I know it’s been nearly three weeks since we last visited these characters. This probably explains my somewhat tepid reaction to these chapters. But we’re here now, so let’s get moving. As always, there are spoilers everywhere.
When we last left John, Laurie and Bill, they’d been hiding in the woods for eight months in a show of being the least proactive characters ever. But hey, John met Ravishan, so that was OK. Anyway, the cliffhanger scene in the last book involved John meeting a group of bandits, including a talking dog, who were planning to kill a young man who was supposed to be an Ushiri candidate–the Ushiri being the priests that can eventually open the gates between Basawar and our world.
John, against the protests of Bill and Laurie, goes to warn the convoy escorting the nobleman to expect an ambush. They’re skeptical, but eventually send John along to verify the ambush. It’s a slaughter, with the noble family–the Bousim family, to be specific–coming out victorious. In the course of battle, John saves the lives of Alidas, the Bousim soldier he was riding with, and Saimura, one of the bandits.
John and his companions are brought back to the Bousim estate. After a tense conversation with Lady Bousim, who thinks they are from the Eastern Kingdom, John meets up with Pivan, the military leader for the Bousim clan, who charges John with bringing the Ushiri candidate up the Thousand Steps in the side of a mountain that lead to the temple of Pashir and his priest training. John has no choice but to agree, so he and the boy, Fikiri, begin the journey, which they complete successfully. We end the John POV chapters as John runs into Ravishan and they exchange more sexy banter.
Meanwhile, Kahlil has been taken in by a group of mercenaries, lead by Alidas. It becomes clear that Kahlil is a lot farther forward in time than John et al. are, because Alidas is definitely the same guy John met, but older. Anyway, Alidas gives Kahlil an assignment. he’s supposed to prevent the assassination of Jath’ibaye, a warlord from the north who has become prominent. Kahlil takes an undercover job as a runner for the Lisam household. As he finds out about elicit plans, he discovers that there is someone else who can manipulate the Gray Space as well.
I have to be honest with you guys. I was not interested in much of John’s storyline. He continues to be fairly reactive, and to be honest I find him a shitty friend. The few conversations here between him, Laurie and Bill were hard to read, because I found myself being more on Bill and Laurie’s side of events. Here they are, trapped in a world that isn’t their own, with Bill being actively very ill, and instead of trying to find a way out of the situation, their friend who got them here in the first place is swanning around the countryside being one with nature and flirting with young, hot priests. Then, when John does get them under the protection of Lady Bousim, he immediately leaves them in a volatile situation without telling them why. He has good reasons for what he does, but considering that Bill and Laurie wouldn’t be in dire straights if it weren’t for John, I feel like he owes them more than, “Gosh, well, I can’t tell them I’m leaving because it’ll be better for them.” I have to believe Bill and Laurie do serve some plot purpose–and it’s been hinted at that Laurie has power–but right now I find myself resenting the way they are written as the millstones around John’s neck.
The Kahlil chapters are much more interesting to me. Now that I understand that he’s some 20 years further ahead in time than John is, I’m left with lots of questions and theories. Kahlil is also a fairly reactive character, but since his memories have been shattered, I think that’s more reasonable. I can understand and sympathize with his struggles. I also find myself curious. The text seems to be implying that John = Jath’ibaye in the same way that it’s implying that Kahlil = Ravishan.
As to the romance, considering I spent most of the time I was reading being vaguely impatient with John, and since there were no real developments on that front, I don’t have much to say.
Lastly, I loved some of the side characters. The brash runner Fensal really appealed, as did Pivan, the military commander, although honestly that probably had a lot to do with the fact that he was willing to tell John he was being an asshole.
I haven’t fallen in love yet. I can see that the writing is very good, and if I’ve connected enough to the characters to find their tics annoying, that says something. But this installment rated a pretty solid C.
What did you guys think? Hopefully, y’all liked this part better than I did.