The Story Thus Far…
We’re introduced to Princess Adrina Alder, who’s kind of a bitch. She meets a mysterious old woman who tells her she will leave her home in Imtal. Later, a message arrives from the south about problems brewing between the minor kingdoms of Sever and Vostok. A group of soldiers are dispatched to meet a ship coming from a city in Sever, and Adrina convinces her father to let her travel with them. During the journey, Adrina and her best friend Emel meet a mysterious old woman in the forest who warns them there’s a traitor among them.
After a short while, the garrison divides. Emel heads south towards Quashan’, while Adrina’s group continues towards Alderan. Adrina has an accident and her horse falls on top of her.
Meanwhile, a peasant boy named Vilmos has forbidden magical powers. His tutor, Midori, takes him away from home and hands him off to a shaman named Xith, who begins teach Vilmos how to use magic. Xith also reveals that Vilmos was adopted.
At the same time, an elf named Seth is dispatched from across the sea to travel to the lands of man to accomplish something. His ship is ambushed and everyone except for Seth and Galan, (who Seth has sexual feelings toward) is killed.
The three groups meet on the shore, minus Galan, who has been kidnapped. Xith leads them into Alderan to try and rescue Adrina’s brother, Prince Valam, but they are all captured by Prince William of Sever, who has declared war on Great Kingdom. However, after they leave Alderan they all successfully escape from William.
After rescuing Galan, they head for Quashan’, where the battle is joined. Keeper Martin shows up and comes up with a retarded plan to have Adrina, Vilmos, and Galan sneak into Prince William’s camp and convince him that Great Kingdom was not actually behind the poisoning of his father – King Jarom of Vostok was behind it all. Despite not having any evidence of this, the plan works, and Prince William withdraws from the field, allowing Great Kingdom to win.
There’s a celebratory feast, and then everyone splits up. Xith and Vilmos are leaving to continue Vilmos’ education, while Adrina, Emel, Seth, and Galan are heading back to Great Kingdom’s capital.
Chapter One – Unto the Winds
We begin, as all books by Robert Stanek should begin, with a completely insane quote:
Adrina shivered uncontrollably and the more she shivered the more she cried. She cried because she felt so desperately alone and because she felt utterly responsible for all that had happened (page 25).
Like most of what Stanek writes, there is so much stupidity compressed into just a few sentences it’s difficult to know where to begin.
First of all, she’s shivering and the more she’s shivering the more she cries. Which is okay. Adrina is a reasonably pampered princess and it makes sense that she’s crying because it’s cold out. Except – she’s crying because she feels alone. Okay. Then how does the shivering play into this? Why is she shivering and why is the shivering tied to the crying when she’s crying for a totally different reason? This doesn’t make any sense.
Nor does it make sense that Adrina feels responsible for anything that has happened. She’s been a thoroughly useless character and the only thing she did in the first book…was convince the bad guy to turn good again in completely unbelievable and unrealistic scene. But as unbelievable as that scene was, it still happened, it’s canon, which means despite the fact that she’s a useless idiot, she still saved everyone’s asses. So, logically speaking (inasmuch as I can use logic when talking about Robert Stanek), Adrina should be feeling pretty good about herself, right?
Maybe Stanek will explain why Adrina feels so down:
She after all, had been the one who longed for change and change had come in the form of a dark storm that threatened to sweep away everything she cared for and everything her family had worked so hard to maintain over these many past years (page 25).
Okay. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough.
SHE JUST SAVED EVERYONE’S LIFE.
Why the hell is Adrina crying about this? Because she wished for something and then, through events totally unrelated to her, it happened? I guess that would make someone feel guilty, but so guilty that they’re crying? And right after you just had an enormous happy celebration because you were VICTORIOUS?
I am going to stop here because I have written almost an entire page about the first three sentences of this book. Let’s move on.
She did long to stay but she couldn’t have made and kept her promise to Rudden Klaiveson even if she had wanted (page 25).
Okay. That sentence really does not make sense. Made and kept her promise? Is this referring a promise that was already made or one Adrina is thinking about hypothetically making? I’m really not able to figure this out from the context. Is Stanek referring to their upcoming betrothal, and if that’s the case, why didn’t he say betrothal instead of promise? Either way, why can’t she? Stanek goes on to talk about how her heart is miles away with secret thoughts about the Elves and how Klaive could never be her home like Imtal is, which makes me guess this is somehow referring to the betrothal. But…even if she wanted to? If she wanted to be betrothed to Rudden, she could keep her promise, whatever that promise is. The entire point here is that Adrina doesn’t want to marry Rudden.
Apparently Valam changed his mind about sending Adrina immediately back home to Imtal and had her spent a couple weeks in Klaive with her potential future husband, and Adrina actually had a decent time. She is now heading back to Imtal with a painting of her and Rudden that the baron commissioned.
It had taken several days for the painter to complete his work (page 26).
No. Just wrong. Painting portraits takes weeks and weeks, if not months to complete. There is not a chance in hell that a portrait of royalty would be completed, start to finish, in a couple of days. It’s flatly impossible.
I also don’t know why the baron commissioned a painting of her, because Adrina’s next thoughts are about how since she’s leaving Klaive before they announce her betrothal, it constitutes a betrayal. She thinks back to the horrible anguish in Rudden’s eyes as she left. I don’t know why he’s so bent out of shape about that, because in the previous book, one chapter ago, he, along with everyone else, laughed off the whole Adrina/Emel/Rudden love triangle.
Suddenly, Adrina has a thought. She laughs, and then pulls back the curtain and talks to one of her attendants.
We skip over to Vilmos and Xith, who are now on a ship and arriving at a place called Jrenn. It’s very dark. They disembark, cross the docks, and hire a rowboat to take them somewhere. Well, that was exciting.
We go back to Adrina, who tells Rudden she’ll see him in the spring. I guess she turned the carriage around and went back to see Rudden? Okay then. Rudden smiles and kisses her hand and the baron and baroness are looking down at them with delight.
Adrina, however, is looking at Rudden and seeing him as if for the first time. She realizes that not only is he good-looking, he’s also a good person. Then she leaves. Way to finish that thought, Adrina. She gets back in the carriage and takes off for the second time, and decides that she made the right decision. I guess she decided that she’s going to marry Rudden after all, but I really have no idea. It’s not like Stanek has characters that are well-defined enough that we could actually predict their actions.
Chapter Two – The Long Road
Emel rides along thinking about his many responsibilities. He only tells us about one, which is keeping the elves safe. Okay, seriously? In most countries the elves would be classified as lethal weapons, they are fucking death machines. I don’t think you really need to spend a lot of time keeping them safe.
He cursed low under his breath as he urged Ebony to even greater speeds, vowing to Great Father that he would find the truth of the matter before him no matter the cost (page 32).
Most authors write sentences in their books for a reason. For example, if I was writing this book, I would be writing this as an introduction to talking about the matter that was actually before Emel. I mean, if you’re telling us a character is cursing angrily because he needs to find the truth of something, no matter what, that’s signaling very strongly to the reader that this is IMPORTANT and it MATTERS TO THE PLOT. Most competent writers don’t just throw random sentences into the book that aren’t actually there for some reason. If it doesn’t matter, the author might as well be typing random characters that look like a cat ran across their keyboard.
And no – in case you were wondering – Stanek is not going to explain what Emel is cursing about or what he’s doing. Please. That would actually make sense.
Instead, we get a history lesson. Apparently, the last great Elven King laid siege to Fraddylwicke Castle. The siege lasted over a hundred years, which sounds a little unlikely. I think the food supplies would run out before then. But that’s me, trying to apply logic to Stanekworld.
The history lesson ends without arriving at any point, and we get back to Emel, who is in a murderous rage and runs down and kills an attacker. Wait. Hang on a second. He’s being fucking attacked? I thought he was trying to find the truth of the matter, and now he’s killing people who apparently attacked them and now he’s running them down. Why the fuck didn’t you write that scene, Stanek, instead of giving us a couple of boring paragraphs about made-up history? Listen, Robert: I know that writing boring history is easy. You just relate the facts. It’s like writing one of your computer manuals, which is why you do it. But when you’re writing fiction, nobody gives a shit about that history unless it has some direct bearing on the plot or the characters. We want action, we want character development, and the odds are good we want violence. You can’t just randomly mention that the most exciting parts of your story happened off-screen. This is why you are a shitty writer and nobody likes your books. Well. It’s one of many reasons.
I’d really like to know who is attacking him and why, but (spoiler alert) this entire scene will never be mentioned again and is not relevant to the plot.
By the time he returned to the company, the berserker rage that was in his blood had passed but its short presence within had changed him in ways that he later would not be able to explain. In a way, it made him less human, less a man, but someone who could separate himself from his feelings and find only the burning rage within could never see this. It would only be apparent later, much later, to those who knew him before the pilot light of the rage was ignited (pages 33-34).
I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. Honestly, I don’t think Stanek does, either. But (spoiler alert) yeah, this isn’t really mentioned again and isn’t relevant either.
Back to Vilmos, who wakes up. He’s sleeping in a room they rented in an inn which is part of a floating city, which is kinda cool. See, here’s a place where exposition would be nice. I’d like to know about this floating city and the science behind it and how it works, because floating cities are awesome. Unfortunately, that kind of stuff is difficult to write, so…we get nothing.
Xith is holding a glowing orb. There are images in it. Vilmos watches, then suddenly finds himself standing inside the orb itself with Xith. Xith mentions that this doesn’t happen often, but when it does it Happens for a Reason. Well, that’s certainly convenient.
The scene within the orb changes and suddenly they’re in the mountains watching dragons fight. Then the dragons turn and talk to them. We don’t learn what they’re saying. And then they’re back inside the room. No, this scene was not relevant and it will not be explained.
Back to Adrina. She thinks through some of the events that occurred in the previous book. Remember how I said, in the introduction, that Stanek doesn’t bother to recap what has already happened? This is the only time he gets close, and to his credit, he does a decent job of explaining the events surrounding the battle at Quashan’. Admittedly, he only covers that battle, and from Adrina’s perspective, so the reader still has no idea who Seth and Galan are or what Adrina was up to previously or anything regarding Vilmos and Xith, but hey, you have to take what you can get.
They arrive at an inn to spend the night and Adrina gets ushered into a room, alone. She wishes for someone to talk too, and thinks about how she hates being pampered. Then, because people who are alone always talk to themselves out loud, she wonders if being royalty is like this and that she would rather be tarred and feathered. And a voice tells her to be careful what she wishes for.
Here’s an example of a rather glaring error that Stanek actually fixed. Here’s the error as it appears in my copy of The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches III (I have an older edition):
Adrina turned, not frightened. She raised the flame on the oil lamp beside the bed to cast a brighter glow about the room.
She was frightened, but only barely so (page 26, bold mine).
This, happily, was corrected for later editions, including this edition of Kingdom Alliance:
Adrina turned, startled. She raised the flame on the oil lamp beside the bed to cast a brighter glow about the room.
She was frightened, but only barely so (page 38).
I’m glad that Stanek caught and fixed this error, but I can’t believe that this error could have found its way into a printed edition of his book in the first place.
Anyway. Adrina is only barely frightened, because hey, someone snuck into her room! What could possibly go wrong?
Back to Vilmos, who says he’s frightened, Xith says that they have to begin earlier than planned. Which they have already begun. So this doesn’t make any sense, but that’s nothing compared to what happens next. Vilmos freaks out and says he wants to go home to his mother because magic is evil and destroys the world. And this is truly mind-boggling. I am having a difficult time expressing the ridiculousness of these sentences.
Okay. Here’s an illustration. Imagine that midway through Return of the Jedi, shortly after Luke rescues everyone from Jabba the Hutt, he meets up with Yoda and says he’s giving up the ways of the Force because the Force is evil and is only used by Sith Lords to destroy everything, and he’s heading back to Tattooine. Anyone who watched that would be flabbergasted. They would point out, correctly, that the Force helped Luke destroy the Death Star. And rescue all his friends. And save his own life. And that Luke has spent the last two and a half movies without having any of these thoughts and that characters do not suddenly and randomly have a complete 180-degree turn in some of their deepest, most firmly held convictions. It’s completely unrealistic and implausible, especially without some dramatic or life-changing event that could drastically change someone’s point of view. Not to mention that if he heads home to Tattooine he’s only going to find some storm troopers who are hanging around his house on the off chance that he ever comes home and they will immediately kill him.
This scenario is roughly equivalent to Vilmos’ sudden change of tune. Except Vilmos has even less of a reason than Luke Skywalker would, because at least Luke has seen what the dark side of the Force can do, whereas Vilmos has seen jack shit.
Xith tells him to stop being an idiot. Vilmos says that the dark one will return. Xith says the dark one doesn’t exist. And then Xith talks for a page and a half. About nothing. Finally Vilmos asks why, if magic is not evil, it’s forbidden, and the priests stop magic-users.
Xith collected his thoughts. “It is to prevent the corruption the future will bring.” (page 40).
What the hell does that even mean?
So, just in case you were keeping track, nothing happened in the past chapter.