This chapter opens up with the protagonists getting over all that petty bickering they were engaged in last chapter. They apologize and then Alister launches into more of his backstory. Characters are still sleepwalking through the beats of a tired old arc, but on the bright side at least this came in chapter 12 and not in, like, chapter 23 or whatever the chapter right before last is. In fact, since this is book one of a duology, this petty bickering could’ve dragged itself out past the end of the book. Turns out Alister’s father designed his ship, and the Abaric pirate king stole it and some others and killed his father and then pressganged him into the crew. Alister was way more interesting when his background was just having the personal enmity of a single ship full of pirates, rather than having been personally wronged by the leader of some globe-spanning pirate confederation.
Also, Alister’s fault in all this is supposed to be that he’s more interested in getting his bounty cleared than in Charlotte as a person, but Charlotte still has no right to Alister’s affection, so what the Hell? The book phrases it as Alister “treating [Charlotte] like a piece of cargo,” but it’s not like he shoved her in the hold and told her to stay there and keep quiet until they arrived at their destination. The actual “fault” here is apparently keeping a professional relationship instead of obeying the plot and falling in love with the female lead.
Also, they visit some sandy ruined village and get attacked by a giant monster.
In which the giant monster attack continues. Our monster here is a giant serpentine monster with no eyes or nose, just a giant maw and a bunch of human arms out front that feel around. It’s basically a dune worm that hunts by feeling vibrations on the sand, but unfortunately it doesn’t care how rhythmic your vibrations are so you can’t escape it by grooving to the colors. You can escape it by standing on a rock, though, because it can’t swim through solid stone and dislikes emerging from the sand intensely enough that it won’t pop out and eat something sitting on top of it, plus I don’t know if it can feel vibrations through rock the way it can through sand. Charlotte ends up separated from the group and attacked by a slightly different snake-y worm-y sort of golem, before being saved by some doll golem that can talk. It’s all…okay? There’s nothing wrong with the chapter itself, it’s just suffering from how much I don’t care about these characters or their journey.
The chapters aren’t getting shorter. I just have less and less to say about them. Quality is actually climbing a bit overall, as we get more weird and interesting ideas and fewer references to Charlotte’s tits, but we’re 55% of the way in. It’s pretty late in the game to try and win my attention just by mostly shedding some early flaws.
The doll golem is named Annie and leads Charlotte to her home in a ruined city. Annie used to be a human but then got golem’d. Also, Alister and Giovanni are stuck on a rock because the one snake chimera is constantly circling it waiting for them to step off so it can murder them. And that’s basically it.
It’s three days later. Charlotte has been searching for Alister and Giovanni fruitlessly since their separation. When we pivot to Alister’s perspective, we confirm that Alister should be dead from dehydration:
Alister swatted a fly from his face wondering if the annoying pests were edible. The sky shown a deep blue, like water. Water that didn’t exist. It had almost been four days since they last had anything to drink or eat.
If it’s been almost four days since you last had anything to drink, then you’re either dead or unconscious and quickly dying (assuming normal conditions, at least – it’s possible to survive much longer under ideal circumstances, but “sweating in a desert” is not ideal circumstances). Really, leaving any room for the latter is being pretty generous, but stranger things have happened. Alister and Giovanni somehow have enough energy left in them not only to remain conscious and converse, but when the conversation gets tense, they end up in a fist fight with each other. It’s not the only book that’s gotten confused on how long it takes to dehyrdate, either. Is the whole “three weeks without food, three days without water, three minutes without air” thing just way less common knowledge than I think?
Anyway, they do eventually find Alister, at which point the golem doll saves him from the one snake chimera the same way she saved Charlotte from the other a few chapters ago.
We’re not even halfway to my usual wordcount, but I’m already kind of exhausted with this book, so I’m calling it here.