I think it’s important to remember that, although all of these Let’s Reads have become me screaming at people for thousands of words, I don’t go into them with the express purpose of making fun of bad books. I am fully prepared to like everything I read, and in fact I once thought Wizard’s First Rule might be in that category. If you go back to the earlier chapters you’ll see me making comments to the effect that it was derivative but decent, with some interesting horror-tinged elements. Then Richard got his hands on the Sword of Truth and the whole thing went off a cliff.
This chapter just shows that it has yet to approach anything resembling rock bottom.
PRINCESS VIOLET TURNED SUDDENLY and slapped Rachel’s face. Hard. Rachel had done
nothing wrong, of course; the Princess just liked to slap her when she least expected it. The Princess thought it was fun. Rachel didn’t try to hide how much it hurt; if it didn’t hurt enough, the Princess would slap her again. Rachel put her hand over the sting, her bottom lip quivering, tears welling up in her eyes, but she said nothing.
You can just tell this is going to be fun.
Yes, we’ve got some new characters to hang out with. Princess Violet is the daughter of Queen Milena who if you recall has the last Box of Orden and who Rahl isn’t going to just curb-stomp with his army because *cough*. She is described as having stubby fingers, a plump neck and “dull hair” and thus is clearly evil because that’s how these things work in this book.
Rachel is Violet’s designated playmate/chew-toy and apparently exists solely so the princess can vent her sadistic tendencies. Goodkind is clearly not intending to portray their relationship with anything remotely resembling nuance or subtlety:
She wasn’t allowed to let her hair grow, of course, she was a nobody,’ but she wished so much it could at least be cut even. Almost everyone else had their hair cut short, but it was even. The Princess liked chopping it for her, liked making it all jagged. Princess Violet liked it when other people thought Rachel was ugly.
Wouldn’t this story be so much more interesting if the characters weren’t all stereotypes?
For example, I’m sure the portrayal of the children of monarchs as ultra-spoiled little cretins is at least partially rooted in historical fact, but on the flipside I don’t think growing up in that environment was the 24/7 orgy of indulgence that people imagine. There’s probably an enormous amount of pressure to uphold the family ideals, your life is mapped out rigidly from the moment of birth (particularly if you’re the heir to the throne) and monarchs are just as capable of being cruel tyrants to their family members as they are to their subjects. Imagine growing up in the same house as someone who can do whatever they want to you and absolutely no-one in the world is going to stop them. Not exactly an automatic recipe for super fun-times.
But anyway enough about the hypothetical more interesting novel in my head.
The start of the chapter is basically Violet being a little shit by tossing her mother’s jewelry around the place and making Rachel pick it up. It is refreshing to get away from Richard and Kahlan’s viewpoint for a while, but the abrupt tonal shift from epic fantasy to PRINCESS ZONE is a little jarring, like this is part of a different novel that Goodkind spliced in.
Letting out a long, bored sigh, she walked over to the fancy white marble pedestal that stood by itself in the opposite corner of the jewel room. She was looking up at her mother’s favorite object, one she fawned over at every opportunity. Princess Violet’s pudgy fingers reached up, pulling the gold jewel-encrusted box off its honored resting place.
Wait, does Queen Milena know what it is? If so I’d imagine she’d keep it somewhere safer.
“Princess Violet!” Rachel blurted out before she had a chance to think. “Your mother said you mustn’t touch that.”
Putting the glittering, jewel-encrusted box on a white pedestal in plain view is clearly reinforcing that rule.
Incidentally the Queen is described as “fawning” over it. I had hoped she was going to turn out to be a cool character but that’s looking unlikely.
Violet tosses the box to Rachel, who just barely manages to catch it. I wonder what would happen if someone other than Rahl opened the box? Would breaking it count? Anyway Violet slaps Rachel again and marches off to be a cartoonish parody somewhere else.
Rachel knew the Queen was always having somebody’s head chopped off
Welp there go my hopes for Queen Milena.
Sometimes, the Princess made Rachel go with her to watch, but Rachel always closed her eyes. The Princess didn’t.
Oh come the fuck on, was she raised by Darth Vader or something?
Rachel finishes putting the box away and then a wizard appears. It’s Giller, who Kahlan mentioned a while ago as being the last wizard left who isn’t Zedd.
Please, please don’t kill me.” Her face wrinkled up as she tried to make herself back away, but her feet wouldn’t move. “Please.” She stuck the hem of her dress in her mouth, biting it as she whimpered.
She stuck the hem of her dress in her mouth? Like, the end of it? How does that even work?
Giller assures Rachel that he’s not going to wizard-murder her and Rachel starts frantically assuring him that Princess Evil is so good to her and Rachel totally loves her. That’s pretty sad! You made me feel emotions, Terry Goodkind. Well done.
I’m sorry I frightened you. I was only coming to check on the Queen’s box.
You don’t know how hard I’m struggling not to make an incredibly stupid joke here (so hard).
No one had ever told her that her name was pretty
Rachel’s interactions with Giller very quickly start to strongly resemble those of Kahlan with Richard, or Kahlan with Zedd, or Kahlan with the Bird Man hey are you noticing a pattern here?
Giller (who I am glad to report is 100% less insufferable than Zedd) heals Rachel’s pain for her.
“The Princess hits me,” she admitted, ashamed.
“So’? She is not so kind to you, then?”
Jesus Christ man, pay attention.
Giller is all kind and shit in contrast to those mean, horrible, cruel
women royalty and Rachel thinks he’s just the bee’s knees. He gives her a talking “trouble doll” in a scene that almost poisoned me from twee.
“I’m not allowed to have a doll. The Princess said so. She would throw it in the fire, that’s what she said. If I had a doll, she would throw it in the fire.”
Okay, okay. Stop for a minute.
Darken Rahl was one thing, but you’re seriously going to make the little girl evil incarnate? Seriously? Wouldn’t it be way more interesting if Princess Violet looked down on Rachel because she had been conditioned to see commoners as beneath her but maybe had some actual affection for her as well and Rachel resented Princess Violet but also appreciated getting to hang with royalty all day in a big fancy palace and their relationship was sort of complicated?
It’s mentioned later that Rachel sits at (well, behind) the high table with the royal family even though she’s the lowest of the low. Isn’t that kind of interesting? Doesn’t that suggest tons of complex, nuanced things you could explore?
No? Well okay then.
Oh also Princess Violet locks Rachel in a box at night. How did anyone write this shit with a straight face?
Anyway Giller comes up with some way for Rachel to keep the doll without Princess Skeletor throwing it in a fire (because she would do that apparently) and Rachel is just absolutely thrilled with these even though it seems like Giller could fairly easily find a way to get her the fuck out of the awful situation she’s in with his wizard powers. But he laughs and his eyes sparkle so it’s alright!
Rachel scurries off to the kitchen to relay a message from Princess Darkness and overhears an intriguing conversation.
“What’re we going to do now?” the short one asked. “We don’t have any more of the ingredients Father Rahl sent.”
That might be a good thing. Just an FYI.
The cooks bribe Rachel with delicious food to not spill the beans about the mystery ingredients getting lost and she’s super happy about this, which makes me worry something grimdark is going to happen to her soon.
Later in the dining hall (where Rachel sits in a tiny stool and watches everyone eat because fuck subtlety) we get our first encounter with Queen Milena. She’s fat (because evil people are fat) and carries around a tiny little evil-woman dog who she feeds scraps of meat and talks to in a simpering voice.
No, really. I’m not making that up, she actually does the dog thing.
Rachel didn’t like the little dog. It barked a lot, and sometimes when the Queen set it on the floor, it would run over to her and bite her legs with its tiny sharp teeth
Because even the dog is the fucking devil.
The servants wheel out the stuff that the cooks were making that’s supposed to contain Rahl’s recipe for a “drink of enlightenment” but which actually has gravy or something in it because the cooks spilled the real one. This suggests a possible scenario where all this cackling evil is because Rahl is brainwashing everyone.
Dear God, please let me be right.
The evil juice doesn’t taste right and the Queen gets pissed, but one of the cooks makes up a fairly clever ruse about strengthening the drink so everyone will be enlightened as fuck.
In fact, Your Majesty, it is so strong that anyone who fails to be enlightened, and opposes you after drinking it, well, they could only be a traitor.
Nice misdirection there, dude. High five.
The Queen makes a speech about how totally enlightened they’re all going to be now that they’ve drunk the enlightenment brew and some of the guests say they already feel hella enlightened. I guess this is supposed to be commentary on, like…. actually I don’t care.
Queen Milena brings in “the fool” for a bit of entertainment, which means she hauls in a chained Objectivist so she can spit strawman socialist talking points at him.
We here have all agreed that an alliance with our ally, Darken Rahl, will bring great benefits to all our people, that we all will profit, together. That the little people, the workers, the farmers, will benefit the most. That they will be freed from the oppression of those who would only exploit them for profit, for gold, for greed. That from now on, we all will be working for the common good, not individual goals.” The Queen frowned. “Please tell all these ignorant lords and ladies”-she swept her hand around the room-“how it is that you are smarter than they, and why you should be allowed to work only for yourself, instead of your fellow man.
IS A MAN NOT ENTITLED TO HIS SHITTY POLITICAL SOAP-BOXING
The heroic objectivist points out that this is massive hypocrisy since the Queen and the nobility are all filthy rich. This is a totally valid point and also a good reason why monarchs tend not to be socialists but I guess if Queen Milena’s points were being made by a lowly serf it would be harder for Goodkind to knock them down.
If you swapped around the speakers in this scene so the poor farmer was railing against greed and demanding that resources be shared with him so he doesn’t starve it would be patently obvious his position is at the very least sympathetic, and if Queen Milena was the one expressing the “I got mine, fuck everyone else” position it would rightly come across as cold and lacking in empathy. And we can’t be having that!
Now granted, Goodkind could easily have made a valid point here about the rhetoric of Communist governments regarding equality being a crock of shit when so many of them involved an autocratic elite living in relative luxury while the people starved, but it’s clear he’s not doing that. This is just an exhibition match between objectivism and socialism, where socialism is blind-folded and has both arms tied behind its back.
Anyway, Queen Hiter asks Princess Stalin to decide what to do with the man so she says “off with his head” literally and he gets dragged off to the chopping block.
Rachel tells Violet that she’s mean for executing the guy and Violet is all “well you can go sleep outside then” and Rachel is like “lolololol the wizard gave me a fire stick to keep me warm but okay whatevs” and toddles off to retrieve the stick and her doll where Giller hid them earlier.
They never said anything to her when they let her out, or when they let her back in. They knew she was the Princess’s playmate: a nobody.
I’m fairly certain being the designated punching bag for royalty would at the very least make you an important piece of property, if not a huge security concern.
Turns out I’m not the only one who had that idea, as a mysterious person in a tower watches her ominously. Hey maybe sending the one person who is constantly alone in the princess’ company out of the castle with no guards wasn’t such a smooth idea.