Chapter 10:

When we last left Romilly, she’d discovered that she had the power of Heart and was secretly Ma’ti in disguise. Well, it would have been slightly better if she HAD been Ma’ti, because then Captain Planet might be around. And hell, as horrible as Captain Planet was, at least that bugger would be better than her. At least Captain Planet can fly around.

So Romilly is angsting about the morality of using her amazing telepathic powers:

All the long road to Caer Donn, it continued to trouble her. When she hunted meat for the sentry-birds, she thought of her laran and feared to use the power for evil, so that she sometimes let game escape them and was roundly scolded by the men. She did use her awareness to seek out dead things in hill and forest which she could use to feed the birds—they had no further use for their bodies, surelt it could not be wrong to use a dead creature to feed a living one. She felt as if she wanted to close up her new skill where it would never be touched again, though she had to use it in handling the birds—surely it could not be wrong to show her fondness for them? Or was it, since she used it to keep them quiet for her own convenience? (Pg. 590)

Limyaael quote time:

“Angst is usually very quick, whether it’s in a fanfic or a professional piece of fiction. The author barely sets up the situation before flinging long sob stories at the reader. Or there are lots of vague hints, but the reader isn’t given a good enough reason to care about the situation and the protagonists before the wailing starts. This is partly because a lot of angsty stories make good use of “used furniture,” shopworn situations that supposedly don’t need explaining because the reader has seen them a thousand million times before.

However, that very lack of explanation is what turns the story into Diet Coke. I don’t care about a young girl who gets her teddy bear cut up unless you tell me what makes her different, and special, and just how much the teddy bear meant to her, and how its loss will affect her life. (Though in that case, it should be more than a teddy bear; see point 5). You have to make me see Lellsy Jones bawling beside her teddy bear, and sniffling, and wiping her nose, and plotting evil vengeance with meat hooks. If I just see a young girl—probably one who doesn’t even get red eyes when she weeps, and doesn’t “bawl,” but “sheds a single translucent tear”—I’m not going to feel any compassion at all. Yes, I might cry, if the writing is done well enough. The problem is that it doesn’t end there. You haven’t infected your reader with a sense of tragedy if you’ve made her cry. Any sappy movie can do that. Disney movies can do that. To win, you have to make your reader start wincing and feeling for that particular unique person, not just any young girl with her teddy bear in shreds.”

Bets on how long this will last after MZB’s squeezed it dry of any sympathy that might be wrung from the reader? Anyone? But of course, it’s wonderful LOOVE and BONDING that keeps her together with that stupid bird of hers. NEver mind that we haven’t seen it for goodness knows how many pages already. And of course, since Romilly is AWARE OF EVERY LIVING BEING, we get more of her stupid veganism:

And whenever she tried to eat fresh-killed game, it seemed that she could feel the life and the blood of the dead animal pounding through her mind, and she would gag and refuse to eat; she made her meals of porridge and fruit and bread, and was fiercely hungry in the bitter, aching cold of the mountain trails, but even when Dom Carlo commanded her to eat, she could not, and once when he stood over her until she reluctantly swallowed part of a haunch of the wild chervine they had killed for their meal, she felt such terrible revulsion that she went away and vomited it up again. (Pg. 591)

Let me get this straight first off: I don’t mind vegans or vegetarians. If you’re in it because of your religion, or because you believe that not eating meat is healthier for you, and you’re not constantly in my face shouting that I am a terrible person for not adhering to your subjective beliefs, that’s fine. I’m not going to bother you, either.

The problem I do have is with what I term “ethical vegans”, and even then, I don’t mind them if they keep to themselves. You see, this is a subjective matter, and I’m more than willing to respect people’s beliefs ON THE CAVEAT THAT they respect mine. If you believe it’s wrong to eat animals, fine, just respect my belief that it’s not wrong to do so.

Now with that being said, I despise this in my books.

The first and foremost reason is the huge hypocrisy involved, especially in feel-good hippie nature tracts such as what’s being featured now: plants are supposedly as much alive as animals, but it’s perfectly all right to eat plants but not animals? Why? The reasoning, such as in Eragon or this novel, is usually unexplained, completely arbitrary or just plain wrong, as in Romilly claiming that plants don’t respire, which is simply bullshit. Plants respire, respond to external stimuli, grow, reproduce and fulfil all the necessary requirements for something to be termed ‘alive’. If eating an animal is wrong, then eating a plant is, too.

Oh, wait, I know. It’s because plants are sufficiently alien and don’t have as direct responses to pain, and we can’t show people who feel rather than think disgusting pictures and scare them into believing eating animals is fine but plants are not. In short, this whole shit is based on feel-goodism.

Number two: Veganism is highly inappropriate in most traditional high fantasies, considering the low-tech setting. The high energy density of animal-derived foods as opposed to foilage or even fruit made it a valuable food, not counting the other important nutrients such as iron, which back then meat was an important source of due to the simple fact that people didn’t have supermarkets and they usually ate the same cereals and vegetables for years, not having access to the variety of foods and supplements mordern-day vegans prop up their diets with.

Of course, there are exceptions (Chinese buddhist monks being one famous example), but those were exceptions, rather than the norm. A vegan refusing noms would be thorougly despised for wasting good food. And of course, it’s somehow “unnatural” to eat meat. Of course. However did I not notice basic human physiology?

Number three: the repeated and amazingly stupid romanticisation of nature. This is very high on the list of annoyances I come across, especially since a huge number of authors seem to be doing this.

I like to call them Al Gores. With good intentions (maybe, just maybe) but woefully misinformed, or maybe they just couldn’t give two shits, and are looking the matter through the rosiest glasses they can find. Their words are fudged, full of magical thinking and feel-goodism, and sometimes outright LIES.

I won’t claim to be Mr. Woodsman living in the middle of the rainforest, but I have spent a reasonable amount of time camping out in there when I was in the armed forces. I’ve skinned and eaten a (nonvenomous) snake, drank its blood, picked leeches that managed to suck on me through my fatigues, and run away from an eustarine crocodile. I have almost bumped into a hornet’s nest, done the hornet drill, smoke grenades and all, and whacked my way through the undergrowth with a parang.

And the lesson I can impart to you is: Nature is AMORAL. That’s right, it doesn’t give a shit whether you live or die. If Nature were a mother, it’d be the kind that sat on her own children and forgot about them. I’m not saying that the rainforest is bad, or that we shouldn’t clean up trash and pollution, that’s just common sense. Nature is like a tiger: good at arm’s length where it can do its job without getting in your way, and not up close and in your dining room. The whole “oh, essence of life, nature is all interconnected and wonderful and be one with the earth” hokum that is everywhere, and especially here, is just that—feel-good bullshit written by authors who are safe and snug in their cocoons of technology, free to romanticise running with the wolves or whatever gets them off.

And the greatest irony is that the was those moronic nature haters (in this case, Alaric, who serves as our general-purpose target dummy) who are inbred meat-eating rednecks with big guns, buckteeth and go “hyuk” every other word they say? Yeah? Those guys are far, far more likely to be the ones who survive if civilisation were to collapse tomorrow, not the bloody hippies. You know why? Because they’ve actually developed skills that let them survive in the wilderness.

But what’s more important here is that the authors are teaching a lie. That’s right, I said it, A LIE, little more than feel-good snake oil. And that’s why I despite this author tract, I despite Avatar, and frankly, I despise all shitty anvilicious environmental messages.

Moving on, Dom Carlo notices something amiss with her, and Orain does too, coming up and asking her what’s the problem. In the traditional manner of angst-ridden heroes everywhere, she refuses to tell him:

“What’s ailing you, youngster? Anything I can do to help?”

She shook her head. She did not think anyone could help…she put her face in her hands, trying desperately to stifle a fit of sobs which must surely reveal her as a girl. But she was so tired, so tired, she could hardly keep back her tears… (Pg. 591-592)

Another Limyaael quote:

“The Idiot Plot vs. the character-driven plot. You know the Idiot Plot. It’s the one that only functions because all the characters in it behave like idiots.

This happens the most with villains, but it happens to angsty heroes, too. When it would make the most sense to listen to what someone else is telling him, the angsty hero chooses not to listen. And not because of some legitimate issue, like distrust of the person telling him the relevant bit of information; it comes because of his “inner turmoil” or something like that. Do spare me.

When two characters could solve their problem in two minutes by talking, the author will engage in furious hand-waving to make sure they never talk until the end of the book. The bad guy jumps in, the heroine runs away in one of those typical “I can take care of myself!” snits, aliens attack, whatever. Sometimes the characters never do talk at all, and angst is changed to sap, which is to joy as angst is to true tragedy.”

It is my firm belief that Romilly could simply solve her problems by talking with someone, but she doesn’t want to, because she’s “hurting too much” or some other shit on those lines. If she doesn’t want to talk to Orain, she might as well talk to Dom Carlo, because not only is he TOTALLY NOT THE REEL KEENG and therefore good, but also because he clearly has majeek too and can relate to her experiences. But no, she keeps quiet and angsts.

When she’s done angsting about having majeek, she goes on to angst about being of the female persuasion:

As she was pulling off her boots to sleep, she felt an ominous dull pain in the pit of her belly, and began secretly to count on her fingers; yes, it had been forty days since she had escaped from Rory’s cabin, she must once again conceal this peroidic nuisance! Damn this business of being a woman! (Pg. 592)

Cue a half-page of whining about how horrible periods are and how unfortunate she is to be a woman and have to deal with them, waah waah waah, and how wonderful men have it not to have to deal with having periods. I learnt in bio class that the average human menustral cycle is twenty-eight days, but Lenka assures me that forty days is not unheard of, and is fine so long as it’s regular. Fine, no problems with that. Maybe forty days in this world is the equivalent of an Earth month, I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care.

So what does she do about it? Oh, she gets some moss to press against her naughty bits as makeshift sanitary pads:

She must think. She had no spare rags, or garments which could be made into them. There was a kind of thick moss, which grew liberally all through the higher elevations here as well as at Falconsward; she had seen it, but paid no attention—though she knew the poorer women, who had no rags to spare, used this moss for babies’ diapers, packing them in it, as well as for their monthly sanitary needs. Romilly’s fastidious soul felt a certain disgust, but it would be easier to bury moss in the snow than to wash out rage in this climate. Tomorrow she would find some of it; here in snow country it would, at least, not be covered with mud or dirt and need not be washed. What a nuisance it was, to be a woman! (Pg. 592-593)

Once again, “herbs” come to the rescue! Is there a problem in a fantasy novel that can’t be solved through the application of some plant or the other? I was hoping we might actually hoping that we might get on to the plot and something might happen, but Romilly continues to waffle in her thoughts, this time about Orain:

But Orain’s presence was comforting to her, and, she felt, to Caryl as well; he was gentle and fatherly, and she was not afraid of him. In fact, if it came to necessity, she did not doubt she could confide in Orain without real danger; he might be shocked at finding she was a girl in this rough country and climate, but he would not make that kind of trouble for her, any more than her own father or brothers. Somehow she knew, beyond all doubt, that he was not the kind of man ever to ravish or offer any offense to any woman. (Pg. 593)

The return of the dreaded infalliable Sue-sense, coupled with its evil henchman, the “somehow”. Because a teenager just learning to travel in the world knows all the wildernesses and dark corners of the human heart. Yeeeahhh riiiiighhhhttt. Finally, we get an explanation of why no one bothers to see her pee:

She went away to attend to her personal needs in private—she had been jeered at, a bit, for this, they said she was a ssqueamish as a woman, but she knew they only thought it was because she was a cristoforo; they were known to be prudish and modest about such things. (Pg. 593)

Fair enough.

On a side note, I note that Romilly’s so-called relationship with her amazing and wonderful bird is becoming pretty much nonexistent, which frankly is odd because in the initial chapters it was presented as being one of, if not the central theme of the novel. Just look at a good example: Taltos again. The series really right does a lot of things which are usually done wrong, and while Taltos’ relationship with Loiosh does become strained at times, they stick together through mutual compromise. The relationship and its ups and downs is an important contribution to the story, and when I re-read the numerous books I own in the series and come back to this piece of shit, I can’t help but be reminded how stupid this book is.

Alaric continues being our designated misogynist target dummy, randomly jeering at Orain about running a nursery for the kids and booing Romilly for suddenly turning vegan, and of course Dom Carlo comes up and rebukes him so Romilly doesn’t have to do anything at all:

“The less there is of meat for him, the more for the rest of us, man. Let him have such food as he likes best, and you do the same! If all men were alike, you would long since have been meat for the banshee; we owe it to him to let him have his way.” (Pg. 594)

Good, now pelase take your own advice and stop beating me about the head with all sorts of your nonsense. In any case, they ride a little more, and there’s some blabble on the royal family of this world, which I really, really don’t care about, thanks to the author having very effictively sunk all hope of me ever caring about the characters and by extension anything about the book. So they finally reach Caer Donn, and Caryl asks what’s going to happen to him. Alaric is being bitter about it, and you know what? Caryl uses the power of CHILDHOOD and INNOCENCE and LOVE and turns Alaric.

Yes, really.

Look, I’ll even transcribe the whole thing, so you can see how disgusting it is:

“Lord Orain, you—the vai dom pledged me I should be sent back to my father under a truce-flag. Will he honor that pledge? My father—” his voice broke, “my father must be wild with fear for me.”

“Good enough!” Alaric said harshly, “let him feel some o’what I feel, with my son and his mother dead—at your father’s hands—”

Caryl stared at him with eyes wide. Finally he said, “I did not recognize you, Master Alaric; now I recall you. You wrong my father, sir; he did not kill your son, he died of the bald fever; my own brother died that same summer, and the king’s healer-women tended them both as carefully. It was sad that your son died away from his father and mother, but on my honor, Alaric, my father had no hand in your son’s death.”

“And what of my poor wife, who flung herself from the window to death when she heard her son had died far away from her—”

“I did not know that,” Caryl said, and there were tears in his eyes, “my own mother was beside herself with grief when my brother died. I was afraid to be out of my mother’s sight for fear she would do herself some harm in her grief. I am sorry—oh, I am sorry, Master Alaric,” he said, and flung his arms around the man, “if my father had known this, I am sure he would not pursue you, nor blame you for your quarrel with him!”

Alaric swallowed; he stood without moving in the boy’s embrace and said, “god grant my own son would have defended me like that. I canna’ fault you for your loyalty to your father, my boy. I’ll help Lord Orain see ye get back safe to him.” (Pg. 595-596)

Uh, all right? Yet another Limyaael quote:

“Not everyone “wrong” can be “redeemed” by the love of a child. I’m so sick of this plotline that it gets a point all to itself. If you want to do a strong villain character turning back to the “light” or “goodness” or whatever the Fantasyland maniacs are calling it these days, please try something other than pairing him with a baby or young child and expecting that to change his mind.

Why is this stupid? First and foremost because it’s overworked, just like the genius-child idea. A lot of authors have done a lot with it. When writing it, an author’s mind tends to overflow with what she’s read before this, rather than concentrating on her character and the way that he might believably respond to this situation.”

In a more realistic situation, what usually happens when you’ve got someone who’s convinced him or herself that a delusion is real? (and we’re not even sure that Caryl’s not lying in this case)? Why, they’ll go a very long way indeed in order to cling onto their fantasy, much like Romilly is bloody well doing in this whole book, only the author is contriving every step of the way. In any case, the now-redeemed Alaric also mentions a branch of the Sisterhood of the Sword that’s conveniently located here in Caer Donn.


So Dom Carlo leads the party to an inn named Sign of the Hawk, and there’re public baths in the city, powered by hot springs. So they all eat, and of course the men are crude and talk about going to a whorehouse after the baths, and since Romilly wants to bathe alone, she gets room service to send up a bath to Orain’s room, which she is sharing with him.

Apparently her disguise is so perfect that even the serving-girl is taken in:

One of the bath-women lingered, widening her eyes at Romilly and saying in a suggestive voice, “would you like me to stay and help you, young sir? Indeed, it would be a pleasure to wash your feet and scrub your back, and for half a silver bit I will stay as long as you like, and share your bed as well.”

Romilly had to struggle again to hide a smile; this was embarrassing. Was she such a handsome young man as that, or was the woman only looking for her silver bit? She shook her head and said, “I am tired with riding; I want to wash and sleep.” (Pg. 599)

No, it’s because the author has put blinders on everyone in this world, you idiot. And of course, men soliciting sex from her is evil and horrible because it’s a demonstration of EBIL patriarchal power, but of course women soliciting sex from her is cute and embarrassing because they’ve been forced by The Man into selling their bodies. So Romilly sends the serving-girl away, and we get one and a half pages of filler as Romilly washes herself and wonders about her own sexuality wih regards to Orain and Caryl, which I really, REALLY don’t want to go into. So she’s done with her bath and has gone to sleep, when Orain comes into the room and we get the first suggestion of a not-so-big-reveal:

“Ah, stay where you are, boy,” he said drowsily. “Bed’s big enough for two.” He had been drinking, she could tell, but he was not drunk. He reached out and ran his hand lightly across her hair. “So soft, you must ha’ had a nice bath too.” (Pg. 601)

Can you imagine what would have happened if any other man, EVIL SUITOR maybe, had done this? She’d probably be squealing like a stuck pig about how EVIL and MISOGYNISTIC said person was. So Orain goes to sleep, but wakes up shouting from a nightmare, and this ensues:

After a time, however, she was aware that Orain’s arm was around her, that he was gently drawing her to him.

She pulled away, frightened. He said in his gentlest voice, “ah, lad, don’t you know how I feel? You’re so like Carolin, when we were boys together—red hair—and so timid and shy, but so brave when there’s need—”

Romilly thought, shaking, but there’s no need for this, I am a woman—he does not know, but it’s all right, I will tell him it’s all right— she was trembling with embarrassment, shy, but the very real warmth and kindness she had felt for Orain made her feel, this was not at all as it had been when Dom Garris sought to paw her, nor when Rory thought to force himself on her—(Pg. 601-602)

To claim everything is 100% heteronormative is stupid. Claiming that homosexual love is somehow intrisically “better”, “more loving” or “kinder” just because it’s homosexual is just as RETARDED. Yes, I said it, it’s retarded. These days, authors get away with claiming that homosexuals are better/more empathic/have better dress sense/are more loving/what have you not because of who the people are, but because of their sexual orientation.

Oh wait, who did I remember saying “all heterosexual intercourse is rape”? Hmm…sorta escapes my mind…perhaps you guys could google it and remind me?

COULD Orain just be someone who happens to be homosexual and a nice person? Possibly, but the way this stupid novel is structured to drop as many soapboxes on the heads of the reader, I wouldn’t bet my food rationing coupons on it. So we see a pattern emerging—the bad guys are the evvvvvil traditionalist patriarchal heterosexual men, and the good homosexuals (the REEL KEENG included), women, and children on the other.

It’s a really simplistic and stupid way of looking at the world instead of considering people on an individual basis, but I suppose some people need it.

So Orain starts to forcibly undress Romilly (which is somehow still acceptable), realises she’s of the female persuasion, and immediately loses all sexual interest in her. Whoo yay. So being the kind and warm and loving bugger that he is, he asks Romilly to sit down and tell him all about it, and that ends the chapter.


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  1. Kyllorac on 7 March 2010, 19:01 said:

    I learnt in bio class that the average human menustral cycle is twenty-eight days, but Lenka assures me that forty days is not unheard of, and is fine so long as it’s regular.

    Yep. I’m one of those women whose monthly doesn’t come every month (it’s closer to every other month), and I know another woman whose comes every 35 days or so. That line still made me go “o_O”. I find it somewhat suspicious that MZB was so strangely specific about the exact length of time in between Romily’s periods. There’s usually a day or two of variation from period to period from what I’ve heard/experienced. Does MZB make a big deal about this length of time later on?

    Once again, “herbs” come to the rescue! Is there a problem in a fantasy novel that can’t be solved through the application of some plant or the other?

    Well, in this case, the application and “herb” being used are actually feasible and have a real life counterpart. Sphagnum mosses are super absorbent and have been used for centuries in diapers, to dress wounds, and for catching menstrual blood in addition to a whole host of other uses (like insulation). The only thing is, they grow in very wet, highly acidic, and stagnant areas; not out in the random open, and most definitely not in mountains.

    Also, what happened to the kid? Are they keeping him drugged and slung over a saddle or something?

    Oh. He was just being an convenient plot device.

    Ew. Just ew. How are you still reading this?

  2. Talisman on 8 March 2010, 01:38 said:

    To claim everything is 100% heteronormative is stupid. Claiming that homosexual love is somehow intrisically “better”, “more loving” or “kinder” just because it’s homosexual is just as RETARDED. Yes, I said it, it’s retarded. These days, authors get away with claiming that homosexuals are better/more empathic/have better dress sense/are more loving/what have you not because of who the people are, but because of their sexual orientation.

    From what I’ve heard, this view is somewhat prevalent in Japan. Yaoi (warning: do not image search unless you want to see naked gay men), or “boys’ love,” is considered more pure and generally better than heterosexual romance. Why this is I do not know, but it’s apparently the topic of a number of non-porn animes.

    Wikipedia entry

  3. Danielle on 8 March 2010, 15:58 said:

    Dot. Dot. Dot.

    I have no words.

    Please don’t tell me Romilly will only find true love in a lesbian relationship. I mean, I know it’s a personal thing and all that, but the way this book is going….

    Eh, who am I kidding. It’ll be one more soapbox MZB gets to bash us over the head with, if my guess is right.

  4. Tolly on 8 March 2010, 17:03 said:

    smacks MZB wih a frozen trout Sorry, Marion, but you brought this on yourself. smack smack smack

    Most porn is more realistic than this book, and that just ain’t right.

  5. ProserpinaFC on 8 March 2010, 17:07 said:

    … Excellent title, dude. XD

    NSFW times < 9000

  6. dorotea on 8 March 2010, 17:08 said:

    “homosexuals are better/more empathic/have better dress sense/are more loving”

    Really? this is just been politically correct. All the gay men I have met are whinny, anoying,“I wish I was a woman because I could be a whore and make money without working/ be a housewife”, but if I complain i’m homophobic.

  7. Danielle on 9 March 2010, 13:03 said:

    You know, I’m starting to think this book would’ve been more interesting if Romilly had actually been a guy. And not because I want to read a near-homosexual-rape scene, but because….well, as a girl, Romilly kind of pisses me off. But if she were really a guy who believed women should be independent and develop their talents, I think that would be a vast improvement.

  8. Snow White Queen on 10 March 2010, 22:59 said:

    “I wish I was a woman because I could be a whore and make money without working/ be a housewife”

    Well, all the gay people I’ve met happen to be politically active, intelligent people. I sincerely doubt that the majority of gay people would say such things, except maybe as a joke.

    I think the problem here is not that MZB treats homosexuality positively, but that she believes she has to put down heterosexuality to get her point across. This absolutism about practically everything is what really makes this book unbearable to read.

  9. Asahel on 13 March 2010, 14:30 said:


    The reason many feudal Japanese considered homosexual love to be superior to heterosexual love is actually very sexist. Men are superior to women; therefore, a romance between two men is superior to any romance that involves a woman.

  10. Zombie on 16 December 2010, 18:57 said:

    Wait, wait, wait.

    Of course, she would see homosexuals as better: less dirty, filthy, evul men pawing her innocent, perfect, kind woman superiorness.