Chapter One – Final Call to Battle
The Sociopaths are walking along a dusty mountain trail. It’s very hot. Jake is at the back and gets most of the dust. He complains about this and wants to walk in front. Josh points out that they’ve all had to take turns being in the back and he needs to suck it up. Jake bumps into Token, gets angry, shoves him, and tells him to move faster. These are our heroes. They’ve spent nine books walking around doing Goel’s bidding. They’re supposed to be shining examples to the common people of Nuworld. And yet they can’t walk around without bitching about how tired they are, or shoving each other while they walk along a mountain path, which is extremely dangerous and a good way to get someone killed.
This being the beginning of the book, we meet each of the Sociopaths in turn. Morris reminds us that Token is black, and then Sarah gets a nonsensical quote:
“I’m so thirsty I’m spitting cotton” (page 8).
Not something that’s part of a typical teenager’s vocabulary. Very few people know what it’s like to have cotton in their mouths.
Abbey bitches about how she’s covered in dust and she’ll never get clean again. Finally Josh agrees to stop soon. A bit later, they find a creek and stop for the night while everyone continues to complain. I’m not sure if Morris is trying to demonstrate how rough life has been for them, but all he’s accomplishing is making me despise all of them.
Sarah and Abbey cook dinner. It is – unsurprisingly – meat and potatoes. Somewhat surprisingly, Morris mentions that it’s the last of the antelope Reb shot a few days before, and Jake even complains that it’s probably getting ripe. But just once, I’d like to see them surviving on cram and stale water.
They encounter a small crisis when they only have six potatoes, and how do you divide six into seven? Well, you can cut a bit off of each potato and give the six bits to the seventh person, or you could take the largest potato and cut it in half. It’s really not that big of a deal.
They wrangled for a while. Finally Dave settled the problem by sharing his potato with Abbey. “I’m the only mathematician around here,” he said (page 11).
That’s a clear demonstration of math skills.
The next morning they all wake up late. Reb wants to go fishing before they leave. Josh says that they don’t have enough time and need to head out. Reb disagrees. So instead of calmly explaining that they’ve already wasted part of the day and need to hurry to make sure that they arrive at the council that Goel has called on time – y’know, like a good leader would do – Josh yells at Reb and tells him to get moving. Finally Sarah intervenes and calms things down.
Later that day, Josh and Sarah talk. Morris is trying to ratchet up the tension, but instead of bothering to show this, he has Josh tell us:
“…it looks to me like the Dark Lord is winning. We’re getting pinned down all over the world. Everywhere we go, the Sanhedrin has its spies” (page 14).
The Sanhedrin didn’t have any spies in Book 8, Book 7, Book 5, and Book 4. Book 2 qualifies as a “maybe”, since it wasn’t exactly a spy. Not to mention that an all-powerful, all-pervasive government doesn’t really need to do a lot of spying. Besides, the Sociopaths have “succeeded” on every single mission that Goel has sent them on. Usually through Goel bailing them out of their mistakes, but everywhere they’ve gone they’ve met overwhelming success. Yes, they might be outnumbered, but it shouldn’t be as hopeless as Morris is trying to paint it.
Then again, this is probably just Morris trying to make the Sanhedrin scary so we’ll spend the rest of the book afraid of them, when in fact the Sanhedrin are possibly the most incompetent villains I have ever encountered. Every time the Sociopaths have encountered them the Sanhedrin have failed. Badly.
Sarah encourages Josh, which leads to another quote:
“You always know how to make a fellow feel good, Sarah” (page 15).
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to whether that has a double meaning.
We cut forward to the Sociopaths arriving at the Plains of Dothan. Princess Elaine and a bunch of knights from Camelot are there. Reb runs up and kisses her hands. You’re not fooling anyone, Reb. They also run into Sureflight and Loreen, who are walking around with wings strapped to their backs. Since there isn’t enough wind here to allow them to fly, I have no idea why they leave their wings on. They’d be bulky and uncomfortable and completely pointless except to make you look cool (or, possibly, like an idiot). Later, they also see Ryland Daybright and Dawn.
They eat dinner, and afterwards Goel gets up and gives a short speech. He says that the time is coming for the final battle. He talks for awhile more, off-screen, and then tells everyone to eat and drink and relax for a bit. Which is an odd thing to tell everyone right after dinner, but maybe it was an extremely long speech.
Afterward, Goel comes up to Josh. He tells them that he has another mission to send them on. They have to go to the Land of Ice, the Land of Centaurs, and to Celethorn, the Land of Magicians. Once they’ve fetched those three groups, his army will be ready. And he’ll have guides for them. Goel asks Josh if he’ll do this. Josh says he will. Goel is pleased:
“The Seven Sleepers are indeed my pride!” (page 18)
How sad, to have these idiots as your pride. Come on, Goel, you can do better.
Chapter Two – Council of the Dark Lord
We get to see the Dark Lord’s land. The Dark Lord is EVUL, so his land, of course, looks like Mordor. Trees are stunted. Birds avoid the place. Travelers avoid this place, and those who are caught there at night don’t live to regret it. Horrible monsters come out at night. It’s freezing cold in the winter and blistering hot in the summer.
In the middle of this land is a giant castle made out of solid stone.
Nor did anyone know how such a fortress was built. Those who studied it could only be puzzled, for it would have taken thousands of men thousands of years to build such a structure (page 20).
And yet the Dark Lord managed it in about 30 years or so.
In the middle of the castle is the Dread Tower. Screams come from the dungeon, far below. And there’s one huge room where there’s a giant brass gate bolted to the rock. Nobody but the Dark Lord knows about this gate, but sometimes the Dark Lord comes and watches it. Plot Point!
The Dark Lord sits in his council room. All his commanders are sitting around a table tearing at food and chugging liquor. The Dark Lord sits watching them, his eyes glowing red. A couple fights break out which end with someone gushing blood on the floor. Nobody really cares. Finally the Dark Lord pipes up and everyone shuts up and pays attention.
The Dark Lord says that the time has come, they’ve waited long enough, and it’s time to finish Goel and his followers off. I wonder why he’s been waiting. After all, they’re the powerful government and the longer they wait, the more time Goel has to rally followers to his cause. You’d think they would want to crush these rebellions quickly, before they got much footing.
Of course, the Dark Lord is really referring to the string of failures the Sanhedrin have encountered in dispatching the Sociopaths and subduing Goel’s followers. Logically, the Dark Lord should begin by pointing this out and asking why all of his subordinates are complete idiots.
The Dark Lord concludes by asking them for ideas on how to rid the world of Goel and his followers. Everyone is silent for awhile, because they know that if they mess up, they’re dead. With the exception of Elmas. Maybe. He hasn’t been seen in awhile, but he was permitted a long string of failures before his (possible) death. But finally a chap called Gnash gets up. He says that the problem lies with the Sociopaths. After all, there was a prophecy that when the Seven Sociopaths awake, Goel’s house will be filled. Mention of this infuriates the Dark Lord, and he almost fries Gnash, but stops himself in time. And while I’m totally in favor of killing subordinates to keep the others on their toes, doing it to the one guy who is trying to offer a solution is probably not the best of ideas. Gnash manages to make his point:
“We cannot win by ignoring the problem. We must strike at the Seven Sleepers themselves” (page 23).
A cunning plan, except they haven’t been ignoring the problem. They’ve been trying to kill the Sociopaths for nine books now. There’s also no evidence that they’ve been trying to kill Goel himself. You’d think that they might give that a try.
The Dark Lord points out that they’ve been trying to kill the Sociopaths and have been failing epically. Gnash says that there’s something more to the Sociopaths. Some sorcery.
“I believe we must take the Sleepers not through brute force but through craft and guile” (page 23).
Yes, except…you’ve been trying to take them through “craft” and “guile” all along. That was what you were doing in the last book. The only reason it failed was because the dumbass in charge didn’t bother to take a sword and stab them all when he had the chance.
A chap called Morder gets up and says that they’ve placed an informer in the House of Goel. A high-up informer. A clever informer who will keep them…informed…of Goel’s movements.
“I will have these Sleepers in the dungeons crying for death before long” (page 25).
If I was the Dark Lord, this would be the moment where I fried Morder, leaving behind a pair of steaming boots. I would then point out to everyone else that the point is not to TRAP or to CAPTURE the Sociopaths, it is to KILL them. I would also ask Morder (or his lieutenant, if I’d just fried him) if there was a high-up informant in Goel’s camp, why this informant was not given very specific instructions:
- Walk up to Goel.
- Stab him.
But the Dark Lord is an Evil Overlord. He can’t do anything the easy way.