We’re still in Sorceressland this chapter, following Geldon, Succiu’s “hunchback” slave. There’s some severe dissonance here in that we find out Geldon is secretly one of the good guys- he sneaks back to the GHETTO OF THE SHUNNED to send a message to Faegan in Shadowood behind Succiu’s back- but the book continuously paints him as ugly and monstrous, describing his fingers as “pudgy and greasy”.
Despite all that this is actually by far one of the best chapters I’ve read yet, since it’s short and to the point and not padded down with pages and pages of expository conversation. Geldon’s entry into the GHETTO OF THE SHUNNED involves a dangerous swim through filthy water and into a secret tunnel. It’s actually pretty tense! How about that.
On the other hand we do still get this:
Seeing the room again, his mind drifted back to the time when he had first found this inconspicuous place.
Seriously, you can just say “he remembered”. Characters minds don’t have to drift back in time constantly.
I also question whether a carrier pigeon could actually cross an entire ocean and how the hell the pigeon would even know where to go- a lot of people seem to think messenger birds in real life are like the owls in Harry Potter- but whatever, I’ll let it slide for plot reasons.
It’s back over to Tristan and Wigg, who have arrived at the invisible canyon standing between them and Shadowood. Tristan can’t see it, so Wigg is trying to teach him how to magic hard enough to see it in a generic wise mentor sort of way. After a bit of faffinf around Tristan manages it and suddenly he’s standing in front of a big cool canyon.
Someone in the comments a few posts back made a good point about this: the wizards supposedly have a strict no-murdering policy except in direct self-defence, but they also made an invisible canyon that (presumably) at least a few innocent bystanders have fallen into. Wigg earlier tries to handwave this by how desperate the situation was or something, but if that was the case why couldn’t they invoke the same desperation to justify executing the sorceresses?
Then it’s time to meet our first gnome, who looks pretty much exactly how you picture a gnome looking, except a bit taller:
He was only about as high as the prince’s waist, perhaps even somewhat shorter, but otherwise he seemed to be mostly human. He had red hair shot through with gray, and a scruffy, identically colored beard covered his face. The dark, beady eyes sat above a rather large, turned-up nose. He wore blue bibs over a bright red shirt, scruffy knee boots with upturned ends, and a strange, lopsided black cap that dangled down to one side.
From seemingly nowhere the gnome produced a chair and an oversized jug of ale. He sat in the chair and took a long draught of the ale, and then proceeded to light the corncob pipe that Tristan now noticed sticking out from between his teeth.
What the fuck? Is this an adventure game from the 90s or something? Is he going to start asking them riddles?
The gnome is named Shannon the Small (because he’s a gnome do you see) and he won’t let them cross after the shit that went down recently.
Tristan couldn’t believe his ears. He couldn’t conceive of the Lead Wizard of the Directorate needing permission from an unendowed gnome in order to continue their journey.
Man there’s a whole lot of elitism tied up with this endowed blood thing.
Without looking at the wizard, the prince reached over his left shoulder and pulled the dreggan free of its scabbard. It rang loud and clear out over the deep canyon, the sound seeming never to want to fade away.
Every time Tristan pulls out his extendo-sword it makes a dramatic ringing sound, because this book runs on movie cliches.
Tristan starts to stride across the bridge and Shannon runs at him and bites him on the leg, which is exactly as ridiculous and impossible to take seriously as it sounds. Tristan knocks him out and then goes all Jack Bauer on him, dangling him over the edge of the canyon until he gives them permission to cross.
‘Would you really have killed me?’ he asked meekly.
‘That depends,’ Tristan said, knowing in his heart he probably never could have killed one so small.
Can we please move on to the next chapter
‘Take me with you,’ he then said suddenly. ‘Please.’
‘Why should we?’ Tristan asked. ‘You made it almost impossible for us to cross the bridge, and then wounded me in the leg. I don’t trust you. You haven’t made a particularly good first impression as a representative of your race.’
You’re one to fucking talk, jackass.
‘Well don’t just stand there,’ the prince said with a gruffness that even he could tell was becoming ineffective.
Suddenly Tristan could feel the gnome seated behind him begin to stiffen,
Presented without comment
They come to come sort of clearing with a horrible smell, which Shannon tells them to avoid. Tristan decided to investigate because he’s an asshole.
‘You’ll soon find that I don’t take orders very well,’ he said sternly. ‘But then again, I would have thought that you might have learned that rather valuable lesson back at the bridge.’
It turns out there was some sort of gnome-massacre, and all of the bodies are missing their heads.
Wigg raised the infamous eyebrow
Tristan knew that Wigg was angry, but what he saw next quite frankly surprised him. The wizard reached up and yanked the gnome from the horse, using the endowed strength of his arms to hold Shannon in midair. The look in the Lead Wizard’s eyes said that he wanted answers, and he wanted them now.
So Wigg keeps going on about how he doesn’t like gnomes, and Tristan is extremely derisive or Shannon, and then this bullshit happens. Our heroes have gone from bland to outright unlikable. Why does that so often seem to be the case in fantasy? Kvothe and Richard went through the exact same progression.
‘We had better get back there before he drinks all the rest of that stuff and becomes drunk again,’ Tristan said, still laughing. ‘We truly do not need a guide who is both obstinate and inebriated. The Afterlife only knows, he’ll probably steal the horses, too!’
This is starting to make me seriously uncomfortable. Remember what Tristan said earlier, “You’re not a good representative of your race”? And Shannon is portrayed as a feckless drunk who won’t meekly guide our heroes through his homeland, and who might rob them if they don’t keep him under their thumb.
Between this and Succiu’s “exotic” and “sensual” features maybe it’s a good thing the book is so relentlessly white. I have no doubt any attempt to be more diverse would have ended in utter disaster.
And then the chapter ends thank god. We’ve hit a new low point people, we are INSIDE THE GNOME ZONE.