Let’s Read The Fifth Sorceress ch. 3

fifth_sorceress_title

In this chapter we’re introduced to another interesting and evocative character:

She always hated traveling this way, without her chef or her maidservants. It was so common.

[…]

Soon I will never again travel to kneel before anyone. They will travel to kneel before me.

She’s also riding in an “ornate carriage” pulled by six black stallions, so yeah.

Our new arrival is named Natasha and in an extremely clunky infodump we learn that she’s the duchess of one of the provinces that Eutracia is composed of, she’s coming to the abdication ceremony as some sort of power play and (gasp!) it seems like she’s probably the titular fifth sorceress, or at least a sorceress.

Her seduction of and subsequent marriage to the doddering and ancient Duke Baldric of the House of Minaar had been almost embarrassingly easy to devise, giving her the one thing that she needed most to fulfill her destiny, and the destiny of her Sisters.

MWAHAHAHAHAHA

Natasha uses magic to make a mirror float so yeah, definitely a sorceress. And she’s vain and conceited because of course she is. And then it’s time for her to look in the mirror and describe her appearance in exhaustive detail!

The floating mirror showed a countenance framed by shiny brown ringlets that reached down past her shoulders, finally curving inward at their ends upon the swell of her ample breasts. Raising a finger, she vainly touched the beauty mark that she had so carefully placed near the left corner of her mouth.

Natasha appears to be able to shapeshift or create alternate appearances for herself or something, so I guess it makes sense that she’d make herself totally sextacular. I also appreciate the narration describing her as vain, I wouldn’t have been able to come to that conclusion myself.

In order to complete the evil sexy temptress role, Natasha married a bumbling rich older guy in order to leech off of his wealth and political power.

Owner of the largest and most profitable of all the marble quarries in the province, he had been elected duke of Ephyra over thirty years ago, winning every reelection for the position since.

I don’t think that’s how Dukedom usually works.

Natasha also sleeps with a bunch of hot younger dudes, which apart from the fact that she’s cheating on her husband seems to be framed as vaguely evil even though Tristan does the exact same thing with women.

Satisfied with her appearance, she narrowed her eyes, and the hovering mirror obediently folded in midair and slipped itself back into the vanity case.

Are you having trouble taking any of this seriously? Because I sure am.

She laid her head back against the velvet upholstery, closed her eyes, and silently blessed the beloved endowed blood streaming through her veins, at the same time cursing the wizard bastard who had been her father. She then smiled to herself, proud of the part she was about to play, and proud of who she had become.

Natasha felt this emotion, and then afterwards she moved onto feeling this other emotion, and when that was done she decided to

She is indeed a sorceress, as well as a “visage caster” who can alter her appearance at will.

During her frequent visits to the palace she had always taken special care to be as charming as possible, cultivating the friendship of the queen and arranging useful political alliances at court.

It would have been a lot more interesting if we got to see her being all charming and delightful, and then found out she was a sorceress as a twist.

She thought first of the royal family, and of what would happen to them.

“After expositing a bit, Natasha decided to think about some things. Here are the things she thought about:”

Natasha is planning on murdering all of the wizards and raping Tristan in order to have magical babbies, because she’s evil you see. Why is she evil? BecauseShut up.

The intestinal bout that poor Duke Baldric had suddenly acquired had been childishly easy for her to conjure, and she had actually enjoyed inflicting it upon him.

EEEEEVIIIIIIIIIL

As she laid her head lazily against the luxurious upholstery, her mind began to drift back in time to the sequence of events that had led her to this day,

STOP THINKING ABOUT THINGS THIS IS BORING

So Natasha’s backstory is very marginally more interesting than absolutely everything else about her would make you assume: she’s the daughter of a wizard (Wigg? It’s probably Wigg) and at the age of five she read and understood The Tome, the big fancy book that was discovered alongside the Paragon, something that none of the wizards had been able to do. She received absolutely no recognition for this in spite of the fact that reading the Tome means she has way powerful blood and stuff. Then the sorceresses spirited her away and were all “girl ur awesome we’re going to make u more awesome have we mentioned how awesome you are” and eventually the sorceresses became a kind of surrogate family, instilling a sense of self-worth in her that the male wizards never could. After the sorceresses were banished they contacted her by telepathy and they were like “hey we’re still alive, wait for the Chosen Ones and fuck up their shit or whatever, k thx bye”.

Like I said, kind of interesting. But utterly ruined by being attached to this one-note cliche and delivered in such a clunky manner.

The cruel wizards had forgotten about her existence, her Sisters had said, and it was best that it remain that way.

I find it kind of hard to believe that the wizards would just straight up forget about a sorceress, especially since one of them is her father.

Anyway enough of that, it’s Tristam time! What’s Tristan doing? Moping? Oh okay.

Without being told, he knew that the Directorate of Wizards were in closed chambers with his father, no doubt discussing his behavior of today.

I’d like to remind you all that Tristan is 29, and not 16.

Bored, the prince slowly looked around at the plush decorations that adorned this area of the royal residence.

Our uninterrupted streak of characters looking at things and thinking about things and then looking at things some more continues. What gets me is how arbitrary these long exposition scenes are. Half the time the characters just start musing on some completely random facet of world-building or character background for seemingly no reason. Case in point, Tristan tells us all about the palace’s architecture and decor.

Looking again at the double doors, he reminded himself that the living quarters, libraries, and other private rooms of the wizards of the Directorate were also contained within these walls, off-limits to everyone except the king.

The king and the wizards have sick slumber parties.

Here’s another thing about the writing that gets me: everything is filtered through the character’s senses. “Tristan looked at the thing and thought about it”, “Wigg saw the whatever doing something”, “Tristan cast his mind back to a completely uninteresting topic”. The reader can infer that if the viewpoint character witnesses something happening, they’re probably looking at it.

At least the book doesn’t go into the even worse version of this, which is to tell us that “Bob pointed his eyes at the rampaging influenza virus” or (god help us) “Bob pointed his ocular orbs at the rampaging influenza virus”.

Tristan enviously took notice, as he always did, of the soldiers’ numerous weapons and various uniforms.

This really comes across as the mindset of a young boy childishly idolizing soldiers because soldiers are cool, rather than a 29 year old man frustrated that his ambition to become a soldier can’t be fulfilled.

Everyone hustled by as if in a desperate hurry, off to this task or that, with some if not all of them taking notice that the prince was sitting there alone, in very dirty and, to say the least, unusual clothes.

The fact that Tristan’s clothes are dirty has been mentioned so many times it’s starting to get slightly unsettling.

Just as Tristan is nearing terminal mope levels, Natasha the Sorceress shows up to be all seductive and evil. Tristan has met her before during her visits to the palace (she’s fake-BFFs with his mom, remember) and doesn’t like her, because of all the rumors that she sleeps with tons of men.

Yes, you read that correctly: Tristan has sex with a bunch of random women and at most people tut tut at him for not settling down and getting married, Natasha does the exact same thing and our hero doesn’t like her because she’s a big slut. I really fucking hope this double standard was intentionally inserted in order to reveal what an enormous raging asshole Tristan is, and it will be addressed later.

(And no, the problem doesn’t seem to be that she’s doing this while married- her husband is never even mentioned)

Bowing slightly, Tristan took her left hand in his right but held it there for a time, purposely forcing her to remain uncomfortably bent at the knees just a little longer than was customary.

What the fuck? We know she’s the villain and up to no good, but Tristan doesn’t know that. I can only assume he’s treating her this way because she’s promiscuous and therefore unworthy of respect, unlike men who sleep around, who at most are expected to act a little sheepish and go “aw shucks I guess I’m a bit of a playboy” while their friends and family roll their eyes a bit.

‘A wink from a pretty girl at a party doesn’t always result in climax,’

“Result in climax”? What?

This baffling dialogue is delivered by Frederick, Shailiha’s husband, captain of the royal guards and Tristan’s best bud.

From the first day they had met, Frederick had inexplicably refused to address the prince formally, instead treating Tristan as an equal.

You know, like people in feudal societies often did. Since Tristan apparently fell into Tammerland from 20th century America he finds this endearing instead of a reason to have Frederick executed.

‘I’ve heard about that one,’ Frederick said slyly,

I’VE HEARD ABOUT HOW SHE’S A BIG GIANT SLUT INCIDENTALLY HOW MANY WOMEN HAVE YOU SLEPT WITH SINCE WE LAST TALKED HELL YEAH BRAH *FISTBUMP*

He felt even more out of place in his dirty clothes as he stood next to the company of colorful soldiers.

Holy fuck we get it, his clothes are dirty.

I know he means well, as do the others of the Directorate, but sometimes I just want to be Tristan the citizen, not Tristan the prince.’ He smiled conspiratorially. ‘All too often I quite enjoy doing exactly what they tell me not to,’

This totally does sound like the viewpoint of an adult and not a 16 year old.

Tristan and Frederick (THE FINEST SWORDSMEN IN ALL OF EUTRACIA) decide to engage in a bit of masculine rough-housing.

And so it began. In a second, they were on top of each other like a pair of schoolboys at play.

Jesus Christ guys, right out in public? There are people watching! Surely you can’t be that horny.

Frederick promptly tried to jump on top of him, only to discover that the prince was gone and standing above him, grinning wickedly.

They’re practicing Eutracia’s native martial art, which involves jumping on your opponent and teleporting.

After some more sweaty, passionate sex sparring in the mud, Frederick takes his leave so Tristan can get back to moping.

He shook his head slightly as he looked down at the recalcitrant member of the royal house who sat in the mud at his feet, and one corner of his mouth came up.

God the writing in this book is awful.

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18 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Fifth Sorceress ch. 3

  1. Pingback: Let’s Read The Fifth Sorceress ch.4 | Doing In The Wizard

  2. Alice

    The floating mirror showed a countenance framed by shiny brown ringlets that reached down past her shoulders, finally curving inward at their ends upon the swell of her ample breasts.
    (emphasis added because whyyyyyyy?)

    Of all the bad writing you’ve quoted, it was the “finally curving inward at their ends” bit of description here that really got to me, for some reason. I think it’s because it’s so incredibly specific while simultaneously being utterly meaningless. I mean, why on earth do we need to know the exact configuration of the ends of this character’s curls? With all the other character descriptions — the ample breasts, the sensuous mouths, even the wicked grins — I can see the effect the author’s trying to achieve, even if it’s done ineptly. But there’s just no conceivable reason I can see for telling us this particular detail.

    Less is more, Robert Newcomb: less. is. more.

    Reply
  3. Reveen

    Man, I can’t believe fucking Disney is innovative compared to generic fantasy. But try to name one high fantasy hero who shares Simba’s attitude towards coronation.

    Reply
  4. Ash

    You know, all of this just makes me want a story where the sister of said ‘BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE KIIIIING’ prince goes ‘okay!’ and orchestrates a coup. She gets to be monarch, her useless brother gets to play at soldier, everyone’s happy.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      I like how you think.

      Never understood this attitude from protagonists in bad literature. That’s like someone from modern world saying; “I don’t want to inherit my dad’s multibillionare business, I want to be like normal people, earn a normal wage and go month after month wondering how I’m going to pay all the debts I’ve got. Yup, sounds just like the life I want.”

      As far as we’re concerned, “normal people” in medieval fantasy is no different to the common classes in real middle ages. While the nobility could afford comodities that were not avaliable for the common classes, the last ones had to suffer their way working the land to survive. I can’t imagine any scenario where a boy raised to be king, in such an environment would exchange that to work all day long with cattle, crops or any other labor avaliable to the “normal people”. Life wasn’t much better for the common soldier.

      Reply
      1. Rakka

        Actually, towards the end of the middle ages the bourgeoise class (as in merchants) were often quite wealthy – that’s where the sumptuary laws come along, can’t have non-nobles dressing better than nobles. But the tendency of bad fantasy writers to ignore the realities of life for the majority of people in (modern or middle ages) is because they’re swaddled in privilege and have serious trouble grasping that not everyone lives like them.

        Reply
  5. Signatus

    I’m still trying to catch up with you (falling asleep every time I try to read isn’t helping, they’ve yet to throw the witches overboard), but I couldn’t resist the urge to read this. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

    I guess saying; “oh, she smiled” is a very complicated thing to do. Also showing emotions instead of telling emotions.

    And the cliche prince’s relationship with the royal guard dude could be so much more interesting if this wasn’t written by a heteronormative white, middle class male.

    Reply
  6. devilsjunkshop

    I’ve seen a review that describes this as “beautifully and vividly drawn” and another that refers to “impressive narrative skill”. I’m not seeing that from the examples. It appears to be utterly leaden and brutally clumsy. As zephyrean says, the bad end of fanfic. Maybe it gets super-brilliant later on. Maybe…

    And, yes, manchild character does seem like a kid rather than a late 20s adult. I’m wondering if the author initially wrote him as a teenager and then just changed some of the numbers later?

    Also, how long exactly are the prophecies of the tome if ‘chapter one’ is apparently somewhere more than 2,037 pages?

    Reply
    1. Elspeth Grey

      My guesses for why the prince is so teenage is:

      A) the author first started this when he was in high school and never really changed the viewpoint

      B) the character was originally younger but the author slapped on a higher number so he could include evil sex and such

      or

      C) this is how the author, an actual adult, still thinks

      Reply
    1. CmdrBoreale

      A person with an obstinate attitude toward authority.

      You’d use it because you think having big words automagically makes your book better… like in this author’s case.

      Reply
  7. zephyrean

    > “upon the swell of her ample breasts”

    Oh dear gods no, what a dumb cliche. I keep reading “apple breasts”, it’s like with you and grinning. It invokes the image of a stock photo model holding a pair of Granny Smiths against her chest and, yes, grinning.

    And now I want an apple.

    > I don’t think that’s how Dukedom usually works.

    To be completely fair, it’s fantasy book. Say, everywhere else is a monarchy, and, having had democratic reforms or an oligarchic coup, you keep calling your elected leader “Queen” for PR reasons, because your army and nobles and whoever traditionally swear fealty to a monarch, and foreign royalty won’t deal with someone of lesser status.

    Not that I accuse Newcomb of thinking it through.

    > Natasha felt this emotion, and then afterwards she moved onto feeling this other emotion, and when that was done she decided to

    I read some fanfiction recently, partially for research and partially to “broaden my horizons” (“read a book of a genre you won’t ever touch to see if you can learn anything new”). This is the low end of fanfiction quality.

    > “various uniforms”

    Ouch, this sticks out without context.

    > “in very dirty and, to say the least, unusual clothes”

    Why unusual? What is he wearing, a Snuggie with pantyhose and a cycling helmet?

    > I really fucking hope this double standard was intentionally inserted in order to reveal what an enormous raging asshole Tristan is, and it will be addressed later.

    Hahahahahaha.

    Reply
    1. q____q

      As a German „ample“ always reminds me of traffic light (Ampel). I also stumbled about this and I guess we yet have to meet a female character without ample breasts? Though that will never happen. Not in this book.

      Reply
    2. braak

      It’s not even completely weird that it’d be “Duke”, which is from the Latin “Dux” and means “leader.” That actually seems like the kind of title that would end up making the transition into a democracy, except obviously this country’s whole political system is super weird, if it’s got elected Dukes but an inherited monarchy and maybe it’s also ruled by secret wizards?

      Reply
    3. Rakka

      From the desctiption in the first chapter he’s dressed like 80s glamrock reject without the makeup. Black leather pants, boots and vest and no shirt. He also mopes about having to get his hair cut.

      Reply
  8. Pingback: Let’s Read The Fifth Sorceress ch. 2 | Doing In The Wizard

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