Last time on The Crown of Embers, Elisa got a concussion, learned about riots and a tax increase, and failed to halt the execution of a possibly innocent man. Will this concussion totally ruin her life? Find out after the cut.
Last time on The Crown of Embers, Elisa got stabbed in the catacombs after a Quorum meeting. Will she survive? Find out after the cut.
TRIGGER WARNING: Somebody gets beheaded. You have been warned.
Last time on The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Ximena and Aneaxi revealed their backstories, Alejandro revealed that he didn’t tell anyone he was getting married, and Aneaxi died of gangrene. How will Elisa deal with being Alejandro’s secret wife? Will less disgusting things happen in this chapter? Find out after the cut.
(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 14.)
Adriane finds herself in a strange forest. One of the trees before her has a door in it, so Adriane goes through it. On the other side is a garden, in which the rest of the party is having a mad tea party, complete with constantly-changing outfits that look like they came out of Gothic & Lolita Bible. In the new edition, “mad tea party” is a total misnomer, because there’s no tea at all, only juice.
The party starts spewing some nonsense about Adriane being a loner and not wearing a hat. Adriane quickly realizes that she’s in a dream state — and no, it’s not the weird shapeshifting outfits that tip her off. It’s because the party mostly ignores her.
Adriane tries asking the party if they’ve seen Dreamer anywhere. The party reveals that Dreamer’s not on the “guest list”, because he and all the other mistwolves died … and it was all Adriane’s fault. Adriane tries to leave the party, but all paths lead back to where she started. The party restates what Adriane just discovered, and tells her that she totally sucks.
Adriane then realizes that she, and the rest of the party, don’t have their Sparkly Rocks equipped! Of course, the party has no idea what the hell these Sparkly Rocks are. Adriane tries to world walk out of the mad
tea juice party, but instead walks into a table. The party encourages her to stay with them and be normal. Adriane almost considers giving up and moving with her parents to New York….
When, suddenly, another Kara appears! This Kara starts waving her Unicorn Jewel around and totally disses everyone’s fashion sense. (I guess she’s not a fan of lolita style.) This somehow freezes the false party. Kara then tells Adriane to leave the dream state and find the Power Crystal.
But wait … how did Kara enter Adriane’s Trippy Dream Sequence? Well, Kara cast
Network Circle of Friends so she could give the party’s magic to Adriane. And since Kara has to be physically near Adriane to give her the magic, she got transported here.
Adriane thinks that it’s too late to do anything for Ravenswood. Kara then informs her that Dawnrunner has recovered, and that Adriane still has a chance to save Ravenswood and all the mistwolves. Suddenly, Adriane discovers that her Wolf Stone is reequipped.
Now with a weapon and the party’s magic, Adriane world walks to the gorge on the Spirit Trail that Stormbringer is bridging in her mist form. Orenda is waiting for her there, but she speaks with a different voice now. Adriane assumes that the Spider Witch is speaking through the sylph. She does her best Charlton Heston as Moses impersonation — except replace “my people” with “the mistwolves”, and omit the unseen snake fight:
Adriane wants to continue the boss battle from earlier, but without a bonded animal equipped, she can’t control her magic.
Suddenly, the Power Crystal appears, and Orenda takes it! Adriane tries to fight back, but Dreamer suddenly attacks her! Chain has possessed Dreamer, and he tells Adriane that she can never save the mistwolves. Adriane tries to cast Heal on Dreamer and Stormbringer (after realizing that she can still cast healer spells in the new edition). Then the Spider Witch reveals that Chain is her paladin! Chain!Dreamer leaps for the Power Crystal. Stormbringer tells Adriane to save the Power Crystal … but in order to do this, one of Adriane’s bonded wolves has to die.
Next time: The Insect Warrior makes his final appearance in the series.
(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 12.)
Hey, let’s see what the Original Party is up to!
The Dark Sorceress enters the Spider Witch’s weaving room, just in time to see her finish the Ravenswood tapestry. The Sorceress has other plans: she wants to
discover the source of the Spider’s Witch’s power and complete her “animal transformation” turn Kara into a “dark mage” and use Avalon’s magic for herself. The Spider Witch seems to read the Sorceress’s mind, so the Sorceress decides to go along with the current plan for now.
Wait a minute … what exactly is the “elemental transformation” the Dark Sorceress mentioned in the original edition? Is it whatever the Spider Witch did to become this half-spider monstrosity? Was the Dark Sorceress hoarding magic so she could achieve this? And is the transformation a requisite for mages to level up?
Man, if I was a mage and learned that losing my humanity was required to gain mastery of magic, I would never want to level up!
Anyway, now that the tapestry is finished, the Original Party can now use this tapestry like a Google Maps satellite view of Ravenswood, complete with super-enhanced close-up images!
And now we’re back to Adriane and Dreamer, who are running along the Spirit Trail searching for the Spirit Pack. Adriane suddenly feels an immense loneliness, and realizes that she’s reached the spot where the Spirit Pack vanished. She tries to look through Stormbringer’s eyes, and finds herself in Ravenswood standing before her old wolf.
Adriane and Stormbringer have the requisite tearful reunion. It doesn’t last very long, though: Stormbringer tells Adriane that they have to return to the spirit realm and save the mistwolves. Stormbringer just took Adriane to a dream state so they could have this reunion. She asks Adriane to come with her to the spirit realm and see her as she truly is.
Suddenly, Adriane finds herself in the Trippy Dream Sequence from the very beginning of the book! Instead of escaping with the party as she did in real life, Adriane decides to stay behind and get nuked with Stormbringer.
And then Adriane suddenly finds herself on a cliff overlooking a river of wild magic! There is a bridge of mist over the river, which leads to the Spirit Trail. Wild magic crashes over the bridge, somehow hurting Adriane. Stormbringer explains that she is the misty bridge, and the wild magic is eating away at her mist form.
So how did Stormbringer get to the astral planes in the first place? Well, in the original edition, Stormbringer was transported to the Spirit Trail when the Dark Sorceress’s lair got nuked. It’s not really explained how she got to the astral planes in the new edition; all Stormbringer says is that she stayed in the astral planes to protect the Spirit Pack. Either way, Stormbringer was never really a member of the Spirit Pack because she wasn’t really dead.
Well, poo. I liked it better in the original edition when it was kinda confirmed that Stormbringer was dead.
Anyway, Stormbringer tells Adriane that she has to find the Spirit Pack. Adriane realizes that if she saves the Spirit Pack, she can bring Stormbringer back with her. And in order to do this, Adriane has to find the Power Crystal.
Unfortunately, the party draws Adriane back to Ravenswood. And things aren’t going so well for the rest of the party: Emily and Kara are firing Magic Missiles at enemies, the mistwolves are mauling stuff, spider webs are covering everything, and a cocoon has materialized over a willow tree. Emily explains that the webs suddenly appeared out of nowhere while Adriane was away.
Oh, and to make matters worse, Dreamer is gone.
Next time: A boss battle!
The new edition starts this chapter off with a Trippy Dream Sequence:
The explosion of the immense crystals shattered Emily’s call as the healer tried to reach her friend.
“We have to go now!” Kara pulled Adriane from the crumbling chamber.
“No!” The warrior shook free from the blazing star. She ran back inside, choking on the dust filled clouds of black fire as blasted rock rained from the roof.
In the center of the chamber, a form shimmered — a lone wolf. Stormbringer’s silver coat and warm golden eyes were fading away as she pulled the last of the mistwolves to safety from the Dark Sorceress’s death traps.
“Storm!” Adriane screamed, her wolf stone igniting in a blaze of light, engulfing the fading wolf in golden fire. “I’m here!”
But she was too late.
Storm’s eyes focused on the warrior. “You must let me go.”
“No!” Adriane screamed, tightening her hold. She would never fail Stormbringer, not now, not ever! “Don’t leave me!” The warrior reached out desperately, fingers touching her bonded packmate’s vanishing face.
With a thunderous boom, the chamber collapsed.
“Storm!” Adriane reached for her packmate, but her fingers clutched only empty air.
The original edition picks up here. Adriane wakes up. She has been dreaming about Stormbringer’s death for a while now, and these dreams usually play out like in the Trippy Dream Sequence above. Outside, she hears wolves howling, so she joins in.
Suddenly, Adriane senses that something is amiss. The mistwolves are lost, and Adriane has to help them! So she runs into Ravenswood, following a shining light in the forest. The woods around her turn into a crazy Technicolor blob. Eventually she reaches the Rocking Stone, where she hears a strange song.
And then a willow tree summons Adriane.
This tree is Orenda, the guardian sylph of Ravenswood. She has been watching Adriane ever since she moved here. Unfortunately, Orenda is being cocooned by spiders, and she can no longer protect Ravenswood. So she tells Adriane to protect Ravenswood and find the lost mistwolves.
Suddenly, a wolf with David Bowie eyes appears! The new wolf introduces himself as the pack leader, and voices his distaste for humans. He thinks that humans will always hurt the mistwolves. Adriane tells the new wolf to get out of her territory. The wolf then attacks her. Adriane fires a Magic Missile at the wolf, but it has no effect….
And then Adriane wakes up! Argh, it was one of those dreams within a dream!
Dreamer is going wild on top of Adriane, attacking some imaginary thing. Adriane calms him down, but notices that something is wrong: Dreamer has trouble communicating telepathically! He just sends images of a spider’s web trapping Ravenswood, evil creatures, and Adriane’s grandmother sleeping in the kitchen. Adriane thinks Dreamer’s telling her that Gran is in danger, so she runs down to the kitchen.
But it turns out that Gran is waiting in the kitchen with some hot cocoa prepared for her. Gran tells Adriane that the forest spirit is dying. She also reveals that she has spoken to this forest spirit before, the last time being when Adriane moved to Ravenswood. She wanted Adriane to move to Ravenswood because she could learn magic, whereas her mother could not. Oh, and she also mentions that Adriane’s dream may have been real.
Adriane looks down at herself and realizes that she’s covered with mud and dirt. So maybe she did run into the forest and see a talking willow tree! Adriane tells Gran about this, which prompts Gran to give her a new Indian name: Little Wolf.
Next time: The party learns how to level up.
In the old edition, this is the first half of chapter 11.
And chapter 13 gets off to a running start with our dear old friend, the Nightmare Sequence! Emily finds herself standing in a cavernous chamber fabulously decorated with spiderwebs and
the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey a huge block full of smoke.
And then she hears voices.
In the old edition, they say:
“She is only a girl!” a surprised voice shattered the silence.
“Do not forget these girls are mages.” Now a familiar voice floated across the chamber. “They are smarter than you think”
Emily slowly turned.
Several cloaked figures–creatures–sat upon a raised podium, studying her.
But the new edition changes this to:
“So this is the healer mage,” a surprised voice shattered the silence. “She seems so…ordinary.”
“So were you–once.” Now a familiar voice floated across the chamber.
The first voice laughed, a horrible chitter like bone grating against bone. “What I have become suits me.”
“The blazing star is set on her path, the warrior can be broken, but this one–this one is special.”
Emily slowly turned. Two cloaked figures–creatures–sat upon a raised podium, studying her. One looked grotesquely bloated, robes covering a wide torso like a shroud. Several bony legs were partially hidden beneath the robes.
“And you actually believe she can weave magic?” the spidery figure asked.
“They are smarter than you think.”
Emily looks into the monolith and sees the unicorns. In the old edition, they’re all dead, but in they new edition, they’re a horde of Brainwashed and Crazy minions and she’s their leader.
Conclude horrible revelation aaaaand cue waking up! Nightmare Sequence cliché checklist complete.
The rest of the chapter is essentially the same in both editions. Sierra knocks on the door, worried about the foals who’ve disappeared from the barn. Emily, without much contemplation, swears Sierra to secrecy and lets into the cabin full of technicolor baby unicorns.
Sierra’s mind is pretty blown, but she accepts the fact that unicorns exist pretty quickly. Too quickly.
The girls arrange to move the unicorns to a better hiding place while Sierra distracts the other tourists, and that’s where the new chapter 13 ends.
Okay, I don’t buy how Avalon‘s normal humans react to magical shenanigans. They’re either the denizens of Stonehill and don’t even notice, or they’re Sierra and just…accept it. She doesn’t seek a real-world explanation and ask questions like “How did you bleach and dye their coats? How are these plastic horns attached to their heads? And why are they glowing–batteries?”. She’s just like “OH. MY. GOD. Unicorns exist and, wow, they’re really pretty!” and agrees to help the mages without any explanation of what’s going on. If she were seven years old, okay that’s plausible, but she’s a teenager. Her perception of reality shouldn’t be that malleable.
Those complaints aside, the new edition dream sequence is vastly improved, with heaps of foreshadowing and plot hints (anyone who’s read Dark Mage and Full Circle, you know what I mean), which make the series more cohesive the second time around. Any of those silent “several cloaked figures” from the old edition? Never appear after this book. Dead unicorns? Never happens.
The Spider Witch and the Dark Sorceress are also more intimidating in the new edition. Instead of being afraid of the mages, they boldly reveal bits of their master plan right in front of Emily because hey, it’s not like she can do anything about it. The different contexts of “They are smarter than you think” reveal that in the new edition, the villains see the mages as just rats in a maze, not an actual threat like in the old edition. And on top of that, the corpse-like descriptions of the Spider Witch are legitimately creepy.
Next time: Everything gets FUBAR.