Maester Llama

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  1. Yeah, I ... think Scull was 2013? The first of Gladstone's Craft novels -- glad you enjoyed it, I think they're great! -- was late 2012 I think, so yeah very close. Bennett's City of Stairs was I think September 2014, so definitely a mini trend. Finished Theodora Goss's The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter, her debut novel -- she's an experienced short story writer and poet -- that mashes up gothic novels from Jekyll and Hyde to Frankenstein to several others into a shared universe and approaches their stories from a feminist perspective, focusing on the daughters of the scientist / experimenter either mentioned briefly, implied but never discussed outright, or -- in the case of Frankenstein -- specifically never brought into being in each story. The daughters get together and solve a mystery -- or the beginnings of a mystery, since this sounds like it's at least a duology -- tied directly to their fathers' creepy experiments. The style's really interesting, and captures the book's move to give these elided characters back their voices in a way that was really effective for me: The book is written by one of the main characters within the universe, with the rest of the daughters offering frequent editorial comments, criticizing or praising the writing or offering differing perspectives or sometimes just talking, which are integrated directly into the body of the text on their own lines preceded by the appropriate character's name. I suspect some people will find this throws them out of the story and is distracting; for me it does the opposite and is one of my favourite parts of the book, a really effective blending of form and theme. One thing that I think might help here in terms of making this style choice more digestible for leery readers is that the writing is otherwise pretty no-frills; the language is clear and straightforward, with only the occasional minor flourish, often going with Victorian turns of phrase, but never leaning on Victorian pastiche when doing so might make anything less accessible -- there's lots of 21st century language when that'll make the story and the emotional register easier to grasp. Personally I'd have loved more chewy Victorianism in terms of style, but I can see how the book's lighter touch is the right choice. I pretty much loved this: I was very much in the bag for it in terms of subject matter and thematic concerns, which I'm sure weighed with me, but I think it's great on the merits. The plot's brisk and absorbing, if maybe a bit less intricate than it first appears, and wraps up giving us some satisfying answers while leaving broad scope for more adventures. The writing is fine, and is elevated by the central conceit of the editorial comments. And the characters are just great; the daughters have well-drawn personalities that bounce off each other insightfully and entertainingly, and while they're absolutely the main focus an appearance by a pretty orthodox but -- for me -- very well-evoked Holmes and Watson is also very welcome. Great stuff and I look forward to the next one. About a quarter of the way through Lara Elena Donelly's debut Amberlough, a secondary world novel without magic set in a country -- and mostly the titular city -- in which a repressive fascist party is on the rise against a backdrop of 1920s-esque glamor and nightclub culture, all overlaid with spy antics. Pretty compelling so far as a portrait of a society, and in microcosm particular people within that society, dancing toward the brink, convincing themselves that the worst will never actually happen or won't effect them. I can already tell the end is gonna be super cheerful!
  2. Still on my very long new release kick; will continue with this through the remainder of the summer and then maybe back off and do some rereading in my limited spare time when I go back to school. Read Jane Harper's debut thriller The Dry, about a tripple murder of a family in a drout-stricken Australian farming community. Very compelling -- I read it in about a day -- and managed to mostly avoid the feeling of initially satisfying but ultimately empty callories I sometimes get from this kind of dark crime fiction. The characters aren't ocean-deep or anything, but they're an interesting group of players in the who-dun-it sketched with economic skill and some measured but not over-sweetened compassion, their actions make sense, and I think the mystery, while it does have a twist, plays very fair -- there is one piece of vital information that gets held off till pretty late and I think it'd be tough to get the "right answer" to the book's central mystery without it if you're that kinda mystery reader, but there are one or two hints. I also appreciated that, while the A-mystery has a twist, and a twist that I liked, the B-mystery, which concerns trauma from the town's past, has, stepping around spoilers, a slightly more "if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck" sort of solution -- this one is just straight up hidden until very late in the game, but I found that that ended up being okay. The whole thing feels pretty solid, which is impressive given how easy it is to fluff this sort of mystery plot with many motivations colliding. One of my more enjoyable and less regretted occasional binge-ventures into crime fic. Then I read Robin Bennis' debut military airship steampunk novel The Guns Above. This is fun stuff! Very rompy and comedic -- there are some legit, if dry and dark, jokes in here -- without sacrificing military grit or the horrors of war, which the book takes an unflinching approach to -- sometimes it feels like this is played straight, but sometimes it's part of the black humour. Fun airship action, a strong central duo with some entertaining but less memorable secondary characters around them, and some fun with military bureaucracy all in a narrative voice I found infectious. World quite lightly sketched. Would read more anytime -- no sequel is immediately required by the ending, but it's definitely a series and does feel like one. On to Theodora Goss' Victorian literary monsters redo The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter. Re the timeline placement of Gladstone's upcoming sixth Craft novel: Ruin of Angels advances the series timeline; it takes place after the events of Full Fathom Five and one of that book's leads is in it. I seem to remember that its working title was Six Feet Over, before Gladstone decided to leave the numeric naming structure behind because he wanted to signal that the world was starting to move on.
  3. The North American publication date is today, the 27th; the UK edition releases on the 29th.
  4. Okay everybody, all y'all gotta do is keep your brains from melting in self-defense for the next 1400 words and we are out the other side. It is time to lay our burden down. It's been real! Yours in horrified puzzlement... Warheart, Chapters 56-59: Everybody Wants Some Dick, Part 3 The Dick admiration party centred around Richard's explanation of how he's passed his latest exam in advanced heroics with 390% is interrupted by ... a Mord-Sith running at them at top speed! One more assassination attempt for the road? Oh no, it's Berdine, one of the Mord-Sith from early in the series, who Goodkind hastens to remind us is shorter and "curvier" and has brown hair, not blond. Cameo time! She jumps on Dick and wraps herself around him. She is mega happy to see him; the way Goodkind puts it across reads kind of like a puppy, which it hardly needs to be said is turbo gross. Kahlan asks Berdine to climb off Dick and Vika asks whether he ordinarily allows Mord-Sith to hug him. Berdine says no, just her, because "I'm his favourite," and Kahlan, desperately trying to make this parental and platonic, which makes it differently pervy rather than not pervy, says that no they don't have favourites, that "we love you all the same." This series is the worst, you guys. General Zimmer runs up and tells Dick they've got a problem: the shun-tuk slash former half people are all gradually closing in on him, inching toward him, and they still massively outnumber the D'Harrans. Apparently they all want to tell him something. It'll turn out to be that they want to get close to him to thank him and tell him how much they love him, I am calling that right now. Dick goes to one of his "devotion squares" where most of the no-longer-half-people will be able to see him. These devotion squares are little pools with short walls around them that Dick can stand erect on while folks come and look at him, and again they are called "devotion squares" — Terry would like to remind you that Dickland is ABSOLUTELY NOT FASCIST OKAY? There are shun-tuk all over the goddamn place. Some of them are washing their war paint off in fountains, because now that they are real people with souls again they are elevated to a civilized state and reject culturally-specific facial decoration. This series is the worst, you guys. He asks what they'd like to say to him, and of course as one they fall to their knees and lower their foreheads to the floor, and we are going full "Master Rahl guide us" fascist cult of personality chant up in here! The entire horde reels off the whole prayer to the Lord Rahl. They chant it "in unison," which sounds like a commie pinko thing, but they're worshipping Dick and the more people who do that the better. Remember, right back at the beginning we established that in Terryland what's good for the gander isn't good for the goose, because the gander is an upstanding citizen who loves Dick and the goose is goddamn fucking pinko immigrant filth who speaks in gibber-jabber. Nicci is "awed." Kahlan cries. Even Dick gets choked up by all the people who are willing to mindlessly worship him. Okay so I think we can more or less take it as read that this bullshit is a gross exercise in strongman-glorification that sounds like a totalitarian autocrat's idea of a hot dream, but also I have questions, like questions of a logical nature, most pressingly how the fuck did all the shun-tuk learn the cult chant so fast? Did some of the First File like teach it to a couple of them and then they played telephone with it? This series is the worst, you guys. A couple weeks later, at night: Richard stands at the balustrade that runs around the courtyard outside his and Kahlan's bedroom, the highest point in the palace, looking out at the night and thinking about the end of prophecy. All the books of prophecy are being burned. Some people want to keep the books around as finely made objects, and some people are holding onto the "superstitious" notion that the prophecies still have power even now that the Omen Machine, the source of all prophecy, has been destroyed and sent back to the Underworld, but tough shit: Dick in his wisdom knows that prophecy is "the death of free will," and that the world will be better without it, because people will no longer have the option of turning to prophecy to make their decisions like pansies, like all the damn kids with their music, but will instead have to make their decisions the real way, like he does, which is the right way. So the books are being burned, but in a liberatory book-burning way, not a knowledge-obliterating kinda way, because you see it is totally fine to burn books so long as you do not like what is in them / object to their contents as antiquated. Nate Dog is sad, because he spent over a thousand years locked up in the Palace of the Prophets with these books as his only experience of the outside world, so Richard's told him he can pick one library in the palace and fill it with the books he wants to preserve; the rest are gettin' torched. Nate Dog might not have much time for reading, though, because he's now getting to be an adventurer for real, like he's always wanted: He has been made Lord Rahl's "roving ambassador" and sent forth to see what can be done to help the lands devastated by the march of Sean Hannity and the Sooch-master's armies of half people and generally spread the good news about Dick. Nicci has gone with him to keep him out of trouble, and so a spinoff was born. Now we get the rundown on the Mord-Sith: Cassia is happy patrolling with the First File and generally doing Mord-Sith stuff. Vika has decided that she is the true new incarnation of Cara, Mord-Sith No. 1. Vale is now besties with Berdine. They "whisper a lot to each other" and Dick pretends not to notice. I am not sure whether this is Terry's glancing, ineffectual way of saying they're a couple or going to become one — Berdine is homosexual, it was in one of the early books — but I am sure that it works hard to infantalize them by portraying them as kids getting away with something in front of a parent; Terry's really working overtime on being classy today. Oh and also Mohler the scribe from the Citadel lives at the People's Palace now, in case that's something you care about. Nate Dog healed Mohler's arthritic hands before he left, because our boy Nate Dog is a swell guy like that. Mo brought all the cerulean scrolls with him and they're laid out in trunks in Dick and Kahlan's bedroom with the Warheart scroll on a stand in front; I have no clue why they want them because prophecy is destroyed and they're all useless now, but maybe Dick likes being surrounded by ancient documents all focused specifically on how great he is while he sleeps. Kahlan comes up behind Richard, apparently, Goodkind hastens to inform us, "not wearing much at all," and asks him if he's coming to bed. Dick nods, but then points at the stars in the northern sky, which are especially bright tonight. They watch the stars for a bit and then Kahlan asks whether Richard thinks the stars are lost souls looking for where they belong, I dunno why, maybe TG has a "How To Write Romance Scenes" manual and this is the kind of schlocky line it tells him to use here. Richard points out that all the lost souls have found their places, because he restored the souls of the half people and is the best. The idyllic moment is momentarily broken: Kahlan says that something's wrong, that the stars aren't "in the right places," that the constellations have shifted, which you'd think somebody would have noticed before now, as it's been days if not weeks. Kahlan starts to panic, but Dick smiles the smile of a man who knows everything and is perfect in every way, takes her hand, and assures her that the stars are where they belong, because, well, because of word salad: "The spectral fold has closed. The Twilight Count has ended with the phase change. The star shift is now complete." I would like to remind you that Goodkind was paid money to write this. Dick says they will have to relearn the sky, that it will never go back to the way it was, but will always stay like this. They kiss, and Goodkind would like to sacrifice proper subject verb agreement to let you know that "when they parted, both their breathing was a little faster." Oh Jesus Christ on a pogo stick Terry, do I have to do everything for you?: THEY ARE ABOUT To BONE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? TERRY GOODKIND WANTS YOU TO KNOW THAT HIS TWO MAIN CHARACTERS ARE ABOUT TO BONE, WHICH MEANS THEY ARE GOING TO HAVE SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WITH ONE ANOTHER USING THEIR BODIES. Kahlan asks Dick what he thinks this means. He says it's the start of a "new golden age." That's a promise, one hundred percent most important person in the universe Warheart-guaranteed: new golden age, comin' up. And that's all, folks. Hope you had fun!
  5. Yes! Perfect! Warheart, Chapters 56-59: Everybody Wants Some Dick, Part 2 Regula's room and the Garden of Life are torn to shit, so Dick has to pick his way carefully through the rubble on his way to deus ex machina away the rest of his problems, but he persists, and is just about out of the Garden of Life when, uh-oh, Sean Hannity's evil Mord-Sith minion Vika jumps out and blocks his path. Twenty bucks says the sheer force of Dick's personality talks her around to loving him forever and converting to the side of good. She gives him creepy Mord-Sith eyes. He's apparently given her the healing words of Dickie Rahl routine before while he was being held captive by Hannity, because he tells her that she remembers their talk and asks her in a fatherly way whether she's thought about what she wants to do with her life. Before she can respond Sean Hannity his very own evil tattooed self comes into the Garden, dragging Kahlan by her hair in the full damsel position, because Terry hasn't done a woman endangerment scene yet this book and he wanted to squeeze one in before the lights go up. Stay classy, Terry. Kahlan can't use her Mother Confessor power against Hannity, apparently; not sure why other than to artificially maximize her peril and helplessness, but it's probably something to do with Sean's tats. Richard starts forward to launch into the obligatory don't you hurt her routine, but it looks like maybe I'd have lost money if there'd actually been anybody to bet with, because Vika gets in his face and slams him with her painrod and he collapses to the ground. She leans over him and "growls intimately" that he'll stay down if he knows what's good for him. Oh bless you Terry, you take away with one hand and give with the other; tell me, Terry, how does one "growl intimately?" I thank you for this gift, this gem of stupidity, and should not have doubted you; you always come through for us. Richard's in so much pain he can't move. All he can see are Vika's boots in front of him. Terry's hitting the dominatrix imagery real hard here. Hannity throws Kahlan on the ground and starts strangling her with his occult power. He tells Vika to get out of his way and off she scoots. Hannity starts monologuing at Richard. It's a good one; lots of hot air about how Richard has helped him by getting rid of Suchikins, and how he's going to rule the world of life and so on. He sounds exactly like all Goodkind's villains. He extends one hand toward Kahlan and one toward Richard to start getting his torture freak on by strangling both of them with his mind powers, but Vika walks up behind him, ooooh come on big money big money big money... Yes! I called it; I was right the first time. Vika stabs her painrod into the back of Sean Hannity's head and KILLS THE SHIT OUT OF HIM. His evil tattoos bubble and smoke and sink into his flesh. His skin starts to peel and flop off. His eyes and ears bleed. He is super dead, like oldtime Sword of Truth dead, with unnecessary mangling just to make it hardcore. Dick and Kahlan hug. Vika says that she used her painrod on Dick because she knew he couldn't beat Hannity one to one and she needed to present Hannity with a tempting target, but that she knows Mord-Sith who assault the entirely benevolent, totally not fascist Lord Rahl in this way are subject to instant execution. She says that it was her choice to save him, that this is how she has chosen to dispose of her life as a free-thinking individual, and drops to her knees and asks him to make it quick. TG is really laying it on thick here. No doubt you're thinking he forgives her. He does of course, but brace for impact regarding the way he does it, because there is some weapons-grade stupid comin' atcha: He kisses his finger and touches it to her forehead, tells her that's her punishment, and says "If you don't behave, I will tell all the other Mord-Sith that I kissed you. You will never hear the end of it as long as you live." It's great that we could get one more real classy reiteration of how sexually-charged Dick's relationship with all his leather-clad women bodyguards is before the curtain falls. Gross. Anyway, Vika says she decided to betray Hannity a long time ago, after her talk with Dick about life and free will of course, but she had to wait for the right time. She wanted to save others rather than just run away, partly because Hannity would have hunted her down and peeled off her goddamn skin if she'd just booked it without scrubbing him out first. Richard and Kahlan both tell her they're proud of her. In case it needs going over one more time: Beautiful young woman who kills and tortures people, but responds correctly to Dick's exhortations to rise up and live life? Rewarded with approval from the powers that be and a stable place in the hierarchy of Dickland. Beautiful young woman who rejects Dick's wisdom and continues to assault him and his no matter how many times the truth of his perfection is placed before her? Crushed by rocks. Aren't subtexts fun?! Richard runs to a bridge over one of the palace's major hallways, from which he can see the raging battle below. The floor is covered with dead, mostly half people, of course, for any one of the Lord Rahl's soldiers is worth a dozen filthy zombie immigrants, but the half people are whittling them down and they're still fucking everywhere, munching on corpses and generally being the worst. Richard draws the Sword of Truth — UNIQUE METALLIC RING!!! — and points the blade out over the balcony. He releases the spirits and tells them to go find their respective meatbags. They flow out of the sword in rippling curtains of light, which then scatter across the palace. Kahlan is all "what?" and Dick explains that the Sanctuary of Souls was designed to house the souls severed from the half people when they were created, in the hope that one day they could be reunited with their bodies. All the half people stop chasing and eating people — aw man wouldn't it suck to have your soul restored to you right when you were in the middle of chomping on some dead person? Gross. They are delighted; they laugh, they cry, and experience other emotions, all of which are listed, because TG is an expert in specific writing techniques evoking feelings in the reader. Richard and Kahlan head downstairs and are greeted by Cassia, Nicci, and Nate Dog. All the half people have stopped fighting. Nicci and Nate Dog demand explanations and Nicci flips out when she learns Dick went back for the sword when doing so could have killed him, but Dick is here and fine and right about everything so her concerns are played for weak laughs. Richard explains his cleverness. It turns out that Dick deliberately kept the "poison of death" with him when he came back from the Underworld, intending all along to use it to kill the shit out of Suchi and send him back into death. Then he deliberately amped up the bad touch disease by travelling in the sliph with the sword right before he knew he was gonna fight the Suchinator, so its death powers would be at maximum deathliness. Oh also he fixed his magic mojo while he was in the Underworld and then layered the bad touch disease on top of it, like a plug, or a cork, specifically a cork for which the corkscrew is not in fact a corkscrew but rather a really loud scream because fuck you. No word on whether he solved world hunger and cured cancer while he was down there too, but it seems safe to assume he did. They all complain and shake their heads and try to explain to him how his plan couldn't work when it has, I remind you, already verifiably in fact worked, but he has single-handedly solved every last problem they have and is peerless and unimpeachable in all ways, so they really can't say fuck all, and must instead listen to another few pages of him explaining all the holy shit amazing things he's done. Oh, he also drops that btw he's ended prophecy, and Nate Dog is momentarily perturbed by this, because he's a prophet and the absence of prophecy might cramp his style, but then Dick explains at length and everything is fine. And now all that remains is a little bit more cleanup / Dick-worship, in the final installment of this particular chunk of our time with Terry...
  6. Warheart, Chapters 56-59: Everybody Wants Some Dick, Part 1 Dick surfaces in the sliph's well in the People's Palace. He's exhausted and achy and it hurts to breathe. Our boy is pretty fucked up by the poison slash sickness slash touch of death inside him at this point: Cassia pulls him out and he's dead weight. He staggers up and checks to make sure the Phallic Substitute of Truth is still on his belt. Then he and Cassia head for the Garden of Life. Something is "wrong" in the palace though: it smells like smoke and the halls are empty, so it sounds like Cranky Zombie Voldemort and Sean Hannity's Operation Fuck Shit Up in the People's Palace has proceeded apace. Announcement: After having devoted an entirely unreasonable amount of thought to this matter I'ma start calling Sulachan Suchi full time instead of Cranky Zombie Voldemort. I think it hits the ear more amusingly. They slip through the deserted service halls until they reach a big door that leads into the public areas. Cassia hears screaming on the other side of it and Dick redirects them. They keep going, always avoiding the sound of battle, though it of course hurts Dick's righteous soul to do so. The sentries guarding the Garden of Life are surprised to see the bossman. They report on the situation, which is that the half-people have gotten into the palace through the catacombs and are now wrecking shit, so no new real information. Oh, except the guard who reports to Richard credits the half-people as directly responsible for the melting of the stone in the Rahl crypts, something Dick has known about for hours and not even gone to look at let alone addressed in any way; he says they're melting it themselves, not just taking advantage of the fact it's happening, and it's one of their main points of ingress. They've been in the palace for pretty much as long as Dick's been gone, and oh wow, it's been multiple days, three or four. None of the defenders have gotten any sleep while trying to hold the shun-tuk back from the upper levels of the palace, so they're pretty wiped now. Suchi and Sean Hannity are both hanging around, the guard says, but seem to be in no hurry; this is like a show for them. Terry reminds you that these gentlemen are evil, sooooo eeeevil, and probably disembowel and roast live puppies in their spare time. Richard tells the sentries to clear out of the Garden, and also to spread the order that everyone is to fuck off out of the major palace thoroughfares and let the enemy take them. He says that "when the time is right" General Zimmer must surrender the palace and let the filthy immigrants err I mean half people flood through, and that "you will know" when that time is, which is helpful. Dick takes the Boxes of Orden down into Regula's chamber and lays them on top of the machine. Then he leans against the machine, waiting. While he waits, he thinks about Kahlan, who is holed up in a safe zone somewhere in the palace by the way — Helpful Soldier mentioned that. He thinks about how much he loves her and how special and awesome their bond is and how "many people lived their entire lives together without being together, without actually sharing their lives the way he and Kahlan had," because it wouldn't be a TG-BRANDED quiet moment of warmth and reflection without a little judgment and smugness about how Dick and the Dicksquad are better than other people. There are even candles burning in here to make the moment perfect. Absorbed in thoughts of love though he is, Dick hears the sound of footsteps above and is instantly on alert. This must, he thinks, be the Suchinator, because our boy would recognize the taint of death within Richard and be able to track him something something something occult power. So I guess the "right moment" for the D'Harran forces to retreat has come and gone then? Whatever, yep it's Suchi; he comes down the stairs glowing his evil blue glow and smiling spookily and starts mustache-twirling about how he's grateful Richard is hanging around to be iced, and how, contra Sean Hannity, who wants to keep Dick alive to make him suffer, he's gonna just kill Dick right now to make sure he meddles no further. Dick says he's "not the kind to run," and generally square-jaws it up. The Sooch-master approaches the Omen Machine, figurative mustache going a hundred miles an hour, and Dick casually grabs a bit of candle wax, wanders over to the door, and drops one of the warding cloths from Boring Ghost Dungeon down over the entrance to trap him in here. This confuses and annoys Suchikins, and he begins to circle the room, Bond-villaining up a storm to cover the fact that his inability to leave the room is grinding his gears. He raises his hands to killify Dick with his occult powers, but before he can get a groove going Dick tells Regula it's "time to go home," jams the wax in his ears, takes out the Sword of Truth, and lays it across the Boxes of Orden on top of the machine. This is gonna end up being some fucking bullshit noun soup about life and death canceling each other out because something something additive subtractive occult many layers of balance veil Grace pepperoni with extra cheese rather than a proper showdown isn't it? Pretty much yep. Richard tilts his head back and cuts loose with a scream that apparently releases "the call of death from deep down inside" and frees his magic from where it's trapped beneath the poison. I would point out in passing that this is sort of like a thing rising up from within him, except in this case the thing is a screaming shitfit. Go with this wither you will. Wait, you say, we have at no point been informed that screaming the poison out was an option for Richard, and your objection is noted, but I think what you're overlooking here is that fuck you. His magical scream fills the room, gathering the "anger of the sword," sending dust swirling everywhere and knocking shit over; it's like the characters in a Dragonball anime powering up a supermove. Suchi covers his ears so he can't hear the "call of death." Now the sheer power of Dick's magical ejaculations is creating a whirlwind of spinning darkness; it sucks up the metal prophecy strips. The Boxes of Orden slam together and explode with light, which then shoots upward like a laser and blasts the roof off Regula's chamber and shatters the glass roof above. Regula breaks apart and is drawn up into the whirlwind of light, where it disintegrates. Dick can't hear any of this, because these are some high-quality improvised wax earplugs. The Suchinator tries to defend himself, but as soon as he uncovers his ears the death magic storm thingy is all TASTY UNDEAD SPIRIT NOM NOM NOM and both his body and the evil glowy soul shell around it get ripped apart and sucked into the vortex, killifying him instantly. Goodbye Suchi, we hardly knew ye. Richard stops screaming and collapses to his knees once he's expelled all the death within him. All the plotstuff is gone: Dick's bad touch disease is gone and his death meter is empty; Regula's gone; the Boxes of Orden are gone; Suchi's gone; prophecy's gone; the "spectral fold" is "closed"; this was one productive scream. Sword's still here though! Dick's all better now and his magic mojo is back, but he can still hear the howls of the half people from elsewhere in the palace.
  7. The Nicci book definitely takes place after Warheart. There's a spinoff launching moment at the end of this current book. Now that I think about it at the end here there is sort of an angry thing that rises up within Dick and kills death-choosers, except the thing itself is also death. And, yeah, as has been pointed out, Hannity and CZV are definitely bringing death, like that is objectively what they are doing, so why Dick is a good bringer of death and they're bad ones is methodologically unclear to me. I guess we just need to always keep in mind that none of this is consistent or makes any goddamn sense, that trying to make it do so is a recipe for madness, and that one of the only true laws in Terryland is that whatever Dick does is absolutely the right thing -- Larry suggested a connection between Dick and Trump a little while back and while I personally only intermittently get a Trump vibe off Dick I certainly agree that this anything-this-one-dude-does-is-right-because-he-does-it attitude in particular is very Trumpian indeed. And now a brief intermission, a pause for reflection upon my dark journey. Pray indulge me... Interlude: A Dick Withering, or They Don't Yeard 'em Like They Used To So here we are, after a crazy twenty-two-plus thousand words of recap nonsense, only a few dozen pages from the end of Warheart, the very last book focused on the adventures of Dick until Terry decides the retirement fund needs a little juice from his most popular creation. After emphasizing how near we are to our trial's end last time I wanna push on to the end and be done, but this feels like as good a moment as any to pause and reflect on the experience I've had: Recapping Warheart has been super fun. Agonizing and frequently boring, of course, because it's so bad, but always fun. I'm glad I decided to do it. It's been great to be goofy and mock something I find so mockable while hopefully entertaining others by doing so, and I hope that, while highlighting what I perceive to be the book's and the series' very real and substantial flaws that in my opinion make both deeply, hilariously bad as fantasy and as storytelling in a general sense, I have managed to avoid being unnecessarily mean. However, I do feel a little twinge of melancholy as we approach the end. Not because I ever had a lot personally invested in Goodkind's Sword of Truth series — I read a couple of them in high school while I was waiting for Robert Jordan to make new Wheel of Time books happen and Goodkind certainly got me to buy that they were okay for a while, but I worked my way around to how problematic they were pretty early and dropped away from them, so they have very little nostalgic power for me. No, what it is, and this is tough to explain, is that ... look: Even at its most wretched, which it achieved frequently, the Sword of Truth series as I experienced it used to firmly believe that you should either go big or go home. It was dumb, it was preachy, its objectivist philosophy ranged from lame to morally reprehensible, and its gender politics were gross, but it never did things by halves. It sucked but it was almost never boring: Dick was always rising up and living life all over the place and killing the shit out of people. It was a rare day when nobody got their heads cut off or their hearts torn out or their junk mutilated for pervy magic rituals. People got stared down by raptor gazes; there were jaw-kickings; things rose up in anger. Evil manifested itself in chicken form. It was unintentionally campy. It was awful, but at least it fucking lived; it had some gas in its tank. Warheart, though, Warheart's just flat. There's nothing there. The characters walk from point A to point B and read things, talk dry magic talk that wouldn't know the numinous ineffable if they passed each other on the street, worry repetitively about the same five things and vomit exposition that might as well be cut-and-pasted, feel the same set of emotions over and over, and then occasionally engage in a page or two of desultory fight scene that Goodkind seems to have almost no energy for. Where now are the righteous murders? Where are the things that were rising? Where are the raptor gazes and the calm furies, and the old jaw-kicking? Alas, for all these things have passed away. Yes, we mocked these things and we were right to do so, but in their absence Dickland is flat and empty and seems to have lost what zest for life it had, and all that now remains is expanses of listless prose and expository dialogue that barely flows as sentences never mind approximating human speech, punctuated by occasional spikes of absurd hero worship, anti-immigrant sentiment and casual racism. It's as if Goodkind has lost all interest, like he's just trudging forward plunking words down on paper and hoping the obligation to keep writing will go away soon. And that makes me sad, because the old books felt like Goodkind was at least getting some kind of enjoyment out of his work. I don't like the series and I find its views on the human condition a little bit insidious, but it saddens me that it is so obviously shambling forward as a hollowed-out husk of its former self. This goose ain't cooked quite yet though, so let's see how this all shakes out: Three posts to go! I know these sections have been getting longer, sorry, but I want us to really take our time over the ending, because despite all the stuff I just said about the flatness and listlessness of the book, which I still think is true, vintage Terry really shows up for work at a couple moments in these last chapters and they contain some of the book's most delightful doses of offensive monkey business and general stupid. There are a lot of very negative things to be said about Goodkind's writing, and I've said all of them at length, but never let it be said that he doesn't give us anything. Buckle up, because here comes the dumb:
  8. Warheart, Chapters 52-55: A Dick At Work, Part 2 Kahlan etc are just starting to cogitate on why Richard might have taken the sliph out of the palace when kablam, they start hearing wizard's fire up above. The invasion has begun, unless that is it's some other goddamn thing, because Goodkind seems determined to put off the big fight for as long as possible. They book it up some service stairs and out into the upper levels of the palace, where they are instantly ambushed by half people who have gotten in, probably through some tunnel the First File neglected to guard while they were looking for Dick in every crevice. One of them leaps at Kahlan with its mouth agape, but General Zimmer swoops in out of nowhere and decapitates it. There's like a dozen of the dirty foreigners but it's nbd, because Zimmer has a bunch of First File with him and they kill the shit out of them. Zimmer says the half people came up through the melting tombs — I dunno how because we know they're not immune to heat, but whatever —, and then another group flanked his guys from behind while they were trying to contain the first bunch. Nate Dog owned some of the half people with wizard's fire and he and the First File have now fallen back to a defensible location. Nicci rushes off to help. Far away, Dick and Cassia ... have fucking come back to the Wizard's Keep! If he's come back to get the Sword of Truth, which he left here on purpose, I am going to cry. Oh my god, yes he has. Chase has been sitting sentinel outside the tower room where Richard left the sword and he's fallen asleep. He's surprised to see Dick. Dick tells him he's in a hurry, which, well, no shit, and says he needs to get back down to the— No! No, no, no! Fuck you TG, fuck you, I don't wanna go back to boring ghost dungeon! Aw come on Terry, I thought we was bros, I can't go back down there man, anywhere, anywhere: Boring Scroll Room, Dark Boring Dark Underworld of Darkness, Birmingham, Shitty Cave Town, anywhere you want my dude just not Boring Ghost Dungeon, I can't do it no for serious man the boredom is still too real, IT's TOO REAL! NO! NOOOOOOOO! My pleas fall unheard into the void, because sure enough Richard tells Chase he needs to get back into the catacombs and down to Boring Ghost Dungeon. Chase takes them the shortest route, and Dick deigns to allow him to tag along on their journey downward. Dick spouts off some dark hints about swords being no good where they're going, but refuses to tell them more because "it isn't good to know how you might die," and also because "I'm not even sure I can do this" — ah, even Dick gets performance anxiety. The Keep's slitted windows reveal that it's night time, so the half people are already inside the palace fucking shit up back in D'Harra, presumably. Dick, Chase, and Cassia hustle. down the hidden stairs to the central chamber, and then back into the tunnel marked Garden of Souls, the one the Dicksquad came out of. Bones, bones, dead people. Chase is wigged out. Dick retraces their steps all the way down to the Sanctuary of Souls. Dick starts expositing about how spirits become trapped in the sanctuary, drawn here by some of the symbols but prevented by others from moving elsewhere in the Keep. So there's this enormous supply of souls floating around down here unable to do much or go anywhere, and some of them have asked him for help before. Some of them are pretty pissy about being continuously torn away from the Grace and brought back here. Oh hey, I think he's gonna somehow give these souls to the half people so they'll stop trying to munch the living. Dick heads into the Sanctuary and starts tearing down all the cloth hangings and handing them to Cassia, telling her to hold them with the warding symbols facing inward so they can't be seen. He walks to a central hall and a great congregation of all the spirits gathers, sparkling and shining. He draws his sword and it makes its badass wringing noise; it sounds "almost divine." He invites the spirits to "come home with me," and the spirits all get absorbed into the sword. Dick says okay, job done, and they head back up out of the catacombs. Huh, okay, that was quick and painless. After getting them around all the magic shields Richard can't bypass because his Lord Rahl mojo's not working and to the entrance of the catacombs Chase has contributed to this adventure in no way whatsoever by the way, beyond occasionally asking questions that Richard blows off, and Cassia, hardcore deadly ninja warrior, has mostly been here to hold cloths, so I have up until now not been quite sure why Richard didn't fly solo on this one, but here it comes: Dick's sickness has him in very rough shape now. He thinks of Kahlan and everybody else back at the People's Palace and all the dying that'll happen if he doesn't make it back and just keeps swimming, but he finally collapses just outside the catacombs and tells Cassia that this is why he brought her: she has to help him reach the sliph and get back to the palace. She and Chase lift him, Chase taking much of the load. When they reach the sliph, she again says Dick must not take the sword, but reluctantly admits that he will make it back to the palace with the blade, though he will die shortly thereafter. Dick bids farewell to Chase, who can't travel because he is but a simple woodsman with no magical goodness, and he and Cassia dive into the sliph. Will Dick somehow triumph against all odds? Will one more token named character who isn't too important die? Will everybody who isn't Dick continue to be totally useless? Will Sean Hannity and Cranky Zombie Voldemort come within a hair's-breadth of achieving their dastardly goals and then be defeated by our morally-upright Dickie-boy and the powers of life and truth? Will Kahlan and Richard share any more special smiles? Will we finally get a jaw-kick or a rising angry thing? — come on Terry, just one, hook me up dude; it's the last book my man, come on, one for the road. Fifty pages to go, my friends! Less than fifty! I am proud, I am moved, that we have come so far, that we have walked so daringly upon the very edge of the abyss that is the Yeard and gazed so long into its depths. There have, perhaps, been moments when you have questioned our course, when you have wondered whether it was folly to walk so brazenly over the precipice, one after the other like lemmings over a cliff, to spiral down into the nigh-incomprehensible vortex of the Dickverse. You may have asked yourself whether in doing so you have lost all perspective, all reference points for subtle, thoughtful writing, for plot and character, for sane conduct, for all that is good and true and real in fiction and in humankind. I know that I have asked these questions of myself. But this journey truly is not endless: there is another shore, my friends, and we are almost there; our escape is close at hand. It is not far now. I can see the light.
  9. Nate Dog! I was also very pleased to see him again. Thanks for giving him his true name! Warheart, Chapters 52-55: A Dick At Work, Part 1 Okay, so last time we had the long-ass boring episode in which even less than usual happened. This one's where shit starts to go down. Still in the most boring, most half-hearted way imaginable, but things do occur. That's as close as I'm coming to an endorsement: I acknowledge that the collection of words on these pages definitely includes an account of fictional events happening. The room containing the Omen Machine is illuminated by things called "proximity spheres." Regula itself is big and blocky, with heavy metal siding. In each corner of the room there are stacks of metal strips that can be fed through the Omen Machine so it can inscribe prophecy directly onto them. It's all very early computer chic, like Terry had to write his own programs on pin-cards in university and did not enjoy it much. Dick checks the machine's output tray, but there's nothing there, so it hasn't pooped out any prophecy in his absence. He places his hands on the machine and it wakes up with a rumble that shakes the palace, projecting a symbol in the Language of Creation onto the ceiling. Nate Dog says he's been down here tons and the machine hasn't stirred, but Richard has death in him and Regula is a thing of the Underworld, so it responds to his touch. The machine poops out a prophecy. It says that the machine has missed him, so oh, okay, it can kind of talk and has feelings? Dick tells everyone else to fuck off so he and Regula can talk alone, which grinds Kahlan's gears, but he is the Lord Rahl so away they go. Regula tells Dick that it knows he is not here for prophecy. It asks if it is going to die and what it is like to be surprised. He explains what it is to be human, to be uncertain. He feels bad for the machine. Emotions all up in here. It asks him why it's here, and he tells it that its purpose is to help him, while he in turn will help it go back to the Underworld where it belongs. Then suddenly the strips of metal it spits out become hot, which means that Sean Hannity and CZV have taken control of the machine. They basically say comin' atcha motherfucker. Having accomplished diddly squat here, they head off for the containment field — though Dick thinks to himself that he needs to distract everyone from the Omen Machine, so presumably his heart-to-heart with it has produced some kind of result that will be revealed later in a way that's supposed to be clever. Dick says the dead are on their way and sends Nate Dog to coordinate the defenses. In the partially-collapsed Garden of Life they see the Boxes of Orden, which Dick's just left lying around for years since he kicked Darken Rahl's ass in here for some reason. He is glad they're still here, so that'll matter I guess. Zimmer and a bunch of his First File are hanging out outside the doors to the Garden of Life and Richard wants to get rid of them, so he sends them off with Nate Dog. The Dicksquad heads downstairs into the lower levels of the palace. Dick hugs Kahlan as they walk, his death-riddled frame needing to feel her warmth and life like some sort of cursed vampire, and she "gives him her special smile" — Special Smile of Sharing, people! At last they reach the library with the containment field in it, but oh oops, Richard's forgotten something and needs to go take care of it. He even snaps his fingers; he is obviously bullshitting. He takes Cassia with him, hustling away as Kahlan and Nicci object. As soon as he gets around the corner he starts booking it. He tells Cassia that he has to do "something crazy" to save them all and asks if she's with him, and of course she says yes immediately. As they keep running, he says that CZV and the half people will be getting into the palace any time, and the "twilight count is nearly done," which I guess he knows somehow, and that he couldn't tell Kahlan what he's about to do because he'll probably die doing it, but he needs to try this crazy plan in order to save all living beings; pick whatever heroic canard you like, he pretty much runs through all of 'em. He runs them back to the sliph chamber and tells her they need to travel. He also asks her not to tell anyone where they've gone. She assures him "with a coy smile" that "you know I never reveal anything about my clients to anyone." Terry seems to be going for "magical prostitute" here; it feels scuzzy, for sure, but also just flat out odd. Like ... why? Whatever though; the sun is close to setting on our journey and my will to gaze deep into the Yeard and contemplate its mysteries is fading fast. They jump in the well and are gone. Updated note: I wrote the above before learning from those in this thread more knowledgeable about the lore of the Dickverse than I that the sliph was a prostitute in life, before she was a magical construct made out of silver liquid. So I guess her profession in life is informing her personality in death. So that's rage-inducingly retrograde and disgusting. Oh Terry. You always be Terryin'. Hours later, back in the library, Kahlan paces the shelves, worried about where Richard is. General Zimmer runs in and reports that there's no sign of him. Kahlan's shit quivers on the edge of complete displacement as she remembers what it was like the last time Richard was gone. Nicci suggests he may have been lying to them about why he was stopping to check on Regula, but why she thinks this she can't really say. Kahlan remembers Zimmer's skill in the war long ago, how he would go out at night and bring her back strings of enemy ears. She commands him to hunt Richard down, only presumably without the ear chopping, and he shoots off like a good soldier. Kahlan figures out that Dick could have fucked off using the sliph, so Kahlan, Nicci, and the Mord-Sith head off that way. The palace is crawling with soldiers searching for Dick. They are all sure that Dick would die before abandoning them, and Kahlan is afraid that this is in fact what has happened, which, hey, is true at least in intent, it sounds like. When they arrive at her chamber the sliph rises out of the well in a big mound of silvery goop, confirms that Richard and Cassia travelled through her, but refuses to tell Kahlan where. Kahlan plays "I'm his wife," which doesn't work, and follows that up by playing "he'll die if you don't tell me," which saddens the sliph but does not convince her. The sliph asks if they want to travel and Kahlan says yes, they want to go wherever she took Dick and Cassia. The sliph's having none of that sneakiness, though; she tells them she'll be happy to take them somewhere if they name a destination, then sinks sassily back down into the well.
  10. Re Myshkin's point about the narrative structure: Yeah, I mean, ... there really is very little narrative momentum here. As you point out, it feels like we should just now be settling into the meat of a long second act section where Dick conducts a war against Hannity and Suchi, commanding armies from the People's Palace or some shit, prior to a climax, but Terry's skipped over almost all of the part where our boy actually, like, contends with his enemies. It feels like he just can't be bothered with all the moving parts of an epic war / resistance plot, so went with the lead characters standing around in rooms talking about magic bullshit for most of the book instead to take up space. Re Lacuna's astonishment about the exchange with the sliph: You speak for all of us. Warheart, Chapters 48-51: Dick-All, Part 2 Richard finds travelling through the sliph peaceful and trippy, but not so peaceful and trippy that he can't use this enforced break time to brood in a nonspecific unhelpful way about being the "bringer of death" and what he has to do when they reach the People's Palace. Soon enough, however, he gets spat out in another well. Richard boosts Kahlan out over the wall of the well and then a hand reaches down to help him climb out as well. Oh hey it's Nate Dog! Hi, Nate Dog! Also there's a Mord-Sith named Rikka here waiting for them as well; I'm sure she was important at some point. So the number of sexy leather-clad nigh-interchangeable women guarding Dick is now back up to three as is customary, or oops no what I meant to say of course was that I'm sure she has a unique, dynamic character that Terry will explore with his usual nuanced powers of observation as the story continues. So Nathan the Prophet and this Rikka person haul Richard out of the well. He's in rough shape; Nicci and the two Mord-Sith have already clambered out on their own. Update on the hair sitch: Way back at the start of Warheart I bet that each of the Mord-Sith would turn out to have different-coloured hair, because having, like, one blonde person, one brunette person, and one ginger person following Dick around struck me as the sort of subtextual objectification in which Goodkind would indulge. The ensuing text has been surprisingly uninformative on this point, but in this scene Vale slides her hand down her braid to make sure it hasn't got any of the silver sliph-juice left on it and I was wrong; there are in fact two blond Mord-Sith! Richard thanks the sliph and asks her to hang out in case he needs to travel again. Kahlan asks Nathan what he's doing here and he gets all theatrical, saying that he came to greet them because he knew they were coming. He has a "hawk-like glare," we are informed, which reminds me to check something ... wow, this is the first hawk-like glare in the entire book and it belongs to Nathan, not Richard. And there was only the one "raptor gaze." Terry's diversifying his heroic signifiers. They bullshit for a bit: Rikka asks Cassia and Vale where they've been like someone who expects an answer, so I guess she's the boss Mord-Sith, and is saddened to hear of Cara's death, though she is of course pleased that Cara died protecting Dick. The Mord-Sith agree that it's good Cassia and Vale have returned to Mord-Sith central to help protect Lord Rahl and the Mother Confessor as part of the larger team, since they need so much protecting and would die immediately without the Mord-Sith around, even though Cassia and Vale have spent most of Warheart being one-hundred percent useless and Richard's saved them more than they've saved him, because he is the best, and also because Goodkind's books love to talk big about competent women but are often oddly reluctant to show us the money, funny how that works. Meanwhile, Nate Dog says he's been bombarded with prophecy lately, which is how he knew to come and meet them down here in the well room. Nate Dog is snappily dressed by the way, with a ruffled shirt and a stylish green vest. There are First File soldiers waiting outside. Their boss Commander Zimmer expresses relief that Lord Rahl has returned safely, says that they had expected Richard to ride back overland with General Benjington, and asks where all his other peeps are. Richard runs through the list of everybody who's dead again and Nate Dog smugs it up about how he was right about the Dicksquad returning through the sliph. Dick makes Zimmer the new General and Nate pats himself on the back about having prophesied that too. Richard catches everybody up on how the dudes coming to besiege the People's Palace can reanimate the dead and they are all like oh shit, but they've got these special arrows with red fletchings that might stop the undead — why these arrows are in any way out of the ordinary other than their colour is totally unclear to me, but finding out would involve Goodkind throwing down a bunch of word salad about additive magic and subtractive magic and occult power again so I really hope we don't get an explanation. Also minor spoiler: These arrows are never mentioned again in any way, so you may put them from your mind. Maybe Terry forgot? Nate Dog's got something to show Dick: The stone of some of his ancestors' tombs is melting. Apparently this has happened before and Zed had the master of the crypts seal the melting section up with white stone from the Quarry of the Prophets — the prophets have a quarry, it seems — to prevent the whole palace from melting; I've got no idea whether this is a retcon or something that actually happened in a previous book. According to Nate Dog it's smoking hot down there now, much like himself, and they've just been occasionally throwing water on the melting section, but of course it isn't doing squat, probably mostly because Richard hasn't been here and so nothing of consequence is allowed to happen; I am really not sure how shit functions day by day in this universe when my dude is not around. Richard borrows a sword from one of the First File and Nathan leads off. Okay, so now I'm confused, because having introduced the fact that he had something to show Richard and then conveyed the disturbing news that ZOMG THE PALACE IS MELTING, Nate Dog has not led them to the tombs of the previous Lords Rahl, which, again, are fucking melting, but has instead brought them up onto the battlements, where the thing he wanted to show Richard actually is. So I guess the thing about how the palace is melting was just an "oh by the way," like a conversational tangent? Oh, I bet Cranky Zombie Voldemort's army is already outside and Terry didn't have Nate mention it right away just to dick us around. Oh my god they fucking are too: Nate Dog cautions Richard to approach the ramparts carefully so those below don't see him. He pokes his head cautiously through a crenelation, and, behold, the plains below are "covered with half naked people." But are these half naked people merely in the midst of some kind of rave or mass orgy? No no, Terry hastily clarifies, these are half people, more half people than Richard has ever imagined existed, all right here looking up at the massive city and People's Palace on the plateau above. The half people are just standing there, dead quiet. They stink. Most of them are wearing pants, though, Goodkind tells us, so hey, at least there's that. This is the first time they've been quiet since they arrived, apparently, and Richard is sure it's because they know he's up here. Dick looks for CZV and Sean Hannity, but they don't seem to be around. He asks Nate Dog if there are similar gobs of half people distributed round the other sides of the palace and our boy, forthcoming with his information now that Goodkind's done the big theatrical reveal, confirms that yes there are, and prophecy tells him they are gonna make it in here even though the People's Palace has sick defenses. They've been here for a few days, ever since the tombs started melting. Dick tells everybody he needs to get to the Garden of Life where Regula the Omen Machine is at. They can see its glass roof from here on the battlements. Kahlan flips her shit and insists that he first go to the containment field so that Nicci can draw the poison out of him. Because Goodkind never shows an emotion he can tell us about instead Kahlan has been obsessed with this containment field to the point of near-parody for the last hundred pages; I haven't counted because I'm not that hardcore, but I bet at least ten percent of her lines of dialogue reference it directly. Also, Nicci points out that in order to make Regula work Richard would have to go to the Temple of the Winds, which is where the instruction manual apparently is — I forget whether we knew this. Oh Terry, I beg you, I have mocked and I have carped, but here at the last I beg you to have mercy on me: not another dumbass fetch quest where the characters just walk from A to B and say inane crap and spin their wheels until you feel like you've burned enough pages; please Terry I don't have it in me, I can't do it man. Oh wait, ... phew, Richard blows Nicci off, saying that the instruction manual in the Temple of the Winds is a fake, that "I don't even need to see it to tell you it's full of misinformation." Dick knows this because Zed taught him that a lot of written magic and magical research is bullshit meant to mislead people, to send them off down blind alleys and trick them into thinking they know how something works. I feel like this is how anti-vaxers think. When his peeps quite reasonably demand to know how Richard knows that the Regula readme falls into that category, he explains that it's because he already knows how Regula works, because he's read the Warheart scroll — the one he found among the cerulean scrolls in the Citadel, you will remember? during the big research jam that was one of the absolute most boring bits? — and he knows the Warheart Scroll to be an authoritative source unlike all the others because fuck you. So you shouldn't trust book learning or expertise, because they're meant to trick you, except there's always one authoritative truthful source out there and when you find that one you should adhere to it without question. Got that? Kahlan continues to be super into the Richard-goes-to-the-containment-field plan, because the poison is advancing. Richard says sure, but Regula's on the way, so they'll stop there first, to which she agrees.
  11. Wow, goddamn but I've forgotten -- or never knew -- a lot about the earlier legends of Dick. Thanks for adding context / background! The Al Gore one sounds terrifying. Warheart, Chapters 48-51: Dick-All, Part 1 Fair warning: This is the Crossroads of Twilight-esque section of the recap in which fuckall happens at great length. It's no excuse, but I got lulled into Terry's numbing uneventful rhythm and just started writing down every tiny stupid thing. Sorry. Chase and Verna keep asking questions, but the party refuses to answer any of them, asking for quick food and immediate access to the sliph. Richard doesn't want to talk about all his secret doings while all the Sisters of the Light he doesn't know and people who've been brought up from the city of Aydindril to help in the Keep are around, so he has Chase gently tell them all to fuck off. Sidenote: I feel like Aydindril was the place where Richard got attacked by the mriswith lizard people and tangled with the Children of the Light I mean the Blood of the Fold back in the day and where some of the series' grossest and stupidest almost-rape plots happened, good times, good times, or, well, okay, not good times but certainly times of some kind. They head up stairs along the wall of this giant narrow room they're in, toward a balcony and the small windows that let daylight and fresh mountain air into the lower bits of the Keep. Richard misses Zed and is happy to be back in "civilization" — the Dark Lands are sucktopia, recall, and don't count as civilized — and reflects that, given how long he's spent dead and travelling and generally out of it, he has no idea how long it's been since Sean Hannity and CZV marched out of the Third Kingdom. Verna sends peeps off for some food for our heroes, and Chase asks what else they can do to help. Richard breaks it down in Cliff's notes form, all the while repeating that he hasn't got time to explain everything even as he begins to do so and generally being a huge cock about the whole thing. And ... oh no, no, no God why? What have I done to deserve this? Terry's trying to talk magic talk again! Cranky Zombie Voldemort, Richard says, uses "occult power," which is the opposite of magic, a kind of dark mirror that is very definitely not magic. This despite the fact that the phrase "occult magic" appears in the text of this very book multiple times, so Goodkind must have changed his mind or forgotten. Anyway, CZV used magic and this occult power nonsense together and was thus a super extra special wizard with pickles, and with these combined powers he made people into weapons. He created the dream walkers, who descended in long line to Emperor Jagang, the previous villain who is dead and does not matter, but gets a namecheck here so that readers who think this word salad is clever can exclaim about how intricately connected everything in the series is, and he created the half-people because since they have no souls and don't decay they last effectively forever, so would be waiting for CZV to muster an army of them when he returned from death. The half-people went insane without their souls and started munching on living people to extract the souls of the said living people by eating them, and oh okay now Terry's just rehearsing the whole history of how the half-people were locked away in the Third Kingdom again to burn more pages, skip skip skip. Chase and Verna are dismayed, but they have confidence in Richard's ability to show this situation who's boss, which demonstrates that they are good right-minded people who've got their heads on straight. Before they reach the sliph's well, Richard tells Verna that he has an important message for her from Warren. Who the fuck is Warren? He's Verna's spouse and he's dead, apparently, since the message is that he will love her for all eternity and is at peace and etc, and oh yep now that I check he does get a one-word cameo in the Underworld section when all the dead people showed up to help Richard. This understandably raises questions about how Dick can speak to the dead, which the Dicksquad rushes their way through. They hurry through the Keep, which is full of broad hallways and comfortable reading rooms and magical business. Venison is provided. Dick and Klan and Nicci eat just enough to keep their strength up, declining any more on the grounds that they have graver concerns on their minds, but the Mord-Sith scarf down everything that's left because they are adults who actually have to work for a living guarding these dumb protagonist assholes and so they know how to eat when the opportunity arises. They finally arrive at the round tower where the sliph's well apparently is at. It's a dump. There's rain water running down the walls and draining into a dark pool in the centre of the floor. They head across the tower and through the blasted, melted wall that leads into the well room — this place got busted up way back when in Temple of the Winds or whenever Richard originally found the sliph and nobody's bothered to fix it yet. Hasn't it been, like, years? Apparently Richard found the remains of an old wizard in here, a guy named Kolo who was guarding the sliph when the room got blocked off. Nobody ever dug him out so he starved there. Sucks to be him. Goddamn but the wizards who own this place are forgetful motherfuckers; any hugely important room or wing of their keep that gets sealed off is just out of sight out of mind for them. Anyway, the sliph's well is big like a swimming pool, thirty feet across. She's right there ready for them and she is super happy to see her some Dick. She calls him "master" and asks him if he wishes to travel, and when he says yes her voice grows "intimate" and she says that he will be "pleased." Then Kahlan mentions that they have come to the Keep by way of Stroyza and that they were transported by Lucy, seemingly more or less just to troll the sliph, and the sliph gets jealous and asks Richard whether Lucy "pleased" him more. The uncomfortable quotient of all this is surpassed only by how stupid it is. Richard tells the sliph that travelling "in" Lucy was super shitty, but that they had to do it because they were trapped in Stroyza and needed to get back here, to her, who they like much better, "so that we could be pleased." Kahlan is clearly unhappy that Richard is engaging in this borderline sex talk with the silver liquid water creature. Goodkind is really doubling down here. The sliph accepts this answer, but now there's another complication because Richard needs to convince the sliph that the Sword of Truth can come with him now, because he has death in him, even though he can't usually travel her ways with it on him, so he has to have the same stupid conversation he had with Lucy over again with the sliph. The sliph reiterates that travelling with the sword will further drain Richard's hit points. She says it will fill his death meter almost all the way and cost him most of his remaining time. Kahlan insists he leave it behind, and, wow, he actually does. He's been carrying it around for most of the book, constantly drawing it and pulling it an inch out of its scabbard to show it to people and putting his hand on it like somebody who's not insecure about anything nope not at all, but he's leaving it here. Dick and friends climb up onto the half-wall around the well. Verna tries to comfort Richard, telling him that, while she hopes he manages to stop CZV, even if he doesn't the Grace will carry them all into the afterlife, where they will be together always, but Richard shoots her down, explaining that no everything in both the living world and the Underworld will just cease to exist, and with that uplifting bit of team building they step into the sliph. I have an announcement, friends: We've now got just under one-hundred pages to go! The road is long and our steps grow weary, but we're really making progress here. Courage, Reader; it is not far now. An uneventful section, I know, sorry. Snazzy prophet in the house next time!
  12. Oh yeah, I think I was lurking here / reading the noble recapping works of my predecessors at that time and I remember that dude. Goodomens? He seemed pretty cool -- he was gracious and a good sport about the whole thing. I did see one or two posts by / exchanges with one of Goodkind's other previous Yeardly messengers long before the tv show, Mystar or somesuch, and he was ... not like that. Most zealous and aggressive in defending the honour of his lord. Warheart, Chapters 41-47: A Dick in the Dark, Part 2 As soon as Dick starts walking by himself he feels the spirits gathering around him, whispering the same words in gibber-jabber over and over. He asks them what they want and they start speaking in Dicktongue instead of jibber-jabber, imploring him for help. Now that he's alone he can see the filmy shapes of the spirits out of the corner of his eye. There's a shit-ton of them. He books it back to his peeps and tells them they "need to get out right now," which was something they new or strongly suspected, as opposed to staying to ask the spirits what they want, which is something about which he knows nothing, which means we're all about to be subject to another chapter's-worth of aimless hall-wandering, sorry guys. Oh except Terry's bored, thank Christ, so he has Richard notice a wavy line symbol carved into one of the walls that means shepherd, which means the way is marked specifically for him. They start looking for the symbol at every intersection. Dick continues to hear the whispering and can feel eyes watching them as they pass each room, but nobody else hears or senses anything. They reach a long corridor that's totally silent and has no doorways leading off of it. Beyond it they find tunnels that are carved less carefully, as if the passages they've been traipsing through are "a special place for the dead," whereas these are just plain old tunnels for the living. These passages also contain rooms, which in turn contain shelves upon shelves of books, which Nicci says are all valuable or dangerous books of magic. They keep going. There are rooms with stuff lying around as if they were abandoned suddenly. There's a forge room with a block and tackle just kind of there. If this is a gigantic-ass part of the Wizard's Keep that the people who run the place have somehow forgotten about I am going to laugh for a very long time. Stairs. Niches with shrouded bodies. Richard asks Kahlan, the Mother Confessor who -- if this is indeed the Keep as is likely -- iirc used to run this joint, whether she recognizes anything or knows where in the Keep they might be, but no, boss lady's never seen these catacombs before and had no idea they were here. Richard realizes that, since this area's as old as the war with Cranky Zombie Voldemort, it was probably closed off so CZV couldn't reanimate all the dead in here and use them to attack the Keep above, which still doesn't explain why nobody even new it was here. I invite you to care about this little bit of worldbuilding vericimilitude to the best of your ability. Okay so there are like a seriously enormous number of dead people here. Like as in higher up in the catacombs there are just rooms stacked with piles of "neatly stacked bones, sorted by type." Some rooms just hold skulls. Richard speculates that these are the bones of the long-dead, which have been moved out of the individual niches to make way for more recent remains. I am skeptical about the logistics on this one. A brief hypothetical: "Oh kind catacomb-keeper, I have come to pay my respects to the remains of my many-times great uncle, the mighty War Wizard Fredicus, in hopes that his soul will guide me and give me strength. Where is he, pray?" "Well son, he's in that room, that room, that room, and that room, plus I think his legs are downstairs." Anyhoozles, they keep going up. Blah blah blah more dead people, sometimes stacked so high there are ladders leaning against the walls to get at the highest niches. They reach a big cavern that looks like the hub of the catacombs. There are nine tunnel entrances leading off of it and each one has a name — the one Dick and friends just came out of is Hall of Souls, another one's Garden of Lilies. Evidently these names are meant to make people visiting dead loved ones feel better about how Grandma Jane and Grandpa Jimothy's femurs are in one room while their heads and pelvises and so on are in entirely separate ones. There's a spiral staircase leading up out of this receiving chamber — oh by the gods are we almost out of here? Please tell me it is so! This is a long-ass staircase, but finally they reach a landing and are confronted not by more stairs, but by a single ginormous stone that blocks further progress. Off to the side there's a niche containing two more of the shepherd statues that gave them access to Lucy's well in Shitty Cave Town. Richard twiddles the shepherds and the stone in front of them trembles. Then the mortar holding the seal together cracks and the stone pivots out of the way. Holy shit I thought this catacomb sequence would never end. It's been about twenty pages but I feel like I've aged ten years. Worst spooky dungeon ever; I award it 0 of a possible 10 balrogs and may we never see it again. Except, uh-oh, outside the catacombs there be alarm bells ringin'! The action never stops in Terryland! The Dicksquad pops out of the catacombs ready to rock, ... which makes this the perfect time for Goodkind to spend a paragraph describing the pretty fluted columns that mark the entrance to the catacombs. Moving on with our lives, Kahlan rushes out of the alcove framed by the aforementioned nice columns and exclaims that she knows this place; they are indeed in the Wizard's Keep. Actually no, no I'm sorry, we can't move on with our lives quite yet: The entrance to the catacombs is specifically described as very obvious — "magnificent" columns, statues of dead people, shit of that nature — and as soon as Kahlan steps out she immediately recognizes where they are. How did she not guess they might be trapped beyond this giant-ass maximally obtrusive sealed door? HOOOOOOWWW? "Oh right! That super obvious stone slab marked by the pillars right in the middle of the Keep I spent a huge chunk of my life in! Who could have imagined we were trapped in there?" She LIVED here! But this book doesn't respect us enough for it to be in any sense worth getting worked up over this kind of monkey business, so fuck it: They're in a super tall chamber deep in the Wizard's Keep, and there are people clustered around them. These people are bigtime surprised, so maybe the alarm bells weren't ringing because CZV and his shun-tuk are attacking the Keep, as I assumed, but because the Dicksquad breached the seal on the catacombs. One of the watchers rushes forward to greet Richard. It's Chase, Richard's big woodsman buddy from back in the Shire oops I mean Emmond's Field oops I mean the Westlands, who I was sure was dead but checking the Wizard's First Rule wiki I see that's wrong. Prelate Verna, the old Amyrlin I mean leader of the Aes Sedai I mean leader of the Sisters of the Light, is also here, so that's those names ticked off the obligatory series finale cameo list, so that's a relief. Chase has a daughter named Rachel. I have no memory of this person. They are all pleased to see Dick and his peeps. There is hugging. Richard's happy to see them too, but he's got no time for this shit, so he "it's a long story"s them. Richard sees two more shepherd statues, grabs Em, and the stone door to the catacombs swings shut. Apparently the door ceals with not so much as a crack in the stone, so nobody knew it could open, which, yeah, sure, oki-doki. The alarm bells also stop ringing, so okay yep that was what those were about, so no undead ass-wooping at this time, sorry. He admonishes Chase and Verna not to let anyone go in the catacombs, and Verna asks why anyone would and indeed how they could, because so far as she knows this MASSIVE ALCOVE WITH PILLARS AND STATUES is "simply a small place to sit on a bench and have a rest." Oh man these people.
  13. Re the sliph's origins: Ugh, that's gross. I had no memory of this. Very Terry. And re Dick as Trump: Huh, I ... oddly I had not thought of that. I wonder how Goodkind feels about Trump? I don't know that he writes about politics or anything else online -- or maybe it's just that I don't go to his website -- but I dunno that we have any public statements from the man himself on the Carrot King. I could actually see this going either way. Warheart, Chapters 41-47: A Dick in the Dark, Part 1 They mozy on into the hidden chamber and yep, the sliph's well is there. Kahlan exposits happily about how now they can zip off to the People's Palace, where Nicci can heal Richard and remove the "touch of death," I guess in case readers have amnesia or are reading this in weekly episodes, which is considerate. Richard thinks moodily about how he's not mentioning that he can't actually allow Nicci to heal him, which I assume means that he has to die or be dying in order to defeat Emperor Sulachan and Sean Hannity for reasons that will no doubt be explained at length in the fullness of time. I'm finally sick of calling Suchi by his actual name, by the way, so from now on he's Cranky Zombie Voldemort. I'm not totally happy with it, but he's just such a flat nonentity of a villain, at least in his one moment of screentime thus far, that I kinda like the idea of him sharing another fictional character's name, and he is looking to conquer death. Basically it is as lame as he deserves and that's what I'm after. Richard and Nicci call the sliph, Nicci using her magic and Richard using his sheer importance. The sliph whooshes up out of the well in a gout of silver magical liquid. Richard informs her that they will all need to travel, and she is all "okay I guess, maybe," but doesn't sound happy about it. Richard recalls that the sliph usually falls all over herself to do whatever he says immediately, as is the ideal state of mind for any sentient being so fortunate as to find themselves in the enviable position of being able to render Dick some manner of service, and he wonders what ails her. In the past, Richard has been unable to travel through the sliph's wells with the Sword of Truth, but he tells her he has to bring it this time. The sliph says tough turkey, continuing to be notably pissier than usual, perhaps having grown tired of being treated like a living fast travel mechanic in a computer RPG. But then she examines Richard and the sword and spouts some bullshit about how the death magic in the sword won't kill Richard or any of the others when they travel on this occasion, because Richard has death "in" him. So he can take it, but it will increase the amount of death he has in him. Kahlan insists that the sliph explain this, which is super boring. Richard says they need to go to the People's Palace, but the sliph says she doesn't know where that is, and further that she has never seen Richard before. Richard assures her that she has taken him to and from the People's Palace many times, and that she has "pleased him," about which she makes it clear she gives not one solitary smidgeon of shit. She says she only goes to the Wizard's Keep, that there are no other places. She also asks them why they call her "sliph," because her name is Lucy. I find Goodkind's name choices hilarious. So pissy not-sliph Lucy only travels between Shitty Cave Town and the Keep, but it turns out this is nbd because Richard says there is another sliph well in the Keep, so this has just been about burning a few more pages, like the whole find Isidore to find Naja to find Richard in the Underworld plot nonsense. Lucy grabs them all and whooshes them down into the well's silvery depths. The trip is painful for Richard, and he feels the death magic in him leeching his life away. He passes out and wakes to his companions pulling him out of the well and pounding him on the back. He pukes out sliph liquid and blood and is very weak. Nicci electroshocks him with magic. He is lying by the well and Lucy is vulturing over him. The sword now has a "dark metallic gleam" because it has travelled through death, and apparently looks badass. They have been travelling with Lucy for many days and are all hungry, which explains why Richard's bad touch disease has advanced so much. They are definitely in a different room, and Lucy insists it's the Keep, but none of them recognize the room. There's a symbol in the Language of Creation over the entrance that names this place the Sanctuary of Souls. There are additional symbols on the door that Richard doesn't recognize, and Nicci says they're defenses, that the door is in fact warded to hell and gone, specifically against the dead, so there be ghosts outside. Richard remembers that he has seen some of these symbols on the gates leading out of the Third Kingdom, so these wards are super old. Whatever, though: they bust out of the warded room to go find the sliph. We just passed page 300, everybody! In fact we passed it about a chapter ago but I didn't wanna break the flow. 150 pages left! We are on the downslope! The hallway outside is dark and empty. Richard wonders in what sense this boring-ass place can be a "Sanctuary for Souls" when souls have the whole Underworld to play around in. They come to another square room, which is likewise dark and empty, except there's some sort of freaky shadow in here that Richard spots for a moment. It retreats into the darkness so they can't see it, I guess either because Goodkind thinks this is atmospheric and creepy or because he can't bestir himself to figure out what it looks like, but it's got them sketched out now and they hasten onwards. When they reach a fork in the passage, Vale, formerly Cara Understudy No. 3 and henceforth to be known as Ghost Food, says she thinks she sees doors down one branch, darts off taking the lantern with her, oh come on now, and then actually goes inside one of the rooms like a goddamn moron who was born yesterday. Miracle of miracles she makes it back after searching a number of rooms to report nothing of interest, and says that there are more intersections down here with lots more rooms to scope,. Nicci says that "the rooms aren't what matters," and that they need to focus on escape. The next fork has a cloth divider hanging over it with more symbols on it. These symbols are meant to attract spirits, as opposed to the ones in Lucy's well room, which are meant to keep them out, and Richard finds this puzzling, OH MY GOD EVERYBODY THIS IS SO BORING, SO BORING! More rooms. Some of them have hangings over their doorways. We are in a spooky undead dungeon, but Goodkind feels that the most relevant atmospheric detail to share with us is that some of these hangings "were the silky material, while others were heavier material, something like burlap." I hate this sentence with every fiber of my being. Richard senses something watching him in every room they pass. I long only for some of these shadowy spirit creatures to leap out and kick off proceedings, but that might run the risk of being fun and fuck fun, apparently. More twisty passages. More hanging cloths, which Goodkind seems to be obsessed with. Dickie-boy starts losing his bearings. He starts hearing noises behind them and realizes they are being followed, "by spirits" he guesses. Kahlan and Cassia act surprised, despite the fact that this place is called the Sanctuary of Souls. They wonder what spirits would want with a bunch of empty rooms and hallways, which is a great question from where I'm sitting because this place is dull as dishwater. Nicci says the symbols tell her that this place isn't connected to the Underworld. Richard says he needs to go back and check something alone, turns down the lantern, and heads off by himself in flagrant defiance of all creepy ghost story etiquette; I hope one of them dies because of this.
  14. Finished Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, her fantasy-tinged eco-sf crazy happenings in Lagos novel, and am sad to say it ... well, it's not that it never worked for me, but it worked for me a lot less often than the reverse. A lot of the events sound great on paper, but there is just so much crazy shit going on so quickly all over the place that I found most of the book felt undeveloped for want of breathing room. There's an absolute shit-ton of characters, similarly, and they range from sketchy-but-clearly-seriously-intended character studies to larger-than-life satirical cartoons while all trying to cohabitate in the same book. Sometimes the book is ecological science fiction, sometimes it's fantasy, sometimes it's political cartoon, sometimes it's farce, and I love this tone-shifting in theory, but the book struggles, for me, to find its own overarching aesthetic as an umbrella for all these approaches to gather under; instead it just seems to dash ahead and hope everything works. The writing feels similarly slapdash -- I've seen Okorafor's prose praised by very smart people, so I think this is largely a matter of her style not matching my personal taste, but this feels choppy and haphazard to me even by the standards of her usual style. I think that's what a lot of this is: there are a lot of very conscious decisions here that see Okorafor doubling down on some of her ticks as a writer that haven't worked for me that well in her previous work I've read, and the result is a book that has a lot of good ideas and is -- I'm positive, though it doesn't feel this way to me -- very consciously crafted and is gonna make some people very happy, but is not my thing pretty definitively.
  15. You are most welcome! Yes, it is a bit suspiciously socialist, but we are all weak flawed mortals and cannot be as upright and spotless and individualistic as Terry would have us be. Alas. Warheart, Chapters 33-40: Fun With Dick and Klan, Part 2 Sammie pursues them deeper into the tunnels and Richard sees a shape wrapped around her, "darker than the shadow, darker than black, darker than the blackest night." Also she has cat scratches on her arms, and from this Richard and Kahlan deduce that it was Sammie who murdered the people of Shitty Cave Town, her old neighbours, and that she's possessed by one of the dark ones. You remember, the dark ones who were dragging Richard down into the dark darkness in the part of the Underworld where Nicci went that was darker than darkness? Sammie has allowed herself to be inhabited by one of these demonic jokers in order to give herself more power / in order to eliminate any last vestiges of interest and ambiguity in her character. In truth, Reader, we should have known this was coming, for who can be morally rehabilitated after so consistently questioning and contradicting the will of Dick, praise be unto him? Sammie demands that Richard give himself up in return for the safety of his remaining friends, the important ones with names, to which Richard responds with a harty "no you." Sammie tries to roast them again, and Richard begs her once more to listen to the truth, but she persistently continues to choose death and starts powering up her supermove. Cassia tries to charge out and smack Sammie with her painrod to suck away her magic, but Richard grabs her and reminds them all that since his Lord Rahl mojo is broken the painrods aren't working, which has been explained in simple language at least once already. As Richard tugs Cassia away, Laurin deeks around him and charges Sammie, who promptly explodes the shit out of her, turning her into little crystalline black bits without moving a muscle. Cassia and Vale both cry out in rage at this entirely predictable turn of events and try to rush Sammie, perhaps distraught at their friend's fate, but on the other hand perhaps jealous that their buddy Laurin has found a way out of this boring fucking story and desiring only to follow her into the sweet embrace of death, but nothing doing: Dick pulls them back around the corner. Sammie starts collapsing the cave and Dick and the Dickforce have nowhere to run. They are basically fucked, which means it is almost time for something absurd to happen. I await this with interest. I think the kids who live above me are watching Moana. Lucky swine. Sammie starts doing this robot walk toward them that's supposed to be menacing. I am kind of wondering if she maybe needs to take a dump. Richard is just getting ready to charge at her when some more slabs of rock explode behind him and the ceiling collapses, knocking Nicci and the Mord-Sith down and requiring even oaken pillar of manhood Dick Rahl to dodge some flying shit. In the wake of the collapse all is quiet, and when Richard peers around the corner again he sees a bloody arm poking out from under the rockfall, because TG couldn't think of another way out of this scene and he loves making people who are evil and/or reject Dick's wisdom out to be incompetent cockwombles, and so Sammie's gone and collapsed the ceiling on herself like a dumb motherfucker. They pontificate on how they saw this immaturity and lack of control in Sammie long ago, and how "passion rules reason," and how it was her "inborn nature" that led Sammie down this path of hate and so Richard shouldn't feel in any way bad about the fact she's dead. It's gross. Dick gives Laurin's leather phallic substitute to Vale. Turns out they're trapped in this tunnel and the rockfall is a single block of solid granite they have no hope of moving. Kahlan, who has still not gotten the message about how selectively useful Nicci's magic is, asks if she can cut through the rock, but haha lolnope, that would be helpful, Nicci can't do shit — to be fair the reason she gives is that blasting the granite block might bring more of the mountain down and kill them all, which does make sense. Richard explains at some length how much rock is between them and the entrance. Kahlan finally demands he stop being an asshole and tell them why he brought them here. The reason Goodkind conjures up for Richard hiding the ball about what he wants in SCT, it turns out, is that Richard figured everyone would "think I was crazy" and so "wanted to find it first," as though other people's opinions are generally something Richard gives the tiniest fuck about, but finally here it comes: He thinks there's an access point for the sliph here, that, ... um, that, ... fuck I don't remember my Terrylore well enough to say anything helpful here. It's some kind of magical being that lives in a network of wells full of silver liquid, and its sole purpose and joy in life is apparently to transport Richard from one place to another via these wells. Dick thinks there's a sliph well here because SCT was supposed to be the outpost that would report back to the Wizard's Keep if the undead ever got past the non-legally-actionable wall-like structure, the said Wizard's Keep is a long-ass way from here directly across ground the invaders would be marching through, and dispatching a courier to run this distance with such crucially important news would be very stupid — credit where credit is due, this is pleasingly practical. They start exploring the part of the complex they're trapped in. They find the room Sammie's been staying in since murdering everyone who lived here and their cats. Then they pass through a bunch of rooms full of pastoral sculptures depicting shepherds, which I had to backtrack and write in because they turn out to be important and not just a weak attempt at atmosphere. Then they reach a shielded passageway that separates the living quarters from the caverns deeper within the mountain where all the stuff that matters is, which Nicci opens with her magic. The walls back here are all nice and polished and covered in writing in the Language of Creation. They reach a window through which the people of Stroyza could watch the barrier — why they needed a special window expressly for this and couldn't just have somebody stationed outside is unclear to me. Nicci points out that there are no rooms in this corridor, which suggests that the sliph is not here. They stand a while in thought. When the people of Stroyza talked about the journey to warn the wizards, they remember, they always spoke about it as a long overland trek, but, rather than coming to the conclusion that this means Richard was wrong and the sliph is not here, they — quite reasonably, for Richard is never wrong — realize that what it really means is that the people of Stroyza had lost the ability to read the Language of Creation inscribed on their own goddamn wall that they saw every single day of their lives and therefore did not know the sliph was here, because the people of Stroyza suck at their one job. I am bewildered. Did the last LoC-speaker not, like, tell anybody? Nicci and Richard find a line of text on the wall that says "let the shepherd guide you." Gasp! That shepherd art they passed by ten pages ago wasn't just random! It was hiding the well aaaaaaaall aloooong. Marvel, Reader, at the intricacy of plot on display herein. Richard books it back out of the fancy passage to the shepherd sculptures. Nicci magic-pokes both statues, but nope, bupkis. Then Richard realizes one of the statues is attached to the shelf, and its face is pointing in the direction of the Wizard's Keep. He breaks both statues, and discovers that the clay was only an outer layer and there are metal versions of the same sculptures underneath. Nicci grabs them with magic hands, but once again nothing happens. Then Cassia points out that Richard isn't attending to the "real meaning of the writing" — holy shit, stop the presses, is Richard wrong about something? She points out that he, Richard, is their shepherd, and so he must guide them — oh, I see, so Richard has indeed misunderstood, but only insofar as he is in fact even more special and indispensable than he assumed himself to be. He grabs the statues and sure enough they respond to his Dickly touch: the stone walls crack and a concealed door swings open. They have found the bonus level within Shitty Cave Town.