Month: October 2011

Trial by Fire, Chapter 3: You Just Gotta Believe!

After Kara finally finishes buying supplies for the trip — which makes me wonder, why doesn’t Emily and Adriane pack stuff, too? — the party reconvenes at the portal field. All the refugees are there, eagerly waiting for the girls to … um … I guess defeat the Sorceress or something. I mean, come on, even if the party does kill her or banish her or whatever, it’s still gonna be a hella long time before Aldenmor is clean enough for the refugees to return. But whatever, the animals are excited that they’ll be able to go home soon.

It’s here that we learn just how much the girls have changed over the course of their adventure. There’s a lot of stuff here that relates to the symbols that originally went along with the Generic Fantasy Prophecy, some of which survives in the new edition. Adriane forges ahead in a straight line towards her goals and is loyal to her friends; while Kara attracts magic, which radiates from her in circles. Emily’s connection to the prophecy is completely changed in the new edition: her inner monologue is just her wondering if she has the knowledge to heal Aldenmor. In the original edition, it states that Emily stands “at the crossroads between science and faith” … which I don’t think applies to her.

Oh, Kara has a pimped-out outfit for the occasion: designer hiking boots, dark denim jeans, a faux fur-trimmed safari coat, and a bright red Backpack of Holding.

Pimped-Out Kara Outfit Count: 4

Anyway, Ozzie gives a speech to the refugees, which can basically be summarized as: “You just gotta believe in the party!”

And then the party uses Lorelei’s horn to open the portal, and they all jump in.

Here’s where things kinda diverge. Originally, the party starts barreling across the Magic Web, and eventually realize that Kara’s spellsinging altered the portals somehow. In the new edition, the party floats in place just beyond the portal, and scouts their surroundings:

“Hey, aren’t we supposed to go directly to Aldenmor?” Ozzie asked.

“The portals must have changed to match the fairy map,” Emily answered.

“All right, Barbie, you’re up,” Adriane said.

Kara raised the fairy map. The small sphere slowly rotated in her hand.

“Look!” Kara gasped as a pathway of portals lit up inside the fairy map like a constellation of stars.

Adriane’s keen eyes flickered to the fairy map. She pointed to the same configuration of stars along the magic web. “Emily’s right.”

Since the Magic Web is constantly being compared to galaxies and other celestial objects, and the party is always using some artifact to navigate the Web after this book, I think it’s appropriate to post some proper map-navigating music.

Eventually in both editions, Storm catches some distress call from the mistwolves on Aldenmor. The party uses Lorelei’s horn to point them toward Mount Hope. There’s a giant scene in the new edition that details exactly how the party does this, but it boils down to the girls turning their magic bubble in the right direction and asking the horn to take them where they need to go. The bubble speeds along the strands of the Magic Web, which the girls discover are unraveling. Eventually they reach a nexus, but the bubble is going so fast that it breaks apart, and everyone falls into a different portal….

Next time: Adriane fights bears.

Trial by Fire, Chapter 2: Yay, Exposition!

Today is not a good day for Kara, who decided to rejoin the party anyway a week after the last book.

Kara’s still moping about activating the Fairy Map and possibly letting the Sorceress have free reign over the magic of Avalon. (In the original edition, she also has no idea what exactly the Fairy Map did.) Meanwhile, Adriane’s talking about getting enough feed bins and salt licks set up in the preserve for the winter, Emily’s sharing a newspaper article about Mrs. Windor’s trip to Washington, and Ozzie’s trying to track the e-mail from Be*Tween and Mr. Gardener. The party’s generally worried about not hearing from the Fairimentals in a while.

For those of you wondering how exactly Be*Tween and Mr. Gardener sent e-mails to the party, the original edition explains why:

“I’ve been thinking about the E-mails,” Adriane finally said. “I mean, after all this time, why would Gardener and Be*Tween suddenly contact us, and through the computer no less?”

“Maybe they couldn’t before,” Rasha offered.

“Yes, maybe they were trapped somewhere,” Ronif added.

“That’s what I was thinking,” Adriane said. “Suppose when Kara opened the portals, she freed them. Or at least allowed them to contact us briefly.”

So I guess that kinda explains how Gardener, who (spoiler!) isn’t in any state to send anything to the party, contacts them.

Anyway, the party tries to cheer Kara up by telling her that maybe it was a good idea that she opened all the portals, because that’s the only way they can find Avalon. Kara’s still not convinced, because she thinks the Sorceress is already in Avalon. Emily tries to lighten the mood by teaching Ozzie and the major refugees how to make s’mores. After a number of epic failures — including Ozzie’s tail catching fire — Kara shows the animals the proper way to toast marshmallows.

And then the power goes out, and a gigantic fiery figure emerges from the fireplace.

The refugees are in awe, for an uber-rare Firemental materialized before them! Apparently they only show up when shit hits the fan. Originally, the firemental just points to the Fairy Map and tells Kara to activate it. In the revision … it’s kinda pissed:

“You opened the portalsss!” the Firemental hissed at [Kara].

Kara winced. It was not the fire that burned her, but the heat of her own shame.

“I … I’m sorry … I don’t know what I did. I messed up really bad. And now the Dark Sorceress is all over Avalon…”

“The witch waitsssss in her lair.”

Kara’s eyes widened. “The sorceress is not in Avalon?”

“She needssss map.”

Kara looked at the pattern of portals burning along the fairy map. “We’ll never let her get it again!”

“There isss another…”

After the Firemental dissipates, the party realizes that Moonshadow has the other Fairy Map! No wonder the Sorceress had all the wolves captured in the last chapter: she needs both maps to open the path to Avalon! Of course, the party doesn’t know that yet. But they resolve to reach Moonshadow and keep his Fairy Map out of the Sorceress’ hands!

So the party decides to head out to Aldenmor today, after giving plausible excuses to their parents. Kara, being the most practical of the bunch, announces that she’s going on a shopping spree. Hey, the party needs supplies if they’re going to hang out in a magical nuclear wasteland. They’re gonna need potions, lotions, hi-potions, ethers, and — since this is a magical nuclear wasteland — Rad-Away and Rad-X! Oh, and lots of food, too.

Next time: the party gets lost on the way to Aldenmor and asks for directions.

Trial by Fire, Chapter 1: A Tiny Net Is a Death Sentence

Today is not a good day for Moonshadow, leader of the mistwolves.

At the peak of Mount Hope, Moonshadow communes with the Spirit Pack, the ghosts of every single mistwolf that ever lived. They show him a vision of a gleaming city of crystal populated by humans and magical creatures. This, believe it or not, was Avalon in its heyday — a magical Crystal Spires and Togas utopia! The Spirit Pack tells Moonshadow to learn from the past and lead the pack into the future … and then the vision of Avalon morphs into an image of its current state (new edition only):

Lightning flashed — the broken city lay in pieces. And in the half-light, every tower was covered in webs. Spiders climbed over the ruins, weaving darkness onto the magic web itself.

You know … maybe the party shouldn’t try to find Avalon if it’s all abandoned and ruined and spider-infested.

Anyway, after the vision, Moonshadow muses about the Fairy Map that Adriane gave him, and thinks about the three crystals (wait — I thought there were four!) the Sorceress completed in the Shadowlands. His meditations are cut short when some random wolf runs up and warns Moonshadow that someone captured the entire mistwolf pack! Moonshadow’s all like, “Who dares?” and the new wolf goes, “Me, of course!”

And then a bunch of nightmare night stallion-mounted goblins throw a tiny net over Moonshadow. Moonshadow tries to reverse the capture method, but this net tightens with every movement he makes. Meanwhile, the not!wolf transforms into everyone’s favorite Skultum and does some Evil Laughter.

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • The Black Fire is caused by the Dark Sorceress’s difficulties in controlling large quantities of dark magic, not from storing animal magic in crystals.

Next time: Ozzie makes s’mores.

A Last-Minute Poll.

Okay, there’s been some discussion in the comments about me doing recaps of Princess Gwenevere/Starla and the Jewel Riders episodes. I’m totally up to doing it — it gives Avalon fans a chance to understand the series’ source material. However, I’m not entirely sure when I should start recapping the show. So here are your options:

* I start episode recaps next week while I continue on with Trial by Fire and the rest of the book series.
* I take a break between each of the remaining books (6-12 plus the manga) and recap 3-4 episodes.
* I take a break between Trial by Fire, recap the first season of Jewel Riders, then continue on with the books, and conclude with the remaining episodes.
* I recap all the remaining books and the manga, then work on the show.

No matter what, it gives us all something to do while we wait for any information on Shadow Warrior. (When’s that coming out, anyway?) Chime in with your opinions below.

Trial by Fire: First Impressions

A long time ago, back when the original editions of Avalon were published, I bought the first six books all at once, thinking that that was the entire series. (The Quest for Magic / second half of the series hadn’t been released yet.) So when I finally got around to Trial by Fire, I thought, “OMG! This is it, the end we’ve all been waiting for! Everyone will fulfill their part of the prophecy, Avalon will be found, and the Sorceress will be defeated! Yay! This will be so freaking awesome.” And believe it or not, all of that happened, and I thought it was a satisfying end to my favorite guilty-pleasure series. Granted, that was before a) Quest for Magic was published and poorly tacked on that BS with the Power Crystals, and b) the new editions came out and added information on the original party and the Sorceress’ past that better connects both halves of the series.

So, if Avalon was a video game, Trial by Fire would be the Disk One Final Dungeon, which looks like the end, but totally isn’t. I mean, come on, the party raids the Sorceress’ lair, Kara reaches the Gates of Avalon, Stormbringer sacrifices herself, and the party defeats the Sorceress … and then in the next book (or at the end of this one in the new edition), the party discovers they have to collect Mineral MacGuffins and save the Magic Web. It’s like Final Fantasy VI, where you blow up the sky fortress … and then have to run around in the World of Ruin to find your party and defeat the big bad for good.

Trial by Fire doesn’t fit any of the series’ naming conventions, but it’s a party-centric, arc-ending book like Full Circle. And it totally makes up for the suckitude that is Spellsinger.

I can’t really think of an episode of Jewel Riders that corresponds to this book exactly. The closest I can think of is probably “Jewel Quest”, because in that episode the Jewel Riders raid Kale’s castle, Gwen gets her Sunstone, and the girls kick off their quest to find the Crown Jewels. Anyone else around here who’s watched Jewel Riders and read Avalon can chime in with their opinion, because I’m stumped.

original coverBoth covers do a decent job of showing that things start getting serious at this point. The original cover has Kara in possession of a Fairy Map, with the Sorceress watching her menacingly. Again, this is one of the few times we see a non-party member on the cover — and the only time in either edition that a villain makes a cover appearance! I actually kinda like those weird cat eyes she has. I’ve always liked the border around the image on this cover, too. The design of the Fairy Map … not so much. (Especially after you’ve read the entire series and discovered that the Magic Web looks like a random jumble of pathways, and not like a spider’s web.)

new coverNow, the new cover shows that things might not be in the party’s favor. The party is surrounded by all sorts of dark beasties mounted on giant black horses, and our heroes look like they may be screwed. Look at how freaked out the girls and Ozzie are! (Yay, Ozzie appears on a cover again! Oh, and this is Dreamer’s first cover appearance, too — if you can find him hiding behind the book’s title.) How’re they gonna get out of this mess?

What to expect from this book:

  • Awesome displays of badassery!
  • More fun in everyone’s favorite magical nuclear wasteland!
  • More thinking with portals!
  • Kara finally getting a Sparkly Rock!
  • Zach, the Token Male Character!
  • More powerful and annoying bosses!

Next time: Moonshadow tries to get out of a tiny net.
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Credit where it’s due: old cover from the official Avalon site, new cover from Amazon.

Spellsinger, Epilogue: Evil Awaits in the Wings

This part is hella significant. It’s here that we meet the next major antagonist of this series (two books before her appearance in the original edition!), and finally discover why the Sorceress was magically nuking Aldenmor.

The Dark Sorceress pulls out her scrying pool and contacts someone in the Otherworlds, which appears to be an even worse shithole than the magical nuclear wasteland the Sorceress lives in. This someone is the Spider Witch, a monstrous arachnid-like creature that seems to have known the Sorceress for a long time. Hell, she even calls the Sorceress by name: Miranda.

The Sorceress then describes her evil plan: she will open the Gates of Avalon, then free the Spider Witch from her prison in the Otherworlds so that she (it?) can reweave the Magic Web into a new pattern that they will jointly control. There’s just a few problems with this: the Sorceress can’t activate the Fairy Map, and even if the Sorceress did reach the Gates, there’s no way she can open them because she doesn’t have a Key. But not to worry, the new blazing star (Kara) activated the map, and the giant crystals the Sorceress made will act as the new Key. And the party, who has comparatively craptacular control of magic, won’t be able to stop her. Satisfied with the Sorceress’ contingency plans, the Spider Witch agrees to help out. The Witch gets control of half of the new Magic Web, and the Sorceress gets enough magic to become immortal.

This section raises some interesting questions:

  • It’s suggested that the Dark Sorceress and the Spider Witch were members of an older party that attempted the same quest the current party is on. The Spider Witch was a healer (why else would she perk up when the Sorceress mentions that the party has a healbot?), someone else (who is apparently dead) was the blazing star, and the Sorceress was a warrior (yay, process of elimination). Since this group failed once (the Spider Witch alludes to an earlier attempt to open the Gates), is it possible that the current party could end up like them?
  • What was the Spider Witch originally? The Sorceress’ inner monologue suggests that the Spider Witch wasn’t always the abomination she is now.
  • Also, it’s hinted that whatever transformed the Spider Witch could affect the Sorceress, too. What triggered the change?
  • If the Sorceress was a mage, where is her Sparkly Rock and bonded animal? Or do sorceresses not require them? (Half of that is answered in the supplemental materials: sorceresses don’t bond with magic animals.)
  • Did the Sorceress have to magically nuke Aldenmor to create her new Key? Isn’t there a less harmful way of creating crystals?
  • The Sorceress remembers creating another Key back when the original party was together. How did they make it? And did the original party magically nuke other worlds to do so?
  • The Sorceress and the Spider Witch both know Henry Gardener, and they know that he was supposed to train the current party. Did Gardener train the original party, too? And is the Sorceress responsible for Gardener’s absence?
  • The Spider Witch has the power to weave magic, and she asks if the new healer (Emily) can do the same. Will Emily gain this power? (It seems like it, since the last book mentioned that Emily can see patterns in magic.)
  • After using the scrying pool, the Sorceress succumbs to some sort of sickness. Is she also affected by the magical radiation poisoning?

Most of the questions will be answered by the end of the series. But let’s pretend that we haven’t read the other books and do some Wild Mass Guessing in the comments. I have a soft spot for batshit crazy theories.

Another interesting point: the Magic Web is shown to be in a state of serious decay, on the verge of collapse. If the Sorceress and Spider Witch weave a new Web … wouldn’t they be saving it? Isn’t that a good thing? (Granted, they’d have control of it, but still … continued existence is better than not existing, right?)

Also, this chapter has some major Entomology Fail: the Spider Witch is described as having antennae, mandibles, and wings. Um, spiders don’t have antennae and wings, and they have chelicerae instead of mandibles.

Anyway, here’s hoping the new party does a better job of opening Avalon than the original one….

Next time: first impressions on the next book, Trial by Fire.