Chapter 8:

This chapter is forty pages long. I have neither the energy nor the patience to put up with so much stupid in one go, so I’m going to break this into two parts.

When we last left Romilly, she’d met Dom Carlo while blubbering along a mountain road, and gotten taken in to help care for the animals with them. Right of at the beginning of the chapter, we get an attack of the Designated Misogynistic Bastard. Oh, and now he’s a homophobe as well, it seems:

The one called Alaric, a heavy glowering man, roughly clad, was the one she feared most, but she could not avoid him completely, and in any case, he must have had some feeling for the sentry-birds, he had carried one of them on that crude perch before his saddle.

“Excuse me,” said Romilly politely, “but you must go out and kill something for the sentry-birds; if it is killed this morning, by night it will be beginning to decay, and be right for them to eat.”

“Oh, so,” snarled the man, “so after one night with our good leader you now think yourself free to give orders to men who’ve been with him this whole hungry year? Which of them had you, or did they take turns at you, little catamite?”

Shocked by the crudeness of the insult, Romilly recoiled, her face flaming. “You’ve no right to say that to me: Dom Carlo put me in charge of the birds and bade me see they were properly fed, and I obey the vai dom as you do yourself!”

“Aye, I may say so,” the man sneered, “maybe you’d like to put that pretty girl-face and those little ladylike hands to—” and the rest of the words were so foul that Romilly literally did not understand what he meant by them, and was perfectly sure she did not want to know. Clinging to what dignity she could—she honestly did not know how one of her brothers would have reacted to such foulness except, perhaps, by drawing a knife, and she was not big enough to fight on even terms with the giant Alaric—she said, “perhaps if the vai dom himself gives you his orders you will take them,” and moved away, clenching her teeth and her whole face tightly against the tears that threatened to explode through her taut mouth and eyes. Damn him. Damn him! I must not cry, I must not… (Pg. 534-535)

So what does Romilly do? Why, she goes over to Dom Carlo, and he quickly surmises the problem and goes off to punish Alaric. While she claims to not want trouble it’s as clear as day that Dom Carlo would obviously notice and shortly surmise the problem, and that if she’d really wanted to avoid trouble she’d have avoided Dom Carlo altogether.

So Romilly goes out and does all the supposedly amazing falconry stuff that she’s been doing in the last few chapters, mainly getting feathers and petting the birds on their bellies (as explained, pointless because it’s perfectly all right to pet birds on their bellies with your fingers) and flying them on lures made with bits of meat on string (again pointless, because it a) is for falcons, not hawks and b) the whole point of the dried-out-wings lure is to help the falcon rcognise prey and sharpen instincts). That, however, is not before we get this wonderful little piece of shite:

Oh, but her father was so wrong, then, so wrong, and she had been right, to insist on this precious and wonderful Gift with which she had been dowered; to ignore it, to misuse it, to play at it, untrained—oh, that was wrong, wrong! (Pg. 536)

It would be nice if I could have been receptive to this paper-thin call for young women to develop their talents. It’s a good principle. However, thanks to the execution and characterisation of the characters in the book, all I can think is of:

1. Know-it-all.

“First, you must be convinced of your own self-importance, and you must be under the delusion that everyone else is an idiot except for you. It helps to be a college student, so you should all do just fine.”

And a nice “all men are evil” diatribe:

Remembering Rory, Romilly wondered if there were any men anywhere, alive, who were motivated by anything other than malice and lust and hatred. She had through, in boy’s clothing, she would be safe at least from lust; but even here, among men, she found its ugly face. Her father? Her brothers? Alderic? Well, her father would have sold her to Dom Garris for his own convenience. Alderic and her brothers? She really did not know them at all, for they would not have shown their real face to a girl whom they considered a child. No doubt they too were all evil within. Setting her teeth grimly, Romilly put the saddle on her horse, and went about saddling the other horses for Orain and Dom Carlo. Her prescribed duties demanded only that she care for birds, but as things were now, she preferred the company of horses to the company of humankind! (Pg. 537)

If I may hazard a guess, I suppose that our dear author has not observed wild horses. Or any animals, because they do a hundred billion things that we humans would consider immoral. Anyways, I reiterate:

1. Know-it-all.

“First, you must be convinced of your own self-importance, and you must be under the delusion that everyone else is an idiot except for you. It helps to be a college student, so you should all do just fine.”

In any case, Dom Carlo goes up to Romilly and commends her for her wonderful care of the horses, and talks at length about them. In short, he likes horses, so he is good. They ride for one more day and camp for the night, and Alaric is even more TEH EBIL:

Orain gave orders to the men that they should groom and properly care for their riding-chervines. They obeyed sullenly, but they obeyed; Romilly heard one of them grumble, “while we have that damned hawk-boy with us, why can’t he care for the beasts? Ought to be his work, not ours!”

“Not likely, when Orain’s already made the brat his own pet,” Alaric grumbled. “Birds be damned—the wretch is with us for Orain’s convenience, not the birds! You think the Lord Carlo will deny his paxman and friend anything he wants?” (Pg. 539)

He does not like Romilly, so he is evil. Yes, that’s even if mitigating factors are added—as we will see later. It’s a matter much like Evil King in Bitterwood loving his son—one white spot against a sea of black does nothing, and frankly at that point a completely black picture and an ability to laugh it off as a caricature or shifty-eyed Disney villain would have been nice.

But of course, nothing can be easy for us.

However, Romilly begins sneezing the next day, and Dom Carlo notices this:

“I hope you have not taken cold, my boy.” (Pg 539)

Again, Romilly claims she doesn’t want to be a bother, but Dom Carlo will have none of it and brews up a tea from…you guessed it…HERBS:

She sneezed again, and Orain gestured to the pot still hanging over the fire, not yet emptied. He dipped up a ladleful of he hot brew and took some leaves from his pouch.

“An old wives’ rememdy for the cough that’s better than any healer’s brew. Drink it.,” he said, and watched while she gulped at the foul-tasting stuff. “Aye, it’s bitter as lost love, but it drives out the fever.”

Romilly grimaced at the acrid, musty-tasting stuff; it made her lush with inner heat, and left her mouth puckered with its intense astringency, but later that morning, she realized that she had not sneezed again, and that the dripping of her nose had abated. (Pg. 540)

Uh-huuuuh. Someone found a cure for the common cold! Call the patent office! Call it right now! In any case, Romilly strikes up a conversation with Orain, and learns why Alaric’s a Designated Misogynistic Bastard:

Alaric is bitter, aye—know you what was his crime? The crime for which he lost his lands, and was flung into Rakhal’s prison under sentence of losing a hand and his tongue?”

Romilly shuddered. “For such a sentence it must have been a great crime indeed!”

“Only before that cagavrezu Rakhal,” said Orain grimly, “his crime? His children shouted ‘long live King Carolin!’ as one of Rakhal’s greatest scoundrels passed by their village.” (Pg. 541)

So Alaric lost his wife and children, and that’s supposed to explain his douchebaggery. Which it frankly doesn’t. As I’ve said before, it’s not that uncommon for some authors to try and put on tiny blob of white against a sea of black or vice versa, and then try to claim their character is complex and well-developed when that explanation doesn’t usually even have any bearing on the decisions and actions of the character that wouldn’t have been there if the spot of white or black had been removed. It’s what’s commonly known as the “but Hitler was an artist!” syndrome. It doesn’t change the character’s actions, or his or her current or overall purpose in the sense of the story. It’s like making a character not be good at playing the ukelele and claiming that’s a valid character fault when the story has nothing to do with playing ukeleles.

So anyways, Romilly asks whether all of the Hastur Dynasty are bastards, but of course, the TURE KEENG is Good:

“By no means,” Orain said vehemently. “A better man than Carolin never trod this earth; his only fault is that he thought no evil toward those of his kin who were scoundrels, and was all too kind and forgiving toward—” his mouth stretched in what should have been a smile, “bastards with ambition.” (Pg. 542)

And long ago, the dragon riders were great and good and could do no wrong, until this evil and ambitious bastard…oh wait, where have I heard this before? Oh yes. In any case, they enter the city and seek refuse at the monastery’s guesthouse, where no women are allowed. What does Romilly have to think about this? Oh, wait, it’s a male-exclusive community, so it’s automatically Bad and has to be rubbished:

It would create a greater scandal if she now revealed her real sex. And she wondered why women were so strongly prohibited. Did the monks fear that if women were there they could not keep to their vows of renunciation? What good were their vows, if they could not resist women unless they never saw any? And why did they think women would care to tempt them anyhow? Looking at the lumpy little monk in the cowl, she thought, with something perilously near a giggle, that it would take more charity than even a saint, to overlook his ugliness long enough to try and tempt him! (Pg. 543)

By this logic, in order to study effectively, one should place oneself next to a rock band and if you can’t concentrate, that’s your lack of concentration speaking. And of course, all men save the enlgihtened ones who let Romilly do what she likes are really sex-crazed freaks who can only think with the head between their legs, and they’re all stupid and ugly anyways, so you wouldn’t want them.

If this book is to be believed, it’s impossible to raise up women without tearing down men. Which is bullshit.

In any case, we get another little drabble that just goes to show the true nature of the so-called amazing and loving relationship between Romilly and her bird:

She realized that she had lost contact with Preciosa before they entered the gates of Nevarsin; the climate here was too cold for a hawk…had Preciosa turned back to a more welcoming climate? The hawk could find no food in the city…there was carrion enough in the streets, she supposed from the smell, but no fresh living food for a hawk. She hoped Preciosa was safe…(Pg. 544)

What. The. Hell. It’s only been two or three days’ ride since her stupid bird brought her noms, and suddenly the climate’s turned too cold for her to handle? What is this, did they cross over some magical line and suddenly it’s all cold and wintery, like in World of Warcraft when you cross zones?

And it’s just so obvious that the bird vanishes when she doesn’t need it anymore. This doesn’t happen with Steven Zoltan Brust, because amazingly, Vlad actually cares about what happens to Loiosh, and not just the other way around. They come to compromises, not demands, and Vlad does his best to bring Loiosh everywhere he goes over the protests of the more humanoid, simply because it’s the right thing to do and he’s actually treating his familiar as an equal, rather than an emotional tampon or tacked on bonus power.

Blah.

Anyways, Romilly heads back to the birds, and a few children are hanging about her. One of them, a boy of about eleven, walks up and asks if he can watch the birds, and knows Romilly is a girl. Amazing! How can he see through her paper-thin disguise when everyone else is drunk and blind?

Why, he’s magic of course:

Would anyone? Romilly wondered, and then asked herself why the clear eyes of this child had seen what no one else could see. He answered the unspoken thought.

“I am trained to that as you are trained to handle hawks and other birds: So that, one day, I may serve my people in a Tower as a laranzu.” (Pg. 545)

Anyways, the boy’s also a member of the Royal Family, his father being a councillor to the EVVVIL KEENG. Romilly hurriedly realises she must shield her thoughts from the telepathic boy, and how does she do so? By introducing him to the birds, of course:

He held her, struggling to keep his small arm from trembling, and she handed him a feather.

“Stroke her breast with this. Never touch a bird with your hand; even if your hands are clean, it will damage their set of feathers,” she said, and he stroked the bird’s smooth breast with the feather, crooning to it softly. (Pg. 546)

I’ve already explained why the above is abject stupidity, and won’t go into it again. It’s just more proof that MZB hardly did any research about how REAL falconry works, and instead just went along with dribs, drabs and half-understandings. This is further proven when she gets the boy to feed them:

“I have mostly finished,” Romilly said, “but if you wish, you can mix this green stuff and gravel with their food. But if you touch the carrion, your hands, will stink when you go to choir.” (Pg 547)

Sigh

Anyways, she asks the boy what his name is, and even then we get a big punch in the face over how NOBLE and GOOD the REEL KING was, because he liked children and therefore must be good. I’ll admit to having used this before, albeit more subtly, but…ugh, I’ll let you see for yourself:

“I am called Caryl,” the boy said. “I was named for the man who was king when I was born, only Father says that Carolin is not a good name to have now. Carolin was king, but he abused his power, they said, and was a bad king, so his cousin Rakhal had to take the throne. But he was kind to me.”

In any case, after the boy’s gone, Romilly muses about why she should bother who sits on the throne, but thinks about how nice Alderic and Dom Carlo, who is TOTALLY NOT THE REAL KING, were to her, and that she should tell Dom Carlo so that maybe he can tell the REEL KING to stay away from this boy whose father is reputedly one of the EVIL KING’s biggest bastards around, and so off she goes. She can’t find Dom Carlo, but Orain’s around, and informs her that his boss is in meeting with the abbot and won’t be out for some time. So she tells him instead, and of course, Romilly is a Sue and that means that her perceptions are identical to reality:

“The boy is but twelve,” protested Romilly, “’ [sic] and seems a nice child; he spoke well of the king, and said he had always been kind—but he might know him—” (Pg. 548)

A triple quotation mark? What the—oh well, it’s not my place to question the GREAT MZB’s copyeditor, is it? Anyways, Orain agrees that this is an important development and he’ll inform Dom Carlo at once, because he is TOTALLY NOT THE REAL KING.

So, given this important danger to the king’s real identity while he is in hiding, what does Orain do? Ask for an interruption, given the serious nature of this threat? Wait outside the abbot’s door for him to come out, should he end the meeting early? Why, they go into the city to have a fun time, of course:

As if dismissing the thought deliberately, he bent and picked up the much-patched boots. “Take these into the city—and lest you get lost, I’ll come along and show you the way.” (Pg. 550)

So they go around the city, which fills up FIVE pages of filler. FIVE WHOLE PAGES OF FILLER. How the city looks, the sights, the smells, which would have been relevant if Romilly had actually interacted with anything, but no, it’s just there to look pretty. Romilly does NOTHING throughout these five pages, or at least, anything proactive; she just follows Orain around and listens to him monologue about the past and people. She has no wants or interests despite this being her first time in a big city, through the cobbler’s, through the landmarks of Nevarsin, through the inn he takes her to and teaches her to play darts in—it’s almost as if she’s a passive vehicle for—

—Wait a minute, what am I saying? She’s always been a passive vehicle, be it for the author’s soapboxings or gratituous descriptions of the setting. Why should I be surprised? In any case, they have dinner at the inn, and of course, they hear the locals talk. And because peasants are earthy and good, everyone knows that whatever they speak is the truth, and in this case there’s a lot of banter but it can be surmised as such:

1. The REEL KEENG is GOOD.
2. The EVUL KEENG is BAAD.
3. Caryl’s dad is BAAD.

And with that, I’ll end this half of the chapter, because I seriously don’t want to go on any further.

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Comment

  1. Nate Winchester on 27 February 2010, 18:30 said:

    Uh-huuuuh. Someone found a cure for the common cold! Call the patent office! Call it right now!

    It’s actually Robitussin-.

    What does Romilly have to think about this? Oh, wait, it’s a male-exclusive community, so it’s automatically Bad and has to be rubbished:

    And she wondered why women were so strongly prohibited.

    But she doesn’t wonder at all about why men are prohibited in that Sisterhood of the Sword? Yay for double standards! < /sarcasm >

  2. fffan on 28 February 2010, 00:53 said:

    I hate it when animals are used to shove a plot along. Saphira, Precosia, Romilly’s horse and many more.

  3. Charlotte on 28 February 2010, 01:58 said:

    I’ve been enjoying these a great deal. I consider myself to be a feminist, but to me there is a big difference between being a strong female and being a whiny brat who turns down suitors scorns wearing dresses. Can’t wait for the next sporking.

  4. Charlotte on 28 February 2010, 01:59 said:

    Oops, missed an ‘an’ in there.

  5. Charlotte on 28 February 2010, 02:00 said:

    AND, that is. I think I need some sleep.

  6. Simple Arithmetics on 28 February 2010, 04:20 said:

    LMAO
    These reviews are getting angrier and angrier.
    So much ranting, using obscenities several times. D= The cartwheeling around the same issues and criticises the same thing over and over again. Misogyny, Mary Sue, animal companions, incorrect hawking, flat characters yada yada yada.

    IDK but me thinks, IMHO (and prolly not only IMHO) this kind of intense hate usually means one thing LOL:

    lccorp2 Has Fallen Madly Passionately IN LOVE,;P

    Apparently this book made him feel such strong emotions he is subconsciously enjoying it. << >>
    am I right?

    so when’s the wedding? LOL =D

  7. lookingforme on 28 February 2010, 13:13 said:

    And sometimes hate is pure, simple hate.

  8. Chant on 28 February 2010, 14:16 said:

    How do you stand to read these? How did this book get published??