- King Renka. King of Vinterus.
- Princess Irrinel. Of Vinterus. Does more of the ruling than her father does.
- Sorn. Member of the academy high council.
- Edreas. Member of the academy high council.
- Brenton. The stabler. The person who is in charge of the stables.
It kind of feels like these next few chapters are here just to set stuff up for the next book. Aedan overhears some foreign people talk when he’s in the stables. They’re talking in a foreign language, so Aedan goes to Fergal to translate some of the words he wasn’t sure about. He learns about the foreigners, and how they’re potentially bad news for the kingdom.
Later he visits Osric and learns more about earthstars. They’re so rare and valuable that kingdoms will go to war over them at a drop of a hat, and Thirna’s found a whole lot. So that’s why Fenn and maybe Vinterus are being the way they are.
Because of the threat of hostile foreign kingdoms, a lot of soldiers had gone off to other areas of the kingdom, leaving the streets unprotected. So the hooligans (my word) are out causing trouble. They’re out their killing folks and taking their money. Osric has a good line.
“The irony of war,” he said. “It has always been this way. We are taught to think that the battle lines separate the good from the bad, but the truth, as you are beginning to understand, is less comfortable.”
Then he talks about the Fenn a bit more.
Later, Aedan is talking to Lorrimer, and he asks Lorrimer if he thinks that anger is wrong. It’s a pretty good conversation. They decide it depends on how you use it. Not for revenge, but-
“One of my uncles used to come over when he was drunk and play this game where he would jab his knife into the table between my fingers. I could see my father was scared, but he didn’t want to argue with his brother-in-law, so instead he just laughed – that thin, false kind of laugh. When he hugged me afterwards I hated it. it was like he was lying. I used to think that if cared anything he would have got angry. If you care about people and you really love them, you should get angry at the things that put them in danger or hurt them.”
Lorrimer says that. It was a difficult secret for him to say. Aedan confesses that his father used to beat him and his mother. He says that sometimes he hid when someone else got beat and he thinks “the shame hurts more than the bruises would have.”
The chapter ends with Aedan running to Dun with an idea with what to do about the hooligans.
Predictions: I guess I could start making predictions for the next book here, but I think I’ll just use this space to give my thoughts.
In some ways, I like this short conversation Aedan has with Lorrimer over all the other conversations Aedan has had with Fergal or Osric. I think because it’s not just some character imparting Wisdom on our little protagonist, but a conversation between equal friends. Not that those conversations weren’t good and necessary, but I feel like this conversation between Lorrimer and Aedan shows Aedan’s growth in a way that you just can’t see in conversations between the mentor/student relationship that Aedan has with Fergal and Osric. And seeing him open up to his friends – especially since we haven’t been able to delve deep into their characters – is incredibly cathartic. Just, finally.
In the beginning of the chapter Aedan is going around the city with his friends and other soldiers – including Cameron the guard that Aedan met when he first arrived to Castath – dressing up as women and other easy-looking victims so the hooligans will try to attack them, then they’d take the hooligans down instead. It’s very effective. Some of the strategies Aedan uses are callbacks to things that happened during the boring school part of this book.
While they’re doing that, Aedan runs into his father’s gang. They follow Aedan.
Clauman confronts Aedan. His first words are, “I have tried very hard not to despise you, but you are determined to earn my hatred.”
Like, okay. Whatever dude. Basic villain line, that.
Clauman tells Aedan that he’s going to provide information to Clauman about soldier’s schedules and whatever other information that might be useful to Clauman. Aedan freezes like every other time he’s faced his father’s anger. but this time he says “No.” His father beats him, and after he’s done he asks Aedan again if he understands his assignment.
Aedan understood. The message was sharp and clear. But another message began to rumble in his mind. It was the message he had understood as that colossal voice had spoken his name the second time. It was a message so pure with its kindness, and so terrifying with its power, that the lies had crawled out from their hidings and melted before it.
Aedan stands again, and one of Cluman’s men attack him. Aedan’s reflexes from all those grueling chapters of schooling take over and he knocks the guy down. Clauman asks why Aedan didn’t attack him, and it turns into an argument. I’ll try to summarize.
Aedan tells Clauman he forgives him. Clauman doesn’t understand. He’s super insecure whenever he feels left out of anything, like Nessa teaching Aedan different languages, or Aedan hanging out at Kalry’s place instead of at home. So that makes him angry and act out. Brilliant, dude.
Aedan’s tries to be like, but how does that explain you never coming back home that time we moved to Castath and you were gone for days, but Clauman realizes that there are still people around, so he gets all hard again and leaves.
Predictions: I feel like Renshaw is going to try to redeem Clauman in a later book and this chapter was trying to set Clauman up as redeemable, but, I don’t think he completely succeeds. His last line is all like, “No son of mine would ever question me so you can’t be my son!” [paraphrase] And, like, this dude needed therapy like, 20 years ago. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been too prideful to just freaking talk to people about my insecurities, and especially in recent years I’ve seen a lot less stigma in going to therapy, but his whole attitude is so unnecessary.
How did he and Nessa end up together when he never wants to talk about freaking anything? What is this man-child doing? Literally, the only reason you’re not with your family right now is through your own dumb actions. How did you get to be this way, Clauman? This toxicity is killing me…
Aedan tells Osric, Tyne, and Merter about his run-in with his father. Tyne chalks up Clauman’s violence to an overabundance of pride and says that pride is terrible, but wonders if there’s hope for him. Aedan hopes so.
Oh, honey no. There’s no hope. Just accept Osric as your new father. He’s the one that got you a horse, remember? Did Clauman ever get you a horse? No? Then there you go, Osric’s your daddy.
During the night Aedan wakes up and has like this really strong urge to read the Lekran book. He fights it, but eventually Aedan finally reads the Lekran book! He finds out that before the noble girl is sacrificed she has to reach the age of maturity, which is 18 years. So Kalry is still alive and they have like over a year to go rescue her. Ha! Called it! Knew she was alive!
Aedan is super excited, but Fergal tells him that before he can go to Lekrau to go rescue he has to be able to pass himself off as a local Lekrau. So Aedan gets to work on learning Lekrau. Like, he has zero hesitation in doing everything he can to save Kalry, even though he hated learning anything about Lekrau throughout the whole book. It’s pretty effective in showing how much Aedan cares for Kalry.
Aedan gets the idea to include Liru, Peasot, and Hadley in the Lekrau trip. Aedan doesn’t want Lorrimer to come because he’s too tall (he’ll stand out), and Vayle is too lazy. Liru, Peashot, and Hadley are going to pretend to be slaves. He tells them about his plans on top of a wall outside.
The others leave, and Aedan takes out Kalry’s journal. He reads a few entries, then he starts to climb down the ladder. But halfway down he decides to jump because of the glow-y powerfulness he’s been feeling ever since he met God. And then he more or less floats down? He doesn’t get hurt even though he should have from the height he jumped.
He goes to study some more.
That’s it that’s the book.
I am excited for the next book. Just the fact that so much time won’t be spent on Aedan just learning skills will make the next book much better than this one. This book was longer than it needed to be, and the focus was on the things I, personally, didn’t care that much about. My (completely unsolicited advice) to Renshaw is to work on showing the characteristics of his different characters instead of just saying what they are. They felt very much like Dungeons and Dragons characters in that they had these traits that sounded good on paper, but, he needed to play with them a bit more. They weren’t properly implemented into the story. Well, Aedan was fine, but, especially Aedan’s roommates were criminally underused in the plot. They didn’t have their own character arcs. Heck, I can’t even tell you why any of them chose to be a marshal instead of a soldier! It’s never said!
That being said, the world building was great. It’s definitely one of Renshaw’s strengths. My biggest wish would be for more talk of the mythology of the region. The Ancient exists, but why are there so few records of The Ancient? Are there stories of The Ancient appearing to other people? Also, religion. Do people regularly worship The Ancient, or do they have their own gods? Are there any gods that they used to worship but don’t anymore? It’d be cool to see more of what kind of holidays they have too. I know that’s a lot to think about when you just want to get the story down, but it would be playing to Renshaw’s strengths, and it would be a good way to encapsulate the values his fantasy culture has.
More of my unsolicited advice would be to remember that the internal struggle of your characters is just as important as the external struggle that they’re facing – and that’s true for more than just the main character.
Make sure your villains are internally consistent. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to write a scene from their point of view – for your sake, as a writer, if nothing else. I can’t decide if Clauman reaches that level of internal consistency. It would be nice to see from his point of view how he and Nessa got together because I am still so lost on that.
But, yeah, my last words? I expect the second book to be much better than the first. That’s my final prediction.