Chapter Eleven – The Big Plan
Zyn sits in his watchtower – yeah he has a watchtower apparently – and looks over the coastline at an island. He decides the Nevils should go out to the island to live. So he talks up the island to the gang and Stubby asks what they’re going to do:
“That’s why I’m the leader of this pathetic group. The only thing you little buggers do is ask questions,” Zyn answered (page 203).
Actually, I think the reason you’re the leader is because you’re three feet taller than everyone else. Also, I’m not really sure why Stouffer keeps using ‘bugger’. Because, to be perfectly honest, it means ‘fuck’. To be even more honest, it means ‘to sodomize’. Neither is appropriate for a children’s novel. And yes, I’m sure Stouffer doesn’t mean it that way, and yes, I know it has another meanings, but it still shouldn’t be present in a children’s novel. Or novella. Or short story. Whatever this is.
Zyn sends the Nevils off to fetch supplies while he sits in sand and lets the sun warm his radioactive skin. After they get supplies, they build a boat. Then they melt tree pitch into a tar-like consistency and spread it all over the hull to make it waterproof. Sounds like it wouldn’t work, but whatever. Then we get this:
By the time the Nevils were finished, their tiny hands were blistered and burned. Their bodies were singed black from the heat of the rubbery tar. When nightfall arrived, their skin felt as though it was on fire – they leapt into the ocean waves where the soothing salt water cooled the heat of their second- and third-degree burns (page 208).
I guess it’s pretty lucky that the radiation changed the Muggles’ genetic makeup so much so they find salt water soothing on second-degree burns.
Zyn screams and bullies at everyone for doing such a terrible job, which sounds to me like a pretty sure way to find yourself with a mutiny on your hands. Or maybe some arsenic in your Cheerios.
The next day Rah comes to try and convince them that it’s a bad idea to leave. Zyn tells him off and the Nevils set sail. They get well out into the ocean and their boat is promptly crushed by a tidal wave.
Chapter Twelve – The Shadow Monsters
Rah is very sad. He cries about it to his adopted mother, Nona, who tells him that Zyn may have survived just fine:
“Let’s face it, Rah, he is just too darn nasty to die,” Nona said, trying to reassure him (page 214).
Let’s not forget this is her SON she’s talking about. Not the forgiving type, I take it.
Rah thinks about how he can figure out if they’re all alive and eventually sends the hawk, Seymour, to check them out. Seymour does so. Turns out all the Nevils and Zyn washed up on the island and are alive. Anyway, they find Shadow Monsters there. That only appear when it’s light out and follow them around. It’s their shadows, obviously, which makes me wonder why they are all afraid of their shadows considering that there has been sunlight on Aura for twenty-two years now.
Eventually it gets dark and the Nevils gather up the little bits of seaweed and grass that are around and eat it, even though it gives them indigestion.
Seymour winged his home where Rah and the Muggles were anxiously awaiting his return. After he had described the events in detail, Rah felt more at ease (page 220).
Because they’re stranded on a tiny island with nothing to eat?
Seven years have passed. Oh yeah…you thought that this book would be about the good, kind-hearted Rah organizing a rescue party and saving his brother from certain death by starvation on the island he was trapped on, and then Zyn finally realizes what a good, kind-hearted guy Rah is and the brothers make up and live happily ever after? Nope. Rah leaves his brother there to rot. He doesn’t even try contacting him. He doesn’t even send Seymour to the island with a proposal of truce. What an asshole. And that’s a really odd moral for this book to have. If someone isn’t nice to you and then falls into a well, kids, don’t pull him out, because he deserves it. If he wasn’t a bad person he wouldn’t have been standing near a well in the first place.
Zyn’s skin is gray and diseased. Evil, you know. He sticks his hand into his only pocket and feels the dirt and grit in it and then feels a stone. He pulls it out and realizes it’s the worry stone that Golda gave him long ago. Seriously, Stouffer? You expect us to buy that he hasn’t stuck a hand in his only pocket in seven years? How stupid do you think we are?
This next scene I find heartbreaking, and serves to make me even more pissed off at Stouffer. It reminds me of the scene in Lord of the Rings where Smeagol has a moment that he almost regains his humanity, and then it’s ruined by Sam speaking harshly to him.
As he rubbed his thumb across the indentation in the center of this magical keepsake, a momentary smile spread across his sad face. The smile disappeared quickly, however, replaced by the furrowed brow of an angry young man (page 222).
This is terrible because it proves that beneath Zyn’s harsh exterior, there is still remnants of who he used to be and his humanity. Which means that if someone *coughRahcough* would actually DO something and try to reach out to him, that humanity might come back and Zyn could be saved. Instead, nothing.
The Nevils want to get off the island. I think they might have brought it up before seven years had passed, but that’s just me. Zyn says it’s impossible and heads out for a walk in the dark. Yeah, it’s been seven years and they’re still afraid of their shadows. Seven years of nothing bad happening and you’d think they realize that the ‘shadow monsters’ aren’t actually monsters.
You know, how can they even call them Shadow Monsters unless they had a concept of what the word ‘shadow’ means?
Anyway, Zyn stumbles across a giant clamshell. He calls the Nevils over and they find four more. Afterwards, Zyn explains his plan. They’ll gather the Bordonian moss that grows in their cave (the stuff that Rah is allergic too) and ride in their clamshells back to Aura. They’ll knock Rah out and take him back to the island and leave him on a pile of the moss so he will sleep forever. Then Zyn will be able to rule Aura.
…I’m not sure why Zyn didn’t have this plan before. Or why they need to take Rah back to the island instead of just killing him or dumping him inside a hollow log. Sounds too complicated.
They get back to Aura and all of the Nevils are still obedient to Zyn, for some reason. Personally, I would have bolted the second his back was turn, but that’s just me.
Zyn sends some of them to go gather baskets of food. He and a Nevil sneak into Rah’s room, knock him out with the moss, and wrap him up inside a blanket. They head back to the beach and load Rah up – and, get this…every single Nevil then is willing to go BACK TO THE ISLAND. I’m dead serious. This place has been their personal hell, they’ve been sleeping on hard rocks, hiding inside during the day, and they’re willing to go back. Stouffer attempts to handwave it by stating that they can return anytime they want to get more food, but it’s already been clearly established that the sea is a bit tricky.
The next day the Muggles wake up and find Rah missing. Yur is informed. Yes, he’s still alive. He was ninety-six at the beginning of the book, and it’s been roughly 29 years, so he’s 125 years old. The radiation. It prolongs life. Or maybe Stouffer is taking another page from Tolkien with the long life span of her vertically challenged creations.
Everyone is horrified but just then Deus Ex Seymour the hawk shows up and explains that he was out flying and he saw the Nevils landing on the island and they had Rah. Everyone is horrified. Yur says they’ll have to rescue him and gets out the Book of Ancient Tales to find information on how to construct sea-worthy rafts. So yes, they did have the available technology to rescue Zyn if they wanted to.
They build some rafts and make some lanterns with fireflies, and gather around for a game plan. Yur explains that their only weapon is the Nevils’ fear of the shadow monsters. Which don’t exist. Which they would know if they had paid attention to his reading of the Book of Ancient Tales. Good god, could this possibly be more contrived? Also, there’s another inconsistency, as Stouffer specifically stated earlier that Zyn was intelligent and a fast learner.
The Muggles arrive at the island and start hurling lanterns of fireflies towards the shore, causing mass firefly slaughter. The Nevils wake up and are terrified and run around screaming like little bitches. The Muggles run in, past the Nevils who don’t even notice them, find Rah, carry him back to the raft, and take off. Rah revives halfway back.
After they land on Aura, the Muggles explain their ingenious plan: they left the lanterns on the island. The Nevils will be too afraid to come out because they fear the Shadow Monsters, and as such, they’ll be trapped inside the cave forever!
Well, at least for about forty-eight hours, until the last of the fireflies die. So yeah, nothing will actually be accomplished. Stouffer ignores this fact.
Rah worries that his brother will starve to death.
With unwavering compassion, Rah requested that Seymour make daily deliveries of food (page 252).
BULLSHIT. If you had any compassion, you wouldn’t have left your brother there for seven years.
Stouffer wraps up by stating that even today, many years later, you can still see the lanterns reflecting against the night sky. I’m not certain she has any idea of how fireflies actually work. In fact, I’m positive that she doesn’t. And then she wraps the book up with this:
So, each time darkness falls upon the daylight, and you look up and see the stars twinkling in the distance, you will know that Rah is asleep, and all around him is at peace! (page 252)
This doesn’t make any sense. Rah doesn’t necessarily sleep every hour of the night. And even if he did, that doesn’t mean there is going to be peace in the land. Also, this has nothing to do with the rest of the book.
I can’t finish this without mentioning the Character Glossary in the back of the book, which is mostly really boring with a few gems. Like the entry for Chops, which, after a brief description that is taken directly from the book, has this:
His given name is Peter (see Peter) a Muggle/Nevil (page 256).
Sweet, more information on the Peter entry. We turn a few pages to where it is, and:
PETER, see Chops (page 261).
That’s the entire entry.
Then there’s this one:
PLUCK, Keeper of the Gardens. He is a fruit tree specialist, married to Pick, father of Actavia (see Pick) (page 262).
There’s no entry for Pick.
Under Rah’s entry, Stouffer describes him. In-depth:
Richly tanned skin, long slender fingers, short groomed nails, walks confidently, muscular, violet blue eyes, 6’2” tall, weighs 175 lbs., soft spoken, compassionate, very intelligent (page 262).
I can honestly say that I have never read a character glossary that noted that someone’s fingernails were well groomed.
Finally, under Yur’s entry Stouffer mentions that he’s ninety-eight. He was ninety-six at the start of the series and a hundred and twenty-five at the end.
There are a number of misspelled words and typos throughout the glossary, but nothing really worth mentioning.
And wow. That’s the entire book. It’s difficult to sum up just how bad this book is. Wait. No it’s not. It’s a festering piece of shit. It’s downright terrible. Things are introduced but never expanded upon (such as the chest Zyn receives), there’s really no characterization to speak of, and the ‘plot’, if you can call it such a thing, is tacked on to the end of the book like a bad Twilight clone. The book is riddled with inconsistencies, typos, continuity errors, and scientific errors. And yes, I know this is a children’s book, and I shouldn’t be so hard on it, but I’m not. There were plenty of things that I skipped over and left out that I could have righteously bitched about but didn’t because…well, I didn’t really have the patience or desire to.
Overall, though, I think the worst part of this book is how Stouffer chose to handle the entire conflict. Rah comes across as a sociopathic bastard, and the underlying moral running through the book is that if someone does something bad, they should be shunned and left to their own devices. And this really wouldn’t have been hard to overcome. Insert a scene or two of Rah coming to the island and trying to rescue them, and Zyn drives him away by throwing rocks or something. You humanize Rah, demonize Zyn, boom, problem solved.
Interestingly, (considering this book was only published because of a plagiarism lawsuit), as I read through it I got a lot of The Hobbit vibes. The strongest is the opening chapters where the narrator talks directly to the reader and explains Muggle history and what they look like, which is very the opening chapter of The Hobbit. Do I think N.K. Stouffer plagiarized The Hobbit? Well, I think it’s a lot more likely than J.K. Rowling plagiarizing N.K. Stouffer. The only thing these books have in common, and I do mean the only thing, is they both use the word “Muggle”. That’s it. End of story.