Another chapter split on my part… I swear we’re almost done here. It’s just that again, there’s so much in this one chapter alone.
Kelsea has set off with her guards to chase the slave shipment. Her jewel is guiding her—if she goes in the wrong direction, she feels sick. Her guards, of course, aren’t at all curious about this GPS jewel. I mean, it’s a fucking magic jewel that glows and can knock people over, which you would think would be enough to inspire a little bit of interest, but they’re entirely dismissive. Instead, the guards think that Kelsea is mad. However, they’re too lazy to restrain her and prefer to just belittle her instead.
It had been more than a month, and many of them had come to know her, but nothing had really changed. She was still the girl they’d brought like a piece of baggage from Barty and Carlin’s cottage, the girl who couldn’t ride, who could barely be trusted to put up her own tent. It was Mace they listened to, whose word counted, and in the final judgement even Mace had treated her like a wayward child.
Yup. I also wonder why these guards expect the queen to put up her own tent. She’s a hereditary monarch, not a Girl Scout leader.
Anyway, Kelsea and her guards track down the secret slave shipment and attack yonder evildoers. Kelsea hangs back from the fighting as she’s not experienced enough with weapons yet, and lo and behold, guess who shows up? It’s the Fetch! He’s been tracking the slaves as well, and takes the opportunity to give Kelsea back her necklace that he took from her chapters and chapters ago.
“I’ve waited a long time for you, Tear Queen. Longer than you can imagine.”
He also insults her haircut, but whatever.
With the second necklace, Kelsea suddenly gets super magic powers and can see glimpses of other worlds. Back in the real world, she notices that a slave cage has been set and fire and darts towards it with super speed.
The narrative changes to the point of view of Javel, the gate guard, who was in on that whole conspiracy that involved evil and slutty albino ladies, chapters and chapters back. He feels rather bad about this whole thing and kills one of his fellow guards, who has been being a total rapist lately because what’s a fantasy novel without lots and lots of rape? Oh, and dead women and children.
The second woman was nothing but a blazing torch, a dark, writhing shape with arms that waved madly from inside the fire. While Javel watched, in a span of time that seemed endless, her arms sank to her sides and her body simply collapsed. She had no face anymore, ony a blackened thing that burned madly, spreading flame along the cage floor… Jeffrey and William’s mother was burning now, her hair and face on fire. Her dress had gone up first and Javel knew, in the part of the mind that remained cold and suspended in such situations, that the baby inside her was already dead.
How on earth does he know? Does he have a special grimdark sixth sense? Anyway, if miscarriage doesn’t quite sate your need for the horrific deaths of children, there are more dead kids later on in the chapter. No, really. Anyway, Javel has a last-second change of heart and attempts to open the cages.
I don’t think that Johansen means these particular scenes of violence to be titillating—they’re presented as genuinely horrific, not as pornography for people who can’t admit their tastes to themselves. Nobody’s getting whipped to death by a convenient sect of nude, pert-breasted ninja assassins. However, every live woman in this book, excepting Kelsea and her elderly mother figure, Carlin, is either a heinous, murderous, oversexualized bitch or the victim of severe physical and/or sexual abuse. The closest we get to a woman who escapes those categories is Andalie, and she’s a literal witch.
What’s even more annoying is that these women’s suffering is used as character development for the men—the Regent abuses Marguerite to confirm that he’s an awful person, the suffering women in the cages spur Javel’s moral redemption, one of Kelsea’s guards has absolutely no characteristics at all except a beef with Evil Arlen Thorne over a woman, and so on. None of this abuse is central to the story—we know that the Regent is corrupt, and that slavery is bad, and that Evil Arlen Thorne is, well, Evil with a capital E, what with the whole slavemongering thing.
Anyway, Kelsea is able to use the power of her jewels to bring water down from the sky in a great storm, extinguishing the fire, then passes out from the effort. This is pretty cool, and it opens up a lot of new directions for the narrative—how can Kelsea use these powers? Where do they come from? etc. I have to give Johansen points for not including a wise old mentor who, despite supposedly being wise, solely dispenses information after the fact.