I’d like to take a moment to say that I don’t hate the concept of magic and technology in the same story. It has to be done well though and Robson hasn’t done it poorly enough to be merely incompetent.
One of my favorite stories with both magic and science is the Blue Adept trilogy by Piers Anthony. The worlds of magic and science are discrete which helps because rules from one place don’t have to work in the other. I just want to be clear that I don’t hate this book based on the premise. It’s the poor writing, bad characterizations and inconsistent tone that makes me yell at it.
So why Robson decided to cut the chapter off when Lila stabbed Dar is baffling to me. The last chapter was incredibly short as is this one. So why break it up because Lila stabbed Dar? It’s not like we were on the edge of our seat wondering if Dar was going to die.
We start off with Lila whining about having to stab him and remembering the time they slept together. It comes off as amusing because it’s written with a sort of wistful remembrance of a bygone affair. ‘I remember it like it was yesterday.’ ‘That’s because it was yesterday.’ Then she senses the wound and his life slipping away though Barry’s andalune. And then this chapter turns into a cornucopia of confusion when this line wanders in.
Dar was trying to speak to her, she realised, as she saw his lips move. She routed power from her reactor through Tath into her bond with Dar.
Not only is it confusing, it’s a paragraph all on it’s own. Let’s recap how this doesn’t make sense, Robson. You say magic and science don’t get along. Fine, those are the rules. Further in you establish that magic interferes with technology which is stupid but consistent with the established mythology. Now you’re trying to tell me that Lila rerouted power from her reactor, established as a portable nuclear reactor, into her magical bond. How in the hell does she Lila manage that? Can Lila just reroute power to anything?
Then we get Dar’s last words which confuse Arie. Barry says that it just means goodbye. Something about it makes Lila whine about how many more times she’s going to find out how loyal people are in death. Dar slides off of the knife and immediately rises again as a zombie thanks to Barry’s magic. He proceeds to eat everyone’s face and then Lila has to give him impromptu brain surgery with a shotgun.
Or the computer points out that Lila is sitting on the floor and has both her hands pressed against it. So Lila sends a subsonic message into the water in faery language. She’s hoping that one of Zal’s bandmate fairies are near or in water and can somehow pick it up through what I’m assuming is sympathetic magic.
Then Arie comes over and tells Barry that his presence is required. Lila asks what will happen to Dar and where he went. Barry says that he’s gone and that they’re alive and have to focus on living. You know, the usual message someone has to tell the protagonist when they watch someone die. Then Lila asks what they’re going to do now.
Now we are going to bleed Zal and bind him to a fey fracture halfway between Alfheim and Intersticial Space. It will not be a physical prison, merely an aetheric one. He will live here in the palace and Arie will look after him like a sacred son all the days of his miserable long life.
I’m going to call Arie a hero. Not because she’s trying to rescue the realm in a hamhanded way but because it will result in torturing Zal. He deserves it if only for trying to build a career by covering Motorhead songs. That and he’s smug enough for a legion of elves.
Lila says, yes, that’s Arie’s goal but what are they going to do about it. Barry tells her that they’ll just go along and wait for an opportunity. I like it when a character start becoming self aware and begins relying on the appearance of deus ex machina.
‘What are we going to do?!’ ‘We wait until everything looks hopeless. Then something falls out of the sky and we succeed against all odds.’ ‘You’ve done this before, haven’t you?’ ‘Once or twice.’
Lila resolves to buckle down and carry on. She marches into the chanber where the real ritual is going to take place. All the elves are arranged in circles based on their power and influence while they wait for Zal to get escorted in. When they bring him in, Lila can see that he’s drugged and covered in runes which are bleeding ink because he’s sweating. Through Barry, Lila can sense Arie’s anticipation and plseasure at what she’s about to do.
I’m starting to wonder if the only reason Robson have the elves their andalune is because writing emotions was too hard. ‘Man, trying to show emotions is really difficult. If only there was a way I could just tell the audience instead. Like if they were just psychic or something.’
Once Zal is in the center with Arie, elves start singing which begins the spell. Lila says that unlike Zal’s circle from earlier, this one doesn’t take them into another realm. Instead it puts them outside of the realms. Once they’re completely in between the realms, Barry begins pulling out an instrument out of nowhere.
You need not stay, Tath said to her and lifted their hands upwards to his jerkin. Lila witnessed herself opening hidden pockets on its front, lifting out the instruments they had always contained and which, until now, she had never even discovered. I will do it.
I’m reminded of the spyglass that Roran produced towards the end of Brisingr. Lila says she’ll do it whatever it is. Whatever “it” is, it’ll require a pen made of bone and a scrap of parchment. Both of those are made from Barry’s body, presumably before he died. Then Arie begins to sing and Robson tells us how powerful and laden with emotions it is.
Barry kneels down and begins to write on Zal with his pen in the death language. Lila starts becoming entranced by the song. Barry tells her to play something to disrupt it so she can think. It’s one of Zal’s songs and she regains enough will to pay attention.
And here’s where it gets a bit more confusing. Every time Bary carves into Zal’s skin the blood turns into a haze which becomes djinn and genie. I’m assuming Robson means they take the form of and that Zal isn’t bleeding blue men voiced by Robin Williams. Lila asks for control of her arm and puts it against the floor so the music resonates through the lake. Barry takes control again though I’m willing to bet that the dragon will show up in response.
Then a wave of magic passes over them as Zal begins to flicker. Barry says it is his death and then he says that Arie has bound Lila’s body. Arie couldn’t do anything to the metal in Lila’s body but if she tries to struggle it’ll tear her apart. Lila fires at the floor which weakens it but doesn’t break. Then something from beneath strike the magical shell generated by the circles of singing elves and breaks it. I really hope the next couple of chapters have better flow than this.