Princess Adrina’s eyes have adjusted to the light, and she can see her captors. There’s a giant and a female that Stanek steadily refuses to describe in any way.
“Why me? Why did you kidnap me?” repeated Adrina.
“We did what we had to do.” (page 238)
I’m beating a dead horse here, but this is not how people talk. And even on the off-chance that Stanek wants to still be spooky and mysterious and kick the can down the road, have him say something like ‘We were sent to rescue, not kidnap you’.
Adrina punches the giant a few times, cries a bit, because she’s a Spunky Princess, then sees the female for the first time, and faints. When she wakes up, she starts to say a name, but the female stops her. The female introduces the giant as Amir – so this is Amir and Little One.
Apparently they’ve been spotted and are being followed through the tunnels – Little One went on a scouting mission – so Amir leaves and kills the two monsters that are after them. There’s a moment when Amir comes back holding their bodies where Little One thinks Amir is the monster and almost stabs him but doesn’t. They really need a better system than this.
Amir stuffs the corpses down a drainage shaft and they set off. They walk through the sewers for a while and nothing really happens.
Back at the fight scene. Tons more guys are coming in and they’re all fighting. Stanek can’t really write battle scenes, so who knows what’s happening.
Lord Serant kicks Lord Konstantin in the back of the head and demands Konstantin say how many troops are coming, in reply, Konstantin spits in Serant’s face. Also, dude, maybe don’t rely on your sworn enemy to answer truthfully in a moment of crisis?
Serant thinks he sees a hole in the enemy’s defense, so he summons Yi to lead a desperate charge to ‘infiltrate the enemies’ rear flank’, which sounds sexier than it probably is. There’s more fighting, they do the charge, it doesn’t work, more soldiers are arriving every second, people are turning into arrow-filled pincushions, it’s a nonstop orgy of PG-rated violence and death.
More dark warriors keep showing up, so Serant hands a knife to Princess Calyin, and we learn she’s ready to die, so noble suicide incoming? Then she shouts ‘Look’ and everyone is excited because reinforcements have arrived. And it’s…Lord Geoffrey of Solntse. He explains:
“I had a strange visitor a number of day’s ago. He told me the waxing gibbous moon brought ill tidings and to rouse our garrison and set wings to our feet. ‘Reach Imtal before the full moon wanes,’ he beckoned, and thankfully I heeded his words.” (page 248)
Got it. So this was what the mysterious mission that brought them to Solntse back in Chapter Fifteen that Stanek was so cryptic about. Somehow (we don’t know) Xith and crew figured out Konstantin was planning a sneak attack on Imtal, so they went to Solntse, informed Geoffrey and asked him to send reinforcements to Imtal, then using their magic invisibility powers managed to beat Konstantin’s army to Imtal, post up in the city, wait for Adrina to be kidnapped, somehow locate her exact location (magic?), rescue her, and now they’re smuggling her out of the city.
Okay. Rant time.
This is really, really, really bad writing. In general, you should try to make your writing as simple and straightforward as possible, especially when you’re marketing your books towards children. Yes, there’s plenty of obnoxious writers who think being obtuse and confusing elevates their writing to literary genius, let’s skip past that. Stanek introduced this plot back nine chapters ago. 82 pages. 82 pages where we the readers have had basically no idea what the fuck is happening, what characters are trying to do, their motivations, anything. All because Stanek is trying (I assume) to have a little ‘surprise!’ moment with the reveal of the sneak attack on Imtal and that Geoffrey was coming in to try and save them.
This is bad writing.
Let’s take a moment to enjoy this lesson from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock:
“There is a distinct difference between “suspense” and “surprise,” and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I’ll explain what I mean.
We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let’s suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, “Boom!” There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o’clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: “You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!”
In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.”
This is precisely what Stanek has done. We’ve had a moment of surprise, at the expense of 82 pages of nothing fucking happening. And that’s absolutely not needed.
Imagine back in Chapter Fifteen, rather than Stanek refusing to explain what the characters were talking about, they just said it?
“We have received grave news. Lord Konstantin has gathered his troops and is marching on Imtal. He plans to catch them unawares at the King’s funeral. We have even heard of a rumor of a plot to kidnap the princess, although we do not know to what end. You must gather your garrison and ride for Imtal, for even now it may be too late.”
Boom. We the reader know what’s going on, and now we have stakes. Now, when we go back to Adrina and Serant traipsing around the castle as they prep for the funeral, we have that suspense Hitchcock is talking about. We know an attack is coming, the characters don’t. We also have suspense as it comes to Lord Geoffrey – will his troops arrive in time to save Imtal? We also don’t know. It’s a simple change in storytelling, but it takes a nearly incomprehensible 82-page section of the book, makes it far more simple to understand, and makes the stakes and suspense significantly higher.
This is why shitting out a book and self-publishing it is a bad idea. You need an editor. At minimum, beta readers to give you feedback. I’m sure a lot of this nonsense makes sense inside Stanek’s head because he came up with it, but you’re not making it accessible for your readers. That’s why having an outside perspective is valuable.
Anyway. Between the remaining Imtal soldiers and Lord Geoffrey’s reinforcements, they rout the dark warriors, some of them flee, and the good guys win. Hooray!
The scene was one of death and destruction. The dark warriors had left their mark deep on the kingdom. The blood of many had flowed through the central square. Many brave soldiers had lost their lives (page 249).
Stanek is a poet.
Xith has been watching all of this from his glowing orb – remember, he has a Palantir knock-off, stolen from Lord of the Rings – and he’s pleased. He thinks about Valam, and then thinks about Vilmos.
The boy who would become the one against which the forces of darkness and light would align and then single-mindedly seek to destroy (page 250).
I think Vilmos is going to turn into the bad guy. I haven’t read the 4th book, but that’s my prediction.
Midori and Catrin are kneeling next to Jasmine, who is dying.
The scene was one of death and destruction. The dark warriors had left their mark deep on the kingdom. The blood of many had flowed through the central square. Many brave soldiers had lost their lives (page 251).
Wait a second – that’s the exact same paragraph, word for word, from the last chapter. What the fuck, Stanek!
Lord Serant is hanging out. He sees Chancellor Yi’s dead body, so at least Serant doesn’t have to execute him for his incompetence. Pity, I was really looking forward to that.
The priestesses spend several pages tapping into their spirit magic and the Mother to try and save Jasmine. It doesn’t work and she dies. Good use of our time.
The royals all head back into the castle and to the castle-chamber. Captain Brodst is not pleased to see Lord Serant park himself in the king’s chair.
“This is an outrage! How dare you?” shouted Captain Brodst as he jumped up and drew his blade (page 257).
Serant also pulls steel, but Princess Calyin runs between them and screams at them to knock it off and sit down. They do, and she says that they can’t fight amongst themselves. Apparently, Calyin is next in the royal line, so she and Serant will rule until Prince Valam returns from the lands of the elves. And that’s that.