In the last post I solicited alternatives to the cringe-inducing “wetboy”. Two responses stood out, so I’ve decided to use them both: wetboys will from here on out be known as Moistmen, while our friend Durzo Blint will go by the moniker Aquaman. Thanks to Mr. Elbows and annabanana12698 for the suggestions.
Also: I don’t do this often, but I’m going to go ahead and put a trigger warning on this post, as chapter five deals with rape in a particularly tasteless and gross way.
The bashers guarding the Nine’s subterranean chamber eyed Aquaman sourly.
The names in this book are making my head spin. There’s the aformentioned two that will not be discussed again, but then you’ve got Doll Girl, who sounds like she belongs in New York in the 1920s, the Sa’Kage who come across as some sort of cheap Yakuza rip-off (I’m guessing Brent Weeks got the “Kage” in their name from the Japanese for shadow) and now Bashers, which puts me in mind of cockney slang or something. None of this has a coherent feel to it.
“Lefty,” Aquaman said in greeting, removing his sword, three daggers, the darts strapped to his wrist, and a number of small glass balls from his other arm.
“I’m Lefty,” the other one said, patting down Blint vigorously.
“You mind?” Aquaman asked. “We both know if I wanted to kill anyone in there I could, with or without weapons.”
Lefty flushed. “Why don’t I ram this pretty sword—”
“What Lefty means is, why don’t you pretend not to be a threat, and we’ll pretend we’re the reason,” Bernerd said. “It’s just a formality, Aqua. Like asking someone how they are when you don’t care.”
“I don’t ask.”
Back when we were reading The Fifth Sorceress (by the way in hindsight I’m amazed I actually got through that, or that any of you stuck around to read about it) I complained that a lot of the scenes felt like stereotypical beats you’d see in a popcorn movie. I’m getting a similar vibe from this. In the space of a few paragraphs you’ve got the bit where the anti-hero removes his comically large arsenal of weapons*, the scene where there are twins and someone gets their names wrong, and the protagonist being a way-cool badass. I’ve seen all of this stuff so many times before that it just feels stale and rote.
*(The one time this scene worked was in the anime Kino’s Journey, where the person involved is an extremely soft-spoken, polite and outwardly non-threatening girl who looks like she’s sixteen at the oldest; the fact that she’s secretly armed to the teeth is both hilarious and reveals something unexpected about her character)
“I was sorry to hear about Vonda,” Bernerd said. Aquaman stopped cold, a lance twisting through his guts.
Is Vonda the woman Aquaman was getting all MRA-ish over in the last chapter? Why do so many dude-protagonists have women they’re obsessed with or broken up over?
But Aquaman walked in with an easy familiarity. The night held no terrors for him. The shadows welcomed his eyes, hid nothing from him. At least that much is left me.
God fucking shut the hell up. I hate this character already.
Aquaman enters the ostentatiously spooky chamber of the Nine and is debriefed by people with names like Momma K and Pon Dradin. One of them has an Evil Lisp, which the book insists on including in his dialogue. After some more scheming this dude insults Aquaman’s level of moistness and a brief fight ensues, which Aquaman wins effortlessly. I have a feeling he’s going to be one of those characters who’s competent to the point of draining all tension from the story.
“You want to know if I can still kill?” Aquaman put a small vial in front of the basher. “If that needle was poisoned, this is the antidote. But if the needle wasn’t poisoned, the antidote will kill you. Drink it or don’t.”
Why the fuck are the Sa’Kage working with this guy? I don’t care how good he is, if he flips out and attacks one of them over an insult than he’s way too unstable to trust.
Then it’s back over to Azoth, who just about escaped the Renamening unscathed, although I briefly considered calling him Oliver. He’s followed Aquaman into a tunnel and almost walks into some kind of magical alarm, then Aquaman shows up and is like “lol stupid kid gtfo or you’ll be totally killed ffs”.
Azoth walked back to Black Dragon territory as the sky lightened.
Wait no just have Aquaman accept him as an apprentice, we know it’s going to happen anyway.
You know what, I’ve brought this up enough that it’s time to make it official. I’m going to call it Ronan’s 1st Commandment of Writing and it states: if a character goes to do a thing and the audience knows full damn well that they are going to do the thing, just make them do the thing. If they don’t do the thing it feels like the plot is spinning its wheels.
I get that this is supposed to be introducing tension or conflict, but it’s not because we know that Azoth is going to end up as Aquaman’s apprentice even if the excerpt at the start of the book hadn’t told us he was.
(Ronan’s 2nd Commandment of Writing is that your characters may only grin or sigh once per book, and must never make their eyes twinkle under any circumstances)
Bakers were up, and smiths’ apprentices were starting forge fires, but the guild rats, the whores, the bashers, and the sneak thieves had gone to sleep, and the cutpurses, cons, sharps, and rest of those who worked the daylight were still asleep.
But what about the loveable street urchins, artful dodgers, gov’ners, gaffers and sticky-wickets? When do they get to work?
Usually, the smells of the Warrens were comfortable. There was the permeating smell of the cattle yards over the more immediate smells of human waste glooping through wide gutters in every street to further foul the Plith River, the rotting vegetation from the shallows and backwaters of the slow river, the less sour smell of the ocean when a lucky breeze blew, the stench of the
I’ve read books where stuff like this was done well. One example is The Lies Of Locke Lamora, which gets across how cloyingly humid and hot the Venice-like setting is very effectively. Here the book is just shoving rancid filth in our faces to get a gut reaction out of us.
Rejection and despair were the vapors rising from every moldering ruin and shit pile in the Warrens.
And this is just plan bad writing.
“Good morning,” Rat said. “How’s my favorite little guttershite?” The glee on Rat’s face told Azoth that something was seriously wrong.
These characters and this story are so uninteresting, I’m falling asleep as I read just like this adorable kitten.
He hauled it inside, and Azoth saw that it was Jarl. Jarl’s lips were swollen, both eyes black and so big he could barely see through the slits. He was missing teeth and he had crusted blood on his face from where his hair had been pulled so hard his scalp bled.
He was wearing a dress.
Seriously? We’re on chapter fucking five and you’re already getting to rape (child rape!) as a way to be all gritty?
And oh boy, let’s unpack this shit with the dress. Isn’t it telling that Jarl being forced to wear a dress gets its own dramatic paragraph break, almost like that’s the really humiliating and degrading part?
Before this I didn’t like The Way of Shadows– it seems like a terrible book– but now I’m actively repulsed by it. Not a good impression to make this early.
“I have big plans for Black Dragon, Azo, and I won’t let you get in my way,” Rat said.
“What do you want from me?” Azoth’s voice came out thin and reedy.
“I want you to be a hero. I want everyone who doesn’t dare stand up to me themselves to look at you and start to hope. And then I will destroy everything you’ve done. I will destroy everything you love. I will destroy you so completely that no one will ever defy me again. So do your best, do your worst, do nothing at all. I win no matter what. I always do.
Why does Rat think Azoth is some kind of threat to his leadership? Because Azoth punched him once? Has that never happened before?
And here’s another question: why are Azoth, Doll Girl and Jarl staying with this gang? They’re obviously capable of scavenging or stealing money on their own, and membership mainly seems to involve having a huge chunk of their earnings taken in exchange for sleeping in an abandoned building with a violent asshole.
Azoth starts playing along with Rat’s plan, gradually inspiring the older guild members with acts of defiance. I’m really not sure why. Is Rat going to kill Jarl if he doesn’t? Was that the arrangement? He never actually said that..
“Father, please, don’t go.” Logan Gyre held his father’s destrier, ignoring the predawn chill and holding back tears.
I assumed Logan Gyre wasn’t going to show up again, but I guess him (or his son) will be important going forward. (A destrier is a breed of horse, in case you’re wondering).
There’s a whole bunch of plot in this short part (boring plot) but the gist of it is that it’s several months later, the king is dead and Prince Aleine is on the throne. He’s sent Logan off to command a garrison at somewhere called Screaming Winds, which is humiliatingly trivial appointment.
The really interesting thing that happens here is we get a heaving helping of jumped-up self-important masculinity of the kind that fantasy novels like to trade in. First there’s Logan shouting at his wife because she won’t stop accusing him of cheating on her:
“Which of your harlots are you taking with you?”
“I’m not taking any of the maidservants, Catrinna, though some of them will be hard to replace. I’m leaving them here out of respect for your—”
“How stupid do you think I am? You’ll just find sluts there.”
“Catrinna. Go inside. Now!”
Her complaint actually starts out reasonably– she thinks the new king will pit him against her own family in a power struggle and she resents the fact that he’s not trying harder to stop this– but then that bullshit up there happens.
“Your mother . . . there are things I’ll share with you when you’re older. For now, I expect you to honor her, but you will be Lord Gyre while I’m gone.”
I’ve always hated scenes like this, where the young son has Take Up His Father’s Mantle and Be The Man Of The House even though his adult mother is still present. Actual dads don’t say shit like this, do they? I hope not.
(Also this feels like we just side-stepped into a cheap Game of Thrones knock off)
So far this book is significantly worse than I thought it was going to be, and getting worse at an alarming rate. Let’s have one more post on it before we move on.