Turns out that being motivated to blog about bad YA fantasy does not actually change your workload. What’s up with that?
“Celaena walked down a marble hall, her dress flowing behind in a purple and white wave.“
More like a purple prose wave am I right. That joke doesn’t even make sense; the problem with this book isn’t overwriting but the complete absence of anything that isn’t a stock phrase. Aren’t you glad I’m back.
Anyway. Celaena has apparently complained enough about being bored that she’s convinced Chaol to give her a tour of the castle. They’ve already been through gardens, ballrooms, and “historical rooms,” whatever that means (archives? portrait galleries? rooms in which important events occurred?).
“…in fact, she’d used every moment to plot a dozen escape routes from her room. The castle was old, and most of its halls and stairwells went nowhere; escaping would require some thought. But with the competition beginning tomorrow, what else did she have to do?“
I know that I’ve been harping on the need for more escape plot, but this is not where I want it. Because Celaena could use the little time she has to train as much as she can, anticipating that she won’t be able to escape until after the competition has started (and that she could die in the competition before getting a chance to escape). But I’m guessing that 1- that would make Maas have to think harder about how to have Celaena find locations that will be plot-important later and 2- Celaena is just too special to need to train.
I really, really hate that so many protagonists never have to train or study to keep their skills. A lot of fiction uses this idea of effortless genius which doesn’t actually happen. Even a genius needs training- an amazing polyglot is still going to loose languages without practice, someone with the brain of Einstein still needs to know existing theory and what their peers are doing. And there is no way in the world that the knowledge of how to fight is going to help you when you just don’t have the muscles for it anymore.
You will note that in Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small books, the heroine Kel keeps her skill with a glaive even though she’s working on other things. This isn’t because she’s just naturally that good (because talent does not keep you in condition), or because practicing combat with a sword is the same thing (because it isn’t). It’s because she gets up early every morning and practices. You will also note that the Protector of the Small books are good.
“They passed by a set of closed doors. The sounds of lilting speech reached them, along with the gentle strumming of a harp. ‘What’s in there?’
‘The queen’s court.’ He grabbed her arm and pulled her down the hall.“
I’m really, really hoping that turns out to be a lie. Preferably in a scene where it makes Celaena look like an idiot. Celaena now knowing where one of the royal family spends their time (and smugly reflecting on how easy it was for her to get such valuable information, without even considering that it could be disinformation) does not actually make her look smart. It just makes Chaol look really bad at his job. If he’s supposed to be an antagonist, that makes the conflict dull because there’s no actual contest. If he’s going to be an antagonist-turned-ally (which he is), it makes him becoming an ally have no impact.
What follows is a brief discussion of some members of the royal family we don’t know about yet. Dorian (I actually had to go look his name back up) has an infamously spoiled younger brother who was shipped off to a boarding school. Being royalty, “spoiled” means “beating servants so badly people actually objected.”
I know he’s probably going to end up cartoonishly villainous whenever he actually appears, but at the moment this kid seems like the most plausible character in the book.
Celaena’s startled by the loud and jarring bells of a clock, which Chaol takes her to see. It’s in pride of place in a courtyard and is totally evil. I mean, it’s made of black stone with roaring gargoyles on it and the hands of the clock are compared to swords. It’s evil. The king built it around when Dorian was born.
“As she made to follow Chaol, she noticed a tile on the paved pathway. ‘What’s this?’
He stopped. ‘What’s what?’
She pointed at the mark engraved on the slate. It was a circle with a vertical line through the middle that extended beyond the circumference. Both ends of the line were hooked, one directing downward, the other up. ‘What is this mark on the path here?’
He walked around until he stood beside her. ‘I have no idea.’“
IT’S MAGIC. EVIL MAGIC. GET ON WITH IT.
It really bugs me that Celaena used a contraction in her initial question but not in the second one. I’m not sure why.
Chaol looses patience with questions about evil landscape gardening. They wander around some more until they find the doors to the library, which leaves Celaena totally breathless.
“The Captain of the Guard opened the doors reluctantly, the strong muscles of his back shifting as he pushed hard against the worn oak.“
I remember very little about Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire and Hemlock – I read it about ninth grade and it’s not one I’ve revisited. But I do distinctly remember that the heroine’s terrible self-indulgent teenage fantasy writing included a lot of focus on shifting back muscles. Which was subsequently called out for being terrible self-indulgent teenage writing.
I’m just saying.
Celaena is thrilled by the library.
But she’d need permission from either the king or the prince to borrow anything, and she’s dragged away so that Chaol can go have dinner. Celaena vaguely thinks about escaping, but is more interested in being bored and pouting over her lack of books.
“Instead of reading, she could perhaps use the pianoforte, but . . . well, it had been a while, and she wasn’t sure she could endure the sound of her own stumbling, clumsy playing.“
Though of course she’s going to endure her own stumbling, clumsy fighting.
So she writes a snarky letter to the prince requesting that she be allowed to borrow books. Half an hour later, a servant arrives with a note from Dorian and a pile of books he recommends. Because the crown prince who only returned yesterday had absolutely nothing else to do in that half hour.
The next morning, Celaena goes out onto her balcony to admire the unseasonably warm weather and reflect on how she could incapacitate the guards, but is not going to right now. Instead, three court women turn up- a “raven-haired” lady and her blonde ladies-in-waiting.
The Lady loudly talks about how she’ll be sure to get the attention of the prince, even if other women are also trying to do so. Duke Perrington may have brought her to the capital in order to court her, but she’s here for the prince.
Those women who aren’t Celaena, right.
The Lady starts talking about the mysterious girl the prince brought to town, with her ladies in waiting apparently showing that they are tired of this topic.
“‘I don’t need to worry,’ the woman mused. ‘The prince’s harlot won’t be well-received.’“
You know, in case you thought action plotty things like the assassin Hunger Games would free us of women fighting each other over a dude and using gendered insults.
Someone throws a flowerpot off the roof above Celaena, apparently aiming for the Lady. This is evidently funny to everyone but the Lady, who just sounds annoyed. And here I thought it was attempted assault and/or murder (depending on the height that pot was thrown from).
Celaena doesn’t even seem to consider that the pot might have been meant for her. Which is a possibility you might want to consider when you’re going to be in the assassin Hunger Games.
How am I supposed to take this plot and any tension it’s meant to have seriously when Maas clearly doesn’t?