The Immortal Cure: Love Letter 2: Love Harder

Admin note, a few hours after it was supposed to go live, I noticed I’d put the wrong time in for the last Immortal Cure post. I tried to switch it to the right time, and instead overshot so it was six hours early. Even if it’s worked, it still would’ve posted without notifying anyone, ’cause it was backdated. Probably should’ve just let it go up six hours later than normal, it’s not like anyone’s hitting refresh on my website waiting for the hour to tick over so they can get a new post.

Chapter 19

I haven’t been so eager to see the end of a book since Dungeon Born – at least things like Succubus were spectacularly bad and not just relentlessly mediocre – but unfortunately the Immortal Cure does have an actual plot where scenes build on what came before so I can’t just compress a fifth of the story into a two-line summary and exclude nothing important. For that matter, it’s worth noting here that the Immortal Cure is often aiming in the right direction, it’s just constantly crippled by a character-driven plot driven by characters with no charm or chemistry. If the secrets of alchemy are meant to be a plot-driven big twist, then that’s also a problem, because I don’t care about that, either. Like, really, what do I care about the umpteenth Brandon Sandersen rip-off magic system? Mistborn was published in 2006, we’re reaching the stage where complaining about Sandersen knock-offs is itself becoming old hat, actual Sandersen knock-offs set sail years ago. And the setting is functional but uninspired, good enough to serve as the foundation for other elements without detracting from them but not a selling point on its own. Much like the plot, it’s somewhat formulaic but competently executed enough not to get in the way of the book’s strengths, if only the book had any strengths.

Anyway, Charlotte ruminates on how she’s in love with a pirate and also on how this is the stupidest thing to be preoccupying her thoughts while she’s preparing to murder a tyrant, something that would be compelling if love and romance had not been at the forefront of her mind almost incessantly from chapter one.

Eventually, she joins Alister and Giovanni, and they start trying to puzzle out why Geoffrey went rogue. This is the part of the narrative that tries to make Charlotte look smart by making Alister and Giovanni into dipshits.

Charlotte turned to Alister. “I have thought about this a lot. I think Geoffrey saved you because he liked you, Alister. I believe that something more powerful than his conditioning leaked through, causing him to act according to his own desires. And that desire was to protect you. It’s soul, or Ether according to Flamel’s journal, wanted to protect you despite what it had been trained to do.”

Alister nodded slowly. “I guess that makes sense. But why? Why try to protect me? It’s not like I did anything different with it.”

“I am not sure about that,” Charlotte said, looking down at her cracker. “You see, you did something no other previous master had done.”

“What’s that?”

“You gave him a name.”

The book has explicitly called this out as unusual, not just in narrative but in dialogue, so Alister should be aware that this is weird. Genius inventor that he is, he should also be smart enough to realize that the weird thing he did is the prime candidate for being responsible for the golem’s weird behavior towards him. Also, anthropomorphizing non-living creatures is plenty common. People name their cars, their computers, any machine they interact with regularly. Not most people, but enough of them that golems getting named and subsequently going rogue should be a common enough occurrence for the redcoats to know about it. Plus, if it’s literally just giving some kind of unique identification, then anyone who regularly interacts with more than one golem will at the very least number them. Naming them would be more advisable, since it’s easier to keep track of Alice, Bob, and Charlie than it is to keep track of golem one, golem two, and golem three.

Giovanni impulsively tries to smash the super stone from the ruin open, but it’s basically impervious. Charlotte still suspects that touching the stone to Harthum might kill him, although it’s still not clear why she thinks that. During this chapter, she also comes across a more reasonable, though still speculative, theory: Maybe this stone will crumble if removed from its chamber just like all the others, but it just has a really big chamber. So, maybe we Journey to the Moon this shit by firing the stone out of a giant cannon until it leaves the planet?

Chapter 20

Alister is ruminating on how he feels about Charlotte.

Luca, one of Jubal’s four captains, had been beautiful, but her Abaric prejudices had made her arrogant and condescending toward him. Lotte was the complete opposite. Beautiful, without being conceited, smart, humble… even brave.

So this “pirate king” only has four captains you need to knock off to resolve this vendetta? Bugger the three million bucks, just hire mercenaries to kill these assholes. It’d probably be cheaper than paying them off, and more likely to actually work. Also, Lotte is absolutely condescending towards Alister (and Giovanni). She is constantly trying to impose upper class mannerisms and values on him. I get the feeling that the reason CJ Olsen can’t see this is because he shares those values, and views their imposition on others as being as natural as breathing, and thus not even worth considering when evaluating someone’s humility.

We’re 79% of the way in, so it’s time for the plot-mandated dark night of the soul. Now, I’m being flippant about it, but I want to point out two things here: One, having a low point around 75-80% of the way through is perfectly good plotting. Not every plot has to break formula over its knee in a bold avant-garde defiance of convention. The overwhelming majority of plots follow the Save the Cat beats, and unless you’ve got some specific vision that can’t be contained by those beats, you should use them. If you haven’t tried to fit your outline into the Save the Cat formula, you need to do that and actually check whether or not it would be improved by it, because the number of plots that are actually works of mad genius that defy convention is dwarfed by the number of plots that are just kind of lazy and don’t want to go through a second draft. So I’m not ragging on The Immortal Cure for having a dark night of the soul at around 75%-80% of the way through the book.

No, I’m ragging on it for having a dark night of the soul that’s as lame and uninspired as “Alister finds Charlotte’s love letter to Jonathon and decides she doesn’t love him.” We’re trying to assassinate Sauron! Our heroes have nearly died like four times! Romantic entanglements like this are way too petty to constitute an “all is lost” moment. Alister’s still getting a huge payday, Charlotte’s still got the weapon she needs to kill Harthum and no particular reason to believe she can’t figure out how to use it in time to thwart his marriage to Tatiana. Sure, you can have a story where there’s action and adventure and also romance, and you can have the romance be the main thrust of the plot and not just a side story, but you need to jeopardize everything your heroes have worked for to raise the stakes, not just one of several irons they have in the fire. Alister’s not even super betrayed or anything. He just decides not to make out with her. She’s still welcome on his ship. He’s still going to fly her to safety and the rebellion. They’re both just sad because each thinks the other has rejected them. Hooray for a modicum of maturity and reasonable, adult behavior in reaction to a romcom misunderstanding, but there’s a reason why so many writers rely on the romantic leads acting like morons in response – moronic tantrums can jeopardize the entire plot.

Now, in fairness, this isn’t necessarily the dark night of the soul. Our heroes have had a string of unbroken victories, so we need them to have an honest-to-god failure at some point to stop them from seeming too unbeatable. It’s important that we have a defeat of some kind in here somewhere, and maybe that’s still coming. But I thought it was coming when the redcoats ambushed them in the border town, and Geoffrey bailed them out of that, so, y’know, I’m not holding my breath. We may just be looking at an author who’s too strongly averse to throwing real setbacks in his heroes’ path.

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