Well, I finally did it. I finally finished The Infernal City, after dragging my heels for a year. With Elder Scrolls V announced, I bit the bullet and checked it out from the library again. And I read it all the way through. Please pity me.And you know what? A simple review does not do this novel justice. It took me two days to get through this 288 page novel, because I kept having to put it down in order to bitch at the world about it. I don't do that. I never do that (with the exception of Dan Brown's stuff). So what is it about this novel that annoys me so much?Up until now, I clawed onto one particular plot point of this novel, and if you know me, you know how much I hate it. For your convenience I'm going to hold off on that rant until I get to that part of the book. But I'd hoped that there was a good reason for that plot point. Some interesting story to go with it. Or at least an entertaining one. And...it's not. Not really.Now, I haven't read anything else by this author, so I don't really know his style. Maybe he's much better than this. I haven't read any other game books, either. Maybe they're all like this, reading like they were pushed out far too quickly. The KotOR II of books, as it were.God, I hope not.Oh, and I'd just like to state that this is a review, analysis, and probably a parody work by the time I'm done. It's also all my own opinion. The Infernal City belongs to Greg Keyes and Bethesda, and I don't mean any insult to either in what I'm about to type. This is all in good fun, and a chance to get it off my chest.So go check out a copy of your own and read along, because there's no way I'm doing this alone.
The Infernal CityA Chapter-by-Chapter Review
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:01 AM
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:01 AM
Prologue - Our book opens on a ship at sea. The wind has died and the ocean is mysteriously starting to roll. The captain knows that something is wrong.The wind had already fallen like a dead thing from the sky, gasping as it succumbed upon the iron swells, breathing its last to his mariner's ears.And here's the first of my problems with this book. It edges dangerously close to purple prose in some places and probably jumps headlong in at others. For those of you who don't know what that is, let me quote Wikipedia: “Purple prose is a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context.”And this is what we have here. The wind died and there was an unnatural calm. We can work with that. Succumbing upon iron swells, however, is way over the top. Not to mention, the action is obviously about to start, and we're reading long, droning sentences. Long, droning sentences are for reviews like mine. Action, or building up to action, should be written in shorter, more exciting sentences. Words that slow the eye slows the action.This, dear audience, was when I started clearing a spot on my desk for my head.This, dear audience, is the second sentence.
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*sob*Anyway, it continues with some talk amongst the crew – I don't really care about the brief descriptions or names since they're all about to die, anyway. And then they see something come out of the clouds. With a huge noise, a gust of wind snaps the mast. And the first minor character dies, blown away with it.This happens a lot. In fact, you know what? We'll count. We'll even be nice and count only the named ones, because otherwise we'll be here all day.Minor character deaths: 1Allrighty then. Onward.“The sea doesn't care,” Iffech said, watching the dark mass move towards them. He looked around his ship. All of the masts were broken, and it appeared that half the crew was already gone.“What?”“Not many Khajiit take to the sea,” he said. “They'll bear it for trade, to move skooma around, but few there are who love it. But I've adored her since I could mewl...”Wait wait waitwaitwait! Stop the onward! Stop the onward!What the hell? What the flaming hell?Dude! Your masts are gone. Half your crew is dead. You're probably next. And this is your reaction?I don't understand. Maybe he's aware of the fact he's an extra. Maybe he's actually an automaton. Maybe he secretly hates his crew. Okay, yeah, I'm gonna go with that last one. Iffech here (yes, that's his name – no, that's not a Khajiiti name – yes, he's a Khajiit – maybe his mother choked up a hairball when she got to his name and that's what he was saddled with) secretly hates his crew. And is incapable of emotion. Like his crew. Because they're not having any realistic reactions, either.Seriously, if you've got a better reason for why he's standing there and talking about how much he loves the sea in the middle of a crisis, I'd love to hear it. I'm pretty sure most captains would be, oh, yelling orders and trying to get the hell out of there or something silly like that. Why are we wasting time on descriptions of the crew's hair and talking about the sea when death itself is literally bearing down on them? They should be yelling, screaming, soaked with spray, cursing or praying, and pulling out the oars in a desperate attempt to get anywhere but where they are!“What are you going on about?”The other characters don't get it either! I am vindicated!“I'm not sure,” he admitted.I've gone from vindicated to annoyed.I don't know why that was put in, the characters don't know why that was put in, and I highly suspect the author doesn't know why it was put in. That makes this scene – say it with me – entirely pointless.Thank you, Nostalgia Critic, and my apologies. I promise I'm not stealing your shtick.And on a more serious, technical note, this is our first view of the City. Unfortunately, there is no panic. There is little fear. There's a lot of talking. And all we know is that it's a fat cone and it stinks.Somehow I'm not getting the feeling that I need to be worried about this thing. However, I am thinking of several very rude, misplaced, likely scatological jokes.Oh, and then they all die. Big surprise.Minor character deaths: 3The scene then changes to a guy named Sul waking up in the Lank Fellow Inn in Chorrol. Now, I'm not going to complain about the name here. Yes, that inn doesn't exist in the Oblivion game, but it has been forty years. That sort of thing changes. But I'd also believe that one of the two inns in the game were still around. And it's always good to drop familiar names in an already created world. Still, as I said, time has passed. And different names are a good way of showing that.Sul – a Dunmer, by the by, though for some reason I thought he was a Khajiit for the longest time – has woken up screaming. He then grabs for his sword when someone comes to check on him. And amazingly, the...innkeeper, I guess, lives through the scene. He's not sure where he is, though it's never explained if he's just disoriented, or if he's literally dropped from nowhere. This is not such a strange thought, as you'll see later.The previous scene was a dream of his, sent to him by Azura, apparently. The thing in the sky stinks of Oblivion, and he mentions a name. Vuhon.Must be our bad guy, but all we get is the name. Therefore Sul must be our mysterious mentor character who knows more than he lets on, and maybe dies in a heroic sacrifice before the end of the story, leaving the younger heroes to struggle through on their own. Oh goody.A quick note here. This scene talks about two different princes. The Daedric Prince Azura and the human prince Attrebus. An easy way to keep from confusing the two would be to capitalize 'Prince' for Azura, right? In the game, Daedric Princes are always capitalized, so the precedent is set. Simple. But Sul only does that once. In fact, the first time he uses the word, uncapitalized, I honestly thought he was talking about Attrebus.Also in this scene, we get the first hint of the complete and utter washing away of the third Elder Scrolls game. Again, the rant will wait. And build.And build.
anigif_enhanced-buzz-689-1368229975-12.gif 451.51KB 0 downloads*snarl*But Sul has questions about his dream, not knowing where the ship was wrecked, nor who the young man he saw at the end was. However, luckily, Azura has been working hard on Her Deus ex Machina muscles and not only can send out dreams, She can also send appropriately titled books! One is TALES OF SOUTHERN WATERS (no, I'm not adding excessive capitalization), and the other is THE MOST CURRENT AND HIGH ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ATTREBUS.So therefore, the City is to the south, and the man is Prince Attrebus! Wow! Hints dropped neatly into his lap with only a little looking! It's like a bad puzzle game!Oh...wait.An hour later, armed and armored, he rode south and east, towards madness, retribution, and death.Isn't it nice when the book gives us a warning before we begin? Heedlessly, however, I push on.
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:01 AM
Part I - Arrival
Chapter One -
A pale young woman with long ebon curls, and a male with muddy green scales and chocolate spines, crouched on the high rafters of a rotting villa in Lilmoth, known by some as the Festering Jewel of Black Marsh.
*rubs eyes* Oh, where to begin? First off, put the thesaurus down. You can use the words “black” and “brown.” It's okay. People will still believe you're a good author, even if you're writing a game tie-in. If you start using fancy colors to describe your characters, you risk sounding Mary-Sue-ish. I should know, having written a similar character myself. A dark-haired, spunky, female Breton. Everyone has that character. It's nothing special. At least I try to avoid silly colors.
Oh, and I know poor Glim doesn't even get a listing on the back of the book, but did you have to note him in between a pair of commas, too? That makes it sound like he was a complete afterthought. And did you just call him a “male?” Really? Poor guy. I feel for him. Really, I do. He's probably the closest thing I have to a favorite character in this book, if only because he seems distantly aware that he's in a bad game novel and wants the hell out.
Case in point, they're talking about how they're both likely going to die, and he's merely “thoughtful.” But then, this sort of thing seems to happen a lot.
The narration then skips back to what happened before this scene. Kind of a cheap trick. The reader is left hanging in complete oblivion. Who is this woman? (Girl. She's seventeen. She's a girl. Please make her legal before any love scenes, because she's obviously Attrebus' future love interest. Please. My sanity begs you.) Who is this male reptile? Why are they on a rafter? What's about to kill them? Either give us the action or don't. If you have to resort to this sort of thing, you're only letting us know that the next few pages are going to be boring as hell.
The skipping properly introduces Mere-Glim and...Annaïg. Annaïg Hoïnart, to be exact. I had to copy and paste her name from the wiki because I couldn't find that stupid “ï” character in OpenOffice, probably because I'm a flake. Strange as the name is, though, she is a Breton, and it is a French name. I guess. The author borrowed it from a friend of his, and Google agrees that it's a real name. I'm not sure how to pronounce it, but Wikipedia says that the “ï” indicates that the two vowels should be spoken as different syllables. So...Anna-ig? Maybe?
Again, fancy names lead to the path of the Mary-Sue. Avoid them unless you have a good reason. Fear that path. That path leads only to darkness and ruin. And pain. For me. And I have swords, so please don't give me pain. My parents taught me how to share.
And also again, I've written a similar character. With a similarly odd name. I like to think, however, that by giving her a backstory as to the name, it makes her less Mary-Sue-ish.
We shall see which of us succeed.
They banter. I assume it's meant to be cute and funny. It's not.
“We very nearly got arrested during your last little adventure.”
“Yes, and didn't you feel alive?” she said.
“I don't need to feel alive,” the Argonian replied. “I am alive. Which state I would prefer to retain.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Hff. That's a bold assertion,” he sniffed.
“I'm a bold girl.”
These two are supposed to be best friends in the whole world. Maybe that's why they read like they're the exact same character. Each character is supposed to have their own voice. Give them a different turn of phrase. A more formal way of speaking. A very slight dialect. A tendency to be verbose. Or a tendency to chop off sentences. Something. Something to set them apart from the other characters, so you can read a sentence and at least guess who said it. Let me point to anything by Agatha Christie to give you an idea of what I mean.
I know there were only a handful of voice actors in the Oblivion game, but that doesn't have to translate over to the written word, now does it?
Incidentally, we get very little backstory on either of these people. We don't ever learn how they became friends. Which would have been pretty interesting, really. Two very different people becoming friends in a place that's particularly hostile to the girl. *sigh* Apparently far too interesting for this book. What we do know is that Annaïg thinks up crazy schemes, and drags Glim along. Currently, she's on the trail of a were-crocodile.
Seriously. Were-crocodile. Those are hinted at in lore, so I'll give it a break. Also, I'd seriously love to play one. Apparently, they've found people bitten in half, but this little plot-tidbit is never resolved. But she bribes Glim with wine and he agrees to go with her to the supposed lair of the supposed were-crocodile.
Hint: not a were-crocodile.
Oh, and my favorite line thus far: “Her friend sibilated a long hiss.” Sibilate, as per the Free Dictionary, means “To utter or pronounce with a hissing sound.” So yes, he hissed out a hiss. The Department of Redundancy Department greets thee with greetings.
Put the damn thesaurus down.
The narration then flips back to Annaïg thinking, So here we are. And then it flips to another flashback, implying that while these two are in mortal danger, Annaïg is busy thinking about her own stupidity that led her there. Instead of, again, running or something. Can we please have some action? What's the point of a flashback that happened literally five minutes ago?
In the second flashback, they sneak into an old mansion and hide in the beams to listen to what's going on, as a group of shady-looking people talk below. Annaïg drinks a potion of some kind that amplifies the noise for her ears. This spell does not exist in the Elder Scrolls series. Nor does it taste like melon. There is a sound spell in Morrowind, but it's an attack. Also, there're no melons in Morrowind. So...yeah.
A few one-trick characters are introduced in order to be a brief conflict. Who they are, we never learn. Nor do we learn their names, or what becomes of them. We do learn that they're skooma smugglers, but that's it. That plot thread as well goes nowhere. It pretty much ends as they're discovered, and we're informed that Annaïg is afraid now.
And now Annaïg was quite sure what she felt was fear. Bright, terrible, animal fear.
Honestly, I'm glad we were told, because I sure as hell wouldn't have guessed from the rest of the narration. However: Insert obligatory “show, not tell” rant here. Describing her fear is not the same as showing it. Cute banter, especially the same scene we've already read once is not the proper reaction to “Oh yay. Vicious, amoral, drug smugglers. Wesa gonna die.”
Hint #2: when Jar-Jar's reactions are more realistic than the character's that you're reading, you're in for some serious pain.
But that's okay. The smugglers are pretty nonchalant about the fact that they're being not-so-quietly spied on. Hey, here's a hint for the characters themselves: when spying on people who like to kill people like you for fun, try whispering your banter next time. Less chance of being perforated that way.
The whole scene is for one reason, and one reason only: Annaïg is trying to make a potion that'll make her fly. We learn this because the smugglers corner them over a fifty-foot drop (that's one hell of a big abandoned house – four or five stories?), and she and Glim banter some more over her failed Alchemy experiments (one of which made his skin translucent – ha ha, it's a Chameleon spell, get it?) before they drink the potion and jump.
Unfortunately for them, it seems she managed to make a potion of Featherfall, not a potion of Levitation. So they float for a bit, get their hopes up, and then plummet. I'm vaguely reminded of a book from my childhood where a monkey is trying many different ways of flying, and the whole thing consists of “I can fly, I can fly, I can...flop.”
Okay, maybe that's just me. I really loved that book.
I was three, okay? Shut up.
The next half a page or so is good. I mean, good. Shockingly so compared to what I've read so far. We get a brief nostalgic glimpse into Annaïg's past, her life with her father, and what happened to turn him into the shell of the man he is now. You get a glimpse of the old splendor she and her father must have had at one time, and all in all Annaïg's father is suddenly the character I feel I know the most about without him saying a word.
After she pours some wine, the two of them look out over the old city while having a drink, and it's a damn good description. I liked it. I really did. The whole bit is very poignant and touching. A little bit of an abrupt shift from the last scene, but I don't care. I'll take what I can get.
And then it goes away again because the bloody bantering starts up again. Through dialogue, we learn that in the past forty years, the Empire has collapsed, sorta-dissolved into its various provinces, and gotten a new Emperor again – a man named Titus Mede.
Now, I don't know much about empire building, but that seems like a terribly short time for that all to have happened, especially when they're all recovering from an invasion by the daedra. You don't secede or rebel or whatever when you're trying to rebuild from an attack like that, no matter how certain you are that the threat isn't going to return. And you're not certain. Not for quite a while. The Imperial coffers are going to be your main source of money, and the Legion your main source of order. If I were the provinces, I'd be clinging to Cyrodiil, at least until I got every resource possible out of them.
And why hasn't some sort of cult risen up around Martin in this time? I could totally see Cyrodiil turning into new Morrowind – a theocracy grown up around the worship of Akatosh and Martin. After all the supernatural events of Oblivion, hell, I'd expect it.
Honestly, Skyrim is the only province I see trying to secede, if only because they were trying to invade Morrowind in the Oblivion game. We never hear about this, of course. Skyrim, the Summerset Isles, Valenwood, and High Rock basically do not exist in this world. Realistically, if Skyrim was strong enough to invade during the Oblivion Crisis, and Cyrodiil was as weak as this book makes them out to be, they should be the new seat of power.
What about the Elder Council, I hear you ask? Surely the main ruling body of the Empire was important in this shift of power? Especially being the only known holder of the Elder Scrolls? And the Councilors of every province? The greatest diplomats in the world, all those powerful men and women? No idea. They're never mentioned in this book. Nor are the Scrolls. High Chancellor Ocato, who for all purposes was running the empire, maybe even before Uriel's death? Not a peep. He's not the only one who vanishes, either.
More on that later.
Annaïg wants to leave Black Marsh and go to what's left of the Empire, because she's read good things about them. Honor and just ice and all that. Decent reasoning. Sure, Uriel wasn't always honorable, but he did bring proper order. And Martin was like honor personified (and I'll stop there before I start waxing poetic about one of the most layered characters in Elder Scrolls other than Vivec and Uriel. Plus he's hot.) Glim holds that what she's read is all Imperial propaganda. She counters that he's repeating An-Xileel propaganda.
Okay, brief aside now. The An-Xileel are apparently some sort of political party in the Black Marsh. They control Lilmoth. Again, apparently. I'm guessing. They're not in previous lore that I can find. I have no idea who they are. They're not really ever explained. Supposedly, they're the reason that Mehrunes Dagon didn't overwhelm Black Marsh. Given that a single, low-level character did the same in Oblivion, I'm not impressed.
Glim and Annaïg argue over the Imperial way versus the Argonian way. Annaïg wants to go out and make a difference, show right versus wrong. Glim wants to stay home and have a drink. Good for Glim. I think I'll follow his example here.
“My people knew slavery under the old Empire. We knew it pretty well.”
Again, yes. And no. Morrowind had slavery, yes, under the treaty they had with the Empire. Slavery, however, was outlawed in the Empire proper. I'd like to argue that this bit shows that Glim follows the propaganda of the ruling party, but since Morrowind is given a big middle finger in this book, I'm afraid I'm not going to be that generous. So in this world, the Empire enslaved Argonians. Okay.
Also, angry Argonians smell like sulfur. Did you know that? Me neither. Because he made that up. And it never comes up again, though it sounds like it might be important. Chekhov's gun just misfired. *sigh*
Glim tells Annaïg that his cousin's heard tale of a floating city coming their way. An island with a city on it, to be precise. Okay, that's a bit better than a smelly fat cone. But again, no one is scared.
“I'll have to think about that. A flying city. Sounds like something left over from the Merethic era. Or before.” She felt her ample mouth pull in a huge smile. “Exciting. I'd better go see Hecua tomorrow.”
No, it doesn't sound like it's from the Merethic era. There are no flying cities in all of lore. Mods, yes, lore, no. It sounds like something beyond your comprehension. An entirely different world. Therefore, it shouldn't be exciting. Less than half a century after the Oblivion crisis, it should still be worrying. Even with your foolishly reckless character, you should be doing more than thinking and getting drunk. In fact, with your character, you should be running down to the docks and grilling people for information. Maybe wondering if you can hitch a ride. Or fix something. Hell, you're trying to make a potion of levitation, why not mention that? Why do you seen to dismiss the whole thing? Why don't you have any proper reactions? Why am I reading this book? Where are my pants?
And “ample mouth” – really? Collagen injections at her age? Tsk. On the Mary-Sue checklist: Ebon curls, ample mouth, spunky, odd name, daughter of minor nobility who goes out and tries to right wrongs in vigilante style in order to show her rebellious side, utterly flat character. I currently rate her slightly below the level of Disney Princess, and am fully expecting her to break out into song about how she wants something more than the life she currently has.
Perhaps it's just my ego talking, but I think my similar character is much cooler. *preens*
What? I write fanfiction. You're expecting shame?
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:02 AM
Chapter Two -
This chapter opens up with a legend from Skyrim about an assassin of sorts. Fans of the Dark Brotherhood or the Morag Tong, read well – this paragraph is the closest you'll get to either of those. Ever.
As of this point, at least 50% of the book could have been cut out. Plot points: There's a giant stinking cone headed to Black Marsh, Sul gets dreams from Azura, Annaïg wants to make a potion so she can fly. And Glim is along for the ride. That's it. Twenty-two pages to tell us that. Everything else is completely superfluous.
But now we're introduced to a new character: Colin. Colin has a knife. Colin wants to think he's a badass, but knows he's not really, because the knife he's carrying feels huge and obvious. Hence the odd aside at the beginning, which I assume was meant to be a contrast to him. However, a single paragraph does not a character foil make. All it did was guarantee that every unimaginative character in TES V: Skyrim is going to be named Dalk.
Anyway, Colin is nervous, because he's supposed to kill someone he doesn't even know. Understandably, I suppose, and his reluctance is described quite well, but this is the extent of Colin's character for the chapter. We do not get a description for Colin, but we do get a description for the man he's about to put a knife in.
“There you are,” the man said.
His face was hard to see, as it was cast in shadow by a watchlight a little further up. Colin knew it well, though. It was long and bony. His hair was black with a little gray, his eyes startling blue.
“Here I am,” Colin replied, his mouth feeling dry.
Why is he expecting him? We don't know. We never find out. Nor do we find out anything about this man. The only really interesting thing about this scene is that it mentions students, albeit somewhat offhandedly. From the College of Whispers.
Now, after my brain made its requisite detour to the Order of Whispers from Guild Wars, (yay!) I got upset. The College of Whispers is this world's replacement for the Mages Guild. I think. It's a replacement for something. I'm just going to go with Mages Guild because that' s the only university in the game. At any rate, the Mages Guild seems to be gone. The organization that survived many, many power changes, and is spread through the entire Empire, is gone in forty years.
That I call bullshit on. Extreme bullshit. Guar dung, even.
I'll believe the Empire dissolving, okay. It's, as I said, a bit short of a time period, but it could happen with all the upheaval. But the Mages Guild? Really? No. The only reason for that is to completely remove any connection with any previous game. A thousand plus year old organization will not die because the Empire did. It existed before the Empire, and through much bigger power struggles. There is no good reason for it to vanish.
And I get more proof that the author never played the Morrowind game.
On the same note, the Fighter's Guild, the Thieves Guild, the Temple, the Imperial Cult, the Dark Brotherhood, the Morag Tong, the Great Houses – none of those exist. None. They are not mentioned. They do not exist.
This is not an Elder Scrolls novel. This is a novel that uses terminology from Elder Scrolls in a completely different storyline. That's all.
Never before have I felt such an urge to flip off a book. And Angels and Demons prompted a fifteen-minute rant on particle physics. I discussed quarks with my cat for God's sake. (For your information, he was unamused and requested proper treats for dealing with his crazy mommy.) And yet, this? This is worse. Because if there's no Mages/Fighters/Thieves guild in Skyrim, I am going to start shrieking.
I'll bet anything that the College of Whispers serves no purpose whatsoever in these books. Seriously. Hundred bucks, right now. Not going to hear a peep from them. Maybe, maybe, a brief scene in a possible climactic battle. And God willing, we won't hear another peep ever.
This is why the Empire dissolved, people. Because someone suddenly removed all its strongest organizations and replaced them with brand-new ones, because the author wasn't sure how to handle them. Grarh.
Blah, blah, blah, Colin's from Anvil, blah, blah, blah, character backstory that serves no purpose, blah, he kills the random dude by stabbing him in various body parts. He's remorseful about it, but not really. You see, he's trying to gain entry to some odd organization. Not the Dark Brotherhood. Unfortunately.
(Incidentally, I like to imagine that the man with the blue eyes is another random Septim heir. It makes this a lot more palatable.)
Minor character deaths: 4
I'll count this one even though we never learn his name. He almost had a character, he got a description, and he got to talk, so he gets to count. Especially since he's more developed at this point than the main character who killed him. Of course, he lived for less than a few pages, and only for the purposes of a main character's semi-advancement, so his life sucks.
Poor nameless dude, we hardly knew ye.
Also? The solar plexus (one of aforementioned stabbed body parts) is not a synonym for...well, any usual part of the body. It's the bundle of nerves that's located behind the stomach, about smack dab in the center of the body's trunk, and really quite difficult to stab without hitting a hell of a lot of other things. I doubt the words “solar plexus” are even part of Cyrodiilic terminology.
Though perhaps he was trying to say sternum, since that seems to be the area most people commonly confuse with the solar plexus...and that's a bone. A pretty damn sturdy bone. Your knife isn't really going to sink into that, I'm sorry.
Wouldn't it be better to say something like: “The blade slipped up and slid into the soft tissue below his ribs”? Or maybe: “The blade skidded off his ribs and gouged into his stomach”? Or even: “He stabbed him in the stomach”?
...what? It's research for the DBC mod. Don't look at me like that.
While he's catching his breath after slitting the guy's throat, two throwaway characters come up to tell him he's part of their organization now, and help him toss the body into Lake Rumare (not that it's called that, of course), presumably to be eaten by those thrice-damned slaughterfish that I hate so, so, so, so, so very much.
Because that's what every secret society/organization does, right? They send a couple members out in public to help you dispose of the body. Why, when I killed Rufio, Lucien was right there to help me bury the body.
Wait, no he wasn't.
And you know why? Because that's stupid, risky, and you're going to get caught. They don't even weigh him down, for God's sake. If you're going to attract attention with a splash, at least make sure the guy's not bobbing merrily along on the top of the bay, right underneath the only bridge to the capital city.
Though given the Slaughterfish, I will admit that the body will probably be gone in five to ten minutes, tops.
Oh, and for those of you hoping that he's joining the Dark Brotherhood with that murder? Hah! Too bad. He's an “inspector” now. Inspector of what, I don't know. We're never actually told. But Colin feels guilty all of a sudden. It says he'd been working towards this for three years, but now he isn't happy. I know this is supposed to make him a well-rounded character, but it never comes up again after this chapter (that I can recall – I'll change it if I'm wrong), if he'd been working towards it for three years you'd think they'd have given him lesser targets before now, and really , it's pretty pointless all around.
On a random note, here's one of the things that make me think that the book was pushed out way too fast. In this chapter, Colin has a thought, and it's written in normal text. Annaïg had a thought last chapter, and it was italicized.
Editor? *snaps fingers* Oh, editor? There's an inconsistency in my book. I'd like a new one, please.
The scene changes to Colin getting a briefing from a guy with a funny beard named Intendant Marall. Colin doesn't feel so good, and exhibits the last hurrah of possible guilt about killing a man in cold blood when he asks the Intendant what his victim did. Two ridiculous situations are thrown out before he's told that it's not his place to worry about that.
Okay – no. He's not an assassin. He's an inspector. Information like that would be damned important to his job. I mean, what if a future assignment is do deal with this man's family? Or his underlings? I get the need for secrecy in an organization that's an obvious ripoff of the Blades, but you've given us just enough information for us not to care at all. The man he just killed has nothing to do with the overreaching story. C'mon story, give me something. Anything. I'm twenty-six pages in, and I'm still scrabbling for the plot.
“You're a very bright young man, or the Pentius Oculatus would not have approached you in the first place, and you have done very well here. But any thinking you do is in service to your job. If you're asked to find a spy in the Emperor's guard, you must use every bit of logic at your disposal. If you're asked to quietly discover which of Count Caro's daughters has been poisoning his guests again, use your forensic training. But if you're given a clear order to steal, injure, poison, stab, or generally do murder, your brain is only to help you with the method and the execution.”
Holy cow, it's a connection to the previous game! And it's hilarious. If you remember anything about Countess Caro, the woman was totally off her nut. (Hint – Argonian torture chambers) I find it gut-wrenchingly fantastic that her children are as bonkers as she is. I'm probably not supposed to laugh at that, but I don't care.
Penitus: “inward, inner, internal, interior.” Oculatus: “an eye-witness.”
Oh my God, I suddenly hate this book so much. That has nothing to do with his job. Unless you're stretching the Latin way beyond what it should be. Not to mention – nothing in the Imperial society beyond the names uses Latin. Even the title of Intendant is French, and therefore Breton.
This is literally painful for me, seeing the language sprained like this. He's supposed to be an inner eye? Inner thought? Inner study? Inner witness? Part of some kind of inner circle? Oh God, I don't know, but it sounds stupid as hell. Do not pull Latin on me. I took Latin and I love it far more than any woman should love a dead language. This makes less sense in my head than the fake Latin that makes up the Harry Potter spells. You have murdered Latin, dear book. Murdered it, I say, and preformed foul acts upon its already well-violated corpse. Antiquis temporibus, libri tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem!
And secondly - *points to earlier paragraph* Bull! We want you to think if we're giving you more police-type jobs, but don't question when we send you to kill random people. Riiiight. This isn't the Dark Brotherhood. He's not a mindless killer. He's supposed to be...well, I don't actually know what he's supposed to be, but with the title of “Inspector” I'll assume he's some sort of secret police. And I'm certain even the secret police got some sort of background on their targets.
Yes, I know it's supposed to be heartless, but really? It's forced. Especially given that he's not given any job like this again. At least not in this book. This is kind of how I think the Blades would be written by someone who only got a summary of the organization, without actually playing the Morrowind game. And then decided he couldn't be bothered and made up his own organization.
A brief info dump about his background and family that I really could care less about. He angsts a bit more, then goes off to find his new lodgings, and I hate this character so much he does nothing in the whole book I want to punch him in the face for being a whiny little prick.
The end. Of the chapter at least. Do you feel fulfilled? I sure as hell don't. A character who does basically nothing, gets a job that doesn't affect anything, by killing a man who has no bearing on the story. I want to scribble out this chapter with red ink, and then maybe stomp on it for a while. Quo usque tandem abutere patentia nostra?
Okay. I'm okay. It's just this chapter. It's going to get better. Right? Right?
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:02 AM
Chapter 3 -
This is a short one – though to be more precise, it's got a good chunk that I actually like. And that's never as interesting to critique as the multitudinous parts that I don't like. You're here to see me rant like a crazy lady. You enjoy that. Much more interesting. For one thing, more DOOM.
Annaïg has a hangover. So does Glim, even though Argonians are immune to poison, and therefore alcohol should have lesser to no effect on them, and that would be a cool thing to add into the book. But that's okay! We'll say it's from the dehydration and he drank most of the wine. That works! And even after drinking an unknown number of bottles of wine, Annaïg can still whip up an amazing breakfast using her mother's collection of seventy-eight spices.
Yes, they number them. No, there's no point to that. Thankfully, they do not list them.
An amazing breakfast of chilies, garlic, coriander, caradamon, lady's mantel seeds (which should be lady's mantle – plus it's the leaves that are used in-game, not the seeds *nitpick nitpick*), ginger, crushed rice, coconut milk (there are no coconuts in TES, and I'm not sure where they'd grow if there were – Elsweyr seems more of a date palm sort of place), venison sausage, red ham (as opposed to green ham, I suppose), pickled watermelon rind, and topped with a raw goose egg.
Oh...gross. I've never had a hangover (and apparently neither has the author), but I'm pretty sure if someone set that in front of me when I had one, they'd be greeted with projectile vomiting. In fact, I'd have that reaction, hangover or no.
The only author I've ever seen that gets away with derailing the plot for Food Porn descriptions is Brian Jacques, and even he doesn't always succeed. But at least it sounds edible when he does it. Raw goose eggs atop pickled watermelon rind doesn't exactly set the stomach a'growling, if you know what I mean.
Incidentally, all these ingredients exist in the real world – if not TES – so I challenge you to make this. Really. Go ahead. Tell me if you can force yourself to take a single bite. I claim no responsibility if you make yourselves sick, though.
Sadly, this is actually a plot point. You'll see later.
As they eat the...food, they return to discussing the floating city, somewhat nonchalantly.
“So tell me more about this 'floating city,'” she said. “When is it supposed to be here?”
“Ix said they outpaced it for three days and it never changed course before they finally got the wind they needed to really leave it behind. It was headed straight here, he said, and will arrive sometime early tomorrow at the pace it's coming.”
Holy crap! There's a giant floating city headed right for you! You'd better...um...you'd better...
Finish discussing it in a leisurely tone as you keep eating breakfast.
You know, if none of your characters are worried about the big bad, your readers aren't going to care either. At least Ix and his wind-caller (a non-lore mage I've never heard of) had the brains to run, as opposed to everyone else in this book. No, seriously. Everyone. No one seems to be scared of this thing thus far.
The closest thing they've seen to a floating city is the Ministry of Truth. Held up by the power of a god. Since they're not freaking out at the possibility of a new god or the invasion of a known god, which they should be, I can only assume there is no god holding it up (hint: there isn't). Therefore, what the hell, no, wrongbad, out-of-character knowledge blatantly influencing in-character actions – minus 200 exp and a slap on the wrist.
Oh, and now Annaïg's father shows up. She refers to him as “Taig.”
Okay, this is more of a personal complaint. As near as my wiki-ing can tell me, Taig is his name. But I spent every single scene with him convinced that “Taig” is some kind of Argonian word for “father.” Or maybe a term of endearment. Because there's nothing to tell us that she's calling her father by his first name. Not a thing. Nothing to indicate that he's upset by this and asks her to call him “Dad.” Nothing to indicate that his name is anything else other than a strained relationship between the two. In fact, in the first chapter, she calls him “Father” while talking to Glim. I honestly had no idea, and I don't like being confused over something as simple as naming conventions.
Again, there's a fantastic description about the relationship between Annaïg and her father from her point of view, and I wonder why the book isn't about him. I know this guy already. I feel for him He's a great character, and the most developed character thus far.
I'm not joking, I'm afraid. Let's look at what we know about the characters (as characters, not descriptions or such, or it would be even worse) thus far.
Annaïg: the optimist alchemist. She thinks up plans, makes failed potions and cooks food that would be inedible for most.
Glim: the pessimist best friend sidekick. Needs a new agent so he can at least get a mention on the back of the book.
Sul: probably mentor character. Possibly sent by the Daedra, or more likely the author, as Deus Ex Machina. Don't know.
Colin: Uh...he stabbed someone and was briefly guilty? Wants money to care for his mom.
Taig: Nobility with nearly no power. That and the death of his wife have made him a shell of his former self and driven him to drink. He has a poor relationship with his daughter, barely understands her, and is a little jealous at the ease she and Glim get along. Also, he's actually pretty scared about the floating city.
I like Taig. He's realistic. He's flawed. He's interesting.
And so they talk about the city again, and it's pretty obvious Taig knows something that he's not talking about. And he's worried. And he's slowly working through various false reassurances to make either himself or his daughter feel better. Things get worse when it's implied that the city-tree of Lilmoth is no longer talking to the rest of the Hist. The Hist, since that's not properly explained but easily could be without losing the thread of narration, are sentient trees that worship Sithis. And have some kind of hive mind. And the Argonians lick them and maybe get high/horny from it.
Okay, I said it could be explained. Not that the explanation would make sense.
She hated how he was when he [Glim]spoke straight Tamrielic. He didn't sound like himself.
First complaint: Tamrielic isn't a language. At all. You're thinking Cyrodiilic. Tamriel is the continent, and has at least a half-dozen languages, Argonian (or Jel, as he's named it) is one of those languages and how the hell can you get that wrong?
Can I start swearing now? Please?
Second complaint: You shouldn't have to inform us he's speaking two different languages in this scene. Make the voices different! There's only a few lines, it's not that hard.
Taig, apparently given up on trying to tell himself it'll be okay, suggests to Annaïg that she go visit her aunt in Leyawiin. Annaïg can't decide if she wants to go, even though she really wants to visit the Imperial City, because she can't take Glim, and because she really wants to investigate the floating city herself.
No, really – why?
Okay, I know her character is that she really likes adventure and she wants to do great things. Unfortunately, I'm starting to suspect that she's not only optimistic, she's suicidally so, and utterly incapable of comprehending the idea of danger, because all of her other brushes with death just roll off of her with almost no reaction. So she just keeps rushing in and putting both her life and Glim's – her best friend in all the world – life at risk. You know what they call a character like that in a different kind of work? In a lighter work, comic relief. (I'm expecting her to yell out, “LEEEROY JEEENKINS!” any second now.) In a darker work, a suicidal adrenaline junkie. This should be a flaw, and yet it's not treated as such. It's implied that it's treated as such, but as you'll see later, it's not.
But I'd still like to know exactly why she wants to go. Oh...wait, no...she's still holding the Hero Ball she picked up in the first chapter. Got it. Question withdrawn.
Annaïg sends Glim to go find Urvwen, a “crazy old Psijic priest,” while she goes off to visit Hecua to play with her potion-making.She claims she's not going to make Glim go to the floating city with her, but we all know that's a lie. Poor Glim has no choice. He is the sidekick. He must only follow in Annaïg's steps.
And oddly, I've never heard Psijics called priests before. They're a monastic order, sure, but they've always been called Graycloaks up until now, or some other title – like “Lore Master.” Monastic could just as well refer to their lifestyle. And I'm not really sure why he's degraded to shouting at random people on the docks, when he's supposed to be an advisor to royalty, dismissed or not. Maybe the author played KotN. Point is, in the past, if they're ignored, they just tend to shrug and say “It's on your head, idiot,” and then go home. This really does seem more like the crazy Prophet from KotN than a Psijic. (I always thought the guy was Talos, since the Psijics are all for the “Old Ways,” but hey – whatever floats your boat.)
Okay, I'll admit that one's a nitpick, but the Psijics are a favorite part of lore for me, aaaand...yeah. So.
The next bit, I applaud. It's another one of the few scenes that makes me feel like this could have been a proper Elder Scrolls book. It comes up with new terms and names (and one very old one), but they actually sound Elder-Scrolls-ish. It delves into some of Glim's struggles between Argonian and Imperial cultures. And Glim (my hero) wonders why the hell he's obediently following Annaïg's instructions, rather than finding out stuff that he actually cares about. A very good question indeed. He actually even tries to talk to the city tree – who gives him a vision of the past, or maybe of the future. Of the Black Marsh in power again – though damned if I know how giant stone pyramids were ever built in an equally giant marsh.
And then it kicks him out.
Sorry, dude. Plot says you're the sidekick, so you're only allowed to do what the hero tells you. So back to work, lizard-boy. No sidequest for you!
After some description of the dock (again, quite good – if nothing else, the descriptions in this book are lovely) and some backstory on Glim that will not affect anything, he finds Urvwen, sitting down at the docks and looking mournful. He tells Glim that something's nearly there, but doesn't seem to know what. Even though Taig said he heard the stories, and one would think the doomsayer would have listened.
Urvwen starts babbling about the Psijics and about how no one listens to him, but he keeps trying anyway. Glim asks what's going on, and that prompts a lecture on Arteum. And something's coming. But it's too complicated to explain. And Mundus is delicate (could have fooled me, what with god hearts raining down and gates tearing holes in everything, but maybe I have a different definition of fragile). And the ropes are too tight. And maybe Oblivion. And loopholes.
And then he tells Glim to bugger off.
This Psijic sucks.
Is he the kitchen boy or something? I'll bet he's the kitchen boy. He's not actually supposed to be here. He just snuck out one night and decided to go all DOOMY DOOM on the Argonians.
DOOM do-doom doom doooom,
doom doom dooom, do-do-DOOOM!
I like to imagine that this is what's going on in the floating city at the moment. (This image will never leave your head. Mwahahahah!)
But...yeah. Foreshadowing. Duh. Unfortunately, when a skull out in Solstheim does better foreshadowing than you, it's time to retake Prophecy 101. Maybe this time you won't get the crazy lady with the frizzy hair and big glasses who's so caught up with the DOOM and that weird kid with the scar on his head.
Okay, yeah, there is DOOM coming. But he sure doesn't manage to capture the absolute terror that you should all be feeling. How many times do I have to say it? Flying city = something with godlike power as far as you all know. Methinks it's not coming to pass out lollipops to all the good girls and boys. Definitely a bit more DOOM than that.
On a completely random note, my cat just attempted to eat the book. Good kitty. Smart kitty.
Uh...if you're with the library...no, I don't know where those fang marks came from. Really. No idea.
(Next chapter: I need happy pills. Lots and lots of happy pills.)
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:03 AM
Chapter 4 -
And back to the review – now with 50% more screaming and italics!
Annaïg's gone to see Hecua. Hecua is a one-eyed Redguard woman who seems to be an alchemist of sorts. (Yay, more pointless, one-scene wonders! No, she never shows up again, and she has no influence on the plot save to expound a bit. Cut her out.) She's helping Annaïg make a certain potion.
What potion, you ask?
Well, take a look.
The Redguard shook her head, “You've the knack, there's no doubt about that. But I've never heard of any formula that can make a person fly – not from anywhere. And this list – this just looks like a mess waiting to happen.”
“I've heard Lazarum of the Synod worked out a way to fly,” Annaïg said.
“Hmm. And maybe if there was a Synod conclave within four hundred miles of here, you might have a chance of learning that, after a few years of paying their dues. But that's a spell, not a synthesis.”
I'll let that sink in for a bit.
No, really, I'll wait.
Okay, everyone got that?
No one's made a flying potion before.
No one's made a flying potion before.
No one's made a flying potion before.
What the zarking hell were all those Levitation potions rattling around in my pack in Morrowind, then? No, seriously, what were they? When did they turn into Unobtanium? Did I just imaginedarting about Sadrith Mora like a bumblebee on crack? Did I walk up to the Ministry of Truth? Were there invisible ladders all over Morrowind? What the bloody, thrice-damned, comberry-eating netch-buggering hell.
Don't you dare try to tell me that this book is accurate with lore after this. I won't believe you. Vivec himself could pop out of my book and yell about the lore and I won't believe you. You can't remove one of the most useful, common spells in the Morrowind game just so you can Mary-Sue up your main chick and make the flying city more awesome. Which it isn't. I didn't buy it in Oblivion with their “Levitation Act of 421” and I don't buy it now. At least I could see the reasoning in Oblivion, being that it would make the Oblivion gate areas frighteningly easy, and screw up the closed cities. At least they make a nod towards its existence, game-breaking as it was. (I've turned off clipping to grind Oblivion gates before. It's game-breaking like you would not believe. Yeah, I'm lazy and have a max of three Gates before I get tired of the color red. Shut up.) But here? It apparently never existed. You have just lost any believability, book. Chapter four and it's gone. Like the wind. Wooosh.
Oh, and the Synod is another group someone made up to replace the Mages Guild. I think. It's not in any previous game or lore, of course. I'd be surprised, but I'm starting to go numb. Yep...I can no longer feel my feet. So, yeah...Synod.
So not only did the author never play Morrowind, I'm starting to suspect the developers he worked with never played Morrowind, either. And Morrowind killed their mothers.
No Levitation. *twitch* No Mages Guild. *twitch* Special level of hell. That's it, I was talking in the theater, a mutated bucket of popcorn ate me alive, and now I'm in the special hell. That must be it.
My one and only hope is that these two organizations split off from the Mages Guild proper rather than forming on their own. And even then, back to the original point of that sort of thing doesn't happen, given what the Guild's been through in the past. In fact, I should think the Mage's Guild would be even more in demand now...once they got rid of Conjuration, of course. Can't trust Daedra summoners.
And if this was done just to pad the Skyrim game with twice as many fetch quests, Ama be pissed.
And you wouldn't like her when she's pissed.
Incidentally, this was the point where I threw the book across the room the last time. But no...no, this time I decided to be masochistic.
They talk about a Chameleon potion that apparently made Glim's skin vanish for a week. Again, ignoring that the spell doesn't work that way, Annaïg's apparently using her best friend as a test subject, and she doesn't really seem to care that she made his bloody skin vanish. It's important for her potion, and he eventually got better. That's all that matters.
Our hero, ladies and gentleman. And there's another tick for my “Annaïg as sociopath” theory. I shudder to think this is supposed to be cute and naïve. It's not. It's cute the way that Twilight is romantic. If someone gave you the summary, you might be fooled. But if you actually read it, you realize the whole thing's seriously disturbing. It might take you a bit, but it'll sneak up on you with the whole, "She's using her best friend as a subject for her untested potions." And then it will blindside you with a crowbar to the nuts.
And now...the final proof.
Hecua honored their memberships, even though there was no such thing as the Mages Guild anymore. No one much cared; the An-Xileel didn't care, and neither did the College of Whispers nor the Synod – the two Imperially recognized institutions of magic – had representatives in Lilmoth, so they hadn't anything to say about it either.
The Mages Guild is gone, people. By some off-screen power of plot, it's gone. How, we never learn. Why, we never learn. In forty years. After at least a thousand years, completely separate from the Empire. With its own laws and leaders in every province. Those apparently don't matter. Everything you did in the Guild up to this point? Pointless. It's gone, anyway. Mannimarco should well have won, for all the difference it makes. Don't expect to see the Guild in the next game. I doubt you will.
Look, if you people wanted to make something completely out of the blue, at least show us. There must be a way that doesn't involve horrible violations of lore, logic, and well-received standards! You can rile up the fanbase with plot twists without taking away our bases without showing us! We have the Mages Guild, the Fighters Guild, and the Thieves Guild, and that's how it is, at least since Daggerfall! Stick with those! Don't take those away from us! Are you insane!? At the very least, give them a proper death in-game!
And just because the University is in the Imperial City, doesn't mean that's where the organization was based! Each province apparently has their own archmage – and Ocato is the one who promotes or fires them, going off of the events in Morrowind. If anything, at the biggest stretch, you'd have a few different factions all claiming to be the real Mages Guild. Why would they rename themselves? If you want power, you take the established name. Unless the established name has bad connotations with it, but we're not shown any. Renaming yourself in that case is pure idiocy.
Wait. Deep breaths. Calm. Calm. Crap, sorry, applying logic again. Ocato doesn't exist in this book, so I guess...actually, no, I still don't know what I guess. This is dumb. I don't mean to keep harping on this, but it's just so bizarre to me that my brain keeps shifting without a clutch and then something pops and-
Buuuuuuuuuh...I saw a squirrel! It was goin' like this! *chatter chatter chatter*
Annaïg goes traipsing her way through Hecua's stores of ingredients, and finds a little black bottle that shocks her. Yay. A plot point. Good thing I don't like subtlety in my books. *sob* Hecua tells her she got it from a customer who was empowered by PLOT and possibly DOOM – no, actually, the guy had no money, but swore he'd gotten the bottle from Oblivion, and Hecua felt sorry for him so she took it as payment.
You'll find out what it is later, but for now...Hecua is a sucky businesswoman, given that she never even opened the thing. Not even out of curiosity, which makes her a sucky alchemist, to boot. Secondly, she must have gotten it from the Cyrodiilic Champion, since no one else so much as looked into those gates unless the PC was babysitting them. (Okay, okay, the Bruma guard claim they did, but I don't believe them.) Thirdly, it smells like mint. Or eucalyptus. Joy. Apparently, Oblivion is now manufacturing its own line of bath products.
Try Dremora ™ brand soap! It flays the dead skin right off! Literally!
(Disclaimer: may cause bleeding, internal bleeding, stab wounds, death, horrible clawing death, horrible burning death, horrible stabbity death, horrible suffocating death, horrible crunchy death, and dry skin. Please use under your local healer's supervision.)
Also, no eucalyptus in the Elder Scrolls universe, dammit. She shouldn't know what that is. Unless there are Daedric koalas. Damn. That would kick ass. I'd play a game with Daedric koalas, no matter how bad the book that led up to it was.
(Did you know that Google autocompletes “Evil Koala?” I did not. The things you learn from the internet, I tell ya.)
When Hecua expresses her doubts, Annaïg says she's going to run “virtue tests” on the thing.
Beg pardon, but…she's gonna do what?
I'm going to assume that these “virtue tests” are something thought up to explain how one knows what the four properties of any given ingredient are. Unfortunately, they don't exist in any of the lore. At least, the name doesn't. Also unfortunately, she only gets the school of each property...and that's not how it works. (But I fear it'll be changed to work that way in Skyrim. Because fake difficulty is good difficulty, right? Yay, Nintendo Hard. Thanks for those flashbacks. Really.) Thirdly, Hecua is the worst alchemist ever for not running said tests to begin with. And fourth, Annaïg only gets the first two, signifying that she's not as good an alchemist as later events show.
Oh, and if Levitation doesn't exist in this world, why would having one of the properties be Alteration be promising? You don't know it's an Alteration spell. It could be Mysticism. That's got telekinesis, after all. That would be a more likely place to start off of.
Luckily, even though she's only apprentice rank, she manages to make a potion after hours of work. Because, apparently, trauma root and cliffracer plumes are now nowhere to be found. (Hint: They're not, dammit all.) It's not like those were common or anything. It's not like I got a hundred of those while doing the main quest-hate cliffracers, hate cliffracers, hear their shriek in my sleep, hate, hate hate kill you all...
Er...sorry. Not to mention, if she's only got the schools of the effects, she should end up with one, giant, useless mess. (We never find out what the Restoration attribute is, either.) Because she'd have to know at least one other Levitation ingredient, and if she does, we're not told.
Okay, some of you might be wondering about my constant rants on “We're not told.” As my high school English teacher often said: “If it's not in the book, it didn't happen.” Skyrim and the second book may embellish on this, but this book does not. So for now, there's a ton of crap missing from our information. There's a certain amount of information we're given, and that implies quite a lot we should be given, but we're not. And it's not something that would make the book much longer either. Most of these are minor, and quite important points. (Though I will admit, some are nitpicks.) Still, I'd like to hear some of them. Like, as a small example, where the hell did the Mages Guild go!?
In a completely random sequence, she hears a sound on the stairs and goes into complete paranoid mode. Why? No clue. She's not doing anything she shouldn't. At least, not that we've been informed. The only two people it could be are Glim – who knows she's trying to make the potion – and her father, who it actually is and he calls her, and she relaxes.
Pointless, out-of-character scene – yay!
She notes that Glim's been gone for a while – because smart Argonians get drunk when they're trapped in a book like this – and so she heads to:
a polished cypress cabinet and withdrew two small objects wrapped in soft gecko skin. She unwrapped them carefully, revealing a locket on a chain and a life-sized likeness of a sparrow constructed of a fine metal the color of brass but as light as paper. Each individual feather had been fashioned exquisitely and separately, and its eyes were garnets set in ovals made of some darker metal.
As her fingers touched it, it stirred, ruffling its metal wings.
“Hey Coo,” she whispered.
She hesitated then. Coo was the only thing of value her mother had left her that hadn't been stolen or sold.
You would be forgiven at this point for thinking you'd stumbled into a fairytale about a poor girl who'd lost her mother, but had been left an incredible, unexplained magical object which she then uses to find her destiny/fortune/true love/left shoe.
You'd be forgiven, because that's exactly what happened. Good thing it's not a common fairytale motif or anything. Not like...oh, the Grimm version of Cinderella, where she gets a magical tree that grows from her mother's grave. Or Puss-in-Boots, and titular cat. Or the Goose Girl and her talking horse. Or the girl from a Baba Yaga myth who's given a little doll that gives her advice. Or some versions of Tattercoats, where she's given three walnuts with magical gowns. Or the five billion magic fish stories.
Nope. Not common at all.
Where did this random bit of magic come from? It's a bizarre little object, enchanted with a spell that's completely unheard of, made out of a material that doesn't exist. Is it supposed to be Dwemer-made? Because Dwemer metal does look like brass. Unfortunately, it's as heavy as hell, so that can't be it. I remember lugging around scrap metal and cogs. Them's heavy.
But worst of all, the damn metal bird flies. After all that hullabaloo about maybe, maybe someone might've come up with a flying spell, Annaïg's got a magical hunk of metal that does just that? Saying that it “drifted, more than flew” is a crap way of trying to get out of that! If anything, that makes it more magical! Is there any more obvious way to say “I can't figure out how to connect Attrebus to the story. Have some Birdie Ex Machina on the house”?
*pulls out Mary-Sue list* Super-special, unique, magical item that does not fit setting or time period, is never explained, does something that's supposed to be impossible, and gets more description than some all of the main characters – check!
Her father calls for her again and, having no more lore-crushing to do, she answers him. (That's why I said the last scene was pointless. Nothing comes of it until it's repeated a few paragraphs later. It could be taken out, easily.) They talk, and it comes to light that he's sold their house for the money to send her to Leyawiin, and she's going there whether she likes it or not. He even brings in a couple thugs to drag her off to be certain that she makes it to the boat. I won't spoil it completely, because it's a good scene.
Yes. It's a good scene. Dare I say, it's an awesome scene. It hints at the horrible danger, shows us the desperation, leaves us hanging, and gives the book a serious kick in the ass to get moving, dammit. This is the kind of scene I've been hoping for since the beginning.
Again, let me say, I really like Taig. You should honestly read all the scenes at the beginning where he is. Too bad he probably dies. I think that if it weren't for the stupid idea that only horny boys between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five buy video games, he would have been a fascinating and wonderful main character. A middle aged man, who might be an alcoholic, who's lost almost everything, who gave up anything left after that to save his daughter...and imagine if Annaïg had been one to die instead. Take a character, break them completely, and then see how they climb out of it. That's the makings of great literature. That's what happens to the player characters in all the Elder Scrolls games. You start from nothing. From prison. In Morrowind, it's even worse, because everyone hates your guts because you're an outlander. To put it nicely, you're scum. And you have to save their crappy little world.
If Taig had been the hero, he'd be willing to do anything, absolutely anything for what he sees as the greater good of his family. Even destroy his own pride.
That book would have been awesome.
But no – we get the seventeen-year-old, stupidly-optimistic, possibly-sociopathic-but-not-in-an-interesting-way girl. Because she has breasts. And boys like breasts. Dagon's Balls.
Switching back to Glim, he's wandering about, pleasantly buzzed (lucky lizard), and thinking rebellious thoughts about the plot. He thinks about how boring watching Annaïg's alchemy is, and how he hasn't spent time with anyone else for ages, and how much more sense things would be making if he had.
I love it when a character in a book like this grabs freedom for a moment and wonders why the author stuck them in such a silly situation. If you're writing your character correctly, they should do this. They should give you second thoughts about stupid things you're doing to them. While you're writing that character, be that character. Authors are method actors at heart. When you realize your character's having second thoughts on the plot – stop the damn plot and do a new one. This might sound silly to you, but it's very important. It's right up there with reading your story out loud to make sure it flows well and sounds good. The characters drive the story. Don't make them break it.
*pulls out Mary-Sue list* Insists that her friends revolve around her to the exclusion of all else, no matter how she abuses then, and to the point that the relationship is edging near to Twilight levels of creepy – check!
Glim is wondering if he should leave, since the city tree might have gone rogue. Or worse, all of the Hist. As he's thinking all this, the plot blindsides him in the form of Coo, the magical plot device that I hate so very much. Coo apparently not only flies, it acts as a magic mirror. You know, the kind where two people can talk to each other through the two sides. I haven't seen that since the Enchanted Forest series (Patricia C Wrede – read it now, dammit), and it was used sparingly and well there.
I shouldn't have to say this, but there's nothing really similar in the lore. Unless you count the bloody Tribunal talking together. *sob* At least now I know why they're not freaking out over something that should be considered god-sent. The main character has something just like it in her back pocket. Seriously, where the hell did her mom get this thing?
*Pulls out the Mary-Sue list* I hate this book. *helpless sobbing*
Glim manages to hear that Annaïg's been kidnapped, she's creative with swearing – (1) We never hear that since this book is PG-rated, (2) Check off another thing on the Mary-Sue list and note that this makes her spunky. Or something.
And Glim feels bad about everything. Why? I...I'm not quite sure. Because he dared to be disobedient to Annaïg's world? Maybe. Him being there when she was grabbed wouldn't have made a difference. She sent him away, he was just a little late. It's not like she told him to come right home. She's not his mother. I bloody well hope this isn't some sort of White Man's Burden novel, though it's starting to read like it, even though Annaïg ought to be the minority here. Don't make the Argonians overly awesome/throw off the slaver's shackles, and them make the main Argonian follow a Breton around like a loyal lapdog. That's...kinda creepy.
I'm just going to go with the original theory that Glim knows he's in a game novel and wants to get everything over with – thus he knows that Annaïg just extended the plot and his life just got more difficult.
Yeah. We'll go with that.
Again, this is the chapter that made me throw the book across the room last time (Taig's scenes notwithstanding), and the point at which I realized that this is not an Elder Scrolls novel. I don't know what kind of novel it is, but I've read dozens of fanfictions with more coherent, lore-based plots, and self-insert characters who are less of a Mary Sue than this chick. Good God, I want to take a hammer to Coo. Coo takes me from Elder Scrolls to some sort of fairytale.
When you think Elder Scrolls, do you think of flying jeweled birds with magic mirror on their backs?
No, I didn't think so.
Also, Bethesda? Daedric Koalas. Seriously. Look into it. I don't think of Elder Scrolls when I think of koalas, either, but I'd sure like to.
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:03 AM
And we're back! With 100% more Doctor Who!
So, after a short break to get the book back from the library, we return to Annaïg being kidnapped by big burly men (lucky bitch) and locked in a “small stateroom” on a ship by the really old Argonian captain. So old that his scales are turning translucent – and I am impressed, because I'm pretty sure this actually happens to old reptiles. But don't hold me to that. I'm not positive. And googling “Old Snake” just brings up a bunch of Metal Gear Solid links.
The big issue here is: Why do non-essential characters keep getting more description than some of the main ones? Seriously – I have no idea what any of the main characters, especially Colin, actually look like. I only know that Annaïg is seventeen from outside-book description, and she has “ebon curls” and an “ample mouth.”
Is she tall? Short? Athletic? What color are her eyes? Is she bronzed from spending time outside, or is it too misty in Black Marsh for the sun to tan her? Does she have a strong jaw? Does she wear rich clothes befitting her status, or poor ones befitting the lack of money her family has? Does she even wear shoes? Are her fingers stained and scarred from her untrained work with alchemy? Does she have bug-bites from living in the marsh? What does she look like, book? What?
Read through my questions, and you'll see exactly how much one can say about the setting and backgrounds just by what a character looks like. But no...“ebon curls” and “ample mouth” and she's got just about the most description of any main character. Seriously. The innkeeper in the prologue who has a paragraph worth of lines at least has blue eyes and “barley-colored hair” (Blond. The word is blond. I'm burning that thesaurus, you hear?) and apparently a reason to go tearing up to the rooms of his customers with an unsheathed sword if he hears yelling. Fascinating. And never expanded upon.
Colin? No bloody description at all. Sul? Old – or at least lined – and has red eyes (as Dunmer tend to do). Glim? Chocolate spines, green scales and black claws. That's all we ever learn as to what they look like. I really hope this changes.
Annaïg tries to escape, but since “she couldn't shape-shift into a cat or a ferret” she can't get out the window.
No ferrets in TES.
No shape-shifting unless into werewolves in TES.
Why would she even consider that?
Learn the damn setting.
It's just...these multitudinous little things that make it so very not a TES novel.
Annaïg proceeds to sob – as we are explicitly informed – with anger, grief and terror (in that order), and finally starts to wonder if maybe the giant floating city that smells like dying things might maybe be something to be concerned about. And she comes to the conclusion that the only reason her father would have her dragged off by burly men is because he's pretty sure he's going to die. And she wants to know why he gets to stay and die and not her?
I'll tell you why. It's not hard to figure out.
#1 – You're the idiot holding the Hero Ball. Suck it up and deal with it. This is the Magical Girl “I just want to be normal” rant condensed into a single line and never touched on again.
#2 – You have breasts. (Straight) Men like breasts. Only (straight) men play videogames. You must live so men can drool over your seventeen-year-old breasts. Your dad has no breasts. Therefore he is not a good character.
If that creeps you out or annoys you a little, good! You're a real gamer, not the uber-simplified (horny teenage male who only play for the sex [only heterosexual, and only female nudity, mind you – boy parts are icky] and mindless blood) version that most game companies seem to think we are.
I'm not saying those things are bad, but how about something for us on the other side, hmm? Where's my incubi and barely-clothed slave boys, hmm? Where are they, games? Huh? Huh?
So, the tears wind down to “ladylike” sniffling (I wish I'd added that in – but no, it's in the book) and realizes “Hey! I've got an author-granted magic mirror with way-over-the-top magic powers! Maybe I should use that!”
Ignoring the stupid attempts to add depth to the Argonians because they never show up again (Dude, did you just forget to load Chekhov's gun?), she gets in touch with Glim, tells him that she's on a ship with a name that she somehow took the time to get the name of, then she tells him not to come because he'll get caught, and then she notes that he's probably coming after all.
Duh. He must be. After all, she's the main character. He can't do anything else but save her pretty, helpless ass. She knows the writer won't let him stay away any more than when she told him he didn't have to check out the flying city with her. Just drop the pretense already. Poor guy is her sidekick and that's it. He has no other choice but to follow her.
The boat leaves and she curses made-up Argonian at it – this book is so unrepentantly PG it stings – and then angsts about Glim.
Now, I would like to point out here that if she did what her father told her and Glim had done what she told him, it would be the actually really smart thing to do. Sure, the plot would be radically different, but Glim heard her father insisting that it would be the smart thing, right? Bad things are coming. Only Taig seems to realize how bad, but they're coming. They've got at least a little idea of that. “Rescuing” her from her father's goodwill only proves how much of an ungrateful little brat she is.
Seriously. Her dad just sold everything they had and probably sacrificed his life so she could be safe from whatever's coming. Everything's gone, so he could get her out. All she thinks is how horrible he is for doing this against her wishes, and why he gets to choose to die instead of her.
Incidentally, If you're wondering if Annaïg has any future mind-breaking moments of “Oh my Gods, my father probably died for me!”...no. She doesn't. Not a one. As best I recall, she hardly thinks of her father again. Now, I know they obviously didn't have the best relationship, but really – some sort of recognition might be nice. A bit of guilt. A thought of the good times when her mother was still alive. Something. Even a thought that his lifestyle took him from her long ago would have been good.
Self-centered little bitch. I'm wondering why she gets to live, myself. And this is the heroine.
Oh, and I'd like to note that when the captain comes to check on her, he literally points out to her that he hasn't kidnapped her because she's underage and her dad told him to. Or hired him to. Whichever.
“This isn't kidnapping, this is your father's wish – and you aren't old enough to go against his wish.”
So maybe we shouldn't be concentrating on her teenage breasts after all, hmmm?
Too bad! She's your helpless virgin sex symbol for the book! Look at her! She's all...pure. And untouched. And young. And helpless. And she has an ample mouth. And boobs. And that's all that really matters, right? Bow-chicka-bow-wow.
Feeling a little creepy now? Good – so am I. Really...really creepy. I'm...just going to go scrub myself raw with bleach now, okay? I'll be right back.
Incidentally, if there's some sort of “Oh, hey, look! It's my birthday!” scene, you'll know the author is revving up to toss her into romance/bed/both with Attrebus. Because California and this version of Nirn both say eighteen is legal, plus he's a prince. And this is a fairytale, not proper fantasy and certainly not TES. How could that go wrong?
Eh-heh. Would you like that in a list or in a spreadsheet, book?
She proceeds to be bitchy spunky with the captain and heads out on deck. Oh, and he warns her not to run, or the sea-drakes will eat her. Whatever the hell those might be. (I think they're supposed to be a type of Loch Ness Monster/plesiosaurus-type critter from the very brief description we get later.) It's reminiscent of “The Princess Bride” – when Vizzini warns Buttercup about the shrieking eels (or sharks, in the book) that are coming to get her when she jumps overboard to escape – except that was actually a good fairytale. Because it knew it was one, and parodied happily. This book doesn't realize that it's a fairytale, and tries to insist that it's to be taken seriously. Which it shouldn't be.
Do I seem like I'm harping on this? I think I might be. Let's move on.
Above her, sails billowed and snapped in the plentiful wind that always drove off the coast early in the night, and the bow cut a furrow through a sea lacquered in silver and bronze by the two great moons above. For a moment, her fear and dismay were overcome by an unexpected rush of joy at the beauty of it, the adventure it seemed to promise. Across the sea to the Empire, and everything she'd always wanted. Her father's last, best – almost only – gift to her.
And the last, best and almost only shot at realistic characterization for her.
Why does she want to run away if this is all she ever wanted? Purple prose aside, this paragraph makes a good point. This is what she's probably been whining about for years. Dreaming about. Now, out of the blue, she has to be kidnapped to take the opportunity? I don't understand. No, really, I don't.
If I were writing this, I would have her gleeful at the opportunity, and then suddenly have that all snatched away by the flying city. Because that would give her even more reason to want to get away from the thing.
Oh, didn't I mention? She randomly throws away her dream to get to the Empire proper in favor of getting onto the flying city. Once she's there, the whole plot is about how she's going to get off. Even though she really wanted to get on. Over her childhood dream. And her backstory. And her character. And everything that ought to make her tick as a character. And it...it...I...
Buuuuuuuuuh...I saw a squirrel! It was goin' like this! *chatter chatter chatter*
...Okay – I've been beaten with the Hero Ball enough that this should make sense-
I play a game with a book about a king having such violent sex with a pile of mud that he dies. YOU CANNOT BREAK ME.
Glim is good sidekick. Glim grabs her. Glim drowns her. Yay, Glim!
Wishful thinking aside, he just tackles her offboard and holds her underwater until she passes out, assumedly because he realizes that if he doesn't, she'll attempt to banter. (How did he climb up on deck? No damn clue. But boats are pretty tall, so perhaps the author couldn't figure it out either.) Brief aside to how awesome a swimmer Glim is – plot point for those of you who didn't realize that a reptile native to a giant swamp might be good at swimming! - and then they run into one of those sea drakes and then get away. If it seems I'm going fast, it's because none of this is really important or exciting, and I care no more than you do.
Oh, and here we get one of those tacked-on “weaknesses” that you see in Mary-Sues. Annaïg isn't good at swimming. This is a weakness, right? She's not perfect, right? She's not a Mary-Sue, right?
Surprise, she'll never have to swim outside this one scene. Ever. This is like The DaVinci Code where the main character angsts about his claustrophobia to where you suspect it'll actually be important – and then when he's in an actual claustrophobic area, proceeds to mention it, ignore it, and then show off how smart he is by solving an (author induced) intricate puzzle. I am claustrophobic. He should have been staring at the floor, useless, trying to remember how to breathe, to hell with the damn puzzle.
Similarly, here, adding a weakness she'll never again encounter is nothing more than a form of min-maxing. For those not familiar with the term, it means “the practice of playing a role-playing game, wargame or video game with the intent of creating the "best" character by means of minimizing undesired or unimportant traits and maximizing desired ones.” Usually by finding things the character won't need. Like Charisma for a non-cleric character. Or the lack of swimming ability in a character who never dips a toe in water from here on out.
To drag in my character again – she can't use a bow. She just can't wrap her head around it. She hasn't learned how to use it, and she never will. She's an assassin character. This seriously cuts into her coolness factor, and her usefulness factor, because she has to face everything head-on and often in ways she'd rather not. The weakness actually weakens her. It doesn't count as a weakness unless the little bitch almost drowns because of it. Otherwise it's like saying your character can't breathe in a vacuum, but it's okay, because she never goes into space.
Right. So. They escape the drake. Annaïg scrapes her leg on a reef, and they joke that she'll only have to worry about sharks (there's sharks in Redguard, so I won't whine, but I would think with predators as big as the ones in Black Marsh, I'd go elsewhere if I were a shark. Way, way far elsewhere. Altmer are a lot easier to chew than Argonians anyway.)
Random comparison of mangroves to giant spiders (Giant spiders found in Daggerfall, lore-buff rant held back), and Annaïg and Glim find their way to shore. Glim suggests that they don't go back to Lilmoth, even though his family (who pretty much don't exist in this book) lives there, because there's nothing he can do for them in the face of floaty, stinky DOOM.
Nothing? Really? Oh, I don't know...maybe warning them before you took off after the main hero? Not that they haven't been warned over and over? Wait, no, we're suddenly taking the floating city seriously. I forgot. It's suddenly a threat, damned if I know why. But it wasn't before, so warning or running wasn't an option. You all ignored the thing up until now. So you're choosing the idiot girl who uses you as a test subject over your family. And you were with them only a bit ago. Why not warn them then?
Not that Glim ever thinks of them again after this point, either. Or really much before this point. They're outside the orbit of Annaïg, anyway. They're not really important. Backstory is for other people.
And the City Tree has gone rogue, just as it did in ancient times.
(What ancient times? What are you talking about? When did this happen?)
And it only speaks to the An-Xileel and the Wild Ones.
(Didn't it talk to you last chapter? And who the hell are the Wild Ones? How do you even know it talks to these people? Have you had a conversation with either member of the two groups? No? Then it didn't happen!)
But it must be talking to the floating city as well.
(How the hell do you know that? Your vision had nothing about the floating city! You know nothing about the floating city! There's no connection between the two! Oh my God, this is ridiculous! It could have had a one-sentence mention of the damn thing to connect the two – but no....then Glim would have actually taken it seriously. And maybe gotten his family out of town and let Annaïg get to a safe place too, and...GAH.)
From here on out, we shall assume that Glim is psychic. Not Psijic, though that would be pretty cool. He knows things he has no way or opportunity of knowing. In fact, he knows more than the actual Psijic, who's still sitting on his thumbs and claiming he doesn't know what's coming even though everyone's heard of (and ignored) the flying city.
This is basically author-induced stupidity. The Idiot Ball. The only way this plot could have worked is for everyone in Lilmoth to ignore the impending DOOM for no reason. Otherwise, they'd be gone. Like the wind. Or the believability of this whole damn thing.
The only conclusion I can come to that would explain this is that there's some kind of red tide in Black Marsh or something. Something that makes everyone lose the ability to comprehend danger. And Annaïg is more susceptible, being that as a non-Argonian, she's not immune to poisons or unfortunate bio-organisms. The alternative is that there's more dumb in this book than I am physically equipped to handle.
So if I bail out and leave you all to the singularity of stupid, you know why.
And double oh - the “elders” were supposedly killed three-hundred years ago. Or wiped out. Or something. I assume that this is going to be blamed on the Dunmer somehow. But really – how in the world would anything have tried to wipe out the elder Hist? I mean, they've got to be in the middle of the swamp. How would they even get there? No one's ever penetrated to there, not even the Daedra. (Apparently.) Who would have killed them – I – gah -!
(I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little-death that brings total annihilation...)
Please stop with the backstory....I'm going to start crying. Please...for the love of God, please... *sob*
They talk a bit more about what's going on and – oh, what the hell. Annaïg's nickname is “Nn?” Seriously? Is that what you call her? A noise that sounds like you've been punched in the stomach? Or perhaps a mid-coitus vocalization? Might I introduce you to the name “Anna?” “Ann,” even?
Okay, my excuse for this is that it's hard for Argonians to say vowels. Right. We'll go with that. “Glim” is actually pronounced “Glm.” Lilmoth is “Llmth.” Argonian is...“Rgnn.” Yeah.
Annaïg wants to help, or, failing that, at least get a good look at everyone dying for narration purposes. Glim actually asks her how determined she is to get herself killed. Again, when your characters think you're being a suicidal idiot, perhaps it's time to take a new look at the story.
So they climb a rock face, past cave-paintings that would actually be interesting in terms of backstory (Glim gets no backstory! He is sidekick!), and we finally, finally receive proper fear in the face of a levitating, lethal city. And a pretty decent description – ignoring the word “susurrus,” which means both “murmuring” and “I can't live without my thesaurus, it gives me pretty words!” But anyway – proper fear. Which is what I've been waiting for since the beginning of the book. Still, though, there's something missing. For all the pretty description, and the terror of the characters, there's could be more. If you think about it, really think about it, it should be gut-wrenchingly horrible.
The city is flying. Not so bad, right? Not so scary. Except it appears to be feeding, too.
It's not described as feeding here. But personally, I'd find that one word far more terrifying than filaments or hornets or black smoke or anything else that's listed. Feeding. Just think about that for a second. It's a predator the size of a city. It is a city. What could it be eating? What does it need? Can it possibly be stopped? That's primal, there. Feeding. Nothing's immune to that fear. It's ingrained in us over millenia.
After all, it's here to kill you. Just because you happen to be there. Nothing more. It could care less about you other than the fact that you're food.
And you can't escape. Period.
Run fast. Run far. And never, ever stop running.
That's what it should be. That's the reaction we should have had from the beginning. That's all it needed to have. It's often said that the basis of horror is: “You're the only person left in the world. There's a knock on the door.” At first, it's not so scary, right? Knocks happen all the time. Then you realize...you're alone. Who is it?
I'll pull in another example here. The Doctor Who episode called “Blink.” It has, as its villain, something that sneaks up on you whenever you're not looking, and feeds on you. They don't kill you. They just feed on you. Your life. You have no choice. Once they get you, no escape. Don't blink. Blink and they'll get you. Blink, and you're as good as dead.
You're being watched.
So in here, with all the description and all the talk of this, that, hornets, mind-control, spiderwebs, anything, all that had to be said was that it was feeding. And with that single word, suddenly, it's more than something that might be supernatural. Something that might be from the gods. The ideas that it might be a predator is worse.
That's what's missed in this book. The deep, primal fear that could be addressed but isn't. The same reason we instinctively fear disease and weakness is due to a fear of predators. Even those who haven't been in a life-threatening situation have that fear ingrained into them. Properly handled, this would be utterly terrifying, down to where the caveman in our head is fighting the dark with their sputtering campfire. And you wouldn't even be sure why. I've made it glaringly obvious for the review. A talented writer would make it bite at your subconscious until you had no choice but to be terrified.
And the book misses this so completely that it ends up in a whole different state. More on that later, but suffice to say that it takes what should be a terrifying monster and de-balls it so badly that it's hardly even a proper villain.
Glim goes a little crazy/brainwashed here and takes off, presumably to get the hell out of the book while the getting's good. At the same time, the never-properly-explained bug things from the city are coming up the tunnel to get them. How they know they're there, why they really care about it, and why the hell they didn't just fly to the top rather than landing all the way at the bottom and then climbing up is never explained.
However, they're in mortal danger, so Annaïg does what Annaïg does best and decides it's the perfect time to use her completely untested potion, that should really be a bottle of unusable glop if one knows anything about TES alchemy.
She caught up with him and tickled him under the jaw. When his mouth gaped reflexively – she'd had a lot of fun with that when they were kids – she poured the contents of a vial into it. He closed his mouth and coughed.
#1 – Deadly danger. Not the time to be reminiscing about your childhood. Breaks the flow. Should have done it earlier in some of the witty banter. #2 – Seriously? How long has she been using him as a test subject, poor guy? Forced test subject from the sound of things. My God – why would you do something like that to your only friend? Our heroine is insane, guys.
She drank her own dose. It felt like a cold iron rod was being pushed down her esophagus, and she coughed, violently.
Let's just say I read too much erotica and move on, shall we?
Wait a second. *flips back a chapter* She only made one flask of the stuff! She never divided it into two vials! You cheap bastard, book! Can't you at least keep some continuity with the potion vials? *headdesk headdesk headdesk*
Okay, so, untested potion works. Duh. As much as I'd like Annaïg to be eaten, she is the heroine. Once they're spinning up into the air, she tries to steer them home because she's a moron, but brainwashed-Glim drags them toward the floating city. Annaïg, being the heroine, manages to override Glim's will enough to drop them in the “deepest crevasse she could see” - which shouldn't be any safer than any other part of the place as far as she knows – and they make it to the island. Yay. After passing through some invisible barrier that I assume must be plot-important, but I can only guess what that importance might be. Luckily, the duration of the spell is exactly what they need it to be.
Sooo...they're on the island/city/cone/thing by the power of a potion that is both non-canon and non-fake-canon. Oh, and brainwashing. Annaïg has proved that she is better than any other alchemist in the history of the TES series – by virtue of removing levitation potions from Morrowind – and is therefore teh uber. And now that they're in the belly of the beast, exciting stuff is going to be happening, right? I mean, we've got the Mary Sue, her sidekick and her magic all-powerful birdie, right? They're going to start the real adventure, right?
Hahahahaha – oh, you poor fool. Start drinking now. It will make it hurt less.
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:06 AM
An update! Finally!Chapter Six - Let me start out with a quote from a recent Nostalgia Critic episode.“This has to be the most selfish, male-depending, uncaring, manipulative, self-centered, pretentious, idiotic, whining little bitch-bag you will ever see in your entire life. And honestly, that wouldn't be too bad a character, that would be very, very interesting, if it was intentional.”He's talking about Bella from Twilight. And yet he makes the same sort of points I do about Annaïg. This is...kind of creepy.(Good news: Not quite as bad as Bella, if only because we haven't hit the romance. Bad news: Seventeen-year-old girl with ebon hair with similarly demanding, sociopathic, needs-to-be-rescued, selfish tendencies. Who the envisioned teenage audience is supposed to either identify with or lust over. I...I think I've figured out why I hate Annaïg so much. This is...not good.)Oh hell. Let him say it, not me.Yeah.*cough**nervous shuffling*Back to the plot!And now, they're on the floating city. Apparently, they seem to be waking up, even though nothing ever implied they'd been knocked out by the landing.And on a side note, Annaïg wakes up to find her “palms were pressed against thick-grained basalt.” Here is the first indication in the book of the utter lack of a grasp on geology. In almost any other book, I would let this slide, both with joy and with suspension of disbelief, but given a much later scene? I'm going to milk this sucker. Milk it. I have no shame. Basalt is fine-grained due to the rapid cooling of the lava it came from. A thick (or if you wanted to use the correct terminology, coarse) -grained rock would be granite. Not basalt.This will be important later. There will be a test.Now, you see, a proper cliff-hanger last chapter would have had them spiraling up into the air, with no sign that they were going to land safely or at all. It's called dramatic tension. Yes, there is some tension, saying you don't know what's up there, but since every possible drop of scary has been squeezed out of the thing, I'm going with the theory that a simple hundred-foot fall is scarier in this world.(And given certain events...yeah. It is. At least if you know anything about lore or logic.)Oh, and I forgot this last chapter:Minor character deaths: 9-ish. Let's say at least 11 who have been deliberately mentioned.Taig, Hecua, the Psijic, the two thugs who took Annaïg to the ship, and Glim's cousins. This isn't even counting the unnamed ones who obviously died without mention. Which is probably a few hundred at least – it is a large port city. Including Glim's immediate family.However...I really wish I could care about all those deaths. I really do. But I don't. Because the characters care for maybe a sentence or two, and then ignore it. All the characters. As does the book. I mean – a whole city died. A city that was the home to two of the main characters for most or all of their lives. It’s not like that should be important or anything, right?Glim tells Annaïg that the reason he zonked out on her is because the tree – the Hist – was talking to him. But now he can't hear it at all. Actually, when it was calling him, he felt that it was talking to a whole bunch of others at the same time, too.So Argonians = hive mind. The things you learn when you're reading a book like this.But now that the heroine and the sidekick are together again, it's time for more pointless banter!...I'll spare you most of it. Glim congratulates her on the success of a potion he didn't know she made, nor remembers that he swallowed. Seriously. The page before he says he remembers nothing. Annaïg doesn't explain how they got up there beyond that they flew. Given that the whole island is flying, it could have been anything that made them fly. The hornet things. The filaments. Just the proximity of the island.Psychic Glim, however, knows without a doubt that it's the potion she made that got them up there, and without even asking what happened.Truly, he has amazing mental powers. I mean, he didn't even know she'd come across the Daedric eucalyptus bath salts because he was too busy getting drunk like a smart character. (There's no eucalyptus in TES! God!)“But this is what you wanted, yes, to be up here?”“I changed my mind,” she said. “In the end, it was you who wanted to come up here – only you wanted to go beneath, down to the ground. I wanted to go back to town. This was the compromise.”No, in a perfect world, the compromise would have been you faceplanting in the swamp halfway between. Which I feel no guilt in wishing upon you. Ground+ground=ground. Not air.Also – totally your fault, Glim. How could you do this to her? You ass. How dare you? It's never her fault. She's the heroine. You are a mere beast race. You can do nothing without her pushing you to do it.Annaïg? Choose a motivation. Please. Just choose one and stick with it. It makes it so much easier for the reader, you have no idea.And then they meet a human-sized moth. No, really. I'm not kidding. A gigantic moth. If this doesn't show up in Skyrim to make it semi-lore-friendly, I'm screaming....no, I take that back. Please don't show up in Skyrim. Gyah.And please, for the love of sweet baby Veggietales Jesus – never use the word “voluptuous” when describing a giant insect. Never. Never ever. Especially one with a needle-sharp proboscis and a head that's no more than a black sphere. Never ever ever oh my head not in Skyrim please make it stop...I shouldn't even have to tell you that these things (bee-hornet-moth-mosquitoes) are so non-lore and non-canon and non-explicable that I'm surprised the book doesn't implode under the great lie of “An Elder Scrolls Novel” on the cover. I have no idea where in lore that would even begin to come from. Namira? Maybe? If She'd gotten a single mention in the book, I'd consider it. But I'm pretty sure they've been magicked in from another story entirely. This isn't a Star Wars novel. TES is a fairly small, well-covered universe. You can't suddenly start pulling alien beings out of nowhere.Oh, and Annaïg apparently can read its mind.No, seriously.Would I lie to you?She thinks really hard at it (and the book deliberately points that out), and it goes away. I'll assume this is an accident on the author's part, or a clumsy attempt at foreshadowing, but it really does read like the Mary Sue managed to chase it away.…With mind bullets!*cough* Sorry. I'll stop.Annaïg, once again proving she has no concept of danger, heads off in the direction the insect went, with little more than a “Huh, I don't know what that was” as her reaction. Not like a bug the same size as you would leave you gibbering and running in the opposite direction or anything. If you saw threats realistically, I mean. (Psychopath.)She and Glim see it fly away and then watch the filaments flick up and down...and in the face of being in an utterly unknown, incredibly dangerous area, surrounded by gigantic insects, unknown magic, and power at godly levels, they......apparently relax and make an afternoon of just lounging around and watching this all happen.Again, I'm serious. They do nothing but watch. For hours. Look, there's frozen in fear, and then there's “Good God, get a hobby.” Why even point that out?!And there goes the fear again. Note above points, but don't think about exploring or anything! Finding out what's going on – what's up with this city and its monsters. Don't be ridiculous. No, there's exposition to be had!*tears out hair*Finally, the city lumbers its way south enough and – come to think of it, Black Marsh is the province furthest to the south-east. Lilmoth is the city furthest to the south there. How did the city come off the ocean and go over Lilmoth while moving south? The thing apparently hooked a huge left turn somewhere in there.Okay, just replace “south” with “north” and you might convince me that the author actually looked at a map of the place he was writing about....there were a large number of crawling horrors from the sea. She recognized some as Dreughs, from her books. Others resembled huge slugs and crabs with hundreds of tentacle-limbs, but for these she had no names.It's okay, Annaïg. You can't be expected to recognize something that doesn't exist in your canon. The Dreugh do at least. But that's it. The slugs might be Sload, but I wouldn't bet it. And no wonder they're moving so slowly, if the great monsters of the army are either slugs or attempting to move by way of tentacles across semi-dry land. If those things are Sload, then they ought to be moving about as fast as Baron Harkonnen without his suspensors.(...Google it, you non-reading heathens. Then put this book down and read that one.)Also: post-2-0-40757900-1317458275.jpg 33.77KB 0 downloadsAnd I hope Black Marsh is a salt marsh, otherwise this army of sea creatures is going to have a very very bad day really really soon.(Why the hell are they following the city, anyway? They just seem to be thrown in to make it scarier. Which it isn't.)These horrors, along with a whole bunch of Argonians, swarm over a plantation below and kill everyone in it. Let's see...a plantation. A rather large farm, actually described here as a village, populated mostly by Bretons. That's enough to count as good description in this book, so that'll add about ten to our count of vaguely mentioned deaths.Minor character deaths: 21Okay, I lied about only counting named characters, but this is seriously getting ridiculous. We're not even a fourth of the book in, we haven't even hit any real action, and minor characters are dying like flies. And yet it's still not scary because no one cares.Oh, and when the dead people somehow turn into zombies (I'm still trying to figure this one out), Annaïg decides that's going to be what makes her barf. Not watching them die, not the human-sized insects, no...it's the whole standing up thing. Now, if that had been accompanied by a description of half-torn limbs falling off, or gaping chest wounds, I could see the nausea.But no, PG ratings for all!*sigh*And now for another scene that pisses me off:She imagined she was seeing an Argonian army, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to slay this foul enemy as they had the forces of Dagon in times past.But then she got it.“They're just standing there. They aren't fighting.”The air was thick with fliers and threads.“I don't understand,” Annaïg wailed. “Why does the tree want your people to die?”“Not all of us,” Glim whispered. “Just the Lukiul. The assimilated. The tainted. The An-Xileel, the Wild Ones—they've gone away. They'll come back, after this is over, and every Imperial taint with be scoured.”So the Argonians all threw off the shackles of the horrible, horrible, enslaving Dunmer – just so they could come home only to be brainwashed into sacrificing themselves to a flying hunk of rock by way of giant, hallucinogenic, genocidal tree.These Argonians suck.Lilmoth has been sympathetic to the Imperials even before the Empire proper. One of your queens married into the Septim line, for God's sake! Why pull this crap all of a sudden? Why the reset button on thousands of years of lore? Is there going to be anything left of Tamriel as the fans know it when this book is done? You can't make your Argonians this awesome, proud, Daedra-smashing race and then brainwash them into being cannon fodder by way of plot device. This is what happens when someone writes themselves into a corner and can't get out.More importantly, I realized that Martin's possibly part Argonian.…I wonder how long he can hold his breath?…What was I talking about?(Yes, I know that with a name like Hellena, she was probably Imperial, but don't interrupt a girl's dreams. I'm in a happy place, dammit. If the author can pretend, so can I.)So if the Hist is/are killing every non-Argonian and “non-pure” Argonian – besides making themselves at least the second-biggest villains in the book – how exactly do they plan to keep the province running if only two small, probably highly-opposed factions remain? Especially given that an army of monsters just marched through it and will probably wipe out most agriculture, scare away all the game, destroy the ecosystem, and have Black Marsh be shunned by the other provinces for years to come, considering that wiping out entire races living within your borders usually constitutes an act of war against their homelands? Not to mention, people look down on basically holding the door open to the invading army and calling “I hope you brought cookies!”(Cookies of DOOM.)And if it is just Lilmoth...they're not exactly making any friends with the rest of the cities after pulling this.I'm just saying – I don't think this ethnic cleansing was thought through very well. Bet that what should have been the inevitable collapse of the province never happens in either the second book or (I'll bet) Skyrim. Realistically, this move should have been either the extinction of Argonians in the Black Marsh (and the book implies that all Argonians were called back to the Black Marsh during the Oblivion crisis – funny, I didn't see that happening in said game) or at the very least, the complete collapse of their government. Even a tribal government wouldn't survive this unscathed. I mean, you're down to the heads of organized society, those who shunned society, and thousands of disease-laden, predator-drawing corpses.And for that matter...why are they even doing this? How did the Hist know the city was coming? If it is only this Hist and it's powerful enough to mind-wipe the Argonians of an entire city, wouldn't the other Hist have something to say about all this and – oh, I don't know – stop it from happening?Anyone else see the slight difficulties here? Just a wee bit?These Hist suck.So, Annaïg and Glim head off into the depth of the little cave they're in because Annaïg's got the Hero Ball again and wants to try and stop what's happening. We get far too much description of a lightless tunnel (I still only have a vague idea of what the characters look like, but this tunnel is about four feet wide and a few hundred yards long, with rough walls and an uneven floor, sloping downwards.)She could hear Glim breathing, but after they left the ledge, he hadn't said anything, which was just as well, because not only would it be foolish to make any more noise than necessary, she didn't feel like talking, either.Separate sentences. For the love of all that is holy, that could be three separate sentences. I mean, you all can tell I get comma-happy, but...wow. And all for a paragraph that could be summed up as: “Thank God they're not bantering.”Oh, and in case you're wondering? Annaïg has one – count it, one– thought of her dear, departed, probably now-zombified father.One.Well...screw you too, lady.Further in, they stumble upon a mass of the silvery threads that they saw earlier, all wound up into a cable. Annaïg decides that they have to cut it to try and stop what's going on. Oh, and there's egg sacs and things unwind, and I honestly have no idea what's happening. But after Glim hits it with his claws to absolutely no effect, that somehow seems to alert the guards. So off they go, on one of the most boring possible chase scenes ever.I'll spare you. Basically, Annaïg runs around, Glim follows her, the voices follow them, she tries to head downward because “so far they hadn't been bothered by anything from that direction”...except for the person-sized insects, otherworldly webbing, horrors of the deep and probably her father's zombified corpse. Sure! Why not?They end up landing on one of the egg sacs – don't ask, it's such a convoluted action sequence that, again, I haven't the vaguest clue what exactly happened – and for some reason they can hide there.Once they're hiding there, Annaïg proceeds to show off her Uber-Leet Mary Sue skills and not only realizes that the guards are speaking a language similar to Ehlnofex, but she can translate it perfectly.I'd also like to point out that Ehlnofex is the language of the bloody gods, dammit. This was what the remnants of the creators of Nirn spoke. I'm really, really surprised Annaïg managed to get her hands on a book that taught this language, but they had to sell the house for passage on a ship.Maybe her magical flying birdie taught it to her.Speaking of magical flying birdie, it's his time to shine! Annaïg sends him to find Prince Attrebus, presumably because this was the only way the author could figure out how to get the guy in the story. She figures that Attrebus will listen to the unknown kid through the magical talking birdie, telling him all about the giant flying island that smells bad and turns people into zombies by using giant bugs and is followed by sea monsters and brainwashed Argonians...Hmm.You know, when you put it like that, it really sounds crazy, doesn't it?So, after she decides they're going to stay onboard the flying city so they can spy and learn information for when Attrebus gets Coo, and poor Glim is dragged along as usual, they wander off and find another bunch of cables.With a half-naked guy licking it.Riiight. post-2-0-40757900-1317458275.jpg 33.77KB 0 downloadsWhat? It's true!It was a man, naked from the waist up and clad in loose, dirty trousers rolled tight at his waist. His shape and features were that of a human or mer, except his eyes were a bit larger than normal and recessed more deeply into his face. His hair was unkempt, greasy, and dingy yellow.Oh my God, they've found the Adoring Fan! Run! Run while you still can! Save yourselves!No, actually, this...thing is Wemreddle. He also speaks the odd version of Ehlnofex, and Annaïg shows that she can not only understand it, she can speak it, too! How wonderfully convenient. I mean, we've got this floating island in a world with no flying spells, populated by people speaking a nigh-unknown, dead language, and they just happen to get the one noble girl who can not only make flying potions but can speak their language! How lucky can you get?*sob* I hate this book.Wemreddle realizes that they're not from the city, because there's no Argonians on the city. This is an almost plot-point that will get sillier and sillier as we go on. In the meantime, he apparently decides that Annaïg and Glim can help him because he says he's part of some resistance group and the fact they have knowledge of the outside makes them powerful enough to change things.This sounds a lot more important than it is.And Annaïg, after hearing this, waves her Hero Ball mightily, and announces that they're going to go after him and help the uprising just like one of her storybook heroes.*sigh* I feel so sorry for Glim. And me. Mostly me. Because I'm now thinking of the Adoring Fan in a hentai with giant bugs and-asdfghlk;'
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:07 AM
Okay, that took a lot longer than I wanted it to, but real life sucks sometimes. However, I have finished a new chapter! (And it'll be interesting to see what people think now that we've got a lot more members.)
So! Without further ado:
Chapter 7 -
Here's the chapter where we find out why the city reeks to high heaven. Apparently, a lot of it is taken up by enormous garbage/dung heaps – the middens. Yep. I kid you not. Because when you think of mysterious flying cities with tall, majestic towers and deep caverns in the great and complex lore of Elder Scrolls, you think garbage dumps.
*whimper* It's not getting any better from here, is it?
“That's the Midden,” Wemreddle said. “Of the four lower Middens, Bolster has the richest scent.”
“Rich?” Annaïg drew another breath, this one worse than the first. “I wouldn't describe it as rich. How far away is it?”
“We've still some way to go,” Wemreddle said. Then, defensively, “If you wouldn't say rich, then what? Savor the layers of complexity, the contrast of ripe and rotten, and almost raw, the depth and diversity of it.”
“No, no, wait. When we're there you'll understand better. Appreciation will come.”
This has suddenly turned into a fantastic metaphor for this book. Oh, it tries to have layers, complexity and depth – everything to be found in the rich lore of the Elder Scrolls series. But really...it's just garbage. Heaps and heaps of garbage.
*sigh* Okay, sorry. Sorry. That was rude. I'll try to tone it down.
Not to mention, if the people on the ship in the prologue could smell the thing at least a half mile away, why couldn't Annaïg and Glim smell it the entire time they were on it? Why did it take until they were fifty feet away?
Continuity and Lore are both rather poorly treated here, aren't they?
We now launch into several pages of info dump. Some of it is about the city – mostly the kitchens and the fact that the thing draws out souls to stay aloft by the power of the ingenium.
I'd just like to point out that I used to have a Morrowind mod that had a flying home powered by Golden Saint souls. I hope whoever made that mod gets some credit for the original idea.
Point number two? If you feed off of souls, what would you want an army of tentacle beasts for? Wouldn't it make more sense to keep your prey alive until you could get said soul (presumably by way of lore-killing bugs), as opposed to marching Dreugh over their heads? I mean, obviously no one in this book is smart enough to run, so it's easy pickings. Unless, of course, you're just begging for a certain type of fanfiction. And no...I won't write it. It's not worth it.
Point number three? This isn't important now, but Wemreddle speaks of this “soul consuming” as though it's been going on for his entire existence. How else would a guy living in a garbage heap know about it? (Other than bad writing, of course.) The island hasn't been in Nirn until just recently. So it must be eating Daedric souls, yes? Yes?
This will be very important later.
There's also a paragraph where Annaïg gives a brief description of the Daedric Princes, presumably for the benefit of anyone who hasn't played the games. Like the author. (Hint: Seventeen Princes, not sixteen. That's kinda a huge plot point in Shivering Isles. AIGH.)
But then they reach the Midden, and Annaïg gets the full scent of the thing. She doesn't quite react as one would expect, though. (I mean – why start now?)
...she was, in fact, beginning to understand Wemreddle's bizarre assertion. Animal was here, sweetly, sulfurously rotten, but there was also blood still so fresh she could taste the iron in the middle of her tongue. She made out rancid oil, buttery cream, old wine-braising liquid, fermenting again with strange yeasts and making pungent vinegars. Fresh herbs mingled with the cloying molder of tubers and onions gone to liquid.
Best of all were the thousand things she didn't recognize, some deeply revolting and some like a welcome home to a place she'd never been, Some smells were more than that, not only engaging the taste buds and nostrils, but also sending weird tingles across her skin and shimmering colors when she closed her eyes.
You just...described...a garbage heap...with more loving detail and careful imagery...than anything else in the damn book. I should not have a better idea of the landfill than I do of the main characters.
This...this is an Elder Scrolls novel, right? I'm supposed to be reading about epic adventures and deep, engaging lore, right? This is supposed to be a world of magic, of men becoming gods, of chaos against order, of prophecies and dragons and all manner of amazing things! I...what...landfill...back of my fridge...why?
Dammit, book! I'd only just started piecing my trust in the series back together after the no-levitation crap and you pull this on me?
Oh yes, and giant garbage-eating worms. Hi, Star Wars! Hi Dianoga! *waves* Would you mind poking the author and reminding him that he's writing an Elder Scrolls novel this time? Thanks.
Wemreddle drops them off in his little cave and goes off to not betray them at all in any way. Nope. He's totally trustworthy. Totally. Completely. Good God, Annaïg is dumb as paint, isn't she?
As they wait for yet more hours (and the characters are finally as bored as I am...):
“Glim...” She put a hand on his shoulder.
He snapped his teeth. “I need to eat something,” he said.
“Me, too,” she said. The wait had given the shock and adrenaline time to wear off, and now she was ravenous.
What shock and adrenaline?! You spent an entire afternoon sitting around and watching the scenery go by while doing utterly nothing! And then you just spent more hours sitting in a tiny cave! Did you forget about that? Or is it just that the enormous garbage heap makes you hungry?
Also, is it just me, or does that scene imply that Glim wants to eat Annaïg?
*breaks out the ketchup*
Eat her, Glim! Eat her!
“I've been thinking,” he said.
“Not your strong suit.”
“Yes. But I've been doing it nonetheless.”
Oh my God. Stop. Bantering. You are not comic book characters. You are not Spiderman. You are in deadly danger in an alien world. And this is not, in any way, even slightly funny. Seriously, you don't have enough character to make this read well in any way at all.
Yes, they could be bantering to take their minds off of what's really going on, but there's no written inflection to ever let us know about something like that. No strained voices or fidgeting. You could put in one simple line about...um...let's see. Something like: “Annaïg had nearly worn a hole in the hem of her shirt, worrying it between shaking fingers.” There. Now we know what she's feeling. Or we could have Glim picking at the wall with his claws. Anything.
These characters are so damn flat, it's painful.
So Annaïg grabs her Hero Ball and gives it a tight squeeze, and declares that (a) there's a lot of people, and ( there's a resistance because people were living in squalor.
Which would make sense...if any of these things were people.
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But...Oops. Too late. Wemreddle's back. (And that's a quote. Not a summary of a proper description.) And he brought a bunch of guys in yellow and black. (A football team?) Plus a guy with a bright red beard wearing tartan. (A Scottish football team?)
And OH, surprise, surprise, Wemreddle betrayed them. Gasp. I am so shocked. Shocked, I say. Shocked and appalled.
That clip is better characterized and acted than this scene.
Okay, remember when Wemreddle said that knowledge of the outside was a powerful thing? That actually sounded like it could be something really cool! Strategic knowledge, or maybe they'd use Glim to find them more sea monsters, or maybe even send them to the Imperial City with a message demanding surrender! Wow, that would be awesome!
Allow me to destroy your hopes at this point.
We finally find out what he meant.
Annaïg knows the ingredients, so thus, she can cook. That's it. That's all. Not plotting, not politics, not the staging for an invading army, not anything to do with her so-called revolution, and nothing to do with anything interesting.
Annaïg is Martha Stewart.
No, wait, Martha Stewart is so, so, so much scarier. Annaïg isn't that terrifying. Not Julia Child – she was awesome. Definitely not Alton Brown. Hmm...
Annaïg is...Rachel Ray.
So Yellow Scottish Football player is Fexxel, and he's then ambushed by Indigo Women's Football player, Qijine. (Note: Don't make up names by bashing your head on the keyboard. It just looks dumb.) And second...THESAURUS DOWN OH MY GOD. Just say “purple and blue” not “indigo and lapis.” This is...wow...purple prose...describing...purples.
That's it, people. We'll never find a purer form of mind-boggling writing. This is the quintessential WTF of descriptions. We have truly been blessed this day by the inanity we have just witnessed. Nothing can top such unaware irony. I am in awe.
The rest of the chapter is really nothing compared to that. I think that's the closest thing to the climax. So!
Yadda yadda yadda, Indigo Women's Football player uses the Force on Yellow Scottish Football player, blah, blah, blah, Yellow Scottish Football player runs away and Annaïg is drafted into Indigo Women's Football team because the team captain is super-uber scary, Glim is once again completely forgotten and dismissed without so much as a “TTFN – Ta-ta for now!” and we're off to go cooking!
Well, Annaïg is off to go cooking. I'm of to go sit in the corner and summon Cthulhu to thank Him for the insanity involved in the earlier purple prose. I have to make good now because I think tha-
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Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:08 AM
Chapter 8 -
This one's really short. And it has hardly anything to it. I think the author was gearing up for the next chapter, so this one's basically an info dump. It's dull.
I'll just start out with complaining that the kitchens (again) have more descriptions than anything else. Good Lord, man. The Redwall series didn't have this much description of their kitchens, and Redwall had a love affair with food that rivals this book's love of violating canon. Were you going for a Elder Scrolls Cookbook tie-in or something?
When it moves on to describe the people in the kitchen...er...
She saw thick figures with brick-red skin, fierce faces, and small horns on their head...
Okay, Daedra. Got it. How does she not know what they are? It's only been forty years since the Oblivion crisis. Those things should be burnt into everyone's memory after that, along with warnings of kill on sight.
...working next to ghostly pale blue-haired beings...
Um...Winged Twilights? These aren't really TES characters, you know. You're just-
...spherical mouselike creatures with stripes...
You're just pulling my leg now, aren't you, book?
...and a veritable horde of monkeylike creatures with goblinesque faces.
*leaves for the bar*
Also, if this book describes one more thing as “Insert-Earth-Variant”-like, I'm going to snap. And I say that, even knowing that there are “huge snakelike creatures” a handful of sentences later. Along with shelves that go sixty feet up the walls and a ceiling that is barely seven feet. No, I don't know how that's supposed to work. The book blatantly admits that it doesn't know either.
Annaïg goes on to think that a giant chemistry set (it's part of the cooking stuff) is awesome, and gets weepy-eyed when she realizes that the kitchen is also using souls for dinner ingredients. Luckily, that doesn't last long or she might actually develop a character.
Qijne, on the other hand, goes on to explain the main plot thread of the book in a simply stunning example of an info dump. In the space of a page and a half she explains that there are separate castes of people on Umbriel, that they are divided by their tastes in food – up to and including souls, that they've all got the attention spans of a picky toddler, that the people on the city – save for the zombies – can't leave the city without losing their “corpus” (PUT DOWN THE THESAURUS AND LATIN DICTIONARY AIIIGKLJSGH), and they then eat the stuff that the zombies bring.
Annaïg is then put to work classifying the new ingredients of Black Marsh. No one really says how the zombies gather these ingredients, nor why an invading army would use unstoppable undead as hunter/gatherers. Or why the nightmare bugs don't gather ingredients. Or why the fantastically homicidal land of Black March was their choice of landfall. (No, seriously. Take Australia and ramp the size of everything up by at least a power of five. Black Marsh thinks you're tasty.) Or how they give instructions to the zombies. Or how they actually get any of these ingredients back to Umbriel.
Now, I wouldn't blame you guys if you thought I was lying here. The main plot of an Elder Scrolls novel is about cooking zombie-gathered materials. “Oh, hohoho, Ama,” I hear you say. “That would barely cover a tutorial quest on alchemy!”
“Don't worry!” I reply. “It gets much worse from here!” And then I devolve into hysterical giggling whilst rocking back and forth in the corner.
Once Annaïg is shown to her workstation, she's given a scamp, a...hob, and a babysitter, along with some pointless threats. (If you had one single key to success, would you constantly threaten her life? I don't think so.) The scamp has been relegated to the status of “oven mitt” and the hob are the made-up monkey-goblins that fetch ingredients from the shelves. She names it after her cousin who will probably also die in a horrible fashion at some point.
Oh yes...it also talks. Need I mention that it has more description and personality than Annaïg does?
The aforementioned babysitter is a not-actual-dunmer named Slyr. For now, she doesn't do much, but later she'll also prove to be a much more interesting character than Annaïg. And be a way to make Annaïg an even bigger Mary Sue. One step forward and two steps back.
You know...secondary characters aren't just there to make the main characters show off how much better they are.
Once they're left alone, Glim promptly calls Annaïg out on her plans. Yay, Glim! He points out she has access to the materials to make another flying potion. But no...she thinks that she's now a spy. No, seriously. That's her reasoning to not flee like the wind with the info she has. She thinks she's in the perfect place to sabotage Umbriel and get info to her prince.
Right...first, you haven't heard a word from Attrebus yet. You can't get him any info until Deus Ex Birdie finds him, if ever. Secondly, you're almost shoulder-to-shoulder with people who would gladly kill you, who also have access to sharp objects and large fires. How are you going to sabotage anything? Poison people? Let me know how you poison an edible soul in a way that doesn't get you promptly made into someone else's dinner. Go on, I'll wait. Thirdly, what exactly are you expecting to learn? Favorite seasonings? That the big bad likes his souls over easy? Since when is the kitchen staff knowledgeable on any kind of important workings?
Annaïg...you're really dumb, you know that?
Unfortunately, Glim gets beaten down with the Hammer of Sidekick Obedience™ and suddenly agrees. Not only that, he agrees to be her secretary.
Er...wait...I thought these people didn't speak Cyrodiliic? They don't, right? That's what I thought. Yeah, Glim isn't hanging around in the kitchens for long. *waves goodbye to Glim*
A few hours later, the head chef decides that the best way to utilize her new-found treasure is to make her turn a spit over some hot rocks – which are apparently hot because a wizard did it. (Dammit, if that's not important later...RAGE.)
It occurs to me: why am I reading a TES novel about cooking pork? It's just...I don't...what the bloody hell...? This is the Elder Scrolls! Not Cooking Mama! AIGH.
Oh, yes - and despite having over a hundred workers at least, they're all only given six hours to sleep. Look, we get that this is supposed to be inhumane. But for the love of proper writing, can you ease up on the Villain Ball here? With as many workers as they've got, it'd be simple to make up proper shifts. But no. They're evil.
By the way, Glim's gone. (We never get told how they carried him off.) Annaïg didn't notice, and after dinner she finally spends a brief time weeping over it. But that's all, at least for quite a while. Hell, the chef that knows almost nothing of mortal interaction is sympathetic about it, but Annaïg's only thought is: “My prince will save me!” Not, "Oh no, is he the next thing on the spit?" - which would have been a hell of a plot twist. Just saying.
Also, your best friend is gone in an entirely alien and hostile world, you'll likely never see him again, and it's ALL YOUR FAULT. But that's okay, Attrebus will save him! Nevermind the fact you could have sent him away and kept him safe by making a levitation potion. Never mind the fact Attrebus is hundreds of miles away from where you released Deus Ex Birdie. Never mind the fact that you promptly forgot about your best friend the moment you started making barbeque. Never mind there's a good chance he's parboiled right now.
Good Lord, woman. I know that part of your character is about being naïve, but this is taking it to painful levels. You're seriously sociopathic. That would be okay if this was a deconstruction of the fairytale princess, but since we've already established that this is a fairytale...yeah, you're creepy.
So now that Glim's on his own, things get a little more interesting. A hell of a lot more interesting, if only for a page. (I take what I can get! Don't you judge me!)
We're treated to a fascinating view of how Argonians see time, the afterlife and souls. Given how souls are the most important thing the the book, one might think this is both important and rather entrancing. Sadly, the author decides that Glim isn't smart enough to dwell on such things (they make his head hurt) and we're yanked back to talk to someone described as “almost a Nord”...except for the fact that his description more likely matches a Breton.
And then he suddenly pulls out another Deus Ex Machina in the form of a potion that serves as an auto-translator and tastes like burning orange peel for godknowswhyIdon'tknwothisisDUMB
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Oh hell with it. To sum up, the new guy interrogates Glim about what he can do – especially breathing underwater. Once again, there's no reaction to anything...though I hardly blame Glim for not freaking over being taken away from Annaïg. This is probably safer for him than being with the crazy girl who uses him as a test subject.
Also, the new guy says that there's no daedra on board now. *sigh* NO. You're from Oblivion. You're all daedra. Now shut up. I'm starting to suspect the author was given a vocabulary list and left to guess on the proper terms.
Oh, sorry...was that a spoiler? Yeah, the floating city with red-skinned and horned creatures is from Oblivion. If you're surprised, you've never played an Elder Scrolls game. Or any fantasy RPG. Ever.
Hey, I'm done with the first part! The next section introduces us to “A legendary prince with a deep secret.”
Spoiler: He's not legendary. It's barely a secret. And it's as deep as a puddle during a drought. So par for the course, I guess.
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:12 AM
CHAPTER NINE: We join the legendary Prince Attrebus in the middle of a sparring session. Well, less of a sparring session and more of an audition. Either way, it's the first real action sequence in the entire book that doesn't involve running for one's life. And it's not too bad. The sentences are shorter, and there's no purple prose, except for his fondness for misusing the term “solar plexus” again. The most important thing to take away from this scene is that Attrebus' sparring partner – a Redguard by the name of Radhasa – becomes a member of Attrebus' personal guard. In later scenes, it becomes clear that this “personal guard” is the group of men and women that Attrebus takes with him on his various adventures. Still, shouldn't the Pentius Oculatus (Badicus Latinus) be the personal guard of the royal family? Don't they have years of training before they're allowed in, as opposed to one duel? For that matter, I can't think of any royal family that would allow some random lady off the street (albeit one claiming to be the daughter of one of the Emperor's men) to be the personal guard to the crown prince. It seems like it might...er...backfire. But anyway, those two pages of action were far too much for this book! Let's get back to cooking.Seriously, the next section starts with “Annaïg saw the murder from the corner of her eye,” and then launches into roughly a hundred words describing what she's cooking.You still don't believe me? Here's the description of what Annaïg's doing: She was preparing a sauce of clams, butter, and white wine to go on thin sheets of rice noodle. Of course, none of those things were exactly that; the clams were really something called “lampen,” but they tasted much like clams. The butter was actually the fat rendered from something which – given Slyr's description – was some sort of pupa. The wine was wine, and it was white, but it wasn't made from any grape she'd ever tasted. The noodles were made from a grain a bit like barley and a bit like rice. She was just happy to be doing something more sophisticated than searing meat, and actually enjoying the alien tastes and textures. The possibilities were exciting. gallery_2_40_107703.gif 491.56KB 0 downloads Correction. A hundred and twenty-one words. About cooking. Describing every ingredient of what she's cooking and where it comes from and what it tastes like. None of this – not a word of this – is important to anything. No one cares about lampen or the fat you squeeze out from cocoons. NO. ONE. CARES.In comparison, here's the description of the murder. Qijne waves her hand and:Oorol, the underchef whose territory was Ghol manor, suddenly lost his head. Literally – it fell off, and blood jetted in spurts from the still-standing body.Hahahaha you see what the book did there isn't that funny someone just died, you ass. Minor character deaths: 22 Thought I forgot about that, didn't you? The reason that minor-character dude was decapitated was that the guy he was cooking for was bored with his dinner. (The weapon used was Qijne's “fillet knife” - no one knows what it is, except it's invisible. I'm only bringing it up here because it's actually important later. It's also stupid and used to bolster Annaïg's Mary Sue status even further.) Since he's dead, Annaïg and Slyr are promoted to take his place. This, of course, gives us more info dumps rather than something exciting happening. The summary here is that all the kitchens are competing to be the best by coming up with the most interesting and stylish dishes. The lords of the city, as I noted earlier, have the attention spans and finickiness levels of a toddler. So the kitchens have to keep them entertained or someone's off the island.So yes, the main drive behind the evil city of DOOM is a reality TV cooking show. This just keeps getting worse and worse. Okay, wait...Annaïg's gotten someone killed in front of her, right? Maybe now she won't be so optimistic! Maybe she'll grow up and realize what sort of danger she's in instead of waxing poetic about cooking!...whoa. Sorry. Got carried away. I forgot I was reading a fairytale. Disregard earlier statements. Insane optimism stays and is rewarded. Possibly we'll get a musical number. Slyr, on the other hand, is properly freaked out. As one should be, having been promoted via squishy minor-character death. Slyr realizes that Oorol's staff might not be too happy about all this and they may need to be “subdued” on top of everything else. Luckily, we're spared from any action by a jump cut. Because why would we want to see what she does and the power struggles of the kitchens when we could have more cooking?!Now that Annaïg's working for a lord, we're really going to start getting into the freaky foods. You thought that the book loved this stuff before? Oooohnooo...it's going right the hell off the rails. For example, the two dishes that are now discussed. The first is toasted bones of a hedgehog infused with eucalyptus (there is no eucalyptus in TES! Especially not in Black Marsh! Stop trying!). The second is caviar foam, spun sugar-ish stuff and tasteless, good-smelling herbal broth. You see, the lower lords pretend that they're eating souls, but so as to not starve themselves, they have to eat real food, too. Thus we get...this stuff.*sigh* After the latest dish gets turned down, Annaïg goes to bed and attempts to actually be affected by what's going on before Deus Ex Birdie finally activates!Scene change!While we've been away, Attrebus has been banging his new henchwoman. And his...um...I'm not really sure who this Gulan fellow is, because we're never exactly told. His right hand man? Favorite voyeur? I have no idea. But he disapproves of the fact that Attrebus has been working really hard on making a bunch of royal bastards. Attrebus doesn't see it that way. “...Sex is sex, just another kind of fight. I love all my people equally, you know, but not for all of the same qualities. Radhasa has qualities that inspire a particular kind of friendship." "So do Corintha, Cellie, and Fury.” “Yes, and there is no jealousy there, no more than if I play cards with Lupo instead of Eiswulf.” gallery_2_40_431210.gif 457.6KB 0 downloads Oh, come on. What sort of man in a position of power honestly thinks that the kind of woman who would drop her pants for him after knowing him a day has any sort of deep emotional attachment in mind? You've likely got a gold-digger or a stalker, kid. And you're as dumb as a sack of hammers for believing she's going to love you. You're the prince, dumbass. Whatever she wants, it isn't love. At least any sort of love that won't involve an ice-cream scoop and your eyes.And he also thinks that while all his lovers love him, there's no jealousy. … *hysterical laughter* Dude, have you ever talked to a real woman? Hell, a real human being? Hell hath no fury and all that? No? Not ringing any bells?Here. Take the Idiot Ball. Love it. Pet it. But do not taunt it. Nit.(On a side note, please tell me that “Fury” is human, because damned if that doesn't sound like the name of a dog or horse. Just saying.) Despite the aside of idiocy, we now skip solidly back into fairytale cliches. Blah, blah, blah, Treb (his nickname is Treb, by the by) is going to be expected to marry, blah blah, he doesn't want to, blah blah, he is big manly man who not want be tied to wife, blah. I'm almost glad when Deus Ex Birdie makes its appearance. Excuse me: her appearance. Apparently she picked up a gender between provinces. Annaïghas also picked up a “husky lilt.”Dammit, book. Please stop sexualizing the crazy teenager. It's really, really creepy. It takes Annaïg several hours to describe what's been going on – I can only assume ninety-five percent of that description is about the kitchens, and the remaining five percent covers trivial things like the flying city, army of monsters, walking dead, people who eat souls, creatures never seen before in lore or legend, and the Hist planning to kill all Imperials. Because that's pretty minor compared to what the garbage heaps smell like. Just to put this in perspective here: Imagine that you were seventeen. Your father was probably killed in a horrific manner, and quite recently. You've seen dozens die in a similar way. You're yanked out of your comfortable home and thrown into an entirely alien world. Your best friend and only modicum of comfort is taken from you, and your life is constantly at the whim of crazy people who eat souls. I don't know about you, but I'd be a nervous wreck. I certainly wouldn't have been as calm and collected as Annaïg was. Hell, I'd have been so paranoid at that point, I'd have demanded proof I was actually talking to the prince, not apologizing for being overly formal. She even busts out the whole “it's not me I'm worried about, it's the world!”Hint: No one really acts like that. Bad. Bad Mary Sue. Bad. At least mention poor Glim! Good Lord. It's like he's vanished from your world the moment you can't use the poor guy for something.Still, whatever Annaïg tells him is enough for Treb to go running to his dad. And we actually get a description of the Emperor! And Treb! Oh...oh my God. Hold me – this rush of information is making me light-headed. I know eye color! And face structure! O-Oh...dizzy...diiiiiizzy.... Unfortunately for us, Titus Mede's as dumb as paint and/or has contracted another serious case of not caring about the enormous threat to the world. The excuse that he and his minister (I'm going to assume that minister=boy toy since I have no indication to contradict that hilarious assumption) use is that Black Marsh and Morrowind are thorns in the side of the weakened Empire, so they're just going to let the floating city do their job for them. The sheer idiocy of this is so blatant that even Treb realizes it andcalls his dad out on it. Okay, to be fair, it's implied that they just don't want Attrebus out there, but again, the city is treated as an annoyance rather than a proper threat. And Emperor Titus here flaunts his credentials in an info dump to show how much he knows about military stuff. Unfortunately, that just makes him seem more of a moron.How do you know it's not going to change direction and come for you? How do you know that the undead army isn't going to go all zombie apocalypse on your royal ass? And how do you know it's the only one? The last time you were all invaded, it kind of happened everywhere. Armies don't go in straight lines, dumbass. Oh, and there's the minor point of the Hist killing everything Empire-related. And the Argonian mind control by the Hist. Mind-control that extends to other provinces. I think that would be worth caring about even if you're ignoring the flying city. In fact, I'm pretty sure that would be considered an act of war anywhere else, you royal pain in the highness. If I can think up these things at five in the morning with a couple glasses of wine in me, you officially suck as a military genius.Of course, as noted above, they might not know about all this because Annaïg might have spent three hours euphorically describing hedgehog bones infused with eucalyptus. I"m willing to give the benefit of the doubt there. Since he's been forbidden from leading some thirty-odd soldiers against a soul-eating flying city from Oblivion, Treb throws a tantrum and storms off. I'll skim over the random meeting with random childhood friend because I have no idea what purpose it serves other than giving us another character to die horribly later ARG.*cough*Anyway, Attrebus decides he's going to sneak out to a house of his in...*sigh*...yet another made up town. He assumes that this will throw his father off his trail, because no crown prince is ever watched constantly. He can sneak around wherever he wants and no one's the wiser. And certainly his house wouldn't be guarded. And- Wait...you're serious? He gets away with it? No one stops him?And so now we have the experienced – if stupid – prince. (Whose father apparently wants him to die.) And the pretty, virginal, underage (and completely psychopathic) heroine.…Gee, I wonder who the love interests are?This is supposed to be a TES novel. I didn't read it for the fairytale, and I sure as hell didn't read it for the PG-rated romance that would probably be illegal in at least 46 states. Note – I will take this all back if she ends up with Sul or with Glim. I will also be very, very surprised. And happy, because that would mean we're no longer in a cliched fairytale. But we all know that Sul's the mentor and Glim is...nonexistent to Annaïg if she can't test potions on him. And I wouldn't wish her on poor Glim either. That would just be cruel. I like Glim.
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:13 AM
I think that - while I finish up the next chapter (FINALLY) - I shall update these chapters with more humerous pictures.
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:23 AM
-- Attributed to Thomas Beecham in reference to the performance of a female cello soloist
Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:24 AM
Posted 14 August 2013 - 02:04 AM
@ DS: I may just.
@ Anda: But...but...OHGODITBURNS
*pulls book off of shelf*
Posted 20 August 2013 - 12:58 AM
Posted 22 August 2013 - 04:47 PM
Definitely need to finish it. There's a new lore buff on DC who just compared it to Spirited Away.
...you...I...favorite Miyazaki film...horrible...HATE...
Edit: My avatar says: "FRAK YOU YOU FRAKKING FRAK." So I think it agrees.
Posted 03 September 2013 - 10:39 AM
Currently working on sprucing up the earlier chapters...possibly to put off the later chapters.
Posted 16 September 2013 - 08:41 AM
You could always just, you know... Let someone who's already read both books end your review.... Like Me...
Posted 16 September 2013 - 08:52 AM
Currently fine-tuning earlier chapters to get back into the swing of things. I'll make a note when I'm done with the shiny-new updates.
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