Last time, the storm has arrived and yet Harry is still not dead.
Mac’s car was an ’89 TransAm, pure white, with a big eight-cylinder engine.
So it’s a mere ten years old. I guess you could say that if Harry’s able to be in a taxi for a single trip, and taxis are going to be younger than twenty years, then it’s possible Harry could make it a full trip without the machinery crapping out on him – even if he’s stressing it by speeding the whole way, even.
But that’s not the real question. The real question is, how is Mac able to keep it from crapping out on him? Is Mac a non-magic-user? If so, why does Harry need his car in particular? Is it because
The speedometer goes to 130 miles an hour. In places, I went past that. The falling rain made the roads dangerous at the speed I was driving, but I had plenty of incentive to keep the car moving as quickly as possible.
Another person might feel that driving very fast isn’t just dangerous to you but to the people around you, but Harry knows no one else is a person, so no worries there.
Also, if Harry can’t drive anything earlier than 1940s without risk of sudden mechanical failure, what are the odds the brakes even work at this point?
Most of the cars I saw had their headlights on, and streetlights were clicking alight as I barreled down the highway.
You know, the more society relies on technology, the more wizards harm society just by being near it.
We know lightbulbs “tend” to burn out around Harry. Let’s assume a mere 1% chance per minute.
If Harry passes 1000 streetlights, how many blow out?
How many broken streetlights before one causes an accident?
If Harry passes 1000 cars, how many headlights burn out?
How many brake lines start to leak?
I tried to tune in the weather station, on the radio, but gave it up. The storm, plus my own agitation, was creating a cloud of squealing feedback on the radio’s speakers
So apparently the radio (which has bugged out almost immediately every single time Harry’s been near one) in a ten year old car (fifty years past Harry’s limit) is only not working because of a combination of the storm itself and Harry’s emotions apparently supercharging the technology bane effect (but not so much anything else goes wrong in the car).
It’s like how no one meets Harry’s eyes at the pub because they want to stay out of it and aren’t a badass alpha male like Harry, not because no one meets other people’s eyes ever because soulgaze. None of the elements we’re given are ever meant to be part of an actual world. The story is written to our regular world and magic elements are inconsistently edited on top.
I hit the brakes to slow for the turn onto the lakefront road that led to the Sells house, started hydroplaning, turned into the slide with more composure and ability than I really should have had, and got the vehicle back under control in time to slide onto the correct road.
I wonder if the author thinks this all fits in the “physics which magic doesn’t argue with” box.
The TransAm slid to a halt in a shower of gravel and a roar of mighty engine, then sputtered and gasped into silence. I felt, for a giddy second and a half, like Magnum, P.I. Blue Beetle aside, I could get into this sports-car thing. At least it had lasted long enough for me to get to the Sells place. “Thanks, Mac,” I grunted, and got out of the car.
And now, the precise instant it no longer matters, apparently the entire thing self-destructs.
The storm loomed before me, rolling across the lake toward the shore-I could see columns of rain, dimly lit by the fading light, falling into its waters.
Okay, so the curve of the earth is such that the horizon is about three miles off. Therefore, if Harry can see rain hitting the water, the storm must be within that range. Ignoring land-to-stormbottom distance, thunderstorms can reach three times that tall. How can you power your spells with storms if your sphere of influence can barely reach the edge? Maybe thunderstorms are just so incredibly potent that even a tiny bit of it is enough to power spells, but in that case you could probably rule the world by tapping a power plant or two.
There could be magical traps or alarms strewn about, or spiritual or shrouded guardians invisible to the naked eye. There could be spells waiting, illusions meant to hide Victor Sells from anyone who came looking. I needed to be able to see past all that. I needed to have every scrap of knowledge I could get.
So I opened my Third Eye.
Okay, so, we’ll assume that it goes without saying that all of those invisible magical things also have their magic signature hidden from second sight. The fact Harry is making a big deal of third sight here proves he can’t have been using it when feeling storm magic energy back in the middle of the book, and he also stated he’d always know a magical practioner despite obviously not having his third sight on for the threeeye(tm) junkie, which means that all the stuff he’s mentioning now must be invisible to the always-on second sight magicians have.
On the one hand, that makes sense if you assume the biggest concern magicians have is other magicians, on the other, why wouldn’t a magician turn their third sight on too before entering? Obviously for your secret undead scorpions, the concealment is helpful – you could send one scuttling into a rival’s office deliberately, or leave them places you need defended that aren’t obvious. But while non-D&D folk don’t reflectively check for traps every step, anyone planning an assault is going to want to scope things out, so why bother hiding your base’s enchantments?
One option is that it’s really easy to put an extra drop of energy in to conceal it, so wizards just work that into their standard spell frame and use it for everything. Another is that second sight is a lot more common than third and he was worried about various non-wizards too. Bianca being a vampire seems like it’s semi-public knowledge (although it’d be pretty hilarious if this guy actually had no clue) and she’s something you’d want defenses against after blowing up one of her people. Fairies might be limited to second sight as well – and while he doesn’t seem to have anything that went off when they were spying on him, they also didn’t warn Harry about any traps, so he could have some traps set up but not armed. You figure fae are the sort of assholes who’d order their low-level minions to buzz places all the time and see what blew them up, so you’d want to keep your defenses from triggering until you had someone important to fry.
But anyway, third sight. Let’s hear about it.
It isn’t something that lends itself readily to description. Describing something helps to define it, to give it limits, to set guardrails of understanding around it. Wizards have had the Sight since time began, and they still don’t understand how it works, why it does what it does.
Wizards continue to be shit at investigation, and the author continues to be lazy as fuck about any of this fitting together.
The only thing I can say is that I felt as though a veil of thick cloth had been lifted away from me as I opened my eyes again-and not only from my eyes, but from all of my senses. I could abruptly smell the mud and fish odor of the lake, the trees around the house, the fresh scent of the coming rain preceding the storm on the smoke-stained wind. I looked at the trees. Saw them, not just in the first green coat of spring, but in the full bloom of summer, the splendor of the fall, and the barren desolation of winter, all at the same time. I Saw the house, and each separate part of it as its own component, the timbers as parts of spectral trees, the windows as pieces of distant sandy shores. I could feel the heat of summer and the cold of winter in the wind coming off the lake. I Saw the house wreathed in ghostly flames, and knew that those were part of its possible future, that fire lay down several of the many paths of possibility that lay ahead in the next hour.
Okay, so third sight both gives you super-senses in the present AND lets you see through time. Unclear on if the junkie was seeing That Which Is Ominous using yet another power to see psychic scars or if he was seeing Harry’s past itself. In addition to all this, it is also sees emotions and symbolic futures to go with the literal future.
The house itself was a place of power. Dark emotions-greed, lust, hatred-all hung over it as visible things, molds and slimes that were strewn over it like Spanish moss with malevolent eyes. Ghostly things, restless spirits, moved around the place, drawn to the sense of fear, despair, and anger that hung over it, mindless shades that were always to be found in such places, like rats in granaries.
The other thing that I Saw over the house was a grinning, empty skull. Skulls were everywhere, wherever I looked, just at the edge of my vision, silent and still and bleach white, as solid and real as though a fetishist had scattered them around in anticipation of some bizarre holiday. Death. Death lay in the house’s future, tangible, solid, unavoidable.
Or to tie it all together, third sight lets you experience precisely whatever hodgepodge of things the author feels like describing.
Also yes, this is all a gigantic plot hole because Harry was explicitly told this guy was poking magic with a stick and should’ve flipped on his third sight when he was first walking around.
I shuddered and shoved the feeling away. No matter how strong the vision, how powerful the image gained with the Sight, the future was always mutable, always something that could be changed. No one had to die tonight.
I have absolutely no idea why he thinks this is a known rule, especially given he seems to have little to no idea how anything else works about magic. Nor do I know why he’s so bothered by the idea of death in general – he’s killed in self-defense at least once before and he’s spent a lot of time saying he intended to take this guy out, plus this guy has already killed innocent people repeatedly and made an attempt on his life, and Harry’s whole “clear my name” motivation? It revolves around this guy taking the fall instead.
It didn’t have to come to that, not for them and not for me.
Yes, it does. This guy broke magic law. The whole council subplot has been about how Harry will be killed for breaking magic law. If Harry doesn’t kill him, the council will hours/days later. The only way this guy makes it out alive is if Harry bursts in there with the intent of helping him escape wizard justice and somehow the guy listens and does that instead of being happy Harry’s decided to make this easy and exploding him.
But a sick feeling had settled into me, as I looked on this darkling house, with all of its stinking lust and fear, all of its horrid hate worn openly upon it to my Sight, like a mantle of flayed human skin on the shoulders of a pretty girl with gorgeous hair, luscious lips, sunken eyes, and rotting teeth. It repulsed me and it made me afraid.
GO TO THERAPY
And something about it, intangible, something I couldn’t name, called to me. Beckoned. Here was power, power I had thrust aside once before, in the past.
Yeah it’s time for the tempting. It’s done in a plodding checkbox manner and it’s terrible.
I had thrown away the only family I had ever known to turn away power exactly like this.
Remember when Harry was raised by his beloved dad? Because he’s apparently forgotten.
This was the sort of strength that could reach out and change the world to my will
I assume it’ll never really be explained why black magic is so crazy powerful compared to white, and I’m entirely sure it’ll never really be explained how in the hell black wizards aren’t in charge given this.
I could kill the Shadowman, now, before he knew I was here. I could call down fury and flame on the house and kill everyone in it, not leave one stone upon another.
The best part isn’t really what a tired and plothole-ridden cliche this all is. No, it’s that Harry continues to be Superman. This guy never was in Harry’s league at all, you see. It’s not just that he was using storm power to boost himself past Harry’s level, apparently going evil alone is a ridiculously huge power boost and the guy still needed storm power on top to be a contender. Harry can crush him and the rest of the world at once with similar boosts.
Come to think of it, Harry could probably literally still crush him without even the boost, he did say that he could blow out walls by accident pretty easily, and he also knows fireball.
(Burning the place down should be a major consideration for wizards. Harry said that magical creatures like vampires can’t enter houses, but while that’s all well and good when it comes to avoiding them feeding on you, deciding to burn you to death is actually safer, all things considered, than a direct fight. Another reason for wizards being cut off from regular society should be that they prefer their “houses” to be caves and magic all-stone towers and similarly siege-resistant dwellings.
Harry goes on a bit longer about how absolutely unstoppable he’s be because he’s the bestest most powerfullest wizard ever.
It’s admittedly true, but that’s the problem.
Or, no, it’s not exactly it. The problem is he’s all-powerful and also for some ungodly reason the author built half the story around the question of if he was powerful enough.
I’m honestly pretty fond of stories where the character is really powerful and the question is what they’ll do, not if they’ll succeed at it. I just spent a very enjoyable Thanksgiving making my brother read the Kuroshitsuji manga, after all. Or since we’ve been talking comics, I also loved Miracleman. There’s a lot of stories that are about people’s decisions, but when power enters the equation, so many writers assume the conflict should center on hero-beats-villain.
I mean, it’s not just that right now I’m having to sit through Harry being tempted by the dark side for a couple paragraphs before he’s all nope nevermind about the power he probably doesn’t really need anyway. It’s also that Harry is really not an interesting character.
His primary motivation, in all seriousness, is being alpha male. Demon on his heels and damsel fainting at his feet, he decides the best use of his time is to insult and slap the wizard behind it. He’s spent most of this book refusing to do much of anything, for little to no reason. So far, Harry seems to be motivated by, in rough order
1) Showing he’s cooler than thou to other wizards
2) Not dying
3) Lazing about
4) Getting paid
6) Helping others
Money wouldn’t make him work on the case but being blamed for the heartsplosion would. Even then, he was pretty lackadaisical about it and stuck to the most direct route to solve it, refusing to investigate other options that might bear fruit and might not, which is why he kept dead-ending until the plot handed him the answer.
Now, a story that wasn’t busy sucking Harry’s dick could make this into some decent tension. If the most powerful wizard in Chicago is lazy, self-interested and the only thing that he puts effort into is smashing down any perceived challenger, it’s easy to see how Harry could be at the center of a lot of problems. People who need his power will be looking for ways to get him on their side, and the best way is to convince him their problem is some upstart wizard who, they heard, doesn’t think Harry’s anything special. Other people who need his power will have no idea that he tunes out pretty much every other request, despite the fact ghosts have surrounded the church full of orphans and puppies and are chipping through the wards as we speak.
If Harry is meant to be decent under it all and just very self-absorbed, the story becomes just how much fallout it takes from this before Harry realizes what he’s done and changes. If Harry’s meant to be a horrible person who we’re following for the trainwreck, then the story is about how everyone else handles him crashing about.
Other, less awful versions of Harry could have the tension be on if Harry will figure out what he needs to do in time (best fit for a detective story, just requires higher quality writing than getting handed the answer in chapter 3 and explaining how he’s not going to bother looking at it) or the possibility suggested by Harry saying he can’t summon his weapons without accidentally blowing a wall. It actually is possible to do a character like that if you stop gushing about how awesomely powerful they are and focus on how their lack of control means they actually can’t do a lot of things at all. Harry knowing he’s a bull in a china shop could be very interesting – having to hesitate every time he’s about to use a spell to judge if it’s safe, and sometimes getting beaten upside the head by some thug with a baseball bat as a result because reflexively throwing up a shield charm is like hitting everything in the radius with a freight train. Maybe Harry swore to pacifism after the trauma of murdering another person with magic (Harry’s initial description sure sounds like using magic to kill is just inherently horrific, regardless of why you do it) but his lack of control means even defensive magic has a good chance of hurting people.
(For those who absolutely need more weakness in a character, we could also say Harry can pump out amazing amounts of magic but doesn’t have a higher magical capacity than anyone – magic is life energy and normal wizards have a self-preservation block that prevents them from doing more than skimming a bit off the top. (“Wizard’s death curse” is for the sort of thing they’re suddenly able to pull off once self-preservation is no longer an option.) And unfortunately life magic is homoeostasis rather than working like an engine where it runs as long as there’s a drop left. You can win a fight with plenty of magic left, walk off victoriously, and die of hypothermia because you body’s ability to generate heat in response to temperature stopped working three fireballs ago. Harry can mess himself up trying to do a minor spell and expending way more energy than he needed, and if he decides to go all out, there’s a very good chance he’ll die even if he wins. Focus remains on what will Harry do and not can Harry fireball harder than anyone else.)
Harry doesn’t pick the dark magic because ghost mommy channels white magic through the pentacle and gets him to hold it, and that makes him calm down. I guess magic user mom was always in a plans then.
That wasn’t what magic was for. That wasn’t what magic did. Magic came from life itself, from the interaction of nature and the elements, from the energy of all living beings, and especially of people.
This is such a weird hippie moment. Harry does it once in the beginning and once at the end, and in-between he clearly doesn’t give a rat’s ass about this.
I was not a murderer.
Harry’s backstory is that he killed someone. I mean, I can see Harry not self-identifying as a person defined around this trait, but he is a murderer in that he committed a murder. That’s why he’s got Morgan hanging around. In fact, depending on how demons work he may have committed another murder during this very book.
The difference between him and his opponent is that his opponent kills innocent people for gain while Harry kills in self-defense, but for some reason the author doesn’t want to put it that way.
And wizards don’t use magic to kill people. They use it to discover, to protect, to mend, to help. Not to destroy.
Just so we’re clear – he is still totally going to get into a deathfight with the other guy. But somehow it’d be immoral to blow the place up from outside and moral to do it from inside, so Harry has to monologue to us about how he won’t do it one way because that way is a way murderers pick and he’s better than that when murdering.
I didn’t have my staff, and I didn’t have my rod.
That was totally your choice, Harry. It wouldn’t have been that hard to go and get them.
Harry then whines that he’s all by himself, because he deliberately tried to keep Murphy from helping (and in the process got her incapacitated) and then beat unconscious his other obvious ally choice. He followed this up by failing to solicit help because he really loved the idea of lone-wolfing it just that much, but people should feel so much sympathy that he’s getting what he said repeatedly he wanted.
And so, I walked through a spectral landscape littered with skulls, into the teeth of the coming storm, to a house covered in malevolent power, throbbing with savage and feral mystic strength. I walked forward to face a murderous opponent who had all the advantages, and who stood prepared and willing to kill me from where he stood within the heart of his own destructive power, while I was armed with nothing more than my own skill and wit and experience.
Do I have a great job or what?