1000 Black Girl Books

Before I get into my new project, I want to announce an update schedule change. Alongside working full time and trying to plan a wedding, I’ll be starting grad school to get my MLIS next month. I want to keep updating at regular intervals, so I’ve decided to post here every other week. I’ll also be posting about each book as a whole, rather than chapter-by-chapter reviews. If you have a Twitter account, you can follow me @nortonwriter14, where I’ll tweet every time the blog is updated. I’ll also occasionally post about books, the writing process, and probably about space and/or cats.

Thank you to everyone who’s read with me this far!


 

For three years, give or take a couple hiatuses, I’ve worked on this blog, reviewing nostalgic books, one chapter at a time. Originally, I wanted to see which old books were worth keeping, and which should find new homes. I’ve downsized a lot since those early days. There are still books that I brought with me from state to state that I’d love to review here, and maybe someday I’ll get to them. But as my life has changed, I think it’s time for this blog to change as well.

I’d debated with myself about what that change should be – one idea I had was reading through Newberry Medal winners – but inspiration struck during a trip to the local library. I was on a tour as part of my volunteer orientation when the librarian pointed out a wall of books near the children’s section. “This is something new we’re trying,” she told me. “1000 Black Girl Books.”

#1000BlackGirlBooks was founded by thirteen-year-old Marley Dias, who’s collected over 11,000 books featuring Black female protagonists. The full list can be found at Grassroots Community Foundation.  I’m a voracious reader, and I was curious to see how many of the books I’ve read made it on to the list.

Four. And of those four, only one was written by a Black author.

I went to my bookshelves and scanned titles, asking myself, “how many of these books are written by White authors? How many of them have characters of color?”

The answer was, “very few”.

I was so disappointed in myself. For all I reminded myself to check my privilege or “stay woke”, my own personal library was incredibly lacking. And that’s when I decided: I needed to step out of my literary bubble.

To be totally honest, I’m a little nervous about doing this. I can’t pretend to be enlightened, or even have a solid foundation to discuss race on. I grew up in a town and went to schools full of de facto segregation, all without knowing it. I saw White heroes everywhere, and Black sidekicks without ever thinking deeply about. Because I loved The Help until I read a Roxane Gay’s take on it, exposing the work’s flaws and all my ignorance with it.

Going through this blogging project, I know I’m going to say the wrong thing. I’m going to stick my foot in my mouth, and there are times when I just won’t “get it”. I know reading books isn’t going to completely eliminate the prejudices and biases that I have. But only by acknowledging and challenging them will I be able to change them. And this is how I’m combating them: with empathy, and information, and books.

To 2019 and Beyond!

As you may have guessed, I’ve been quite busy with the upcoming holidays, and haven’t been able to update on time as I would have liked. The final two reviews for Tithe will be up in early January, followed by one last manga review, because Dramacon just needs to be discussed. Following that, I’ll be embarking on a totally new blogging project for the rest of the year, one I’m pretty excited about.

I also started a Ko-Fi for myself. You can find it here: https://ko-fi.com/charmedandalarmed There’s also a link on the sidebar just to your left. Click on the little tea faerie! I’m trying to earn money for a LiveScribe Pen, which will help make the writing process faster, since I handwrite almost everything before I post it online. If you enjoy what I do, please consider supporting me!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll meet you back here in the new year!

100 Post Celebration

We’ve made it to the 100th post! I wasn’t sure that I’d make it this far when I started this blog. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it past The Supernaturalist, never mind Eragon. For 100 posts, I’ve cajoled, mocked, praised, and over-analyzed authors’ choices, re-reading through my childhood and adolescence, one chapter at a time. So I decided it’s time to get a taste of my own medicine.

When I was in junior high, I was obsessed with Lord of the Rings. I’d seen the movies multiple times, I tried to teach myself elvish, and I tried my damnedest to read the books. It wasn’t until I got into Return of the King that I realized I hadn’t absorbed a word of the hundreds of pages I’d read.

This did not deter me from writing an entire fanfiction trilogy of my own. I had high hopes for these stories. I thought that someday, Christopher Tolkien would read and publish them, adding them to the Middle-Earth canon. That dream never came true, and for that, every Lord of the Rings fan should be grateful. These stories are truly, truly terrible, and have never seen the light of day.

Until now.

I would like to present to you the first story of my trilogy, which has never been given a title, exactly as I wrote it when I was thirteen years old. To be as true to the original text as possible, all spelling errors, author’s notes, and every embarrassing, canon-defying moment have been left intact. I’ve also added a few footnotes of my own, and hope that you’ll forgive the less than elegant coding for the page jumps.

Please enjoy yourself, and I’m sorry.


Chapter I
The Shire Meeting

“Dear old friends” Aragorn started, and glanced around the room. He was at Sam’s home-Bag end, because the Sackville-Bagginses had decided to move, they gave it back to Frodo, though he had move to the Grey Havens, bought himself a home and gave Bag End to Sam, Rosie and their kids.1

“Dear old friends” said Aragorn again. “I have called you here today because I have a feeling that something involving Sauron and I fear the Shire may be involved.” Gandalf stood up “I know he is right. The Orcs have been acting restless. Several travellers disappeared while leaving Bree. The Orcs are moving closer to Hobbiton.”

Legolas stood up. “Saroun was destroyed. Without him, the orcs can stop. they won’t have enough to take over anything larger than a sheep farm.”2

Gandalf sighed. “I wish it was true, but if Orcs can take over Moria against the dwarves, they could take over Hobbiton very easily.”

Frodo asked, in a very small voice, “Why?”

“I think you know the reason.” Gandalf said.

Chapter II
Alarming News

In the next few months, The Fellowship came in and out of the Shire, to check up on things, make sure everything was normal. After 3 months, Rosie was very tired from cleaning up muddy Ranger’s footprints, and asked if they could talk outside, please. Auttom was on its way, so the days were warm, the nights, cool.

Soon, after one prittcularly crisp, Auttum day, Gandalf rode in with alarming news.

“The orcs have two stations, one is 12 miles from the end of the Anrion and the other is too small to locate. I think, we should move, they are indeed seeking revenge for their strength.”

Rosie exploded. “Samwise Gamgee! How dare you leave me, again! I don’t care where you’re going except that it’s away from us, your family.

Sam embraced her. “I’m sorry I’m always leaving home. Rosie, I promise, that soon, everything will be alright.”

Chapter III
A new Arival

As they left the Shire, A small hobbit appeared. She seemed to be about 33, though a bit short for her age. She had dark hair, a few inches shorter than Rosie’s, which looked slightly wet. She had a green dress and white apron on, not to mension a white hankerchief on her head. When she saw the Fellowship, she ran up to them and just started Gabbing.

“Hello! I’m Tigerlily Underwood. You know, Acutlualy, we used to live in the Shire. Are you going on an adventure? You’re all packed. Can I come, please. It will only take a moment to get me my things. I really love adventure, even if it is odd. I was born here, and I don’t travel often. Won’t be more than a mouth, will it?” But the “it” was never heard. She was off, and came back a moment later like she said, in traveling clothes, on a pony she called Daisey.

“Fine.” Aragorn sighed. “Keep this sword close.” he said as he tossed her one. The fellowship stared. “Never know when you might need an extra.” Aragorn shrugged. Soon, they were off to Bree.3

Chapter IV
The Road to Bree

Heading to Bree should have been easy, even with Tigerlily, but it wasn’t. They had been traveling off the road where they found a strange creature eating berries. He was blue, and had dark blue stripes across his back. His beak was orangeish-yellowish with talons on his feet. He had gigantic wings, but was small enough for a hobbit to ride. The wings were cloud colored-greyish and white. Because they were so huge on him, it looked as if a breeze could carry him away. His eyes were the most amazing thing about him. They held a fiercness in him that no one could see in him anywhere else. The fire in his heart was seen through his eyes. He could probably paralyze a mouse with that stare. But right now, his fiery eyes were closed and he was almost smiling, if his beak would allow a smile, and the creature was happily munching berries off the bush.4</sup

“MOVE!” Legolas yelled and pushed the creature out of the way and the creature snarled at him, but not after a speeding orc arrow hit a tree Then the creature attacked. Flying high, he hit the orcs with such force, Sam seeing Tigerlily fumbling with her sword, showed her an old tecqnique of his-hitting the orc on the head with a frying pan. In the end, only one group remained – It was the fellowship. Legolas looked for the creature and saw it at his feet. The creature told Legolas his name was Griffith, and he’d be honored to do anything for him. Legolas asked him something that Griffith could not expect. Legolas had asked him to join the Fellowship, for Legolas could see that he was brave, snarling at the king of Mirkwood, and that his aggresiveness and fiernces meant that he would be good in battle. Tigerlily walkes around for a bit, thinking. What kind of Adventure was this, full of killing? And yet, as she looked at Griffith, returning to the berry bush to eat while everyone else sat down, she knew this adventure could be full of saving, too.

Chapter V
In Bree

As the fellowship walked into Bree Pippin didn’t even need to ask if they could stop at The Prancing Pony. They were worn out by battle, and Pippin wanted a pint.5 After they got rooms, They explored the bar. Tigerlily wandered into a quieter section, looking for someplace to practice her letters and writing words. She had been taught them, but still needed to practice them.6 The quietset corner had grim men smoking thier pipes and talking almost in whispers. It was too dimly lit to even practice letters and  word, but she kept wandering it, until she saw a piano sitting in a corner and so she began to play it. Her song began:

I have a gift for you
My love
No time or distance can separate us now.
We have become
the beauty of one
love.

The song continued for sevral more verses. Each verse was written by Tigerlily with Passion for her love of music and her younger sister – Saphire, and for her future husband.

She had become so entranced in her song, that she did not notice the bar had become quiet, nor that Pippin had approached her.

When she back to reality, she looked at Pippin.

“I…uh I really think your singing is good”

“Thanks Pip.”

“Well, we’ll be over there, Tigerlily.”

In the morning, Pippin could think of nothing else. As Sam, Merry, and Frodo went down for breakfast, he hardly paid attention to what he was eating. All he could think of was her.

After packing and leaving Bree Aragon annonuced to the Fellowship that they would pass the night at Weathertop. Frodo didn’t look too excited.

Chapter VI:
Weathertop

The fellowship walked up to Weathertop, and with some suprise noticed a small fire on top of it. “Legolas, what do you see?” Gimli asked.

“Someones up there. We should find another place to spend the night.”

“Tch! It’s jut an elf! and one with light eyes, at that. He won’t turn on us.” Griffith landed. “These wings make no sound.”

They were on top of Weathertop. The elf already there was gone, however, his fire was still there, so Legolas scowled the idea that the mystrious elf was still here.

Legolas knew him on sight. He looked like The mystrious elf’s sister. His father had drawn a picture of the mystrious elf’s family line, complete with pictures for all of them. Legolas couldn’t belive what he was seeing–Beoran.7

Before Legolas was born, his father fell in love with a beutiful elf maiden, yet she was a loner. Her whole family was. A loner is an elf who travels alone – they live in no villages, cities, or towns of elves, except by themselves or with small family groups. Loners are looked down upon by other elves, especially from Rivendell.

Now, Beorans sister was ready to move in Mirkwood and start her life as queen. Legolas’ father (seince killed in battle) was head over heels for her. As she was getting ready to move in, her brother reached out to her. He needed help. He had been hurt badly in battle, Sauron was rising, and asked his sister to tend to him. After two years she went back to Mirkwood, but was killed by a band of orcs along the way. Legolas had never know she was trying to come back, All he knew was that she broke his father’s heart by not returning, and so, he figured that Beoran was the reason she dumped his dad. If Beoran was here, it could mean trouble…for Beoran.8

 Chapter VII:
Beoran

“What are you doing here?” aske Legolas

“Do I know you? relpieded Beoran

“Not by name. I am the elf king of Mirkwood, but no need to ask who you are. Muddy clothes, and alone. You are a loner. You have a sister, and your name is Beoran.”

“Yes Legolas I had a sister, And if you took the time to verify the facts, you may have found the truth. My sister was trying to go back to Mirkwood, yet with Saraun rising, the road can become too dangerous fore a lone elf.” Beoran repled, and Legolas said

“She did not have enough courage for the one she loved!” Legolas and Beoran were circling each other, Legolas pratically spitting.

“No, Legolas, she braved the road to come home – to Mirkwood, but couldn’t”

Legolas opened his mouth to speak, but couldn’t say anything because someone was calling him over for dinner.9</sup

Chapter VII:
That Night

“So, who’s your friend?” Sam asked while serving susages.

“Not a friend-just someone I knew. I thought it would be polite to talk to him.”

Soo while they were slepping, Beoran heard a muffled scream.  He was away from the group, but from what he could see, only nine people were slepping over there. Someone was missing. Beoran sat bolt upright. Someone was missing, and noticed something he had not before. It was a crude building, made of sticks and branches with two floors. each had one room.

The two orcs made Tigerlily run to the crude building, which smelled really bad. In the first room, There was a chair and a desk. The two orcs bound her hands behind the chair, not with rope, but with nettles. Finally a tall orc stepped in. He had a great need for some braces, tic-tacs, a shower, a shampoo, and a fashion designer.

“So halfling.” He said in a rough gravelly voice.

“Curse you – curse every halfling! Halfling used to mean nothing. Now Haflings have destroyed the Ring, Destroyed Saroun, destroyed our STRENGTH! Where are you going?” He bellowed.

“I-I don’t know” Tiger Lily responded in a trembling voice.

“Well, let’s give you a night to think about it” He cut the nettle-rope and called two orc gards the led her down into a dongeon. The denugen was actuttaly a hole in the ground, underneath the building. There were bars on the stairs lead up so no one could escpae.

Oh my God, I drew a picture.

Tigerlily leaned on one of the earthen walls and sighed

Suddenly someone emreged from a showdy corner. It was an elf, dark hair, but light color eyes. “My name is Beoran. I’ve come to help you.”

Soon they both were running up to Weathertop. When they got there, Breathless, Tigerlily tried to explain what the orc had told her.

“So it is true then.” Aragorn said. “But they will try to destroy the hobbits before the elves can destroy the orcs. The elves are regaining their former strength,  But the Orcs are losing it. We must go back to the Shire.”10

Chapter VIII
Return to the Shire

They rode as fast as they could to the Shire. As long as they got there, Sam felt, that Rosie and his family would be safe. He urged Bill on.11

They raced to Hobbiton. The sun was sinking in the west. No hobbits were out. The ground was muddy and dirty. The only plants that grew were nettles and pricker-bushes. Doors were broken and windows were smashed. Hundreds of hobbit feet made footprints in the mud. The holes were disgusting, the broken windows, pieces of furniture on the streets. Were hobbits in those holes? Where was Rosie? But the most disturbing thing was not the nettles or the mud, but it was an old pigpen, with hundreds of child hobbit footprints.

Chapter IX
The Discovery of the Hobbits

The hobbits dismounted, Sam pratically crying. He was the only one married w/kids, and he had promised Rosie everything would be fine.

“Run!” Beoran urgently whispered. But it was too late the orcs had come upon them Beoran, Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Tigerlily, but Sam tripped over a root and twisted his ankle.

He fell down and got back up. He started running, yet very slowly. Sam reached for his sword, but the orcs grabbed it first and tossed it away. Then they dragged him back to Hobbiton.

Frodo was fighting Aragorn’s arm, restraning him. Frodo fought, but Aragorn’s arm was just too strong. Frodo finally had to give. “We must go back tomorrow, before sunrise.

Aragon promised Frodo they would.

Chapter X
The Rescue, The Elves, Rivendell

Finally it was morning and before sunrise The fellowship and Beoran snuck into a building, which was made of mud. Branches on the inside gave it shape.

Inside there were strange little beds where all the hobbits were sleeping on.

Beoran and Legolas snuck in quietly, not saying a word to one another and took a sleeping Sam out and to where the rest of the fellowship was.

When Sam woke, at sunrise he looked, not relived, but worried or even scared. “Please, Rosie’s still there. We have to save her!”

The fellowship & Beoran would be hoplesssly outnumbered to take out an army on there own, even w/11 companions. Anyway, they had to try.

The orcs were getting the hobbits ready for a day of work at the mill.

The fellowship rode into hobbiton. Pretty soon the hobbits were amazed to hear horses’ feet and then saw the commanding orc heaad get copped off. Suddenly the battle broke out! There were so many orcs pratically all the hobbits save Sam, Frodo, Merry, Pip, and Tigerlily ran for cover – not in the mud building, but in their old holes. But More orcs just kept coming. It was wall 11 to hundreds.

They had pratically all lost hope until Beoran gave a small gasp.

Miles away, three beutiful elf maidens stood in a line, clapped their hands once and then put them next to each other’s hands, touching them. They all were whispering something.

Suddenly a blue flash occured, and then imdeatly after that there was a yellow flash and a green flash. Soon all the orcs lay dead.

“Who did this?” muttered Gimli.

“Three elf maidens. I saw them” said Beoran.

Legolas didn’t belive him. “I was looking in the same direction, and I saw no one.”

“Legolas,” Beoran said “You do not live alone. When you do live alone, the only person who can look out for you is yourself.”

The hobbits in the Shire were free, but now the beutiful Shire was full of mud and junk. No one could make the plants grow back quickly.

Soon, these three elf maidens Beoran saw came. Their bare feet made footprints in the mud, which produced small sprouts where they were seconds later.

Legolas and Beoran knew at once they were elves from Above. Elves from above lived higher than Middle earth – some people said they lived in cloulds. They could call the sun, clouds, snow, and rain, and they could heal almost anything just by touching it.

The first one started to whisper to they sky in an anhiet form of elvish. She had long, dark brown hair and sea-green eyes. She wore a white dress tinted with light green. After whispering to the clouds a gentle rain came down on the ground, and young plants popped up.

The second elf had shoulder length golden hair. She had bright green eyes and began to whisper to the ground. The young plants grew. Trees grew trunks. Flowers grew buds grass popped up.

The last one had bright blue eyes and rich, auburn hair.

She wispered to all the young plants, and all of them began to grow as fast as she could speak. Weeds grew up faster, but died seconds after they group up. There were no weeds in the Shire anymore. Also the hobbits became more alive.

“Sam! Sam!” Rosie came running towards them.

Sam embraced her and said, “Don’t you rember? I said everything would be okay.”

As the color returned to the stricken faces, someone finally asked the mystrious elves “Who are you?”

The elf who called the rain said “I am Falmarin (name meaning: Sea Spirit) I come from the Lands Above. My closest friends, more like my sisters, have come for a year of training, unless we have reason to stay.”

The elf who whispered to the ground said “I am Wenval” (name meaning: powerful maiden)

The last one said “And I am Erlant” (name meaning: lone bridge)

Then she said “The Shire is now protected. No orc dares to touch what the elves from the Lands Above touches or heals. Please, go quickly. There are other places that need protection.” However, it was getting late, so Sam suggested they spend the night in the Shire, and go first thing in the morning.

Legolas and Erland stayed up half the night, giggling, talking, even a bit of shameless flirting here and there.

After a few more hours, Legolas fell in love, but Erlant only liked him-liked him. She wasn’t ready for love yet. Soon they agreed to go to sleep, but not before Legolas whispered “I love you.” In her ear. Suddenly Erlant new why she couldn’t love him… yet.

“I can only love you back when you fully trust your companions.”

Falmarine, Wenval, and Erlant left before anyone else did. The fellowship and Beoran head out at sunrise. The plan to ride straight into Rivendell, and all the elves have moved back, becaus they felt so secure about the ring being destroyed.

It took them two days and one night to get to Rivendell. THey were going at breakneck speed, Shadowfax leading. Oh well, Bill was getting chubby.

At Rivendell they all had a great feast in a grand hall, and Elrond mostly hung around Aragon, asking how Arwen was and his kids.

“They’re Twins. And they’re all beatiful.”

They stayed for four days before They left. When they left, They were presented with cloaks that would stop them from frezzing to death or getting frostbitten as they crossed Cardaras.

Chapter XI:
Cardaras

The cloaks were much needed as it was very cold. They prett much decided not to go to the Mines of Moria for obvious reasons. Legolas and Beoran were especially helpful. Snow was thicker this time of year, so the elves (Elves rock my socks!) finally picked up the hobbits, and Aragorn also carried one.

Frezzing, they trudge up the mountain. Until they saw something odd. It was a building on a wide ledge. They decided to not stop becase no one knew who lived there.

They were stopped anway, by a strange looking creater. It was black and had for yellow rings around its stomach. It was like a large dog, with floppy ears and tough paws.12</sup It pratically forced them back to the building. They fell throug the backdoors.

Inside the building it was warm and dry. The creaturs offered the fellowship food, which they all refused — just for safety.

The creatures wouldn’t let them leave until the next morning.

No one knew it, but the creatures were Narions, who could be very ferocus, but most of the time were kind and hospitable, and the reason Gandalf made the stay a night was because they would be very offended if they dared to refuse it.

As they began their desent down the mountain, they saw Falmarin, Wenval, and Erlant. Wenval said, “Be careful and alert. There are orcs nerbye, perhaps marching up the mountain at this very moment. They wouldn’t come up this high, but still…” Frodo pulled out sting. It was faintly glowing around the edges. Soon, Falmarin, Wenval, and Erlant departed.

After one mile, Sting was bright blue. Frodo had been constantly checking it. Everyone got there weapons ready – including Tigerlily, as she had gotten a bit more handy with a sword.

The orcs surronded them – about twenty in all. Suddenly, Beoran and Griffith were gone. “Knew he wasn’t one of us.” muttered Legolas. Griffith did a nice little sky-dive body slam combo, but Beoran was truly with the fellowship. He had just went to a higher place than the others. It was safer, and he could aim better. Soon there was not an orc standing.

The fellowship came down the mountain, the first place they even thought of going was Lorian.

“Greetings from Lorian.” Said Galdrel, yet it was not the Galdriel they rembered. She had a scar around her left ankle and Celeborn was no where to be seen.

Beoran went to talk to her later that night. “Please, what is wrong? You can tell me.”

“Oh, Beoran.” She sobbed on his shoulder. “Oh, Beoran. He’s gone. I can’t belive it. He’s gone. He’s gone. He had to go out.”13

“It’s alright, it is. I lost my dear sister the same way. Trust me. Everything will be fine. I promise.”

Chapter XII:
The Final Battle

Galdreil smiled at him and squezzed his hand. Her eyes shone. “Oh, Beoran.” Was all she said.

* * *

Every night, Beoran went to talk to Lady Galdriel. She loved to hear of his adventures. She always had. On the third night, however, she gave him a hug to say goodnight. On the fourth night, however, instead of saying good night, she asked him to stay and look at the orc base for her. It was pretty hard to see because it very far away and it was night. this is what he could see:

“The orcs fortress has two doors. There are dark shapes being handed out from the lower door. The look like swords but there are some bows. Many of the swords are being dipped in a bucket.”

“They are preparing for battle” Galdriel said.

* * *

It was true. The next night war crys were heard and thousand of feet and armor.

Not that Lorian was unprepared. They had two lines – one in front and one in behind them. Also, the Narions had heard by the wind that Lorian may be attacked, so they all headed there to help the fellowship by delaying the elves from battle.

The fellowship was surprisingly in neither of these lines, as they were heading to the end of the great river. It had now been twenty-four hours seince Beoran had aroused14 them from sleep and told everyone to get ready, Legolas muttering something about “untrustworthy git” yet they all were praying in there mind that the fight was still on.

* * *

They banked there boats and continued on foot, Aragon leading, until at exactly 12 miles from The great River they saw a fortress. It was made of round stones and mud. A medium sized mound lay in front of it. It had pink and blue flowers spouting up from it and woods behind it. Why the orcs did not touch this area remains a mystery.

Beoran said “they have one last source of strength. It lies in shadows in the dungeon. Be on your gurd. Orcs don’t all battle at the same time.”

* * *

 Soundlessly they crept through the earthenware corridors into the dark dungeons of the rock fortress and down to a far cornor in the back. Suddenly, the fellowship heard a scream coming from an upper room. Someone was in trouble! The fellowship could either go up or stay down. Legolas and Beoran went straight up. The knew what the others did not–The scream came from an elf maiden.

The fellowship followed Aragorn and Gandalf down a shadowy hole to the next level. In a showdy corner, There was a black and red glowing ball that seemed to be floating.

* * *

As Legolas and Beoran climbed and reached the exit, Beoran was behind him when he suddenly pushed Legolas down on his face. Beoran let him up a few seconds later.

Legolas turned around to see an arrow in the building, for Beoran saw what Legolas did not. Legolas saw Beoran get up and rushed over to his side “Thank you, Beoran. I can now truly trust you.”

* * *

The glowing ball had an axe, several swords, and Gandalf’s staff pointing at it. Gandalf whispered something to the ball and it devolped cracks and glew w/a fiercness not yet seen. “NOW!” He yelled and everyone stuck their weapon in. Gandalf whispered again. The ball vibrated, rubbing off on the weapons until they could hardly be held then

POW!

The ball exploded with blinding flashes and all the orcs turned to ash. And the wind blew the ashes away into the sea.

* * *

Legolas and Beoran were still searching for the screamer.

She came running to them, her dress drenched with blood–black and red. She came gasping to Legolas and fell at his feet. He lifted her up.

He almost cried when he discovered it was Erlant. He picked her up and ran to the mound. He set her down there. “Now I can finally love you.” she said, and kissed him.

Falmarin and Wenval came running towards him. “Please, Legolas, give her to us. She’ll die if she stays here.” It was Wenval.

“Legolas, please. If you truly love her, you will give her to us. Its the only way she will evr live.” That was Falmarin.

Trying hard not to cry he carried Erlant’s almost dead body to Falmarin and Wenval. They disappeared and Legolas was left alone. All that was left was sparkles.

Legolas took his golden arrow that Lady Galdriel had given him and stuck it into the ground where Erlant had laid. He bent down and cried. He cried and cried until Beoran came. The mound now had a name. It was Teardrop Mound. And Legolas had given it that name.

* * *

Legolas slept–a lot. He rarely ate. He often took long walks when he wasn’t sleeping, usually around the boats, as if he was toying with the idea of going to Tearddrop mound. One morning Beoran wasn’t surprised he was gone. He looked and saw Legolas sleeping near the mound. Beoran saw that he was not alone. Falmarin was with him, rubbing his back. Soon all Beoran could see were sparkles and Legolas waking up.

He got in the boat and rowed back to Lorian. When he returned the next morning, the first thing he did was ask for breakfast.

THE END

1. This story breaks canon not on the first page, but in the first paragraph. [Return]
2. How do you spell “Sauron” right in one paragraph and not in the next? And why a sheep farm? What kind of example his that? [Return]
3. Wait, what? Who is this random hobbit and why do they take her with them? [Return]
4. It’s probably worth noting that this character was based on the Eyrie neopet, because I was 12. [Return]
5. I was too young to know that pints were the standard beer size. [Return]
6. I wanted to show off that I knew hobbits learned to cook before they learned to read, but couldn’t figure out that adult hobbits wouldn’t need to “practice their letters”. [Return]
7. I sincerely thought “Beoran” was an original name when I wrote this, even though I’d read The Hobbit just a year before writing this nonsense. [Return]
8. That’s it. I will never write anything better than the story of Thranduil’s love life. Please consider this my retirement from fiction. [Return]
9. This is how I end all my confrontations. By going to dinner. [Return]
10. Here’s the thing: I knew that the elves had all left for the Grey Havens. I just chose to ignore it. [Return]
11. Likewise, I knew that Bill the Pony had not been in the picture for some time, but refused to write him out. [Return]
12. Let’s not kid ourselves. I wanted to have umbreons in this story but change it just enough so they were original. [Return]
13. Oh, and Celeborn is dead because no canon is sacred in this terrible, terrible story. [Return]
14. “Aroused” doesn’t always mean the same thing as “roused”, but I didn’t know that at the time. This could have been a very different chapter if I had. [Return}

Changing Directions

I began this blog a couple years ago when I was still living with my parents, in the house I had grown up in. While I’ve never been the neatest person, one of the things preventing me from ever having a truly clean room was the veritable library of books spread throughout the house. But I loved all of them so much, even the ones that I hadn’t read in years, or the ones I was likely never going to read. Choosing which ones to part with would be an impossible decision. This is, until I made a friend who had been going through all of her old childhood books, reading them again and deciding what to keep at what to get rid of. She talked about things she’d never noticed in her books before, some of which were my favorites when I was younger. But when she mentioned racism in Madelin L’Engle’s works, I was surprised. That was something I’d never picked up on when I was younger, and I wanted to see if it was something I’d missed as a kid.

I thought blogging about my re-reads would be fun to do, and I could see and share the ways that I had grown. I also thought that this project – and it would be a long project – could help me decide which books were worth keeping, and which should find new homes. I set out some ground rules for myself, and got to work.

Then things changed. I pared down, moved to another state. I pared down again, moved to a different state. I took some books from my large collection at home, still in my parents’ house, along with most of my favorites (the Harry Potter and Fables series were too heavy to bring with me).

But I’m winding down to the end of that pile. I’ve got one manga left, which will follow Tithe, and a couple more novels, though not many.

So, as Guns N’ Rose’s once asked, “where do we go now?”

I want to continue working on this blog, but I’m not sure in what capacity. Traditional book reviews is an obvious route I could take, rather than in-depth, chapter-by-chapter reviews. I’m considering doing more YA fiction (like An Ember in the Ashes and Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge), Newbery Medal winners, and #1000BlackGirlBooks.

I’m dedicated to finishing my long-form review of Tithe and the next manga in question, but I would need to get the jump on another project now to keep a steady stream of updates. So if there’s something that you would like to see from this blog or an idea that sounds intriguing, let me know!

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge

Some time ago, I did a review for An Ember in the Ashes, with a one-sentence review for each chapter. I had a lot of fun with it, so I thought I would bring a similar format (with a couple added sentences) back for Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krüeger. Spoilers ahead.

The novel follows Bailey Chen, a recent college graduate ready to flex her new business degree. She’s not exactly taking Chicago by storm, though, instead working as a lowly barback in The Nightshade Lounge, owned by her best friend’s uncle. While closing up the bar one night, she discovers that cocktails, when made exactly right, grant the drinker magical abilities. Bartenders, like her friend Zane, imbibe these drinks to fight off monsters called tremens, demons that prey on drunks. Bailey eventually joins the ranks of the bartenders, mixing magical drinks and fighting demons while navigating her career and the politics of Cupbearer’s Court.

Last Call is a fun romp through Chicago, and there’s plenty of humor throughout the book. There’s some funny and self-aware moments that really made me smile. Some of the jokes do fall flat, particularly the character Bucket’s Canadian pride. The gag goes on so long that “Canadian” becomes Bucket’s one and only character trait, culminating into the reveal that his van has a huge Canadian flag on the side. I wanted to laugh at this, but after 90 or so pages of Canadian jokes, it just got old.

I was a little wary about a female protagonist being written by a male author, because it’s not uncommon for men to write women very poorly. This could be anything from oversexualizing female characters, having goals that only center around men, being a ditzy doormat, or just being a boring badass. (If you really want some entertaining examples, search “describe yourself like a male author would” on Twitter). I was pleased that I didn’t encounter any of these pitfalls. Bailey’s smart, ambitious, and she’s not afraid to take risks to do what she thinks is right. She makes mistakes and has to learn from them. Ultimately, her tenacity is what lets her triumph over her supernatural and mundane adversities.

The love triangle was far more problematic for me. Bailey develops a crush on Zane, who she had hooked up with once shortly after her high school graduation. Zane, however, has already found love with his fellow bartender, Mona. Mona is serious and quiet, and…that’s about it. The problem with this love triangle is that it doesn’t challenge the reader. The story structure is pretty predictable, so we can already guess that Bailey and Zane will end up together. What solidifies this, even before the end of the book, is just how boring Mona is. She’s great at killing demons, but she doesn’t share any of the characters’ excitement, or their interest for making a legendary Long Island Ice Tea. Mona had the potential to be a really intriguing character, but just ends up being flat and dull.

Because Mona is so boring and at times downright unlikable, there’s no reason for the reader to want to see her stay with Zane. The love triangle is cut and dry. We all know how it ends long before Bailey and Zane kiss.

Overall, though, Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge is a fun, light read, for anyone who likes cocktails and magic.

Now, the (mostly) one-sentence chapter breakdown!

Prologue: Is the cop going to show up again, or is this just in media res for no reason?

Chapter 1: The writing is actually funny, if a bit predictable.

Chapter 2: Hooray, the main character knows what the audience should have already known just by reading the back of the book.

Chapter 3: It’s moving pretty simply so far: Call to Adventure, Meeting with the Mentor and now answering the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 4: I’m hoping that the love triangle becomes somewhat more interesting, but I’m not holding my breath.

Chapter 5: Finally, we get to see Bailey fail at something!

Chapter 6: I’ll forgive the kiss because adrenaline makes us do crazy things, but I really doubt Bailey hasn’t seen Zane since high school.

Chapter 7: Good, an escape from the love triangle.

Chapter 8: The author does a good job making sure that Bucket being transgender is no big deal, but never stops reminding you that he’s Canadian.

Chapter 9: Okay, this was pretty awesome.

Chapter 10: How does Zane make the leap from “we just fought off an army” to “we need to make the alcoholic version of a philosopher’s stone”?

Chapter 11: The stuff at Bailey’s interview is funny, but could the book yell, “these guys are douchebags” any louder?

Chapter 12: I don’t know if I should complain about Mona’s blandness here, or the obvious foreshadowing that she’s probably immortal.

Chapter 13: Man, it’s awfully convenient that the person trying to brew the McGuffin is giving Bailey a job interview.

Chapter 14: Vincent’s my favorite, but being the mentor character, he’s about to get written off.

Chapter 15: YOU KILLED THE DOG?!

Chapter 16: Curious how Vincent thinks Bailey stabbed Bowie in the back by…using what he taught her to accidentally stumble on a devastating secret that will get people killed if she doesn’t do anything about it?

Chapter 17: I want to appreciate the Sailor Moon reference in this chapter, but Tuxedo Mask doesn’t wear an actual tuxedo. He wears a white dinner suit, which is one of the many reasons why Tuxedo Mask is just the worst.*

Chapter 18: Oh no, whoever thought the boring, stoic, and mysterious Mona would be the bad guy. Gasp.

Chapter 19: After watching Bailey kick ass throughout the book, she needs to get saved by someone at the last minute.

Chapter 20: Oh my God, Bucket. You’re Canadian. We get it.

*This is the most pedantic thing I’ve ever written, but seriously. Get your shit together, Tuxedo Mask.

Paradise Kiss 10 + Omake

Well, it’s finally time to wrap up Paradise Kiss.

The final chapter is also the shortest in the book, but I’ll start with the cover page.

Isabella more appearances
Me too, Isabella. Me too.

I remember liking Isabella’s character the first time I read through Paradise Kiss. Isabella was the first transgender character I was aware of who wasn’t treated as a punchline. One of my favorite side stories showed her shared childhood with George, when she was being raised as a boy. The first dress George made was a gift for her, and helped her find her identity as Isabella. Throughout the manga she shows herself to sweet and caring, and has a deep bond with George, sticking with him through thick and thin.

The first volume focused mostly on Yukari and Miwako, so there wasn’t a lot of room for Isabella this time around. But this cover page almost makes me want to continue reading Paradise Kiss just to see more of her.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen in this book’s final chapter. But we do see Yukari start to grow up. Up to this point, she’s idolized her crush, Tokumori. But in this chapter she starts to see his flaws, too, and realizes he can be mean and petty. Instead, she turns her attention towards George, waiting for him to call her.

Except that she pretends that she’s not. This is another instance of “so high school”: acting like you’re not waiting for him to call, or pretending that this guy isn’t in your mind all day. When they finally do meet up, Yukari shouts at George for making her wait and for not calling, and George gives her a chance to back out of modeling. Tears running down her face, Yukari says that she’ll keep working, and she and George finally share their first kiss.

There is a lot of high drama and angst, and Yukari and George’s relationship ultimately doesn’t last. But it’s still rather sweet: your first kiss, and your first love. That’s also pretty high school, but in a good way.

The last section of this book is the “omake”, or bonus. Omakes are sometimes at the end of a manga volume that might show behind-the-scenes creation, or just have the characters being silly. What caught my attention, though, was just how dated it was. There’s a reference to the Sega Dreamcast, discontinued in 2001, and Geocities, closed in 2009.

Time waits for no man, I suppose. For no man, and no manga.

Eragon 54-55: Stupid is as Stupid Does

Okay, I just need to know–how did the Twins ever get to be part of the Varden?

Just read Orik’s, Eragon’s Dwarf friend, description of them:

Their talents lie in scheming and plotting for power–to everyone else’s detriment. Deynor, Ajihad’s predecessor, allowed them to join the Varden because he needed their support…you can’t oppose the Empire without spellcasters who can hold their own on the field of battle. They’re a nasty pair, but they do have their uses.

How. Can no one. Suspect them.

Everyone knows that they’re evil and sadistic. It’s spelled out right in front of them. And yet no one, no one, even thinks that these two are responsible for the Varden’s information being leaked to the Empire?

This is so frustrating to me, that I’m just going to go ahead and say it: maybe the Varden deserved to get betrayed for being that oblivious.

Apart from that gripe, most of this chapter is nothing but backstory and world building, but it’s at least more interesting than a lot of the stuff in the beginning of the book. Paolini put a lot of thought into what it would be like to have a civilization housed inside a mountain, so props for those details.

I do have to give him credit for what I thought was just a throw-away scene the first time I read Eragon, however.  A woman comes up to Eragon with a baby, saying that the child has no family and asks Eragon to bless her. After some thought, Eragon does so, blessing in the Ancient Language by saying, “Let luck and happiness follow you and may you be shielded from misfortune.”

Pretty good blessing, right? Well, it turns out, Eragon messed up the blessing, and in fact said, “may you be a shield from misfortune”. Being shielded from and being a shield are two very different things, and this “blessing” is really a curse that comes back in a big way in the second book.

I really love how poor grammar leads to a major plot point later on in the story.

The following chapter is blessedly short, where Eragon finds out that Angela and Solembum are with the Varden as well, for some reason. Angela explains that when she realized Eragon was a Dragon Rider, she decided to head to the Varden, because something big was about to happen. Eragon tells her his story since he last saw her, and she’s rather wary when he mentions Murtagh. Apparently, she knows who he is.

Wait, wasn’t his birth kept secret? I guess I can just wave it off as Angela being some kind of witch and knowing plot-related things.

They discuss the Shade, Durza, as well. But there’s something that caught my attention when Angela explains how Shades are created.

Ordinary sorcerers are just that, ordinary–neither better nor worse than the rest of us. They use their magical strength to control spirits and the spirits’ powers. Shades, however, relinquish that control in their search for greater power and allow their bodies to be controlled by spirits.

So…Eragon’s magic, and the magic of the other characters, comes from manipulating spirits? This is the first time spirits have ever been mentioned in this book. It turns out that they’re really freaking important! If they’re the base of magic in this world, and responsible for creating Eragon’s current antagonist, then why is this the first time we’re hearing about them at all?

Even in Eldest, we don’t have an opportunity to learn more about spirits. Eragon asks his new teacher, Oromis, for information about them, and Oromis refuses to tell him anything. I never finished Brisingr, but as far as I read, I don’t recall any more explanations as to what spirits are or how they fit in with the magic of this world.

Yes, this may be a high-fantasy story with dragons and magic, but I want explanations for that magic, dammit!

Angela also mentions something that someone should have done something about before. Explaining how she got into Tronjheim, she tells Eragon that the magic users in the Varden wanted her to join their “secret group”, which is controlled by the Twins.

Wait, what?

Okay, if there’s a secret group (a rebellion within a rebellion?) and they’ve done a good job of hiding it, it would make sense that neither Ajihad nor Orik know about it. Since Angela is largely here for shits’n’giggles and wants her presence to remain hidden, she wouldn’t have any reason to report it.

Eragon and Saphira are here to take refuge and owe the Varden their lives. Ajihad has told them their is a traitor in their midst. That there’s a secret mage group led by the Twins who everyone agrees are bad news is a giant red flag.

Eragon is too stupid to notice this, and asks whether the Twins question her, as they did him.

Then he asks about the architecture of Tronjheim. Not the secret mage group. For all his curiosity, he can’t be bothered to find out anything more about something that is actually interesting and has potentially huge ramifications.

Eragon better be glad he’s fictional, because I want to smack him for that one. I’ll just try to be satisfied knowing that willful ignorance here comes back to bite him in the ass.

Eragon 50-51: Oh, The Angst

I’ve recently finished reading Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, the second novel in The Dresden Files. It was a fun read, with likable protagonists and lots of action. There was one thing that drove me crazy about it, though: every chapter had to end on a cliffhanger. I understand why authors do this, and I’ve done it in my own writing, but when it happens every chapter, it gets a little tiring, not to mention formulaic. You can predict how each chapter is going to go: Harry is in trouble, gets himself out of trouble, winds up in worse trouble. Repeat as necessary.

Again, I understand the benefits of doing this, but it begins to lose impact the more it happens. This is why when a chapter ends with Eragon passing out and getting himself captured for the twelfth time, I really don’t care.

Of course, this may be because I don’t care about the character himself, because he’s dumb.

Murtagh revealing that he’s the son of Morzan is actually a pretty good cliffhanger, though. We’re left waiting for the emotional fallout, rather than waiting to see if Eragon gets rescued again. (Spoiler: he does. He always does.) But this new inforation is the real obstacle to their friendship. Or, rather, the friendship we’re told they have, because whenever we see them talking, they’re usually arguing.

As expected, there’s a lot of a shock and sudden distrust. Saphira and Eragon are immediately defensive and wary. Saphira doesn’t even want to leave Eragon’s side, afraid that Murtagh will attack him. Eragon doesn’t give him the benefit of the doubt, which I might yell at him about, except that it makes sense for his character. At this point, he’s still only sixteen, and he’s never been a font of wisdom. Even Saphira, who I’ve critiqued for maybe being just a little too wise, is concerned. She’s still a young dragon, and she’s finally acting her age, too. That, and she has plenty of reason to hate the son of Morzan.

Fortunately, Saphira does manage to have some common sense and points out that if Murtagh really wanted to hurt Eragon, he would have done so already. Murtagh’s parentage is a rather distressing subject for him, and has said more than once that he never asked to be born. Eragon treats Murtagh rather coldly, even after Saphira talks sense into him. Instead of coming across as cautious, or savvy, it makes Eragon look more like a jerk than ever.

But that’s only for a few pages. Soon enough, the army of Urgals are on top of them. The trio only has a few more hours to get Arya the antidote she needs, so the pressure is on. It’s actually a pretty exciting chapter, especially when Saphira starts fighting the Urgals. She can’t breathe fire yet, but her ferocity is really impressive, even when it seems they’re hopelessly outnumbered.

There was also a scene that I related to a little too well. Eragon believes that he’s found the entrance to the Varden, but the door won’t open. He quickly realizes he’s on the wrong side of the lake. I might make fun of this, except I have no sense of direction. At all. This is totally something I would do.

Near the end of the chapter, Eragon is knocked into the river, and he, Murtagh,  Arya and Saphira are rescued by two members of the Varden. The scene is a little hard to understand and visualize, but it’s one of the rare cases where a confusing action scene actually works. It helps accentuate the chaos of the battle and the rescue, and the characters’ own confusion.

In the next chapter, Eragon, et. al. are taken inside the mountain to be questioned. It’s made clear early on that the Varden are dangerous, not just a rag-tag bunch of lovable scrappers. Throughout the series, there’s supposed to be some ambiguity as to whether the Varden are a group of rebels fighting for a just cause, or terrorists fighting the rightful ruler of the land. And while the leaders do morally questionable things (*cough* Elva *cough*), on the whole, you’re supposed to cheer for them, because they are soundly the good guys. This is one of the few times when we see that there is a darker side to them.

Eragon and Murtagh are questioned by a magician who is using magic to probe into their minds. Isn’t this…a little unnecessary? This guy is obviously high level, and “Zone of Truth” is only a second-level spell. Considering that you can make just about anything happen with the right words and phrasing in the Ancient Language, there had to be an easier way to form a spell that would have Eragon and Murtagh tell the truth, without breaking into their heads.

It backfires on him anyway, because Murtagh is able to block the man from entering his mind, and with Saphira’s help, Eragon is able to hide some of his memories as well. And while Eragon is a jerk on many levels, he at least doesn’t reveal the secret of Murtagh’s parentage. Good on you, Eragon.

As for the magician himself, who literally doesn’t have a name, could it be any more obvious that he’s evil?

‘Now, remove the defenses from around your mind [. . .] If you try to hide anything from me, I will take what I want by force…which would drive you mad. If you don’t submit, your companion will be killed.’ [. . .]

‘You’d better not harm him, Egraz Carn, else the king will have words for you.’

The bald man looked at him irritably, then faced Eragon with a small smile. ‘Only if he resists.’ [. . .]

He paid keen attention to so many things Eragon considered irrelevant, such as his mother, Selena, and seemed to linger on purpose so as to prolong the suffering.

So when he and his twin betray the Varden in the next book, absolutely no one is surprised. The Varden really needs to screen their mages better.

Even so, this chapter made me remember why I liked Murtagh so much. He’s a total badass. He refused to allow the mage to pick his brain, and shows impressive mental strength. He’s able to fight off the mage’s attack until another member of the Varden commands Magey to stop.

Most of the rest of the chapter is Murtagh giving Eragon–and the readers–his history. While I’m not a big fan of information dumps, it works here, because he’s also answering the questions the readers want to know. I’ll also give Paolini props for giving us the full story, instead of just handwaving plot holes with, “that’s a story for another time”.

It soon becomes clear that Murtagh’s parentage is a distressing subject for him. Morzan was an abusive alcoholic, and Murtagh’s mother was trapped in the relationship, doing his bidding.

Now this is one of the moments where I can see how I’ve changed. I’ve always been the girl going, “I’m a strong independent woman who don’t need no man!” and, in high school, really hated Murtagh’s mom. I thought she was so weak, staying with an abusive man for years, when she should have just walked away. Why didn’t she just up and leave?

Now I’m older, and I understand things better. I didn’t know then that leaving an abusive relationship is incredibly hard and frightening. Even the strongest person would have a difficult time with that. Even moreso when your abuser is capable of riding dragons and using magic and can kill you at fifty paces.

All that said, there are still some issues with this. Murtagh was raised in Galby’s palace, and only escaped a few months ago. Apart from Brom, he’s the most worldly character in this book. He’s the dark and brooding one, the one with survival skills. While he was trained to fight in the palace, so his swordsmanship makes sense, but the rest? I’m not buying it.

He only met Galby a few times, and tells Eragon about one of their meetings with some of the most awkward phrasing.

His words were entrancing, like a snake whispering gilded lies into my ears. A more convincing and frightening man I’ve never heard. [. . .] For a long time he was silent, but then he extended his hand and asked, “Will you, O son of my friend? serve me as I labor to bring about this paradise?” [. . .] the dream he had painted was too compelling, too seductive to ignore. Ardor for this mission filled me, and I fervently pledged myself to him.

Paolini, listen up. Use purple prose, or use beige prose, I don’t care. But stop switching between the two with no rhyme or reason, especially when Murtagh’s never spoken like that before.

He goes on to talk about how he came to realize that Galby was evil and insane, and that he decided to escape. Of course, he does this with some of the most awkwardly written dialogue in the book so far.

As soon as I was free of his presence, I and my faithful servant, Tornac, made ready for flight. We left that very night, but somehow Galbatorix anticipated my actions, for there were soldiers waiting for us outside the gates. Ah, my sword was bloody, flashing in the lantern glow.

Ugh.

Murtagh explains that he started following the Ra’zac in the hopes that they could lead him to a dragon, which begs the question: Why?

He wants to be free from Galby and his father’s shadow, so why does he follow the king’s most trusted servants around? He’s terrified his past will be revealed, but then why align himself with a Dragon Rider? I can only assume it’s so he has a powerful ally should he ever need one, but an easier and much better solution to his predicament is obvious. He could have just disappeared. His birth was a secret, and Algaesia’s a big place. Murtagh could have just changed his name, found a new city, and made a new life for himself.

For that matter, he doesn’t need to be so afraid of what the Varden will do to him if they find out about his heritage. He spent almost his entire life in Galby’s court, and once he shows them that he’s defected, he’d become a valuable resource to them.

I get it. Plot is propelled forward by characters making stupid choices. Murtagh is an important character throughout the series, and becomes Eragon’s foil by the end of the second book. You wouldn’t get that if he’d just disappeared, which would be the sensible option.

I guess what I’m not buying is the whole “Murtagh finds Eragon by following people he shouldn’t have been following if he’s so scared about getting caught” excuse.

I think this is another missed opportunity for character development. Murtagh’s out in the world on his own for the first time. He must be scared, uncertain, and confused. Probably angry, too, feeling betrayed by Galby. There’s an enormous amount of potential to create not just a great character arc, but a great character. Unfortunately, emotions come last while the plot is railroaded forward. Instead of an intriguing character, we’re left with a two-dimensional figure who has a few moments of greatness, but then falls as flat as the rest of the cast.

There is at least one way Murtagh outshines Eragon as a character.

Eragon is Algaesia’s biggest idiotball. Murtagh is its biggest drama queen.

Eragon 36-37: The Worst Laid Plans

Every so often, someone asks me how I find the time to read so much. The answer is simple: move to two different states within the span of five months where you don’t know anyone, be severely underemployed, and you will read a lot. Now that I’m settled in to my new new adopted state, I thought it was time to start back down the treacherous path that is Eragon.

My list of complaints about the chapter “Ra’zac’s Revenge” might be longer than the chapter itself.

Eragon has awoken from his most recent fainting spell to discover that he and Brom have been kidnapped by the Ra’zac. He’s tied up and can’t seem to muster the mental capacity to use his magic. The Ra’zac make it known pretty quickly that he and Brom have been drugged. Because the Ra’zac are such deadly foes that they spill their whole plan in front of the groggy heroes.

It is kind of weird to see the Ra’zac speak. The only other time we’ve seen them talk was in Carvahall as they were looking for information on Saphira. I think the Ra’zac were scarier after they burned Eragon’s farm, killed his uncle, and disappeared. We’ve seen what they’re capable of, and can only imagine what they must be doing while Eragon and Brom are trying to track them. The Ra’zac were more frightening when they couldn’t be seen. To hear them arguing with each other like generic henchmen destroys the image of them as formidable foes.

There’s also the matter of Saphira. You know, Saphira, the reason I’ve been able to keep slogging through this book. She’s also been captured by the Ra’zac. They explain that she allowed herself to be chained down after they threatened to kill Eragon if she fought back. I’m really, really disappointed with that. Remembering her rage and fear when the Ra’zac came to Carvahall, I don’t think it’s in her character to have given into them. Especially when she declared to Eragon that she would not run from them any longer.

What might be really exciting if Saphira, knowing she couldn’t save Eragon, fled and kept in touch with them through their mental link. Eragon ends up not needing herself to escape, so it’s not like we’d be missing much without Saphira captured as well. Then we could at least have a subplot of trying to reunite with Saphira.

I also want to remind everyone that the Ra’zac are really stupid hunters. More than once they threaten to kill Eragon, even though they discuss that they’re supposed to keep him and Brom alive. They also mock him, saying that they’re much more valuable to Galby than Eragon is. Yeah, no. Other than making the rookie mistake of leaving your supplies behind, Eragon is unique. He is the only Dragon Rider on the continent within Galby’s reach, and (as we find out in Eldest), Saphira is the only female dragon remaining. At this point, I’d say that Galby would much rather have Eragon as a potential ally, rather than dead.

Of course, if Galby didn’t want to make Eragon his enemy, then maybe he shouldn’t have just up and murdered the kid’s family. Try some diplomacy first. If that doesn’t work, then murder the family.

Oh, and Brom jumps in front of a knife to save Eragon from dying, blah blah blah. And Eragon is so shocked that he fucking faints again.

At least the next chapter, “Murtagh”, is also short. It’s where–wait for it–we meet a guy named Murtagh.

Well, still a better chapter title than “Doom of Innocence”.

After passing out for the…fifth time? Eragon awakes to find that the Ra’zac have been chased away (though not killed) by a young man named Murtagh.

To his credit, Eragon does try to heal Brom as soon as he’s able, but says he can only fix what’s on the surface, not the internal damage. That works for me, especially because Eragon is still a novice when it comes to magic, and Brom’s likely too weak to heal himself.

We learn a little bit about Murtagh, who had also been tracking the Ra’zac. I’m not really sure why, and I don’t think he ever explains. He also agrees to travel with Eragon because…well, I’ll let him tell it.

I’ve no better place to be. Besides, if I stay with you, I might get another shot at the Ra’zac sooner than if I were on my own. Interesting things are bound to happen around a Rider.

“Because it might be interesting” is already a lazy excuse, Murtagh should want to stay far away from any Dragon Riders, and even further from Galby or any of his servants. In Eldest, it’s revealed that Murtagh is actually the son of Darth Vader Morzan, the Rider who fell to the Dark Side betrayed the ancient Dragon Riders to Galby. Even if Eragon could help Murtagh find the Ra’zac (spoiler: he doesn’t), he would have been much better off on his own.

They flee the Ra’zac’s encampment, with Saphira carrying Brom. Eragon decides that if Murtagh is untrustworthy, Saphira can chase him away.

You know, just like she did with the Ra’zac.

I’m not angry, Saphira. Just disappointed.