I decided to start with an illustration of the first time I read this. Like interpretive dance, but with potoos.
One thing the co-authors want you to know is that they totes read the earlier books and so this one is legit. Therefore they never shut the fuck up in making reference to the other books, except about Mary because Mary is wiped off the face of the goddamn earths. Why? Who the fuck knows. This is fucking pointless filler. Yes, it’s often helpful to recap for the audience’s sake, but they’re using it as a goddamn crutch.
Also, about a year after their last trip to Anthropos, the day after Uncle John and Aunt Eleanor got married, the Friesen kids are worried that they’re going to split up because they always argue and work late to avoid each other. This is what counts as creativity in this book, people.
Anyway, the new neighbor kid, Betty, barges in to meet them. What cruel asshole names their kid Betty anymore? Though if I put on my English Major Goggles, Betty is a shortened form of the name Elizabeth, just like the name Lisa is. Does that mean Betty and Lisa are mirror foils of each other? Who cares, the amount of stupid in this book drowns any smart to be mined.
We had Strawman Satanist in the last book, but here we have Strawman New Age Hippie in Betty, who replaces Mary as Redemption Character. I miss you, Mary. Plot did crappy things to you, but you were surprisingly well-fleshed and sympathetic.
And forget all the maturity the Friesen kids (sometimes) gained over the course of their travels. They’ve not only regressed, they are fucking dumbasses now. If the dialog was wooden before, Norm Abram could make enough bedroom suites to furnish a hotel with the shit coming out of their mouths now.
Anyway, Betty makes her entrance to establish herself as Really Fucking Annoying, as if none of the others are. And boom, the last of the TVs upstairs turn on to suck the Friesens and Betty into Anthropos.
And then they are attacked by a swarm of weaver bees on the shores of Lake Bamah. Weaver bees are the last part of what counts as creativity in this book, and while it’s not so bad an idea, it’s just nowhere near enough to fill the void in my expectations. They are huge, vicious bees, but they produce a silk that’s super strong, and their honey apparently has some medicinal properties.
The kids end up escaping the bees by Wesley using the Sword of Geburah, and the sting welts by means of desperate prayer to Gaal, except that Betty wants to take credit because she did some mind-over-matter thing in deciding the stings weren’t there. I wish I knew some earnest New Agers to run this by their plausibility meters. I thought the point of mind-over-matter was essentially to trigger the placebo effect, not to be fucking magical and make welts disappear in seconds. Maybe New Agers have higher expectations than I do, or maybe Betty is kinda dumb. Or these coauthors figured that that just mind over matter wasn’t enough to make the audience believe that New Agers are Wrong and Dumb Because Not Christian.
Subtlety died for this, people.
Anyway, the kids are arrested and sent to prison for killing a precious swarm of weaver bees, and keep your alcohol at the ready, because it’s all “hurr, hurr, medieval people are stupid because they don’t understand some modern words.” Technically, they are under arrest for treason to Queen Hisschi and King Tiqvah because the weaver bees belong to the crown.
Guess who’s evil? No, really, out of all the names given, who could possibly be a bad guy? No, surely not the one with the sinister sibilants! I had my doubts because it was too fucking obvious, but this hardly counts as a spoiler.
And in prison they find out that true followers of Gaal are being persecuted and sent to prison on trumped-up charges of treason, though everybody is a nominal follower of Gaal, except it really isn’t Gaal because they say things like Gaal is a symbol or Gaal is like yin to Lord Lunacy’s (remember him?) yang or whatever. Relativism! Get your tinfoil hats on, it’s scary, scary relativism! And evil, heathen pantheism!
Hare Krishna fuck, it’s like Paranoid Christian Bingo. Persecution! Lies disguised in relativism, because that is how relativism works! Pantheism! Berets, because scary relativists wear floppy hats!
Maybe it’s just me, because I’m surrounded in RepubliChristianism and my dad has succumbed to Fox News Geezer Syndrome, and I just can’t take this anymore.
Anyway, the kids escape the prison with help from an ambiguous spirit and get separated, but by various ways and means reach the castle to talk with King Tiqvah. They try to make feels here, but it doesn’t really work because these coauthors suck. And this would have been the perfect time for some FEELS. It was mentioned back in Iron Sceptre that Tiqvah and Mary had become really good friends during the two years the kids were in Anthropos that time, but all that emotional potential is ignored because these dumbasses apparently forgot that Mary existed. WHAT. THE. HAIRY. FUCK.
Of course, Tiqvah’s forgetting may play into the scary, scary relativism because apparently he now mistakes a vulture for an eagle. First of all:
Second, that’s kinda species-racist that buzzards are supposed to be bad by merit of being buzzards. What’s wrong with buzzards? Besides being kinda ugly. They play an important role in the ecosystem and all. One was a protagonist in Treasure Traitor.
But yeah, that’s how this goes. We know Anthropos is all corrupted with scary relativism because they think vultures are eagles, because that matters for some reason. A rose by any other name? Shakespeare’s going to Special Hell, with child molesters and people who talk in the theatre. (If you haven’t caught on yet, my threshold of tolerance for jeremiads on relativism has been undermined.)
Blahblahblah, the kids (except Betty, who is being specially groomed to be on Lord Lunacy’s side by the Queen) accept a mission to go to the Island of Geburah to find a weaver bee colony and collect honey to soothe the King’s secret illness. Blahblah, journeyjourney, obstacles and ogres and henchmen of the Queen.
On the way they see a bunch of the true followers of Gaal going to Lake Nachash, but Gaal’s pigeon keeps them going on their own path. They come to the lake, build a raft, get to the Island of Geburah, where Queen Hisschi had brought Betty, rescue Betty, then go to the royal lodge on the south side of the lake, where the true followers of Gaal are.
And then apocalypse happens, efel spawn, goblins, harpies, Qadar, etc. Fightfightfight, then Gaal shows up and boom, deus ex machina and now everywhere is the Bayith of Yayin and Metaphor Heaven.
Oh, and Uncle John and Aunt Eleanor come home, see the Sword of Geburah and the kids gone, then the wall melts into Anthropos and they see Gaal and BAM, no more marital problem, because of course everything solves itself if you just chuck some Jesus-metaphor at it. Then the household of the Sword Bearer returns home but have happies forever and ever, and Mary still doesn’t exist.
As far as I could find, coauthors Dale and Sandy Larsen have not written anything else and hallelujah because they suck balls at it. I have no idea if they were family to White or what, but it would have been better if they had literally shit on his work and not subjected the reading public to the metaphorical version. The only advantage this has over Mary Sue fanfics posted online by dumbass thirteen-year-olds is that it was actually proofed for spelling and grammar at least once.
Now I need to watch some Thug Notes as a palate-cleanser.