I'm covering major plot points below, cutting.
Again, major plot points below.
This was both much more action-oriented and fun to read--I got through it in about three hours--and completely not answering a lot of questions with any kind of thoroughness. I'm hoping--a lot--that this means there will be more books to flesh out what little we received.
However, this has to come first--for those of us who have been waiting for Mags and Dallen to just admit they're zoophiling it up like there are no laws of man and gods against it, Mags speculates how his love for Amithy is just not as awesome (he calls it a quiet love) than that between Bear and Lena. Which yeah, all of us knew that shit--you're in love with your creepy Companion! And this is okay, because you are very creepy yourself (if you read the third book, I am going to simply say the words collar and leash and you will know exactly what I'm referring to).
Not a lot actually happens despite the fact a lot happens. Hang on, I'll clarify that. If you're reading this series, you love melodrama, so we do have that.
Prince Sedric and Lydia get married while with Lydia a white gown that is trimmed in silver, rich but not ostentatious, good enough for a princess but said without words that this was a lady who would not break the treasury for a dress. That's almost an exact quote of the dress's dialogue with Mags. It was very--I have no idea what that was. The dress was just really important and possibly would save the kingdom from economic tragedy in the near future. Later, Mags and Amily make out for half a sentence, but Amily is tired and Mags make for Dallen like a cheating cheater cheating on his Companion, the fucker. Dallen, apparently unaware of Mag's infidelity, tells him that Bear and Lena are sexing it up and everyone reading becomes really uncomfortable with wondering like, why the hell Dallen knows that. Mags then goes back to the trainee party in the stable loft to dance with all the girls until Dallen's bitter jealousy leads him to shove his drunken ass into his stable room bed and Mags thinks he's just too tired and light-headed to resist.
Resist what, we need not be told; we know. We're just not sure how sturdy that bed is.
Bear and Lena elope in a convoluted series of justifications that the author really needed to get across to make sure the reader understood the elopement is Really Okay Really Not Like Those Other Dumb Elopements You Hear So Much About, which being fantasy readers, most of us just don't really need that kind of suspension of disbelief, but she went that extra fifty or so pages (or so it felt) to make sure of that.
With almost psychic intuition and Companion-like speed, Bear!Daddy shows up soon after with a mercenary militia (not kidding) to the gates of the palace (not. kidding) to pause for a long hate-filled speech we only get a summary of from Mags (goddammit) against Bear and Lena and the priest that married them (no, really) in front of a guard station, the King's Own, Mags, and like, half the Collegia (who were kindly dismissed from class to watch, no, really, that's an actual scene). When the hysterical speech hits blaspheme, however, Awesome!Priest (Paol?) leaps from hiding (why would I make this up?) to beat the hell out of Bear!Daddy with a shepherd's crook before stomping back down to Haven in righteous fury.
Then it is explained to Bear!Daddy that coming at the palace with a militia is kinda treasonous, but the king had already known about him and his overkill like whoa army of kidnapping and had declared that Bear!Daddy's fate will be decided by his son. Bear and Lena show completely unexpected maturity and almost unearthly proto-Solomonesque judgement in disowning him as his father and remanding Bear!Daddy to the justice of the Circles for punishment while Bear!Daddy looks on in horror, because he totally didn't see how coming at the palace with a small mercenary company for the express purpose of kidnapping his son and then insulting him and his new wife for an entire speech could possibly, possibly fail.
Mags speculates in the strangest and most inappropriate moment of sympathy in the history of strange and inappropriate moments of sympathy that Bear!Daddy's manpain was the result of being a racehorse married to a ploughhorse, as Mama!Bear (Bear has a mother! Who knew?) is not all that bright. So manpain, for Reasons. Those being that Mags once heard Bear be a dick about his mom and despite having never met the woman, totally gets why Bear!Daddy would be a superdick, that being his wife isn't good enough. Combined with the deeply unsettling notion Bear!Daddy had that Lena was a demoness involved in sexual slavery, and King's Own orchestrating this entire confrontation so everyone (I mentioned classes were let out for this?) hears Lena being derided and degraded due to her sex and being Bear's wife, it's all very--you know, less feminist than one might have hoped.
Later, there's some things with Mags in the city in his persona of older brother of his personality of deaf-mute, and then through a really not entirely clear series of events that include a Strange Mysterious Watching Thing That Is Not a Vrondi, he's hit over the head, drugged, and kidnapped. For reasons.
Eventually, Mags is undrugged enough to realizes his mindspeech is gone (which makes no sense whatsoever due to what was going on his head while he was drugged) and escapes, discovers he is in Karse and is attacked soon after by a demon before being miraculously saved by a mysterious cat. When Mags wakes up, he's hidden with a Sekrit!Red robe named Franse and the first documented case of Mags having something like sexual chemistry with anyone other than his Companion.
Franse is in hiding as he is a good Red-Robe priest and is being protected and cared for by a Firecat named Reaylis (See The Cat Who Came For Dinner as remedial reading if you do not) for reasons. As he cannot Mindspeak with either of them, it's all very stressing, yet he really doesn't get around to telling tehm about that little problem for a bit, due to reasons. After a few days, Mags decides the Firecat helping save him from a demon was because Vkandis wanted Mags to do something (yeah, just go with it) and prays that he'll do it but he's having problems hearing the message (being mindspeechless, get it?).
This works; the Reaylis fixes him, yet sadly, we do not get actual divine enlightenment immediately, which would have been awesome. Instead, we have hunting, Franse praying, and sexual tension one could cut with just the right kind of dull spoon, which again, is more than we ever thought Mags could get with a human.
Somehow, Mindspeech attracts the Karsite priests and they capture Mags while he's hunting rabbits very close to the cave-home of Franse and Reaylis--for reasons, he didn't hear them coming or the sound of all the furniture in teh cave-home being destroyed, but just then the plot thickens as the mysterious kidnappers, for reasons (I know, I am overusing that, but dude, I had nothing to work with here) show up in the nick of time to take possession of Mags using magical paper that says they can and make for Somewhere that we have to assume is their homeland but continues to be unnamed.
They tell Mags their names (Kan-li and Levor) and that if he gets away again they will leave him to teh Karsite priests becaues they were sent to get him but not die doing it, which would probably have been news to all the ones before them who had died trying to kidnap Mags before (see Amily plotline in Changes). They work for or are of the Shadao, who either are the people, the ruling group of people, or a title of the most important of their people, and this will never be entirely clear. Eventually, they decide it's time for Mags to be awakened to his true self via drugs and magical talismans that will totally make him okay with this entire convoluted storyline and be happy to go home. There is spirit infusion--not a mixed drink in a trendy bar, sadly--which will be prepped by herbs of remembrance, which will make Mags remember.
Remember what, you say? He was like, two when his parents died. Just wait.
Mags is not enthused and tells them he gives no fucks, even negative ones, for the Shadao and will fight this spirit infusion to the death, then waits a paragraph of reaction shots before saying that as he is Herald of Valdemar and king and country blah blah blah, he manfully offers to drink up like a hazed frat brother during initiation if Kan-li will drop the Karsite connection that's threatening Valdemar and never bother them again. Kan-li is awesome with this.
While sobbing in the wagon, Reaylis shows up to tell him to buck the fuck up and get the crazies to take him to the valley to do this for reasons. Also, that Dallen is with them, and Mags suddenly realizes that his days of zoophilic pleasures untold might be at an end, which motivates him to ask Kan-li to take him to the valley and doesn't even bother with reasons, but I just wanted to use the word again so I put it in for fun times. He takes the herbs of remembrance and then his entire past lives (it's all very Bene Gesserit) hit him, but he uses his connection with Dallen to not be drowned beneath them.
(Observation: this is where Mags realizes his love for Amily is quiet and just like that he has for Dallen, but different. Everyone gasps; Dallen is gonna cut a bitch like whoa, and I'm not sure Amily will go in for cosplaying with a bridle and saddle during intimate moments.)
Afterward, Mags is able to speak the kidnapper language and use their greetings. Kidnappers are pleased, but not pleased enough not to keep Mags tied up (or maybe too pleased with bondage, who knows), and Reaylis brings Mags a tiny knife to cut his bonds before running away. Mags is halfway through when the Sunpriests show up in a truly stunning turn of events as the Talisman phase of this mindfuck is closing in and Mags gets free and is saved by Dallen being ridden by Franse who is being ridden by Reaylis, because writing it like that is funny as hell. Demons are called and Dallen and company make for White Foal Pass (so fortunate the kidnappers are right by it! Like, you would think they'd be much farther from Valdemar if they wanted to mindfuck their unwilling kidnap victim successfully). They get to Valdemar and the demons eat the Karsite soldiers and everyone is saved!
Moment of Philosophical WTF
Reaylis explains why it is only about five hundred years in the future before Karse gets any better (via Solaris's reign). You see, the people aren't rising up against their oppressors sufficiently. Yes, the poor peasants who aren't even allowed to have weapons, who are being burned to death for dissension, and who are being indoctrinated into sheep-like complacency by the people representing their god, are being cowardly fucks who should bootstrap themselves out of those flames and demons in righteous fury despite the fact that they do not instinctively know that the priests are totally wrong about Vkandis and evil, even though they have absolutely no reason to think this since it's kind of counterintuitive to well, what priests are and do.
This is not punishment, Reaylis explains; these are consequences of inaction due to paralyzing terror and instant death via demons who kill entire families both within and outside of their borders. When they buck the fuck up, they get help. So Valdemar is not to interfere due to lessons. All the other countries are forbidden to interfere in the bucking-up process and let the Karsites keep murdering their citizens, as apparently this is the consequences for not bucking up enough to like, not border Karse or something. With bootstraps, you can move countries. Really. Dude, an avatar of Vkandis says so.
Lesson: if bad people are fucking you over, that's okay, because your ass didn't fight back. But you might be helped, if a critical number of asses rebel to show you as a people are mad as hell and won't take this anymore. What the math of asses is we don't know, but that's okay, because no one even knows that's all they need to do. Might help if they knew pretty much any of this, but this really useful information that might have stopped a few centuries of murder of countless numbers of people and not a few wars is given to a Valemaran who is strictly told he cannot interfere. As that's cheating.
1.) WHO THE HELL ARE MAG'S PEOPLE ANYWAY? WHAT THE HELL IS A SPIRIT INFUSION? WHAT ARE THE TALISMANS? WHAT IS THE SHIDAO?
2.) What happened to Bear!Daddy?
3.) I'm pretty sure there is now no agreement about leaving Valdemar alone, whether or not the kidnappers survived (I think they didn't?).
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