Chapter Twelve – Beren Makes a Try
Beren’s depressed. He says that the Sociopaths were the only hope they really had. Which is really sad, but okay. Laiona talks about Beren’s father and how he would never give up.
Later, Beren wakes up in the middle of the night. Someone’s in his room. The someone introduces himself as Goel. Beren asks Goel why he doesn’t just get the Sociopaths free. Because we wouldn’t have a story, of course. Goel explains that most of his work is done through his servants. He asks Beren if he’ll serve him. Beren thinks about it, and says he’d like to, but what can he do? Goel says that at times he’ll have to follow blindly. Beren thinks about it, and we get an…interesting…quote:
…the flickering light cast shadows over the tall figure, he had a glimpse of the chiseled face, the steady eyes, and the firm mouth, and he knew he had found the one… (page 114).
Okay, that sounds just a little too much like Beren has the hots for Goel. But he says yes. Goel explains the plan. Off-screen, like all of Goel’s plans. Beren agrees.
The next morning Beren talks to Laiona. He explains that Goel told him to go talk to Abbey. Then he takes off. It takes him three days of sneaking around to find Abbey’s new room. He waits for the guard to fall asleep and then ninjas his way inside and wakes Abbey up. Naturally, she’s startled. He explains that he wants to show her something. Abbey is curious, so she decides to go. Just like that. Sounds like a pretty poor form of mind control.
He turns his back while Abbey dresses, and together they sneak out past the sleeping guard and head down towards the deep mines. When they reach there, they hide and look at all the starved, chained up people being forced to hack at the rock, being beaten by guards, and stuff like that. Abbey is horrified. Just like the last time she saw this, which really makes me wonder at how successful this “shock” will be. Beren talks to her about how the empress has deceived her and is actually not a very nice person. And…
Somehow the sight of the slaves being so cruelly treated had blasted her loose from the power of the empress (page 118).
Somehow. Just like that. Game over, empress fails, Abbey’s back. Party on, Wayne.
Beren says they’ll have to get Abbey back into her room without anyone seeing. Sounds like a bad plan to me. They head up there and see that the guard’s awake. Beren tells her that he’ll have the guard chase him and while he’s gone Abbey can sneak back into the room. And then she has to act like a mindless drone. It’s utterly foolproof. So he shows himself and the guard chases him and Abbey runs into the room and finds Lothar and the empress waiting there and they can immediately tell she’s broken free of the spell and then the door opens and two guards drag Beren inside.
So much for that.
Lothar asks if this time it’ll be his way. Fareena agrees. She tells them to toss Beren and Abbey in with the others – because separate dungeons are never a good idea – and they’ll deal with them later. Because dealing with them now would be something that an intelligent evil overlord would do.
As they’re being dragged away, Abbey yells at her. Fareena is pissed off. She grabs Abbey’s face and pulls out a dagger. Thoughtfully, she says that if she slices Abbey’s cheek, it’ll leave a huge scar, and then she’ll be hideous. Abbey is horrified, of course. File that one under “obvious foreshadowing”.
Chapter Thirteen – A Crazy Dream
Everyone gives Abbey hugs and is happy. Except they’re still in prison, of course. And we get yet another quote, of something that’s been bothering me for some now:
…[Token] said grinning, his white teeth shining against his black face…(page 123).
Nothing really wrong with it, right? Except that Morris constantly makes note of that Token’s white teeth show up well against his black skin. At the average or five or six times a book, as if he’s desperate for us to remember that Token is, indeed, black. I’m not saying Morris is racist, just that he’s a bad writer.
Josh and Sarah sit down and share a Moment. These moments are generally annoying since neither of them act or talk like real people in them, but they do actually show a few vague glimmers of character development, which is more than I can say for the rest of the book. Sarah and Josh have actually been becoming slightly better friends as the books have gone on.
The guard brings in some stew and they eat and talk about how it’s gross. Token mentions that he wishes he had a quarter pounder or a hot dog. I dunno. There are plenty of foods I would miss, but hot dogs would not be one of them. That might just be me, though. Afterwards, they talk about plans that won’t work, and settle into gloom.
Time passed slowly. There was no clock, no television, nothing to mark its passage (page 125).
After a year in a place without electricity, I’d think they wouldn’t be relying on them to tell time.
Jake complains. Hilarity ensues:
Jake was ordinarily fairly optimistic (page 125).
Jake complains more than the rest of the Sociopaths combined. Which is saying something.
A lot of time passes. More than enough time for the Empress to execute them. But she doesn’t.
Cut forward. Jake has dreams about Snakepeople and T-rexes and Disneyland and watching the Atlanta Braves. Then he gets a weird dream, and he has it three times in a row, which wakes him up and makes him start talking about. Beren says that among his people, those dreams have meaning. Well, of course. Jake repeats five or six times that it doesn’t make any sense, which is annoying because any discerning reader already knows that it does. Apparently he dreamed that the table, in their room, turned into door, opened up, and led to a place of bright colors and unicorns and puppy dogs.
Beren says that maybe the table will lead out. I say, what kind of dungeon has a table? But they examine the table, and finally they have Volka pick it up and move it out of the way. They examine the floor and find a line there – a crack!!!!!!
Maybe this is just me – but shouldn’t most dungeons be, I dunno, checked to make sure they don’t have escape tunnels built into them? Doesn’t that go against the entire concept of a dungeon? And second – and this could just be me – but I know that if I was locked in a dungeon awaiting execution for several days with nothing better to do, you can bet your ass that I would have gone over every single square inch of that room five or six times to make sure there was no options available.
Anyway. They try to pry it open but can’t get a grip. So they grab their eating utensils – yes, this dungeon has knives and forks – and pry the slab up a bit. Volka grabs it and lifts it up, revealing a tunnel. They climb down and Volka blocks the way behind them and they’re free! Beren says he’ll muster his people, because it’s time to fight!
Chapter Fourteen – The Battle
Beren musters the Underlings. Turns out there’s actually quite a lot of them, and they all get armed really quickly. Beren lays out his plan and they head off. After a bit they find some guards and capture them. Beren asks one of them where the empress and Lothar are. The guards refuse to tell. Beren tells Volka to rip the guy’s head off. And we get a truly hilarious quote. I would tip my hat to Morris, but he doesn’t deserve it, even for this:
“Hroom!” he shouted. “I love to pull head off foolish guard.” (page 134)
Heheheheheheh. Anyway. The guard wets himself and says they’re in the council room. Beren asks some more questions and orders them to tie the guards up. They head in and fight. They’re outnumbered by well-trained, well-fed, well-armed guards, but the “fury” of the Underlings along with the Sociopaths – who are still kids, I might add – proves too much, and they kick the guards’ collective asses. They tie up those who surrender and head into the council room.
Beren and Lothar fight. Beren wins and Lothar starts begging for mercy. The empress jumps up and laughs evilly and the room grows dark and smells like EVIL. Beren falls down. And suddenly Sarah hears a voice – telling her that you can only overcome evil with good, but never with a sword. I call bullshit. The Sociopaths have used their swords to overcome evil any number of times throughout this series.
Sarah tells everyone that they have to stop hating. They have to let them see what love is. She tells everyone to focus on love – love for their friends, Goel, good things – like Grandma, apple pie, and kittens. Everyone does it, and Fareena starts screaming “I’M MELTING!” Well, not quite, but that’s the general idea. Then Fareena looks at Lothar, who leaps forward and swings his sword at Abbey, slicing open her cheek. Why? No particular reason, really. I mean, if it was me I’d take the opportunity to just kill Abbey, or maybe Beren, since he’s the crown prince and all. Beren grabs his sword and disarms Lothar. The Sociopaths grab Abbey and head off to find a doctor.
Chapter Fifteen – The Victory
There’s a fight. It takes two sentences, and the Underlings and Beren win. Which raises the question of why, exactly, Beren couldn’t have simply used his knowledge of the kingdom to sneak in and win the day at some point beforehand. The answer is, of course, if he had we wouldn’t have the story.
They head down to the mines and free the slaves and we get a nice quote:
“Who will do the mining now that there are no more slaves?” Josh asked.
Beren flashed him a grin. “I think we might find some volunteers among the servants of Fareena.” (page 142)
Hooray, more slavery!
Later, there’s a special announcement that Empress Laiona is stepping down so Beren can rule. Why? No real reason, actually.
There’s a big feast. Later they talk about Abbey. Apparently she’s going to be badly scarred. Well of course.
Token asks Beren if they’re going to execute Fareena and Lothar. Beren says that they deserve it, but they’ll show mercy. Like working them to death in the mines! Yes, that’s merciful! Hahahahha! Seriously, these are bad people. Chop their heads off and have done with it.
Chapter Sixteen – A Badge of Honor
There’s a weeklong feast to deplete the food stores and the Sociopaths get shown around the kingdom and party. But they and Beren always think about Abbey, and one day Beren goes in to see her. Abbey calls him Your Majesty:
Beren shook his head. “I could never be that to you. ‘Beren’ and ‘Abbey’ we will always be to each other.” (page 147)
This would actually make sense of Beren and Abbey were friends, had spent any time together, or had a couple of meaningful conversations throughout the book. So instead it’s just stupid.
Beren asks Abbey if she’d like to stay there and be a princess. She can have jewels and sexy clothes. Abbey says she doesn’t care much about that stuff anymore. She talks about how it was always important to her to look better than everyone else, but now she’s discovered that actually it’s not what’s on the outside but on the inside that counts.
Now – there’s a host of problems with this. The first would be that this is a sudden and drastic change, there wasn’t proper build-up, we didn’t get to witness her character actually experiencing this change…I could go on for awhile. And, like most of this series, it’s poorly and awkwardly written. And still – even so – it’s about the best and most convincing character development that this entire series has seen. That isn’t saying much, but it’s making it slightly harder for me to mock it. Plus, even though it was poorly written, she did change, and it was for the better, so technically the book accomplished something.
Later, Abbey talks to Sarah. Nothing really happens. Then she talks to the doctor, who mentions that the scar might grow a little smaller, but it’ll never really fade. Abbey goes to sleep. Cut to Goel waking her up. She hugs him. And Goel has an interesting quote:
“You have changed on the outside. This is a bad thing.” (page 150)
That must be comforting to hear. And why, exactly?
Abbey tells Goel what she’s learned, and then he talks to her a bit. Off-screen, of course, because Morris isn’t a good enough writer to let us see what Goel would actually say. Finally Goel says he’s proud of her and leaves. She goes back to sleep.
The next morning she gets up, gets dressed, and heads down to meet the rest of the Sociopaths. They stare at her in shock. Because….her scar is gone!!!!
Seriously. What is it with authors unable to let anything bad happen to their characters? This is a wonderful dynamic. The beautiful, spoiled, whorish girl finally learns a bit of a lesson – oh yes, and she got her face horribly scarred. Now she gets to experience life with everyone looking at her and treating her slightly different than they have before. More importantly, it gives her a flaw – a minor flaw, but a flaw nevertheless. And let’s not forget that Morris is basically insinuating that as long as you follow Goel, nothing bad will ever happen to you.
This stuff really pisses me off. And it makes me long for those who do it right. Take the Dark Tower series, for example (minor spoilers to follow). Roland Deschain is a gunslinger. Capable of shooting a revolver in each hand with absolutely uncanny speed and accuracy. An incredibly badass character. And at the very beginning of the second book in a seven-book series he gets into a fight with a huge lobster-like creature. He manages to fight it off, but it chops off his middle and index finger on his right hand. And just like that, he can’t use his main hand to fire his gun anymore. When I read this, I was astonished. Suddenly and drastically crippling your main character just isn’t done. I read on, assuming there’d be some explanation – he’d receive a new hand somewhere, or figure out how to fire a gun using his ring finger on the trigger.
Nope. He remains maimed and unable to use his right hand for much of anything throughout the entire rest of the series. But like any true badass, he just deals with it and makes do and keeps right on fighting. It’s awesome. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve seen in any series.
But I digress. I’m comparing Stephen King to Gilbert Morris. It’s like comparing the Eiffel Tower to a vacuum cleaner. One is large, fantastic, and has lots of really great sides to it, and the other has it uses, but mostly just sucks.
The Sociopaths head off, because they’re leaving. There’s no real reason for this – Goel hasn’t summoned them anywhere, or instructed them to leave, and nobody desperately needs their help. They’re just leaving because that’s what they do at the end of all the books.
Sarah and Josh share a Moment, and then Dave and Abbey [!] share a moment. And we’re reminded of how much Abbey has changed. Of course, it makes me wonder if this change will last. I honestly don’t remember how she acts in the next few books, but I’m willing to bet she shows a remarkable shift back towards her spoiled, whorish self.
Guess we’ll just have to see, though.