So, after Alanna’s melodramatic overextension of her magic abilities and inevitable passing out in the last chapter, this chapter picks up with her waking up again… three entire days later. Do you ever wish you could just sleep for three whole days? I sure do, and I’m not even particularly sleep-deprived. But then again, in an army encampment during the middle of a war is maybe not the best time for a three-day catnap.
More importantly, Alanna wakes up to Jon sitting by her side, waiting for her, and him reassuring her that he personally saw to her wounds in order to protect her secret. Because let’s be real, it doesn’t benefit anyone here if Alanna gets found out now – she loses out on her shield and Tortall loses out on an extremely capable warrior and Jon loses out on his best friend (and possibly first love!). I add that last bit, because while Alanna is recuperating and before anyone else comes in, they K I S S. In my notes for this chapter (yes, I take notes, do you think I just rattle this all out?), it just says “KISSING PRINCES LIFE GOALS” because I’m me.
I just want to establish here: even this early on, it’s pretty clear that George is better for Alanna than Jon (and hopefully this isn’t just hindsight coloring my perception), this is by a wide margin a better kiss than George and Alanna’s first kiss a few chapters ago. I love George, I do, but taking advantage of her when she’s got her hands full? Not cool. Shyly, hesitantly kissing her out of relief that she’s alive? Cool as hell.
Alanna is allowed to get up and pick up where she left off, but certain activities are still off-limits – she’s not allowed to go into combat again, and she can barely use her magic as it’s still quite drained. So, she fills her time with assisting the healers, repairing weapons and armor, picking up guard duty shifts. And worrying about Jon, of course. Douglass, Raoul’s squire, is looking after him during the fights, but Alanna is convinced that he can’t possibly do as good a job as she can. This is an interesting contrast to the Alanna of the previous book, who (initially) insists that Jon should pick Douglass or Sacherell over her. This is an Alanna who’s gained a great deal of (well-earned) confidence in herself and in her abilities.
One day while on guard duty, Alanna is visited by Duke Roger himself. And he wastes no time: he asks, “We are not friends, are we, Alan?” And Alanna, to her credit, is like “Nope, I can’t stand you.” (this is a paraphrase) I’m pretty sure if a crazy evil sorcerer man asked if I liked him, I would lie my ass off to not get killed. But then, not all of us can be the chosen heroes of the goddess, you know? Duke Roger basically tries to bribe her into being his “friend” and coming over to the dark side. Alanna refuses with the diplomatic suggestion that they are not enemies, but “less than friends.”
Right after he leaves – which is not suspicious in the least, am I right? – a thick fog rises, almost immediately putting Faithful, Alanna, and the other guards asleep. Spoooooky magic. The narration again flashes out of Alanna’s POV to describe her being kidnapped by Tusaine soldiers – accompanied by Jem Tanner, no less. It’s still weird to me when it does this; I don’t recall POV switches in any of the other Tortall or Circle of Magic books, though it’s possible I’m just not remembering well enough.
Cut to Jonathan and Myles scheming to get her back and noting that even though she’s obviously a noble, no ransom demand has been received (as would be traditional for a noble kidnapping victim, I guess?). Myles here is shown to be pretty suspicious of Roger, which, I mean, about goddamn time. Someone besides Alanna and the commoners needs to think he’s evil (I love the non-noble cast of characters, but they’re a little more limited in what they can do about him). Jon starts to hint that there’s another reason that “Alan” in particular shouldn’t be left in enemy hands, and Myles cuts him off. He says, “You’re about to tell me why Alan of all people should not be left among enemies for very long. I would rather hear it from Alan when he’s ready to tell me.” And finally confirmation that he knows! And he’s probably known for years! I love Myles so much.
The prince and his friends mount a rescue mission – the king had previously threatened execution for any man who crossed the river to do exactly this, but he couldn’t very well behead his own son and heir, could he? Of course not. Alanna is imprisoned with the two other guards on duty at the time, Micah and Keel, and it’s quite clear that the kidnappers wanted her specifically. The other two men are bound with ordinary ropes, while Alanna is bound with ropes and chains enchanted to prevent her from using her own magic. This is a device that I feel like I don’t see as often as I would expect in fantasy novels.
When the evil Tusaine Duke Hilam arrives with Jem Tanner in tow – and Jem Tanner is revealed to be the dastardly Count Jemis, brother to King Ain – Alanna is forced to resort to stalling them. She throws around insults in a scene that’s very reminiscent of her early fight with Ralon of Malven in book one. Turns out, insulting someone’s looks, smarts, and mother is a great way to get them pissed off. Duke Hilam dismisses her, “It’s going to take far more than these little barbs to pierce my armor – “ and in an extremely classic 80s action movie scene, Jon and the cavalry arrive at exactly this moment to say, “Perhaps my sword will pierce it, then?” BOOM! It’s one of those moments that practically has you cheering as you read it.
Jon “negotiates” the release of the Tortallan prisoners and takes Hilam and Jemis with him, in a surprise reverse kidnapping. The brothers of the Tusaine king are ransomed for peace between the two nations, and the war (which lasted maybe six weeks, if that) comes to an end.
- Myles just about walks in on Jon and Alanna making out, which would have been an extremely awkward way to “reveal” Alanna’s gender (or Jon’s sexual preferences!)
- “I have no desire to make you my enemy, sir. I’d like to live to a ripe old age and die in my sleep.”
- Myles’ reaction to the kidnapping is to drink an entire mug of brandy, damn