Part One – The Song of Freedom
Thank goodness I don’t have to wait 11 years to get my hands on this book, and really it has been about 3-4 days since I read The Keeping Place, I do not know how people kept themselves calm waiting for this book. I guess after a year or two, most people just forgot and got on with their lives. I wonder how many readers stopped with The Keeping Place and waited, and waited, and gave up, never to find out what happened next.
I am going to guess that we are going to recap a lot of what has happened, since readers have had such a long interval since their last encounter with this world, so expect a lot of the same information. But, tossed in will be some new stuff I am sure.
We have once again skipped ahead, nearly a year since the rebellion. How do I know this, because the first ever elections in the land are about to occur. People are going to choose who they want to lead them, which is a momentous occasion, one I am sure many of the rebel leaders are dreading. Like Vos, who is surely going to lose. And what about Malik? Or will he just scare his way into winning, or kill all his opponents? But it must be a precarious and exciting time for the Land (well apart from those on the west coast, where they are still under the rule of the Council/Faction, or whoever is running the show). I do wonder how many rebels will be ousted, and how things will change for Misfits. I can imagine a time when a Misfit will be elected in a ‘normal’ town, or a half-breed Gypsy! What about an animal!!! Or would that just be too progressive?
Elspeth and the Misfits still have concern about whether or not the Land folk will elect a bunch of Malik’s to the Council, forcing progress to go backwards, and send them back into the one-state, totalitarian ruling. We mustn’t forget that Malik is on trial for his betrayal, and that is to occur soon. Unfortunately, I don’t see a happy ending for the Misfits. I wonder how all the other trials have been going. Elspeth, along with Kella, Katlyn and Dragon (only at the insistence of Maryon) are travelling to Sutrium. Sadly, Dragon has never remembered that Elspeth was a good friend, and instead sees her as a bringer of pain, but I guess having someone invade your mind so strongly, and even destroy it in the first place, is something hard to ‘get over’.
The trip to Sutrium is in part to deliver Darius back to the Gypsies, and Elspeth had wanted to get away from Dragon. But we all know that Maryon and her predictions take all precedence, and she said strife was coming for the west coast, and that, of course, Elspeth was needed for that. Plus Dragon had to go too. Elspeth has finally come to accept, even grudgingly, that these futuretellings have served her well in the past, and have lead her to where she needs to be for the good of Obernewtyn and her quest, so she can’t just go against them.
Maruman is accompanying them (probably Gahltha as well), and I just love, and have missed, his snide commentary on the problems of humanity. We really are our own worst nightmares, with our pervasive thinking and obsessing over things, but some might argue that that is what makes us human. Zarak and even Louis Larkin (who, honestly I cannot believe is still alive, and there he was saying he was going to die, and he wanted to see the lowlands one last time, and that was back in The Farseekers!) are also with them, plus two soldierguards who were injured in the White Valley, but they are only now being returned to Sutrium.
Elspeth and Gahltha go for a gallop, but I am interested to find out that the rebels now know of Obernewtyn’s location. When did this happen? I don’t remember them giving anything away, or did this happen in the interlude, and they decided to trust them? Now anyone can find Obernewtyn, though I don’t think many people will be rushing to go there, with the plague rumour and the tainted path to get there. Though I guess that now the Herders are gone, Obernewtyn is not in danger of being found out about.
Their gallop is brought to an end, when they find a section of the path has fallen into the White Valley, and though they could pass it, the wagons will not be able to in the damp weather. Elspeth set about finding rocks and things to increase the width of the road, something I am having a hard time imagining. But then again, I am imagining a sheer cliff face on top of a high mountain… I guess if things are muddy then it would be easy to stick sticks and stones onto the road, but wouldn’t they then fall off? But, the road isn’t sheer, it has just washed away, so it is like a crater, so it isn’t too bad since they just need to fill the hole.
It took everyone two whole hours to widen the path enough (Garth is with them too) for the wagons. Rather jealously Elspeth finds that Dragon has no issue with Maruman, who invaded her mind just as much as she did. Garth suggests that they stop at the White Valley camp for the night, since they won’t reach Rangorn before dark, and since they are not in any hurry (plus his own desire to start more research I presume). Maryon’s prediction that Elspeth is needed for the west coast is interesting, since, the ships the rebels were building, had once again, been burnt. I would hope that they were now constantly patrolling and guarding any more boats they wish to build. So it will take another half a year, before they could even land a force to take over, but that, is fraught with danger. But there is a chance that Elspeth will be a spy, travelling into the west coast, wearing one of the plast suits that they are carrying to Sutrium.
Apparently Elspeth has asked Maryon how those on the west coast are faring. And all she got was something about ship fish and sickness, which isn’t promising, or helpful. Lot’s of random information is being thrown at us. Like Dardelan being High Chieftain, and all other leaders called chieftains. Vos in Saithwood is having trouble, as predicted. And Dardelan, has decided to release his Beast Charter, detailing that nobody can own beasts before the election, he really isn’t a politician! Obernewtyn may one day become a settlement, and someone, probably Rushton, would be their chieftain, who would represent Obernewtyn and Misfits in the ‘council of chieftains’. But that does create some interesting issues. Rushton would have to be in Sutrium a lot. And would that mean that Obernewtyn was no longer just for Misfits, but anyone could come up and build a house like a regular village? Interesting times ahead.
Garth has a few things he would like to show Elspeth dealing with the Beforetime. And again, more random, aside, information. They have voted, and defeated a motion to open Jacob Obernewtyn’s grave (even Elspeth voted against it). Garth is so convinced that it is something special, because it was on maps, and because it is so different to other graves. But, couldn’t it just be that someone loved Jacob, and wanted to give him the memorial he deserved? Garth is even convinced that Hannah Seraphim could be in the same grave as Jacob! But Zarak sets him straight, why wouldn’t there be two names on the gravestone? The two argue it out, Zarak is clearly not convinced, and Garth will not change his opinion. All the other guild leaders also voted down the proposal, but many of them are swayed by Maryon’s vote, because they think that she is voting not on person opinion but on some unknown prediction.
They reach the White Valley and travel into the secret opening where the wagons can travel. They don’t have to worry about people punishing them for being here, but Garth wants to keep the place a secret from the landfolk for as long as possible, and he is doing everything in his power to keep it that way. One day they will make a formal claim on the land which is right next to the opening down into Tor, to the city called Newrome (new information subtly added in). Zarak is reminded of Jik and his death being in the White Valley, but it brings up interesting questions about what the Herders did with Misfits. What sort of testing did they do, how much do they know, and do they have an army of Misfits? And of course there is Darga, whose arrival to Obernewtyn will signal it time for Elspeth to leave, but he still has not come.
Kella takes Zarak’s place, and we find out that she is leaving Obernewtyn to run the healing centre and teach others in Sutrium. It is a sign of the change that is happening for the Misfits, and Elspeth is saddened by losing a friend, while everyone else sees it as an opportunity to show the folk that Misfits are useful and not scary. The chapter ends with a good question. Would the people of the day destroy or harm the earth as much as us Beforetimers have done? Or is it just that we have the capacity to do it so well, that they don’t seem to be doing anything? Or has their experiences and our downfall taught them a valuable lesson? I eagerly wait the rest of the book!