Chapter Eight – Guidance
Adrina rides along thinking about all the different cities. Alderan’s supposed to be really beautiful. Then she spurs her horse up to between Keeper Martin and Emel, who’s mad at her for some reason. She apologizes for whatever she did and promises she won’t do it again, and then immediately goes back on her promise:
“Are you at least going to tell me what you know?” Emel asked. “Or do I get nothing in repayment?”
Before she might have decided to come clean and admit she didn’t know anything, but as she considered his question, she decided instead to feed him along. “Well, you actually didn’t help me. It was Father Jacob who did, and he already knows the plan.” (page 119).
Hang on. These characters are supposed to be friends? And Adrina’s supposed to be our heroine? She’s lied to him, is planning on continuing to lie to him, betrayed his trust, and now is essentially spitting in his face? And what the hell does ‘feed him along’ mean? Isn’t that ‘string him along’?
In response, Emel spurred his mount and rode to the front of the party. Her intent hadn’t been to anger Emel, only to carry on a conversation with him (page 119).
Really? You didn’t think that was going to anger him? You seriously didn’t think that? How stupid are you?
Now she felt doubly poor for what she had done. An earlier promise would be kept, she would say an extra prayer this evening to repent for the subterfuge (page 119).
Somehow, I doubt that praying for forgiveness for a sin that is ongoing and you have no intention of stopping will have much effect.
At midday Captain Brodst called the column to a halt. The abeyance (page 119).
Yes, Stanek enjoys thesaurus abuse. Or randomly flinging complex words into books that are marketed for ages 10+.
While Adrina eats, she stares at Father Jacob and then Keeper Martin. Apparently before Keeper Martin, the Keepers all stayed inside the Halls of Knowledge, communicating with other Keepers via dreams. Keeper Martin, however, has traveled extensively.
Suddenly Keeper Martin whispers in her ear that it’s impolite to stare. Except Adrina was staring at him. So he was inside her field of vision. And suddenly he’s beside her whispering into her ear? Is he a teleporter? A ninja? Probably just bad writing.
Adrina took a sip of kindra-ale, a bitter tasting drink with an unpleasant aftertaste that was strangely satisfying. “Will you be going all the way to Alderan with us, Keeper Martin?” (page 120)
So, it tastes disgusting, and continues to taste disgusting even after you’ve swallowed? And…it’s satisfying? Okay then.
Keeper Martin tells her that he’s going to go with them all the way to Alderan instead of leaving to conduct his own business per his original plan. He doesn’t give a reason for this change, but who needs reasons? And then Emel comes up. He apologizes to her for earlier. No, seriously. He goes on to say that he was upset because her heard the news about her being betrothed to Rudden Klaiveson, and he’s sorry for being petty, but he did expect her to tell him personally. Which, while it might have been the underlying reason for him being pissed of at her, he still has a very good reason to be angry at her because she’s a lying bitch. And, of course, Emel promptly forgets that she’s a lying bitch and doesn’t even bring up the quid pro quo that Adrina still owes him several bits of juicy information. Adrina tells him that she’s not betrothed to anyone and just like that they’re friends again and Adrina’s rotten nature is glossed over.
They start riding again and it begins to rain. Adrina is cold and miserable. Emel is enjoying the rain. Adrina looks around at several people and through the pouring rain and from some distance she manages to draw several conclusions about people she doesn’t know at all.
Keeper Martin had his eyes wide open. He scanned the horizon ahead. His face, with upturned eyebrows and slightly furled lips, showed little complacency. Clearly he didn’t like the rain or the trail conditions, yet as always he sought to maintain a clear awareness of their surroundings and find the good in ill. Something troubled him, noted Adrina. She guessed that it probably had something to do with their journey – the keeper had too much wisdom sometimes (page 123).
A moment later, Stanek tries to justify it:
Her special talent, a learned talent for knowing what others were thinking from their expressions, a gift perfected during numerous court sessions, ended as she turned to regard Emel (pages 123-124).
Stanek, you just got through explaining that Adrina knows nothing about Keeper Martin. And suddenly she’s able to parse out that he’s trying to find the good in ill from his facial expression? Because she’s sat around in court? Here’s a tip, Robert: if your main character is supposed to be good at something, don’t wait to introduce it until after page 120 in the book. You also should not give it to a girl who is demonstratably bad at relating to other people and seems incapable of empathy, and who is also both ignorant and naïve. Your readers aren’t going to buy it.
Captain Brodst tells a sergeant that they’ll be stopping but they won’t be casting any tents, so he needs to find a thick spot in the forest. I do wonder how you’re going to find a really thick forest with enough space to bunk down a group that size, but alright. Just then Emel yells at Adrina to catch up, and races off on Ebony. So they gallop along, Adrina swatting at her tired horse.
To reiterate: after a long day’s ride, they’re making their tired horses gallop. In the rain. Over rough terrain. This is not good horsemanship. This is also telling your readers that no, you really don’t know what you’re writing about.
Also: they’re galloping AWAY from their armed regiment. With the princess. In the dark. In the middle of a forest. This is also telling your readers that this book is completely devoid of logic.
They gallop along for awhile and finally slow down. Emel talks about what it’s going to be like once they camp. Apparently, the Imtal Palace guards and the guests get to be around the base fire, and all the rest of the troops will just have to suck it up and freeze. This is Captain Brodst’s way of telling the palace guard that he cares about them. Then, all of the rest of the soldiers will see the way that the palace guard gets preferential treatment, and this will make them realize that Captain Brodst takes care of his own and will make them like him more and want to sign up to serve under him. At least, this is Emel’s opinion of what will happen. Somehow, I doubt that’s how it will actually go down.
They start galloping again, until they reach some woods. Emel gets ahead of her, and then turns and gallops back to her. He reaches out and grabs her mare’s reins, which somehow makes the mare stop on a dime. Not expecting this, Adrina goes flying off and lands in the mud. Is everyone in this book a complete idiot? Who thinks that it’s a good idea to make the princess – or anyone, for that matter – fall off their horse at full speed?
Adrina is mad. So she swears at him. Then she pulls him off his horse and they start a mud fight which lasts for awhile until they calm down, wash the mud off, and walk into the forest. The forest is so thick that the rain can’t even get through. Now, this is a torrential downpour, so thick that it makes it difficult to see at all in any direction. Been going on for hours. And yet it’s so dry that they can collect twigs and branches and instantly start a fire. Yeah…that’s likely.
Then we have an amusing exchange after Adrina asks how long it’ll be until the others catch up:
“Soon,” Emel said, “so hurry up and take off your clothes. We don’t have much time.”
Both flattered and outraged, Adrina’s face flushed and then became bright red. “What do you mean?” she shouted. She slapped his face. “Why I never! What do you mean get undressed?” (page 128).
Emel explains that he just meant that she needed to dry off her clothes and he would go away while she did that and Adrina apologizes for hitting him and they both enjoy a good laugh at the confusion. Yes, that’s hilarious. And the fact that Adrina’s first reaction was to be flattered that he was telling her to take off her clothes off is also hilarious. And disturbing. A), because this series is marketed for ages 10+, and B) because most of these illustrations depict Adrina as being around 12 years old.
Emel leaves and goes back to where they left the horses out in the rain. He stands around for a bit and suddenly realizes he left Adrina all alone in the middle of a forest without even checking around to see if there were enemies in the bushes. Some guardsman he is. So he leaps aboard his horse and gallops back towards Adrina.
Through the thick forest that is so dense rain can’t even penetrate it.
He gets back and of course Adrina’s gone. He yells a few times and suddenly he’s grabbed from behind and a hand clamped over his mouth. A dark figure tells him to keep quiet, and he/she/it leads him into the forest where there’s a group of 12 hooded figures, except for one, who is a tall woman, who’s talking to Adrina. She tells Adrina to not travel to Alderan by sea, the ship isn’t going to come, and Adrina’s in grave danger because she’s been marked by Evil. She’s been picked because of her position of influence. Yeah…right. The woman says that they’ll meet two strangers who will help them out, and there’s a traitor among them who will insist they continue to Alderan, where only death awaits them.
This woman also has some actual news, as in, real news. Admittedly, it’s not helpful unless you have a wiki and a few pages of notes that you’ve taken to keep track of characters that are only mentioned once every fifty pages. It’s not even clear to me, I had to refer to my wiki to make sense of it.
“The ship from Wellison has a most precious cargo, the heir to the throne of Sever. At this very moment, King Charles lies dying in his bed. An assassin’s poison is slowly eating away at him. Alas there is no cure, a terrible poison it was.
“The evil uses King Jarom’s lust for power just as it uses you and many others. He sees himself seated in the throne room of Imtal palace. He means to plunge the kingdoms into war.” (pages 131-132).
This is what the book states. Here’s what it actually means: Apparently the ship from Wellison (which is the one they are currently going to meet to meet) has William, who is heir to the throne of Sever, aboard. William’s father, King Charles, is currently dying from poison. He was poised by King Jarom (of Vostok), who is being influenced by evil and wants to start a war that will end with him ruling from Imtal (which is ruled by Adrina’s father, King Andrew). Savvy? Good, because you’re a lot further along than anyone who is just reading this book.
The old woman sends Emel away so she can speak to Adrina alone, but Emel decides to eavesdrop anyway. The woman tells Adrina that she’s a heartless bitch who doesn’t even know the name of the servant girl who stays awake all night to keep Adrina’s fire going (or not), only to get beaten the next day for laziness. Adrina tries to protest but she can’t even remember the servant’s name.
The old woman makes a few more vague prophecies and warnings, warns them not to tell anyone of their meeting, and vanishes in a flash of deus ex machina and exposition.