The first thing I would like to point out is that the title is not The Legend of Rah and the Muggles. It’s The Legend of Rah™ and the Muggles™. And up at the top of the cover…well, I’ll just show you:
I think she’s reaching a little bit, to be honest.
Moving inside the front cover, we get the copyright page and it as well is glorious to behold:
Like I said, batshit insane.
Finally we get to the story itself. I want to remind you that this book is marketed towards 9-12 year olds.
We begin with the introduction. An omniscient narrator starts droning on about a place called Aura. They’re fighting a war, but it’s a little confusing. You see, some ‘government representatives’ became greedy. Not governments, just government representatives. I’m not sure how this effects everyone, because Stouffer doesn’t say what happens. Some representatives get greedy, this sows discord, and the next thing you know you have militia groups popping up everywhere.
The narrator explains that there isn’t any real leadership. Wait, what about the government representatives you just mentioned? What happened to the government? Also, in the first paragraph you mentioned they’re fighting wars with other nations, and now it sounds like this one nation is splitting up and fighting a civil war? Which is it?
Maybe I should just move on to page two.
While I’m on the subject, it’s worth mentioning that these pages have enormous margins on all sides with large type. Stouffer gives Tesch a run for her money. This is maybe a ~100 page book, and she drags it out to 264 pages.
Blah blah, no one was paying attention to the government getting evil under their noses, which brings us to the first epic quote:
Little by little this complacency gave rise to corruption. Nations that were intended to include and respect the rights of all people regardless of heritage or color had slowly mutated into countries defined by class distinction, nations of haves and have-nots.
This seemingly simple erosion of morality gave rise to gross civil unrest, and massive wars resulted (page ix).
That sound you just heard was all of the 9-to-12-year-olds getting bored and chucking the book into the trash.
Out come the nuclear weapons, they destroy half the country, and everyone flees, leaving the have-nots behind. All the old and crippled and disabled, essentially. They’re making their escape on a couple of cruise ships that just happened to be docked at the harbor. I wonder what a couple of cruise ships are doing sitting there so close to ground zero. I might expect a few remaining nuclear submarines and maybe a leaky life raft or two, but cruise ships? Luxury ocean liners? Just chilling out at the edge of a very recent nuclear holocaust?
Stouffer switches from omniscient narrator summarizing the past to recount a scene as the last of the Aurians board the cruise ships. Why? I’m not sure, it doesn’t appear essential to the plot. I’m chalking it up to her being a poor writer. We then switch back to omniscient narrator who explains that the descendants of these old crippled disabled societal rejects living in a nuclear wasteland are the Muggles, who look like human babies, are three-and-a-half feet tall, and can understand any language, even the languages of animals. Also, they somehow survive in a nuclear wasteland. Without the sun. I have no idea what they eat. I still don’t care. None of this is even remotely interesting. On the plus side, we have finally reached the first chapter!
Someone named Lady Catherine escapes just before the enemies batter the door down. And we promptly move into backstory. The narrator tells us that Lady Catherine is also known as Cat. And she moved into the palace recently. Why? There’s a vague sense that something bad is happening – maybe a war? – but it’s not actually explained. They just move into the palace.
Apparently, being a ‘Lady’ means Cat is a member of the Royal Family, which I’m not buying, but whatever.
This next sentence exemplifies Stauffer’s writing ability:
Gwenie had served as Cat’s nanny until her marriage to Sir Geophrey Luttrell (page 3).
Whose marriage? Gwenie’s or Catherine’s? (It’s Catherine, but we won’t find out for another nine pages).
There’s some boring description of what Gwenie looks like, as well as the butler, who is named Walter. Stouffer shifts abruptly from past perfect progressive to simple past tense, which is rather grating on the ear, as well as my mind, considering the scene is moving backwards in time.
Everyone prepares food and supplies for their escape. If they know the enemy is coming, why don’t they escape now and get more of a head start? This doesn’t make sense.
Walter wanders around and thinks about Catherine. Apparently they used to be childhood friends. He goes to her room and knocks on the door, hoping he’s not disturbing her sleep. There is no mention of why he’s knocking on the door. He hasn’t been summoned and he’s not bringing news. However, the subtext of his thoughts is that he’s attracted to her. So, in other words, Walter, a servant, is interrupting the rest of Catherine, a lady, because he has the hots for her. Despite the fact that Catherine is not only married, but is completely exhausted from a combination of working all day and being nine months pregnant.
Walter is a prick.
He goes inside and Catherine is crying. He pushes her hair back from her face, which is pretty inappropriate, and hugs her, and she gives him a note that she just received.
He pulled the letter from her delicate fingers while he continued to hold onto her tightly, so tightly he could feel the babies moving in her belly against his chest as he unfolded the parchment, and began to read it: (page 11).
That is a terribly constructed run-on sentence. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s physically impossible to feel two separate babies moving around, because you would never be able to tell if it was two of them you were feeling or just one. Also, if her belly is against his chest, that means his face is pressed against her boobs, and that is just an extremely inappropriate image for this book.
The letter says that Catherine’s husband is dead:
Tears streaming down her face, her body trembling with grief. [snip] Lady Catherine’s eyes appeared to be staring into thin air (page 10).
She cries and Walter hugs her and eventually they fall asleep (although Walter removes himself from the bed). That night Catherine goes into labor. Stouffer gives us a few unnecessary quotation marks, although she doesn’t have anything on Gloria Tesch. Anyway, the kids are born. Boys. Hooray!
A few days later they’re at dinner and Walter helps Lady Catherine sit down, because he’s the butler and that’s what he does. Then she turns around and almost nuzzles him and asks him to sit down at the table with him. Wait, what the fuck? Your husband just died a few days ago! What the hell are you doing flirting with your butler already? I mean, this would be one thing if Cat was portrayed as not caring about her husband, but she was practically in a state of shock and now this?
“Why, you handsome diplomat! I didn’t know you could be so wicked,” she said.
Walter just couldn’t help himself. He responded, “I’m flattered that you noticed.”
“Noticed what, Sir, that you are handsome, or wicked?” she chided back.
He swung her around in front of him, and looked right into her eyes, “Either way, Madame, I win, and that is what is important to a man at a time like this,” he said in a sassy manner.
They both began to laugh aloud. “Touché, you handsome devil,” Cat responded as they entered the room (page 24).
That is some of the most awkwardly written flirting I have ever had the misfortune to read.
Stouffer moves on to spending several pages talking about furniture and portraits and describing the ballroom in nauseating detail. Any children whose parents have doggedly continued reading have now begun to cry hysterically and beg for the sweet release of death.
Some people play music and they dance and flirt and exchange more horrid dialogue and no one seems to notice or care that a butler is sexing it up on the dance floor with a member of the Royal Family. And the idiotic quotes continue:
“If that makes me wicked…so be it!” she said with a poor attempt at a Shakespearean delivery (page 30).
Needless to say, there was nothing Shakespearean about what Cat just said. But more interesting is the revelation that we are in a world where Shakespeare exists, our world. Which makes me wonder where this country is, precisely, and how the rest of the world is reacting to the nuclear holocaust that is ravaging the world. Of course, they aren’t, because Stauffer doesn’t think these things through.
Anyway, their disrespect of Catherine’s dead husband doesn’t last because the bombs start dropping. They run to fetch the babies and go down to the secret passageway and hide underground. Bombs fall for three days and nights. They hear guns afterwards. One day Catherine makes up her mind. She’s had Walter build her a raft and leave it by the secret tunnel exit that comes out at some water. So Catherine waits until Walter is asleep and goes along the secret passageway by herself and gets to the end and wraps her sons in a quilt and puts them on the raft with a note inside a jewel box and pushes them out into the water.
I’ve never understood this, and that is mostly because this is moronic. Catherine’s reasoning is she wants to protect her sons from the nuclear fallout. Except the nuclear fallout is everywhere and you’re putting your sons out into the middle of it. Not to mention that there’s the far more pressing danger of dying of hunger, thirst, exposure, rolling off the raft, the raft sinking, being eaten by sharks, being eaten by seagulls, or any one of a thousand dangers. These babies are a week and a half old. It is not going to take a lot to kill them. She is essentially sentencing them to death, so I think what is actually going on here is Catherine is sick of the children and interesting in sexing up the butler, so she decides to murder them by setting them adrift.
Anyway, that’s the end of chapter one. And I hoped you enjoyed forty-three pages of boring exposition, backstory, description, and characterization for all of these idiots, because we’re never going to see them again. Yes. The author spent one-sixth of this book on unimportant information that is irrelevant to the plot and could have just as easily been summarized in a single page.
Chapter Two – The Light
So the raft floats down mountain steams and – no seriously. Mountain steams. Not mountain streams. Steams. Anyway, from the steams it hits the rivers and on into the ocean. Miraculously, the babies are still alive. Now I’ve already pointed out why this is moronic, but I suppose with a truly incredible slice of luck it could actually work.
This, on the other hand, will not work, regardless of luck:
The boys spent many days on the water. They slept through the first eight days (page 45).
No. Newborn babies need to be fed between eight to twelve times a day. I’m not entirely certain whether they’d die from malnourishment or dehydration first, but they’d be dead before eight days. YouFailBiologyForever, Stouffer.
On the ninth day a couple of deus ex machinas show up called Naddie and Neddie. They introduce themselves as “Spooners from the deep”, despite the fact that newborns don’t understand what they’re saying, because they’re newborns. And no, it isn’t explained what they are. I flipped to the helpful character glossary that Stouffer included in the back of the ground, and it explains that Naddie and Neddie are…Spooners from the deep. That’s helpful.
They’ve been sent. By who? No idea. But they have bottles and they feed the twins and then take off. The twins fall back asleep and sleep for two more days and wake up when a sea cow named Benjamin shows up. Benjamin has a very bad stuttering problem, which occurs even when he talks to himself. Benjamin’s worried because there’s a bad storm coming up, so he tows the raft for awhile with a helpful rope that is randomly attached to the raft for no reason. Then Buddy the barracuda shows up.
“Ya th- thin- think I c- ca- could ge- get- get a li- lil- little he- help here? Got- gotta ge- get this r- r- r- raft ou- outta here for- fore the st- stor- storm c- c- comes,” Benjamin replied (page 48).
All of his dialogue is written that way, and it’s even more frustrating to read than this is.
Porschia the Porpoise shows up next, and they discuss keeping the babies – well ‘bahbies’ as they call them – safe. I wonder why Stouffer went to all the trouble of explaining the nuclear war at the beginning of the book when she was quickly going to leave all sorts of realism behind. It’s obvious that Stouffer is firmly in the Gilbert Morris camp of believing that nuclear fallout will cause mutations that make people look funny and gain random abilities not actually kill them. Or maybe Stouffer’s point is that the radiation gave all these animals the ability to talk.
Stouffer spends a couple pages characterizing all these animals. None of it is very interesting, and it’s all irrelevant, because none of these characters will ever show up again. This entire chapter can be summed up as “Helped by some friendly sea creatures, the raft floated across the ocean, pausing to kidnap some sunlight.”
Oh, right. Yeah, there’s that:
The glass box, filled with the jewels that Lady Catherine had placed between their little bodies, glittered with the sun’s reflection. The gem-stones had somehow absorbed the sunlight and its energy (page 54).
How? One word: radioactive.
The raft goes ashore on Aura, where the Muggles live.