Chapter One – The End of the Rope
The Sociopaths are running through the jungle and they’re completely exhausted. We get some expository dialogue that reveals everyone’s names, ages, hair and eye color, and the fact that they’ve been running through this jungle for days being chased by soldiers of the Sanhedrin and don’t have any weapons. When we last left them, they were on the edge of the desert, well-fed, well-provisioned, and armed. And if you wonder as I do what exactly has happened in the downtime, you’re out of luck because we’ll never find out.
At the start of every book, we get scenes of Josh doubting himself and thinking about what a poor leader he is. This one is no different, except he also stops to think through the Sociopaths’ history to inform any new readers of what’s going on. While at any moment the Sanhedrin could pop out of the bushes and kill them all. Yes, he’s a poor leader.
Reb pops up with another pointless Robert E. Lee reference. Hilariously, he says he “remembers” this, as if it happened in his lifetime. Jake points out that Robert E. Lee lost the war, so maybe he isn’t the best example, and suddenly I feel a great deal of warmth towards his character.
Suddenly they hear crunching sounds coming from the jungle, and leap up and decide to fight. Seven starving kids with one pocketknife between them against armed soldiers. Somehow I think turning and running is a much better decision. But they’re in luck, because out of the foliage comes…Grumpy, Happy, and Volka! Yes, those dear friends who vanished at the beginning of book 2 and have not been seen, heard of, or even mentioned since then, are suddenly back and happen to be in the same part of the jungle as our intrepid heroes!
This is explained away by Goel sending them. Ah, Goel, he always fixes plot holes. Unfortunately, he doesn’t stick around for an extra few hours, because if he did, we wouldn’t have this book.
Incidentally, if you also are wondering what happened to Kybus, Rama and Amar, and Hunter – they aren’t brought up or even mentioned. Even more proof the Sociopaths don’t really care about anyone besides themselves.
Volka picks up Abbey and they take off. They walk for a little bit, cross a couple streams, and then walk a hundred yards to the left. Happy notes that this probably won’t throw the Sanhedrin off their trail, but it’s the best he could do. And then he leads them straight to the house where they’ll be staying. And apparently this pathetic attempt was enough to throw off the Sanhedrin, who were five minutes behind them, because they never find the place.
They meet a chap named Zohar who apparently is the leader. There’s no mention of what he’s the leader of, but Zohar isn’t really an important character. At all. He says that Goel has left and he doesn’t know when he’ll be back, and that it’s time to eat, so Reb and Token share some bonding quotes:
[Token] nodded. “I sure would. Seems like the things I miss most from the old time is moon pies and Dr Peppers” (page 13).
Understandable. I might miss available healthcare, food on my table, and my friends and family who all died in a nuclear holocaust, but snack food and soda would be pretty close behind it.
They eat some meat and are shown up to their rooms. Abbey and Sarah are given a loft, and Abbey begins complaining about how messy her hair is and how nothing they’ve done is of any use. Sarah thinks about things.
She had known for a long time that Abbey was spoiled. And if I was as pretty as she is, she thought, I’d have been spoiled too (page 15).
Because being pretty makes you spoiled.
Sarah asks Abbey if she remembers the American Revolution. How it would have looked hopeless for them to defeat the British, but they managed it anyway. For some reason, this fails to encourage Abbey.
Chapter Two – The Rebellion of Abbey
Sarah and Josh talk. Sarah’s worried about Abbey. Josh is worried about everyone, and as an example, he holds up a tattered shoe. And this is just another example of how badly written this series is. The Sociopaths have been in Nuworld for a year. They’ve avoided death at every turn, spent time in prisons, been sentenced to death any number of times, and generally led a dreary and miserable experience. By this point, you’d think that small things like ripped-up shoes would not be a big deal. Morris is still writing everyone as if they just stepped into this life ten minutes ago.
Sarah says that Abbey isn’t as strong or tough as the rest of them. The conversation doesn’t go anywhere and we don’t learn anything, even when they start talking about missing things back in Oldworld.
Zohar strolls up and tells them that a message has arrived from Goel saying that they need to go help some people. Josh whines a little bit, but eventually says that if Goel ordered it, they have to go. He tells Sarah to break the news to Abbey. She does, and Abbey says she’s not going. She complains about her clothes and shoes, and tells Sarah to tell Josh that she’ll wait until they get back.
Josh, predictably, is not happy with this bit of news. He tries to convince her, but nothing works, and so we cut forward to the next day when the Six Sociopaths head off with Grumpy, Happy, Volka, and Zohar’s men.
And finally we get Abbey’s POV. She feels a little guilty about not going and has an internal struggle about whether to chase after them or not, but in the end her shallow, selfish nature wins out, and she heads off on a walk. She finds a stream and walks along it, finally stopping to wash her face and wishing aloud for soap and a hot bath. A voice tells her that she should have it.
A tall, richly dressed, sexy man steps from the foliage. He introduces himself as Lothar, and says he seeks the Seven Sociopaths. Abbey explains that she’s one of them, but the others are all gone on a mission, however, perhaps she can help.
Lothar says he’s from the Empress of the Underworld, and he has a message. Abbey reads it. It says, in sixth-grade English, that they’re fighting the Dark Lord, they’ve heard of the Sociopaths’ courage (hah!) and that they’ve sent the heir to the throne, Prince Lothar, who’ll accompany them back if they choose to come. I must say, sending the heir to the throne off on dangerous missions, alone and unguarded, is not exactly the brightest move.
Abbey says that she can’t go without the others. She doesn’t really have a reason for this, except to say she can’t. She asks Lothar if he’ll wait a night, in case they make a quick journey back. I must say, the thought of the Sociopaths solving any “mission” with a 24-hour period is moronic enough that I’m surprised even Abbey thinks it might work. But Lothar agrees. He sits down and starts telling Abbey about how beautiful their kingdom is, how the walls are lined with jewels, how all the women wear beautiful clothes, and things of that nature. He gives Abbey some of his food, which she thinks is delicious, and talks about how it’s only trail food. Somehow, this is reminding me of a meeting between the White Witch and Edmund.
Lothar then explains that they’re under attack from the Underlings, who are terrible, and have killed his father, and are trying take over the kingdom. He finishes by asking Abbey to come and telling her how gorgeous she’d be wearing their clothes. It’s actually a reasonably effective means of manipulation. Abbey says she can’t decide. Lothar says that he’ll wait until the next morning, then he has to return. If she’s not there, he’ll leave without her.
I’m guessing that he’s evil. But that’s just me.
Chapter Three – Another Visitor
Abbey wakes up. She goes outside and thinks about her appearance. It’s been two chapters and already I’m sick of listening to her whine about how her hair’s dirty. On the other hand, if Morris is trying to make me hate this character, he’s doing a surprisingly effective job.
She walks down by the stream and suddenly she sees a man step from the foliage. He’s extremely dirty, barefoot, dressed in rags, and says he’s looking for the Seven Sociopaths. He introduces himself as Beren, which isn’t a familiar name AT ALL. Abbey doesn’t trust him based on his looks, so she tells him that the Sociopaths are all gone on a mission. And suddenly Lothar comes around the bend. He whips out his sword and charges forward, and Beren takes off. Lothar tells her that he was an Underling.
They talk about the Underlings. Lothar explains that they all serve the Dark Lord and are evil incarnate and things of that nature. Finally he asks her again if she’ll go. Abbey says she can’t decide. Lothar shrugs, then says maybe it’s for the best. After all, it might be better if Sarah went. Because Sarah can’t possibly be as beautiful as Abbey, and the Empress has the power to make people beautiful. If Sarah goes, she’ll be way hotter than Abbey.
Typically, this infuriates Abbey. So she decides to go. She goes back to the house, leaves a note, tells Zohar’s wife to give it to Josh when he gets back, and heads back to Lothar. He’s brought along a black mare named Star, just for her. Which is odd, considering that he came looking for seven Sociopaths, not just one. Come to think of it, Lothar seems to be pretty clued in to the contents of Abbey’s mind. He’s quite good at pushing her buttons. And outside of Goel, all the mind-reading and/or magical powers we’ve seen have been EVUL.
So yeah, he’s evil.
Chapter Four – Kingdom of the Underworld
We begin with a description of how lucky it is that Abbey has experience in riding. Before she came to Nuworld (which makes it sound as if it’s an entire different place, when in fact they’re probably walking on what used to be their old neighborhoods) she’d never sat on a horse or pony. But now she’s almost as good as Sarah.
This would really only make sense if Morris then went on to talk about how difficult the ride is – how they’ve been galloping for hours along a twisting mountain trail, or something where her skills would make a difference. Instead, she’s riding a well-trained mare slowly along a forest trail, which I think many quadriplegics could manage.
They stop to camp for the night and Abbey gets some meat out of Lothar’s saddlebags which she fries in a pan. Now, it’s at least a two-day journey from the Kingdom to where Abbey was staying. And Lothar’s been hanging around for at least two days, which means at the very least this uncured meat was sitting in his saddlebags for five days. Unrefrigerated. Realism, what’s that?
Lothar talks about the Underworld and mentions how all the young nobles will be falling in love with her. She blushes. And it’s been awhile since we had a really stupid quote, but Lothar obliges:
He laughed at her blush. “I didn’t know girls knew how to blush” (page 37).
There’s really nothing I can add to that, except this character is supposed to be what, in his early twenties?
He keeps talking and mentions, offhand, that when they capture Underlings they make slaves of them and force them to do all the new tunneling. Ominous.
We cut forward to the end of the next day. They’ve arrived at the gates. Lothar chants the password in a weird voice and the doors open. The walls glow in the dark which makes Abbey comment “It’s like indirect lighting.” Not being an expert on indirect lighting, I can’t say for certain whether it is or not, but I do know that the majority of shallow, spoiled, whorish 14-year-old girls would say something like “Cool! The walls are glowing!” instead of commenting on how it’s like indirect lighting.
Further in, she notices that the emblem of the kingdom is a snake. File this one under “obvious foreshadowing”, I guess.
The next two pages are her getting a servant named Luna, taking a long bubble bath, and going to sleep in her feather bed in her luxurious room. It’s not even remotely interesting. When she wakes up she puts on a SPARKLY dress and heads off to meet the Empress of the Underworld.