So after the LEAST impressive battle scene I've EVER read, our doughty trio sets out through.... Mirkwood. I think. I mean, it's basically a dark creepy forest with no real characteristics besides that.

And Kale is busy being whiny and emo. Why? Because she isn't getting to do exactly what she was told by her former OWNERS.

If I’d stayed with him, I’d be safely inside the walls of The Hall by now. It’s my own fault. I didn’t follow the elders’ instructions, and now look where I am. 

  1. Since when did the elders tell her to stick with any random farmers heading into the city? I don't remember THAT being mentioned.
  2. SHUT UP ABOUT THE ELDERS. They were slaveowners, and I don't care what they told you to do.
  3. What kind of lameass heroine doesn't even WANT to make her own decisions, and just sits around whining about how WAAAAAAA she didn't blindly obey other people, so it's her own fault if weird shit happens?
  4. Also, if she had gone to the Hall.... they would have just sent her right back out with these guys again. So basically she'd be in the exact same position she is now, except she wouldn't have been this far along. DUMB. ASS.

So finally Kale breaks out of her pity party long enough to notice that HELLO one-third of their party has now vanished. Leetu is gone, and Dar is just standing there.

Leetu had disappeared. Kale noticed the chill in the air and shivered.

Nice to see she's really concerned. "Oh, Leetu's gone. Whatever. I'm cold right now!"

She wrapped her arms around her middle, tucking her hands between the rough cloth of her sleeves and her tunic.

.... does Paul even know what a tunic is? Because it doesn't sound like it. It's not a vest.

She started to ask if something was wrong, but the furry little man held up a hand and whispered, “Shh!”

  1. Uh, how did he know she was going to speak?
  2. And since when is Dar a "man"? Um, he's another species that doesn't even remotely resemble a human, so... why?

Kale’s throat closed, her muscles tensed, her heart beat like a drummerbug.

You know, maybe it's just me, but I really don't like it when authors insert precious-sounding new names just... because they can. You know, like how on Star Trek everything is "Andorian steak" or "Alfonsian ginger beer" or "Triptroppian silk." Nothing is just SILK or STEAK, it has to speshul alien stuff.

I mean, why not just say "beat like a drum"? I assume they have drums in GenericFantasyLand. Why invent an entire insect species just to say the exact same thing you would be saying if you just said "drum"?

On the upside, it did allow me to find these pictures.
He was the drummer for Spinal Tap, until he got squished

So Kale contemplates whether she should fight or run, and spends the next few minutes staring at the woods and thinking questions: There’s not two inches between those tree trunks. How did we get this far? Were we following a path? Where’s Leetu? What’s Dar staring at? Will something spring out of that wall of leaves? Why are we standing here?

Why am I reading this stupid book? Why don't I have a real heroine to root for? Why does this book suck so much? Why does religious fiction suck in general? Why can't Kale grow a pair? Why can't something FRIGGIN' HAPPEN?

So then the wall in front of them... wait, wall? What wall? Apparently the wall is made out of branches that turn silver and glow so brightly that you can't even look at them. For some reason, Kale doesn't find this even vaguely alarming. Or upsetting. Or weird.

Leetu stood in an open archway of flowering vines where the solid wall of leaves had been.
Uhhhhhmmmmm.... so much plant fail.

  1. You cannot have a solid wall of leaves unless you've LACQUERED them into a giant lump. Leaves are not solid unless you're an APHID.
  2. And I'm pretty sure vines, flowering or otherwise, don't form into an archway. They can cling to an archway made of metal or wood, but they don't form their own structures.

And apparently during this whole interlude, Leetu was off talking to another emerlindian who is much older than she is. Yeah, she didn't bother to tell her friends what she was going to do, she just vanished without a trace. Oh wait, that would involve explaining something, and we all know Leetu doesn't do THAT.

Beside her another emerlindian, wrinkled and darkened with age, nodded a greeting. Her rich brown hair hung nearly to the ground. Dark eyes flashed a welcoming smile.

Wow, hair hanging to the ground in the middle of the woods. I bet THAT is fun to take care of. And have you ever seen someone's eyes "flash" a smile? Usually eyes flash when someone's experiencing very strong sudden emotions like anger or shock.

“Yes, dear. I’m Granny Noon. Welcome to my home.”

"And right down the street are the homes of my sisters Granny Midnight and Granny Slightly After Dinner But Before Bedtime, and my brother Grampy Crack Of Dawn."

Dar stepped forward and offered a courtly bow in greeting.
Granny Noon laughed. “Dar, I can always count on you to bring elegance to my humble abode.”

"But please cover up your knickers. Some of us have to eat, you know."

She turned to Leetu Bends. “Bends, how you’ve darkened since I last saw you. I ran into your parents at Summer Solstice Feast Day. Your mother said you still read every chance you get.”

  1. Um... why is she greeting her like this? Leetu apparently went into her weird invisible forest homey... thing, they evidently interacted, and then let Leetu's friends in. Now she turns to the person she was already talking to and acts like she just met her?
  2. Apparently Granny speaks entirely in non sequiturs.
  3. And how does this old lady even know Leetu? CAN WE GET SOME EXPOSITION HERE?

Even Kale knew that was true.

... HOW? She's known Leetu for less than a day, and there's never been any indication that she likes reading before this. Is Kale supposed to just assume everyone else is super-literate?

She glanced at the young emerlindian and saw her blush.

Is it supposed to be embarrassing to read a lot in this fantasy world? Actually, we haven't been told much about the attitudes in it at all. Or the cosmology. Or the species in it. CAN WE GET SOME FUCKING EXPOSITION HERE?

“They were well?” Leetu asked, and Kale figured she didn’t want to discuss her reading habits.
“Oh, yes, definitely,” said Granny Noon as she linked her arm through Kale’s and gave her a gentle tug toward the opening. “And proud of their offspring.”

... so apparently Leetu and her parents are on good terms, but she apparently doesn't talk to them. Weird.

She patted Kale’s arm. “Come, child, you’re nearly exhausted, and I’ve baked nordy rolls.”

"In the last few minutes since you guys arrived, I managed to bake rolls. I'm amazing, aren't I?"

So they wander down into an underground stairway, complete with glowing rocks and wooden shelves. Apparently they radiate bright blue light... which seems kind of odd. And at the bottom is a... hobbit hole. It's not called that, but when you have a circa 1900 house underground complete with carpet, books, fireplace, pillows, china and silver candleholders, it's a friggin' hobbit hole.

It's like this, except not awesome
.... from a much superior story.

Granny Noon gave her arm an understanding squeeze. Her milk-white teeth peeked out between smiling bronze lips.

Well, at least it's a better smile than the special sharing smile.

So Kale immediately likes Granny Noon and feels safe because she, um, smiled at her. Kale is kind of a gullible idiot, since apparently she would feel safe if she encountered Tom Cruise.

She allowed the peace to settle in her heart.

Thanks for showing instead of telling.

So then she sits down to a tableful of... sandwiches. Cheese and meat sandwiches. Huh. Somehow I was expecting something a little grander, considering the fuss made over the old lady's food, but I will admit that it's refreshing to have a fantasy meal that doesn't involve the omnipresent "stew"...

Granny Noon lifted the ceramic head off a rabbit-shaped tureen in the middle of the table and ladled fragrant vegetable stew into bowls.

OH, SONUVABITCH! Stew rears its ugly head! DOWN WITH FANTASY STEW!

Also, in a pre-industrial society a rabbit-shaped soup tureen would be... pretty expensive and hard to find. Come to think of it, ARE we in a preindustrial society in this book? I don't know! Because the author is allergic to explaining anything! We could be on another fucking planet and I literally wouldn't know!

Rather than snatch up any of the tasty-looking items, she forced herself to exercise self-control. She’d learned manners serving at the better homes in River Away.

... and by "better" she means the tiny village houses that actually have roofs. And furniture. And people who have enough money to not simply dive headfirst into the food.

Seriously, River Away is supposed to be a tiny, butt-end-of-nowhere village with only a handful of people, but apparently it has "better homes" where manners count? And nobody bothered to teach the local slave manners like "Don't snatch up all the food and stuff it in your mouth?"

But now she wanted to gobble the tiny sandwiches of crusty toasted bread filled with thin slices of meat and cheese.

And as we all know, wanting to do something is just the same as doing it. Just because you want to eat sandwiches doesn't mean you've violated basic good manners.

Also, we're told that Dar has already started eating, so I don't know why Kale is sitting there NOT eating.

So Granny Noon starts handing out rolls, and Dar cut his in two and lathered each half with butter. Granny cleared her throat. Dar looked her way, and then he graciously offered one half to Kale. Uhhhh... why did they do that? If she's passing out rolls to everybody, why is Dar sudden'y expected to hand over half of his roll to Kale who PRESUMABLY HAS HER OWN ROLL? Is dog-boy on a diet?

So while Kale is tastegasming over the roll...

“Eat your fish, dear,” Granny Noon’s voice urged her. Kale opened her eyes to see a new plate before her with a slice of pure white fish and a mound of mashed pink potatoes.

If her eyes were closed, she couldn't see it, you stupid old elf. Also, why are the mashed potatoes pink?

Kale had only had the rare pnard potatoes when they were left over from festival dinners.

... WHY? Why is she randomly creating pink potatoes? Does it add anything to make the potatoes pink and give them a "fantasy" name?!

And would Sam approve?

Boil 'em (Potatoes)

Boil 'em (Potatoes)

Pnard potatoes were so delicious, most people scraped the bowls clean and left none for the slaves.

But they're still awesome amazing people despite having slaves!

By the time Kale put down her fork, her middle bulged uncomfortably against the blue scarf tied at her waist.

She must be anorexic thin, because a slice of fish, a roll and a few mashed potatoes are not enough to make your stomach bulge like that. Also, has Paul just FORGOTTEN that whole eggnapping thing she did? When are we going to hear what the eggs are doing?!

So Granny decides to procrastinate on the cleaning up, because "It isn’t good to scurry around the kitchen when you need to relax and digest your supper." It's much better to let the food cement itself onto the dishes. So she suggests that Dar play something for them... which I would think he would have done anyway since it's been established that his people play music for, um, digestion. Ew.

Leetu chose a book from a nearby shelf and sat closer to a branch of candles standing among the glowing rocks. Granny lowered herself into a rocker and pulled a piece of knitting from her basket.

.... and Dar did the dance of the seven veils.

So while Kale is falling asleep, she has some more delightfully offensive thoughts that make me froth at the mouth just thinking about them.

She wanted most to stay here in the cozy underground home of the oldest, kindest person she had ever met.

She says "oldest" like it's a virtue. Usually you'd put in a word like "sweetest," or "strongest" or "most welcoming." Not "oldest," which merely means you haven't died yet.

Also, we don't even know how old Granny Noon is. How does Kale even know she's the oldest person she's ever met?

To forget about Vendela, quests, dragon eggs, wizards, and grawligs— especially grawligs. To perhaps stay with Granny Noon and be her servant. That would be a dream come true.

  1. So, her idea of a dream come true is to be bossed around by an old lady.
  2. ...
  3. ...
  4. GAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! This is so damn stupid and SO OFFENSIVE. Does Paul actually think that any former slave WANTS to serve ANYBODY? They might HAVE to (as many ex-slaves did), but they don't WANT to.
  5. Can I also mention that Kale has known Granny Noon for about half an hour. For all she knows, this lady has a big box filled with the heads of her previous houseguests. But of course she trusts her so much that she instantly wants to LIVE with her.