Chapter Fourteen – A Lonely Path
Vilmos and Edward play King’s Mate for a few days. Stanek does mention that Vilmos worries about Xith, which is a nice humanizing moment for him. It’s almost like Vilmos has real human emotions!
In their current game, Vilmos has a tricky setup currently on the board. He goes for the difficult move, which makes Edward smirk and take one of Vilmos’ pieces. But it turns out that Vilmos was just setting him up and takes several of Edward’s pieces, puts him into check, and then checkmate. Yes, this is a chess knockoff.
Edward chuckled. “Do you know in all the years I’ve been playing that I’ve never been defeated?” (page 147).
Yeah. Edward is so good at King’s Mate that he has never been beaten before in his entire goddamn life…and Vilmos is able to beat him after just a few days. God, I hate this trope.
We cut over to Emel. Stanek mentions that Adrina told him about the attack. I’m not sure what attack she’s referring to, as there’s been a number of them. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t clarified at any point. Anyway, he decides he’s going to make inquiries about the attack. Will Emel actually make any inquiries? Do I really need to answer that question?
Emel thinks about how the caravan headed for the Territories is already a day’s ride away. The caravan Emel decided to journey with. Why didn’t Emel leave with the caravan and travel with them? Well, we have no idea. This isn’t explained in any way. There’s no reason for it, and there’s really no reason to not explain it. This would be very easy to fix – one simple throwaway line: Emel had been forced to stay behind to finish the last of his duties before catching up with the caravan. Instead, nothing.
Finally Emel mounts up on Ebony and takes off.
We then join King Andrew and Chancellor Yi, who spend half a page discussing whether two pieces of parchment are written by the same person. They are, which infuriates Andrew, so he throws the scrolls into the fire over Yi’s objections. I have no idea what is on the parchment, since, you know, it’s not explained, but based on a couple chance comments, I think the parchment in some way either indicates or proves the Elves are telling the truth. And I guess Andrew doesn’t want to help the Elves out, which I don’t really have a problem with. I just have a problem with Stanek refusing to let the readers know what the hell is going on. Deliberately making your writing as difficult to understand as possible is not the mark of a good writer. It doesn’t make you clever or make your stories deep. It makes them confusing, and it’s bad writing.
They talk about nothing for another few pages, and that is that.
Back to Vilmos and Edward. We get a page and a half describing the moves they are making in excruciating detail. Stanek, I don’t care about this chess game. I care about people, about characters that I identify with. If anything, I’m more likely to care about events that actually matter – like, for example, people who want to kill the protagonists in this story, and their motivations for doing so. That would be interesting to read about it.
Eventually all the windows shatter simultaneously and a voice tells them not to move.
In a surprisingly well-written scene, Edward gives them a bored look and starts bullshitting. The window breakers are hairy beasts that demand Edward hand over Vilmos. Edward is curious why the men want his servant and asks them if they could possibly be asking about the boy upstairs in that one room? The beasts seem to buy it for a moment.
And then the chapter ends.
Stanek really needs to learn the difference between a cliffhanger and ending in the middle of a scene.
Chapter Fifteen – The Final Game
Surprisingly, we stay with Edward and Vilmos. Edward’s clever ruse…doesn’t work at all. So he picks up the chair and knocks one of them sprawling, but the other shoots Edward through the leg with the crossbow. He yells at Vilmos to run, and starts walking towards the bad guys. Apparently he gave Xith his word that he’d take care of Vilmos. I think getting yourself killed is a terrible way to take of someone. Anyway:
Two more bolts pierced Edward’s body. He slumped harshly and suddenly to the floor. His eyes wandered to the stairs just as Vilmos disappeared down the hall. Life drained from his limbs. Edward died (page 155)
Possibly one of the worst-written death scenes of all time. Having some real emotion was probably too much to hope for, but even some poorly written emotion would suffice. Instead, this is told in a bored voice you might expect from a computer manual. Which actually does make sense…
We cut back to the Elves, who talk mentally. Seth is pissed, Galan is encouraging, Adrina asks them if they want refreshments. Nice, Adrina. You are truly an intelligent person.
Eventually they get called back into the Council to hear their decision. Yi says that they can’t help the Elves out.
Seth hurled a wave of his will through the minds of the council, forcing tears (page 157).
I’m not sure if it’s Seth or the Council who is crying, but either way, mind-raping the people you’re trying to convince to help you is probably not the best of ideas.
Seth tries to convince them for a bit:
“Mother Earth cries out! The Father begs you listen! Can you not see this? Can you not feel the waters crest?” (page 157).
Somehow, the Council is not swayed by this dazzling display of logic and verbal alacrity. So Seth lashes out with his mind or something. This causes the guards to leap between him and the king. This daring display of attempting to assault their monarch finally sways the council, although they still need Adrina’s help. She glares at Father Jacob, and her Gaze forces him to call for a review. I’m dead serious.
Her eyes next fell on Father Jacob. She did not say a word, but her gaze forced words to Jacob’s mouth (page 158).
Keeper Martin agrees, so the council decides to review things again the next day. Adrina escorts Seth and Galan outside. Which reminds me: what the hell is a princess doing at a Council meeting anyway? She has no business being there, and they wouldn’t want her there, because there’s always the chance that a naïve princess will spill some state secret.
Adrina wishes she’d talked to her father first, because then his decision might have been different:
No, said Seth, it is the will of the Father (page 159).
If it is the will of the Father, then why did he throw a huge hissy fit a page ago? If the Father willed the Council to turn him down, why would Seth question that decision? Although Stanek really should get a pass on this one, because there are plenty of religiously-minded individuals who have deluded themselves over the same question.
Back to Emel. When we left Emel the last time he was riding his horse out of the city in pursuit of the caravan that left ahead of him. Now he’s….inside the palace. Yeah. Not kidding.
He hides behind a door and grabs Myrial from behind. There’s no real reason for this, I guess Stanek thought it sounded cool. Suddenly Adrina pops up and asks him why he’s there:
“Orders have changed, I’m to go to High Road instead.” (page 160)
Emel was riding along an abandoned stretch of road on the fastest horse in the kingdoms. You can’t just ‘change’ his orders without sending a rider after him, which would take days, at minimum. This is not the 21st century. You can’t call his cell phone and instantly give him updated orders.
Apparently Emel came back to get the orb because he thinks he’ll need it. Adrina doesn’t want Emel to have it, but Myrial pulls it out and gives it to him:
“Rub it in your hands,” she said. “Squeeze and focus. The power flows.” (page 161)
Probably not the only thing that’s flowing. Heyooo!
The conversation continues for another page or so and it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. Finally we get this gem:
“No,” said Adrina smiling. “You’re not going anywhere…” She turned to Myrial. “What him, watch him close.” (page 162).
I don’t know how you “what” someone. Sounds dirty, though.
Chapter Sixteen – Across the Distance
We open up with yet another disturbing scene. I would just like to once again remind our audience that these books are being marketed for children between the ages of nine and twelve. Yes, there’s a very good chance that this scene will go over their heads. Still…
Galan is worried about Seth:
She wished she could do something – anything that could take away the pain.
The floor was cold against Galan’s bare feet. Lost in his plight Seth didn’t notice her approach. A small voice told her not to go to him, yet a larger voice urged her on. She took the next step carefully and deliberately, knowing what it meant, her conscious held her no more; there could be no turning back now.
She was about to lie beside Seth when a light summons sounded at the door. Seth looked up; Galan started. She retied the strands she held, fixing the dress into place (pages 163).
Yes. She was taking her clothes off as she climbed into bed with Seth. Where did Stanek get the idea that this was a good scene to include in this book?
The funny thing is in terms of characterization, it’s not even that bad of a scene. You get the sense that Galan cares deeply for Seth, and that his pain is deeply affecting her. And despite the squick factor of Seth being much older than her, along with her superior, it’s the kind of scene that could conceivably happen in real life. It just has no place in a children’s book.
Father Jacob is at the door. He starts talking, but Seth interrupts him and Galan ushers him out before we actually learn anything. So his interruption was just that…to interrupt them. Anyway, Galan climbs back onto the bed and she and Seth start making out.
A circle of heat bathed the two forms pressed tightly one against the other. Galan redirected her will now, probing with emotion absent of thought. A single finger traced her curves and briefly Seth returned the passion that flowed to him (page 164).
OH ROBERT STANEK NO!
I never, ever, ever want to read a Stanek sex scene.
Seth stops them and says they can’t. Galan is sad, but Seth snuggles her up against him and they fall asleep.
We cut over to Vilmos:
Vilmos ran across the dusty plain without knowing how he had gotten there. The last thing he remembered was running up the stairs of the inn (page 165).
Oddly, that’s the last thing I remember, too. Vilmos being upstairs with a bunch of heavily armed soldiers beneath him. So apparently he broke a window on the second floor, leapt out of the window without harming himself in the slightest, and escaped all of them – without remembering any of it.
He glances over his shoulder and sees the inn behind him. Okay, so he’s running away from the inn, which makes sense. He keeps running. Then he sees horses, tethered behind the inn. Wait, so now he’s looking back at the inn again. Vilmos then stops, and runs back to the inn, steals one of the horses, mounts up, and takes off.
Vilmos’ ‘sixth sense’ guides him back to the magical gate to the Under-earth. How? Magic! He heads inside and ride down to where Vilmos and Xith spent the night a long time ago. He and the horse spend a few hours there, and then starts leading the horse along a trail.
Back to Adrina. She talks to Emel and Myrial for two solid pages until we finally realize what they’re talking about. Apparently she’s afraid that Seth is going to show everyone in the council an image, which will be so draining that it might kill him. And the orb is somehow related to this because it can unlock hidden truths. How do they know this? I don’t know. But they think Seth can use it.
They use a hidden entrance that Adrina knows to sneak into Seth and Galan’s room, and find them sleeping in bed together. In an older edition of the books, Adrina starts crying, which doesn’t make any fucking sense. Fortunately, this has been cut out of this edition, and instead they just leave.
Back to Vilmos. He’s still walking. It’s still not exciting. After a bit he goes to sleep. He wakes up and finds the horse gone. Guess he probably should have tied it up or hobbled it. Vilmos: savior of the world.
He walks for awhile and suddenly up ahead he spots his house. He runs towards it, delighted, and finds it empty. Vilmos wanders around for a bit, wondering if his parents went to town. He eats some food and eventually goes to sleep in his bed. I’m guessing this is some kind of dream, but what do I know?
Back over to the Elves. God, I’m getting sick of these jump cuts. Myrial wakes up Galan. Seth is already gone. Galan talks for a couple pages about how she’s worried, and finally decides to get dressed.