Everything sucks in the Dunelands! Everything also sucks in our world!
Nolan is barely functional from his constant interaction with Amara and the Dunelands, and his parents are fighting and probably aren’t going to renew his prescription.
“What’s going on with you?” Pat stood in the doorway to
his bedroom. Her eyes spat fire
Nolan had been screwed up for all of Pat’s life; he didn’t know when she’d first given up on him. He thought this might be the second time.
THIS IS SUPER SAD
Pat has figured out that Nolan’s journals aren’t actually ideas for a novel, which is what he claimed before, and demands an explanation. Nolan asks her bluntly if she’d believe him if he said his “hallucinations” are real (she says no, of course) and he confesses that he does think they’re real, but wishes he didn’t.
In the middle of that conversation, it’s time to talk to Minister
Jerkface Ruudde! Ruudde wants Nolan to take over Amara’s body completely, but Nolan is like “fuck that shit” and decided to taunt him instead.
“The thing is, to realize you needed Amara, you’d need to
know about the curse, which meant it activated at least once
before you found her. So how did you keep Cilla alive then? She
was only a toddler. They injure easily. You either used magic to
keep her alive—and you wouldn’t have risked that—or you used
your own healing.”
“That’s what happened, isn’t it? One of you smeared her
blood on yourself and endured whatever the curse threw at you,
and you cowards decided, oh, that’s not what you came to this
world for! Pain wasn’t part of the deal!”
You show that asshole, Nolan.
Anyway Ruudde is just like “man whatever, get Amara on our side soon”.
The notion that the ministers are just a bunch of entitled douchebags from our own world causing all this havoc so they can have magic and live in palaces is pretty compelling. One of my minor issues from earlier was that they came across as two-dimensional for not giving a damn that their magic causes destructive storms and natural disasters, but if they essentially view the Dunelands as a really realistic MMO then why not kill hundreds of civilians? It’s not like anyone in the real world (ie Earth) is getting hurt.
After a few days of twiddling her misery-thumbs in misery-jail Lorres the servant caretaker guy takes Amara out for a stroll around the capital, closely escorted by a marshal. The city shows heavy signs of having been messed up repeatedly by magical backlash and then rebuilt.
Amara pines over Maart a bit, which she’s been doing since his death. I think this is one part of the book that doesn’t really work for me entirely, mostly because Maart just wasn’t a terribly interesting character.
(There’s one other fairly big flaw, but I’ll wait until the final review to discuss it)
Lorres tries to convince Amara to co-operate for a bit (he doesn’t actually know what her role was with Cilla) when some children toss a stone at her head. It heals in front of me and he’s all like “ZOMG” and she’s like “no it totally sucks” and he’s like “ZOMG though” and she’s like “no”.
Eventually Amara realizes that this whole walk is just a pretense to get her to play nice on the minister’s orders, and tells him to take her back. Keep in mind that this is the same guy who pried her mouth open as a young child so her tongue could be cut out, so she already has conflicted feelings on the dude.
Nolan skives off school for a swim and tries to Figure Shit Out, namely what exactly the ministers want with Cilla. He goes through a number of plausible scenarios (they want a fake princess on hand that they can kill to demoralize the rebels, maybe she’s being kept as a spare for when the minister’s bodies age) and rejects them for smart reasons (way too complicated a setup for that vague a reward, there are multiple ministers and they’d want mage bodies). Our boy Nolan is pretty smart!
Nolan needed to stop thinking about the princess aspect.
Ruudde had said that’d only been a ruse to keep Cilla safe and
hidden, for whatever reason, and maybe he’d told the truth.
Would that really be the best way to keep her hidden? What if she got out from under Jorn’s thumb and started rallying the populace to her side, which is exactly what she almost did?
Anyway eventually Nolan theorizes that what happened was that the ministers cast some other spell on Cilla and the mysterious mages who have been pursuing them tried to kill her; the death spell combined with whatever other spell she already had on her and turned into a curse.
That worked. All of it worked. Cilla might not matter beyond
being a host for their spell. Nolan itched to get out of the pool,
dry off, and find his journals, but he made himself slow down.
He was still missing one thing. What the hell was that second
Is this getting too complicated? I really liked the rather elegant setup we had at the start (Cilla is a cursed princess, Amara uses healing magic to protect her, Nolan is being dragged along for the ride) and over the course of the book we’ve been getting a series of shocking reversals- NOLAN IS THE ONE INTRUDING ON AMARA! AMARA ISN’T A MAGE! CILLA ISN’T A PRINCESS! THE PEOPLE YOU THINK WERE THE BAD GUYS ARE STILL THE BAD GUYS BUT NOT QUITE THE SAME BAD GUYS YOU THOUGHT THEY WERE!
On one hand that initial premise probably couldn’t have sustained a full novel-length story, but I’ve been increasingly getting the feeling that there might have been a less complex and more elegant way of spinning that idea out.
But anyway, Pool Speculation With Nolan Santiago is cut short by Cilla attempting to slice her princess tattoo open, presumably to kill herself via curse. Amara is summoned and does her mojo, but Cilla tries to stop her. It’s all extremely depressing.
“Plan,” she said. “Go before too late. Plan.” She rolled onto her back, letting her arm thump to the side.
BETTER BE A PRETTY FUCKING GOOD PLAN AMARA