So Granny Noon wakes up Kale, and we get a bit of pointless infodumping about a character we will never see: A log popped and hissed in the fireplace. Mistress Meiger didn’t like her to put pine in the fire. The wood burned too hot, and the resin trapped in the wood snapped and sparked when the flames licked it.

That's impressive, Paul - you've made me hate a character who hasn't appeared for a single minute in your books. I have read nothing about this woman in the present. I know nothing about her life except that she co-owned a collective slave. But hearing about her for no reason + the slave thing has made me hate her.

I’m not at home. 

  1. So leave a message at the beep. I must be out or I'd pick up the phone. Where could I be?
  2. Also, what "home"?
  3. As far as we've been told, she seems to have been communally owned by every single asshole motherfucker in that village. So where was "home"?

Granny Noon insists she get up because after SEVEN CHAPTERS of not knowing what the fuck is going on, we're finally getting some information. About time. So she.... takes Kale off to have a bath, so she can talk to her about relevant stuff in the meantime.

Dar’s muffled snores rose from a plush rug across the room. Leetu was nowhere in sight.

Wow, he really is like a dog. And what is the point of Leetu not being there? Is it ever going to amount to anything?

... it won't, will it?

“I’ve a warm bath for you and new clothes.” Granny Noon’s soft voice came from behind a screen. “Come here, child. I’ve packed a bag for you to take, and I put pockets in the lining of a cape for you to carry your dragon eggs.”  She knows! 

Of COURSE she knows. Everyone knows. What, do you think that everyone just didn't notice the giant lumps around your otherwise-skinny midsection, you dumbass? Either you had dragon eggs or you are the worst drug-smuggler in the world!

Also, why is she putting the eggs in a CAPE? Wouldn't it make more sense to make some kind of carrier for them, rather than have them flapping and banging around?

“Of course, dear, and I’m very excited for you. What a treasure! What a responsibility! What fun you’re going to have raising those precious creatures.”

... yes, FUN. Because giant flying fire-breathing reptiles are all about fun. And responsibility - that's fun too. There's nothing more fun than responsibility. That's why growing up doesn't completely suck.

But for some reason, this weird response immediately makes Kale all HAPPYHAPPYHAPPY. Granny gives her a washcloth, soap, clothes and a huge drying towel, which I guess is different from the towels that DON'T dry things. Then she decides to cut Kale's hair.... but we're not told why. I mean, is it ragged? Is it too long? Is it uneven? Does she have split ends? WE'RE NEVER TOLD! Apparently Granny Noon just cuts the hair of anyone who's going to take a bath.

"I'm all sweaty from my morning run, so I'm gonna take a rinse."
"Oh goody gumdrops, I shall cut your hair."
"Uh, no thanks."
"I have my shears right here."
 "I don't need my hair cut!"
"But it's a pre-bath ritual!"
"I'M ALMOST BALD! Stop cutting my hair every time I bathe!"

So while she cuts Kale's hair, Granny Noon starts randomly talking.

“Sit still,” ordered the tiny old woman. “Let’s see…where to begin? First, don’t be intimidated by your gift. You will gain mastery over the pull dragon eggs have on you.”

Yes, because learning to master HAVING YOURSELF PULLED AGAINST YOUR WILL is something best learned on a trying-to-save-the-world quest, and not, say, before the quest.

“I didn’t like going through that tunnel to the cavern.”

"The Freudian symbolism was choking me!"

“Of course you didn’t, dear. Very sensible of you. Sticking your hand in holes, crawling into unlit underground passages. Risky undertakings. You’d be well advised to be a bit more cautious.”

"And then there's the mother dragon, who was conveniently out of the cavern. If you steal more dragon eggs, the mother will probably be there and will eat you slowly and painfully. Wouldn't that be fun?"

“I couldn’t help myself. It was scary. In the tunnel, I couldn’t stop.”

It's like the voice of Yoda and Shatner's lovechild.

“Yes, well now you know more of what it’s all about. Your mind was trying to tell you even then.”
“It was?”

"Yes, dear. It was trying to tell you that you are a SuperSue, which is why you have a ridiculous number of dragon eggs."

“The image of Mistress Avion’s chicken coop was the only thing that your previous experience could identify. If you had been able to relax, you probably would have conjured up an image of the egg you already had, and then by putting two and two together, you would have understood you were going toward a clutch of dragon eggs.”

... what the fuck does this have to do with her being CONTROLLED by the eggs? Just because you know what you're heading for doesn't mean it's okay to have yourself pulled along like a marionette.

“You think so, Granny Noon?” Kale shook her head. “I don’t think I’m that smart.”

For once, I agree.

“Keep still.” Granny Noon lightly thumped her on the head with the side of the shears. “Yes, I think so. All you need is experience in the service of Paladin.” 

  1. Who the hell is Paladin? EXPLAIN! EXPLAIN!
  2. She's known Kale for about ten minutes, and Kale has said virtually nothing in that time. What the hell makes granny Noon think she's smart?
  3. Is she seriously suggesting that following Jesus... makes you smart? So how come He has so many stupid followers?

“Discernment is what you need,” said Granny Noon.

Common sense is what she needs. And it sure wouldn't hurt you, you loopy old crone.

So she talks about how you have to "learn" discernment.... which is defined by Merriam-Webster as "the ability to judge well." I suspect the boat has already sailed on that, since this dumbshit thinks back fondly on her days of ENSLAVEMENT. It also turns out that Dar and Leetu are both very young for their respective species.

Yes, apparently The Hall in all its mighty wisdom... sent some underaged noobs with hardly any experience. They sent an idiot obsessed with clothes, a girl who refuses to tell her teammates ANYTHING important, and an ex-slave they haven't even met TO SAVE THE FRIGGIN' WORLD! THE FATE OF THE WORLD IS IN THE HANDS OF THESE MORONS!

What the hell? Were they all out of schizophrenic hit-men, computer nerds and belly-dancers that day, so they had to settle on these idiots to defeat the world's most powerful sorcerer?

Also, here's a question: WHY THE FUCK isn't this Paladin guy doing something? I mean, apparently he physically rules this place! Does he not have a friggin' army? I know he's meant to be Jesus, but here's the thing - Jesus never ruled a country physically, and this dude DOES. So he should have an army! WHY IS HE NOT SENDING AN ARMY?

This whole scenario is so stupid that even Granny Noon thinks it's moronic:  “Leetu is a lot older, but still a child emerlindian. And Dar is no better. Sending three children out to find Fenworth. Of course, he’s as old as the swamp, so that should give you a balance of wisdom.” 

... so let me get this straight: young people don't have wisdom, and old people ALSO don't have wisdom, since apparently a very old wizard's age works against him. I mean, is he senile?

Also, if an old person insists that old people don't have wisdom, why the hell should I listen to HER?

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“Of course not, dear. That is why I am saying you need discernment.”

Suddenly it's all so clear! It's not that this book is horribly written and the characters say stuff that doesn't make sense, it's that they DO make sense and I just don't have the DISCERNMENT to appreciate it.

Or... it sucks. A lot.

Kale crushed down a remark that sprung to her lips. Didn’t anyone outside of River Away know how to properly explain anything?

Of course they do. They just choose not to, because they're assholes.

So Granny Noon also tells us who those two people who Paul apparently forgot about a few chapters ago were. You know, the ones who fought the bad guys and then vanished without a trace. "... Lee Ark, a marione general for Paladin, and Brunstetter, an urohm lord and ruler of a small province in east Ordray." 

  3. They had a GENERAL with him, and they SENT HIM HOME? They actually had a real-live general in their team, and they thought the obsessive fop and the moron who won't explain anything would be better at saving the world than HE WOULD.
  4. And what is a ruler doing futzing around on rescue missions?! Shouldn't he be off RULING HIS PROVINCE?! If you don't have an army or something... GO HOME.

And it turns out that surprisesurprise, Kale can do mindspeaking. I mean, we already KNEW that since it's established that she's a telepath in the first friggin' chapter. But apparently it never once occurred to her that her hearing other people's thoughts might be the same as mindspeaking. DAMMIT, THIS GIRL IS DUMB.

“How did you feel when you approached the city of Vendela?”
“A little scared,” Kale admitted.

"And really, really stupid. But I always feel that way."

So Granny confirms yet again EXACTLY WHAT WE ALREADY KNEW, but which Kale was apparently too stupid to figure out for herself. It also turns out that the mariones conveniently are NOT telepathic and are almost impossible to mind-listen. Well, that was convenient.

And why isn't Granny asking how the hell she ended up there? She is a member of a species that the mariones can't even definitely IDENTIFY, but somehow she ended up orphaned there as a child and.... what, nothing? No explanation at all?. GIVE US SOME FUCKING BACKGROUND, PLEASE.

She giggled, and the air quivered around Kale as if Granny Noon’s joy actually enlivened everything in the room.

I suspect Granny smokes a lot of the good stuff when nobody else is around. Plus, laughing at your own jokes is possibly the most annoying thing in the world... especially if they're NOT FUNNY.

"You’ve had no training, but your skills will develop quickly now that you’re with Bends. Just the practice you get listening to her and sending your thoughts will do the trick.”

Yes, once again our heroine doesn't have to do any actual work to be speshul - she just has to be around speshul people. And magically find dragon eggs. Damn, this is lame.

“I did! Right after the last grawlig attack. She said not to worry about being sick to my stomach, and I asked her how Paladin feels about killing.”

"She didn't answer because there's no way of answering that acknowledges any kind of moral complexity. That sort of thing is TOTALLY out of place in these books!"

Granny Noon wusses out on answering that too, and instead talks about how she needs to guard her thoughts.

"Most of the time, Leetu Bends is thinking about something else. Unless a thought is startling, listening to another’s mind requires focusing."

It must be really, really awkward when other people are having sex.

And so how do you protect your mind against the invasions of other people? Why, you call on God! At least, I assume Wulder is God. We're not really told one way or another. For all we know, this is actually about Satan.

"Now, to guard against eavesdropping, say this in your mind, ‘My thoughts belong to me and Wulder.’”





Excuse me.

Seriously? All you need to do to block telepathic intrusions is TALK ABOUT GOD? THAT'S ALL?

And in other words, there is NO PERIL TO THE GOOD GUYS. This is the worst single thing you can do in any story like this - make it so the good guys CAN'T POSSIBLY LOSE, and give them divine backup so they can't possibly be harmed. And apparently the only thing you have to do to stop a MINDRAPE is mention God! Do they also think you can repel an actual rapist by holding up a cross?

In fact, this is so lame that even Kale can't believe it.

“That’s all?” 
“Did you expect some long chant of mumbo jumbo?”

YES. I was expecting something like that! Or at least some kind of EFFORT to gain psychic invulnerability! Does anyone in this series have to fucking work at ANYTHING, or does "Wulder" just hand them everything if they mention him?

"Wulder, I need psychic invulnerability!"
 "No problem, just say that your thoughts are yours and mine, and you have it!"
"Wulder, I need to mind-rape people!"
"No problem, just say you're searching for truth. Oh, and name-drop me."
"Wulder, I need money to cover my gambling debts!"
"No problem, just mention my name in a bank and they'll give you money."
"Wulder, I need that hot chick to date me!"
"No problem, just order her to date you in my name!"

Paul really thinks God is a pushover, doesn't she?

Kale quickly repeated the phrase to herself and then answered her mentor’s question. “I thought I’d have to imagine walls or something.”

No, that's in books that make some logical sense.

So Kale thinks yet another thing about her former slaveowners, and apparently expects Granny Noon to react. Even though, you know, Granny Noon JUST SAID that most thoughts won't be heard by other mindspeakers - just really strong ones. And yes, Granny Noon doesn't react at all!

It works! Kale hid her smile by ducking her head.

NO IT DOESN'T. You didn't say any of that crap about Wulder, so how the hell could it work?!

And then Kale notes the haircut she's been given by Granny Noon, even though we didn't know there was anything wrong with her hair before. Of course, she's so dazzled by how pretty she looks that she can't even speak.

"Without all that wild hair taking over the looks of you, you can see the fine eyes, the pert nose, the strong chin, and the lovely smile.”

Well, it might have been nice to hear about any of those things BEFORE. But we literally know nothing about our heroine except that she's a masochistic idiot.

And since Our Emerlindians Are Better, Granny slings around a super-heavy kettle of water, and pours it into the bath.

She had no trouble hoisting it high and pouring steaming water into the tub. Kale had lifted many such kettles as a village slave. She knew how heavy they were and wondered again just how old the dark emerlindian could be.

...what, do they somehow get STRONGER as they get older?

So while Kale is taking a bath, Granny Noon starts talking again about how God will let you do whatever you want as long as you're a Designated Good Guy. I smell an Eragon situation here.

“To get into a mind that is blocked, you think these words, ‘In Wulder’s service, I search for truth.’"

... HOLY SHIT. One of the Designated Heroes is giving Kale tips on how to effectively MIND-RAPE PEOPLE. IN THE NAME OF GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I am not fucking kidding. This is WRONG. Very very wrong. This is the sort of shit you would expect a VILLAIN to teach their minions, not the supposed HEROES. I mean, does Paul seriously think that it's okay to FORCE your way into another person's thoughts as long as you're a Christian? That killing in self-defense is BAD, but mind-rape is just fine? What ELSE does she think is okay as long as you're a Christian?

I said I wanted some moral AMBIGUITY, because that makes the characters seem human. But this is WAY more than just ambiguity! I mean, what would YOU think of someone who came up to you and said, "In the name of God, I am going to invade your memories and rape your mind"? I tell ya, I don't think I'd be contemplating how God is totally on their side.

... are we sure Wulder isn't Satan after all? Because this sounds like his sort of thing.

"If you are going to listen to the thoughts of someone you know is wicked, you must protect yourself."

... but what can you do when YOU are the wicked one?

Wait, Kale doesn't have any thoughts except "Waaahh, I wanna go back to being a slave!"

"Say, ‘I stand under Wulder’s authority.’"

I don't care about his AUTHORITY. I wanna know who's gonna get blamed when his followers walk around MIND-RAPING people.

“But what if someone wicked wants to hear my thoughts? Can’t he just say those words and get into my mind? What good does it do to block someone who knows how to unblock the block?”
Granny Noon’s soft chuckle mingled with the whir of her spinning wheel. “Child, the forces of evil cannot call upon Wulder’s authority and use His power." 

  1. Yes, because everybody who is evil is fully aware of their evilness. Nobody who is evil could possibly think they're GOOD and on God's side...
  2. ... like, say, THESE PEOPLE.
  3. Apparently the only way to block someone's thoughts is to call on Wulder... so the mind-rape only works on fellow Wulder-worshippers. That makes this even MORE disturbing than it already was.
  4. Also, it's nice that "evil" is so easily identifiable in Paul's sheltered little world. If you can't call on God's power instantly, you must be evil.

“My thoughts belong to me and Wulder. In Wulder’s service, I search for truth. I stand under Wulder’s authority.” I guess Wulder is going to be pretty important in my life from now on. 
“Now, dear, that’s truth, pure and lovely.”

... WHAT THE FUCK does that mean?

Also, I'd like to mention that the truth is neither pure nor lovely. The truth is often painful, unpleasant, dirty and very complicated, and unless you live a VERY sheltered life, that becomes obvious pretty quickly.

The gentle hum of the spinning wheel accented the silence that fell over the room. Kale rested in the aura of peace radiating from the old woman.

"Whoops, dearie. I had beans for breakfast."

But wait! We have a thinly-veiled Satan substitute to talk about! Although given what Wulder seems to actively support, it makes you wonder if the "Pretender" is actually God and not Satan.

“Child, Pretender will also be more active in your life.”

"He will tempt you to stop mind-raping innocent people! Don't listen to him!"

Kale shivered. Pretender? No one in River Away had talked much of either Wulder or Pretender. The very name Pretender had always made Kale feel he was make-believe, not a real source of evil. But it seemed, like gateways, Pretender was real and not just part of tales told in the evening around the fireplace.

And she decides this based on absolutely no evidence.

Not that this makes sense. I mean, if you had ACTUAL CONCRETE PROOF of God's existence and divine intervention, such as giving powers to his followers that other people DON'T have... not to mention a physical GOD-KING who can actually be seen... why the fuck would people not really believe in him? It's so easy! It would be like not believing in the president of the United States - you can disbelieve in him if you want to, but it's so pointless.

And if God's presence were an actual FACT that had been PROVEN rather than a BELIEF (in which case the supernatural would be the natural, and religion wouldn't technically be religion anymore.... never mind), why would anyone be STUPID enough to not follow him?! I'm sure there would be a few people who opposed him (the Philip Pullmans of the world), but the majority would go along with it because.... EVERYBODY WOULD KNOW GOD EXISTED. He could actually tell you directly what he wanted. And if you definitely KNOW God exists... well, it makes sense to follow him so you get to go to the Bland Fields or whatever Paul has written in as heaven.

The reason that there are agnostics and atheists in the world is because God cannot be proven OR disproven. You can't prove or disprove a thing by the scientific laws that it MAKES and thus exists outside of. If it could actually be proven that the Christian God existed, if he were ACTUALLY HANGING AROUND every day where we could actually see him, it would NO LONGER be a matter of faith!

And yes, that is ALL the cosmology explanation we're going to get. We STILL haven't been explicitly told what the hell Wulder, Paladin and Pretender are, we don't know why they're at odds (and no, "Wulder is good and Pretender is evil" is NOT A REASON), we don't know any of the religious history of this world, we don't know what the moral laws are (I'm betting generic stuff like "thou shalt not be gay," "thou shalt not wear sexy clothes," and "thou shalt not get drunk and throw up on thy principal's porch"). Are there angels? Devils? Are there religions other than Wulder-worship? What kind of effect does having a corporeal incarnation of God as ruler have on the politics of this world, since theocracies tend to suck ass? TELL ME SOMETHING, FUCK YOU!!!!!!!

What have I got myself into, Granny Noon? The answering laugh, soft and reassuring, echoed gently in Kale’s mind.

Does this strike anyone else as reeeaaaallllyyyy creepy?

“Nothing you have to face alone, child.” The quiet room felt like a sanctuary until Granny Noon’s voice returned to Kale’s thoughts with a solemn message. “This quest you go on is nothing you would have chosen of your own free will.”

"That's why we, the Designated Heroes, are forcing you to go on this quest without even asking you. Aren't we wonderful people?"

Seriously, nothing makes your hero look LESS heroic than having to be dragged off to save the world by other people, without even bothering to agree.

“And then some.”

"Screw that, I'm jumping ship."

Why me?

Because you're gullible and easily pushed around.

“Because you’ve been given a gift, and those that get a gift must use it.”

"Or else you must return it for a refund and/or gift card!"

Seriously, is anyone else getting Bella Swan vibes from Kale?

I mean, she's basically done NOTHING out of her own free will in this WHOLE BOOK so far. She sits around and whines, and if she goes anywhere or does anything, it's because someone/thing is forcing her to do so! I wonder if she likes being emotionally abused by sparkly assholes? She's SO passive and lazy she actually complains about NOT being a slave because she has to actually make decisions for herself.

Yep, a total Bella Swan.