Part 14: The Heart of Darkness

Chapter Twenty-Three – Prisoners

Father Jacob watches Seth all night, periodically touching healing stones to his forehead as Xith asked him to do. This is interesting. Healing stones? I would like to know more about this. Nothing extensive, maybe a short paragraph about how these stones are imbued with magical powers over time and then carefully prepared with a specific healing spell to properly heal someone of whatever is ailing them when they’re used. Anything. Instead, there’s nothing. They are Deus ex Machina stones.

Seth wakes up and asks where his companion is. He uses the old language, which is the language that priests use. Apparently, this language used to be spoken by everyone, back in the day, so Father Jacob answers him without thinking in the same language and it takes some time before he realizes what language Seth is speaking. This would not be a problem except Elves and Men have been separated for the past 500 years and they haven’t had any contact during that time. Both languages would have evolved considerably during that time, and if they weren’t completely incomprehensible to each other, they would at least find it a little difficult to understand each other, at least at first. Of course, this isn’t a problem here.

This makes Father Jacob realize that Seth is an Elf. I guess the pointy ears weren’t a giveaway. The book is littered with illustrations drawn by the author that show all the Elves with enormous pointed ears you can see from miles away. They aren’t easy to miss.

They talk about nothing for awhile and the subject of Galan comes up. Seth is filled with despair because he thinks she’s dead, but Father Jacob says there were signs of a struggle at the beach, which indicates that someone came along and could have kidnapped Galan. And left Seth there. For some reason. Anyway, the conversation goes on and the topic of Xith comes up. And Father Jacob finally reveals some juicy information about who Xith is:

“Xith, last of the Watchers. I first met him thirteen years ago. He came to me in a time of great need. He promised he would return one day when the need was again great, and he has. Great Kingdom is being consumed by the heart of darkness itself.” (page 301).

Sorry, did I say juicy? That was poor word choice on my part.

After some more boring conversation we skip over to Captain Trendmore and Keeper Martin. Trendmore, of course, who is leading the actual garrison. So now I’m really confused. Which garrison was sent to Quashan’?

Martin is suspicious since they’ve turned north instead of south, but he isn’t sure whether to say anything about this. Based off what very little information we have to go on, I’m guessing King Jarom is manipulating this somehow. Either because Trendmore is a traitor or he’s been given some false orders.

Martin starts asking random questions to Captain Adylton about sailing. Somehow, this supposedly brings the conversation over to the fact that if there was a storm, it might have blown the ship south. And then this suddenly brings the subject over to whether there are loyal men in Captain Adylton’s squadron. Apparently they’ve subtly brought the topic around to mutiny under Trendmore.

I consider it the mark of a good author if they can reveal information indirectly. Such as authors who write scenes where characters discuss random things but this inane conversation reveals important bits of characterization about these people. Or when authors have a series of scenes that at first do not make sense but after we’ve come full circle all the pieces fit together and we realize what they’ve been driving at the entire time.

Stanek possesses the exact opposite of this ability, but what he does is far worse that just beating the reader over the head with the information. Instead, he writes scenes where he’s supposed to be subtly revealing important plot-changing information and instead they don’t make sense, usually not even to the reader. Characters talk about random things and then someone makes a logical jump that’s devoid of logic and could only be made using information they couldn’t possibly know.

Martin continues, explaining he’s secretly been in the South for several months. At first, everything was fine, but suddenly the city was sealed, hundreds of people were arrested, dozens were killed, and then MORE people were arrested.

“Then one afternoon, while moving to a new safe house, I made a most unexpected discovery. Soldiers loyal to King Charles were no longer in control of the city. An agent of King Jarom had usurped power…Everything I’d seen suddenly made sense.” (page 304)

That’s right. Martin is moving and he just happens to figure out an agent of King Jarom has taken control of the city and deposed King Charles.

Then Martin met up with people loyal to King Charles:

“They spoke of a bold plan to retake the city and of a plan to smuggle the heir to the throne from the city to safety.” (pages 304-305)

Okay. I think I’m starting to put some things together, which is good, because we’re only 300 pages into this book. So King Jarom killed Charles and then Charles’ loyalists stick William on a boat and send him to Alderan, and send a letter to King Andrew, who sends a garrison to Alderan to meet the boat and keep William safe.

But as we know, Prince William is now in charge of Alderan and has just captured Valam and Adrina. So yeah, still confused.

Martin continues:

“You know as well as I that King Charles’ voice was the only vote of dissension in the Minors when King Jarom last sued for war and dissolution of the Kingdom Alliance” (page 305).

Wait, what?

To recap: there are four smaller kingdoms that make up the Kingdom Alliance and then there’s the larger Great Kingdom that sort of watches over all of them. And apparently three of these kingdoms got together and voted to forget about the alliance and go to war. For some reason, the dissenting vote of one king was enough to stop them, which is all kinds of stupid. You don’t vote on going to war, you declare war. You can sort of wiggle out of this by assuming that maybe King Jarom would only declare war if all three other kings were with him, because he was afraid he wouldn’t win without them. But this is problematic because he’s going to war now by just killing King Charles and usurping the throne. So he’s removed a potential opponent, but at the same time he can’t just add Charles’ army to his own, and now he has to deal with a potential insurgency as well.

But a far bigger problem is that everyone knows about this. It’s open news that King Jarom has already tried to declare war on Great Kingdom. I’m not saying that Great Kingdom would swoop in and execute him since he was thinking about rebellion (although that’s likely), but at the very least they would have prepared for war, or come up with contingency plans they could activate the moment King Jarom started anything. They’ve done nothing, which is absolutely ludicrous.

Stanek makes quite a lot of his military career, and it’s one claim that I’m reasonably certain is actually true. So it boggles my mind that he has absolutely no idea how the military and the government work.

We jump back over to Vilmos who is being marched along with his hands tied behind his back. They’ve left Alderan. Prince William was afraid he wouldn’t be able to hold the city any longer so they torched the city and left.

The soldiers decide it’s time for a rest. They do this by kicking Vilmos in the seat of the pants and knocking him on his face. He sits there and thinks angrily for awhile about why the soldiers pick on him. He hasn’t done anything, but they treat him significantly worse than everyone else. He has no idea why.

I have a pretty good idea. He’s a commoner. Adrina and Valam are royalty, and Emel is the son of a high-ranking officer. All of them are extremely valuable hostages. I’m a little surprised they haven’t already slit Vilmos’ throat and left him in a ditch, but I can see them bringing him along since he was traveling with Adrina. The soldiers could logically assume he has some small value as a bartering chip.

Naturally, Stanek rejects this logical theory in favor of one that makes no sense, as Valam attempts to explain what’s going on to Vilmos:

“It seems you have been singled out because you are the smallest and the youngest. Their aim is to break you and thus break us all” (page 307).

No. That’s backwards. Nobody cares of the weakest person breaks, because they’re weak. You expect them to break. But everyone cares if the strongest person breaks, because if someone stronger and tougher than you breaks, how can you expect to make it?

Valam tells Vilmos he looks like he has royal blood, and speaks like he’s been well-educated. Wonderful. A hundred bucks says that Vilmos turns out to be royalty.

Next day. That night they sit down and talk about some random things. They’re not close to the campfires. So they’re sitting in darkness. Then their guards fall asleep.

So they all go to sleep.


Next day. They’re getting closer to Sever so the soldiers are starting to relax more. Vilmos has his hands freed.

The next day the forest comes into sight. Vilmos starts to tweak out a bit. He tells them about the last time he was in that forest and the Wolmerrelle. And then Prince Valam comes up with the reason why William has let Vilmos live:

“He is using you to keep me in check. He knew I would brood over the injustices he has given you and think not of other things – escape. That is exactly what I did.” (page 311)


You’ve been walking for three days now. Conservatively, let’s say twelve hours a day. Of nothing but walking and letting the mind wander. Valam is a prince. He’s had extensive military training. And he has spent the past thirty-six hours of free time not even once thinking about escape plans…because the guards aren’t treating Vilmos very well?

This is so idiotic it’s making my brain hurt.

Valam goes on to say that tomorrow, when they’re in the forest, they’ll make their move.

They talk for the next two pages. Vilmos mentions that he saw Prince William once, at a neighboring village. Valam says that if Vilmos is actually from Sever, Prince William might let him go. I would say that is slightly less likely than Hell freezing over, but dumber things have happened. The conversation then turns to Vilmos talking about William not being born in Gregortonn (the capital of Sever). The conversation appears to be building up towards some kind of important reveal, considering they’ve spent a page and a half on it. Maybe some clue as to what’s going on, or a potentially important bit of information that will come into play later.

Then the chapter ends.

So, no.


  3 Responses to “Part 14: The Heart of Darkness”

  1. I don’t understand why Vilmos hasn’t used his magic flames yet to just torch the bad guys here. Apparently some kid beating him up was enough of a threat that the flames came out, but this whole situation isn’t? It’s so poorly written and poorly thought out!

  2. William, Vilmos, Valam… holy lack of imagination, Batman!

  3. Oh my god , this is too much fun. I’m going to have to wake someone up and do this again.