Part 4: You Are Indeed Fools

Chapter Eight – Phantoms of the Past

We begin with a stupid quote:

Vilmos ran for what seemed hours – if not days (page 87).

In and of itself it’s not stupid, until you keep reading and it details Vilmos and Xith in the middle of a fight scene with the green monsters. Not a running fight scene. They’re just standing around fighting the monsters. Also, Vilmos isn’t flashing back to what happened before he started running. There’s just a random sentence in there about him running which is completely out of place because he isn’t actually running.

They fight. Xith fries a few of them with his blue Force-electricity. Vilmos uses his magic-shield to keep one of them from killing him, and suddenly Xith is gone and he’s surrounded by three of the monsters. He shouts for Xith and then one of the creatures breaks through the shield and claws him, which pisses him off:

“For this you shall die!” he shouted (page 88)

Which is exactly what most twelve-year-old boys shout dramatically at monsters.

Vilmos channels the magic and fries it into a green monster-shaped piece of toast.

Surprised at the power that surged in him, Vilmos shouted, a wicked smile touching his lips (page 88).

I’m getting some Anakin Skywalker vibes here, especially when the creatures turn and run away from him. He doesn’t let them go. Instead, he follows after them and fries them as well.

The creatures’ last sounds were agonized cries of pure pain. Vilmos almost pitied them but that thought didn’t last long (page 89).

Maybe this is why Stanek is trying so hard to make me hate Vilmos, so I don’t care when he finally turns to the Dark Side of the Force.

We cut back to Adrina and Emel, who are looking for the little glowing amulet thing. They put the torches out so it’s dark and start looking again. If the amulet was glowing it shouldn’t take more than two seconds to find it. But maybe that’s just me.

Emel wonders why Adrina never told him about the second visit from the Lady, and Adrina continues being a bitch:

“You never asked. You were too busy playing captain of the guard.” (page 90)

Emel, thankfully, doesn’t take this lying down, and promptly delivers the most eloquent (for Stanek, at least) of verbal curb-stompings, pointing out that it’s been his job to notify the families of all their dead sons, and once that was done he had to start recruiting and training new men for the garrison because, you know, a lot of them are dead. Actual real work. Adrina apologizes and says she didn’t know. Well, maybe if you’d stopped thinking about yourself for more than a second and a half, you’d realize this stuff. Or, I dunno, maybe if you asked instead of assuming, you miserable bitch.

Happily, Emel doesn’t stop there. He goes on to lecture Adrina about stirring up the palace household. Apparently, the guard she assigned to protect Myrial is furious and feels humiliated, because he used to have the rather prestigious position of being a palace guardsman and now he’s been demoted to being a personal bodyguard for a servant. Admittedly, this isn’t something that Emel should be telling Adrina, it’s something that half a dozen people would have already told her. But it’s very refreshing to have almost sort’ve consequences for her stupid actions. Of course, there won’t be any real consequences, and I’m pretty sure this never gets mentioned again, but at least it was said.

Finally, they find the glowing amulet.

Back to Vilmos. He cries for a bit. Eventually he gets up and starts searching for Xith’s body. He doesn’t find it, so he makes a camp and starts a fire, eats a little bit, and starts thinking. Xith and the horses are gone, he’s alone in Under-Earth, and the Wolmerrelle are out and about. So is Erravane, that one chick who hates Xith and by extension, Vilmos.

So eventually he falls asleep. A good plan, especially when there are monsters everywhere that want to kill you and you just lit a fire that will help them find you. Personally, I’d put the fire out and do something like climb a tree, but that’s just me.

Chapter Nine – Against the Odds

Seth tells Adrina to take him to Galan. Adrina says that the council wants to talk to him first, but Seth says that Galan first, then the council. So Adrina calls in the guards and tells them to help bring Seth to Galan. The guards say that they’re under orders from Captain Brodst.

“You heed a captain’s order over mine? You are indeed fools!” screamed Adrina (page 94).

Well. Yeah. First of all, he’s their captain, and second, princess don’t exactly have any power. Setting that aside, it’s difficult to describe how much I hate Adrina. She’s a nasty, smug, pretentious, petty, immature, vindictive asshole. There is literally nothing likable about her.

Of course, the guards quail under this unassailable logic, and help Seth along. Eventually they get to Galan’s room. There’s a bunch of priests inside who are praying an ancient magic healing prayer that isn’t working very well. Seth asks everyone to leave so he can take care of Galan. There’s some argument over whether he’s strong enough, but it’s not very interesting and eventually everyone leaves.

Nothing happens for two and a half pages. By which I mean Father Jacob sit around and do nothing.

All his thoughts of failure did not disappear so readily. He cursed the priestesses and their damnable rituals. An image of Jasmine, the High Priestess, flashed through his mind. During the days before winter, a priestess was not to be found in the whole of the Kingdom. Sealed away in sanctuary, carrying out private worship, which although Jacob knew and understood he did not fully condone. His thoughts lingered on the face a moment longer, then he turned to careful, reverent prayer – the prayer he promised before but had not had time yet to give.

Neither he nor Adrina said a word as they waited, slumped against the wall. Interrupting the silence seemed wrong. Despite the skirt she wore, Adrina sat on her haunches. The good father simply abided by leaning a heavy shoulder against the stonework of one of the hall’s great arches. Unconsciously, between breaths one or the other would pause to listen, hoping for a sound or a sign, anything at all to cast away their fears (page 99).

Yep. Instead of plot development, or character development, we get two and a half pages of characters fretting and waiting. This is Stanek’s work.
Finally we get back into Seth’s POV. He starts meditating and channeling his energy and making sure the feng shui is right and then he levitates over Galan’s bed and starts praying and stuff. It lasts for three pages and mere words cannot describe how uninteresting it is. But I’m sure it was easy to write, because nothing is actually happening. I guess that’s why Stanek included it.

Chapter Ten – A Strangeness in the Air

Vilmos wakes up and he’s surrounded by shadowy men. Well, what did I tell you, Vilmos? Lighting a fire in an unfamiliar and dangerous forest and then falling asleep was a bad idea.

They exchange some dialogue that doesn’t make sense, and one of them tells Vilmos that they will guide him to wherever he is going. Vilmos asks them if they are really going to do that. Then some more random dialogue, and someone else shows up. The someone else is extremely large and is holding a spiky club that is about as big as Vilmos. He asks Vilmos if he knows what the shadowy men have planned for him.

“They are friends. They’ve come to help me along my path. I will go with them if it is all the same to you.” (page 104-5)

Uh…Vilmos has never seen any of these idiots before, so he has no idea if they’re friends or not. Why, precisely, does he trust any of them? Stupidity? Anyway, the big guy is not convinced:

“Do you know what they’ll do to you when they find out you’re not the one?”

“He is the one,” hissed one of the hooded men. “The sign is in the East and he’s come. We’ve come for him; he is ours. Leave us now or we’ll do what we must to protect that which is ours!” (page 105).

I have no idea what any of this is supposed to mean, but it doesn’t really surprise me that Vilmos is supposed to be the Chosen One.

Anyway, the big guy thinks that this is kinda funny, and hefts his club menacingly.

We cut to Adrina, who wakes up. Myrial comes in and starts combing her hair. As I recall, Myrial was just promoted to general housekeeper. I’m pretty sure that means she doesn’t do things like combing Adrina’s hair.

Myrial mentions that there’s a very good-looking man outside. Adrina points out that she’s betrothed to Rudden Klaiveson and that is that. Then Emel comes in. He tells Adrina that he’s going to the territories. Krepost, to be specific. Adrina is not pleased.

“Why?” cried Adrina, throwing her slippers at him (page 106).

She’s such a nice character.

Emel points out that he was the ranking officer on watch during the attempt on her life – at attempt that still hasn’t effected the plot. I’m totally serious. No one is talking about it. No one even mentions or acknowledges that it even happened except for Adrina and Emel, here. You’d think that assassins sneaking inside the palace and trying to snuff a member of the royal family would maybe cause a bit of a stir, actually have some impact on the plot. But no, it’s completely glossed over. Myrial doesn’t comment on it. Father Jacob doesn’t comment on it. Adrina’s father, the fucking KING doesn’t comment on it. It’s as if Stanek went back and inserted the scene into the plot and then forgot to actually change the rest of it so it matched. Which wouldn’t actually surprise me at all.

Anyway. He was in charge so it’s his fault, and because he feels that he’s brought shame and dishonor to his name, he needs to leave. Adrina yells at him for a couple pages about how no one ever returns from Krepost but doesn’t change Emel’s mind.

Myrial pops in and says that Galan has woken up. Emel gives Adrina a leather pouch with the glowing amulet inside, and Adrina takes off to see Galan:

Adrina wrapped her hand about the leather pouch and then grabbed Myrial by the arm, saying “Let’s go! I’ve waited days and weeks for this!” (page 108)

Yes. The news that Galan woke up made Adrina completely forget that her closest friend in the world is leaving forever and she will probably never see him again. So she runs off without even saying goodbye to him.


Emel watched Adrina go; his heart went with her. “It is done,” he whispered as he walked away in the opposite direction.

A figure in the shadows whispered, “You’ve done right; this is as it must be. You know what you must do next – don’t delay any more than necessary. I’ll wait outside the city, on the morrow.” (page 108)

If you’re hoping that this has any meaning or will come to something, you’re out of luck. This scene will never be explained or mentioned again.

Emel goes to see his father and says he’s resigning. It doesn’t make a lot of sense and is written in such a way that I think Stanek is deliberately trying to be as confusing as he possibly can. I think that he might be leaving because he’s afraid of what might happen between him and Adrina, but I’m not certain. And if that’s the case, why the fuck doesn’t Stanek just come out and say it? This book was written for kids. If Stanek spends so much time beating around the bush that adults have to read every page multiple times to try and make sense of them, how are children supposed to have the foggiest idea what’s going on?

Although I’m pretty sure that no kid has ever gotten this far in this series. In fact, I doubt anyone has gotten this far in the series, except for me. I’ve never heard of an actual person who has gotten past the first book.

We cut back to Vilmos, who wakes up in a warm bed, continuing Stanek’s streak of ending a scene just before an exciting action sequence and picking it up after the exciting action sequence is over and we’re back to the boring, everyday slices of life and characters standing around talking.

I spent some time thinking about why he does this. The first possibility is laziness. Writing dialogue and characters doing boring, everyday things is rather easy, and writing action sequences is difficult. Maybe Stanek doesn’t really believe any of the things that he writes in the positive reviews of his own books. If he’s in it for the money, plain and simple, since his entire business model is based around tricking people into buying his books, the quality of his books really doesn’t matter at all. It’s possible that he knows he’s writing shit and truly doesn’t care, and therefore doesn’t try.

However, I think it’s equally likely – perhaps even more likely – that Stanek does care, and is trying (like the weak attempts at cliffhangers throughout the book) and is guilty of truly staggering levels of incompetence. There are plenty of actually published authors who fill their books with long-winded inanity and purple prose. One of them – to respect his privacy I’ll just call him C. Paolini – or better yet, Christopher P. – is well-known for writing a series that just as action sequences get going, his hero gets knocked unconscious and wakes up safe and warm in bed, sparing him from having to write those difficult battle scenes. He’s also published two huge doorstopper books in which absolutely nothing happens.

Someone leaves some soup and bread outside his door and Vilmos eats it happily. He notices something that looks like a chess-piece sitting on the tray, and sets it aside.

After a few hours he starts wondering about where he is and decides to look around. So wait…you have a character who wakes up in a room with no idea where he is and no memory of how he got there…and it takes him several hours to start looking around? Bullshit.

Vilmos looks around and realizes he’s in an inn. He starts listening at the keyhole of the other rooms until something interrupts him. It’s an enormous creature that’s well over six feet tall, which doesn’t really sound enormous, and scaly skin that’s yellowish- green. Vilmos almost pisses himself. The creature introduces himself as a troant – half troll, half giant – and Vilmos realizes that this was the creature who came between him and the shadowy men.

The troant introduces himself as Edward, a name which fits in well with this world. Edward ignores all his questions, like how he got to this inn, for example, and tells Vilmos to get the chess-piece-thing that he left on the tray, and he’ll teach Vilmos how to play King’s Mate.

Yes. The fate of the world hangs in the balance, and we’re going to spend the next few chapters with the Chosen One learning how to play a chess knockoff.


  11 Responses to “Part 4: You Are Indeed Fools”

  1. Wiktionary says “krepost” is apparently Serbo-Croatian for virtue and “крепость” is Russian for strength/firmness/heartiness. A funny name for a place where no one returns from!

  2. When I got back into writing, last NaNoWriMo, I realized again how hard it was to write good action scenes. I had to struggle against the temptation to keep them short or offscreen. Funny, because they’re usually the most interesting thing to read. But I also found descriptions rather difficult, so at least I avoided making them too long-winded.

    A troant, really? Is that the name used in-story? (Of course, it pales in ridiculousness compared to its given name.)

    And what’s with all the half-breeds you so often see in fantasy? You don’t need a degree in biology to know that you can’t cross different species.

    Congrats to Emel for finally call Adrina out. Sadly, I doubt it will lead to any character development.

  3. Vilmos must be the most soft brained pre-teen I’ve ever seen. I mean hell, I’ve had sleepwalking incidents that ended up with me in a corner at the other end of my own house, and I’d still flip out waking up in a place I didn’t fall asleep in even when it was familiar. Sorry Stanek, calmly eating random strange food is NOT the first thing on the mind when one wakes up in a random place they didn’t go to sleep in. (Or in your case, conveniently unconscious through all of the action.)

  4. 1/2 troll 1/2 giant?

    gotta love that drawing by Stanek – is he holding a giant chess piece or a little man?

  5. Can I just mention again that Emel’s father is supposedly dead? I mean, I haven’t read these horrible excuses for literature, but the way it sounded in your recount of the last book, he died. Or, at the very least, he had a “terrible accident” and was never mentioned again. So, DID he die? Or is this just another instance of stuff happening (i.e. Emel’s father actually survived said accident and was sent home) and Stanek just neglects to tell us. “Oh, yeah, BY THE WAY …”

  6. So, who’s more likable; Maya from Maradonia or Adrina?

  7. Yeah, I thought he was betrayed and murdered by Captain Trendmore. Whatever happened to him, anyway??

  8. I thought I could never find a female character I hated more than Talia al Ghul from Batman, but no, Maya and Adrina actually make me hate them more…

  9. Okay. I think I might have an explanation for all of this. I mean ALL of this. See, Stanek is just a few years younger than me, which means he was a kid in the ’70’s and a teen during the mid to late 80’s.
    Lotta pulp mags in the ’70’s, Eerie, Vamprella, Conan, Kull, Epic came a little later.
    Marvel Comics had Conan & Kull also.
    Michael Moorcock had a paperback reissue of the Elric books, Howard & Lovecraft & Tolkien too.
    You had Star Wars, Conan, Excalibur, Sinbad, Dragonslayer, Clash of The Titans, and most importantly for Stanek, Beastmaster and Krull in the movies.
    Dungeons & Dragons was big in the late ’70’s to early ’80’s (Fiend Folio, anyone?).
    A whole lot of sub-par D&D related teen books flooding the mall book stores.
    Stanek says he served in the Gulf War. That’s 1990.
    So maybe, JUUUST MAYBE, it went like this:
    Stanek, as a kid consumed at least some of these items,and maybe was tinkering with a few vague notions of what fantasy was about, thinking the lofty thoughts of a poor little shit while soaking what he could from it. Saw some movies in the theater, but mostly watched a lotta Krull and Beastmaster on HBO. (probably watched that POS D&D live action show they did for one season with the Excalibur footage thrown in. Makes me mad just thinking about it.)
    Then he was in the Gulf. No time to go backwards and really read his way through fantasy fiction. Boot Camp. Computer lessons. Flight training. All that. (plus they gave all those gulf soldiers weird vaccine cocktails, fucked up their brain chemistry, Gulf War Syndrome, remember?)
    Stanek basically has, at the core of his writing, an architecture of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons/Hardy Boys based character development, Krull/Sinbad/Beastmaster story and cinematic arcs, and a VAGUE understanding of The Hobbit and Jon Norman’s Gor Books as his formula for what makes great Fantasy writing.
    Marc Singer in Dragonlance land.
    A massive, seething, miasma of romanticized scenes coursing through his vaccine-addled, Windows Server framework post-war brain with nothing better than Forgotton Realms,Willow and the Cliff notes to The Silmarillion as reference to how to pull it off on paper.
    Sound about right?

  10. As a speaker of Serbo-Croatian, I can confirm this. Solntse means ‘Sun’, his kingdons are named after the cardinal directions, apostrophes are used for marking palatalized consonants in romanization of Slavic languages… I would actually be a bit impressed if he had bothered to make up Slavic names istead of just appropriating random words and counting on his readers (if such exist) not understanding them and being impressed with how original they sound. J.K. Rowling managed to pull this off using old or rare words such as dumbledore or whimsical yet realistic-sounding names such as Grimmauld Place. Stanek is just lazy.

  11. Captain Brost is dead! D-E-A-D, dead!