We’re now back with Seth, who we haven’t heard from in seventy pages. They’ve landed in The Reaches and it’s taking Seth a moment to mentally translate Elf-speech because he’s been with men for too long. Brother Liyan greets him, and Seth responds out loud which weirds Liyan out because usually the Elves just communicate telepathically, and it’s kinda a faux pas to do.
Prince Valam introduces himself in Elf-speech, which apparently he’s recently learned, offscreen. Liyan looks at Valam and asks “Does he know?” and Seth says he doesn’t. Needless to say, what they’re talking about isn’t explained in any way.
We learn they landed in a city called Marudal, and they’ll be journeying to Leklorall. Then a page later they discuss going to Riven End, which is a nice mashup of Rivendell and Bag End, props for originality. So I have no idea where the fuck they’re going.
I also really, really like that in the two maps Stanek includes at the front of his book, North isn’t ‘up’ in both maps. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.
Seth feels some guilt about Galan dying, and then we jump over to Cagan, who thinks about the intense storm that happened off-screen that blew them here to Marudal. I love skipping the exciting bits.
Liyan gets inside Seth’s mind and they think about Galan. Now, here’s where a competent writer would realize, hey, Galan hasn’t actually been in this book at all, because she died in the last book. Which, if you’re counting, was approximately 454 pages ago. Maybe let’s remind the reader what happened, recap the scene. It helps your reader understand what’s going on and also provides some good character development for Seth (has he come to terms with her death? How’s he processing the grief?) as well as Liyan (what’s Liyan’s reaction?). Instead we get nothing.
For your benefit, dear reader, back in Kingdom Alliance Seth was dying, and Galan basically begged Great Father (God?) to let her take Seth’s place and sacrificed herself so Seth could live.
They ride on the ship. Valam is watching the countryside.
All in all, he saw no apparent difference between here and his home (page 265).
That’s what I like about Robert Stanek. He has characters cross the fucking ocean to the legendary land of the Elves, and everything is basically just the same. Why bother creating a new culture or environment or climate?
In a rare moment of almost understanding his job, Stanek lets Valam reflect on what is actually happening:
Sathar had returned from the dark journey, beginning the ancient prophecy that marked the ending of everything they knew (pages 265-266).
I mean, that doesn’t explain a lot, but it’s good to get our (extremely) occasional reminder that Sathar is the Dark Lord, there’s a prophecy that’s never been explained, and maybe he’s the big bad who could possibly affect the plot at some point.
Back to Adrina, still in the sewers. She’s crying, mostly about Galan. Adrina hasn’t thought about Galan for several hundred pages, but Stanek has her think about Galan. Why? Let’s find out!
They meet up with Ayrian, who is new to Adrina, and later with Xith (who she’s met before) and Noman (who she hasn’t). Xith has some great news:
“Together with others, you are the key, the next generation of hope and light in a world succumbing to darkness.” (page 269)
Turns out Adrina is Speshul, which, okay, yeah. Adrina disagrees:
“There is no light in darkness,” disagreed Adrina (page 269)
Which is fucking dumb. If you have all the lights off in a room, it’s very dark, and if you light, say, a candle, there is a light in darkness. Or if you see the stars at night, they are light within darkness. This is not a difficult concept.
They argue a bit. Adrina wants to know what the hell is going on, they refuse to explain because it’s kind’ve a life and death situation. In real life, Adrina’s being a twat, but within the context of this book I’m on her side because I know this is just Stanek making excuses to be as oblique as possible. Then bad guys show up and we have a very boring and shitty fight scene. We jump to Noman’s POV:
Galan, who had been standing towards the front of the room read his thoughts and leapt on top of Adrina, shielding the girl with her own body (page 272).
That’s right. The ‘Little One’ is Galan, back from the dead. SURPRISE.
Xith and Vilmos cross the magic streams and the resulting explosion makes the roof collapse. The rest of the group fights off the bad guys. After, Xith and Vilmos are unconscious and they have to dig through the collapsed rubble. Beneath it, they find Galan’s crushed and mangled corpse, but she’s managed to protect Adrina, who is unconscious but still alive. Man, I’m glad Stanek brought Galan back from the dead so she could do a whole lot of nothing before sacrificing herself again to save someone else’s life.
Stanek also does a little fake-out by telling us Adrina’s spirit “passed to rest with the Great-Father” which for all intents and purposes means she’s dead, but don’t worry, she’s not.
Seth, Valam, and everyone talk strategy.
King Mark hasn’t crossed the Crags, which is the mountain range. King Mark, who hasn’t been mentioned in multiple hundreds of pages, is a bad guy who is apparently allied with the Dark Lord Sathar.
There’s a bunch of stupid nonsense. They won’t send their armies to the mountains to intercept King Mark, because they need them ‘here’ for reasons that are unclear. Instead, they’ll wait for Mark to attack (they expect either Rivenwood or Avenwood) and engage him there.
Evgej asks why they don’t attack Mark in the mountains, and Seth explains they can’t ‘invade’ the other Elves’ lands. Evgej doesn’t ask the obvious next question, which is if the country invites you in to help fight off a common enemy, it’s not an invasion, why are the Elves this fucking stupid, and we move on.
They get closer to Leklorall, which is huge. We get a little side note, which is that the Elf ships are basically magic and the ship they are on is moving against the current because the sailmaster basically tells the ship which direction to go and the ship does it. Now, this does make earlier scenes where storms blow their ships wildly off-course not make any fucking sense, but that’s fun.
Eventually they approach the docks near the palace.
The palace was a glowing array of twisting structures and turrets that formed an outward and upward spiral (page 279).
That’s the entire description. And speaking as someone who hates long and wordy descriptions, way to paint a word-picture, Stanek.
They head inside the palace. Music is playing. There’s lots of Elves dressed in different colors for their ‘order’. Up on the throne is the Queen Mother who Valam recognizes from doing a Vulcan mind meld with the Elves previously. She’s a hottie:
She was even more beautiful in person. She radiated pure perfection (page 280).
We hop skip and a jump back to the High Council at Imtal. I probably have mentioned this before, but I really hate how Stanek divides up his chapters. If you’re going to have a sequence at the High Council, have it all be in one chapter rather than sandwiching it around three other chapters.
Basically, they’ve decided to summon an assembly of all members of the alliance.
The decree also said that anyone not in attendance by the declared time would be held in contempt of the alliance and face persecution accordingly (page 281).
Sounds like good leadership to me!
Serant and Brodst visit Konstantin in prison, where he’s shackled, blindfolded, and gagged. They take the blindfold and gag off and Serant asks the prisoner who sent him. Konstantin spits in his face. So Brodst gets down a whip and…whips the prisoner. In the face.
Konstantin’s still not talking, so they threaten him, keep whipping him. Brodst heats up a dagger until it’s red-hot and burns Konstantin’s legs. Man, this children’s book has a lot of torture. But nothing works. They leave and find Father Francis and Keeper Q’yer and explain that the torture isn’t working, but wonder if they can can “enter his mind and learn his secrets” (page 283).
They can’t, but Father Francis has an idea. They go back to the cell. Francis…it’s not particularly well-explained or well-written, but basically Francis casts Minor Illusion and convinces Konstantin that he’s facing death. Konstantin is thrilled because he serves the Dark Lord and death means he’ll be rich and happy in the afterlife or something. Then Francis changes it up and reveals that for Konstantin, death will actually be the pit of the damned. Konstantin freaks out and begs them not to kill him.
Konstantin explains he was hired by “the coalition” led by a man named Antare. His orders were to kill everyone but keep “the girl” alive. I assume he means Adrina.
After, Serant says he’s never heard of Antare (it’s never been mentioned before) but Q’yer says it’s an ancient place, not a person, and heads off to do some research. Serant and Brodst are hungry, so they head to the kitchen and chow down.
Lord Serant grabbed a large hunk of meat and Captain Brodst a cask of ale (page 287).
Sounds delicious. Food fit for the king. They eat and talk and a messenger comes, saying Princess Calyin wants Serant. Serant goes to her chambers and it turns out, she just wants a hug. They hug it out and he puts her to bed. He can’t sleep, so he finds Brodst again and they hang out all night without talking, like a couple of bros. In the morning they decide to take another crack at Konstantin…
…and he’s dead.
They’re suspicious that it might be a trick, so they summon Father Francis, and then like most intelligent people who are suspicious that a prisoner might be faking his death in a world where magic exists, they…unshackle him. Because they’re fucking stupid.
Turns out (surprise) he’s not dead. He jumps up and runs Lord Serant through with his own sword, kicks Captain Brodst in the head, knocking him down, and punches Father Francis in the throat, crushing his windpipe. Then the last guard runs him through.
Lord Konstantin died before the smile left his face (page 291).
More guards rush in, followed by Princess Calyin, Midori, and Sister Catrin. Calyin begs Midori to save Serant’s life, so Midori and Catrin kick everyone out to work their magic.
Francis is straight up dead. Great job, guys. Hopefully later you’ll feel a little guilt about unshackling your prisoner. Brodst, though, was only knocked out, and Serant is clinging to life. They do a little healing prayer together and it works, Serant is alive. Hooray for low stakes! Midori says he and Brodst need to be on bed rest and that’s that.
We go back to Prince Valam. There’s a big homecoming ceremony; don’t worry, nothing happens. Then Evgej goes out for a sailing adventure with Cagan. He’s not paying enough attention and the sail knocks him into the drink. Cagan dives in to rescue him, and then they freak out because they hear voices from the opposite bank talking about the drifting boat. Oh no! Enemies! Nope, turns out it’s just some guards who are with the Elves. So…this was completely pointless.
Stanek is the master of osgiliation.
The next day all the named characters in the Reaches meet around a big conference table and the council (a bunch of random Elves) and the Queen Mother roll in. There’s some introductions, by which I mean a list of names with no details about who these people are or why they matter, so we’ll skip past that.
The Queen Mother begins bloviating about a prophecy without saying anything. Valam immediately tunes her out because he’s staring at Tsandra of the Brown. Tsandra looks a lot like the Queen Mother and is an absolute smokeshow. Seth has to elbow him in the side because it’s getting weird.
Afterwards, Valam and Evgej ask Seth about the Brown Order, who are the warrior Elves. Stanek then spends multiple pages explaining about how people are chosen for the differently-colored Orders and how many there are of each. It’s incredibly boring and will not impact the plot in any way, so we’ll skip it.
Later, at dinner, Valam keeps staring at Tsandra, so she starts communicating with him telepathically
“It is impolite to stare,” page 303.
They mind-talk about nothing for a bit. Tsandra asks if Liyan has told Valam about the sword. Valam is confused, so needless to say, Tsandra doesn’t explain what she’s talking about.
Now we’re with Adrina and that crew. Adrina has a broken leg, so Noman splints it. Amir piles up the corpses of their enemies and finds a body dressed in a robe, next to a wooden walking stick. Apparently this corpse is some kind of magic-user whose negative magic interacted with Xith and Vilmos’ positive magic, which caused the explosion.
Xith wakes up, and we get a couple pages of them freaking out over Vilmos who is having weird magical dreams and they yell at each other about how they need to “restore the link” and “fight it!” which is the same basic sequence of events that has happened around 37 times already in this stupid fucking series. Nothing ever fucking happens, we don’t know what the dreams are or what they mean, it’s meaningless fucking page-filling bullshit.
I need a drink.
They realize they have to go to Tsitadel’, for reasons they will not explain. And we close out the chapter with some classic Stanek bullshit between Xith and Noman. Stanek doesn’t bother telling us who is saying what, but don’t worry, it absolutely does not matter:
“I have seen a vision, but you must say nothing about it. It has been set in motion as we have feared.”
“Then we are too late?”
“Let us hope we are not. It is time. We must leave.” (page 310)
Everyone packs up and they roll out, Amir carrying Adrina who is still asleep. Noman kisses her on the forehead, just to be creepy.
I really need a drink.