Handbook for Mortals: Chapter 15: The Tower (Part One)

Previously, on Handbook for Mortals: Charles took the cast and crew out to dinner to celebrate the final rehearsal for the show’s new project. Before the premiere, Zade goes to Charle’s office to affectionately-yet-platonically celebrate, but Mac sees them hugging and proclaiming their love for one another and assumes that they’re romantically involved. When he confronts Zade just before she goes on, he gets a little bit rough with her, and basically calls her a slutty whore bitch, before angrily foisting his duties onto someone who doesn’t know how to do them.

Before we start, I want to let you know that this chapter is excessively long (because Lani needed to have exactly enough chapters to fill the Major Arcana, and no more), so I’m splitting it up into two parts

OK, so even I know that The Tower is the tarot card that means that shit’s about to hit the fan (because of Harry Potter, obviously), and we are in luck because THIS IS BIG FINALE OF ACT TWO, Y’ALL! 

As Chapter 15 opens, the show is beginning. Zade tries to compartmentalize, and soon it will be time for Zade’s big performance.

Charles walks onto the stage, and stands in the middle before beginning:

“This is perhaps the hardest illusion anyone has ever attempted to do. I ask that everyone stay completely silent while my gifted performer makes her very first attempt at this.”

Note the repetition of the word “attempt” and the obviously false statement that this is literally the first time Zade’s ever done it. Even if it weren’t a lie, though, who in the audience is going to believe this? I’m going to do a quick edit because this is really the sort of thing Charles should have thought about for more than a minute, which is clearly all that Lani spent writing this:

This is perhaps the hardest illusion anyone has ever attempted to do. I ask that everyone stay completely silent while so my gifted performer makes her very first attempt at this.  can concentrate.

I don’t know, it should probably be a bit more dramatic and longer than two sentences, but it’s better (in my opinion) than the clunky, blatantly lying version Lani put in her final only draft.

I had heard his speech hundreds of times (and had even helped write it) so needless to say I knew it well.

I’m sure Zade was a great help to the world famous magician who is known for being super-duper captivating to the point that he oozes charisma and charm like sweat. I’m not being sarcastic. If this is stuff he writes with Zade’s help, I shudder to think of how bad his normal stuff sounds.

The water in the stage’s pool begins to bubble, and the lights change color, and Zade takes a moment to tell us that her “illusion” (she insists on calling it that despite the fact that it’s actual magic for some reason) uses “complex deep chaos-based magick”. And she doesn’t really explain what that means, except that the spell is more much more volatile and dangerous than the other magic that she usually does and has the potential to “backfire”.

(Dude, what if Lani Sarem practices Chaos Magic IRL ((which, for those of you who don’t know, is basically The Secret but edgier)) and she used it to get this book published/movie-dealed/New York Times-bestsellered and it backfired such that she got a little bit famous for a shitty book that scammed its way into the public conscious? Now that’s a novel I’d read).

Anyway, Zade says that this is the hardest “illusion” she’s ever done, and she’s nervous. She continues to listen to Charles’ speech as she listens for the music to start. When Sofia starts singing, that’s her cue:

. . .I was lifted by the harness and pulled upward. I positioned myself in the air before locking my body while I slowly floated down to the state. My hair and clothes rippled as the wind caught them, making a familiar popping noise. My red velvet cloak fluttered as well, but since it was made of heavy velvet it only softly fluttered.

What was wrong with saying “my red velvet cloak fluttered softly”? We already know it’s made of velvet (which is a heavy material) and that it’s fluttering! Gah!

Once my feet hit the platform on the stage, I, as gracefully as I could, sat down with my legs crossed[. . .]”

“Once my feet hit the platform, I sat down as gracefully as I could (etc)”. I’m sorry that I’m going so hard onto basic line-editing, but this part of the chapter is mostly devoted to Zade’s act so there’s not that much character stuff to make fun of. There is, however, lots of really bad descriptive prose.

Zade unclips herself from the harness and pulls back her hood. As she smiles at the audience, she’s still feeling upset about her fight with Mac. This is a problem, since a clear, calm mind is essential to the trick spell  illusion going right.

I closed my eyes and shook my head a little as I tried to push aside the thoughts of my argument–and what I should tell Mac about who Charles really was to me–aside.

So obviously both Zade and Charles know about their true relationship. It’s not clear why she doesn’t see fit to let the audience know who Charles really is (even though by this point it’s pretty clear he’s her father. Spoiler alert.). Zade has spent time exposition-ing countless random details, but I guess expecting the scene where Zade reunites with her long-lost-father whatever isn’t important enough to show, or recount, or acknowledge in the text.

Zade continues her spell, and makes “waving motions with her hands” which makes little waves appear on the on-stage pool. The music gets more intense, and then some clouds form above the audience.

Charles continues to talk:

“This has never been performed in front of anyone, including the crew

Wrong. The trick has been rehearsed with only minimal crew present. Which means it has been performed in front of someone before.

“It’s a very dangerous illusion for the lovely Zade. If anything goes wrong while we are doing the illusion, she could be lost forever, never to be seen again! So, please, to help her we ask that you hold your applause to the end of the illusion”

Another line edit on the speech that they purportedly put thought into:

“It’s a very dangerous illusion for the lovely Zade. If anything goes wrong while we are doing the illusion, she could be lost forever, never to be seen again! So, please, to help her we ask that you hold your applause to the end of the illusion.

The audience gasps when Charles says this, though, so he must be selling it really well.

Zade reiterates that the spell is indeed very dangerous:

I was messing with a particular kind of magick—a kind of magick that was both strong and volatile. I was messing with a particular kind of magick, which I hadn’t quite yet mastered. Chaos magick, is both strong and volatile, as it’s name implies and is by nature very unpredictable.

So dangerous, in fact, that it can disrupt one’s language faculty! Everything there is present in the text, including the wrong “it’s”.

It involves pulling power from sources that are, to a certain extent, uncontrollable—kind of like trying to ride a wild horse. In either case, you can do it—and if you really know what you are doing and you do everything right it may go off without a hitch, but one wrong move and it can all go to H-E-double-hockey-sticks real quick.

All this explanation of chaos magic does is make me wonder why Zade and Charles decided to use it at all. If there’s a risk of things going wrong even for an expert who makes zero mistakes, then why is Zade using it at all? She’s stated a couple times that she’s not an expert. Why couldn’t she use her normal magic? It seemed to work well enough during her audition, which conjured fire, turned the solid stage into liquid, and maybe involved teleportation.

I’ll speculate that is has to do with Zeb and Charles/Jackson’s plot that we kind of almost learned about that one time, when Charles and Zeb were chatting things not going correctly? Maybe doing chaos magic will turn her into a magical weapon of some kind. Who knows.

Anyway, while the water is being all wavy and the clouds exist, the audience is (quietly) getting excited. Zade tries to concentrate on Charles’ speech:

He spoke calmly and, as with most magicians, was a skilled storyteller—no listener could resist being drawn into his words. Everyone was completely vested in what he was saying and hanging on to each and every word. He could have been reading the phonebook, I think, and he could have made it just as intriguing.

It’s probably a good thing, then, that we don’t have to hear what he’s actually saying. It would help with suspension of disbelief, if I had any left. Also, notice how badly this line needs some editing. Notice the “reading the phonebook” cliche. Notice the redundancy, and the weirdly constructed sentences, and how much it all sucks.

Charles explains some things.

“We call this illusion ‘Creation’ because that is what we are doing,”

bigbooty

I’m just going to give the blow-by blow of the illusion myself:

Some thunder goes off, and the pool of water starts getting more agitated. Finally, a large wave engulfs Zade, and she disappears, leaving only her cloak in a heap on the stage. Rain starts falling over the stage, and when it hits the ground it turns into sand that begins to pile up. A bolt of lightning hits the sand, and a glass sculpture that looks like Zade rolls out.

At this point, Real Zade is still vanished (we don’t know where she is, but she’s still narrating everything that’s happening onstage), but she starts to feel ill. She gets a little bit mad at herself for letting the thing with Mac throw her off, and tells herself to push through the nausea, even though she’s worried that something will go wrong.

Another lightning bolt hits the sand pile, and an apple tree (complete with ripe apples) begins to grow where it hit. Zade lets us know that the tree was her idea, and she’s happy when people gasp in surprise. Then, one of the tree branches cracks open and out pops a sexy young man. The young man “lands on his butt,” and we are told that he is modeled after a teenage version of Charles!

Zade tells us she’s pleased that the audience is into this, and then the boy gets up, picks some apples off of the tree, and tosses them to the audience! Charles tells them that the apples are delicious, and encourages those who caught them to have a taste. The boy pulls an ax out of the sand and begins to cut down the tree. Soon, it hits the ground and goes up in flame, and the sand swirls all around it. When the sand and fire dies down, a wardrobe is revealed. Zade tells us that it’s an homage to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which is one of her favorite novels.

Young-Charles opens the wardrobe, showing that it’s empty, and closes it. He opens it again, and now there’s a guitar! He takes that, puts the glass Zade sculpture into the wardrobe, and begins to play some music that matches the band’s music. Zade focuses on Sofia’s singing, which she says sounds perfect (aww).

But Zade’s feeling really sick. She starts thinking that maybe it’s more than just Mac, but she has no choice but to go on. At this point, Zade is in “a dangerous limbo state,” and has to fight to keep from disintegrating.

Back onstage, another bolt of lightning hits the wardrobe, cracking it in two. Miraculously, Zade has appeared there, giving the illusion that the glass sculpture has turned into her. She takes an apple out from her pocket, and the audience bursts into applause, even though they’ve been asked not to do so until the act is over, which it is not.

Fortunately, though, the applause gives Zade a burst of energy. She takes a bite out of the apple, and pretends to faint. A collective gasp arises from the crowd, because (Zade thinks) they believed that something had gone wrong. Charles Jr. catches her (how very Jackson of him!) and gives her a kiss (as is that!). At this, Zade opens her eyes, and she gives him the apple. He takes a bite, and then vanishes.

Charles is holding Zade’s cloak (which has dried off, probably magically) and wraps it around her. Zade pulls up the hood, raises her arms, and a final bolt of lightning strikes her, causing her to disappear and leaving only her cloak where she stood. Unfortunately, Zade feels this one.

Yet another apple rolls out of Zade’s cloak. Charles picks it up, takes a bite, and he vanishes too. That’s the end of the show.

The audience (including Steve Wynn and his wife) applauds, and Charles emerges from one of the entrances to bow. Zade’s supposed to emerge from the other entrance, but she can’t! Because she’s dying!!!! She congratulates herself on finishing the show without giving away that she was in horrible pain.

I officially nominate Darren Aronofsky to direct this movie. After the shit show that Motherreportedly is, the psychedelic tree-imagery of The Fountain, and the over-the-top scenery-chewing that is Black Swan, I think he’d be a perfect fit.

Anyway, Zade feels like her insides are burning, and she manages to drag herself to the nearest person: It’s Zeb! She collapses into his arms (the experience is directly compared with that of falling into Jackson’s arms), and surprisingly, Zade thinks that Zeb makes her feel safe!

But then:

Zeb mumbled a bunch of things that I’m positive were not English–though I couldn’t tell you what they were–quietly into my ear

I want to reiterate that Zeb’s status as a magical person is never confirmed in this book! I don’t get why it couldn’t have been, unless there’s an even better twist coming, like Zeb is an Agent of Fate who manipulates the lives of the mere mortals. And now I just remembered that someone (not sure if in my comments, Jenny Trout’s comments, or on the Something Awful spork which is now limited to members only, boo) commented that Zeb is probably short for Beelzebub, who, as a demon in the Judeo-Christian tradition, I could imagine hanging out in Sin City. And back on the Camping Trip, Zade did say that he looked like demonic, so here’s to hoping.

When Zeb finishes speaking in a language that isn’t English, he asks Zade if she can tell him what’s going on. But Tad quickly notices that Zade’s collapsed, and he takes action. He tells Riley to call 911, and even though Riley panics a bit, he eventually complies. As Zade feels herself fading, she sees Charles arrive on the scene, and in a panic, he asks what they should do. Zade has time to say “call my mother” before she loses consciousness completely.

We’re not even halfway through the chapter yet, guys. But the days of blatant filler are (mostly) over! Act 3 is here! Rejoice!!

19 thoughts on “Handbook for Mortals: Chapter 15: The Tower (Part One)

  1. Wow, no kidding… that speech-writing. Your occasional editing is a marked improvement though. :p

    complex deep chaos-based magick

    Chaos Magick? Really? Dammit, Zade! Slaanesh isn’t interested in you. Back off… That’s my eldritch horror! 😡

    Dude, what if Lani Sarem practices Chaos Magic IRL ((which, for those of you who don’t know, is basically The Secret but edgier))

    Wait, what? The Secret is chaos magic? LOL I thought it was generic bunk. The lords of chaos, from any franchise, should be insulted. It would be as amazing as the Disaster Artist though, so I really hope that’s the case. 😀

    So obviously both Zade and Charles know about their true relationship. It’s not clear why she doesn’t see fit to let the audience know who Charles really is (even though by this point it’s pretty clear he’s her father. Spoiler alert.). Zade has spent time exposition-ing countless random details, but I guess expecting the scene where Zade reunites with her long-lost-father whatever isn’t important enough to show, or recount, or acknowledge. in the text.

    She’s open regarding Jackson, although she rarely talks about him with Mac, but she keeps her relationship with Charles completely secret, even from the viewer. Then Sarem tries to make it look reasonable for Mac to make the mistake that she’s cheating, so quite frankly I’m siding with Mac. My advise is for him to break off the relationship entirely, and find another job as soon as he can, since he genuinely can’t keep things professional now. If he’s as good as Sarem says, other entertainment venues would jump at the chance to hire him, if they have a position open, or he could find something similar to his current job elsewhere.

    I really hate Zade’s entire family right now, which is saying a lot, given that Mac was far from perfect. At the very least, if Mac did leave and didn’t touch Zade again, I’d accept his previous bout of roughness as a really bad reaction. Hopefully that’s something he could work on if he goes to anger management classes, or sees a therapist. Either way, he doesn’t need Zade in his life.

    Mac didn’t attack random people with magic, so I’m of the opinion that he has better self-control than Zade does, and I never thought I’d be saying that after the bar scene. Mac was possessive, but at least he did try to talk to Justin first. Maybe he was hoping that Zade would say he was her boyfriend, and when she didn’t, it threw off his initial plans, so he went with something less openly possessive-sounding? Justin’s reaction was worse, since her claim of wanting to be with her friends should’ve been enough. Especially if Zade was trying to give Justin legit “not interested” vibes before Mac walked over. Mac’s insistence wasn’t good, but I’m gonna speculate that he wanted to talk to Zade about the situation, and at least Mac didn’t even punch Justin… He just did a Looney Tunes step-aside gag. Not saying much, but Zade has done worse when no one could link the magical effects back to her.

    I really hope the original movie script showed Zade getting to know her father, in place of the Jackson padding. That’d be a million times better.

    … LOL What if Sarem used the document search tool to find Charles and she simply changed his name to Jackson, adding in random romance stuff to sell it better? Like originally she was going to expand the father-daughter bond, but someone told her love triangles are better. The only edits.

    Why couldn’t she use her normal magic?

    No kidding. This is why we really needed some kind of guidelines. What’s even the true difference between ordinary magic and chaos magic? Is chaos magic simply harder to use? Is that really all there is to it? Also, did Charles talk Zade into using it? He’s a terrible father, if that’s the case. Maybe Charles is also secretly trying to kill her? It’s a legit reason for Dela to keep him away from her daughter…

    Zade tells us that it’s an homage to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which is one of her favorite novels.

    I like that book and I sincerely wouldn’t have guessed that was an homage. It’s like her comic book references… mostly sporadic, bland, and pointless. Sarem is as terrible at homage as she is at humor.

    Charles Jr. catches her (how very Jackson of him!) and gives her a kiss (as is that!).

    Ewwwww, the incest was always in the movie. For that matter, why is this even a Charles Jr. Crystal? Why the hell couldn’t she base him on someone else if she was gonna kiss him?

    I officially nominate Darren Aronofsky to direct this movie.

    Sarem is too subtle for him. *badum tiss*

    No, but seriously… I think her work isn’t allegorical or artistic enough to snatch him up. If he proves me wrong, then I’ll watch the Handbook for Mortals in the theater. XD

    Anyway, Zade feels like her insides are burning, and she manages to drag herself to the nearest person: It’s Zeb! She collapses into his arms (the experience is directly compared with that of falling into Jackson’s arms), and surprisingly, Zade thinks that Zeb makes her feel safe!

    Oh for… yeah, Jackson is definitely Charles and Zeb. Also, if it turns out Zeb is Beelzebub, all I can say is that this entire story would be way more interesting from his POV.

    Zade has time to say “call my mother” before she loses consciousness completely.

    We’re not even halfway through the chapter yet, guys.

    But the days of blatant filler are (mostly) over! Act 3 is here! Rejoice!!

    Good lord… So much facepalm. If she’d bothered to revise this horrible mess, Lani Sarem could’ve had a bestseller for real. I just… *drinks copious amounts of hot chocolate*

    I’m hoping Zade dies. 🙂

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  2. Some notes from previous chapters I’m going to leave here:

    If Cam and Zeb are queer in any capacity, I don’t think it will ever be confirmed in text. LS seems like the kind of heterosexual who doesn’t remember that lgbt people exist until it suits their needs, and those needs never acknowledge that lgbt people have inner lives that involve the full range of romantic attraction and lust.

    I feel like LS doesn’t even realize the term ‘g*psy’ refers to an ethnic group and not a lifestyle/caste of magically inclined people like the stereotypes make it seem. I honestly don’t interpret Zade as being Rroma.

    Mac’s aggression in the previous chapter was super uncomfortable to read. I think what’s more upsetting, though, is that Mad is pretty much a generic male romantic lead. Since LS is such a lazy writer he’s just a hodgepodge of male romantic lead characteristics. So I feel like it’s kind of depressing and a little telling that his aggression is apart of his character, as if we as a society can’t comprehend a masculine character without this prerequisite brooding/possessiveness/aggression combo Mac has going on.

    I’m so proud this book finally managed to have a consistent character detail that called back to a previous chapter. Shame that character detail is Mac’s penchant for peeping.

    This Chapter:

    Dear LORD these descriptions are redundant. I’m near speechlessness. I’m sure a proper editor could get the chapter back down to a proper length, alas.

    The illusion feels kind of clunky like there are a lot of stops and starts, especially the tree > wardrobe bit, the guitar bit, and the pretending to faint bit. I feel a big show stopping number should be more streamlined?

    WHY WOULD YOU USE A CHARLES JR MODEL? AND WHY DID THEY HAVE TO KISS? IT ADDED NOTHING TO THE ILLUSION!

    Do you think the inclusion of the apple tree was another failed attempt on LS’s part to include some kind of symbolism?

    Conspiracy corner:

    Honestly this book would be one hundred times better if it were about Charles trying to seduce Zade or control her sexuality in some way. It could be a commentary on so many things, or it could just be there for the horror factor. Either way much more interesting than simply withholding from the reader that Charles is Zade’s dad (which doesn’t add anything to the story, knowing their relationship would). Especially if Jackson were a fake person, or a real person who’s identity is being stolen, or is in on it with Zeb and Charles. I mean after all, Charles doesn’t have an awkward shovel talk with Jackson like he does with Mac.

    (Side note, this stuff with Charles is reminding me of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” which is a horror comic book I’m very fond of. There are some incest vibes/plot lines in it that are actually there intentionally)

    New Conspiracy:

    Mac is ok with Jackson dating Zade because…

    …He doesn’t see Jackson as a real threat

    …He is ok with polyamory, but only if everyone is open and honest with each other (which is why he was angry about Charles/Zade)

    …He is attracted to Jackson, so he’s making an exception

    …He is attracted to Jackson, and is using Zade to sublimate his homosexual desires

    …He does not acknowledge Jackson because Jackson isn’t real, and he forgets about Jackson after leaving Zade’s presence

    Choose your own Adventure!

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  3. Hey, Guesto The Mysterious! I don’t know if you get notifications for this thread, but I love your comment and I wanted to respond a bit. 🙂

    If Cam and Zeb are queer in any capacity, I don’t think it will ever be confirmed in text. LS seems like the kind of heterosexual who doesn’t remember that lgbt people exist until it suits their needs, and those needs never acknowledge that lgbt people have inner lives that involve the full range of romantic attraction and lust.

    Yeah, I get the feeling that Cam was written as an anime bishounen, and Zeb simply remained sober at the bar, because he was the designated driver. So, Zeb is a good person, even if it turns out later on that he’s somehow a villain.

    I feel like LS doesn’t even realize the term ‘g*psy’ refers to an ethnic group and not a lifestyle/caste of magically inclined people like the stereotypes make it seem.

    She’s definitely using it that way, which is a huge shame. Zade being a Jewish Romani could’ve been really interesting, if Sarem had bothered doing some research and treated the idea with dignity. I dumped a bunch of site links that I found into a previous chapter comment, two of which were written by American Romani. The bold link lead to a number of anecdotes involving the persecution they still face, even in America. Although there’s a movement to expose their problems to the wider public, many simply hide their ethnic group, because it’s easier. This could’ve been an interesting source of conflict between Zade and the rest of the crew, or something she could’ve slowly exposed Mac to with interesting exposition and events. Especially since being a Jewish Romani is going to be rare (most persecuted minorities aren’t willing to double-up on the potential persecution.)

    Instead, we get all of this dumb shit about Charles Spellman, which is gross, manipulative (towards Mac and the readers), and downright boring if it weren’t for the incest angle. 😦

    So I feel like it’s kind of depressing and a little telling that his aggression is apart of his character, as if we as a society can’t comprehend a masculine character without this prerequisite brooding/possessiveness/aggression combo Mac has going on.

    That’s a very good point and not something I’d realized. I didn’t really think very much about Mac overall, until this whole fiasco with the cop-out misunderstanding. I don’t approve of a lot of his character, but at this point I’m siding with the problematically generic male love interest. Zade is an unreliable narrator and a terrible person. I actually wouldn’t mind if they were both terrible people though. Hopefully they’d be more interesting! As cringe-inducing as the characters in Always Sunny in Philadelphia can be, they’re also fun to watch (if the viewer can tolerate such morally skewed protagonists anyway.) But no, Zade is boring and so is everyone else, because the world revolves around her. I’m not even certain the third person scenes are reliable, since Zade is still telling us about those events in past tense. We’re not seeing them as they happen. She simply shifts to third person, because Zade wasn’t there or wasn’t in the position to know what was going on at the time. It’s a conceit that makes the third person text just as unreliable.

    For all we know, Mac never intentionally peeped. The doors were just open so wide that when he walked over to knock on them, he got an eyeful before he turned to walk away. One might ask why no one noticed him at the time, but maybe they did or they were too enveloped in their own little worlds to see movement out of the corner of their eye or maybe Mac was in their blind spot.

    It’s not unlike the deal with Sofia. We never find out what rumors she was spreading, or have any tangible proof that she was spreading them in the first place. The worst thing that’s confirmed is that she invades Zade’s personal space to give her a controlling side-hug, while Mel cuts off the sideways escape route, and then Sofia tells Zade that Mac probably isn’t worth pursuing. If Mac actually is a creep, then yeah… maybe he isn’t! Yes, she phrases it as he’s unobtainable, but do we really believe that’s what she told Zade? Who the fuck actually does that? It’d make more sense for Sofia to try throwing shade on Mac, even if it wasn’t true. There’s so little common sense in this book, it’s almost unbelievable. ;P

    Er, but going back to Mac… I wonder if that’s not even how he is? Maybe Zade simply sees him that way? She has the most developed connection with him, but the only time we get to see his interior, it doesn’t give him much of a personality, it’s still just the generic male. It’s hard to tell if she’s coloring our perceptions or if that’s really what Mac is life. Especially since Jackson has even less going on…

    The illusion feels kind of clunky like there are a lot of stops and starts, especially the tree > wardrobe bit, the guitar bit, and the pretending to faint bit. I feel a big show stopping number should be more streamlined?

    It’s also really odd. This is all stuff that would definitely be CGI in the movie, since that’s probably cheaper than getting a bunch of crystal/ice sculpture props for this one scene and cutting away to make it look as if there was a magical change (or else using a trap door to switch props… I don’t even know.) For a large part of the show they’re just viewing the special effects though. Who would believe this is actual stage magic, instead of a theatrical display? Like, this is the kind of thing you put into a theater production to make a lasting bang, not a magician show. People are going to assume that they simply threw money at the audience, since there’s no other way for the audience to try and second-guess what actually happened. It’s a spectacle, sure, but it’s not a mystery.

    I have a feeling that Sarem originally wrote this with a theater mentality, and then assumed a palette swap for stage magic would be fine. I’m not even into stage magic, but I think Penn and Teller would be calling this bullshit, if they existed in Zade’s universe.

    WHY WOULD YOU USE A CHARLES JR MODEL? AND WHY DID THEY HAVE TO KISS? IT ADDED NOTHING TO THE ILLUSION!

    My thoughts exactly. Who was Sarem trying to convince? Or was this supposed to illustrate Zade’s parents getting together? It’s just weird and creepy.

    Do you think the inclusion of the apple tree was another failed attempt on LS’s part to include some kind of symbolism?

    I assumed it referenced George Washington, the Garden of Eden, and Snow White, which is a pretty random combination, honestly. Sarem never uses references very well, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

    Honestly this book would be one hundred times better if it were about Charles trying to seduce Zade or control her sexuality in some way. It could be a commentary on so many things, or it could just be there for the horror factor. Either way much more interesting than simply withholding from the reader that Charles is Zade’s dad (which doesn’t add anything to the story, knowing their relationship would). Especially if Jackson were a fake person, or a real person who’s identity is being stolen, or is in on it with Zeb and Charles. I mean after all, Charles doesn’t have an awkward shovel talk with Jackson like he does with Mac.

    Exactly! Exploring the fatherly adult relationship between an estranged parent and child, especially if it turns out to be a bad idea, could have been way more interesting. Also, adding to the list of new conspiracies, which I love and consider increasingly probable, perhaps Mac realized that Charles and Zeb are Jackson? That could be another reason that he got angry, because he found out that he and Zade were getting played. But no, instead we get that other fake manipulative scene where Zade isn’t at fault for anything, because she’s sooooo innocent and pure, and Charles isn’t at fault either, because he’s just her father. Yeah, somehow Mac is misunderstanding a fatherly relationship as a romantic one, when we haven’t even seen this relationship evolve in person, because even Zade won’t tell us what happens. And Charles only wants to be called Charlie when he’s having sex, as Sofia mentions when Zade calls him Charlie. Yuck. This feels abusive on so many levels… It’s nowhere near as fun as Jackson being a fake person.

    This is so irritating. Lani Sarem could’ve had multiple angles for making the book like a more updated version of Bewitched, with various genuine conflicts, but she never cared about anything except this weird pseudo-triangle between Charles, Zade, and Mac, which isn’t even a real triangle, supposedly. It’s just so frustrating how often she dropped the ball by refusing to give the kind of exposition the book needed to be entertaining, actually engaging the audience instead of pushing them to a safe distance, so they can’t see the ugly truth that the plot is completely fabricated out of Lani Sarem’s hopes and dreams.

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  4. Teen-Charles isn’t even a crystal statue. He looks like a flesh-and-blood person. Which makes it worse.

    Also, “chaos magic” is also an IRL thing that has to do with using the power of your consciousness to shape reality or something (it gets pretty in-depth). Hence it being “the Secret for nerds”.

    There is zero detail put into the magic system. Although we do get some Croatian chanting later!

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  5. (Sorry, I didn’t see this sooner.)

    Teen-Charles isn’t even a crystal statue. He looks like a flesh-and-blood person. Which makes it worse.

    Ewwwwww… Also, why do they think this is a magic trick again? People can fit through trap doors just as well as statues can. Ugh.

    Also, “chaos magic” is also an IRL thing that has to do with using the power of your consciousness to shape reality or something (it gets pretty in-depth). Hence it being “the Secret for nerds”.

    Haha damn maybe she does practice that.

    There is zero detail put into the magic system. Although we do get some Croatian chanting later!

    Oh, sorry! The Croatian was a random aside. I also look up stuff for my own casual writing. 😳

    It’s Bosnian in the book, which Google confirms.

    chitoryu12 from Something Awful:
    This is just straight Google Translated Bosnian, which translates to “With this dagger, pervading the magic of the old, and my faith, let love reverse the curse I resurrect the spirit, soul and body Via Gardrich Verdicy!” I don’t know if Gardrich Verdicy is supposed to be an unseen character from a later book or just random gibberish. Also, why does it need to be Bosnian? Is that where magick comes from?

    I suspect LS chose Bosnian either based on Rroma or Jews. Or the Kabbalah? I await your thoughts in the next installment. 😀

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  6. Ha, Google told me it was Croatian (and then Latin? And whatever the hell “Gardrich” means?). I did it word by word. I haven’t read the SomethingAwful thread since the 8th page because it wants me to become a member.

    I was thinking that Croatia maybe had a large Romani population, but it doesn’t. Bosnia’s is significantly larger. But Romani is closer to Hindi and Persian, as their people came out of India (or somewhere near there?) fairly recently. After googling some more, there *is* a Balkan Romani dialect, but I don’t think it’s very close to Croatian or Bosnian (at least, not to the point that Google would recognize it as such).

    I am so curious to know why she went with Bosnian/Croatian as opposed to just going full on Romani (my guess is that it’s hard to find speakers of Romani, and Google Translate doesn’t have it). What was wrong with, like, Latin? Or Hebrew? She’s Jewish herself; she probably knows someone who speaks it. And she’s definitely into Kabbalah and wanted to incorporate it into her mythology. A Baltic language is just so random. It definitely *looks* foreign, though, so maybe that was it?

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  7. Ha, Google told me it was Croatian (and then Latin? And whatever the hell “Gardrich” means?). I did it word by word. I haven’t read the SomethingAwful thread since the 8th page because it wants me to become a member.

    Huh! That may just be the wonkiness of Google Translate though. I copy and pasted the entire line, which Google presumed was Bosnian and it translated the same way when I tested it out. Putting it in word by word may have confused it.

    Also, I just looked it up, and Bosnia borders Croatia. The official languages of Bosnia are Bosnian, Croatian (which has a ton of dialects btw), and Serbian, so there is probably some significant overlap between these languages. They’re all Slavic, I think.

    I was thinking that Croatia maybe had a large Romani population, but it doesn’t. Bosnia’s is significantly larger. But Romani is closer to Hindi and Persian, as their people came out of India (or somewhere near there?) fairly recently. After googling some more, there *is* a Balkan Romani dialect, but I don’t think it’s very close to Croatian or Bosnian (at least, not to the point that Google would recognize it as such).

    Rromani seems to be complex, with lots of dialects, since they tend to hybridize their language with the major ones around them. This seems to be called Para-Rromani. There was a Bohemian Rromani, but it died off due to the Holocaust. I’m assuming the gap was filled with Vlax Rromani and Romano-Serbian. I’m assuming the Boyash inspired her choice of Bosnian/Croatian, but who knows how much actual research she did to find that. I stumbled onto it before, and had to dig it up with my bookmarks, as I couldn’t remember the name.

    I am so curious to know why she went with Bosnian/Croatian as opposed to just going full on Romani (my guess is that it’s hard to find speakers of Romani, and Google Translate doesn’t have it). What was wrong with, like, Latin? Or Hebrew? She’s Jewish herself; she probably knows someone who speaks it. And she’s definitely into Kabbalah and wanted to incorporate it into her mythology. A Baltic language is just so random. It definitely *looks* foreign, though, so maybe that was it?

    I used to work at a Borders, before the company collapsed, and my particular store had a Polish immigrant and a Bulgarian immigrant; both were women. I always liked their accents, which were different enough, but had similar inflections. It’s very much what I’d assume a Rroma would sound like, before doing so much research into them. LS may have thought this sounded nice and it’s more unique (albeit stereotypical for obvious reasons) than simply using Latin. I’d say it’s fine, but since it only appears once, it’s superfluous. Mac could’ve been speaking English, for all it mattered.

    Also, I’m deeply disappointed that she didn’t pick Yiddish or Hebrew instead, because you’re right. It’d have the same effect, and that would’ve been monumental for a fantasy world. Even choosing Arabic or Aramaic would’ve been really cool, but then perhaps LS was reminded of the Passion of the Christ and the controversy surrounding that… if we’re willing to give her any credit for avoiding controversy, that is.

    Good lord. I just realized something… Did LS accidentally erase the Holocaust in her book? Maybe that’s why she didn’t want to delve any deeper into the Rroma or Jewish cultural potential! While that could be overlooked by sticking with the modern era, if these witkhs are sort of immortal (I’m going to guess long-lived, but capable of being killed), there’s no way to avoid discussing it without only scratching the surface. 🤦🏻

    Did the Twilight saga ever touch on the Holocaust btw? Or did they avoid it by staying out of Europe and being in America when it happened? Because I figure the guy that turned Edward’s “family” had to be older…

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  8. I think I might actually hope that Lani Sarem just glosses over the Holocaust. I imagine that she’d do something painfully tone-deaf, like how<a href="http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/JustForFun/DisneysAnneFrank&quot; Disney-fied version of Anne Frank might come out looking like.
    I’m also pretty sure the Cullens stayed out of world wars. I know that Jaspar (Jackson Rathbone!) was a confederate soldier, though? I only read the first book.

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  9. Forgot to add, I wonder if that undefinable bit is her attempt at Harry Potter-esque Latin spell creation? Via Gardrich Verdicy sounds like through the verdict that is rich in guarding or something…

    Or maybe it’s about Italian Wine?

    You know, come to think of it, isn’t it odd that Zade considered Lambo girl to be someone who was strange? Wouldn’t Zade’s whole family be strange as well, since they’re presumably all witkhs? Does this mean Zade should come off as strange to the average person regarding her in the parking lot? Or is Lambo girl a witkh hunter instead?

    Hrmm… maybe Witck is a better word for these things. I keep stumbling over witkh, because the h and the k look more similar than the c and the k. Oooh! Or what about Witckh? 😀

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  10. True. I guess it’s better we were saved from that. (Sorry, the original link took me nowhere, so here’s another link for the lazy.) Even so, it could’ve been the most hysterical part of the book. After all, the best scenes revolve around Zade being comatose and off-screen. Maybe it could’ve turned into the Room levels of cringe entertainment. XD

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  11. “Verdicy” apparently means “verdict.” It appears to be super-uncommon. Here it is used in a sentence:

    “the commission delivered its verdicy in thirty-four articles known as the “Articles d’Issy, from the place near Paris where the commission sat” (source).

    “Gardrich verdict” makes it sound like he’s invoking legal precedent, so maybe this magical system operates similar to law, in that you have to establish that you’re not asking for anything new? Regardless of its function, the chant puts us at three unique magic systems (four, if you count tarot/clairvoyance). Which is something Brandon Sanderson often does, but, you know, his systems are clearly established and obsessively fleshed out.

    If Lambo girl was a wikch (which I keep reading as “whikth”) hunter, though, why would she let Zade go? Maybe she realized that she couldn’t take Zade. She seemed more like an arbiter of some kind. Maybe she’s a magic judge to whom non-wikthcshs can appeal to perform spells? Maybe she has a pal named “Gardrich?”

    If nothing else, critiquing this novel as been a learning experience. I now know more about Romani studies, the history of tarot, and the inner workings of a narcissist’s mind than I ever thought I would.

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  12. My concern is that example of verdicy could be a typo, since it’s only used once, and it’s so hard to find any sources in general. I’ve also been trying to find some hook for Italian or Latin, since that seems plausible, but all I can get is the regular word, which is French, although Dit comes from Latin Dictum.

    You know what? I’m just gonna call it a typo and move on.

    Regardless of its function, the chant puts us at three unique magic systems (four, if you count tarot/clairvoyance). Which is something Brandon Sanderson often does, but, you know, his systems are clearly established and obsessively fleshed out.

    Yeah, she really doesn’t explain how any of it connects, does she? I think I remember there being some hint at spirit mysticism, but I may be imagining some exposition. It’d tied everything together well enough, although that might be super weird for the homunculus, which come to think of it is alchemy again, isn’t it? Which is five? Urgh.

    That reminds me, I started one of Brandon Sanderson’s books, but never finished reading it. I forget why. I probably started it before I hit this huge slump where reading lost all interest for me. I’ve moved a lot recently (gonna move again this October in fact; long story short it’s just a transfer since they’re renovating all of the old apartments in the complex.) Some of my stuff is still in boxes. Maybe soon I can try digging through my paperbacks to see if I kept it. There was a city with falling ash instead of rain, and I did find his magic system interesting, so either way, I should really give him another shot.

    If Lambo girl was a wikch (which I keep reading as “whikth”) hunter, though, why would she let Zade go? Maybe she realized that she couldn’t take Zade. She seemed more like an arbiter of some kind. Maybe she’s a magic judge to whom non-wikthcshs can appeal to perform spells? Maybe she has a pal named “Gardrich?”

    I’m loving this so much… this new spelling is fun to play with. (Thank you, Abi Scott! From, well, a much later chapter comment, lol.) Non-wikthcshs is a stroke of genius to replace muggles. 😀

    You’re right though. Arbiter sounds closer. Maybe LS just wanted some hook for the future books and she made up a weird surname? For all we know, Mac was invoking Lambo girl’s ancestors.

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  13. You know what? I’m just gonna call it a typo and move on.
    Fuck, ‘y’ is right next to ‘t’. How did I not notice that? I am a dumb. Maybe Lambo Girl’s name is Verdicy. That’s a nice name for an arbiter of magic!

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  14. Fuck, ‘y’ is right next to ‘t’. How did I not notice that? I am a dumb.

    We both got so excited that LS put in some effort, we forgot that she probably screwed it up. The Handbook for Mortals subtitle should be “if it’s in this book, then it’s probably wrong!” 😆

    Maybe Lambo Girl’s name is Verdicy. That’s a nice name for an arbiter of magic!

    Awww, yeah. And she really needs a name! I vote for Verdici Gardrich, because the spelling looks better, with her nickname being either Verde (Italian for Green, maybe Verdi for greens; leafy veggies) or Chi (Italian for Who.) I’m imagining it’s pronounced Verd-ee-chee, because her Scottish-American mother thought it sounded cool. People frequently ask if she was named for a bottle of wine. 😀

    Also, good news everyone! I found out that Gardrich is Gaelic for a troop, company. (Source 1) (Source 2) (Source 3; it’s a PDF that takes forever to load, just skip to page 200)

    So, the original was via troop verdict? Is Zade also a goddamn Scottish Faerie? The Aos Sí?

    You know what? I think you actually picked up on LS’s method of word choice: she picked things at random. I’m not even certain how exactly. My best guess is she dug up a “words that sound magical” site and left it at that. Seriously. 🙄

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  15. Using chaos magic has zero utilty, expect to move the story forward… Using normal magic was just fine.
    It could have been explained by a need to take as much risks as classical stage magicians (like, ok we’re cheating compared to others who must relay on technique and dexterity etc., so we feel better if we do take risks) but of course that would mean pointing out that Zade doesn’t deserve her place in the show compared to others who worked for years and we can’t have that.

    And the kiss with the young version of her father… I couldn’t believe it when I read it!

    Still finding that the magic is not explain enough at all. Ok chaos magic is impredictable, but what else? Does it enable to do stonger things? Is it the only form that can create things? What?!!

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  16. And the kiss with the young version of her father… I couldn’t believe it when I read it!

    That’s one of the few things that makes me wonder if LS has a daddy kink. I wouldn’t mind if she did, but I’d prefer it if she acknowledged that. Then again, this would be a very different book in that case. Considering it’s not truly YA, but adult, I’d think she might be able to get away with some light inclinations if she really wanted to indulge herself in that way.

    Does it enable to do stronger things? Is it the only form that can create things? What?!!

    That’s something I wondered as well, and I’m going to guess creation can only be achieved through chaos magic. Otherwise, there really was no point to using it.

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  17. I guess it could make sense. After all, there is something chaotic in the creation of life. It could be in some sense the positive side of chaos? I don’t know how to really express it sorry, but there could have been something to develop there.
    And at the end she mentions light dark and grey magics, so what is chaos magic? Can it be light and dark and grey? Or is it only grey for example?

    Anyway, the sad thing is that like you say, there was no point in using it… We’re not giving any explanation on what it is nor any reason in her character development for her to decide using it (does she get over confident? does she get desperate in staying fantastic in her father’s eyes? does she have to use it to stop Lambo Girl trying to interfer with the show?). And because she had no reason to do it, it makes the reader not care when she nearly dies because of it.

    Besides, unpredictable magic means she could also have hurt other people! Of course the book only shows how it can be dangerous for her, because she can’t have any fault and no one can tell her she did something wrong, but she could have hurt or killed people for no reason.

    Also, won’t anyone in the crew wonder who is the guy participating in her illusion? How are we suppose to believe no one will ever discover her secret?

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  18. I guess it could make sense. After all, there is something chaotic in the creation of life. It could be in some sense the positive side of chaos? I don’t know how to really express it sorry, but there could have been something to develop there.

    Yeah, people focus on destruction when it comes to chaos, and creation would be the positive side of that, although to create anything, something else must be destroyed. I guess the negative side of chaos would be entropy because it’s disorderly and random, but the ultimate result is turning everything into the same energy devoid mass (as I understand it.)

    The real problem is that there’s nothing truly chaotic about the magick Zade used in the performance. She had complete control over it until the energy backlash. So the only thing that happened when it rebelled was that she got struck by lightning and her hard drive needed to be repaired. Even if the magick isn’t inherently chaotic in nature, it would seem like using it should cause the user to become more chaotic, or at least do different things to make it work. And like you said, there’s no indication that it truly was unpredictable. If it could have affected the audience at all, that would make the most sense and create some interesting conflict for Zade to resolve before falling unconscious!

    The whole light, dark, and grey magick sounded like lip-service to explain how witchkas could be hated throughout history. It’s an element in a lot of folk magic, if magic isn’t considered bad by default (although I think there’s only light and dark traditionally), but it’s just a way for people to distance themselves from their perceived enemies and be accepted by their community. I doubt Sarem will develop it into anything more than that. Chaos magick is probably something so different that it doesn’t fall into any of those three categories.

    Also, won’t anyone in the crew wonder who is the guy participating in her illusion? How are we suppose to believe no one will ever discover her secret?

    Yeah, Sarem just gave up at that point. I’m pretty sure that’s also why Sofia disappears after Zade faints. Anything that could create complications for the plot were entirely ignored by the end. 😦

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