Last chapter, ZOMBIES. Also Holok being annoying.
This chapter, Yushuv and some reminiscing.
Yushuv kept to the swamps and meadows as much as he could. Panic whispered in his ear that the Hunt would be coming back for him, and that he’d do well to avoid the road when they did.
So Yushuv does the most logical thing imaginable – he continues to travel right next to the road, but not on it. So he’s still right there for the murdering when they head back, but he’s moving slower now. Brilliant, Yushuv!
To the book’s credit, it does explain why he does this instead of heading away from the road completely. He really wants to find Malaky so he can get the dagger, and he doesn’t know if the guy might be on the road going in the other direction right now. You know, every time I type that I want to spell it Malarkey, which is fitting for a character whose only purpose seems to be as a speedbump on the plot.
You can see what the book wants to do here, it’s just not managing it. It can’t convince me the dagger matters, of course, but it can’t even convince me Yushuv thinks the dagger matters – he’s doing this because he had a dream mentioning it. Thus far, no actual reason has been given for why he needs to get the damn thing back, nor why he couldn’t take the sword initially. And now it’s failing yet again to have Yushuv react intelligently.
If he’s trying to get to the dagger before the Wyld Hunt react him, he should be prioritizing speed. That means the road. If he’s more interested in hiding, he should make an effort at navigating without its help, because if he’s close enough he’s following it he’s more than close enough for the Hunt to find him, and he should just know this – the Hunt’s power is legendary. If, because he’s a kid and he’s not really used to this, he tries to go down the road as much as possible but keeps running into the forest every time he thinks he hears or sees something, slowing him down, that would be completely acceptable. But roads are roads for a reason, you travel better on them. This came up in Lord of the Rings, so you’d think it’d be properly ingrained into fantasy writer’s psyches, but no, all they remember are elves and dwarves, not the time the hobbits considered that the road was curving too much so why not take a short cut through that patch of marsh?
Short cuts make long delays, the book explained. I remember this and I was maybe seven. Come on! How much of that book was just about how much traveling sucked? How can you forget that sort of thing?
Anyway, now to hear about Malaky. Yushuv thinks back to when the guy would visit. It’s…utterly, utterly stock. Like all travelers who deal with children, he tells stories and therefore the kids like him. Naturally, these tales are partly true and partly just to sound exciting. One of the things he talks about is about children who run off and get caught by slavers and sold to the fae. You know, he could have condensed that to caught by fae, it’s not like the only reason they have people to chew on is because of slavery. Sure, guilty conscience, but there’s no need to downplay the fae.
Yushuv’s father had told him, rather too emphatically, that the factor’s stories were only stories
You’d think a parent would be in favor of stories about how kids who run off have terrible things happen to them. That was a staple of early parenting. I can only imagine it would be more so in a world that actually had brain eating chaos fairies and not just poisonous snakes.
Yushuv knows the truth because when he was really young, he asked an exceptionally drunk Malaky about it.
“Are the stories true? Do the Fair Folk really do that to people?”
Malaky had cracked one eye open and gazed up at him with an expression Yushuv couldn’t recognize. “No,” he finally croaked. “They do something worse.”
Then he realizes five year olds probably don’t want the details of that, because he doesn’t say more no matter what Yushuv asks.
What the fae do to you actually depends on which virtue/emotion they feed off, although even the nicer option still involves your brain being slowly hollowed out.
Anyway, this is really just a retread of Wren’s previous bit about how horrible selling slaves to the fae is.
Malaky had left town early the next morning, and didn’t return for almost a year. Yushuv’s father had looked oddly at his son for some time after that, but never said a word.
Why? Because Yushuv is just very special, and therefore not only must have been involved in Malaky’s comings and goings, but other people must have noticed. Bah.
Yushuv suddenly realizes that while Malaky always comes back, he also stays in the towns. That it took Yushuv this long to realize this says bad things about his intellect. Anyway, he belatedly realizes that if he keeps going along, skipping towns, he might pass by them. He’ll have to actually go in and ask about the HAHAHA no that would involve Yushuv having normal human contact. No, he’s going to camp out on the road! The road the Wyld Hunt will be going back down to find him. Best plan
It was not until much later that Yushuv wondered if the plan had indeed been his own
The question of who else could be this stupid will have to go unanswered, as that’s the end of the chapter.
Let’s recap what plot we have so far.
Ratcatcher and company travel to a random burial mound because the Prince of Shadows wants to defile a grave and doesn’t even know it’s empty. Wren was also traveling there and also didn’t know it was empty. For no reason, he sets a ton of deathtraps in there and then signs his name. Peeved, Princy tells Ratcatcher to go find Wren.
Meanwhile, someone divining for anathema gets a deathsplosion over a different grave. Ketchup Carjack is informed and cares for some reason.
Ratcatcher, instead of finding Wren, decides to wander to the ass end of nowhere, which is the same spot as the deathsplosion. He finds Yushuv, who earlier found a +1 dagger, then kills everybody else. Yushuv ends up exalting 1/4th of the way into the book as our first Solar, in what looks like some unusually speedy plot.
Then, the Prince tells Ratcatcher to report back to him. Ratcatcher has, at this point, accomplished 0/1 goals. Instead of pointing this out, he’s sent back to go do what he was supposed to do, and then also to investigate the thing he stumbled upon and then left.
Yushuv wanders around shooting rabbits. A random god thing attacks him. He “tricks” it into being stuck there.
Ratcatcher hunts down the +1 dagger person by person by tedious person, because that’s not a colossal waste of time. He stumbles over Wren along the way.
Holok is sent by Ketchup to investigate the second grave. He passes by Yushuv. Yushuv meets a crow who says he’s awesome.
Holok finds the grave and just knows he needs to hunt down Yushuv. Also, our first exalt vs exalt fight, theoretically.
Yushuv decides to stop walking around not doing anything in favor of sitting around not doing anything.
And that brings us to now.
We are now more than three-fouths done with this book! Amazing, isn’t it? So many POV characters. So much D&D. So little happening.
From a D&D standpoint, I believe this has shown all of two interesting features – the idea of priests who throw fireballs, seen with Holok just recently, and the idea of randomly getting marked as demonic even when you’re not and having to deal with it. There’s no sign of the fact this is supposed to be a high magic setting and almost all of this is taking place in genetic fantasyland rather than Creation. It is doing a terrible, terrible job of actually selling the game it’s meant to.
From a writing standpoint, well, fantasy is known for wandering bullshit and lots of chapters that are just there to expound on the setting, and you can see the shape of that here, but instead of exposition it’s full of empty holes. You can really see how much the story is relying on the worldbuilding to carry it along when it’s not there. Every time the author has a chance to talk about one of the fun unique things about Creation, he papers the gap over with generic fantasyland instead. He’s not familiar enough with the setting to reference it, but he can’t make up anything interesting himself because he can’t introduce anything new either. And without that, all we’re left with are people running around with petty or inscrutable goals. There have been two bits of anything halfway impressive so far – the bone-filled tomb, where I don’t think the book really gets across how epic the battle probably was (it’s easy to forget that she wasn’t leading a battle but fighting an entire army singlehandedly when half the ghosts seem to be on her side) and the Labyrinth, and nightmarish hellscapes have been done in fantasy for some time now.
Anyway, this ends up making the whole million characters thing of fantasy just look silly, because while fantasy regularly has cardboard characters, they’re usually from diverse backgrounds. Here, everyone seems the same. We have regular peasant boy, but we’ve also got Holok hamming it up as a peasant despite being over a thousand years old, and Wren being down to earth as well, and the random farmer Ratcatcher kills. All the Abyssals are pretty similar, Ratcatcher’s just the one who’s treated as sucky by the rest. Neleh is solely there to tell us Holok’s more impressive – the fact she’s Dragonblooded and from a Realm house (apparently, air-aspect) has no bearing on anything, we don’t even know what house it is. No court intrigues there! And she doesn’t care much about her dead comrade from the zombie attack, or even feel nervousness she might be next if others like her could be cut down like that.
A lot of this has the feel of an outline, where the first thing to come to mind was put down and no revision happened. There’s a truly ridiculous amount of people deciding to do things that ultimately don’t matter and just take up page space. For example, it will not matter than Yushuv decided to camp out by the road.
That, in turn, wraps around to what I like about this book. It’s artless, you can see the strings. Were this a better book, we’d be distracted by things like good writing and intriguing worldbuilding. Complaints that chapters had no real point but to spend time in a different character’s head would be muffled by the fact I wanted to spend time with the character.
Anyway, as is standard in fantasy, the author hasn’t a clue how to pace his writing, and figures he can rely on fantasy being all about trilogy+ books to pace this as if it’s the opening chapters of a longer work. Things will come to somewhat of a head now and rush toward a non-ending continued in the next book.