Chapter 3:

When we last saw Shadrael, he had just entered a portal to the Hidden Ways, although he didn’t know who created the portal, what his or her intentions are, or where it really leads. Maybe the author wants to show his familiarity with these “Hidden Ways”, but I don’t think placing yourself in someone else’s power is something that Commanders seem to do very often. Hell, even if you knew how portals worked, would you step in one that just randomly appeared out of nowhere?

Anyways, Shadrael bumbles along the Hidden Ways. Of course, as in any fantasy travel, we can’t miss out on descriptions of the landscape, so there they are in all their glory—caves with imprints of demons, rocks that burn, etc., etc., oh, and why are my eyes really glazing over, hmm.

In any case, he comes to an open area of emptiness and meets up with some guy. Apparently this guy’s name is Urmaeor, and Shadrael knows him from sometime in the past (even though he didn’t recognise the voice initially, or whose messenger it was). Blah blah on their history, etc., etc., Urmaeor is pretty much the equivalent of a dark cleric or somesuch, and technically they used to be on the same side. Hooray.

To make a long story short, Urmaeor’s boss, Lord Barthel, who happens to be the new chief of the Vindicants (some DARK AND EVUL priesthood or the other) has heard of what Shadrael is going to do from him summoning his army together. Since the Vindicants stand a lot to gain (exactly what isn’t stated) from having Purity Sue in their possession, Urmaeor wants Shadrael to work for them instead of Vordachai and hand Purity Sue over to them after the kidnapping. However, Shadrael doesn’t want to do that, since he believes the shadow gods are gone for good and working in their name isn’t going to achieve anything. Of course, Urmaeor can’t have that, so he attempts to coerce Shadrael to his side with the following: physical pain, mind control, temptation, bribery with offers from their hoard of shadow magic and a soul, claiming his brother will betray him once Shadrael’s side of the job is done, appealing to his sense of revenge.

And Shadrael, the guy who just killed someone with DARK MAJEEKS for disrespecting him last chapter, sits through all of it without so much as storming off. Oh well. Don’t look at me like that; I’m not writing the prose, I merely relate what happens therein. The whole thing sort of reminds me of the much-maligned scene in the Gold Brick between Galbatorix and Oromis—gee, you don’t threaten and poke people when you’re trying to use words to convince them to your side. Eventually, Shadrael has had enough and leaves the Hidden Ways by opening a portal,and that ends the chapter.

Wow, that was fast.

Chapter 4:

At long last, we get to see our female lead: the princess Lea E’non. Yes, this is probably highly personal and a nitpick, but extrapolation from previous experience leads me to believe that names with apostrophes in them which do not have sufficient cultural backing from other, similar names in the conworld give me the willies. So sue me for not wanting to see another Xy’wipopo’lion ever again.

Whatever the case, she’s being carted in a rather luxurious litter with an armed escort. Of course, this means that she must bemoan her fate despite living in the lap of luxury:

“It made no sense to her why she had to stay out of sight while they travelled through these small towns dotting the banks of the Parnase River, when two weeks ago she’d been allowed to ride her cream-coloured gelding along a road lined with cheering villagers.

Imperial politics. She frowned impatiently. ‘Sit here. Eat this,’ she muttered aloud. ‘Ride out of sight. No, today wave to the crowds. Don’t smile. Smile with your utmost charm. Be friendly. Be aloof. Bah!’” (pg. 47)

All right. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? I can understand that the intention of this outburst is supposed to portray the princess as a honest and direct person and hence endear us to her, but with a little more thought applied, it does the exact same opposite. The situation’s vaguely reminiscent of the whole “I am a princess who is forced into an arranged marriage woe is me” complaint common throughout the genre, which essentially involves wanting all the perks of being a princess (such as living in the lap of luxury, or more specifically in this case, silk-lined leather curtains and soft cushions) without any of the responsibilities of being an important political figure. It doesn’t help here that the things she’s complaining about are trivial, and only serve to make her look like an utterly spoilt brat.

Of course, no travelling scene would be complete without a description of the landscape, so we patiently stop and wait while we get two paragraphs devoted to how nice and cool and clear and pristine and so forth the landscape is. Then her litter gets stuck in “an enormous bog of mud and cinder” where the road should be. Why her escort didn’t notice it before her litter got mired is a mystery to me, but it gives the author a lovely excuse to describe her escort, down to the colour of their livery and the history of their regiment. All right, fine. Whatever. Anyways, it seems that she has to get out, and so the leader of her escort, a guy named Thirbe carries her out over the mud—but not before we get a paragraph of description about him, too. Of course, while this is happening, note that “Every man who happened to glance in her direction smiled and nodded respectfully.” (pg. 49)

Yeeeeah, right. Because everyone who’s good loves you. Excuse me while I get out my sandvich:

Nom nom nom, om nom. Nothing like fresh lettuce and tomato to wipe away the bad taste of Sue. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if it’d just been that, but no. Once Purity Sue is on the ground, she goes hoppity-skip like someone who’s had one too many yellow-spotted mushrooms:

“Lea smiled back cheerfully, and no sooner did her red leather boots touch the ground than she was twirling around in excitement.

‘What is this place? what a pretty little valley. It looks leagues away from—’” (Pgs. 49-50)

I don’t know about you, but the only reason for twirling in excitement I consider acceptable is if you’re dancing. How many reasonably sane young women have you seen twirling while excited? I don’t know about you, but if a prospective date were twirling in excitement, I’d write her off as 1) on drugs, 2) an airhead, or 3) having had a lobotomy.

The problem with this sort of activity is that it makes her look like an airhead and completely idiotic and naïve, which, by the way, are not typical traits of someone who is potentially an enormous political bargaining chip in the hands of an enemy. They are also not traits of someone who has been brought up in your standard fantasy court intrigue. And finally, it is clobbering me over the head with the fact that Purity Sue is a Purity Sue, and I do not like being clobbered over the head with anything whatsoever.

For the record, this is not the last time she goes hoppity-skip, and is one of the mildest cases. The way things are going, I’m expecting rainbows and hearts to erupt from her bosom later on.

In any case, Purity Sue and Thirbe sit and chat awhile as they wait for the litter to be pulled free. This goes on for two pages and has a lot of pointless moaning on Thirbe’s part, so I’ll just cut to the salient points:

—They’re on this road because scouts from the escort reported there was a fire in a village along their original route. Where these scouts are now and why they didn’t report the road=mud incident is unknown.

—Purity Sue spots a potential shortcut, off in the distance, a very old road which even Thirbe doesn’t know anything about.

—Purity Sue is ridiculously sweet and chirpy throughout the whole bloody conversation, happily welcoming heavy snowfall and refusing a tent and fire without regard to the very real possibility of frostbite. This is doubly puzzling when she claims she was born within sight of a glacier, which should only impress upon people the importance of staying warm in cold conditions.

Of course, despite Thirbe’s reservations, she’s intent on making time with the wondrous new shortcut she’s discovered. Because y’know, people who take shortcuts never have anything bad happen to them. Of course, Thirbe is all “that place gives me the creeps”, so Purity Sue asks him if there’s anything more to his feelings than a “feeling”, so to speak. When Thirbe has to admit that there isn’t, she goes all “I am strong wimminz and not fragile” and “cold will not kill me”. Again, it only reinforces the impression of her as a spoilt brat who gets everything she wants one way or another. It doesn’t make her a “strong woman”, in any sense of the term. Of course, the whole conversation is peppered with bits of repulsiveness on these lines:

“Her laughter rang out merrily, causing several people to look in her direction.” (Pg. 52)

I think we should rename this book “Everyone who is Good loves Purity Sue.” Seriously. It’s like every single male in the whole bloody universe is attracted to her, and if you aren’t you’re Evil or otherwise corrupt and flawed. I think the following can sum up my feelings at this moment:

…yeah. Thirbe protests some more, but Lea’s all “I will have my way”, in a completely non-aggressive manner that yet has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with plot contrivance and people magically agreeing with her:

“‘Should we turn back?’ she asked.

He nodded, to her disappointment, but said, “I’d prefer it. but we’ve gone nearly a day this way. If the road hasn’t been cut ahead of us, and so far the scouts don’t report such, then I suppose it’s better to keep going than lose another day retracing our steps.” (pg. 53)

No, you idiot. The emperor might be ticked at you bringing his sister to his destination a little late, but he’s not going to be happy if you get there without his sister at all, you idiot. With matters of import such as these, it’s better to err on the side of caution and not let the princess waltz off without most of her escort on the pretext that they need to make time—

—oh, wait. It’s just an excuse to get rid of the escort so she can be kidnapped and start a whole bloody romance with Mr. Broken Man. Yeah, yeah, yup. Seen it all before. In any case, she and a reluctant Thirbe abandon the escort and putter along when one of the captains from the party catches up with her. Of course, said captain is clean:

“No mud splattered the shining perfection of his boots, for he’d been riding at the head of their column all day.”

Is a horrible misogynist:

“It’s one thing to ride for exercise, Lady Lea, but to travel so far for the rest of the day will only fatigue and chill you unnecessarily.”

“Why have you created this myth that I am fragile?” Lea asked.

“All the finest ladies are agreeably fragile.”

“I will not break, Captain, and I can withstand the cold as well as anyone.” (pg. 54)

So on and so forth. To be honest though, the misogynistic exchange aside, everything the captain says or does could be reasonably construed as having concern for Purity Sue, since if she goes missing it’ll probably be his head, but of course we all know he’s CLEAN and EVIL. Then again, what Purity Sue wants, Purity Sue gets—which brings us back to the point of her being a selfish bastard who really refuses to consider the needs and wants of others who don’t happen to be designated as Good or being love interests.

I won’t dally through this pointless exchange, but eventually Purity Sue and Thirbe break free of the captain and run off into the Great Beyond, but not before she gives the captain this wonderful bit of advice:

She held up a hand to silence him. “I suggest that in addition to a pry pole, your men try laying bundles of sticks across the bog, so that once my litter is free the other wagons don’t stick in the same spot. (pg. 55)

You see, suddenly I’m reminded of an episode of Talespin (oh, to be a kid in the 90s with actual GOOD cartoons instead of the tween crap that’s on nowadays) where Baloo gets injured and can’t fly the Seaduck, and Rebecca, his boss, is convinced she can replace him just because she’s his boss. And there Baloo is sitting in the co-pilot/navigator’s seat, while she lectures him on the basics of flying out of a do-it-yourself book she bought. The Disney animators damn well did a good job on Baloo’s facial expressions.

But what I’m getting at is that telling someone obviously more experienced than you how to do his or her job, especially the basics, is a very big insult. This applies doubly when s/he was every reason to be familiar with the nuances, and you don’t. And when Purity Sue makes this sort of snide remark AND the author expects us to believe in Purity Sue’s wonderful goodness in rainbows and puppies through crapping rainbows and puppies instead of actually applying said goodness where it counts—

—oh wait, the captain is EVIL and MISOGYNISTIC. You can do whatever shit you want to him and not have a twinge of actual conscience. My bad.

Blargh. Chapter end.

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Comment

  1. RandomX2 on 31 August 2009, 00:17 said:

    There’s no way you can go through the whole book. You’re crazy! CRAZY I tells ya!

    Liking it, though. ‘Specially the heavy.

    “Oh wait, the captain is EVIL and MISOGYNISTIC. You can do whatever shit you want to him and not have a twinge of actual conscience. My bad.”

    Win comment is win.

  2. swenson on 31 August 2009, 00:45 said:

    Hahaha, you are a very brave person. But can even the Sandvich protect you from this… horror?

  3. sansafro187 on 31 August 2009, 01:57 said:

    What book is this? I haven’t been keeping up with the main site since I joined the boards.

    I kinda want to dropkick that princess. Not just because she’s annoying(which would probably be reason enough anyway) but because she makes me question my own rebellious princess character :/

  4. Virgil on 31 August 2009, 12:18 said:

    Excellent work. :D

  5. Danielle on 31 August 2009, 12:57 said:

    “However, Shadrael doesn’t want to do that, since he believes the shadow gods are gone for good and working in their name isn’t going to achieve anything.”

    Okaaayyy….so…why is he still praying to them? Why is he still using their majeek as if they’ll be back any day? Seems to me that Shadrael thinks they’ll be back any minute and is only PRETENDING to think the opposite when the plot requires it of him.

  6. SMARTALIENQT on 1 September 2009, 15:43 said:

    “Her laughter rang out merrily, causing several people to look in her direction.”

    I’d look at someone twirling around and laughing, too. I mean, how often do you get to look at someone in power act like a five-year-old on a sugar high?

    Nice post!

  7. dragonarya on 1 September 2009, 22:57 said:

    Good article. Got my daily snark.
    I think Purity Sue has MPD. I mean, one moment she’s twirling and the next bossing subordinates around? Geeze.
    Also, fresh lettuce and tomato FTW!

  8. Chant on 10 January 2010, 23:47 said:

    Are you going to keep up these reviews? They’re very entertaining :)