaning in between bathers. I'm pretty sure the separation of the rinsing and the relaxing areas of a bath house is not a thing unique to Asian bath houses.

quote:

"I'm sorry to bother you, but I seem to have lost the edge of the bath," he said, speaking in the general direction of the gentle splashes he'd heard. The man had come into the water, and wasn't far from where Lorand stood. "If you'll guide me back to it, I'll introduce myself in the proper way once I can see again."

Lorand heard a soft chuckle, and then there were two hands on his shoulder and back, turning him in what was hopefully the proper direction. He moved forward with arms outstretched, searching for the edge even as he wondered about the newcomer. The poor man seemed to have very small hands, which must have gotten him teased as a child and ridiculed as an adult, Lorand would have to be careful not to say the wrong thing and upset the fellow; he'd already had words with one of his brother applicants, and didn't want to get the reputation of being a troublemaker. His hands finally closed on the towel, so he used it to wipe his eyes and soak up some of the water in his hair, then he turned back to the newcomer.

Spoilers: it's not who Lorand thinks it is! I don't even know why he persists in this stupid assumption when he heard a chuckle. That alone should be enough to tell him he's wrong just from the timbre and register of chuckler's voice.

quote:

"Lorand Coll, Earth magic, at your—" service, only his mind finished, his tongue too frozen with shock to speak the word—or any other. The man with the very small hands wasn't a man at all. He was a woman— She was a woman, and the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen despite the obvious hardship she'd been through. Golden-blond hair and blue-green eyes, an oval face with the most perfect features, a slender body with large breasts, a tiny waist, and beautifully shaped legs . . . Perfect was the only word to describe her, that and—

"Naked!" Lorand blurted, his tongue starting to work again at precisely the wrong time. "We're both naked, and you're a woman!"

"How lovely of you to notice," she returned in a warm, husky voice that reached down to caress him in a usually unmentionable place.



quote:

"I'm a woman and you're a man, and we're both unclothed. Do people usually bathe in their clothes where you come from?"

As she spoke she moved toward the deep water, but still hadn't stopped looking up at him. She was such a little thing, not particularly short but slender and delicate, yes, that was it, delicate. And naked. Her having called it "unclothed" instead hadn't helped in the least.

"That was a silly question, and I'm glad you're ignoring it," she said with a tinkling laugh as she lowered herself a bit more into the water. "Ummm, this feels marvelous, Lorand Coll. I'm Jovvi Hafford, Spirit magic, and I have the feeling you've never bathed with a woman present before. I thought the custom of mixed bathing had spread everywhere."

"Not everywhere," Lorand answered hoarsely, frantically trying to decide what to do. What he wanted to do was stop staring at her like a virgin boy and casually turn his back to hide his own nakedness, but he couldn't think how to do that without appearing like an awkward child. And if there was anything he didn't want to look like in front of this incredible woman . . .



quote:

"Then I really must apologize," she said in that velvet voice, now sounding completely sincere. "If you're not used to mixed bathing, then you must be horribly embarrassed. I should have waited until you were through and gone, instead of barging in and intruding. I'll wrap up in a towel and wait outside, and you can—"

"No," Lorand interrupted, stopping her as she actually began to leave the bath. "I won't hear of you waiting for what I know you need so badly, not just to soothe my backward beliefs. It so happens I was just about through anyway, so please let me be the one to allow you your privacy. It's the least I can do for being so rude."

Lorand had no idea where all the flowery words and phrases were coming from, he just felt great that they were. He'd read a lot of things over the years that his father had considered trash, but some of the heroes in those books had spoken like that. Maybe that was where it had come from, and if so he blessed his teachers for having made him read them. That was because Jovvi Hafford now smiled at him in a way that made her even more beautiful, and seeing that was worth anything he could imagine.

Looks like Clarion wasn't alone in binge reading trashy romance novels!

quote:

"That must be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me," she replied, speaking what had to be a lie, but a very pleasant one. "I'll accept your offer if you insist, but it would be perfectly all right if you stayed. I won't mind in the least."

"I'd mind staying even less than that, but I think it will be better if I go," Lorand forced himself to say, then turned casually to the steps. "I'll be out of your way in no time at all."

Jovvi didn't respond to that, so he was able to concentrate on wrapping the towel around his middle as if it were totally unimportant. In point of fact the towel now hid the extreme interest he'd found in the woman, something she'd happily missed seeing while he was in the water. He would have blushed like a firebloom if she'd noticed, but now he was safe.

Trust me, she noticed.

quote:

Or relatively safe. He kept his back turned while he dried himself in record time, briefly wishing his magic could have helped the way Mardimil's magic had dried him. Jovvi certainly wasn't watching him, but that wasn't keeping him from imagining her gaze on him, rating what she saw. Rating what usually wasn't seen by anyone but other men. drat it, stop thinking like that before you start to blush like a schoolgirl!

That last sentence sticks out so oddly, since Green hasn't used direct thought in any POVs other than Tamrissa's. Also the typesetting doesn't italicize it or anything to distinguish it. Finally, remember Tamrissa is narrating the whole thing via her journal. Writing Lorand's POV in third person limited is already weird in that context, and inserting a direct thought in third person limited is even more weird.

quote:

Lorand couldn't remember dressing ever taking so long, and the fact that he couldn't hurry in any obvious way just made it worse. But he wasn't going to add to that by saying anything, so as soon as he was ready he gathered up his dirty clothes and headed for the door. When he reached it he thought he was in the clear, but Jovvi's voice came just as he began to push through.

"It was nice to meet you, Lorand Coll," she said in a way that made his toes want to curl. "See you later at dinner."

Did he just ?

quote:

"I certainly hope so," he managed to get out, then finally escaped without looking back. But he'd wanted to look back, and after he reached his room he wondered if she would have minded. She hadn't seemed to mind when they were in the water, but it wouldn't have been the same with him fully dressed. No, he'd been right not to impose on her broad-mindedness, especially since he couldn't match it. Between the two of them, he was the overly-modest old maid.

But maybe that was something he'd get over. Lorand sat down in one of the room's very comfortable chairs, closing his eyes in order to look at Jovvi again. If he was smart he'd work at getting over his modesty, but meanwhile there was dinner to think about and look forward to . . . Good thing he hadn't made more of a fool of himself by asking for directions to a cheap place to eat. . . .



Summary:

Day 1
Tamrissa Vallant Clarion Lorand escapes being crushed burned alive asphyxiated live burial by melting and cutting pieces of metal conjuring an ice elevator pretending to be a giant toilet plunger building a stairway to heaven. A creepy dude gives her him "water" to drink. SheHe goes homeis taken to Tamrissa's house and wakes Tamrissa Vallant up when he walks in on her him Clarion in the bath house. They exchange initially angry friendly which turn angry and she Vallant Clarion leaves. Vallant Clarion Lorand proceeds to fall asleep get lost while in a bath and the whole thing is repeated with Clarion Lorand Jovvi.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 12
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 12
COACH RIDES: 8
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 13
"CLIFFHANGERS": 8
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 7
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 1
BATH SCENES: 4
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 2

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapter 11, 12, 13, 14)

Possible fixes:
Lorand and Jovvi's entire romance arc is about him having to overcome his prejudices regarding polygamy and women's autonomy over their own bodies. Since Jovvi is a courtesan, the conflicting world views will eventually come up anyway (as we'll see in about...13 chapters) so we don't need their initial meeting to establish that conflict. In which case, the initial meeting is simply about establishing attraction, which means it can take place anywhere. Green's writing of this arc is so hilariously paced that they basically go from attraction to Lorand proposing in the space of 1-2 interactions that take place over 1-2 days. I think it's because Green's background as a romance writer means she's got romance plotting in her head; two people who are interested in each other just simply can't get together immediately - there wouldn't be enough angst to sustain the plot otherwise!

Since this is supposed to be a fantasy novel, not a romance novel, the THREE romance plots should be subplots that provide variety to the main plot. Instead, Green can't seem to distinguish between which of her plot lines is the main one. There being three romances going on versus the singular storyline about the competition to become the next Seated Blending, the page time spent on the romances far outweigh the time spent on preparing for the competition (during which every single protagonist agonizes over the manufactured not-drama in their love life). This - apart from all of the repetition of the same beats over and over five times - is what drags down the pacing of these novels so much.

In my rewrite so far, I threw out the bath house sequence and made a big change with regards to Hat he passes easily and Lorand struggles to get through, so there's an equal friendship/rivalry instead of the unbalanced one we've got now. The Lorand/Jovvi relationship is set up via casual Lorand/Hat banter to pull back from the heavy romance focus. I did write a Lorand/Jovvi scene to establish the dynamic of their relationship, but kept it minimal. If I rewrite this again, I think I would link that scene somehow to the main plot to make it do more work.

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 FIFTEEN

Jovvi stood in the middle of the four-foot-wide walkway and trembled, feeling all those emotions of anger and outrage batter at her. She had to calm those feelings and bring them to a peaceful balance, but reaching to them a few at a time hadn't worked. When she released one group of them in order to soothe another, the first group went back to raging. She had to cross twenty-five feet of walkway to reach the door that would let her out of that place, but if she tried it with all those feelings storming around her, she'd be knocked off the walkway to her death.

Maybe crawling is not an option because Jovvi is a lady, or whatever?

quote:

She was really terrified and desperate, but when her quaking mind began to think that she'd never been so frightened in her entire life, some tiny part inside her immediately denied that. Her father had been killed in a mining accident when she was nine, and her mother had been left with Jovvi and her two older brothers and the baby. Her mother, a very minor talent in Water magic, was already taking in washing to help make ends meet, and the death of her husband was a blow she'd never recovered from.

This backstory about how Jovvi's dad died should really have featured more prominently. As we don't have any other information about mining generally in this world, I'm assuming he worked in the Deep Caverns though that doesn't make sense since it's implied that only lawbreakers are sent there.

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Some women fall apart when tragedy takes away the one source of strength and safety in their lives, but some grow hard and tough themselves as a replacement for what was gone. Jovvi's mother had been a pleasant and loving woman who scolded but smiled indulgently when her husband tried to spoil their children. That changed completely and without warning once her husband was dead, as though someone had taken her a great distance away without moving her body an inch. Parli, Jovvi's mother, turned as cold as an uncaring stranger, and never again looked at her children with love.

But that didn't mean she stopped looking at them, usually in a darkly musing way. The silver from their father's death price wasn't much, but Parli had been paid for each of the children. Jovvi had stood behind the door to their shack's second room, listening to the stranger her mother had become muttering aloud as she counted and recounted the silver. No matter how carefully the amount was stretched, it couldn't possibly last more than four or five months. After that they would all starve if she didn't do something, so she would have to do something.

Somebody please describe what a "darkly musing way" is supposed to be. It's unclear whether the "death price" is from her father's employer or from the government (I'd assume the former). This paragraph is pretty ambiguously written, so it's unclear who the "she" in the last sentence is - Parli or Jovvi. I'm thinking it's supposed to be Parli, since Jovvi is nine, but maybe it's supposed to be Jovvi.

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For a very long time, Jovvi had no idea what that something would turn out to be. Living on almost nothing was very hard, and she and her brothers took to roaming around their part of town, searching the refuse of those who were wealthier. Almost everyone fell into that category, and occasionally they found things that were edible. When that happened she and her brothers shared the treasure, making no effort to bring any of it back to the stranger who pretended to look after them.

Jovvi wasn't sure just when she noticed that the baby was gone, but Parli certainly didn't mention it. Nor did she seem particularly upset, so Jovvi thought she understood. The baby had been the weakest of them, and simply hadn't been able to survive living on almost nothing. The little girl had died, and now Parli was pleased because there was one less mouth to feed.

But five months went by, then eight and more, and the meager amount of silver still hadn't run out. They all wore rags and usually went to bed hungry, but Parli still had silver to count at night when she thought the children were asleep.

This is pretty sad.

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Then, about eleven months after her father's death, Jovvi's oldest brother disappeared. She and her last remaining brother searched everywhere for him, but no one had seen him nor did anyone see him again. It was supposed that he ran away from what could no longer be called a home, but he hadn't even said goodbye to her. They'd been so close . . . had he been afraid she'd beg to go with him, and hadn't wanted her any more than their mother did?

After that she and her other brother grew apart, so when the day came that he also disappeared without a word of goodbye, Jovvi wasn't surprised. It had become a matter of everyone for himself, so Jovvi was surprised when she returned to the shack and Parli smiled at her.

"The best for last," she murmured, stroking Jovvi's cheek once before turning back to her cooking fire. "Come and eat, Jovvi, so your beauty will come more quickly to full bloom,"

That grammatical error is from the actual text. Looks like this book didn't get a copy edit either.

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Jovvi had had no idea what Parli was talking about, and grew even more confused when decent food was available more often than it had ever been before. She still wore rags, but at least she now had what to eat every once in a while. It wasn't until she was almost twelve years old that the man and his bully boys came to get her, the man her mother had sold her to. That was when she realized that the baby hadn't died and the boys hadn't run away . . . and even though she was a widow her mother was pregnant again. . . .

Annnnd there goes Green, ruining what was otherwise a half decent flashback to Jovvi's traumatic childhood by beating us over the head with the obvious conclusions.

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"Now, that was when I first understood the meaning of fear," Jovvi whispered to herself, gathering together the scraps of her courage. "But I survived it and the worse that followed, so I refuse to not survive this. There's supposed to be a way to win, and all  I have to do is find it."

Green keeps on having her protagonists talk to themselves in these "critical moments" which is really bizarre. As an author, you've got so many choices as to how to go about showing what the characters are thinking. She did this just one chapter ago, by going into direct thought in Lorand's POV! If that feels too weird, she's also got the option of indirect though. Why would you choose to opt for direct speech of all things when you got the other choices?

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All. That had been easy to say, but doing it would prove a good deal harder. The invisible wind of all those emotions buffeted her mercilessly and with ever-increasing strength, and simple determination would never get her across those twenty-five feet to escape and safety. She'd have to calm and balance the emotions, but the way she'd already tried hadn't worked. Maybe if she ran . . .

MAYBE IF YOU CRAWLED!??!?!?!

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Jovvi sighed, discarding the idea of running without any further consideration. She'd been a very fast runner during her childhood, and could have managed a good deal of speed even dressed the way she was. But the strength of the invisible wind would overcome even the fastest runner in the world, knocking her off balance and off the walkway. No, she needed to find a way to shield herself from the buffeting long enough to get across the walkway, but how could she do that?

In frustration she tried to soothe the raging around her again, and actually managed to calm a group, hold it, and then calm a second group. When she tried to hold those two and reach for a third, the whole thing fell apart and she was back to where she'd been. And she staggered a little under the renewed load, which brought the sour taste of fear back to her mouth. She had to get out of there, or all her plans would die along with her.

You should first learn to CRAWL before you try to walk and then run!

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And that wasn't something she was prepared to let happen. She'd worked too long and hard to get where she was to let it all go to waste, not even if that gauntlet of unbalance stretched all the way back to Rincammon. There had to be a way to get past it—

Jovvi stood very still as the idea came to her, making her wonder if she could do it after all. The key to getting out of there had to be going through the storm, since it wasn't possible to go around it. Going through meant balancing the forces raging at her to keep from being knocked over, but that didn't mean they all had to be balanced at once. She supposedly could have drawn in enough power to do that, but her sense of preservation told her she'd never be able to handle it. No, she had to hold and balance only two groups at a time, and that way she might make it.

If she held one group on each side of her. If she released those two and took another two that would allow her to move forward. If she could stand fast until she had the second two groups balanced well enough to move between them. If, if, if. . .

But there wasn't any other choice and Jovvi knew it. Her face perspired freely now, echoing the strain the rest of her body felt, but there was no getting around it. She had to try her idea and make it work, or else her lifetime of struggle would have been for nothing. She took a deep breath, ignoring how uneven it was, and plunged into the first of it.

Close enough.

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Balancing the first two groups of emotion on either side of her was fractionally harder than it had been the last time she'd tried, showing she was seriously beginning to tire. That meant she had no time to waste, so she moved to the far side of her small island of calm, dropped the two groups, and reached for two more. She nearly lost her balance before the second two groups were calmed, but she couldn't let herself notice that. She simply had to keep on with it, moving three or so feet ahead with every successful effort.

By the time Jovvi was almost to the door, she was drenched in sweat and lightheaded. She reached to the last two groups automatically, but calming the railing storm made her clench her teeth and fists with the effort. She'd almost lost the previous groups too soon, and if she hadn't been so exhausted she would have been terrified. But there was no strength to spare for terror, only for doing what had to be done.

The calm in the last two groups took forever to come to full balance, but once it did Jovvi was able to reach the door. It had a simple latch string coming from a hole drilled through it, but pulling the string didn't open the door. It lifted the latch so the door could be pushed open, and it took Jovvi a short while to figure that out. Once she did she stumbled through into what looked like a hall, finally able to let go of the power. If she'd had to hold it for even one more minute. . . .

This is such a weird detail. The different ways the exit doors are barred are irrelevant to the story and adds nothing.

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Paying no attention to whether or not the hallway floor was clean, Jovvi used the wall opposite the door to help her sit down without falling down. The muscles in all four of her limbs had turned to quivering water, and she couldn't understand why she hadn't passed out. Fainting wasn't something she'd ever actually done, but passing out after a time of incredible harshness . . .

You were on the verge of fainting after the fireball attack. I don't believe you when you say you're not the fainting type.

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"There, there, my dear, it's all over now," a male voice soothed, and suddenly there was an arm around her shoulders helping to support her. "Here, drink this and it will make you feel better."

"This" was a cup of what looked like water, but when the man helped Jovvi to drink from it she found it was better than water. It began to return a small measure of strength to her almost immediately, so she drained it to the very last drop.

"Yes, you will feel more like yourself in just a few minutes," the man said as he took back the cup, giving Jovvi the chance to see that he was the man from behind the table in the outer room. "And now I can offer my congratulations for your accomplishment. Your first test is passed and behind you."

"First and last test," Jovvi corrected, making no effort to be in the least pleasant or pleasing. After that ordeal she certainly looked a complete horror, so there would have been no point in trying to play the game. "My life is mine to live, not yours to threaten, so you will never get another chance to do the same again. As soon as I've recovered my breath I'm leaving, so you may summon a carriage for me at once."

"A coach is already on its way," the man replied in something of a murmur, looking at her the way most men did when she stood fresh and lovely and smiling. "I'm afraid it won't be taking you where you think it will, though, because this is not the last of your involvement with us. A series of sessions have already been scheduled for you, and you will appear for them. The law is quite clear on the matter, and even a woman as breathtaking as you must obey it."

The man's hand had begun to stroke her arm where it had previously rested, bringing Jovvi as close to outrage as her exhaustion allowed. She quickly shifted out of reach of the fool who believed he could enjoy her without paying her price, and stared at him coldly.

This guy is and the way Jovvi thinks about it is...actually good characterization!

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"I've made it my business to have an adequate knowledge of the law, and I've never heard of the one you just referred to," she told him flatly. "If you think you can bully me into going along even further with this madness, you're very much mistaken. I'm not a fool and I never let myself be bullied."

"I quite believe that," the man responded, looking at her with faint amusement but making no effort to follow. "In this instance, however, your knowledge is somewhat lacking. The laws covering applicants for High practitioner positions are a specialized and specific group, and therefore aren't generally available to those people not directly concerned with the matter. If you wish, access to the main archives here in the city will be arranged for you."

"I do wish it," Jovvi replied stiffly, showing nothing of the agitation she felt. The awful man sounded so sure of himself, and had even offered her the chance to see for herself. . .

"But until the access is provided, there will be no other 'sessions.' Furthermore, I'll be taking a house here in the city—"

"No, my dear," the beast interrupted, still unperturbed but also unmoving. "The law does not need to be held in abeyance until you confirm it. Refusal to participate in the program is not allowed, and should you attempt to do so you are subject to arrest. Trial is swift and the sentencing mandatory, which is five years at hard labor in the deep mines. Only at the end of those five years would you again be free to pursue your life according to your own desires. Is this what you wish?"

Despite what she'd so recently gone through, Jovvi discovered it was still possible for fear to touch her. The man was looking too smug for his speech to be a complete lie, which probably meant the mandatory sentence was the truth. Five years at hard labor in the deep mines, where not even starving miners worked voluntarily. Even if she survived, her career as a courtesan would be over, and survival would be far from certain. She would make it a point to check the law anyway, specifically for the loopholes this creature wasn't likely to mention, but until then she had no choice but to cooperate.

This would have been a much better place to put the flashback about Jovvi's father.

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"Your expression tells me you're prepared to be your usual gracious and agreeable self," the man said after a moment, straightening from his crouch before offering her his hand. "With that in view we'll get you on your way to the residence where you've been assigned and where you may rest. You need only remember that discussing the details of your test with anyone at all is strictly forbidden."

Jovvi reluctantly allowed him to help her to her feet, but only because standing up alone was probably beyond her and she needed badly to be out of that place. But once erect she was able to stand alone, and the man made no effort to retain her hand.

"Your accommodation at the residence will be paid for by us, but your food and other necessities must be paid for out of your own pocket." The man had begun to walk around the curve of the hallway, and Jovvi lost no time in following. "That may sound like a cruel burden, but after the sessions I mentioned there will be competitions, the winning of which will earn you bonuses in gold. Ah, your coach has arrived."

By then he'd reached and opened a door, which clearly led out of the building. Jovvi stepped out behind him to find that a coach did indeed seem to be waiting for her, and one which had her trunk in its boot. These people seemed incredibly efficient, to get a coach there so quickly after her victory. And one that had also had the time to learn what luggage was hers and collect it. Such efficiency seemed to go beyond the normal bounds of the condition, but rather than mention it Jovvi decided to keep it in mind instead.

Foreshadowing! And Jovvi's the only one to notice this detail so far. It's unclear whether we're supposed to take it further confirmation that the rest of the crew are unobservant (which we already know) or that the trial was so harrowing that only someone "super observant" like Jovvi would notice.

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"There you are, my dear," the man said once he'd helped her into the coach. "The driver will take you where you're supposed to go, and you'll have the opportunity to rest before your first session. Perhaps we'll even meet again."

Jovvi made no effort to answer that suggestion in words, but the cool look she gave the man was designed to say it all. Whether or not they met again made no difference whatsoever; Jovvi would not, under any circumstances, remember him. His rueful smile said he understood her intentions perfectly, but that ever-present amusement also said that what would happen remained to be seen. Then he gestured to the driver, and the coach began to move.

I think this is another attempt to characterize Jovvi as oh so socially savvy - she can convey whole speeches in a single look and read motives in every expression! But this is just...awful. Let's compare Green's attempts to one from Janny Wurtz/Raymond Feist, from a scene in Servant of the Empire:

Mara waved for a servant to carry away the refreshment tray, which Jiro had not touched. Although she regretted provoking Jican's disappointment that the finest fruits in the kitchens should be spurned, she was too tense to indulge herself. She did not like the way Jiro's eyes darted about, taking in every detail of the Acoma hall, servants, and guardsmen. His interest held the hunger of an officer in an enemy camp who gathered information in preparation for an assault. Never as straightforward as his elder brother, Halesco, Jiro thought in subtleties that were rooted in ambition. Mara strove to sort out how much of what he spoke was truth, and how much was exaggeration designed to scare her.

The difference is striking - Mara's inner monologue shows a constant awareness of how other characters think and their motives. The specific details called out in the description adds so much characterization. The only emotions that are flat out stated are Mara's own, in a thought that demonstrates Mara herself is self aware of her own emotions and the consequences of her actions in managing them.

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It took only a few moments before they passed through an archway in the outer wall and were on the street, and then Jovvi was finally able to relax. There had been something disturbing about that entire area, and it was a positive relief to leave it. She hated the idea of not being able to get on with her plans, but there was a bright note in all that hampering fog: that bonus in gold the man had mentioned. It simply wasn't possible to have too much gold, and if it turned out she had to participate in those competitions, she fully intended to make the most of the time.

The constant references to "bonus in gold" drives me nuts. I'm not asking Green to have figured out the whole economy for her fake fantasy world but we should get some indications of how much things cost, relative wealth, etc. We've had five chapters of the protagonists, all of whom (other than Lorand) either come from money or are independently wealthy, so none of them should be impressed by a vague promise of more gold. Like are we talking 10 gold or 200,000 gold? Is it a fancy meal at the best restaurant in Gan Garee or the equivalent to the total yearly income from a High Lord's estates?

In theory, Jovvi the wantrepreneur should really be running some calculations of opportunity costs in her head. How much gold does she bring in as a famous courtesan in a month? 1,000 gold? 5,000 gold? 10,000 gold? What's her profit after her expenses? How much does it cost to rent the kind of house that is suitable for a courtesan's residence? How much would Jovvi's cut be as a sponsor for other courtesans? How long does it take to become cash flow positive when starting a new residence? Because if Jovvi started out with 10,000 gold sewn into her travelling clothes, with rent for a suitable furnished residence being 2,000 gold per month, she can pull in 1,000 gold per week alone and it only takes 5-10 leads to secure 3-4 regular patrons assuming she's as desirable as all her POV chapters seem to indicate, then the competitions better be paying some insane one-off bonus in the tune of at least 10,000 gold or more.

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Once they left the area of the testing center, the drive became rather pleasant for Jovvi. The neighborhoods they passed through slowly improved to the point of being quite lovely, and possibly even the sort of area she'd been looking for. Large private houses were to either side of the street, but most of them couldn't be seen by the casual passerby. Only occasional glimpses were visible, but those glimpses suggested the necessary combination of large-scale privacy and good taste.

And then the coach turned into the drive of one of those houses, a pleasant surprise Jovvi hadn't been expecting. She'd been certain they would house her in a hovel somewhere, just to further exercise their authority. Those with authority always exercised it, and sometimes those without authority tried to pretend otherwise. It was usually possible to tell the difference, especially if you studied the matter the way she had.

More Words of Wisdom from our Jovvi.

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The coach pulled up in front of a house that fit Jovvi's mind picture perfectly, making her feel a good deal better. Her enforced stay here would not be a total waste of time after all, since living in a neighborhood let you look around quite easily for property on the market. But first she badly needed to refresh herself, not to mention spend a long, full night asleep in a real bed. If she'd been weary when she'd reached the testing center, now she was nearly done in completely.

A woman and two male servants came out of the house, but one of the men stopped to help Jovvi from the coach before joining the other at the boot. The woman waited at the top of the steps with a sweet smile on her unfortunately plain face, and when Jovvi reached her she gave a small curtsy.

"Welcome to the house, ma'am," she said, sounding as if she meant it. "I'm Warla, and as soon as the men have your trunk I'll show you to your room."

"Thank you, Warla," Jovvi answered with automatic kindness, forcing herself to supply something of a matching smile. "I'm Jovvi Hafford, and I'm delighted to finally be somewhere that has no wheels. The day has been rather more strenuous than I expected it to be, so please excuse me if I'm less than completely cordial."

"Oh, you poor thing, you look as spent as my mistress did," Warla sympathized, reaching a hand out but withdrawing it again before actually touching Jovvi. "She's an applicant too, and returned in the same condition. Oh, the men have your trunk now, so we'll go directly to your room."

Jovvi had been about to mention taking care of the coach driver, but the coach was already on its way out and Warla had turned to lead the way into the house. That made one less thing to worry about, so Jovvi simply followed the girl inside. Warla was obviously one of those sweet, innocent people the world sometimes produced, people whose sole purpose in life seemed to be helping others. Right now Jovvi needed that help, and was grateful to find it so easily to hand.

The hall inside the entrance made Jovvi blink, as it was decorated in the exact way she'd been taught not to decorate.

At what point does courtesan training include interior design and decoration?

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Too much of anything—including expensive things—made a clutter, and gave people the impression that you were trying to prove something. And distracted visitors from really impressive things like that magnificent staircase. Jovvi examined it with pleasure as she followed Warla in climbing it, promising herself one just like it once that testing nonsense was behind her.

At the top of the stairs Warla led the way to the right, then stopped at the first door on the right. They'd passed a door on the left that probably opened into the master apartment, but the room behind the opened door was quite pleasant. It was about the same size as one of the ones in the suite she'd had in Allestine's residence, and should be perfectly suitable for the short length of time she would be in it.

Because girls can't be best friends unless they have rooms right next to each other.

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She and Warla stood to one side while the men carried in her trunk, and once the servants were gone Warla turned to her with another of those shy smiles.

"If there's anything you need, just speak to one of the servants," she was told with true warmth. "Or, if you like, you can ask me. Is there anything you need right now?"

"At the moment I'd most enjoy knowing where the bath house is," Jovvi answered, again trying to respond to the smile. "If I have to wait much longer before getting out of these clothes and into clean ones, I'll probably cry."

"Well, of course you would!" Warla agreed earnestly, again reaching out then drawing back before touching Jovvi. "I'm sure I would do exactly the same. The bath house is not far out the back, along the path to the left and before the gardens. You really can't miss it."

Jovvi thanked the girl, hoping it wouldn't be difficult to send her on her way, and it wasn't. Warla performed another small curtsy and left without even being asked, and Jovvi was impressed. As she went to the trunk to find something clean to wear, she considered trying to hire Warla away to be her personal attendant once she was properly settled. A discreet attendant with a sweet, giving nature was a precious jewel, as Jovvi knew from having had to put up with too many who weren't.

She's been in Tamrissa's house for 10 minutes and she's already planning on headhunting away the staff. With her background of growing up on the streets, it's implied that Jovvi used to steal. This book would be a lot more interesting to read if Jovvi systematically stole all of the expensive things in Tamrissa's house and fenced them for additional start up capital.

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But that thought was for later, and getting clean again was for as soon as she could reach the bath house. There weren't many people about as she made her way through the house, just quiet servants going about their business. Did that mean she and Warla's mistress were the only two applicants in the house right now? That would be pleasant—or not, depending on what sort of woman Warla's mistress was. And was there a master as well? She'd have to remember to ask.

The gardens were lovely and inviting, but not as inviting as the path to the left leading to the bath house. Jovvi moved as quickly as she was able and stepped inside—only to find the bath already occupied. And by a man. The lack of solitude was disappointing, but far from discouraging. She'd bathed many times in the company of men, but wouldn't have let his presence stop her even if she hadn't. Her need for that refreshing water was much too great, and besides— what she could see of the man was far from uninteresting.

Remember when you saw the exact same guy when you got out of the coach earlier that day and you did not think he was hot at all?

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Jovvi lost no time in getting out of her clothes and into the water, and her companion did nothing to acknowledge her presence. He seemed far too involved with scrubbing his light hair, which probably meant he was another applicant. Her own hair felt twice its normal weight from having soaked up her sweat, but the delightfully warm water would soon take care of that—once she'd soaked a bit.

"I'm sorry to bother you," her companion said suddenly, "but I seem to have lost the edge of the bath. If you'll guide me back to it, I'll introduce myself in the proper way once I 'can see again."

He stood with his eyes closed tight against the soap he'd been using in his hair, which was clearly how he'd gotten turned around and moved too far from the edge. Jovvi chuckled at the charming way he'd put his request for help and moved closer to do as he'd asked, but couldn't help being somewhat impressed. He was a beautifully large man with broad shoulders and rock-hard arms, a wide and well defined chest, narrow waist, and strong legs. He was impressively made in another way as well, finishing off a picture her patrons had rarely matched. Wealthy men were rarely beautifully made as well, which might be why they'd had the time to become wealthy.



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Jovvi carefully turned the stranger in the proper direction, then watched as he groped his way to the towel lying at the edge of the bath. He used it first on his eyes and then to interrupt the dripping from his stylishly long hair, and finally turned back to her to say, "Lorand Coll, Earth magic, at your—"

And that was as far as he got before his mouth dropped open and his lovely brown eyes widened. Obviously he hadn't been expecting someone like her, as his handsome face actually darkened with a blush. Jovvi found that delightful, but wouldn't have laughed aloud for any amount. The poor man was already horribly embarrassed, which his next words more than proved.

"Naked!" he blurted, clearly the foremost thing bothering him. "We're both naked, and you're a woman!"

"How lovely of you to notice," Jovvi couldn't help replying, tickled that he seemed to be worried about her virtue. She'd never met a man who'd worried about that before, at least not with her. "I'm a woman and you're a man, and we're both unclothed. Do people usually bathe in their clothes where you come from?"

She'd tried some gentle teasing to make him relax, and even moved away from him to help his distress. But he was such a lovely sight that she couldn't bring herself to look away from him, and so was able to see that her teasing hadn't helped. Possibly a little flirting then, which most men usually appreciated and responded to.

"That was a silly question and I'm glad you're ignoring it," she said with her most attractive laugh as she bent her knees to let that deliciously warm water reach more of her. "Ummm, this feels marvelous, Lorand Coll. I'm Jovvi Hafford, Spirit magic, and I have the feeling you've never bathed with a woman present before. I thought the custom of mixed bathing had spread everywhere."

"Not everywhere," he disagreed, his pleasant voice somewhat strained, and once again Jovvi was impressed. Another man in his place might have tried to claim that he wasn't disturbed by the situation at all, but this man seemed more inclined to speak the truth. That was a rarity beyond price in her experience, since people—and especially men—never spoke the actual truth to her. Her first urge was to continue flirting the way she usually did, but this man deserved better.

I can't tell whether or not Green's trying to signal something early about Spirit magic or not. Spoilers for Books 2 and 3: Spirit and Earth magic users are walking lie detectors

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"Then I really must apologize," she said instead, trying to give back the honesty she'd gotten. "If you're not used to mixed bathing, then you must be horribly embarrassed. I should have waited until you were through and gone, instead of barging in and intruding. I'll wrap up in a towel and wait outside, and you can—"

"No," the man interrupted, both her words and her exit, his tone firm and no longer uneven. "I won't hear of you waiting for what I know you need so badly, not just to soothe my backward beliefs. It so happens I was just about through anyway, so please let me be the one to allow you your privacy. It's the least I can do for being so rude."

Jovvi was certain the man must be trying to impress her with false gallantry the way men usually did, but one look at Lorand Coll told her it wasn't so. The man was still being absolutely sincere, and there was no doubt that he really would leave.

One look with your eyes or with your talent?

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"That must be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me," she told him with her own honesty and the sort of smile her patrons had never gotten to see. "I'll accept your offer if you insist, but it would be perfectly all right if you stayed. I won't mind in the least."

Jovvi realized her basic distrust of people had made her test Lorand's sincerity, but amazingly she didn't end up disappointed.

"I'd mind staying even less than that, but I think it will be better if I go," he said, flashing her a very handsome smile before turning to the steps. "I'll be out of your way in no time at all."

See, he really did mean it, she gleefully told her suspicion, watching Lorand leave the bath. There were those who claimed that men like him could be found all over, but until today Jovvi had considered the claim a fairy tale. Men had always been quick to do things for her, but always for what they expected—or hoped—to get in return. This man could have bartered the opportunity for privacy, asking for her use now or some time later, but he hadn't said a word about it.

But he also isn't gone yet, her suspicion pointed out in rebuttal, and you can't say you didn't notice how interesting he found you. Let's see what he says before he does leave.

Oh, just with your eyes.

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Jovvi was content to wait and see, especially since she had the back of Lorand to look at while he dried himself. And a lovely back it was, so broad and nicely muscled and leading down to hard, firm buttocks and those strong, well-shaped legs. He was a desirable man, all right, but Jovvi didn't realize completely just how desirable he was until he was all dressed, had gathered up his dirty clothes, and was heading for the door. Without saying anything else, she smugly pointed out to her suspicion. But that didn't mean she had to stay equally as silent.

"It was nice to meet you, Lorand Coll," she said as he was almost out the door. "See you later at dinner."

"I certainly hope so," he responded without turning, and then he was gone just as he'd said he would be. His clothing was awful, not just out of style but never in style, but that meant nothing. Jovvi was usually surrounded by sophistication, and knew better than most how quickly it became tiring.

But once dressed, Lorand had somehow looked familiar. Those two men who had arrived together at the same time she had; could he have been one of them? It didn't really matter, unless one looked at the coincidence as some sort of sign. She and Lorand might be meant for each other, especially since she'd need someone like him once she had her residence established. His presence would discourage patrons from trying to stay beyond their allotted time, and then she could find her own pleasure spending the night with him. She'd never actually had extreme pleasure from a man, but something told her Lorand was one who could supply it. . . .

Ding ding ding! Also apparently Jovvi can tell whether or not someone will be a good lover just by looking at their .

quote:

Jovvi suddenly laughed at herself, interrupting the daydreaming to get down to the business of washing. She was still stuck with having to go through those "sessions," and so, obviously, was Lorand. Until she found a loophole in the law to free the two of them, making plans was a foolish waste of time. Time that could be used more profitably napping while waiting for dinner to be ready.

It would have felt good to soak in the bath for the next hour or two, but Jovvi knew that the longer she waited, the harder it would be to get herself moving out of there. So she washed her body and hair, being careful not to lose the edge of the bath, then dried and dressed. On the way back to the main house she passed another woman obviously heading for the bath house, a tall woman with reddish-brown hair who was pretty in a hard, obvious way. The other passed Jovvi without a word or a glance, so Jovvi shrugged to herself and simply returned to her room.

Hi Beldara! We'll get to hating you in Chapter 17.

quote:

Stretching out on the bed felt wonderful even if she was fully clothed. Getting in and out of her things was completely beyond her, and there was still dinner to look forward to. But not before she'd napped a little . . . and then added a few touches of makeup . . . brushed her hair . . . hid her gold. . . .

If you were going to sleep, why did you bother to get fully dressed after your bath? Being as image conscious as you are, I refuse to believe you are ok with your dress being all wrinkled from sleeping in it.

quote:

So you see some of us had an easier time of it than others. Meeting each other, I mean. None of that first part was easy, nor were the times that followed. I often found myself wondering if it was really worth what we were putting into it, but most of that came later. It was when—Oh, all right, I'll tell it in the order it happened. There were other things happening as well, much of which we either heard about later, or put together with guesswork. You see, it was—All right, all right, I'll stop telling them about it and show them! But if you feel so strongly about my innocent comments, I'll just have to make fewer of them in future.

YES, PLEASE SHUT UP WITH YOUR STUPID COMMENTS TAMRISSA!!

Summary:

Day 1
Tamrissa Vallant Clarion Lorand Jovvi escapes being crushed burned alive asphyxiated live burial buffeted by emotion wind into an abyss by melting and cutting pieces of metal conjuring an ice elevator pretending to be a giant toilet plunger building a stairway to heaven by NOT CRAWLING. A creepy dude gives her him her "water" to drink. She He She goes homeis taken to Tamrissa's house and wakes Tamrissa Vallant up when he walks in on her him Clarion Lorand in the bath house. They exchange initially angry friendly flirty which turn angry and she Vallant Clarion Lorand leaves. Vallant Clarion Lorand Jovvi proceeds to fall asleep get lost while in a actually finish her bath without falling asleep and the whole thing is repeated with Clarion Lorand Jovvi we're finally done with this stupid bath house sequence.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 13
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 12
COACH RIDES: 9
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 14
"CLIFFHANGERS": 8
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 1
BATH SCENES: 5
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 2

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapter 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)

Possible fixes:
Brainwash this chapter into being something else. And maybe the whole book up until this point. I did a quick count and we are at 71,161 words (15 out of the 44 chapters in Book 1) so far. The chapter lengths are so unbalanced (the shortest being 726 words long in the Prologue or 2320 words in Chapter 10 vs 6828 words in Chapter 14) that it's hard to tell whether being one third of the way through the chapters is about a third of the way through the book. Green has written more words than the minimum word count to win NaNoWriMo to introduce her main characters and nothing pertaining to the main plot (it's a twenty-fifth year, magic users are being gathered from all over the Empire for a competition where the winner gets to rule the Empire as part of a Blending for the next quarter century) has happened whatsoever.

So what can we do instead? Here are some thoughts:

- The title of Book 1 is "Convergence" for obvious reasons. The problem is, unless there is some conflict or problem with how the main cast gets together, there is no actual plot happening. "Convergence" as a concept would work as the title of Chapter 1 only. We'd have to do something to indicate supernatural/Fate at play though, if we stick with the Prophecy angle.

- If we were following the typical hero's journey and picking a single POV for the whole story, then it would make sense to start where Green did, with one of the protagonists leaving home and responding to the "Call to adventure". The hook itself ("the law requires you to!") isn't a very compelling one; mainly because none of the protagonists make any sort of active choices; they just get dragged along for the ride and at some point most of them make up their minds to follow along, which is quite possibly the least compelling decision to cross the threshold, ever.

- It's debatable whether we should even start chronologically at all - instead of having a crappy Prologue, perhaps we'd get a better hook if we started the book with Lorand in the middle of the competition and then doing a flash back to how Lorand got there, then picking up and resolving that round of the competition in the last chapter.

- Thinking about the idea of the "Promise", let's take a look at the blurb on Book 1 (yes the typos are actual typos in the blurb on the ebook; my physical copy is in a box somewhere so I can't confirm if the typos exist in the print version):

quote:

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

Convergence

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

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

The cover and blurb is promising political intrigue culminating in some sort of awesome action sequence using magic to defeat Super Evil that will otherwise destroy the world. After reading all of the books, I have no idea what the "fearsome depravity that hungers for their world" is (Books 5 and 8 spoilers: it's the general concept of depraved people ruining their children creating an endless cycle of abuse, which is most definitely not the Super World Destroying Evil that was promised).

Earlier, I said that I would map Books 1-3 roughly as Act I (they become the most powerful mages), Books 4-5 as Act 2 (they fight a bunch of battles and end a war) and Books 6-8 as Act 3 (political hijinks and a new external threat must be overcome to stabilize their reign) in terms of the overall story in this universe. When we get further into the books, I can discuss that in more detail, but for now I think I would use the materials and plot a new trilogy like this:
- Book 1 is a tournament arc that answers the question of who gets to rule the Empire next, seeding a lot of the background for the political intrigue to come
- Book 2 is focused on political intrigue and stabilizing their new rule, with hints of the Prophecy and the Big Bad in the background
- Book 3 is all out action dealing with the Prophecy and a mad battle with the Big Bad

I'm not sure how to deal with the polygamy stuff at the moment. I don't think Green did a particularly informed portrayal of it but it's pretty fundamental to plot progression and the magic system. Suggestions welcome!

Assuming we take the default path of hero's journey, etc, the whole first chapter of the rewrite would be Lorand leaving home and qualifying as an applicant, fireball and near death testing experience included. I'm pretty sure I can nail that in 6000-7000 words or so, and we'd be at the same point in the overall story as we are right now.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Welcome to our first interlude! Green doesn't call it this but since I'm a huge Sanderson fan, I'm going to use the term because in a Sanderson book, this would absolutely be classified as an interlude. Sadly, it's not an exciting one, because I don't think Green can recognize what exciting looks like in novel form.

quote:

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

The room was large but austere, containing nothing but a long table with chairs around it, and half a dozen lamps on the walls lit the surroundings but failed to warm them. The lamps were lit because of the lack of windows, but the six men who entered seemed not to care. The last of them closed the door firmly, then went to take his place at the head of the table. He was quite ordinary looking, from his appearance no more than a prosperous businessman. He wore silk trousers in gray which flared at the ankles, a pale blue shirt with just a hint of ruffles, and a darker blue coat which reached no longer than his waist. An ordinary businessman who carried some papers, his unremarkable features showed nothing of an expression.

Ugh. We're at a board meeting.

quote:

The other five men present were not the same. They were clearly individuals, but the resemblance each had to the others was quite noticeable. All of them were of middle years or approximately so, each had a pleasant, oval face which inspired trust and friendliness, and none of them was remarkable in any negative way. All had medium brown hair and unprepossessing brown eyes, average builds on bodies of average height, and hands unmarked by any sign of manual labor. They dressed in varying colors, but all wore the same sort of loose-sleeved shirt and cloth trousers. Nothing remarkable, except for the remarkable resemblance.

Like most boards, it's full of middle aged white men. These are the creepy guys who were giving the test instructions and the Not Water in the previous 10 chapters.

quote:

"You may begin your reports," the man at the head of the table announced, removing a pen and jar of ink from the inner pockets of his coat. "Am I mistaken, or have we finally reached the end of the flow? Air?"

I feel like the chairman of the board would not be carrying around his own pen and jar of ink in his coat pocket. Usually you don't chair the meeting AND take the minutes at the same time.

quote:

"Yes, sir, we have reached the end of it," one of the five responded with a faint smile. "The last of the applicants arrived and were processed, and now we're almost ready to move forward. Would you like the figures?"

There's that faint smile that every single character uses! And yeah, we're about to get the TL;DR summary of the first 15 chapters here.

quote:

"If you please," the man at the head of the table agreed, his pen already inked and now poised over the papers set before him.

I hate badly run meetings and this definitely looks like one. Strike one: no agenda. Strike two: papers were not circulated for reading prior to the meeting, so now we have to sit through five verbal reports and wait for the chair to minute them down. Ugh.

quote:

"This month, the final month, the Air magic applicants totaled twenty," the other man obliged. "Three of them proved to be no more than ordinary Middles, incapable of drawing in more of the power than that level calls for. We rescued them before they died, thanked them gently for coming, then sent them home. One of them cried, but they all went."

All five of the men who resembled each other chuckled, adding to the impression of similarity, and then the man representing Air magic continued.

"Of the remaining seventeen, fifteen died. Nine of them were flawed potential Highs without the proper capacity, so they weren't able to handle the amount of power necessary to solve their dilemma. The summoned power burned them out, and we disposed of the bodies as usual. The other six might have been the same, but there's no way of knowing. They lost their nerve at some point, which made them lose control of their ability, and then they died. Only two passed the test and survived, one not long after the first of the month, the second today."

This is the closest we're ever going to get regarding data on population, so I'm gonna keep a count just for this chapter:

pre:
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
|                 | Air | Earth | Fire | Water | Spirit | Total |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Rescued Middles |   3 |       |      |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Died            |  15 |       |      |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Passed          |   2 |       |      |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Total           |  20 |       |      |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
We also get this stuff about "flawed potential Highs" which will come up again later (we'll see one using their ability on screen in Book 5). We will never find out what necessitates "proper capacity" and how to tell whether you have it or not. Basically it seems to be a genetic lottery.

quote:

"Well done," the man at the head of the table commented, most of his attention on the figures he wrote.

What? Air only proved he was able to summarize a list of records. This is not exactly a demanding skill.

quote:

"And those two were given the proper drink, were they not? Along with the proper instructions?"

"Should it become necessary, they will certainly respond to the orders given by someone in authority," the second man agreed comfortably, "Neither of them noticed a time lapse, so they had no idea almost an hour had passed from the moment they took their first swallow of the drugged water, to when they finally drained the cup. They'll be no more of a problem than any of the others."

They were given a mind control drug. The foreshadowing with the Not Water resolved in the chapter immediately after all those viewpoints. Despite this, we're still going to have to spend a bunch more chapters on this plot point with the characters not figuring it out until Chapter 17 in Book 3.

quote:

"Excellent," the man at the head of the table said, taking the two sets of papers handed to him.

If Green included all those previous paragraphs on the paper shuffling just for a payoff here so we'd realize that the papers being handed over are applicant dossiers, I don't think she understands the concept of a "payoff".

quote:

Then his glance went to another of the five. "Earth?"

"The applicants in Earth magic did about the same," the third man supplied easily. "Five were Middles and therefore rescued, ten died and were disposed of, three survived and passed. All three responded properly to the drink, and none of them noticed a thing."

pre:
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
|                 | Air | Earth | Fire | Water | Spirit | Total |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Rescued Middles |   3 |     5 |      |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Died            |  15 |    10 |      |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Passed          |   2 |     3 |      |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Total           |  20 |    18 |      |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
This is the stupidest way to run a meeting ever.

quote:

The man at the head of the table wrote again, accepted the three sets of papers passed over, then said, "Fire?"

"Fire magic had twenty-two applicants this month, and five turned out to be Middles," the fourth man answered with a faint smile. "Thirteen died trying to do more than they had the ability to, and four survived and therefore passed.

Book 4 spoilers: 'Sup, Lanir?

pre:
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
|                 | Air | Earth | Fire | Water | Spirit | Total |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Rescued Middles |   3 |     5 |    5 |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Died            |  15 |    10 |   13 |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Passed          |   2 |     3 |    4 |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Total           |  20 |    18 |   22 |       |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+

quote:

The ordinary people of this land don't know how grateful they should be to us. We cull those who are born unfit before they're able to pass on their handicaps, thereby keeping their numbers manageably low. If not for us, every town and village and city would be knee-deep in flawed Highs."

"Making the general population that much more difficult to control," the fifth man agreed with a short laugh as the fourth handed over his sets of papers.

16 chapters in and we finally get somewhat a statement of the theme - controlling others. I should have probably put it together earlier but Green is so bad at this that it takes a while to sift through all of the mess. Yeah, ok, so the theme of these books is about control - when is control good and when is it bad?

It will not surprise you that Green doesn't have anything deep to say on this point: self control is good, controlling other people is bad, unless you are the protagonist in which case it is totally ok to mind control other people because you're the protagonist and it's cool when you do it because you only do it when you have no other choices (because not controlling people is not a choice).

quote:

"Water magic applicants were just as cooperative, with thirteen of the nineteen dying. Two were Middles and were rescued, four were unflawed and therefore passed. At least to this point. What they'll find it possible to do next remains to be seen."

pre:
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
|                 | Air | Earth | Fire | Water | Spirit | Total |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Rescued Middles |   3 |     5 |    5 |     2 |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Died            |  15 |    10 |   13 |    13 |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Passed          |   2 |     3 |    4 |     4 |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Total           |  20 |    18 |   22 |    19 |        |       |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
Am I suppose to be feeling a sense of tension here? I can't tell, I'm too busy snoring because this is the most boring TL;DR ever and I think I actually preferred the overwrought flatness of chapters 6-15. We've gone from tell, to telling in an attempt to show, and circled right back to telling a recap of what just happened while adding nothing interesting whatsoever.

quote:

"Especially when they find themselves competing with other applicants who have been here and practicing for months, if not all year." This from the last of the men, who wore his own faint smile. "At least a third of them won't survive, and another third will try to withdraw. My figures for Spirit magic, by the way, are seventeen applicants, two Middles, another thirteen dead, and two who were successful. Successful, that is, for the moment."

pre:
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
|                 | Air | Earth | Fire | Water | Spirit | Total |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Rescued Middles |   3 |     5 |    5 |     2 |      2 |    17 |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Died            |  15 |    10 |   13 |    13 |     13 |    64 |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Passed          |   2 |     3 |    4 |     4 |      2 |    15 |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
| Total           |  20 |    18 |   22 |    19 |     17 |    96 |
+-----------------+-----+-------+------+-------+--------+-------+
This is a month's tally of all applicants. Assuming that there's nothing that would cause an uneven distribution of magical talent, in theory there should be no seasonality to the numbers (I'm going to ignore the seasonality effect on birthdays on the basis it's probably not significant). So about 100 Middles are confirmed every month and sent to Gan Garee for testing. Assuming 12 months to a year (because we get no information about a calendar), that's roughly 1,200 people rounded up and sent for testing, with a 2 in 3 chance of dying in the attempt, 1 in 6 chance at passing and 1 in 6 chance at being told sorry, it was a pointless test just go home and forget all this happened.

This system results in the stupidest waste of lives and magical talent ever! We will never get an explanation of why "flawed potential Highs" are bad, or how they are actually different from Middles. By all accounts so far, Middle talents are pretty strong so it's really weird to do this as a government. You have mind control drugs; why don't you just drug everyone of Middle strength and higher? Books 6-8 will feature a bunch of Middle talents doing things as part of the B plot and they can actually do a lot of stuff!

Also how big exactly is this Empire? Is the population of Australia (~25 million) a fair estimate? Because if we take this test for High practitioner as an age-based thing (since you just randomly get sent when you develop sufficient strength and everyone is checked up until the age of 25), we could use the end of high school exams as a proxy. Taking the 3 most populous states, we've got roughly 75,000 in NSW, 50,000 in VIC and 40,000 in QLD so 165,000 people, give or take, so let's be generous and round that up to 200,000 seniors sitting their high school exams in a year. 1,200/200,000 is 0.6% of the population having a magical talent of Middle strength or higher which just seems bizarre in a world where her main premise is everyone can do magic because she wanted magic to be prevalent instead of restricted to a few people.

Either her world building is broken, or she copped out and said "yes everyone can do magic, only most people can do so little with magic that they might as well not have any magical talent".



quote:

All five of the men chuckled at that, but the one at the head of the table was too busy finishing the figures and gathering up sets of papers to do the same. By appearances he neither approved nor disapproved of the banter, and when he'd put everything in order he looked up again.

"So much for the substantive part of your reports," he said, glancing around.

...the substantive part of the reports were reading out a summary of statistics that could have been circulated beforehand.

quote:

"Now I will ask you for the final time: has any of you seen anything that might match one of the Prophecies? It won't necessarily be anything overt, remember, as some of the verses refer to happenings that are quite subtle. The more obvious signs will come 'out of the sight of the Five's enemies,' which at this point would be us. Is there anything to report?"

Hello reference to the completely useless and aggravating Prologue!

quote:

"My report is that there's nothing at all to report," the man representing Water magic replied calmly but confidently. "I've been watching carefully, and none of the applicants seemed especially heroic. Some, in fact, appear to have personal flaws which will see them quickly eliminated. No one has asked this before, so allow me to put the question which is surely in all our minds: Is this matter of the Prophecies something that should concern us to this great a degree? I know of no one who actually believes that the infamous Four will return, or that it will take a special Blending to defeat them. These are children's stories, and it's almost inconceivable that anyone in authority can take them seriously."

"These . . . children's stories, as you put it, have come true more often than you know," the man at the head of the table answered bleakly, apparently unsurprised by his underlings' skepticism. "It has been the firm policy of our superiors and their predecessors to claim otherwise, to weaken the belief of the populace in the Prophecies. But we ourselves know better, and you had better know the same. When various Blendings compete for the Throne in a short while, the special Blending mentioned in the Prophecies is supposed to be among them—and even more, is supposed to win."

Finally! An actual, not useless part of the meeting that follows the principles of useful meetings: discuss things only by exception!

quote:

"Then they must be among the talents who will form Blendings from those applicants who are nobly born," the man representing Air magic offered in a calm and reasonable tone. "They're excused from going through this same nonsense required of commoners, so what would be more logical? And since it will be one of their Blendings which will win as always, that fits as well."

"Are you all deliberately missing the point?" the man at the head of the table demanded irritably, for the first time showing more than equanimity when the other four murmured their agreement with Air. "Of course noble Blendings have won the Throne for the last seventy-five years or more. No other outcome has been allowed.

Way to spoil your own series, Green. We're going to have to spend the next two books watching the main characters clumsily come to this conclusion.

quote:

This time, however, is not meant to be the same, for it's the time spoken of in the Prophecies! Is none of you able to take that in? The Prophecies are not to be dismissed, they're to be worried about!"

The other men sat back with raised brows over the outburst, not quite daring to exchange glances among themselves. Their superior was obviously not joking, which made the entire situation extremely bizarre.

This whole series is extremely bizarre.

quote:

"But. . . that makes for greater confusion rather than less," the representative of Fire said at last, speaking slowly. "If the Prophecies do come true after all, then somehow the infamous Four will return to take over. They turned everyone into virtual slaves before they were defeated by the first Fivefold Blending, and if they return and regain their position, they'll do the same again. With that in mind, why are we searching for the Five meant to stop them? To give them our support? But that doesn't—"

Here's that promised Big Bad on the blurb! Spoilers for Book 5: it turns out that it was a transcribing error, because the actual words of the Prophecy refer to the "devastating evil of the Four" and so the Four are truly dead and buried

quote:

"Enough!" the man's superior interrupted, slamming his hand down hard on the table. "This is precisely why the matter has been kept from the populace, to avoid their jumping to such emotional and illogical conclusions!

That was actually a very logical line of thinking.

quote:

And you of all people should know better than to interpret all the Prophecies so literally. They've been correct in predicting some sort of crisis during the twenty-five year reign of each Blending, but what about the rest of it? The Prophecies claim that any Blending not seated in 'full fairness' will fail to survive and find victory on the 'blackest of days,' but has that happened? Hasn't every crisis been successfully met during the last century?"

This time the five did exchange glances, for their superior was correct. The contest to seat a new Blending had been carefully controlled every twenty-five years for the last century, and none of the seated Five had had any difficulty with their "crisis." That was what made the populace believe the contests were fair, the lowborn fools. What they didn't know let their betters live the lives they were born to and meant for.

In case you somehow missed Green spoiling her own series, she does it a second time to make sure any possibility of tension is thoroughly ruined.

quote:

"Forgive my momentary naivete," Fire said after a moment, his expression rueful. "Emotionalism is a heady wine, and I clearly drank too deeply. May I ask, sir, what the true state of affairs is? Explanations will aid our ability to assist in the matter."

"Yes, I suppose they will," his superior grudged sourly, now sitting back. "Although each of you is the Seated High in your respective aspects, you've been given little or nothing of the details. That was because you worked with the applicants who came here to unseat you, and the Advisors to the Five had no wish to distract you from so important a task. Knowing in advance the weaknesses and bad habits of your opponents will let you defeat them during the challenges, an outcome we all wish to see."

Wow, Green's just piling on the spoilers here. And yes, we're still going to have to see the main characters figure this out in Book 2.

A reminder that the position of Seated High is different to Seated Blending. For...reasons? It's never made clear what the Seated Highs do. At any rate, since Green spoiled things, I can talk about how both the Seated Highs and the Seated Blending are figureheads for the Advisors (a group of Lords and High Lords) who are the true power behind the Fivefold Throne. This would be a delightful set up for a political intrigue, except for one little problem: Green doesn't world build or do character development so we won't get a sense that there are different factions vying for influence or what their objectives are other than "stay in control".

quote:

The five men smiled with pleased amusement, enjoying the jest as much as they always did, but their attention had not strayed from their superior. They were about to learn things they needed to know, and those who meant to survive in their world always listened carefully at such times.

Where was the jest? Because I totally missed it! I've sat through some really boring meetings but this one beats all of them.

quote:

"Our disturbance over the Prophecies is really quite simple," their superior began, putting the tips of his fingers together before his face. "Somehow or other the threat of the Four will come to pass, but just how that will happen doesn't concern us at the moment. What does concern us is the very unreasonable—but easily reached—conclusion that our chosen Blending will fail against the threat. Past experience has shown us that the opposite is true, as there's no reason to believe that this 'crisis' will be any different from previous ones.

"And yet a 'special' Blending will appear to do the job for them. Not only will such an appearance be unnecessary, it will threaten the very successful arrangement we and our predecessors have enjoyed for the past century. They won't be found among the nobility, not when they're described as 'springing from all corners of the land,' so they must be among the commoners. And they're certain to appear at the worst possible time from our point of view, so we're trying to identify them before then. Do you still feel you've seen nothing to indicate which ones they are?"

Does this guy believe in the Prophecies or not? He's lambasted his lackeys for not taking the Prophecies seriously, then said that the Prophecies have come true in the past because all of their puppet Blendings have successfully overcome the crisis that occurred in their quarter-century, which he open admittedly to manufacturing.

quote:

All five of his listeners shook their heads slowly, considering the matter with similar frowns. Then Earth stirred in his seat.

"Possibly we would do well to study those applicants who are most likely to actually fit into a Blending," he suggested thoughtfully. "Most Highs can be forced to work in a group of five, but that doesn't make them a Blending. My cousins here and I all tried to qualify for the last appointed Blending, but none of us was able to be truly effective in the framework. Our strength is best exhibited when we practice alone, which has to be the case for many of the applicants. The rest will be a much smaller number, and therefore more easily investigated."

Book 8 spoilers: the state of Blending basically symbolizes nirvana, because not only have you found The One, you've found The Others who make you a Complete Whole entity when you Blend both magically and physically in an everlasting state of total fulfilled polygamous bliss which also means you'll magically be the bestest parents to any offspring that result from said polygamy because the Power of Love conquers all.

I seriously can't tell whether this is Green trying to lay down red herrings for the magic system's she's got planned or an attempt at representing people who don't fit into the polygamy required for her magic system to work.

There's also an actual plot hole here, because Book 2 spoilers the Seated Highs themselves are actually Middles and they know it; they've basically been self selectively breeding out strong magical talent so they had trouble scraping up enough noble High talents to face the commoner High talents .

quote:

"That point has already occurred to the Advisors," their superior replied with a nod. "Once the common Blendings are thrown together for the contest, there will be many eyes examining them. We'd hoped to save ourselves the trouble, but apparently that's not to be. Ah well, we'll find them eventually, and then they'll be gotten out of our way. Thank you for your reports, gentlemen, and do enjoy yourselves watching the final sessions and practices of this last batch of applicants. The time ought to be most amusing."

Surely, somewhere along the way, an editor had hoped to save us the trouble of reading this mess.

quote:

The five smiled their agreement and rose to their feet when their superior did, then watched him leave the room. Once again he seemed the ordinary, successful businessman, rather than one of the Advisors' best and most dangerous agents. He came from one of the most powerful noble families in the empire, and hadn't let his handicap of low-talent status keep him from a most successful career.

I actually haven't figured out who the Chairman is yet! There's not enough identity clues so it could actually be a few possibilities. The front runner is probably Embisson Ruhl, though you wouldn't be able to make this guess until you've read Book 6.

quote:

"I really dislike that man," Fire murmured, the look in his eyes no longer mild and unperturbed. "One day I'll find him in just the right place, and then I'll leave him as nothing more than a pile of ashes."

"You won't touch him, and neither will the rest of us," Water disagreed with a sound of ridicule. "We all detest him and the others like him, but each and every one of those cripples is safe from us. If we ever did anything to one of them, we'd be barred from studying the dross who came to unseat us. Then we would lose to the peasant, humiliation heaped on top of injury. Of course, then some other nobly born High would displace the peasant, but that would be of very little comfort to us."

"So we accept being treated like commoners by a cripple, and simply ignore the insult," Earth added while Fire continued to fume. "The day may well come when one of them falls out of favor, and then he becomes fair game. Until then we see to our own most pressing business, and hope that the proper Blending is appointed this time."

The world building is so inconsistent. The term "cripple" is normally used in the novels to refer to "nulls" (someone born without magical talent), yet here it's being used to refer to a Low, who is normally just referred to as a Low.

quote:

"One of my sons managed to qualify, as did my brother's youngest daughter," Air commented, sounding rather smug. "If either of them is Seated on the Fivefold Throne, our difficulties will be over. They both have an incredibly strong sense of family, and will support us even against the Advisors."

"I'd very much like to see that," Water said with a chuckle, obviously enjoying the idea. "Seated High should be a position revered as well as envied and well compensated, and our own blood would make it so."

WHERE IS GREEN'S EDITOR?! This chapter isn't all that long (2983 words) and we just got told that the entire competition is rigged! This whole exchange doesn't make any sense. You guys already know who's going to win, and therefore whether or not your son and niece are in that Blending. There should be no "ifs" involved at all.

quote:

All of them agreed to that with laughter, all except Spirit. The man had been very quiet, and Water studied him for a moment.

"What disturbs you, cousin?" he asked at last. "You seem to be—preoccupied."

"I am," Spirit admitted with a sigh, then he looked about at the others. "We've been told that this special Blending will be gotten out of the way because they're unnecessary, but a rather disturbing question comes to mind. What if our oh-so-clever superiors are wrong, and the chosen Blending isn't victorious over the Four? I still can't see them coming back from the dead, but what if they do appear and win? What happens to us, when the Four was careful to destroy every High they were able to find?"

"Don't let the hysteria of those fools disturb you, cousin," Water replied soothingly, putting a hand to the other's shoulder. "They've talked themselves into believing that the Prophecies have actually come true, when anyone with the least amount of intelligence knows that that isn't so. They're worried because a common Blending is supposed to defeat their noble choice, so they're peeking under beds to calm their nervousness. Nothing will come of any of it, you mark my words."

I'm annoyed enough by this whole exchange that I'm going to count this as blatant moralizing because it's close enough.

quote:

The others agreed with Water, and Spirit finally unbent enough to join them in a ridiculing laugh. Then they left to find some excellent wine and even better female companionship, and no longer worried about something that would never happen. The infamous Four, returning to enslave everyone in reach! Really . . . !

A reminder that we're reading Tamrissa's journal so there's no way that she could reconstruct these events unless Book 8 spoilers she interviewed Embisson Ruhl and Book 4 spoilers somehow this subject came up while she was being held captive by Lord Lanir, which I very much doubt because of Green's habit of writing EVERYTHING that happens and we did not see this

Summary:

Day 1
Our Five protagonists arrive in Gan Garee and pass their tests with Great Drama. Everyone is sent to live at Tamrissa's house which is now an official residence for applicants. They meet each other via a series of lazily written exchanges set in the bath house because Green wanted to have people naked on screen for reasons before Game of Thrones made sexposition a thing. We get a spoiler laden chapter from the creepy dudes administering the tests that flat out states everything is rigged and people have been dosed with mind control drugs to ensure their absolute compliance.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 13
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 16
COACH RIDES: 9
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 14
"CLIFFHANGERS": 8
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 2
BATH SCENES: 5
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 2
MIND CONTROL: 5 (I'm starting this counter at 5 since we just got in-text confirmation of what was done in the previous chapters)

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapter 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)

Possible fixes:
For some reason, Green deviated from POVs entirely and went to third person omniscient for this interlude. The constant changing from first person in the Tamrissa chapters, to third person limited in everyone else's and then randomly to third person omniscient here bugs me no end. Assuming it makes any sense to keep this chapter, I would be picking a POV and sticking to it. Of the available characters, the only two that make sense (because they have further roles in the story later on) would be the Chairman (assuming it actually is Embisson Ruhl) or Fire (Book 4 spoilers: Lord Lanir, who holds the position of Seated High in Fire).

I think Green loaded up all the spoilers in this chapter because she was going for an impending sense of doom in an attempt to raise the stakes. Except she's chosen the "secret conspiracy" brand of doom instead of "evil ruling openly" which does not work at all. The whole hook of the secret conspiracy is trying to uncover what the conspiracy is - and Green's just gone and blurted out the whole punch line. Now when we get to the chapters where the main characters making discoveries, it's boring because we've already been told the answers and the characters themselves are not doing anything interesting or entertaining as part of discovering the answers. The whole "secret conspiracy" angle results in a lot of middle school "hee hee we're smart and they're so dumb and they don't even know it" gloating and string pulling by the various antagonists to create useless drama which is tedious to read.

And of course, the promised Big Bad never shows up in any of the books.

So in order of importance:
1) Bring back the Big Bad - find magical reasons to have the Evil Four show up in the flesh and attempt to enslave everyone in the Empire in Book 3 as promised in the book's blurb as per Prophecy
2) Drop the "secret conspiracy" and go with "this system sucks" - the protagonists (willing or unwilling) know going in it's a rigged system and spend their time trying to get out or break the system without being discovered
3) Based on the two points above, I'd drop this chapter as entirely unnecessary. It's basically an info dump and does nothing to move the plot forward.

Leng fucked around with this message at 13:52 on Aug 31, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


We'll see Tamrissa working on her "journal" in Book 5. The way the scene plays out, she's probably sitting there writing and everyone else in the main cast just wanders past from time to time to read over her shoulder and offer unsolicited opinions/commentary. Given Tamrissa's rage issues, her mental state at that point as well as the events happening in the main storyline, it's actually pretty stupid.

The journal device probably could work if it was done more skilfully and involved Tamrissa doing actual reflection. Unfortunately all of her commentary are unfunny "tongue in cheek" scribbles in the margin. If we're talking trashy fantasy novels, then Cassandra Clare did actually execute this well in The Shadowhunter's Codex. The reason it worked though was because:
1) the published book is a companion book pulled together based on Clare's world building notes, not a novel trying to tell a story;
2) it is supposed to be an actual in-world textbook for Shadowhunters and we see the protagonist referring to it often throughout the early books; and
3) the scribbled notes in the margins are from multiple characters and are a mix of
a) the protagonist doing actual reflection on the contents tied in with key plot points throughout the main storyline
b) three of the main characters scribbling juvenile things to each other, in the same way that people passed notes or wrote in each other's books when bored in classes before cell phones existed

and none of these factors are present in Green's books.

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

I didn't know I'd fallen asleep until I felt a hand shaking my shoulder. I opened my eyes to see Warla bending over the chair I'd just meant to rest in for a few minutes, her expression concerned.

"You look so tired that I hate to bother you, Tamrissa, but dinner is almost ready," she said at once. "And not only that, but you have a visitor. A lady from the testing people, here to make sure everyone's arrived who should have arrived."

Hahaha you guys thought we were done with Day 1. Nope, we've still got to get through dinner which is split across two chapters because...reasons.

quote:

"Did you tell her that that part of it should be discussed with you rather than me?" I asked, fighting to wake up the rest of the way. "I'm lucky I know that I got back here."

"Oh, I never would have told her anything like that," Warla protested, now looking upset. "It isn't my place, and what if you were supposed to do it? Saying something different could have gotten us both in trouble."

I sighed on the inside while conceding her point with a nod, but not because the possibility worried me. As long as all their applicants were accounted for, those people shouldn't care who did the head-counting. Warla always worried about getting in trouble over something, and right now I had no strength to argue with her. It was easier to simply let the point go, and take myself down to meet my visitor.

I'd gotten dressed once I'd returned to my apartment from the bath house, so all I had to do was smooth my skirts down against possible wrinkles before heading for the door. Warla followed behind me, but at the bottom of the stairs she slipped past to lead me toward the library. Inside was a pleasant-looking woman in her mid-thirties, who got to her feet with a smile when Warla stepped aside to let me walk in.

"Dama Domon, I apologize for intruding so close to dinner time," she said, stepping forward to offer a gloved hand. "I'm Eltrina Razas, and I'll be your liaison to the testing authority. I'm here so late because some of your lodgers were sent rather late, and we wanted to be certain they got here."

You packed everyone into a coach with drivers you pay to take them to a destination that you specified. We've already had in-text confirmation that your employees aren't susceptible to bribes and that you've drugged all successful applicants to do as they're told. This makes no sense.

quote:

I took her hand somewhat gingerly, never having shaken hands before. It had always been something that only men did, but this Eltrina Razas acted as if it were perfectly natural.



quote:

She wore an emerald green suit and cream blouse, with a matching cream-and-green hat on her carefully styled brown hair. There was a line of tiny embroidery all along the hem of her skirt where it brushed her shoes as well as along the cuffs of her jacket, an indication that her outfit was rather expensive. But her manner was open and friendly, so I tried to return her smile.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Dama Razas," I said, ending the handshake as soon as was decently possible. "If you'd like to find out about the people who were sent, you'll have to ask Warla here. She met them as they arrived, and assigned them to rooms."

"Because you yourself are one of the applicants, which means you had to be too worn out to see to it personally," she added with a pleasant nod. "Yes, I quite understand, and in fact expected something of the sort. I'll just take a moment to speak to Warla, and then you and I will have a brief chat. And it's Lady Eltrina, not Dama Razas."

She said that last as if it meant less than nothing, then bustled Warla to one side in order to speak to her.

This is about as long as we'll like Eltrina for. It all goes downhill from here.

quote:

I stood where I'd been left and watched them, not quite knowing how to behave. The woman was a member of the nobility, and dealing with the nobility was something else I'd never done. On a day with so many firsts, it would have been nice if I hadn't felt half asleep.

I went and sat in a chair to wait, and watched while Warla nervously counted things off on her fingers. When she reached eight she stopped and looked frightened, but Lady Eltrina soothed her with a quick smile and a few words. Then Warla curtsied and left, closing the door behind her, and Lady Eltrina came over to me.

"No, dear, don't get up again," she said quickly with another of those smiles as she took the chair opposite mine.

"We'll certainly be friends long before this is over, so you'll call me Eltrina and I'll call you Tamrissa. I'm delighted to say your Warla is wonderfully efficient. She knew the names of every applicant and in what order they arrived, and even listed you first."

Remembering eight names in a sequence is...not hard?

quote:

"Yes, Warla is an excellent companion," I agreed, leaning back in the chair because I really needed to. "I've never relied on her quite this much before, but I don't expect to be disappointed. I wonder if I might—ask something."

"Of course, child, that's one of the reasons I'm here," she replied warmly, beginning to take off her gloves. "What do you need to know?"

"I'd like to have one of the applicants—transferred to another residence," I forced myself to say. The woman now sat in the chair my husband had always used, and I was too tired to push away all the unsettling feelings brought back by old memories. "The man was extremely rude to me, and actually admitted that he didn't want to be here for the tests. He's hateful, and I'd like to have him out of my house."

"Oh, dear," Eltrina said, and now she looked disturbed rather than encouraging. "I'm devastated to hear you have one of that sort , but I'm afraid there's nowhere else to put him. All the other residences are full, and we aren't arranging for any others since all the applicants for this year are accounted for. He hasn't gone beyond rudeness, I hope. I mean, he hasn't tried to really insult you?"

She'd begun to look anxious and seriously concerned, asking without words if he'd tried to ... do what men always seemed to. I couldn't keep from blushing at the thought, especially after the way he'd stared at me, but happily the situation wasn't that bad.

That's the euphemism Green's going to go with for rape?

quote:

"No, he made no effort to go beyond simple rudeness," I admitted, more than a little disappointed. "If that changes I'll have to insist he be sent elsewhere, but I suppose I can live with the situation for now. Is there anything else I need to know about?"



quote:

"One or two things," she answered, that warm smile flashing again. "And you're so reasonable, I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to deal with you. Some of the others who volunteered their houses . . . Well, I'm sure you know how stubborn some people can get. In one case we actually had to withdraw all the applicants, and cancel the agreement making the house a residence. That's one of the reasons we're so short of space, but I know we won't have to do the same thing here."

She was obviously trying to reassure me, but the thought of losing the protection of residence classification for my house made me want to shiver. Right now that could be the only thing keeping my father from taking it away, so I couldn't lose the protection. If the arrogant Vallant Ro grew even more rude, I'd simply have to avoid him rather than complain.

We haven't gotten much info about women's rights under the law other than the "living under your father's roof" thing, but presumably since the house wasn't part of Gimmis' business dealings, it's actually Tamrissa's property. Even if it stopped being an official residence, it still belongs to her rather than her father and she's also been co-opted into the whole competition thing, where she'll either end up dead or on the Fivefold throne.

Tamrissa should not care about this whatsoever.

quote:

"Now let's discuss one of those things you need to know," Eltrina continued, her good mood completely restored. "It's come to our attention that you've used the lodging fees we paid to buy food for the applicants. There's nothing wrong with doing that to start yourself off, but those fees are meant for other things. I'll be setting a figure they'll have to pay weekly in order to eat at your table, and the silver will go directly into your food budget. If one or more of them are unable to pay, I'm afraid you'll have to refuse them a place at the table."

"Do I really have to be that. . . hardhearted?" I asked, at the last moment deciding against saying "uncharitable." The woman was on my side right now, and I didn't care to do anything that might change that. "They'll be living here, after all, and watching people starve while you eat is very—"

"Difficult, I know," she agreed when I paused to find a substitute for the word heartless. "A sweet, kind girl like you would find it very difficult, and that's why you won't be given the choice. Your staff will have strict orders before I leave here, and since their wages will be paid out of the lodging fees along with the rest of the house's maintenance, I expect they'll obey completely. In other words, for the remainder of the time that this house is a residence, you'll no longer really be in charge of it."

This really needs to be part of the terms and conditions of applying for your house to be classed as a residence.

quote:

Hearing that was something of a shock, but not an overwhelming one. I'd never been allowed to have anything to do with running the house while Gimmis was alive, and I'd only recently begun to get the hang of how it was done. Not having to bother now was actually more of a relief, but then an uncomfortable thought occurred to me.

This brings up a good point - if Tamrissa's father got all of her ex-husband's business interests, how exactly does Tamrissa have the funds to staff and maintain the house?

quote:

"Am I mistaken, or does that mean I can be barred from the table as easily as anyone else?" I asked, now feeling disturbed. "It sounded as if the lodging fees would be disbursed by someone else, and if so I don't know where I'd get the necessary silver. I don't have any money of my own, you see, so—"

Oh right, she doesn't! Why didn't we get this important information about her desperate situation back in Chapter 4? It would have made the fight with her mother mean something and the comments about Tamrissa being destitute and living on the streets would have had context.

quote:

"No, no, that won't be a problem," she soothed, quickly leaning forward in her chair. "You're correct in believing that you'll be subject to the same rules as the others, but you haven't yet been given the silver for living expenses that all applicants are given. I have yours and Pagin Holter's, who also comes from Gan Garee. He's one of your seven guests, and if you haven't met him yet you soon will. And don't forget about the bonuses in gold that will be offered during your future competitions. If you earn the bonus, you'll be able to keep it and spend it—but only on yourself. Sharing with other applicants is strictly against the rules."

This is a stupid rule that is unenforceable.

quote:

Yes, it would be, I realized with a sigh. The bonuses in gold were there to tempt people like Vallant Ro into doing their best, or simply to keep themselves eating if temptation didn't enter into it. It was an idea easier to get along with than the pass-or-die of the first test, so I couldn't quite bring myself to criticize it.

Do we need to add suicidal to Tamrissa's list of attributes?

quote:

"I'm glad to see you're wearing your identification," she went on, gesturing to the chain and card I'd put back around my neck. "No one not wearing the same will be served or fed, and I'll make that clear to the other applicants as well. And the last thing we need to discuss right now is clothing, yours and everyone else's."

"There's something wrong with my clothing?" I asked, glancing down at the peach silk blouse and green silk skirt embroidered with peach that I wore. "This outfit isn't as good as your suit, I know, but—"

"No, child, you have it backwards," she said with a very pleased laugh. "Your skirt and blouse are lovely examples of just-less-than top quality, effort, but that's the entire point. Your outfit is still quite expensive, and not all of our applicants can afford to wear the same. That's why we have a dress code for the sessions, and I'll explain in more detail in a few minutes, when the others are also able to hear it. Right now I'll give you your silver, and then we'll go to the dining room to meet your fellow applicants. Warla was given instructions to call them all down."

Look, it's grown up magic school! With uniforms and everything!

quote:

And Warla certainly must have obeyed, I realized as I took the small pouch she removed from the silk handbag which matched her suit. Even Warla wasn't completely mine any longer, but I swallowed the urge to protest as I rose to put the pouch of silver in a safe place. There was no turning back now, not from the testing and certainly not from my plan to escape my parents. Nothing could be worse than what they had in mind for me, so going forward was nothing but a step in the right direction. It would not turn out to be just as bad ... it couldn't. . . !

You just admitted you have no money of your own. Warla's not a slave, she's your employee. How were you planning to pay her?

quote:

Vallant Ro walked into the dining room slowly, still beyond moving quickly despite the nap he'd had. Nothing short of a full night's sleep would help, he knew, but first he had to get something to eat. His insides were rumbling like a thunderstorm in the distance, and sight of the table set for eight was enough to make his mouth water. If the food wasn't brought quickly, he just might attack whoever did bring it eventually.

So many writing lectures attack adverbs for good reason - reliance on adverbs to convey action or emotion makes for lazy writing: "walked", "slowly" and "still beyond moving quickly" could have all been replaced with "trudged", a stronger verb that would have conveyed the way Vallant moved and his exhaustion. I am now super conscious about this.

quote:

The thought of attacking anyone or anything right now made him chuckle to himself as he looked around. The room's walls were papered in a boring floral pattern, but at least the dark rose drapes matched one of the colors in the paper and the seats of the chairs. The hardwood floor was polished to a spotless gleam, and the sideboard was a perfect match to the table and chairs. The chandelier was a bit much though, especially with most of its candles lit. That much crystal could easily blind the unwary, but once again it was a matter of cost taking precedence over taste.

"Good evening, Dom Ro," the girl Warla said, turning away from the two people already at the table. "Your place is here, between Dom Drowd and Dama Lant."

The empty chair she gestured to stood in the third and farthest place on the lefthand side of the table, just beyond a woman with dark red hair and next to a quiet-looking man who sat at the foot of the table. At least Vallant assumed that that was the foot. The head of it would be reserved for the woman who owned the house, and that brought to mind the girl who had lied in the bath house. Next to her, this redheaded woman who had been seated beside him looked brittle and slight in her prettiness. But if she didn't lie, she would turn out to be the more attractive of the two. Warla bustled off to do something else, so Vallant went to his chair and sat.

That's Beldara Lant, whom Jovvi passed on her way out of the bath house. The only reason she exists is because she's discount Tamrissa.

quote:

"It feels marvelous to get off one's feet, does it not?" the man to Vallant's left commented with a sigh. "I arrived here so late, I barely had time to use the bath house before being summoned to the meal. I'm Eskin Drowd, Earth magic."

"Vallant Ro, Water magic," Vallant replied with a nod. "I've been here long enough to have gotten in a short nap, but it wasn't much help. As soon as I've eaten as much as I can hold, I'm headin' for bed."

"I intend to do likewise," Drowd agreed in his pedantic way,

Green loves to arbitrarily tag her characters with adjectives like this, even though they've said or done things no differently to any of her other characters. Instead of trying to find ways to show Eskin Drowd being pedantic, she just shoves the description in there even though we haven't seen him being pedantic.

quote:

and then he looked beyond Vallant. "And you, my dear? Would you care to introduce yourself to us?"

"You must be joking," the woman said with a small laugh, more ridicule than amusement. "You heard the girl tell you part of my name, so you have to know who I am. Everyone has always known my name and what I can do."

"My dear young woman, you really must be adult about this," Drowd said to her gently but with inflexible firmness. "This empire happens to be extremely large, and not even the Seated Highs are known to everyone in it.

The Gandistran Empire is not large by any metric. It's about two weeks' travel by coach from one border to another and you're only testing 1,200 people in a year.

quote:

To expect a mere applicant to be known beyond the boundaries of her own area is folly, and there is folly enough for each of us in this life without our deliberately adding to it. Others hearing your remark might well have laughed, but Ro and I are gentlemen. For that reason I repeat: would you care to introduce yourself?"

"Ah, I understand now," the girl said, finally settling into a smug expression. Her complexion had darkened with embarrassment while Drowd spoke, but that had abruptly changed. "You people must come from such tiny hamlets that you're all but closed off to the world, and you're trying to cover your lacks by pretending everyone knows as little as you do. You should have said that to begin with, and I would have understood. I'm Beldara Lant, Fire magic."

"And where do you come from, Beldara Lant?" Vallant couldn't keep from asking. If there was anything more annoying than someone who always found a reason why they were right . . . "I'm from Fort Entril myself, and I captain a trade ship up and down the coast. From what I've seen, Port Entril is kind of big to be called a hamlet."

"As is Regisard, my own place of birth," Drowd said, smiling when Vallant raised his brows. "Yes, it's also sometimes called University, as no less than five institutions of higher learning may be found there. As you may have surmised, my family has a tradition of teaching in those institutions. Should I find my current undertaking of sufficient interest to hold my attention, I may well be the first to break that tradition."

"May well be?" Beldara immediately snapped, back to being red-faced with embarrassment. "Now, that's less of a surprise than it might be. Anyone who doesn't know that being a Seated High is the only worthwhile thing to be in this life . . . ! No wonder you haven't heard of me. You aren't bright enough to have found out about the really important things."

We'll never hear anything else about Regisard again, or what research that those universities actually produce of value. We've never seen the University of Lightsbridge from Tamora Pierce's Circle books either, but there was a clear role in the world for the place. Here, it's like Green thought randomly that a large Empire needs academics, academics exist at universities and let's shove a bunch of them in a city somewhere.

Please, Beldara, tell me what exactly a Seated High does that is so awesome.

quote:

"Let me speculate a moment," Drowd said with a faint smile as he sat back in his chair, studying the angry woman. "Either one or both of your parents have told you that all your life, about how no endeavor but being a High is worthy of your attention. They're undoubtedly the same ones who constantly praised your use of the power, and assured you that you're known both far and wide. Am I mistaken?"

"Now you're suggesting there's something wrong with my parents telling me the truth?" Beldara snapped again, obviously trying to hide confusion. "They also said people here in Gan Garee would lie to me, so they were right there, too. Now you can save your breath, Eskin Drowd, because I'm not listening to lies any longer."

And with that she turned away to look at the other people who had been entering the dining room, throwing up an invisible wall that would allow nothing of "lies" to penetrate. Drowd sighed and made no further effort to reach the girl with simple common sense, but Vallant found himself disturbed. His own parents had always been supportive, but the only things they'd made their children believe in was the value of their own individual worth and the unacceptability of dishonorable behavior. That people could twist their children to satisfy their own desires was upsetting, and Vallant was more than happy not to pursue the subject.

Here's that unsubtle hammering of the theme about control and raising children again.

quote:

Especially since almost everyone else had now come in and taken places around the table at Warla's direction. A man sat silently to Beldara's right, dressed for all the world like a farmer and looking extremely uncomfortable and out of place. Directly across from Vallant was the fop Clarion Mardimil, dressed in another of those ridiculous outfits, this time in blinding green. But the man nodded to him in a stiff but civil manner, so Vallant nodded back.

Clarion: *squee* my first bro friend!!

quote:

And then he forgot about Mardimil to look at the woman seated to the man's left. She had golden-blond hair and light eyes, and was as beautiful as the girl Vallant had seen in the bath house, just in a different way. This one seemed to be laughing silently at the world, her flawless skin glowing with the amusement. Even Mardimil was finding it hard not to stare at her, but the girl didn't seem to mind or notice. She simply smiled and nodded to the farmer on Vallant's side of the table, who darkened slightly but managed to smile back.

Vallant: *tears off all of Jovvi's clothes with his eyes*

Jovvi:


Jovvi: "Hey Lorand, did you have a good ?"
Lorand:

quote:

The last of their number was another man, seated to the beautiful woman's left, next to the empty chair at the head of the table. He was slight and dark and looked almost as uncomfortable as the farmer, which wasn't hard to understand. His collarless shirt must have been matched by knee breeches and hose, the usual dress of grooms and stablemen. Vallant had never come into direct contact with one of them, not when he preferred a deck under his feet to a saddle under his rump, but he'd certainly seen enough of them.

But none of that was causing any of the food to be brought out. Vallant stirred in his chair, more than willing to go looking for sustenance on his own if they weren't served soon, but then two other women walked in. One looked to be in her mid-thirties with the bearing of someone who considered herself really important, and that despite the smile she showed so obviously. The other was the girl he'd seen in the bath house, and Vallant was startled to realize that he hadn't remembered just how beautiful she really was. Delicate and fragile, soft and helpless . . .

And not looking happy at all. That observation filled Vallant with guilt, since he was probably the source of her unhappiness. The older woman was undoubtedly the owner of the house, and the girl now expected to be exposed as a liar. She stood lost in thought while the older woman called the stableman over to her, probably expecting Vallant to say something that would embarrass her even more, just as he'd planned to. Had planned to, but no longer did. It would be enough if he and the girl were the only ones to know what had passed between them.

Obligatory rear end in a top hat. You are not the center of every woman's universe.

quote:

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," the older woman said suddenly, pulling Vallant out of his stare. The stableman had already returned to his seat at the table, and Vallant hadn't even noticed.

"I'll begin by introducing myself to you," the woman continued, looking around at all of them with a smile. "I'm Lady Eltrina Razas, and I'll be your liaison to the testing authority. The first thing you must know is that you'll be expected to pay three silver dins a week if you intend to eat at this table—starting tonight. When I'm through speaking you'll go and fetch the silver, and then give it to me."

There wasn't quite a murmur at that, but Vallant thought it was only because none of them really knew each other. Sending people to live in a place after threatening their freedom, and then making them pay to eat! If Vallant had had any doubts about whether or not he wanted to continue associating with those people, that would have settled them.

This is so stupidly inefficient. There's no reason to go through this song and dance - you could have just deducted the 3 silvers a week from the pouch of silver you gave each person for passing. I get that this is supposed to be some sort of power play, except Green's forgotten to do the other half of it - i.e. restrict their ability to leave the residence.

quote:

"Another thing some of you will have to fetch is your identification as an applicant," the Lady Eltrina went on, now looking at them with a shade less friendliness. "You were told to wear it at all times, but half of you have come down here without it. From now on anyone appearing without identification will not be fed, even if he or she has already paid the necessary silver."

Now everyone looked around, to see that Mardimil, the beautiful woman next to him, the stableman, and Vallant himself no longer wore those chains and cards. Vallant had simply forgotten about his, but it looked like none of them would forget again. Score another direct hit on the possibility of a reasonable relationship with the people behind all this.

Even something that's supposed to be dehumanizing reads so flatly.

quote:

"As a final matter, you must all be ready just after luncheon tomorrow for the carriages which will come for you," Lady Eltrina said. "You will be taken to a tailoring shop which is familiar with our requirements, and there you will have fitted two outfits each for attending sessions in. The gentlemen will be given gray trousers and white shirts, and the ladies gray skirts and white blouses. You will also be expected to pay for the clothing, but a mere token rather than full price. If you use the shop afterwards to buy other, more usual clothing, then you'll pay full price. Now be so kind as to fetch the silver—and your identification, if necessary—so that I may leave you to your meal and the rest you undoubtedly crave."

Aren't you guys so excited for the dress fitting scenes that will be forthcoming?

quote:

It wasn't a happy group which rose from the table, but it also wasn't a slow-moving group. Everyone was obviously just as hungry as Vallant, and the only way to make the food start coming was to pay. Tomorrow Vallant would visit his family's bank and draw some gold, to replace what he would spend tonight and tomorrow at the tailor. He still had some silver left from what he'd been given at the start of the trip, but not all that much.

Spoilers: he won't do this.

quote:

And as he watched the girl from the bath house leave the room along with everyone else, he finally had to admit that he owed her an apology. Warla had told him that the owner of the house was named Tamrissa Domon, and the older woman had called herself Eltrina Razas. That left his bathing companion as Tamrissa, especially since she'd also worn her identification. He'd finally noticed that as well, after spending most of his time staring at her face. And that beautiful reddish-blond hair. . . .

Vallant sighed as he headed for the stairs along with everyone else. Tamrissa Domon attracted him in a way no other woman ever had, but he hadn't come to Gan Garee to find a woman. In point of fact he'd decided against ever becoming entangled with a woman again, and he'd be a fool to forget that. So he'd simply find an opportunity to apologize to her, and then he'd be polite but distant. That ought to please her, at any rate; she hadn't seemed to like him very much, which was actually a damned good thing.

But which would have been a better thing if it hadn't annoyed him so much. . . .

All it took for Vallant to get over what should be a pretty rough break up with his fiancé is one glimpse at a naked Tamrissa. This sure sounds like a mature guy ready for a long committed relationship.

Summary:

Day 1
Our Five protagonists arrive in Gan Garee and pass their tests with Great Drama. Everyone is sent to live at Tamrissa's house which is now an official residence for applicants. They meet each other via a series of lazily written exchanges set in the bath house because Green wanted to have people naked on screen for reasons before Game of Thrones made sexposition a thing. We get a spoiler laden chapter from the creepy dudes administering the tests that flat out states everything is rigged and people have been dosed with mind control drugs to ensure their absolute compliance.

Lady Eltrina Razas shows up to boss everyone around and implement pointless attempts at dehumanizing the protagonists. We're 17 chapters in and we still haven't finished dinner on Day 1.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 13
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 16
COACH RIDES: 9
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 14
"CLIFFHANGERS": 8
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 3
BATH SCENES: 5
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 2
MIND CONTROL: 5

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapter 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)

Possible fixes:
The point of this chapter is to convey the dehumanization of the protagonists and set up a jailer/prisoners dynamic in a genteel setting. I guess it kind of achieves this purpose but everything is written so on the nose that reading this is a chore. My preference would be to have these rules known in the background and only discovered by the characters as they go about their business - in which case this shouldn't be a chapter at all but just small events that happen along the way.

Leng fucked around with this message at 03:46 on Sep 1, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Lorand was among the first to get back to the table after paying over his silver, but no one actually took their time. The hollowness inside him had to be present in everyone, even that pompous fool Mardimil. The "lord" had stopped to speak to the Razas woman on his way out of the dining room, but the conversation couldn't have lasted very long. Mardimil had returned only moments behind Lorand, and he didn't look the type to run.

But he seemed to be a lucky type, having been seated next to Jovvi Hafford. Lorand wished he had the nerve to ask the man opposite to change seats with him, but they'd been assigned those seats and the man seemed to be as taken with Jovvi as Lorand felt. But at least she'd smiled and nodded to him, which was more than she'd done with any of the other men there.

Annnd...the waving contest begins. It's been like a few hours, max, and Lorand has already forgotten his resolve to be nice to Clarion post bath encounter. Curiously, "fool" is a weird insult for Lorand to call Clarion in his head; if anything, Lorand felt like he was the foolish one and their last interaction established that Clarion was the useless one.

quote:

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you," Eltrina Razas said at last, hefting the pouch she'd put the silver in. "Our business is concluded for the moment, so I wish you hearty appetites and a pleasant night. When I return, I'll have your session schedules. Warla will name each of you for the others, and then you'll be left to your own devices."

No one said anything to that, just the way they'd said nothing to any of her other comments. She wasn't only a noble, she was someone who could make a hard time for them with the testing people. And she'd hesitate not a heartbeat to do it, that had been clear from the first despite her smiles. Lorand meant to stay well out of her way, a decision he probably had a lot of company in making.

Eltrina Razas considers herself a Very Important Person and narratively speaking, there's nothing contradicting that. What's bizarre is that the government apparently considers it a good use of a Very Important Person's time to send them around collecting food money from people and basically showing up to make announcements.

quote:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the names are as follows," the girl Warla said, sounding frightened to death rather than sure and confident the way Eltrina had. "At the head of the table is Tamrissa Domon, owner of this house. Beside her on her left is Lorand Coll, then Beldara Lant, then Vallant Ro, then Eskin Drowd, then Clarion Mardimil, then Jovvi Hafford, then Pagin Holter. Please enjoy your meal."

I'm pretty sure Vallant's fantasizing about spanking Tamrissa right now because he has no self control whatsoever.

quote:

Her curtsy was hurried and very self-conscious, and the Razas woman was amused when she followed Warla out of the room at a much more leisurely pace. Lorand heard a very faint "Finally!" along with a sigh from the girl who had been named Tamrissa Domon, so he smiled at her.

"I agree with that sentiment completely," he told her in a soft voice. "In case you missed it I'm Lorand Coll, and I can remember a time when I wasn't a mere shadow of my former self."

"I don't think I qualify for the term, 'mere shadow,'" Tamrissa answered with a smile that made her even more beautiful than she was naturally. In fact she was just as beautiful as Jovvi in a more innocent and open way, which made Lorand wonder where he'd gotten the nerve to speak to her.

"I still weigh too much to call myself a shadow, but completely empty is another matter entirely," the girl continued. "I was ready to eat as soon as I got back from the test, but at least the staff is beginning to serve now."

As if we haven't already had five POVs on how hungry everyone is, we need to go through the motions of awkward small talk on this subject as well.

quote:

"I wonder what those sessions will be like," Lorand remarked, mostly to keep himself from noticing the bread and cheese and soup that hadn't quite reached the table yet. He would not make a pig of himself by immediately bolting down what was put in front of him ... "I intend to pass whatever they throw at me just the way I did today, but I can't help wondering what that whatever will turn out to be."

"It can't be worse than what they did to us today, so I have very high hopes," Tamrissa answered, obviously keeping herself from staring at the incredibly good-smelling soup that had been ladled into the bowl which had been put in front of her. "I also intend to pass, no matter how hard they try to make me fail."

You guys, what happens in the testing room stays in the testing room.

quote:

"I will pass," the red-haired girl to Lorand's left put in, joining the conversation as if she had every right to do so.

You're all strangers meeting for the first time in your forced communal living situation. This is not a private conversation, so yeah, actually Beldara has every right to join in on the conversation.

quote:

"To say you 'intend' is to say you have doubts, and I have none. Since you heard my name you now know who I am, which certainly confirms what I said. I will be the Seated High, and nothing and no one can stop me."

"That's all yer after?" the man opposite Lorand, Pagin Holter by the name on his identification card, put in hesitantly. "Wouldn't mind havin' thet m'self, but only fer consalayshun. It's bein' part o'one a them challenger Blendin's I mean t'try fer, this bein' a twenty-fifth year 'n all. Din't you folk r'member thet?"

Lorand thought the man had asked his question because of the way everyone was staring at him, even the people at the other end of the table. Holter was a small man and obviously far from the sort to push himself forward, but the fact that his voice had been hesitant hadn't stopped it from being deep and carrying. Everyone seemed to have frozen in the midst of whatever they'd been doing, shock or surprise showing on each of their faces.

"Yes, that's right, I'd forgotten it was a twenty-fifth year," Tamrissa said, apparently less affected by the announcement than Lorand and the rest. "Those of us who live in Gan Garee tend to be more aware of things like that, since the contests are always held here. I've heard they're really something to see, but as far as being a part of it goes . . . The winning Blending rules for twenty-five years!"

The penny finally drops, 18 chapters in.

quote:

Her tone of voice said she couldn't quite picture herself ruling at all, let alone for twenty-five years, and Lorand knew just how she felt. It was one thing to aspire to a High position, another thing entirely to try for the Fivefold Throne. There had been plays and books written about people who'd dreamed about that, and most of them were either comedies or tragedies.

So how did these books turn out to be neither comedic nor tragic? Though if you take that to mean the quality of the actual writing, then I guess these books would qualify.

quote:

"Of course, that explains everything," the red-haired girl to Lorand's left breathed, apparently having missed what Tamrissa had said. The girl looked as if she'd been struck with revelation, and a delightful one at that. "Now I understand why I qualified for testing this year rather than any other. I'm meant to be part of the winning Blending, to fulfill my full destiny and rule."

That's a badly written line of dialogue. Is this Beldara's second attempt at passing? Or does Beldara mean she wasn't a confirmed Middle until this year so last year she was still considered a Low? How rapidly does magical strength develop so that you could be considered a Low talent into your late teens and then suddenly develop into a Middle or a High?

quote:

"I'm afraid your destiny comes up a bit short for that" a voice drawled, and Lorand glanced around to see that it was the fool Mardimil who spoke. "All members of the current Blending are from the nobility, which you would know if you moved in the proper circles. As the members of most of the Blendings before them were also the same, you should have chosen your place of birth a bit more carefully. Destiny favors those with all the proper qualities."

Lorand persists in mentally referring to Clarion as a fool when he's done nothing foolish.

quote:

"Obviously you're all too jealous to admit the truth," the girl said smugly, somehow managing to be even more annoying than Mardimil. "But now that I know what my purpose in life really is, I don't care how jealous you are. When I'm crowned as one of the new Blending, I may even forgive you."

And then the girl turned with a smile to her food, dismissing all the rest of the world as beneath her notice. Lorand exchanged a glance with Tamrissa, who wrinkled her nose in distaste and shook her head, then he began to pay attention to his own food. Even if he hadn't been so hungry, there was nothing left to say to the red-haired girl who thought so much of herself. The idea she'd latched onto was tempting, but only a fool would think about it seriously. . . .

Should I be keeping a count of how many times the word "fool" is used?? Maybe Green doesn't know any other insults.

quote:

Clarion was so hungry he all but inhaled what was put before him, barely even noticing that the house cook was more than adequate. He'd been prepared to eat anything at all, even lower-class food, just so long as it filled him. And diverted him from that fool of a girl across the table. To think that a female dressed in cotton would consider herself a possible candidate for the new Blending! She was as blind and empty-headed as the rest of her class—and seemed to match at least one member of his own class.

The memory of his conversation with Lady Eltrina still nettled, enough so that under other circumstances it would probably have ruined his appetite. As a courtesy he'd stopped to introduce himself, and then would have mentioned how inappropriate his current surroundings were. He'd expected a member of his own class to understand, possibly even without having to be told; what he hadn't expected was to be cut short before the first word might leave his mouth.

"You've been told to go and do something, sir," she'd said coldly when he'd stopped in front of her. "In your case you've been told to do two somethings, which should mean you have even less time to accomplish it. Beyond that, we have nothing to say to one another."

It doesn't qualify as a conversation when there was no conversing! Also, hate on Eltrina all you want, but she's got a good point here.

quote:

Rather than argue, Clarion had bowed stiffly and continued on his way to fetch that idiotic identification card and the piddling amount of silver the woman had demanded. There wasn't much of the silver left after that journey, so tomorrow he'd have to pay a visit to Mother's bankers here in Gan Garee. A good portion of his last allowance still remained credited to him, enough so that silver would be the least of his worries.

He reached for another cut of bread, and found himself glancing involuntarily again at the girl sitting to his left. Jovvi Hafford, they'd said her name was, and the one at the head of the table was Tamrissa Domon. Both of them were dressed in silk

Ah yes, the ultimate way to tell how a woman is worth anything - just look at what she's wearing. That way, you don't have to bother about getting to know them as individual people.

quote:

and showed surprisingly good taste as well as something of well-filled purses, but that wasn't what seemed to attract Clarion to them. He honestly had never seen two women more beautiful, and for the first time in his life there were stirrings within him which weren't being banished by Mother's presence. The stirrings were decidedly uncomfortable, but for some reason it pleased him that they remained.



quote:

Perhaps he would even find it possible to do something about them . . .

You would be wondering whether Clarion's thinking about or but I can tell you that spoilers for the end of this chapter it's neither, he's thinking about talking to them because Clarion has never masturbated in his life and Chapter 22 spoilers Clarion doesn't know how babies are made until Lorand gives him The Talk.

quote:

But not at the moment. Right now it was his hunger that he assuaged, a prospect made even more pleasant by the appearance of platters of meat and bowls of vegetables in various sauces. The one lack was a decent wine to go with the rest, but in all honesty Clarion wasn't certain he could manage wine right now. A single sip of it would likely stretch him out for the night, leaving all that marvelous food to go to waste. The tea they'd been provided with would have to serve, at least until he returned to himself.

What? Exhaustion doesn't equal reduced tolerance for alcohol.

quote:

And until he had a tighter rein on his thoughts. Even as he let another bite of the tender roast melt in his mouth, his mind insisted on pursuing the thought that this was a twenty-fifth year. The present Blending would soon be replaced, and he happened to be right on the spot among those who would vie for the honor. Of course, his current companions were beyond consideration, but there were certain to be noble Blendings assembled for the contest. If he should decide that the effort wasn't unsuitable for a gentleman like himself, perhaps . . .

"The mind of man is an amazing instrument," a voice commented softly, and Clarion looked up to see that it was the man to his right, Eskin Drowd, who spoke musingly. "Before this excellent fare was placed before us, I could think of nothing but its imminent arrival. Now that I've consumed enough to assuage part of my hunger, my thoughts have found another topic to cling doggedly to."

"The matter of the upcomin' contest to seat the new Blendin'," Vallant Ro, across from Clarion, said with a nod around his latest mouthful. "I have no real interest in it myself, but even I can't stop thinkin' about it. I have no true yearnin' to rule anythin' but the deck of my ship, but the idea of bein' this close to and in the midst of the process that will seat the next holders of the Fivefold Throne ... I must admit the concept is somewhat. . . thought provokin'."

"It's a bit more than that," Jovvi Hafford put in with a sigh before Clarion was able to repeat what he'd said earlier about commoners being unfit for the honor. "I've also been thinking about it, and all it's done is bring me a great deal of confusion. I came here knowing exactly what I would do with my life once I'd put this test behind me, but now the test is behind me and my plans are in danger of crumbling to ruins. Part of me knows I haven't a chance of winning to the Fivefold Throne, but thinking about the power and safety such a position would bring. . . ."

This is the most unnatural dinner table conversation ever. It will only get worse from here.

quote:

She left the thought unfinished, but Clarion found himself nodding along with the other two men. Power and safety, two things the Seated Blending enjoyed above everyone else in the empire—and beyond. The adjoining realms of Gracely to the east and Astinda to the west had begun with their own Seated Blendings, but somehow the process had broken down through the centuries and now it was said that every High capable of drawing power had his own small area over which he ruled. The borders of their own realm Gandistra had been steadily growing over the years at the expense of Gracely and Astinda, which proved the point. The Fivefold Throne represented power and safety impossible to match anywhere on the continent.

This will be plot relevant in Books 4 and 5, and is the basis for the A plot in Books 6-8.

quote:

"It's been projected that in another thirty years or so, Gandistra will encompass this entire continent," Drowd said, nearly reading Clarion's thoughts. "Our expansion has been more rapid than most people realize, and I've even heard mention of the fact that across the seas are lands inhabited by unregenerate savages.

Book 8 spoilers: it's actually the other way around! Gandistra is the backwards Empire on the backwards continent and the advanced nation of full Blendings in on the other continent.

quote:

If our expansion should become more rapid still, there may well be a place other than quiet retirement for this new, incoming Blending to go when their service to the empire is done. Savages need to be ruled by those with experience in ruling, and where would one find greater experience than among a retiring Blending?"

For the second time there was no overt comment on what had been said. Everyone seemed as taken by the concept as Clarion himself, even the fool of a girl sitting beside Ro. She'd held herself aloof from the conversation, undoubtedly to avoid more of their "jealousy," but her eyes gleamed in a way that said she pictured herself eventually bringing a large number of savages to their" knees before her. The idea was absurd, at least with her in the picture . . .

Green at least got this part of Drowd's character right: an academic who is focused on debating extremely academic questions that have no practical application or relevance to the actual issues in present reality!

(no offense to any academics reading this: I'm saying this because in my industry, academia is ridiculously divorced from practice and irrelevant to the point that any time I get handed a research paper or attend a conference, I spend my time wavering between rolling on the floor in hysterics because the research questions are so useless or getting angry because they are drawing actively harmful conclusions based on flawed methods. I am super jealous of industries where academics are at the leading edge of developing new and useful knowledge that actually changes how things work in practice)

quote:

"I'm not sure I approve of the idea of expanding to the next continent," Jovvi Hafford said suddenly, a faint frown marring her beautiful brow. "I knew a seaman once who visited the Tondron continent at least three times a year, the freighter he served on plying the trade route which has been used for centuries. The people in Tondron aren't savages, they simply have a way of life that doesn't include being ruled by a Blending. Not a single Blending, at any rate. I had the impression that most people became part of one, but I never got the details involved."

I forgot that Green named a random continent. We will never hear of it again after this chapter, not even when Book 7 spoilers when unstoppable invaders attack Gracely and Book 8 spoilers the advanced nation of full Blendings manipulating things from the shadows confesses all (and what little we learn of their society would fit this description).

quote:

"That's because the man had to be lying to you," the red-haired girl said immediately with a sound of ridicule. "Only savages would consider getting along without a ruling Blending, and if you don't believe that ask anyone in Gracely or Astinda. They don't have Blendings either, and soon they won't even have separate realms. You really must learn not to be so gullible."

It's pretty hard to control territory on a different continent and force them to identify as part of the same "realm" when they are literally not part of the same landmass.

quote:

"Listening without preconceived ideas isn't being gullible, my dear," Jovvi corrected gently with an amused smile before Clarion could jump to her defense. "I can see how well you like the idea of lording it over everyone for the rest of your life, but just because you were allowed to do that until now doesn't mean you're guaranteed to continue doing it. For your own sake, you'd better stop being so gullible."



quote:

A definite sound of scorn came from the redhead, and then she was back to being aloof and no longer a part of the conversation. The behavior was obviously typical of her, but happily it supplied a reason for Clarion to speak to the vision on his left—but not in a way she might find daunting.

"Nicely done," he complimented Jovvi, smiling as warmly as possible while pretending to be just another ordinary person at the table. "It's quite obvious the girl will never learn the truth of her position, but fear of being put in her place might manage to keep her quiet. I'm Clarion Mardimil, Air magic."

Beldara's sitting right across the table from you. You realize she can HEAR YOU even if she's actively ignoring you right? She already got a bitch smack down, don't be a jerk who piles on - that's not a classy move.

quote:

"So your identification says," Jovvi replied with a marvelous smile, sharing the jest with him rather than making him the butt of it. "And what do you think of the plans to extend our influence, Clarion Mardimil? Are you for allowing people the freedom to do as they please, or for smothering them with your own definition of what's right?"

"Definitely freedom," Clarion replied immediately, startling himself. He had been raised to accept the idea of a completely directed life without question, but something odd seemed to be happening to him. Just exactly what that was Clarion hadn't yet figured out, but it earned him an even more delightful smile from Jovvi.

"I would have expected no less from such a handsome gentleman," she murmured, the words tingling along his spine like a caress. The power of her lovely blue-green eyes began to bring an uncomfortable hardening to his groin, but then she looked away to the servants who had reappeared with another offering.

Didn't you already have a full on boner from before?

quote:

"Is that sherbet?" she asked, then made a sound of satisfaction when her observation proved itself to be true. "How delightful. Now my palate will be cleared for the next course."

This is why I find it so hard to believe that Jovvi's supposed to be this deft manipulator of people in social situations. The only people who say stuff like this are the people desperately trying to prove something and in the process prove exactly the opposite.

quote:

That was the purpose of sherbet, of course, and Clarion was delighted to see that she knew it. That certainly took her firmly out of the category of peasant, something Clarion didn't want to believe of her. Nevertheless he meant to avoid stressing his true place in life, to also avoid the loneliness of standing aloof. The Lant female had done that to herself, obviously not having grown up in the sort of isolation which Clarion had. But he had no intentions of repeating that, not again, not here . . . Clarion turned to his own sherbet, but in a moment the conversation was taken up again in a different quarter.

...oh, I get it. Green needed a way to make Jovvi bangable for Clarion while he's still in his noble mindset.

quote:

"I'm inclined to agree with Mardimil and the lovely Dama Hafford," Ro said from across the table, looking at Drowd. "If people in other lands have found a way to live that pleases them and does us no harm, what right do we have to interfere with their lives? It would be the most colossal arrogance to assume that we know better about what's right for them."

"My dear Ro, arrogance doesn't enter into the matter," Drowd returned with a deprecating laugh. "As the more civilized of the two groups, we do know better about what's right for them. If you wish, you may think of them as children and ourselves as adults. You do agree that adults are best suited to know what's proper for children?"

"Not under all circumstances," Ro came back immediately, dismissing the claim with a sharp gesture. "Some parents twist the lives of their children to satisfy their own wants and desires, a point we agreed on not many minutes ago. The child who grows up to live accordin' to other people's ideas of what's right usually ends up completely out of touch with the world as it really is. A truly wise adult teaches a child to rely on his or her own talents and abilities, and supports the child's ambitions. To substitute your own ambition means you're really an overgrown child yourself, not an adult."

"What you say is quite true," Drowd agreed with a gracious nod as he applied himself to his own sherbet. "The overgrown child, impressing his or her own narrow viewpoint on a true child, usually produces an offspring out of touch with reality. That, however, doesn't hold true for the actual adult, who tends to teach proper attitudes rather than false ones. Were you taught not to steal as a child?"

"Of course," Ro answered with a snort. "I was also taught what happens if you try it anyway. When you're a child, you tend to think of yourself as the only one with magical ability. You learn better when you try to sneak away with a cooling cherry tart, and Cook uses her own talent to show you your mistake. So what's your point?"

"The point, my dear Ro, is that small children may consider a particular action pleasant and therefore proper, but that doesn't necessarily make it proper. The adult knows better from having lived longer in a proper way, and therefore is entitled, no, honor bound, to teach the child. You do believe in adults fulfilling their duty?"

Drowd now wore a rather self-satisfied smile, but Clarion was too distracted to be annoyed by it. The conversation between Drowd and Ro had been strangely disturbing, but before Clarion was able to discover in what way, Ro responded to the question put to him.

"I most certainly do believe in adults fulfillin' their duty," Ro replied, not in the least daunted. "But before you can call such fulfillment a grand and wonderful thing, you first have to learn their definition of what's right. But the easiest way to discover whether you're right is to take the situation and turn it around. You think well of forcin' other people to live accordin' to your concept of right, but how much would you enjoy bein' forced to live accordin' to theirs? As long as their way doesn't harm you, the best—adult—solution would be for everyone to live accordin' to their own beliefs."

"My protagonists are such worldly, mature and wise people that they have no problems putting an academic in his place while conveniently stating my theme bluntly enough that the dumb readers reading this book couldn't possibly miss my point!"

quote:

"That's begging the question," Drowd countered, no longer as pleased or self-satisfied. "If something is right, it's right for everyone. If it's wrong, it's wrong for everyone. That's something you can't argue with."

"It's something I can argue with," Jovvi said before Ro was able to respond, startling Clarion. The beautiful woman was still serene, but no longer amused. "As Dom Ro said earlier in a different way, what's right for you doesn't necessarily have to be right for me. For instance, I know someone who doesn't want to let me out of her sight. She pretends that her actions are for my benefit and protection, but in reality she's serving herself. And since even stealing can be considered right under the proper circumstances—as, for instance, to save your life—I seriously doubt if there are many universal rights and wrongs to begin with. You'd do well, Dom Drowd, to reexamine the basis of your beliefs."

Drowd came back with something to continue the argument, but Clarion no longer listened.

This is the first time I'm actually GLAD a POV character is tuning out of something.

quote:

He'd been shaken by Jovvi Hafford's words even more than by Ro and Drowd's, but the confusion buzzing around his head refused to let him understand why. What they'd said didn't apply to him in any way, so why were his hands cold and nearly trembling, and his mouth dry? The situation was quite ridiculous, but banishing it was apparently beyond him.

This is Green's go to technique whenever a character is being confronted with uncomfortable truths. Instead of letting us see how the character wrestles with the issues and how they decide one way or another, she just sticks in a paragraph where they go "oh I'm so confused!"

Sanderson is upfront that he loves writing a lot of introspection and he went into a bit of detail about how he approaches writing introspection in one of his lectures. The lecture itself is a bit of a Q&A so it jumps around too much to link a specific part so I'm going to post my notes instead:

Introspection
* Try to break it up
* Make sure there is a point to the introspection and there is a key takeaway for the reader - e.g. something has been accomplished, establishing motivation or flaws and becoming aware of them
* Most of it should be reinforcing character arc
- At some point, most arcs involve reassessing goals - wants vs needs, coming to understand the need and giving up the want
- Most will also follow the 3 act structure - moving from inaction regarding their flaw to action, and also having a bad relapse with consequences
- Most character flaws will link up with the external plot at some point - either they have to give up something to achieve the plot goal, or they risk a relapse into dangerous territory in order to accomplish something


If we use this framework, it becomes very clear why all of Green's internal monologues suck - there's never a key takeaway to any of them!

quote:

Clarion sat back in an effort to regain control of himself, and had almost managed it by the time the next course was brought. Chilled fish with a tangy sauce it was, just the thing to attract his weakening but still-active appetite. The others also let themselves be somewhat distracted by the newly arrived dish, but not to the point of abandoning their discussion. Their pointless, ridiculous discussion which had nothing to do with him, and which he therefore ignored. Leave it to the lower classes to upset a gentleman without even knowing they did it-After the chilled fish came tidbits of chicken and various sauces to dip them in, and that finally settled Clarion's hunger. A light dessert of banana slices mixed into butter-cream topped it all off, and by then no one at the table was still part of a discussion.

That bad punctuation in the middle of the paragraph appears in the ebook; I don't remember it existing in the print version.

I am so confused at why I'm getting more specific description about the food than about the setting or the characters. You could argue that the food is part of the setting but I don't buy it; I'm betting that this is what Green ate the day she was writing this chapter. At least when GRRM gave food descriptions, he was specific enough that fans were able to publish a cookbook that you can buy on Amazon.

quote:

Everyone seemed to feel the waves of exhaustion rolling over them as strongly as Clarion did, so he wasn't the only one to finish his tea, rise and bid a general good night, and then head for his room. Clarion had meant to discuss the size of his quarters, but at the moment it was simply too much trouble. Tonight he felt he would find it possible to sleep propped in the corner of a broom closet, but tomorrow would surely be another matter.

Yes, tomorrow he would speak to the lovely Tamrissa Domon, possibly with as much success as he'd had with Jovvi Hafford.

This guy is in his early twenties.

quote:

Clarion climbed the stairs to his room with a smile of anticipation on his face, but that uncomfortable hardening had returned to his body. He usually had to exercise hard to rid himself of the condition, but possibly tonight his exhaustion would see to the matter. Tomorrow, however . . . Yes, tomorrow would definitely be another day.

Literal. Man. Child.

Summary:

Day 1
Our Five protagonists arrive in Gan Garee and pass their tests with Great Drama. Everyone is sent to live at Tamrissa's house which is now an official residence for applicants. They meet each other via a series of lazily written exchanges set in the bath house because Green wanted to have people naked on screen for reasons before Game of Thrones made sexposition a thing. We get a spoiler laden chapter from the creepy dudes administering the tests that flat out states everything is rigged and people have been dosed with mind control drugs to ensure their absolute compliance.

Lady Eltrina Razas shows up to boss everyone around and implement pointless attempts at dehumanizing the protagonists. Highlights of the dinner conversation include: every male protagonist getting raging for Jovvi and Tamrissa, Jovvi verbally bitch smacking Beldara, Pagin Holter clueing the oblivious in to the fact it's a twenty-fifth year, and Vallant and Jovvi blasting Drowd with some blatant moralizing on about how controlling other people and invading other nations is bad.

Why am I supposed to like any of these characters? None of them have done anything remotely funny, interesting, intelligent or cool. They are off the charts for whiny, dumb, sexist, classist and incompetent though, so surely things can only improve from here!

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 13
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 16
COACH RIDES: 9
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 14
"CLIFFHANGERS": 8
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 5
BATH SCENES: 5
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 2
MIND CONTROL: 5

REPETITIVE POV EVENTS:
  • Oh noes, a fireball (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Pass or die (Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Bathroom encounters (Chapter 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)

Possible fixes:
Said it before and I'll say it again: I see no reason why this chapter needs to exist. There's no reason for the main characters to be oblivious to the fact it's a twenty-fifth year! We began the story expecting a political intrigue culminating in magical battles for the Fivefold Throne and got 18 chapters of filler before the protagonists realized they're competing for a spot in a challenging Blending. During those 18 chapters, we've had no character growth and no advancement of the main plot in a setting so devoid of description that it's evoking a sense of boredom instead of a sense of wonder.

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:

Edit: I had to go look it up, but did you know these books won Green a Phoenix Award in 2001?

No I did not.

Like my writing sucks but I'm reasonably certain it doesn't suck this bad. Does that mean there's hope that I too can win an award???

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 NINETEEN

Jovvi awoke to moderate sunshine coming through the curtains, and spent a moment enjoying the feel of the bed and the lack of a servant determined to wake her. That happened only rarely at Allestine's residence, as Allestine believed in allowing her ladies only enough sleep to keep the blush of good health in their cheeks. Perhaps twice a year a holiday was declared and everyone was permitted to do as they pleased, but usually that happened only during some terrible storm that no one was able to get through. With Allestine even a shopping trip was business, as it let the girls show themselves off around town to men who might not know what marvelous courtesans her residence housed.

In this episode of "boring things the main characters did today" Green has no choice but start Day 2 with Jovvi waking up because as we all know if you don't see a character waking up in the morning, how would you even know the night had passed?

quote:

Jovvi's enjoyment evaporated at the thought of Allestine and the confinement she was determined to escape. So far her plans hadn't gone well at all, especially since she'd begun to wonder at those plans. Her ultimate aim was to be so wealthy and powerful that no one would ever be able to control her life again, and last night she'd been shaken to realize that she stood within reach of the ultimate place of wealth and power. Being a member of the new Blending . . .

"But that's more fantasy than reality," she protested to herself, trying to bring her imagination down from the heights. "Do you really think you could qualify as a member of the new Blending?

At this point our main cast is not aware that the competitions are rigged.

quote:

Don't you remember what the boy said about it being nobles who were chosen? You may have nobles as patrons, but you can't be silly enough to think you're one yourself."

Jovvi sighed as her practical nature refused to let her lie to herself. Her family had been about as noble as an old shoe, something she refused to let herself forget.

This line of thinking therefore makes no sense. The premise of this world is that everyone has magical talent. We've had no world building to establish that nobles come from bloodlines with greater magical strength. If Jovvi really had a practical nature, she'd be pointing this flaw in Clarion's logic rather than swallowing his argument whole.

quote:

Her talent with Spirit magic was just an asset to be used like any other, not something to use in an effort to pretend she was better than everyone else. Those who talked themselves into believing they were superior in every way usually proved just the opposite with everything they did.

Like that silly girl Beldara Lant, last night at the table. Jovvi made a face at the memory, wondering how anyone above the age of five could be so self-centered. Or any woman, at any rate. Men with money and power usually demanded that life accommodate them, but most women were too practical to do the same. Money and power most often ended in the hands of men, and only the occasional woman was able to take them for her own.

Yes, it's such a useful asset that one or two weeks ago, you told Allestine you have no idea how your own talent works.

quote:

Which was what Jovvi had planned to do, before delusions of fantasy had begun to turn her head. In all practicality it would never be possible to become a member of the new Blending, but the temptation to try for it was so unbelievably strong.

You are being held captive and forced to compete. You have nothing to lose by trying.

quote:

She'd better remind herself again about what the boy had said, repeating it over and over as necessary.

"And stop calling him 'the boy,' even in your thoughts," she chided herself as she sat up and ran her hands through her hair. "He's obviously older than you, and his name is Clarion."

Yes, Clarion Mardimil, she recalled with another sigh. He was actually more than ordinarily handsome, but there was a . . . lack, perhaps, or some kind of innocence that made him feel more like a boy than a man to her talent. His balance was so precarious it was difficult to understand how he'd passed his test. Most adults with so little self-possession rarely found it possible to cope with ordinary life, not to mention extraordinary situations like his test must have been. But he had passed, and was now in the process of developing a crush on her . . .

Jovvi smiled as she got out of bed, wondering if Clarion even knew what was happening to him. He'd dropped out of the table conversation early and had been one of the first to go to bed, but every time he'd looked at her she'd felt him reacting the way men always did. The odd thing about it had been the distance of his own awareness, as though he'd somehow been kept from learning a normal masculinity. Jovvi didn't understand that, but there were enough other men in the house to keep Clarion from pestering her. She'd use one or two of the others as shields, and—

No direct mention in text, but the only way Jovvi could be picking up this information is if she was holding on to the power the whole time during dinner and just casually invading everybody's mental privacy.

quote:

Her thoughts broke off as she heard a very small but unexpected sound, at the same time feeling a wetness on her bare left foot. She looked down expecting to find herself imagining things, then blinked at what should have been imagination but wasn't. About halfway between her knee and her ankle a tiny cluster of thunderclouds floated in midair, dark and threatening with lightning flashing through them and thunder rumbling around. And rain coming down from them, which was what had wet her foot and part of her nightdress.

"But all we drank last night was tea," she protested in a murmur, staring down at the miniature thunderstorm. It was actually rather adorable, if you liked that sort of thing. What she didn't enjoy, though, was having her foot inundated, so she stepped back to get it out of the rain. That helped for a very brief moment, and then the clouds followed to rain on her again.

What does Jovvi even mean by this? Alcohol doesn't cause hallucinations.

quote:

That was the point she realized someone must be playing a joke, but who they might be and how they were doing it was beyond her. The only ones at the table with Water magic were Vallant Ro and that shy little stableman, Pagin Holter, and neither of them seemed the type to play jokes. She'd expected a frank and direct suggestion from Ro because of the way he'd looked at her, but using a practical joke to get her attention? It wasn't at all likely, and the same held true for Holter. His yearning interest had been quite clear, but all traces of intent to follow up on the feelings were entirely absent.

I'm just as surprised as Jovvi that Vallant hasn't propositioned her already.

quote:

Jovvi's foot was beginning to get cold, so there was only one thing to do: get rid of the clouds no matter how adorable they were, and then act as if nothing had happened. That should make the prankster reveal himself, to find out what had happened if for no other reason. And it was faintly amusing, that she was willing to grant.

Dispersing the cloud wasn't difficult. Thunderstorms were a careful balance of water and dust and air all in turbulence, and without the turbulence it wasn't possible to have a storm. Jovvi soothed away that roiling violence with very little difficulty, and once it was gone the clouds quickly dissipated and disappeared. Her foot was now safe from the threat of drowning, but it and the carpeting could use some drying. Not to mention that small part of her nightdress.

Mopping up didn't take long either,

Why is Jovvi mopping up? Surely you'd call Warla at this point.

quote:

and then Jovvi went to work on the problem of where to hide her gold. If she were going to be fitted for new clothes today, she couldn't very well carry it with her. But she also had no intention of leaving it lying around for the house servants to find. It had to be well hidden but easy for her to get to, and then she'd be able to dress and go looking for breakfast. Dinner last night had been quite substantial, but she'd slept for many hours and was now ready to sit down to another meal.

That's right! We just got through dinner and now we get to read about breakfast as well. Maybe I should start a count of each meal we have to read about.

quote:

And possibly to speak to that nice Lorand Coll again. He was certainly handsome enough with a lovely body, but the unusual steadiness inside him was even more attractive to her than his looks. Not that she was in the midst of searching for a steady male friend. That fit not at all into any of her plans, not even the fantasy ones. . . .

Spoilers: she's going to proposition him anyway.

quote:

Lorand walked slowly down the stairs on his way to the dining room, glancing around to see if he could spot the practical joker. He'd awakened somewhat earlier feeling well rested and back to his usual self, and had gotten up with the intention of dressing and going to breakfast. Halfway across the floor he'd suddenly discovered that someone had put together a tiny thunderstorm in his room, and the thing was raining all over the back of his nightshirt. He'd found it possible to see the miniature clouds and their lightning only by twisting around at the waist, but he hadn't had any trouble hearing the small thunderclaps.

But he'd done quite a bit of hopping around trying to see the thing before it occurred to him to stand still and simply twist at the waist. He hated to feel foolish even if no one seemed to be around to watch, so he'd quickly removed the dust motes that kept the tiny thunderhead together. Without that cohesion the storm had ended, spreading out and then disappearing. It had managed to get him good and wet first, though, and he'd actually had to wring out his nightshirt.

So now Lorand looked casually around, trying to spot the one who had tried to make him look like a fool. He intended to indulge in some practical-joke-getting-even by pretending nothing at all had happened even if the culprit confessed, no matter which one of them it happened to be. Ro and Holter were the two with Water magic, and it had to be one of them. He'd find out over breakfast, and then it would be his turn to laugh.

Lorand is Not Smart. Thankfully Green has somewhat learned that it'd be super boring to read about all five of her protagonists wake up and get rained on. She's moved on to changing POVs as they go through their daily routines and having their internal monologues all cover the same plot points. Because it's Really Important for them to all make the same decision regarding Significant Events.

quote:

Lorand walked into the dining room to find only two of the others there before him, the man Eskin Drowd, who already sat in his place at the foot of the table and ate, and Clarion Mardimil. The latter stood at a long table set up on the side of the room, a number of odd, covered dishes with long legs arranged on the table. Small containers of what looked to be some sort of oil bubbled gently under the tall dishes, no doubt thanks to some servants with Fire magic. But none of the servants were currently in the room and Mardimil was helping himself from a dish he had uncovered. That had to mean it was proper for Lorand to do the same, which came as something of a relief. He exported to get used to being served by someone other than his mother eventually, but he hadn't yet reached that point.

Another error that exists in the ebook. Also, how sexist is this world that a farmboy Lorand expects to be served by a woman at every meal? I've got one kid and I can't imagine having any more. Lorand has multiple brothers! Raising multiple kids is no joke; if I were his mother, I'd be leaving them to serve themselves.

quote:

Walking around Mardimil to the left showed Lorand a stack of empty platters and a neat row of forks, so he took one of each and began to look in each of the covered dishes to see what they held. The first two held things Lorand wasn't able to identify in their cooked state, so he continued on until he reached the chicken livers in the third. They seemed to have been fried somehow and smelled wonderful, so he spooned some out onto his plate and went on with his search for eggs, potatoes, and bacon. That was what breakfast meant to him, but it didn't seem to mean the same to these people.

A potential High in Earth magic can't identify what two of the foods are.

quote:

Mardimil paid no attention to him as they both moved along their own sections of the table, but Lorand couldn't help remembering what he'd decided. He owed Mardimil an apology for what he'd said in the bath house, and putting it off wasn't likely to make the effort any easier. If he kept his voice low, the conversation would be private even from Drowd, who sat at the far end of the eating table. Eating table, dish table. Lorand shook his head over people who made them two different places, then used his finally having made a hoped-for discovery to start the conversation.

"I was beginning to think I'd have to find some chickens and coax my breakfast out of them," Lorand commented to Mardimil, gesturing at the eggs he'd just uncovered. "Liver is a nice addition, but without eggs it just doesn't seem like breakfast."

"My eating habits apparently agree," Mardimil said after something of a hesitation, his words a bit stiff but still representing a response. "Mother's servants always place the eggs first on the buffet, even when she takes her own meal in bed."

Last night you kept thinking about Clarion as a fool; and now you're going to be nice and apologize for being a jerk? Lorand's characterization is all over the place.

quote:

Lorand nodded, glanced at a Drowd who paid no attention to them, then lowered his voice. "I'd . . . like to apologize for what I said yesterday," he forced out in a murmur. "It was entirely uncalled for, and you can be sure I won't do it again."

"But it wasn't uncalled for," Mardimil responded at once, at the same time looking surprised that he'd said such a thing. "It . . . made me think . . . about subjects I'd tried to avoid, even though my survival could well depend on them. You spoke the truth to a stranger, and this stranger is very . . . grateful."

"I would call it being gracious instead," Lorand replied slowly, studying the man who had briefly looked at him with such naked openness and loneliness. "Very few people in this world will thank someone for telling them what they consider a painful truth, and I consider myself lucky for having met one of them. But I don't think you can call us strangers, not any more."

"Why, I do believe you're right," Mardimil said, looking surprised again. "Those who are involved in a group undertaking can be considered comrades, and this undertaking is a group one, despite our various areas of expertise. How odd this is, to go from a distant awareness of the state to being a comrade oneself."

"I'm more familiar with the idea of friends in adversity," Lorand remarked as he happily located fried potatoes. "I'll admit I know nothing about being a comrade, but we all have experience with being friends so I'll think of it that way."

"I've . . . never had a friend either," Mardimil said without looking at him, the words sounding like an embarrassed confession. "Mother has always said that having many acquaintances is far superior to having a small number of friends, but occasionally I've wondered what friendship is like. I've heard that too often friends impose on one, and if one refuses the imposition he loses the friend."

Clarion:

quote:

"Whoever told you that lied," Lorand answered, feeling shocked and hurting for this very innocent victim of life. "A true friend is someone so close to you that you don't mind helping them, because you know they'd do the same for you. A friend is someone you care about, and—"

Much stronger shock cut Lorand off in mid-sentence, all but leaving him openmouthed. He'd forgotten about Hat, he'd actually forgotten all about his best friend!

Yeah, somehow I don't think Lorand is the right person to teach Clarion all about the nature of friendship.

quote:

"Is something wrong?" Mardimil asked, still speaking hesitantly. "I don't mean to pry into something that's none of my affair, so if you'd rather not discuss it . . ."

"No, I'm just in the midst of cursing my own stupidity,"

More like hypocrisy!

quote:

Lorand answered heavily, feeling very depressed. "I came here with a friend, someone who's been a friend for most of my life, and we tested at the same time. I . . . was afraid to ask about him after the test was over, hoping I'd find he'd been sent to the same residence I was, but he's not here. That became obvious last night, but I didn't even think about him. Makes me a really great friend, doesn't it?"

"Is it wrong not to want to admit that someone you care about could well be dead?" Mardimil asked, now sounding more sure of himself. "If I had someone like that, aside from Mother, of course, I'd certainly want to keep from admitting it. The pain of such a loss would be intense."

"Yes, it is," Lorand admitted, giving Mardimil a glance of gratitude. "I appreciate your trying to make me feel better about this, but Hat is dead and I'd better learn to accept it. And figure out a way to let his parents know. We can talk again later."

Mardimil nodded before Lorand turned away, actually looking faintly sympathetic. That was quite a change from the man Lorand had met yesterday, but right now he was in no shape to appreciate the difference. He had a friend to mourn, and a meal to eat despite no longer having an appetite. He'd been raised to never waste good food, so he had to stuff down what he'd already put on his plate.

But how was he ever going to find a way to tell Hat's parents that he was dead? Without going into details about the way it must have happened. Lorand reclaimed his place at the table from the night before, but it took a few moments before he was able to reach for the fork. Hat would have loved that residence and its upper class ways, but Hat would never see it. He was gone, and the blur of tears helped to take away the sight of what Lorand simply shoveled into his mouth.

You idiot. Why would you jump to this assumption just because Hat didn't get sent to the same residence? He could have been put in a different one and you wouldn't know any different because you made no effort to find out what happened to him. You dumbass.

quote:

Clarion watched the man Coll head quickly for the table without investigating the rest of what the buffet held, and Clarion sighed for him. He could only try to imagine what it would feel like to lose someone close to you, since he'd never had anyone close but Mother. And he'd done quite a bit of thinking about her, both last night and this morning.

The final warming plate on the buffet held a lovely cheese sauce, so Clarion spooned some over his eggs and then headed for his own place at the table. Teacups had been arranged in front of each place, and steaming pitchers of tea stood at intervals along the table. Drowd already sat at the table to Clarion's right, but the man had his nose stuffed into a book and didn't seem aware of anyone else's presence. Clarion was tempted to feel slighted, but he had too much to think about to regret the loss of another conversation right now.

After pouring himself a cup of tea, Clarion began on his meal and his thinking at precisely the same time. The conversation he'd heard the night before had disturbed him, centering as it had on parents who raised their children to satisfy their own needs rather than those of the child. Someone had once taunted Clarion with the charge that he was only around as a backdrop for his mother, and the insult had hurt twice as much because Clarion hadn't ever been able to find a different purpose for himself. They'd started to add that his mother had planned it that way, but then Mother had come by and chased the nasty children away.

Last night you were hoping exhaustion would make your go away. If you really were reflecting on your childhood in light of last night's dinner conversation, you wouldn't be re-treading the same ground here.

quote:

Not that they had been small children. They and Clarion had all been sixteen or so, and Mother's explanation of their behavior had fit the situation. They were Clarion's social peers, she had said, and they naturally resented having been deprived of Clarion's presence among them. They were old enough to know how precious his company really was, but not yet old enough to realize that they couldn't possibly be considered fine enough to merit it.

Clarion had believed the explanation just as he always believed Mother, but some small kernel of doubt had remained. The boy who had spoken for the group hadn't sounded deprived and jealous, he'd sounded ridiculing and amused. The rest of the children had seemed the same, and Clarion had never quite forgotten the incident. But he had continued to believe that his welfare was Mother's first and only concern, just as she'd always told him it was.

And then he'd heard that some parents only pretended to act in their child's best interests, and he hadn't been able to chase the contention from his head. Clarion paused briefly in his eating, remembering how the thoughts had come flooding back once he was in his room. He could have held them off a bit longer if he hadn't been so tired, but instead he'd had to admit to himself that much of what Mother had done hadn't been for his best. He knew almost nothing of the world and the people who inhabited it, and that was a horrible lack rather than a benefit.

But then another thought had occurred to him, one that had permitted him to fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly. It was inconceivable that Mother would deliberately act against his best interests, so she must have done it by accident. He was her first and only child, and lack of experience at something can turn the best of intentions quickly to the reverse. She'd mistakenly done things that had put him at a disadvantage, and now it was up to him to correct that.

Clarion sighed as he paused to sip at his tea, remembering how distressed he'd felt over that decision earlier this morning. At first he couldn't think of a thing that would help him accomplish his aim, and that included a place to start. After all, how can you repair your lacks when you don't even know exactly what those lacks are?

This hot mess of an internal thought process is supposed to justify why Clarion makes a complete 180 in his "I'm a noble" attitude and starts acting like a five year old with way too many "why" questions.

quote:

And then that practical joke had been played on him, which at the time had seemed to make things worse. He'd gotten out of bed to pace while he considered his problem, and after a moment or two he'd noticed the oddest thing: a tiny thunderstorm raining all over his right arm. Where the miniature clouds had come from he had no idea, but the sleeve of his nightshirt was becoming drenched along with his arm.

Trying to move away from the thing had been useless, as it had followed relentlessly with its small lightning flashes and matching rumbles of thunder. After another moment Clarion had lost patience and had used his talent to separate the components of the little storm. With air surrounding those components and refusing to let them come together again, the storm had had no choice but to dissipate completely. Clarion had been outraged that someone would play such a foolish trick on a man of his place in life—but then another thought had come to him.

"Could this possibly be the way members of the lower classes make overtures of friendship to one another?" he'd muttered aloud. "If the person chosen as victim protests in anger or upset, they're rejected as being too stuffy to associate with. But if they laugh, or possibly turn the tables by pretending nothing has happened, they're considered acceptable."

It was only a theory, but Clarion needed very badly to be considered acceptable to join some group. Only by observing and listening would he discover those areas where he lacked knowledge or experience, and then he could see to repairing the lack. It would have done him a good deal more good if he were among members of his own social class, but the proper people weren't here just now and these lower class representatives were. He would simply have to cope as best he might, and then, at the first opportunity, move his efforts to the vicinity of those who really counted.

Green belatedly remembers that she's set Clarion up as a noble who can't stand breathing the same air as peasants.

quote:

And so Clarion had dressed and gone down to breakfast, only to be delightfully surprised when that fellow Coll made the opening advances for him. The apology had been totally unexpected, and it had thrown Clarion far enough off balance that he'd responded unthinkingly in what had turned out to be the best way possible. Clarion's admission of ignorance over certain matters had brought a sympathetic and helpful reaction from Coll, and possibly would do so again once the man was over his distress at what had become of his friend.

Clarion pushed his empty plate away and sat back with his teacup, satisfied in more ways than one. He would have to encourage as many conversations with these people as possible, during which he would strive to learn what had been kept from him by accident. And in the interim he would consider what he'd decided about his current position, which could well change his mind even more in relation to those tests.

Becoming a member of the new Blending ... of course it was a position for a gentleman, how could he have thought it might not be? And it was also one that no one could possibly consider useless or foolish. . . .

Not content with having every character go through the same beats at every stage of the story, Green decides we also need to see each interaction between the main characters from every POV and also that the internal monologues need to cover the same beats too!

quote:

Vallant came down the stairs feeling faintly annoyed, but that feeling disappeared entirely when he caught sight of his hostess standing in the hall below, speaking to two of the servants. Today she wore a dress of pale yellow embroidered with small ivory flowers, and the night's sleep seemed to have worked really well for her. Incredible as it was, she looked even more beautiful than she had yesterday, something Vallant would have sworn was impossible. He slowed his pace on the stairs, deciding that that would be the perfect time to offer that apology he'd decided to make. As soon as the servants were through speaking to her, he would take their place.

Stop. Objectifying. Women.

quote:

But in the meanwhile he had a few minutes, so he used them to wonder what could have gotten into that man Pagin Holter. The little groom hadn't seemed to be the sort to play practical jokes, so maybe the tiny thunderstorm that had tried to drown Vallant in his room had been more of a challenge. It could have been a matter of, "Look at what I can do," but if so even that matter was taken care of. Removing all the moisture from the miniature clouds had ended the storm and any challenge together, the whole thing done firmly but quietly.

Which ought to end the matter completely. Vallant had decided against mentioning the incident if Holter didn't, and the groom probably wouldn't. When your challenge is accepted and met with very little fuss, it doesn't become something to boast about. Vallant would have enjoyed knowing why Holter had challenged him in the first place, especially if it had been the matter of becoming one of the new Blending. He himself had very little interest in the possibility, but maybe Holter hadn't realized that. If so, he really ought to tell him—

You were very clearly interested last night.

quote:

Vallant's thoughts broke off when he saw the servants getting ready to walk away from Tamrissa Domon, his signal to start moving closer. His timing was good in that he'd just finished descending the stairs, so he ambled over and stepped into the place the servants had just left.

At this point Tamrissa has no idea that he doubted she owned the house since that was all in his head. If you regret stupid thoughts you had about someone else that they are unaware of, you don't go over and insult them by telling them what you were stupidly thinking and then apologize for it! What kind of rear end in a top hat move is that?

quote:

"Excuse me, Dama Domon, but I'd like to speak to you for a moment," he said when she raised those incredible violet eyes to look up at him. "I owe you an apology, and I'm always rather strict about payin' my debts."

"Are you really," she said rather flatly, a tinge of pink coloring her cheeks. "I should think it would be easier to do things that don't require apology. Then you would have fewer debts."

"If I ever become perfect, I'll certainly follow that advice," Vallant answered, not at all encouraged by her manner but determined not to let the matter go. "At the moment I'm still an ordinary human, however, so the apology is in order. Yesterday, in the bath house, I doubted your word about bein' the mistress of this house. As I've since been proven mistaken, I offer my deepest and most sincere apologies."

"Is that it?" she asked, interrupting Vallant's most charming bow. "You're apologizing for doubting my word?"

Guess what Tamrissa's mad about? We've already had 4 POVs on this subject so this should be an easy one.

quote:

"What else is there to apologize for?" he asked in turn, feeling somewhat confused. "I covered the matter of bargin' in on you at the time, a circumstance which you should have understood since you shared it. What else did you have in mind?"

Yeah, dude, not a smart move to bring that up right now.

quote:

"If you need me to tell you that, then I'd be wasting my breath," she returned, looking up at him defiantly. "By all means have your fun, Dom Ro, but don't make the mistake of getting in my way when the tests begin again. Unlike you, I mean to go through to the very end of them, and I refuse to let some overgrown child upset me. I will win through, do you understand me?"

"Overgrown child?" Vallant demanded, well on the way to being thoroughly outraged. "Yes, Dama Domon, I believe I understand you all too well. You're clearly used to gettin' your way in life, through your beauty if not through the sharpness of your tongue. I've known other women who believed their beauty excused any action they took, but they were just as mistaken as you are. And if you think there's somethin' wrong with occasionally havin' fun, you must be a good deal older than you look."

There goes Vallant, projecting what his ex did onto every single other woman he interacts with. Way to go dude.

quote:

"You're quite right, Dom Ro," she said, her face now pale rather than flushed, her voice trembling faintly. "I'm completely used to getting my own way because of my beauty, and the practice is much too pleasant to give up. Unlike you, I dislike giving up, preferring instead to stand victorious and proud. And now, if you'll excuse me—"

"Just a moment," Vallant said, moving to his left to keep her from stepping around him. "That's twice you've said somethin' about not bein' like me, and I don't care for the tone of your insinuations. Just what do you find so terrible about me?"

You mean apart from the fact that you're a sexist rear end in a top hat who constantly objectifies women and says horrible things to survivors of domestic abuse and rape?

quote:

"I can't stand someone with talent being too afraid to exercise it," she answered, now clearly fighting to keep her voice steady.

She lived two years with a sadistic abuser and never once exercised her talent in self defence.

quote:

And her eyes, the indescribable look in those breathtaking eyes . . . "It may sound good to say you have other things to do with your life, but I think the truth is you're just too afraid to try something you may fail at. Warla is like that, and a lot of other women, but I'll never be. That, Dom Ro, is what I dislike about you, and now I will appreciate your getting out of my way."

Vallant felt a very strong urge to continue the argument, but the girl's trembling had become more visible and he could almost feel the tension in her. It had to be his imagination that he could see a hint of flames beginning to burn in her gaze, but he still bowed curtly and stepped aside. After what she'd said to him he didn't want to talk to her, maybe not even to continue the argument. A quitter and coward, that's what she'd called him, and how do you speak politely—or even argue evenly—with someone who thinks that about you?

She's told you twice to leave her alone. No means no, Vallant.

quote:

As soon as her path was clear she moved toward the dining room, her back straight and her head up but her pace a little too fast to be called a stride. She all but ran to get away from him, possibly to keep from contracting the dread disease that he suffered from. She'd sworn she'd never be that pitifully low and despicable, but she did seem to think the condition might be catching. . . .

Vallant turned away from the door she'd disappeared through, fighting to control the emotions exploding inside him. How dare she call him such terrible things without knowing anything about him? Even if she had known him she wouldn't have had the right to judge, not when he was the one who had to live in his skin. He wasn't a quitter, and it wasn't cowardice . . .

It was just fear. Vallant took a deep breath, then admitted to himself what he would never admit aloud. He was afraid to try for anything but being what he was, the captain of a ship. Almost everything else required being indoors too much of the time, possibly even being inside some place that wasn't easily gotten out of. That idea was enough to frighten the manhood out of him, to turn him as weak and helpless as that child she'd named him. He couldn't help it, couldn't control it—and couldn't make it stop.

...that's right. Vallant's claustrophobia is the real reason he didn't want to run a shipping empire. Somehow his debilitating fear of enclosed spaces never came up during conversations with Mirra when they were shacking up in tiny tavern rooms.

quote:

"So why bother thinkin' about what I might do under other circumstances?" he murmured, the bitter end of the argument he would never put into words. "Go ahead and call me a quitter, it won't change anythin". I can't change what I am even if the most beautiful woman I've ever met disapproves. I'm used to bein' a disappointment to beautiful women, especially the ones accustomed to gettin' their own way."

Actually, you're not. You're used to thinking that you're the center of any woman's universe, regardless of how you rate her looks.

quote:

Vallant made a sound of sour amusement, wondering why he always seemed to attract that sort. Or be attracted by them. Her violent refusal to join his counter-illustrious ranks was something different, but the rest of Dama Tamrissa Domon was probably just like Mirra, the girl he'd thought he would be happy to marry. Happy, certainly, he would surely be happy. But not with Mirra and not there, in stifling Gan Garee. He would get back to the Sea Queen, and then he would be happy.

He waited a few moments until he was completely back in control of himself, and then he went to the dining room to join the others for breakfast.

I think we're supposed to feel sorry for Vallant at this point, because he's been a gallant gentleman whose manhood has been trampled all over by admitting to the truthful accusation he's a coward by his love interest. But all I can say is Vallant, you're a dick.

Summary:

Day 2
Jovvi, Lorand, Clarion, Vallant and Tamrissa head down to breakfast in various states of perplexity/rage because they've been rained on by a tiny thundercloud. Unbeknownst to Vallant, he's one of the prime suspects. Jovvi's thinking about how to string all the men along, Lorand is depressed because he's jumped to stupid conclusions regarding Hat's death, Clarion is excited about making his first friend ever, and thanks to another stupid misunderstanding, the Vallant/Tamrissa drama has just escalated to the next level.

Counts so far:

NAMED ON-SCREEN CHARACTERS WHO WE'LL NEVER SEE AGAIN: 13
Mildon Coll, Phor Riven, Jeris Womal, Eldra Sappin, Fod, Lord Astrath, Torrin Ro, Vish "the Fish", Jamrin, Hark, Reshin, Fellar, Ennis, Vosin, Parli Hafford

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 4
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee

PLOTHOLES: 16
COACH RIDES: 9
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 1
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 16
"CLIFFHANGERS": 8
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 1
BLATANT MORALIZING: 5
BATH SCENES: 5
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 3
MIND CONTROL: 5

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

Possible fixes:
The whole purpose of this chapter is to show us Prophecy-related hijinks. We've now ticked off Fire and Water, with three more aspects to go.

I think someone needs to tell Green that when you're writing a novel, the point is to show only the INTERESTING parts of the story. She'd be arguing that these are Important Events (and she's not wrong as far as her intended story goes) but my counter argument is you need to show Important Events happening in INTERESTING settings. Her world building is so shoddy that Book 8 spoilers while there is basis for the Prophecy, the signs are completely manufactured by the advanced nation of full Blendings on another continent. And even though they've had generations to work on coming up with some appropriately dramatic signs, what they come up with is so boring that none of them are interesting, with the flashiest thing being the fireball.

The biggest problem with the way Green's set up the Prophecy is that her Prophecy is not actually a Prophecy in the first place!!! I'm gonna quote the actual words of the Prophecy that we're given in Book 5 plus the crap in the Prologue:

quote:

Beware and be warned. In three hundred years will come a time of greatest crisis, a time when the teachings of wisdom are no longer followed. This will presage the reappearance of the devastating evil of the Four, which nearly destroyed our empire. In this time of crisis there will appear a Chosen Blending, and there will be no doubt of their identity. They will stand against the reemergent evil, and will do their utmost to triumph.

There will be Signs to show that the Chosen Blending has arrived in our midst, but nowhere are the signs detailed. It has been promised that they will spring from all corners of the land, that their might will be seen clearly by all those about them, that they will blend as well in their ordinary lives as they do in the the Blending of their aspects. There will also be "subtle happenings" surrounding them as well as "obvious signs," but many of the more obvious signs are to appear "out of the sight of the Five's enemies.

Compare this to a snippet of the Karaethon Cycle from the Wheel of Time:

quote:

Fortune rides like the sun on high
with the fox that makes the ravens fly.
Luck his soul, the lightning his eye,
He snatches the moons from out of the sky.


WoT spoilers:Hello Mat! His luck is established very early on, but we don't see the rest of the pieces come together until Mat goes on various adventures and Does Things to fulfil the prophecy by giving up his eye to save Moiraine from the Aelfinn and Eelfinn and marrying Tuon, the Daughter of the Nine Moons.

Or the Terris Prophecies from Hero of Ages (Mistborn 3):

quote:

The Hero of Ages shall be not a man, but a force. No nation may claim him, no woman shall keep him, and no king may slay him. He shall belong to none, not even himself.
He shall defend their ways, yet shall violate them. He will be their savior, yet they shall call him heretic. His name shall be Discord, yet they shall love him for it.
That which has been sundered must again begin to find its whole
The Hero will have the power to save the world. But he will also have the power to destroy it.
The Hero will bear the future of the world on his arms.
The Hero of Ages was not simply to be a warrior. He was a person who united others, who brought them together. A leader.
The Hero of Ages was removed from the Terris people. He was not royalty himself, but came to it eventually.
He commanded the forces of the world. Kings rode to his aid.
He left ruin in his wake, but it was forgotten. He created kingdoms, and then destroyed them as he made the world anew.
One who is separated from the Terris people, a king of men, a rebel caught between two worlds.
He who is not of his people, yet fulfills all of their wishes.


Hero of Ages spoilers and here's Sazed. A Terrisman eunuch who acts in rebellion against what the rest of the Terris people are doing by aiding Kelsier in this plans to overthrow the Lord Ruler, but eventually rediscovers the lost Terris religion. He takes up the Shards of Preservation and Ruin (the powers to save the world and to destroy it) and wears his copper minds (which contain all of the knowledge of humanity as recorded by the Keepers) as bracers. When he takes up the Shards and becomes a Vessel, he remakes the world of Scadrial and fixes all the mistakes Rashek and Vin made using the knowledge from his copper minds.

The WoT and Mistborn prophecies work because they are specific enough that readers paying attention to the symbolism in the text can see how characters grow to fulfil the prophecies through their actions. Green's Prophecy is so vague that I don't blame the Seated Highs in Chapter 16 being all " how are we supposed to notice any signs of anyone who might be one of the Chosen Blending?!"

We talked before about how there's no apparent religion in this world, other than a few references to the Highest or Prime Aspect, Fate and Chaos here and there. Spoilers for Book 5 with the Sight magic reveal, you begin thinking that the source of the Prophecy is a very powerful Sight magic user and then in Book 8 it's super disappointing to realise that the Prophecy came from the advanced nation who foresaw an invasion of the Gandistran continent, sifted through the various alternate futures and went, yep, we can prevent that from happening by masterminding a secret breeding program to breed the strongest High talents possible, and then once we have those individuals, we'll manufacture some 'signs' for the strongest one in each aspect and call it done.

It is the most unsatisfying conclusion to a story relying on the prophecy trope that I've ever read. Green concludes the second series with a literal "a (bunch of) wizard(s) did it!" and lifts the curtain on it all to explain in painful detail why it happened that way.

I do not know how to fix this easily. Options:
  • Get rid of the Prophecy element entirely and just use foreshadowing because let's face it, Green probably confused the two things
  • The most painful way would be to fix the rest of the book and write the first draft, distill it down to key themes and symbols, then retrofit a Prophecy in the second draft
  • Instead of having the Prophecy be common knowledge, it's a super secret thing with different pieces of it distributed across different factions and they have to put it all together to solve a bigger puzzle
  • Change the focus of the Prophecy from being on the Chosen Blending to being about the Big Bad instead, so characters are working to thwart the Prophecy

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Leng
May 13, 2006

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


No other road
No other way
No day but today


quote:

CHAPTER TWENTY

By the time I got my plate filled with the breakfast I really needed, I almost had full control of myself again. But that didn't mean I'd figured out what that Vallant Ro was up to. First he puts together a tiny thunderstorm to rain all over my nightdress, and I have to get rid of it by using my flames to evaporate the moisture in it. That makes me determined to tell him off properly, but before I can, he comes over to apologize.

But not for playing that childish joke. He apologizes instead for doubting me the day before, when I hadn't even known he was doing it. Giving him the chance to apologize for the joke as well turns out to be a waste of effort, since he then pretends he knows nothing about it. And after everything he's done, he then has the nerve to ask why I don't like him!

Green's actually done an ok job here of using the back to back different POVs of the same event. Though Tamrissa really should pull her head in and think - as everybody else pointed out, Vallant's not the only Water magic user in the residence!

quote:

Only the fact that there were other people around kept me from shaking my head as I sat down at the table. One word had led to another with Dom Ro, and when he'd gotten angry I'd felt that very familiar clutch of fear in my middle. But this time I hadn't let it paralyze me the way it usually had with Gimmis, and I'd been ready to protect myself with everything I had. The man must have seen that because he'd stepped out of my way, and I'd been able to escape here to the dining room.

This crippling fear doesn't appear to have any effect on Tamrissa other than conjuring more backstory info dumps like this. In the three situations where she's been threatened and afraid so far she's:
  • Fought a fireball with fire, while pretending she's committing homicide
  • Retaliated against someone who pushed her into enclosed room immediately
  • Escaped being crushed alive by using magic

If Green really wanted to show us character growth, we should have started by seeing Tamrissa actually fail at overcoming fear in a high stakes scenario, and then later begin her journey by overcoming her fear in a small stakes scenario. And her internal monologue should be going through Tamrissa's thought process, so we understand how she's overcoming that fear.

Let's compare this with Sanderson writing Kaladin struggling with depression in The Way of Kings: when Kaladin reaches the Shattered Plains, he's assigned to Bridge Four and we find out that they don't have a bridge leader because he tossed himself off a cliff into Honor Chasm. Kaladin goes on a bunch of bridge runs and realizes that bridge duty is basically a death sentence. His magical companion leaves, causing his depression to spiral further and he decides to commit suicide by jumping in Honor Chasm. As he's about to step off the cliff, his magical companion returns:

"Those men in the bridge crew," Syl whispered. "You could help them."

"Too late." He closed his eyes, thinking of the dead boy earlier in the day. "It's too late. I've failed. They're dead. They're all going to die, and there's no way out."

"What is one more try, then?" Her voice was soft, yet somehow stronger than the storm. "What could it hurt?"

He paused.

"You can't fail this time, Kaladin. You've said it. They're all going to die anyway."

He thought of Tien, and his dead eyes staring upward.

"I don't know what you mean most of the time when you speak," she said. "My mind is so cloudy. But it seems that if you're worried about hurting people, you shouldn't be afraid to help the bridgemen. What more could you do to them?"

"I..."

"One more try, Kaladin," Syl whispered. "Please."

One more try...

The men huddled in the barrack with barely a blanket to call their own. Frightened of the storm. Frightened of each other. Frightened of what the next day would bring.

One more try...

He thought of himself, crying at the death of a boy he hadn't known. A boy he hadn't even tried to help.

One more try.

Kaladin opened his eyes. He was cold and wet, but he felt a tiny, warm candle flame of determination come alight inside him.


It's a long scene, but we see Kaladin's thoughts spiral downwards leading him to make a decision. Before he can put that decision into action, his magical companion makes a counterargument. We then see Kaladin thinking through that counterargument, becoming convinced and then making a different decision. It is a huge turning point in both his character arc as well as the overall plot and it's extremely satisfying to read as a result.

quote:

Able to continue on to the dining room, I amended as I began to eat. Gimmis was dead, so I no longer had to think in terms of escape. I was now a free woman and would stay one, no matter how many people tried to change that. Vallant Ro hadn't liked being called a quitter, but I'd suddenly seen he was precisely that. A grown man of his size, handsome and charming and filled with an unconscious but very forceful authority; what could he know about fear, and how hard some people had to fight not to fall victim to it? Winning my way through the tests could well mean escaping the fear for good, so that was a goal I refused to abandon.

Hahaha, Vallant's VERY conscious of his own authority. Wasn't his "Master-of-the-vessel snap" evident to you?

quote:

I spent a few moments simply eating, but then an anomaly in my private arguments pushed forward to take my attention. I'd accused Vallant Ro of being afraid to exercise his talent to the fullest, and then I'd silently demanded to know what he could possibly understand about fear. If the man pretended disinterest in the tests to keep from finding out how far his ability could take him, he had to be afraid of something. It was impossible to imagine what that something could be, since Dom Ro appeared to have enough self assurance to supply a small town.

And enough size and presence to protect himself from anything. I glanced at the man where he sat, almost at the other end of the table, and a pang of guilt came when I remembered everything I'd said to him. He ate as silently as everyone else, giving full attention to his meal, but he no longer looked angry. Disturbed, yes, but no longer angry, and it came to me that it might be my turn to apologize. Even in spite of silly practical jokes.

You'd think that if Tamrissa has the inner capacity to realize when she's being dumb and illogical, she'd be taking a note of it so she can avoid jumping to conclusions in the future.

Not-spoilers (because you guys know how this is gonna go): nope, she will never learn to do this, not even in the last chapter of Book 8.

quote:

Breakfast continued along in the same silent way, as though all of us were too wrapped up in private thoughts for casual conversation to divert us. Many of them must have been thinking about my own main topic, which was the reminder we'd been given about this being a twenty-fifth year.

Green has deliberately decided that we needed to see breakfast happening, because the only time her characters interact with each other is at meal times and bath times in this forced communal living situation.

These are quite possibly the most boring events in the day. I can't decide which is worse: bouncing around POVs during awkward dinner conversation or awkward silent meals where everyone's eating but not interacting and making stupid assumptions about everyone else.

quote:

Funny how I'd known that without having considered it, as though it were so far out of reach that it wasn't worth thinking about. Now it was no longer that far out of reach, even though my becoming a member of the new Blending wasn't very likely. No matter how much gold my father had we still weren't members of the nobility, and all of the most recent Blendings had been composed of nothing else. What I now wondered, though, was the possibility of a way around that. . . .

The illogical line of thinking Clarion raised continues.

quote:

Breakfast broke up in almost the same order it began, except for Vallant Ro being one of the first to leave. I decided to try to find him in order to offer that apology, but he wasn't in his room or anywhere else I could find. Then I was captured by members of my staff who needed instructions on various dealings with our guests—in spite of my no longer being in charge of anything—and that took up most of the rest of the morning.

Green conveniently makes Vallant disappear so this relationship drama can continue. Tamrissa could have gone to talk to him during breakfast or followed him when he left.

quote:

By the time I escaped from updating household records and approving menus and setting up service rotations—it was such a relief not to be in charge for the length of the tests—it was time for lunch.

This is our strong, independent heroine here. "Oh doing paperwork and logistics is so hard - I'm so glad I don't have to take care of it!"

quote:

This time there was some small amount of conversation, but none of it touched the topic of the new Blending. It seemed we were all saving that for another time, and even before we rose from table we were told the coaches had arrived to take us for those fittings for our new clothes.

At least we didn't have to listen to the awkward small talk over lunch.

quote:

Two coaches were pulled up in front of the house, back-dropped by the storm clouds which had been gathering for the last hour or two. We three women took one of the coaches together, which meant one of the men had to ride with us. It was something of a relief when that turned out to be Eskin Drowd, the young academician and Earth magic applicant. I'd been afraid it might be Vallant Ro, who hadn't given me the chance to apologize—but who had taken to staring at me in a very odd way.

The whole "men are from mars, women are from Venus" thing is really irritating.

quote:

"My goodness, what a terrible burden this is to bear," Dom Drowd said with a grin as he settled himself beside Beldara Lant. Jovvi Hafford sat to my right, the place she'd chosen after Beldara had taken the seat opposite mine. "Three exquisitely lovely ladies, and myself the only man amongst them. Ah well, life demands that we take the bad with the good."

"I sympathize with your suffering, Dom Drowd, and admire your strength in bearing up under it," Jovvi said to him with a small laugh. "I'd be curious to know the device which caused you to be taken by such misfortune."

"The device was quite simple, dear lady," Dom Drowd replied with his own laugh. "I realized almost immediately that each coach would only seat four comfortably, and therefore made certain to be the last of the group. I'd hoped, you see, that you ladies would travel together, and fortune smiled on my carefully thought out preparations."



quote:

"How odd," Beldara said, giving him a very cool look. "I could have sworn you'd forgotten to bring your silver down to lunch with you, and had to be reminded to return to your room to fetch it. Or wasn't that you who was nearly out the door ahead of everyone else?"

"I would never think to cast doubt on a lady's word," Dom Drowd returned, his tone still easy but all amusement suddenly gone from his eyes. "If that's what you wish to believe, please continue to do so. My previous remarks stand as they were made."

"As if that alone makes them true," Beldara returned with a smile of ridicule. "Nothing you say rings true, especially what you've had the nerve to comment about me. A man with true intelligence would know enough to sit quietly and not make a fool of himself."

"It takes wisdom to recognize foolhardiness, Dama Lant, which means you don't qualify," Dom Drowd countered in a drawl, smiling at the girl without true humor, "I suspect your jealousy now begins to get the better of you, since you're no longer among those who worship you as unique. Haven't you yet realized that your only true competitor among us is the lovely Dama Domon? You and she share the same aspect, after all, so why do you spread your vitriol among the rest of us? Do you fear, perhaps, that we will prevail while you do not?"

"I fear nothing where you're concerned," Beldara returned with scorn, but then her rather intense gaze came to me. "But I must say I hadn't realized that Tamrissa and I shared the same aspect. I hope you won't be too upset when I outdo you, dear. I'm sure you're really very good, but I'm better. You'd be wise to accept that truth now, to spare yourself disappointment later."

Who talks like this?! This is some weird attempt at Regency-era style dialogue without any of the wit or subtlety.

quote:

"Truth and opinion are not interchangeable words," I pointed out, forcing myself to say that despite the drumming of my heart. "When it comes to proving which of us is best, we'll save the opinion and let the test results show the truth."

"You can't really expect to make a decent showing against me,"  Beldara said with a small laugh of incredulity, obviously believing every word she said. "I'm the best there is, girl, and no one has ever been able to prove differently. If you think those flashy dresses of yours will make the difference, guess again. We'll all be dressed alike for the sessions, so no one will know you currently have more gold than I do. And that's all you have going for you, take my word on it."

I didn't want to take her word for anything, but her self-assurance was so like what my parents usually showed that I actually felt myself beginning to have doubts. I had to do well in the rest of the tests, my future life and sanity depended on it, but what if she turned out to be right. . . ?

"It wasn't wealth that brought her through the first of the tests," a voice commented as I stared down at my hands, watching my fingers twist about each other. Surprisingly it was Jovvi who spoke, a definite hint of amusement behind the words. "I think you're deliberately forgetting that, Dama Lant, in an effort to ease the fear Dom Drowd mentioned. No one ever told you you'd be meeting your equals during the tests, so they certainly never mentioned meeting superiors. Now you're worried that everyone may have been lying to you all these years, and you'll end up failing and making a fool of yourself."

"I'm worried about no such thing!" Beldara spat, her face twisted up into something harsh and ugly, her hands curled into claws in her lap. "No one lied to me, and no equals or superiors were mentioned because I don't have any! All of you hate my superiority and envy it, so you're trying to talk me out of it. Well, once the tests start again you'll be forced to admit you were wrong; so I won't have anything more to say to any of you until then."

And with that she leaned back in her seat and gave her attention to the places and people our coach passed, clearly prepared to carry out her promise.

Personally I felt grateful for the proposed silence, but not as grateful as I felt for the help Jovvi had given. I looked at her, trying to find a way to express my thanks, but she smiled and shook her head and patted my hand. Apparently she felt thanks weren't necessary, which convinced me they certainly were. Later I'd have to find something. . .

Based on what we've seen from Jovvi's POVs, we should be expecting that she's got ulterior motives for getting Tamrissa on her side. Three guesses as to what she's got in mind!

Chapter 24 spoilers: Yes she's going try to recruit Tamrissa as a courtesan to be part of her residence

quote:

But right now we were on our way to the tailoring shop, and the route the coach driver took became something of a surprise. We'd driven through the neighborhood I lived in and then passed a section of the business district, but after that we took a sharp left turn. That put us on a street I'd never traveled before, and after two blocks it was actually possible to see refuse scattered here and there on the walks. The farther we went the more refuse there was, along with a growing conglomerate of smells that began to turn my stomach.

"This must once have been a fairly nice neighborhood," Dom Drowd commented, gesturing toward the predominantly stone buildings. "The street was decently cobble-stoned, but no one has bothered to fix those holes our wheels keep falling into in quite some time. And those small shops and stalls of wood between the buildings may be relatively new, despite the fact that they look old and ready to fall down."

"Most shops and stalls like those are made with scrap wood," Jovvi said, also looking out at what we passed. "That's why they seem so old, even if they were only just put up. Those who put them up can't afford paint or any other decorations, of course. . . . What they earn selling their wares goes to keeping them and their families alive."

Three whole paragraphs and I still have no idea what Gan Garee is like as a city.

quote:

"With existence always so precarious for them, I've often wondered why they bother," Dom Drowd said, sounding as if he discussed a pack of wild and unimportant animals. "They can't hope to better themselves, not when they have no education, no talents, and nothing of any real value to offer. The government would do us and them a service if they took people of that sort and put them out of their misery."

"Well, you may be right," Jovvi responded, her voice still sweet and even but now far from amused. "I've heard that very opinion expressed many times, but there's always some trouble in defining exactly who can be considered expendable. Why, I've even heard the suggestion that most academics fall into that category."

"What?" Dom Drowd exclaimed, obviously outraged. "That's preposterous! Academics are the ones who educate the populace to a knowledge and appreciation of the important things, so how could anyone dare to suggest that we're expendable?"

"Now, that was the interesting part," Jovvi said, looking as if she were trying very hard to remember the point and get it right. "One gentleman pointed out that he learned what he knew about business practices from his father and uncles, so what good had academicians done him? He paid someone to choose and buy the artwork hung in his house, had paid them to decorate it, and even paid to have someone organize his parties and balls. He himself was able to read and write and do his figures—which he'd learned from his parents— so all things academic were completely useless to him."

"The louts of this world always tend to believe that," Dom Drowd said with a deprecating gesture. "You call the man a gentleman out of the goodness of your nature, dear lady, but clearly he was no such thing."

"Perhaps not, but the three nobles he spoke with agreed with him," Jovvi said with a very sweet smile. "The three lords saw no reason for places of learning and people to work in them, since they'd all had private educations. They were also of the opinion that educating anyone who wasn't nobly born was a waste of time, since the lower orders weren't capable of really appreciating what was taught. They added that all academicians knew that, but spent their time holding classes so they might have an excuse for feeling superior to their low-class brothers."

"Of all the absurd—!" Dom Drowd swallowed the rest of what he'd meant to say, but that didn't mean he wasn't thinking it. People learned not to speak against the nobility out loud in the company of strangers, since too many had thereafter been called to account for their indiscretion. No one ever admitted to passing on tales to the nobility for the silver the action brought, but admitting it was hardly necessary.

I would be more horrified by the methods the nobility are using to keep the general population under control if this was more specific and descriptive - like the mind control drugs that got spoiled in Chapter 16!

quote:

"And, of course, there are always those misguided souls who consider the nobility themselves unnecessary," Jovvi continued blithely on, apparently seeing nothing of the mottled color now staining Dom Drowd's face. "I'd venture to guess that everyone feels that way about someone, and deciding who is right would be a terribly confusing affair. Don't you agree?"

Dom Drowd made some sort of sound deep in his throat, then returned to looking out the window the way Beldara continued to do. Jovvi glanced at me from beneath her lashes, a vast amusement visible in her eyes, and it was all I could do not to cover my mouth and laugh uproariously. It had obviously never occurred to the highly intellectual Dom Drowd that a sweet woman like Jovvi might be making up everything she said. And crediting it to those whose opinion Dom Drowd couldn't simply brush aside. . . .

Jovvi, who lives by the concept of "it never pays to make enemies where it was possible to make friends instead", has just made an enemy of both Beldara and Drowd. At this point, nobody has publicly demonstrated their power so as far as everyone's concerned, anybody could be the strongest and therefore one of the next rulers of the Empire.

If Jovvi were behaving in character, she should be ingratiating herself with everyone. But because Green needs Jovvi and Tamrissa to be best buds for plot reasons, suddenly Jovvi has to "save" Tamrissa and alienate two strong magic users in the process.

quote:

There wasn't anything in the way of conversation after that, but the trip didn't last long enough for the time to become uncomfortable. In the midst of the soot-covered stone buildings and rickety wooden stalls and shops was a sturdy two-story house with a walled-in back courtyard. The front of the house obviously faced on another street, but the gate into the back courtyard had been opened to allow our coaches to enter.

Still don't know what the city looks like.

quote:

By the time we pulled up to the back entrance, people had come out of the house. A moment's worth of study showed that although one of the men gave all the orders to the servants who were there to help us from the coaches, the woman standing to his left and just behind him had authority of her own. She studied we women as Dom Drowd and one of the servants helped us from the coach, her expression far from dissatisfied.

Why would you describe a character's expression as "far from dissatisfied"?! This double negative is confusing and I can't tell whether it's Green who isn't aware of it or whether Tamrissa doesn't want to give another amateur porno description of herself and Jovvi.

quote:

There was a short time of confusion when we were led inside, the men being directed to the left and the women to the right. Beyond the door leading from the back entrance hall was a spacious workroom with seven seamstresses sewing away at a rather brisk pace, and a small cluster of comfortable chairs just to the left of the door. A tea service stood on a table near the cluster, and the woman I'd seen outside came in to gesture to the chairs.

"Welcome to our house, ladies, and please make yourselves comfortable," she said in a voice like starched sand. She was in her middle years with dark hair and eyes, a buxom rather than overweight body, and a bearing that strove to be regal. The end result was more stern than regal, though, like the headmistress of an academy teaching deportment.

"The girl will serve you all some tea, and then we'll begin," the woman said, now gesturing to a servant. "I am Regensi, the one who designed the clothing you will soon be fitted for, and I am delighted to see that two of you are the ideal I had in mind. The style was meant for silk, of course, but cotton has been decreed and so cotton it will be. With you two ladies, it won't matter in the least."

"With them," Beldara said flatly, certainly noticing the way Regensi spoke only to Jovvi and me. "Are you saying that your marvelous creations won't look just as good on me? Since I happen to be the best in this group or any other, that doesn't say much for your supposed talent."

"Don't be ridiculous, girl," Regensi answered with a withering expression and a dismissive evaluation in a quick up and down examination of Beldara. "Your average prettiness looks cheap beside the glowing beauty of these two, and that would hold true even if you were smothered in silk. They, on the other hand, will be just as outstanding in cotton, so kindly seat yourself and refrain from discussing matters you know nothing about."



quote:

"I was referring to my ability," Beldara began to grind out with gritted teeth and a flush to her cheeks, but by then it was clear that she'd wasted her breath. Regensi had turned away to snap orders at two of her workers, which obviously turned her deaf to any and all rebuttal.

How is your magical ability relevant to looking good? Regensi has a point.

quote:

"Don't let this silliness disturb you," Jovvi began in turn to Beldara, clearly trying to soothe the girl's embarrassment and anger. Regensi's speech had been horribly tactless and insulting, but Beldara apparently had no interest in being soothed. She glared hatred at Jovvi and me before turning abruptly and heading for the chair farthest away from us, and Jovvi gave up her attempt with a sigh. If we and Beldara hadn't precisely been friends before, now we had probably become enemies.

Now Jovvi's going to try and get on Beldara's side, after being a bitch to her? Yeah, Beldara's smarter than that; it's not gonna work.

quote:

"We really must remember to thank Regensi," I murmured, definitely vexed. "Without her help it might have taken us another two or three days to make Beldara hate us this much."

"The feeling was already there inside her, only partially buried," Jovvi murmured back with a small shrug. "As long as she was able to consider herself completely superior she didn't care about our respective appearances, but now I'd say she's begun to develop . . . less assurance. I can't say doubt because she doesn't doubt her beliefs, but this comparison of physical attraction has accessed her rage. From now on she'll probably be even less pleasant to us than she has been."

Beldara has been extremely arrogant but hasn't actually gone out of her way to be unpleasant to anyone, other than the one condescending remark to Tamrissa in the coach on the way here.

quote:

"Wonderful," I said with my own sigh. "As if she was all that pleasant to begin with. And what a surprise that this happened over something as hateful as physical beauty. If I could trade my appearance for hers, she'd probably never believe that I would do it in a minute."

Yes, let's hate on the only woman so far who has displayed any confidence in her magical ability and ambition to climb to the highest position of power in the Empire. What a nasty person!

quote:

Jovvi frowned at me and began to say something, but Regensi came back then to remind us about sitting down and having tea. While the tea was served and sipped at for a time, she lectured about how important she was in the world of fashion even if most people had never heard of her. Then she interrupted herself to direct Beldara into a fitting room with one of the fitters, but resumed the lecture once that was seen to.

Beldara wasn't kept in the room very long, not by usual fitting standards, but the same didn't hold true for Jovvi and me. Regensi saw to each of us personally, which lengthened the process almost to the point of exhaustion. The basic skirts and blouses had already been cut to a large, wide fit, and only had to be tailored down to our individual sizes. But that meant checking the draping of the skirt to make sure it fell properly, and opening basted seams to assure that darts would not be too deep and extreme. All of it had to meet Regensi's concept of perfection, which meant fitting and fixing, fitting and changing, fitting and refixing.

Why are we getting this information? Beldara hates Jovvi and Tamrissa, antagonism established, we can move on!

quote:

Jovvi was taken in last, and by the time she came out again even I was tired of sitting and waiting. Beldara had divided her time between pacing all over the sitting area and returning to her chair to stare expressionlessly at the skirts and blouses being worked on by the seamstresses. During one of those times I caught the look in her eyes, which made me want to shiver. If she wasn't considering the possibility of "accidentally" setting every piece of cloth in the room on fire, I've never seen the urge toward vindictive revenge. Or felt the same myself. . . .

It's totally ok when Tamrissa has homicidal tendencies, but it is definitely not ok when someone else has them.

quote:

Regensi insisted on making Jovvi sit down for some tea before finally letting us leave, and as much as Jovvi needed those few minutes off her feet she was just as relieved to get out of there as the rest of us. We stepped outside with me, at least, feeling as if we'd been released from prison, unsurprised to find that it was almost evening. Our new clothes had been promised for delivery the next day, and even if they turned out to be ill-fitting rags I had no intention of complaining. Anything to keep from having to go back for another fitting . . .

The purpose of this entire paragraph has been to tell us that the day's over.

quote:

"That was rather expensive for what we'll supposedlv be getting," Jovvi remarked softly as one of the servants went looking for our coach driver. "I've been left with two solitary silver dins."

By definition, "two" is not "solitary".

quote:

"So was I," I agreed, surprised by the coincidence. "I wonder if I should be glad I brought only a small portion of the silver I was given yesterday. Do they make a habit of leaving people with only two coins no matter now much they bring in? How would they manage something like that without seeing inside our purses?"

"I've heard that those with Earth magic sometimes have a special affinity for metals," Jovvi said, her brows lowered as she considered the point. "Apparently that sort can tell how much you have of copper, silver, and gold by sensing them, so there's never any guesswork involved. Businesses enjoy having someone like that as a clerk, which keeps them from lavishing attention on customers who look likely but actually have nothing to spend. Did they leave you with the same two dins, Beldara?"

This ability will never come up again after Day 2 (though of course we will have to read about it from the men's perspective for completeness reasons).

I wish Green would write an alternate story about Jovvi seducing Lorand into being the Clyde to her Bonnie as they scam and rob their way across the Empire.

quote:

I joined her in looking toward our third, but we might as well have spoken to the wood of the building behind us. Beldara gave no indication that anyone in the world retained life but herself, and she had no interest in talking to herself. Jovvi's latest attempt to smooth things over between us and Beldara had failed as badly as the first one, but this time Jovvi was more exasperated than sympathetic.

Most people don't normally talk to themselves in front of other people. Also if you wanted to be friends with Beldara you should have tried harder to not be a bitch this morning. There was definitely a middle ground between supporting Tamrissa and actively insulting Beldara.

quote:

"People who refuse to accept the world as it is sometimes manage to make it over according to their own specifications," Jovvi commented, looking at Beldara's turned back with no approval at all. "More often they find themselves plowed under when the world gets around to remaking them, and usually because those fighting it have no idea of what accommodation means. Some people and situations have to be accommodated if you mean to change the rest, and pretending that that isn't so is the worst kind of self-delusion."

What is Jovvi even talking about? Why the hell has everyone assumed that Beldara can't possibly be as strong as she thinks she is? There's nothing to support this assumption!

(I know it's because women who put themselves forward are immodest and bad, yada yada yada)

quote:

I expected Beldara to respond to that at least, but she continued to stand there hearing nothing and saying even less. I felt tempted to admire her singlemindedness, then decided to wait until I saw how far it got her. My own determination now seemed pale in comparison to hers, but it also seemed a lot more reasonable.

Grit is apparently a bad thing for characters other than the protagonist to have.

quote:

"I wonder what happened to the second coach," Jovvi said, bringing my attention to ours and the driver now beginning to drive it over to us. "I know it takes less time to fit men, but there were five of them and only three of us. If they're already back at the residence, I just may throw a temper fit."

"Let's ask our driver," I suggested, more than ready to join her in throwing the fit. As the coach pulled up in front of us I added, "Driver, what happened to our companions? And how long ago did they leave?"

"Twaren't long, ma'am," the man answered, quickly pulling off his cap. "They come out here an' talked a bit, then asked if'n they culd go somewheres besides back t'th'house. We wus hired fer th' day, so it makes no nevermind t 'us where y'go. When they heared thet, they set the littlest feller up with Zom, an' then went off."

Since Vallant rode up top with the driver for most of his trip to Gan Garee, you have to wonder why he didn't jump at the chance to do the same during Day 2.

quote:

"That sounds like they made Pagin Holter their guide, and went to have a look at the city," Jovvi said. "If I weren't so played out from being used as a lifeless dressform, I'd be interested in seeing the same. You do know the city well enough, don't you, Tamrissa?"

"I suspect I don't know it nearly as well as Dom Holter," I replied wryly. "My excursions away from home were always carefully supervised and chaperoned, so I know nothing of the sections the men will find most interesting.

Jovvi: "Hey can we go check out the brothels and other houses of sexual pleasure?"
Tamrissa: "I'm a sheltered innocent who knows nothing about these things!"

quote:

I do, however, have one small item of interest back at the house, and you ladies are more than welcome to share it with me."

"Now you've piqued my curiosity, so let's go back," Jovvi said with a laugh and one of her brilliant smiles. "Even if it doesn't turn out to be as good as what the men will find, I intend to tell them it was better."

Jovvi, you don't have to fake this one. No one's paying you for anything here.

quote:

I had to laugh at that, but Beldara was still in her own private world. The servant had already helped her into the coach, and although I'd included her in on the invitation it was fairly clear she had no intention of accepting. Which was just as well, since I had no real interest in sharing my secret pleasure with anyone but Jovvi. I felt certain she would enjoy it as much as I did, and I didn't care to waste it on someone who was sure to find fault no matter how good it really was.

This is the last time they'll try to include Beldara on anything.

quote:

And it would be nice to have another woman I could really talk to. As I settled myself on the seat beside Jovvi, I wondered if it would turn out to be possible for us to be friends. I'd never had a real friend, my parents had seen to that, and even my sisters and I had been discouraged from growing too close. We'd been like a group of strangers who happened to live in the same house, but now . . . maybe freedom wasn't the only priceless thing I'd finally have a chance at.

How the hell do parents discourage siblings from being too close when they all live in the same house? I'm an only child here, so people with siblings please enlighten me. I always thought that siblings had a choice in how close they are because, you know, children are people in their own right.

Summary:

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

Counts so far:

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

TOTALLY INDISTINCT ON-SCREEN LOCATIONS: 5
Rincammon, Haven Wraithside, Tamrissa's house in Gan Garee, Port Entril, testing facility in Gan Garee, Regensi's shop

MEALS ON-SCREEN: 4 (I'm starting this counter because I'm curious whether Green ever skips showing us a meal)
Day 1 (lunch, dinner), Day 2 (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

PLOTHOLES: 16
COACH RIDES: 11
MEETINGS IN COACHES: 2
OTHER MEETINGS: 1
INTERRUPTED MONOLOGUING: 16
"CLIFFHANGERS": 8
POINTLESS TAMRISSA NARRATION: 8
TEA DRINKING: 2
BLATANT MORALIZING: 10
BATH SCENES: 5
WILFUL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: 4
MIND CONTROL: 5

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

Possible fixes:
The Jovvi/Tamrissa friendship would feel stronger if Jovvi saved Tamrissa from a situation where Tamrissa is unable to save herself. Like what we get in Chapter 26. The better way to set up the Beldara/Tamrissa rivalry would be to do it in a scene where they are both using Fire magic. Like what we get in Chapter 28.

So this whole chapter (all 4878 words of it) is useless and should be incinerated into a pile of ash and used for fertiliser. Again.

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