Wow, this was shittier than I remembered. I had to go back and make sure I didn’t recommend Gaal the Conqueror over this.
This is where character continuity begins to get borked in the ear. Mary is our Redemption Character, AGAIN. And she has to be saved from her fascination with witchcraft. That goddamn Satanic Panic of the ’80s and ’90s.
Anyway, at least some of this makes sense because of course it occurred to nobody to get that girl some goddamn therapy, and she still has issues of security within people’s affections, manifesting as a desire to control people so she can make sure they always love her. The control freak aspects could have been understandable if they weren’t glossed over with the power-hungry witchcraft bullshit.
And the Friesens; Wesley, Kurt, and Lisa; are shown to be fairly mature as a result of their years in Anthropos, but between the siblings it’s the most evident of how wooden and unnatural the dialog gets to be. It’s not fucking awful, but it’s close.
The telling over showing is noticeably worse here than it has been for a couple of books.
Anyway, Mary is fairly pissed because Uncle John is (finally) getting married to Eleanor (forty years after their ship tease), and she feels he doesn’t love her as much as he used to. Jealousy and desperate possessiveness and all that, and well justified because Uncle John is just about the only adult — and pretty much the only man — who has been decent to her.
And it was an interesting decision to set this in Hong Kong, but I don’t think John White used this particularly well. He rambles on about streets and the islands and subways and junk, but I was more confused than enlightened or entertained, and that was mostly because of the telling over showing. He put some of the telling into the characters’ mouths as part of the dialog, which did sound more natural, but overall this just didn’t flow well.
And so the wedding is in the middle of a typhoon, leaving the Friesens stuck in Singapore and Mary feeling alone with everyone besides Mrs. Choi preoccupied with the bridal couple. But then the couple disappears from the limousine between the church and the hotel. Mary is damn sure they went to Anthropos and is plotting to join them.
The Friesens arrive from Singapore, and there is much awkward because Mary doesn’t interact well with non-motherly grownups, and Mr. Friesen is not motherly. So the kids plan to dink around the walking trails on the island, but Mary decides she wants to fiddle with Uncle John’s laptop at the Chans’ place.
The Friesen kids get sucked up in a glowy-blue twister to Anthropos while on Lion Rock, and Mary programs a spell into Uncle John’s laptop to get her to Anthropos under her own power.
I wish I knew some earnest Wiccans or pagans to run this by their plausibility meter. First of all, assuming this Satanic bullshit was 1) a thing that existed, 2) anything resembling what Wiccans/pagans do, would using a computer be anything but cheap “computers are deus ex machina” writer blorf? Anyway, White does some ’splaining a little later, but this still too much like “hurr, hurr, how do I computer?” for me to find comfortable.
So guess what we’re Biblical-plagiarizing this time! Because this one was written after Gaal the Conqueror and I’m pretty sure this is how White’s flow of ideas went:
The moral of this story, children, is to quit while you’re ahead, which was about four books ago.
And the answer to the plagiarism question is Epiphany. Turns out these guys did a timey-wimey and appeared in between their Uncle John’s visits as a kid. In Anthropos chronology, this is between Sword Bearer and Gaal the Conqueror, and here is where series continuity gets WTF because Anthropos is clearly supposed to be High Middle Ages-ish in Quest, but feels more Late Roman–Dark Ages-ish in Conqueror. This bugs me. A lot.
Anyway, Wesley, Kurt, and Lisa meet up with some philosophers from Glason who are looking for a child born about two years ago, while Mary is on the other side of Anthropos and meets up with a Lord Nasa and his wife Lady Roelane, who are on their way to Bamah, the capital. There’s a bit of an Exodus and Prince Caspian flavor to this, because both groups are guided by a column of blue cloud and fire that can only be seen by the people with the best Aslan Gaal vibes.
The siblings and philosophers get more action, being pursued by soldiers and struggling through near-pathless forests and junk. Mary has more touchy-feels and relationship-building with Lord Nasa and Lady Roelane, but particularly with Lady Roelane, but it’s mostly White’s platform for Satanic Strawman Rebuttal. That means it’s rather boring and pretty obnoxious. Sadly, only some parts of the sib/philos journey are interesting, and it’s super tell-over-show. If you played a drinking game of either tell-over-show or what-kid-fucking-talks-like-that-even-if-they-are-Canadian, you would be dead in about ten minutes.
And then it continues to be blah until the climax, and even then I question White’s choices, but I don’t think I can get away by skipping to the climax quite yet.
The Queen of Anthropos is a good guy and keeps getting compared to Joan of Arc, but her husband the King is apparently taken over by evil spirits. When everybody gets to Bamah, the King does Herod and asks them to find this spectacular boy-child and report back to him so that he may see him.
Blahblahblah, they journey through more forest and find an old prophet and his great-great-granddaughter, blahblah they find Baby Gaal and his earthly parents, they meet up with the Queen, who brought the prophet and his granddaughter with her, and they plan to go to Bamah to burn down the temple. I’m not really sure why. The plot dictates that they burn down the temple in Bamah for a climax.
Journeyjourney, fightfight with the King’s soldiers and with goblins. Lisa shows them the secret tunnel from the banks of the Rure to the inside of the temple. More fightfight with goblins and soldiers and the undead King. Then more journeyjourney to find a “doorway” of the Emperor that will whisk Baby Gaal and the Queen away to safe exile in Glason.
Also, the Friesen kids’ parents magically miraculously see the battle and junk on magic miraculous wall-TV-thing in their hotel room. I didn’t mention it earlier (because it’s boring/not important), but Fred Friesen really hated for his kids to talk about their “imaginary” Anthropos. I don’t know why. But now he must eat crow because he sees it for himself. Neener-neener. I question this choice. It doesn’t really add anything.
But it is revealed at the end [spoilers] that Lord Nasa and Lady Roelane are Uncle John and now-Aunt Eleanor, who were miraculously disguised as twenty-something. Apparently John’s been to Anthropos more than he let on. I question this choice, too, but at least it has plot significance because yay, Mary has relationship with the lady she thought would steal Uncle John from her.
And goddamn, this means I have now have to put The Dark Lord’s Demise near my faceholes. Get ready for dipshit amateur hour whenever I finish it and also am sober, because this might change my mind on being too poor to buy booze.