There isn’t much to report in the way of news this time around. Which is odd, right? I mean, considering this is definitely going to be bigger than Twilight and is going to be a major motion picture *checks watch* this year? Really? Are we still buying that line?
This is another ridiculously long chapter, so at the risk of extending the recap of this book out through the course of my entire natural life and into the bowels of hell that will feel like a blessed escape from this shit pile, I have to split the recap in twain.
Chapter nineteen begins with Chuckie Spopperfield and Mac sitting in Zani’s room.
The seconds felt like hours, the minutes felt like days, and the hours felt like years while they waited for Dela to be ready.
That’s pretty much what the last three chapters have felt like, honestly.
My body, if you missed the shallow breaths I was still taking, looked cold and lifeless. I couldn’t tell you where “I” was (as far as my spirit was concerned) because I have no memories of this except theirs.
It’s cool. We’re really not all that interested in where you were during this whole If I Stay interlude. But thanks for going on to tell us how worried Mac is about you.
While Mac looked hollow, like his soul had been drained of any life, Charles knows how to maintain the appearance of looking like things were okay even when they aren’t.
Wow, check out the double POV skew here. Sure, authors sometimes skew POV but twice in the same sentence is Olympic-level failure.
Wait, I just realized what Sarem competed in during the totally real Olympic career she claimed to have in the comments section here that one time. Which I will never stop bringing up. Writing Failure is an event, right?
As an aside, Lazi notes that Charles picked up the habit of pretending that everything is/was okay when it isn’t/aren’t because he’s such a great performer. I want to know how this is like, the one aspect of social interaction he’s managed to successfully copy and act out. Because like. He’s not great at interacting with other people any other time in the book.
Dela comes in and tells them that everything is ready for the ritual. She asks Mac if he remembers what he’s supposed to do.
Thinking through what she had said, he worked to convince himself that he coudl do what he had been told he would have to do. He slowly nodded his head in agreement. “Uh, yeah, I think so.” He didn’t sound very convincing.
Oh good, that’s exactly what you want in a dude who’s about to plunge a dagger into your heart.
He was also feeling the pressure of what he was responsible for.
That’s right. Everyone remember that Mac is responsible for the fact that Lungfish used him as an ingredient in her super dangerous spell without his permission and therefore he didn’t act exactly the way he needed to in order to carry out this spell and it’s…all his fault?
“Okay. Well, it’s time now. We need to go, but there is one last thing, Mac. You have to believe this will work. The mind is a powerful thing––the most powerful thing on earth even––and it can will magick into existence…or extinguish it.” Mac swallowed and nodded; he understood that my life was most certainly in his hands and it terrified him.
So…is Mac saying this? No. He’s not. That’s why he shouldn’t be tagging the dialogue. Especially since there’s no paragraph break at all and the previous paragraph ended in his thoughts, too.
Dela asks Mac to carry Larva outside, but first, we need to hear again how tragic and sickly she looks:
Looking through his eyes, it shocked me that my body looked so lifeless and the only thing that contradicted that was just small breaths that you could barely see. It was odd to see how I looked through everyone’s eyes––but more so through Mac’s. My skin was pale and when he touched my hand it felt cold and clammy.
The repetition in this book, my god. Stop padding it out. The faster we get to the end of this mess, the better. Also, does she look somehow healthier through Sandwich and Chuck’s eyes? If her physical state is barely breathing and lifeless, it’s unlikely she looks spry and hale when non-Mac people look at her, so the line about “more so through Mac’s eyes” makes no sense.
Like 99.33333333% of this book.
They go into the backyard and under some old oak trees and weeping willows.
In that moment, the trees truly looked like they were weeping.
Even the god damn trees are mourning for the potential loss of this remarkable soul?
Mac’s grip seemed to tighten as he walked, clutching me against his chest and kissing my forehead softly, in a way that was both caring and protective.
You know. As opposed to when you’re protective but you don’t really care.
A few evenly placed fountains had been cleverly built by my mother so that they could be converted into an altar whenever needed.
Why not just put up a permanent altar? Everyone in town knows you do witchy shit, Subway. Seems a lot easier and less expensive than running underground plumbing. Also, I need to understand how fountains can be converted to an altar, but again, there’s no description where it’s needed and tons of description where it’s not needed. We get paragraphs upon paragraphs about Zed’s clothing and how it flutters as she descends from on high, but no real sense of what this altar and ritual space looks like.
I can’t get over this. There’s barely any description of what the setting looks like in the most climactic scene of the book. Who does that? Who. Does. That.
The moonlight was shining through the trees and beaming directly on the spot where Mac was going to lay me down. It was almost perfect––and also very strange––the way the eerie silvery light hit exactly on top of the altar as if it were part of a lighting plot from the theater.
“It looks very dramatic, trust me!”
Dela led the walk wearing a cloak and carrying a large lit candle, which made her look practically regal. She was also carrying something oddly shaped and wrapped in velvet, which she held close and protectively.
I need to go off on a tangent here about crushed velvet and witch aesthetic. I have never in my life understood why velvet is so popular among a demographic that owns so many god damn cats. If the Neo-Pagan community ever broke free from the spell of crushed velvet the entire lint roller industry would collapse.
They walked to the long, stone table in the middle of the backyard.
Wait, wait, wait. On the last page, they had already walked “to the back part of the grounds behind the house and stopped under several large ancient oak trees near a couple of weeping willows.” That’s where the makeshift altar was. Now, it’s a stone table in the middle of the yard. No editor caught this? Sarem herself couldn’t keep track of the setting of the climax of her own novel for an entire page?
Charles took the ropes that Dela also had in her hands and bound my legs and arms to the table.
Is she gonna get away?
Mac is still struggling to grasp the “maghjihk is real” theme of the past two chapters.
Dela had explained everything that was about to happen to him as best as she could and––though it sounded crazy when he heard it––he thought that perhaps when he saw it, it would seem better and not as insane.
I’m going to buy a thesaurus, roll up into a Wizard World con, find their resident scam artist, slam it down on her table, and walk away without a word.
The winds were blowing hard and thunder could be heard off in the distance. Lightning danced across the sky and ripped through the clouds coming closer as the storm blew in; suddenly it was bellowing and intense.
If it’s stormy, how can they see the perfectly staged moonlight?
I had to admit that the storm made for a dramatic type of evening and was very fitting considering the situation––though it was a bit too Vegas for my taste.
It’s too Vegas for her taste. Literally, there was a dramatic storm as part of her majikel illusion that she designed, but yeah, these effects outside in nature where they are actually supposed to happen are just tacky.
I fucking hate this book so much. I’m going to Facebook Live me eating a whole god damn birthday cake and drinking a bottle of whiskey when I finish this recap. And the cake is going to say “Team Fuck This Scam Artist” in icing.
Dela ripped my shirt just enough to expose the middle of my chest, then took out a vial and rubbed something red on me. It reminded Mac of something he had seen in a movie once where it was called dragon’s blood.
Dragon’s Blood is a resin. You can’t make essential oil from it. Most Dragon’s Blood oil is either just fragrance oil or it’s some base oil with powdered dragon’s blood resin in it.
So, you know how Sarem references all the time that something looks like a movie or something from the stage? It’s making me so worried about my current YA work in progress. The heroine is autistic and had wanted to go to film school. She compares things to various movies because they’re her focused interest (as they were mine when I was a teenager). Now I’m seriously rethinking this character trait because of how clunky it seems in Handbook For Mortals. On the other hand, we know that Sarem talks about how dramatically cinematic her scenes look because this novel was basically a sales pitch for a movie she couldn’t get off the ground because her screenplay was fucking terrible, too. So, maybe I’ll be okay.
Even though they’re about to do this dire ritual and Zippy’s life is still in danger, Mac starts wondering if vampires and werewolves are real. No, this is actually a full paragraph happening in what is supposed to be an action-filled moment in the story:
That began to make him wonder: if magick was actually real, what else did people go around thinking was made up that really existed, as well? What about werewolves, vampires, fairies, genies, or Never-Never Land? Was everything made up really based off of reality? He thought of all the wonderful and terrible things that might actually be out in the world, and silently laughed at the irony, not really knowing if he was actually correct.
…where is this supposed irony here?
Every chapter has to have at least one inappropriately timed reminder of Zart’s staggering ethereal beauty and that’s not gonna stop just because she looks like a corpse:
Dela walked around and stood on the other side of the stone and me, her beloved daughter. She paused for a moment to stare at my face. Her words echoed in my head as she gazed and my face and thought about how hauntingly beautiful it was.
Deli takes out a dagger and she and Mac hold it together until it pulses with electricity.
Once Dela let go of the dagger and only Mac was holding it, he had to grip it with both hands as the pulsating energy grew stronger. Mac could feel it coursing throughout his entire body. The moonlight hit the dagger and it almost began to glow.
The moonlight that can break through the storm clouds?
As the winds picked up and rain started to fall, the sky seemed to open right above the altar.
Oh, that’s how the moonlight is getting through to be a totally not-Vegas-like spotlight.
The Vegas thing is still killing me. Like, she was criticizing how the setting of her possible death looked? That is laughably entitled. I’m not going to get over it.
The church bells chime and Sandwiches has to yell over the dramatic thunder and wind to tell Mac that it’s time.
Mac had been taught the chant that he needed to say, but for a moment panic spread over his face. He had forgotten the chant. How had he forgotten the simple words that Dela had taught him just moments earlier in the house?
When, exactly, was this? Because we never saw him learn these words “just moments earlier.” It never happened.
Also, you had one job, Mac.
Dela realizes he needs to call for his line, so she gives him the first two words so he can remember.
The words were odd and Mac didn’t know what they really meant, because when Dela offered to explain them to him, he said he didn’t want to know.
How is this spell working if Mac has no idea what he’s saying? How can he trust he’s not being asked to reanimate Zargon as a zombie or kill her entirely and steal her magic or something? He doesn’t know these people. How does he know they’re not making him recite a spell that will bind him to Larvae forever? Or siphon off his life into her?
Also, let’s talk about the words, what they say, and just how “simple” they are:
“Sa ovim bodežom, prožet magije starih, i moje vere, neka ljubav preokrene kletvu Ja vaskrsne duh, dušu i telo Via Gardrich Verdicy!”
Now, I don’t know from Croatian, but that’s the language Google Translate detected (although it suggested that the last words should be spelled differently, despite not being able to translate them. Maybe it’s a name?) and it claims the spell he’s chanting is “With this dagger, pervaded by the magic of the old, and my true, let love reversed the curse I the crosswind spirit, the soul and the body Via Gardrič Verdičj!” This isn’t “simple” and easy to learn in moments for someone who doesn’t speak Croation. Is Sarem high?
Then, he did the unthinkable.
Though his hand quivered, he plunged the dagger into my chest.
Raise your hand if the thought of stabbing this character in the chest isn’t unthinkable at all to you.
The moment the dagger went all the way in, my body lifted from the altar everywhere but from my chest.
So, she flopped around, is what this is describing? And how is her body lifting up if she’s tied down? Did we forget that part?
Lightning struck the dagger, and Mac flew backwards, falling to the ground; in his hand he foudn that he was holding an oddly shaped glass sculpture, similar to what sand looks like when lightning hits it. In the flashing of the lightning, the weird contortions of the glass were twisted and yet beautiful.
Not only is “lightning” repeated three times in this paragraph, it’s repeated twice in the same sentence. This is probably one of only parts of this book that I genuinely like, though. Not just because Mac gets struck by lightning, but because it’s one of the few places where there seems to be any continuity or motif, in that it’s a callback to the earlier sand glass thing in the illusion. So, congrats, we found something that actually works here.
Zark starts barfing blood and the ropes around her arms and legs that the author forgot about before let go.
As he watched, the sight of blood pouring my mouth terrified Mac. He realized that he had no idea whether that meant things had gone right––or horribly wrong. He hadn’t actually been told what to expect once he did his part.
Oh, sweet! Irresponsible and selfish spellcasting is genetic. Sandwich McGee should have told Mac exactly what was going to happen in this ritual if she wanted him to be a part of it. Not doing so is just straight up bullshit.
Deli says they need to get Zunk inside, so Charles carries her.
I never really got to ride around on my dad’s shoulders as a kid. And though I didn’t get the real chance of experiencing him holding me then, either, at least I got his view of it.
Yet another example of Sarem having no clue how to employ italics. This isn’t a thought. It’s a part of the narrative.
They take Zard into her room, undress her and wrap her in blankets, and we get a reminder that she looks lifeless, is taking shallow breaths, and doesn’t remember this except through the memories of others. Writing Tip: If you’ve spent several chapters writing under the pretense that your narrator is viewing things through other people’s memories, trust that your readers are smart enough to remember which literary device you’re using. Because after a while, it becomes insulting to be reminded over and over again.
Finally, Mac couldn’t stand the silence and lack of any info. He looked directly at Dela and in an experated tone asked, “So, is that what was supposed to happen? Is she okay now? She doesn’t look okay.”
Another “looked directly at.” It wouldn’t stick out if it was “looked at” or “looked to” or “glanced at,” or some variant, but the “directly” just makes it pop out so hard that it feels like it’s been said more than the eighteen times it appears in the manuscript.
He did not have the patience my parents seemed to be exhibiting, probably because he expected all magick to just go “poof” and be completed.
Maybe that’s because no one is explaining anything to him beyond “stand here” and “say these words you don’t understand” because Pastrami The Great is just as magically negligent as her daughter. She tells him that yes, all of that was supposed to happen and now they just have to wait.
He hated Dela’s answer. It was too blasé and noncommittal for someone used to action and split-second decisions. He was learning what it was like to have anxiety––something he didn’t really deal with normally.
Wait, are we still talking about the same Mac? Because the Mac we’ve seen throughout this entire book is riddled with anxiety, constantly snapping at people and freaking out about safety, as per his job. As for split-second decisions and actions, he’s been dating-not-dating the same woman for a year and is still “taking it slow,” so he can’t even take the action of figuring out what their relationship is or what he wants it to be. That’s like, the main conflict in this fucking book.
Dela tells Mac that there’s no reason to freak out, since they can’t really do anything other than wait. She also says it could be “several long nights” before they know whether Zug is going to be okay or not, so Charles calls the theater to let them know what’s going on. And then, of course, he sprints onto his private plane and shows up at the theater in time for curtain, because that’s what happens in professional Las Vegas shows, right? Ex-Olympic figure skater Lani Sarem, who showed up to this blog to tell me that the show must go on and no one cares if performers die on stage in front of a horrified audience surely would never make such an amateur mistake as writing about a show temporarily closing because of a horrible, horrible accident?
What’s even funnier about this to me is that unlike the case with Sofia’s fall, there’s no real indication to the cast or crew that Ziffendel’s injuries were caused by something in the illusion. So, the show will close down instantly if a performer falls ill, but if a performer falls from a great height during a rehearsal, no big, the show must go on.
When he came back in, Mac questioned Charles about why he woudl call them and tell them anything. The questions flooded the room: Wasn’t he afraid they would find out things that he didn’t want them to know? Wasn’t it risky to tell them things? the air was filled with “What ifs?”
Charles had a very logical reason, though, which didn’t surprise Mac. After all, if Charles was anything, he was logical. Charles explained that when you don’t want people to ask too many questions you try to make sure they feel like they are in the loop with information so they don’t start poking around. It made complete sense, and Mac saw how good Charles and Dela both were at making sure people only learned what they wanted them to––even though they made everyone feel like they knew everything.
I love that Mac finds it super reassuring that his boss is great at manipulating people. This is another one of those places where you can practically read the editor’s note in the margin. “How is Charles able to explain what’s happening without anyone asking questions?” And yet again, instead of addressing the issue in a thoughtful way, Sarem just opts for telling the reader not to worry about it, it makes sense to the characters.
Charles told Mac that he had made a special call directly to Jackson, ensuring him that they would also keep him in the loop.
Assuring, Lani. It’s assuring him.
Charles knew that Jackson hadn’t been thrilled that Mac went to the hospital when he was’t able to since he was still on the floor with the band, uanware what had really been going on backstage. By the time Jackson learned anything, Mac had already been on the way to the hospital. On the the other hand, Jackson did not know that Mac had made the trip to Tennessee.
Again, this smacks of an author directly expressing an editor’s concerns in the text, rather than editing the text so that it’s never an issue. Why wasn’t Jackson blowing up Charles and Mac’s phones, if he cares about Larvae so much? It’s not much of a love triangle, certainly not the point that “Team” buttons are needed for marketing, if one leg of said triangle doesn’t really give a shit about the supposed object of his affection.
Linda praises Mac for his dedication to watching over her and compares him to a guardian angel but notes that he’s super exhausted. He passes out on a loveseat in her room. I’m going to end this recap here because it’s a common sense place to split the chapter.
We’re almost done, guys. Hang in there.