Emily’s Growth

3 Oct

I’m reposting this because i messed up the formatting with the last post.  Sorry.

Gordian Knot Final FOR WEB

Emily’s Growth

Fair Warning – Spoilers for The Gordian Knot below.

One of the problems I have, in writing Schooled In Magic, is pacing Emily’s growth as a character. On one hand, she’s been in the Nameless World for five and a half years, which should – and has – give her the opportunity for considerable character development. On the other hand, I have to pace this so Emily doesn’t turn into superwoman in the first handful of books and leave herself with nowhere to go. I base her development on Luke Skywalker, not Rey <grin>.

I can understand why some readers find this a little frustrating. At the same time, there are reasons for her slow development and, because Emily is not consciously aware of this, I have to leave them implicit rather than stating them outright.

First, Emily was emotionally abused as a child/teenager and, because of it, she isn’t really convinced – deep inside – that she’s worth anything. Worse, she’s not convinced that fighting will actually get her anything, as it hasn’t in the past. This makes it harder for her to stand up to authority figures, particularly when she thinks – to some extent – that the authority figures have a point. She’s the sort of person who will avoid conflict unless pushed into it.

Because of this, she tends to value her friends much more than she values herself. She won’t see herself as being worth fighting for, but she’ll fight for her friends. In some ways – because Alassa, Imaiqah, et al are her first real friends – she’ll put her life into danger or risk everything for them, when she won’t do it for herself. She’ll react harshly to a threat to her friends, but not a threat to herself.

In short, because she spent so much of her life powerless, it’s hard for her to grasp that she has power now.

Second, Emily has a habit of clinging to what little she does have. Friends, the people she regards as parents and family … and Whitehall, the first place she’s called home. She doesn’t really want to leave the school, which is at least partly why she thinks about trying to get a job there immediately after graduation. Going out into the world isn’t something she wants to do. Whitehall is safe … which, given that Whitehall’s record isn’t much better than Hogwarts, might not be the wisest assumption <grin>.

Third, Emily was born and raised on Earth. She has a number of assumptions about how societies work – and the limits of acceptable behaviour – that are simply not true of the Nameless World. A child – by our standards – might wield considerable power before he reaches his majority … or have his head lopped off for a petty crime. (Lyanna Mormont seems absurd to us as a character: Elizabeth Tudor was 26 when she was crowned, Mary was 37.)

Emily doesn’t quite grasp this, not intellectually … and she doesn’t realise it might apply to her. For example, she doesn’t consider herself to be an adult …

This works for and against her. On one hand, she can and she does befriend commoners – people who are far below her, on the social scale – and that sometimes works in her favour (even if most of her fellows would sneer). She has a lot more fans than she realises, particularly in Zangaria. On the other hand, she doesn’t realise that her friendship with Frieda is crossing lines – not because they’re lovers (they’re not, obviously) but because they’re in different years. Emily isn’t deliberately promoting Frieda – or protecting her – but it certainly looks that way to any outside observers. A different Head Pupil wouldn’t have made so many allowances for Frieda, but Emily – loyal to her friends – finds it hard to play the disciplinarian. (This is why you probably shouldn’t be friends with your subordinates.)

Fourth, and linked to the first, Emily doesn’t grasp the full extent of her power. When she was in Martial Magic, she was pitted against students who were either extremely good (Aloha) or several years older than her (Cat and Jade). Her magical enemies (Shadye, Mother Holly, Dua Kepala, Master Grey) were all much more powerful than her; her other enemies were ones who couldn’t be removed through brute force or semi-mindless beasts (the Mimic, Manavores). This blinds her, more or less completely, to the fact that she is the single most powerful student in Whitehall. (A Royal Anglican soldier might look up to the SAS, but he’s still far tougher than any given civilian.) As of TGK, she’s actually better at fighting than any other student in the school – Cirroc included.

She could be a lot more forceful. But, on one hand, she isn’t remotely comfortable acting like a bully – even if she’s bullying someone who deserves it – and, on the other hand, she doesn’t really want power. She doesn’t think she has a right to have power over others. Someone might go to work for her (just as I might hire an accountant), but the idea of someone being her hereditary servant is fundamentally wrong to her. Technically, she owns everyone in Cockatrice; fundamentally, she doesn’t believe this to be true. She was raised in a world where slavery was flat-out wrong.

Fifth, Emily’s long term goals are a little more nebulous than Harry Potter’s. She wants to expand the industrial revolution she’s already triggered, she wants to push forward magical research and development, she wants to find a way to remove the necromancers once and for all … those aren’t really goals that she can follow in Whitehall. She needs a completed apprenticeship to be able to push these goals, which means completing her education and getting the cert. Refusing to take the Head Girl post would actually make that harder for her, as it casts her judgement into question.

This makes her a little more reactive than proactive. She doesn’t have many obvious threats to destroy, on one hand; on the other, she understands that a policy of slow development (and sharing ideas widely) is better for making her changes and innovations stick rather than provoking mass resistance.

And Sixth, finally, Emily has been through hell over the last few years. She’s suffering from trauma, even a form of PTSD. And she doesn’t really know it because the Nameless World does NOT do any form of mental treatment. There’s no one who will talk through her problems with her – although she might wind up doing it with Samra and Melissa at some point – and no one who can really help. What she needs is a rest. But the evil b******* of an author isn’t going to let her have one.


84 Responses to “Emily’s Growth”

  1. Bradley October 3, 2017 at 9:33 pm #

    Thanks for the insights Chris, it helps to fill out Emily’s Character. Another facet that keeps coming up is that she sees every accomplishment as an accident. Rather than taking credit and having confidence she says it was all a matter of circumstance. Emily only exhibits greatness when pushed to the max. Otherwise she doesn’t give her all. It seems to me that when she was facing off with an opponent in TGK, she had an opportunity to utilize some of the forbidden healing magic she learned from Aurelius. Maybe she didn’t because she was feeling more a victim than someone in control.

    • Mark October 6, 2017 at 10:38 pm #

      Chris…please, No ads….I can’t read anything in your blog because all the screen wants to show me is the damned AD!!!. It has taken me over 5 minutes to write this.

      • Billy October 12, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

        (Quote) Chris…please, No ads….I can’t read anything in your blog because all the screen wants to show me is the damned AD!!!. It has taken me over 5 minutes to write this. (End Quote)

        You can get a Ad Blocker – They really are a must have with sites having 50 to 100 ads – not to mention Virus/ etc

        Look up uBlock Origin or Disconnect

  2. Rhino October 3, 2017 at 10:14 pm #

    I got the other post just fine, and replied, but failed to say how entertaining is was to see her expand her use of Aurelius. I had a pet cobra once in Laos and never forgot how dumb and weird it was. So to have a bracelet as such , etc…. Also. man, your description of magic surpasses all others.

    • Mark October 9, 2017 at 2:26 am #

      Love it when Aurelius is on stage!! BTW…he got badly injured when he hit the wall….then Emily changed him back into a bracelet.
      1) will his injury be healed when he is changed back into a snake?
      2) If not, will Emily be able to fix him?

      Can’t wait for the sequel…that cliffhanger you ended on had me sitting up in the chair and going WTF!!??

      PS: Thanks for removing the ad.

  3. Veraenderer October 3, 2017 at 10:15 pm #

    With other words there is a big discrepancy between who she is and as whom she sees herself. This results in actions which irritates the fuck out of everyone who doesn’t know her well.

    I think we saw it beautiful at Fulvia, at begin she was very careful around her, since she assumed that she was a typical powerful sorceress and wanted to echolote if she would be a potential ally or a potential enemy, making the mistake of thinking about her like a typical powerful sorceress. After observing her she concluded that she was just a child and therefore not powerful and after Emily broke up the fight between Ashworth and Ashfall and humiliated them through supporting Marcus and Melissa and therefore concluded that Emily is more like a young version of herself AND her enemy.

    Would Fulvia had realized earlier to not underestimate Emily and seen her more like a very powerful child she could have kept her easily out of the way of her own plans or even use Emily for her own plans, since Emily isn’t to hard to manipulate as long as you don’t push her to hard.

  4. Pyo October 3, 2017 at 10:22 pm #

    I’d say that all makes perfect sense and is also what’s shown in the series.

    This sort of issue – self-sabotaging characters so to speak – are I feel one of the bigger writing challenges since it’s practically inevitable that readers will hate it. Which is kind of the point of it; you (normally) aren’t supposed to love it when a character (yet again) does something you just know is the wrong decision.

    But obviously you don’t want Mary Sues, you don’t want one-dimensional characters that have no flaws, you want room for development and characters that are real people with their doubts and issues and such. So even if readers complain, sometimes the author needs to put their foot down and do it anyway. Like killing off popular characters in military scifi or letting a popular romance fail or whatever. It’s necessary.

    Sometimes those issues and flaws can be really extreme and completely central to the plot – anyone here read Mishell Baker’s Arcadia Project? The heroine has more issues than a daily newspaper. ^^ Sometimes it’s more like a small, persistent niggle – like, I don’t know, Tori and his self-doubt in Kencyrath. It’s not the main character, and it’s largely not what drives the plot, but his flaws consistently sabotage his relationship with the heroine, with often annoying consequences.

    I think Emily is somewhere in the middle of all that – it’s a major thing, but it’s usually not absolutely crucial to what happens. There’s no immense angsty scenes before every confrontation or whatever.

    And I think it makes sense that even after solving some issues she isn’t magically over all her problems, as sometimes happens. With a series that’s as long as this one, you have the time to develop stuff slowly.

    Yet at the same time I feel justified in getting somewhat worried: how many times does she need to kill a powerful necromancer before she realizes what she can do? Besides, she’s often enough contemplated what she could possibly do with a nexus, or what her nuke spell could do, and so on. So if she hasn’t realized it now, will she ever? All that aside she’s made a bunch of friends now and even has some romantic experience. Surely that must have fixed some of her self-worth issues? What else is she waiting for?
    I mean, sure, realistically some people never change. But this is still fiction and she’s still the heroine. So I kind of expect it. ^^ It starts changing from being reasonable insecure to being, well, annoyingly slow.

    That’s however for Gordian Knot specifically, at least for me, the smaller issue. I might grumble a bit, but while it’s a nice fantasy so imagine her storming in Gordian’s office and threaten to blow him and everyone else up if they don’t stop being idiots I don’t actually expect it to happen 😉

    My issue is basically: first, you emphasize that she values her friends, which makes sense. Second, you point out she’s clinging to Whitehall (and what else she has) and, third, you say she’s loyal to her friends.

    But that’s exactly where the book is so contradictory to me! When Frieda lashes out, she sticks to her, but also buys into a “she’s stressed, she’s wrong” etc explanation instead of exploring what’s going on with her in more depth. This is not loyalty and valuing your friend. This is more of a “this is a bother, go somewhere else and fix yourself, I’m busy” attitude.

    Plus, not realizing that it might be soul magic, when kind of dangling the obvious in front of the reader, isn’t so much an issue of proactive/passive, but of how thorough and rational she is, and usually Emily comes across as fairly logical. If it’s not A, it’s B. If it’s not B, it’s C. But here it feels like she’s doing one cursory search once it’s basically too late anyway and that’s it then.

    (and I admit I’m still not buying that it’s plausible they are blaming the Head Girl/friend to this extend in a school full of other authority figures)

    Likewise, when’s, for reasons, threatened with losing the Nexus under Whitehall, I don’t really see her displaying how important Whitehall is to her. There isn’t a sense of outrage or anything on the novel. And to a smaller extend this is also true for her joint project – while she doesn’t casually discard it, she doesn’t really cling to it either.

    So altogether the issue/s I have with this novel are less about Emily and her lack of growth, although it’s related to that (and I really feel that soul magic mirror business should have had a more notable reaction), but more of how even factoring that in I still feel many decisions aren’t convincing or not convincing enough.

    Sorry for always complaining. It’s easier than pointing out the good stuff. ^^;

    • An Marie October 5, 2017 at 5:54 am #

      “I mean, sure, realistically some people never change. But this is still fiction and she’s still the heroine. So I kind of expect it. ^^ It starts changing from being reasonable insecure to being, well, annoyingly slow….”

      well said and I agree 100% with this statement. I understand that Chris is trying to keep Emily’s development and growth along real world lines, but I don’t read fantasy fiction for a taste of reality, there are other types of books that deal in that if I was interested in it. I don’t mind slow development but I like to feel that there is some and I just don’t see it in TGK, the previous books yes but this one seemed out of sync. TGK was just annoying to me and I really struggled to get through it. The titles of the next several books also leave me somewhat uninterested, this series may have played out for me or not, I’ll decide after reading GD.

      • George VanDeusen October 9, 2017 at 10:52 pm #

        Actually…I really enjoy books that demonstrate plausible human reactions. ENDERS GAME is an example of a superlative SciFi book that was enhanced by Enders human reactions

    • Ann October 7, 2017 at 5:28 am #

      Emily’s responsibility as Head Girl aren’t total as the school has Prefects, Dorm Monitors and Mothers and Fathers and sometimes Advisors. Emily also had/has a Guardian (Mistress Irene) who was supposed to be supportive but has been completely neglectful.

      The school repeatedly thrashed Frieda but it didn’t change her and yet they blame Emily for not thrashing her more.
      Yet from Daze’s testimony what she did was settle Frieda and make her stable for longer so she was effective when the school wasn’t.

  5. G October 4, 2017 at 2:09 am #

    I love your writing, but for me the problem with #1 Emily has no self-esteem is you’ve been saying this for 12 books with minimal character growth in this area–even as she’s defeated multiple necromancers, killed enemies etc. For #3, Emily’s 21 years old now–old enough to be aware of the world and she’s been to the Cairngorns to see struggling peasants, in Mountaintop with magical society, in Zangaria with the aristocracy, Beneficience (the free cities), Farakhan on a military campaign–she’s seen more of the Nameless World than most people born there, so saying she doesn’t understand it doesn’t work…As for #4, she has to know she’s more powerful than her peers–at the end of Wedding Hells she publicly tears down a King’s wards and teleports out (which requires far more power than a typical 4th year would possess…), while at the beginning of Past Tense people tell her bluntly that her fellow students are afraid of her power in Ritual Magic,,,

    • Benjamin Lindsey October 4, 2017 at 8:24 pm #

      Emily has shown character growth though, quite a lot, she’s developed from a meek and totally introverted person into a self effacing, still somewhat introverted but socially active person. Over the course of 5 years this is a reasonable pace of development without any conscious and active attempt to redress things. As Chris says, Emily had a fairly traumatic upbringing, her personality “flaws” are pretty typical adaptive changes for abused children. These adaptive changes establish negative psychological schemata that can take a lifetime to replace. Take a look at Beck’s Cognitive Triad to see how this can effect a person’s outlook on the world. As the quintessential unreliable narrator we are seeing Emily’s world view unfiltered, thus lack the exposition effect that a 2nd POV would give us.

    • Ann October 7, 2017 at 5:30 am #

      She does know she’s powerful. She scared Cirroc out of his rooms, other students didn’t want to do ritual Magic with her. But does she treat these as things about her or things about others

      • chrishanger October 11, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

        There’s a difference between waving your hand in someone’s face and actually hitting them (and feeling their nose breaking under your fist, with blood going everywhere).

        That’s what got Emily.


  6. PhilippeO October 4, 2017 at 4:15 am #

    > A different Head Pupil wouldn’t have made so many allowances for Frieda.

    Wouldn’t Head Pupil from magical families, with younger students from same Family and Quarrel had far more incentive to be nepotism / patronage than Emily ?

  7. Veraenderer October 4, 2017 at 8:57 am #

    On a completly different note. I personly have the feeling that you show Emilys approach to statesmanship as to positiv. I would recommend that you look up Friedrich Wilhelm I. because he is a historical example of someone who achieved something very similiar to Emily with Cockatrice with a somehwhat approach.

    I personly have the feeling that you know too much about english history and to little about the history of other countries which leads you to descripe basicly every nation on basis of something out of english history (atleast in the books I read).

    • chrishanger October 4, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

      Well, I based part of Zangeria on Scotland and pre-revolutionary france, but yes – that might well be the case. I’ll look him up.


      • Pyo October 4, 2017 at 7:27 pm #

        He’s an odd example, if we’re talking about the Prussian (there’s an entire army of Friedrich Wilhelms that ruled one German principality or another). Yes, he modernized Prussia dramatically – without what he did Friedrich the Great would have stood no chance to do what he did – but he also was a complete autocrat and believed in the absolute rule of monarchs. I can’t picture Emily turning into someone like that. 😉

        Friedrich II actually seems to me a bit more like Emily, with his stance on culture and science. He’s an enlightened absolutist, not just a total absolutist. But of course like his father he’s a complete militarist in later years.

        Otherwise, wouldn’t the Meji restoration fit the country/situation better? Tokugawa Yoshinobu is an interesting figure: he tried to reform the stagnating Japanese shogunate, and clearly was a very competent and intelligent ruler, but ultimately he had to give up and resign to avoid tearing the country apart. He might potentially fit Alassa, I guess, depending on how this goes.
        Either way, Japan completely reformed in the following years from a feudal society to a capitalist power. Seems kinda like what’s going on here.
        But at the same time Japan obviously had a bunch of very unique components that probably don’t really fit anywhere so it might not be that useful (is there a potential puppet Emperor in store somewhere? ^^)

      • Veraenderer October 4, 2017 at 11:59 pm #

        Friedrich Willhelm and Friedrich II both believed in absolute rule and both believed themself to be the first servant of the state. What seperates Friedrich Willhelm and Friedrich II is their stance on culture, art, science and war.

        I did recommended him because he is so different to Emily but achieved similar things to what she did in Cockatrice in a different manner.

        I too see not Emily turning into him, but I could see another inspired character by him create a counterweight to Cockatrice.

  8. tommalufe October 4, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    Just bought it! I’m very excited to read it over the next few days (given my record, it shouldn’t last me more than 2 or 3).

    • tommalufe October 6, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

      Just finished it! Loved it! Very different from the previous books thus far, but the same old Emily. I really hope you don’t end the series with her graduation. I want to see what the future holds for her and the Nameless World.

  9. patdailey October 5, 2017 at 2:44 am #

    You need to focus on Emily having a normal life where she can be happy. You have taken her as far as you can. Perhaps return her to her home time amazing things there. Maybe she can taken her magic with her to create a new world in the same manner she changed. Cool concept. But don’t forget the zero concept. It is a brilliant concept of magic. I love the zero concept.

  10. patdailey October 5, 2017 at 2:47 am #

    I will read many thing you write.

  11. David Graf October 5, 2017 at 3:33 am #

    I saw an ad for WordPress at the end of your post. Was that supposed to be there? If not, I have to go hunting again to get rid of the nasty Adware that snuck onto my PC.

    • chrishanger October 11, 2017 at 3:20 pm #

      No, but wordpress has problems from time to time.


  12. Bryce October 5, 2017 at 4:43 am #

    So you say that Emily has a lot more power then she shows does that include her power reserves as well. If that is the case does she have similar power level to Void or some of the other Lone powers, as I would assume that they all have different amounts of power and reserves though they are all great and much more than the average sorcerers out there?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 5, 2017 at 5:33 am #

      From what Chris has said earlier there are two factors involved.

      First, Emily has more power than most sorcerers have at her age but plenty of older sorcerers still have more power than her.

      Second, most sorcerers in the Nameless World don’t “broad-cast” their level of power under normal conditions. Doing so is considered rude. Emily’s personality is such that she’s less likely than most to “flaunt” her level of power.

      So while people know of Emily’s reputation as Necromancer-Bane and know of her victory over Master Grey, her behavior at school or elsewhere doesn’t reflect “how they think a very powerful sorcerer would behave”.

      • Bryce October 6, 2017 at 4:35 am #

        that is al true but as Chris said that she was the most powerful student at Whitehall. We have also been told as you age you get more powerful so that means that when she is 30 to 40 where will that power level be we can only guess. I remember from the meeting with Gordian as her career councillor she was told many try to be a lone power but most fail. So with her being trained by a lone power Void will he push her to the limits to push her power level up, or will that just happen over time.

        That will be up to Chris but I think she will eventually get to the power level of a Lone power but can she be that disconnected to the politic will determine whether or not she is a lone power.

      • G October 6, 2017 at 8:41 am #

        Emily began the series essentially isolated and alone…if she ends the series isolated and alone as a Lone Power, that, to me, would be depressing…she should be able to train with Void while becoming her own person–a person with great mundane and magical power, but also at least some friends and a family. That’s why I hope she can develop a relationship with some man who’s more able to stand by her side…

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 6, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

        IIRC Officially a Lone Power is an extremely powerful sorcerer who isn’t part of the Magical Families or any other large magical organization.

        IMO Emily could become a Lone Power and still have friends & marry.

        Void may not be a typical Lone Power.

      • chrishanger October 11, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

        She’ll have a family in time


      • chrishanger October 11, 2017 at 3:22 pm #

        Pretty much

        If you read GRRL POWER (http://grrlpowercomic.com/), Maxima is pretty much the sort of person the Nameless World expects its sorceresses to be.


  13. Jensebaum October 5, 2017 at 2:56 pm #

    Chris, thank you for this post, it helped clarify things for me.
    Still hoping though that GD picks up the pace a little.

  14. Erika Smith October 5, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

    I want to thank you for doing such a great job getting your work out on audible formats so consistently. As a reader, I really enjoy reading when I can, but continuing to listen when I can’t. I have a question about the Schooled in Magic series. When are the last few books going to be available in the audio format? Thank you for your attention and thank you for all of the wonderful books, characters, world, and series that you have created.
    P.S. I apologize if I am posting this question in the wrong place. I am largely computer-illiterate and my efforts to find a place to post my question it is a sign of how much I want to find these audio books!

    • chrishanger October 11, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

      They’re basically coming out as they’re produced, so I can’t give any solid dates. Watch my FB page for updates.


  15. Vapori October 5, 2017 at 7:30 pm #

    I think you described it alright over the books.
    Emily blossomed a bit at the beginning and researched some things for herself based on earth.
    But she hasn’t done that ever again after love labors won.
    At least not to a great degree ( some of it still showed in her duelling style against master gray or the beam attack against the catapults in the sergeants apprentice.

    And some hints of what she can do later are given in quite a few books.
    and she has of course learned to tame a nexus point and how to restart one that has gone inactive.

    So I kinda hope that her researchspeed will pick up again when she is out of her apprenticeship

    Also on note I kinda wondered myself if she had a PSTD at least she had been stressed in the last few books and seen horrible things done to humans by other humans and sometimes fighting it herself.

    I just hope that she gets over it that a while.

  16. Billy October 5, 2017 at 11:47 pm #

    I would like to see a big battle where Emily throws some nukes around and another black hole or two and even a super nova or a quasar .

    Where she takes on a army of bad all by herself.

    And everyone knows it’s her

    • Maggie October 10, 2017 at 7:34 pm #

      Me to.

  17. Kell Harris October 8, 2017 at 7:41 am #

    I can’t wait for other perspectives. I’m really interested in Barb an Marcus. I wonder what he sprung on her. Maybe he asked her to marry him but Barb wasn’t having it. Marcus was probably like we’ve been dating for years.But Barb would hate even the idea of settling down. Also I can’t wait for Emily to leave Whitehall it’s like a crutch for her now.

    • Wazman October 8, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

      It could be about that or something that involves Emily personally. I have looked for proof that Sgt Miles is aware of Emily’s true origins, and so far I have haven’t gleaned that nugget of information (if someone does know where please let me know) if my assumption is that he hasn’t maybe the Sargent has made the incorrect conclusion that Emily is child of both Void and Lady Barb. He knows that they have history together and their relationship ended poorly when Void claimed Emily. It could be that he does want to marry Barb but wants to know the truth. But She can’t say anything without revealing Emily’s origin.

      • Kell October 9, 2017 at 8:38 am #

        In the beginning of sergeant s apprintice miles perspective he thinks how emily is not from the nameless world and that void is not her father

    • georgephillies October 8, 2017 at 5:37 pm #

      Perhaps it is just me, and perhaps in this world age differences are less important, but I somehow envisioned Lady Barb as much older than Marcus. Perhaps I am wrong.

      • chrishanger October 11, 2017 at 3:37 pm #

        Miles, not Markus .

        They’re around the same age.


  18. Mark October 9, 2017 at 2:55 am #

    Emily, for what my modest opinion is worth, has grown substantially since SIM came out. I too, would like to see more of her researching new spells using earth knowledge, but the humble author keeps referring to her numerous grimoires which are sealed in her trunk. Whitehall, is becoming, not a crutch for her, but rather an anchor…it helps keep her mental equilibrium somewhat stable, despite the craziness of her life. Keep in mind, too, that Chris is NOT showing us most of the day to day stuff, but primarily only the stressors. After Emily graduates, I hope that her apprenticeship can actually get her to slow down and get her feet back under her…after all for the last 3 books, she has went from crisis to crisis.

    I expect that in GD that if Fulvia, Gordian, and the White Council push too much, they will be in for an exceedingly NASTY comeuppance from Emily…and don’t forget, by their own laws, customs, and magic, Emily OWNS Whitehall….what, perchance would be the repercussions if say a certain prosecutor got squashed and Grandmaster Gordian got thrown out on his ear? BTW-our humble author has left one hell of a story hook hanging in those guys wandering in the basement of Whitehall. Gordian is going to REALLY have trouble getting himself out of hot water with Emily for that.

    The one major issue that I have is the entire concept of a 6th year student being first: made head student and expected to function as a member of the faculty – especially at a time when their studies are taking up the majority of their time…hardly leaving them time to eat or sleep. Perhaps the concept of head student is a British one, I can’t comment on that, due to my being an American.

    Similarly, IMO, Emily’s Guardian, Mistress Irene, has been an almost total non-entity in the series. If someone disagrees, please respond.

    Lastly, regarding her Potential Lone Power status…During the magic fair at Cockatrice, the fat mage was IIRC, identified as a Lone Power, but not as powerful as Void. Emily, by her very nature, could easily fit the definition of a Lone Power, once she gains more strength. I suspect she is already beginning to occasionally cross into that zone…especially when utilizing her batteries.

    Sorry for the length of this post, but I got caught up, finally, on reading everyone else’s posts.

    • Wazman October 9, 2017 at 3:08 am #

      Didn’t mistress Irene take the Grandmaster post for one if the other magical schools? I would say that it was Stronghold.

    • Kell October 9, 2017 at 8:48 am #

      An anchor and a cruch are sometimes the same thing. While she is still in school she is still a child with the school system there to fall back on. Out in the real world emily faces a lot of stuff on her own. Right now she is really stressed going from one problem to another these past books. Still it is a bad thing that she never wants to leave whitehall.

      She is like a kid about to finish high school that doesn’t want to move out of the house. Technically for her its like leaving college and joining the work force but for Emily its more about leaving home. The problem is in many ways she can’t really stretch her wings at Whitehall anymore. Shes out grown it. She just doesn’t want to leave her comfort zone for good.

      • Mark October 9, 2017 at 5:36 pm #

        True, she does need to stretch her wings…but, as I pointed out in my prior post, the last 3 books she has gone from crisis to crisis to crisis…that would wear anyone down. As others have said, she is most likely suffering from PTSD due to this, even if you discount her crappy childhood

        The other thing is that people keep saying that 6th years are supposed to be adults…and they are certainly expecting them to function as such – witness GM Gordian’s comments to Emily all through TGK regarding this. On the other hand, they refer to the sixth years as “Students”, and certainly pile on the homework!!!

        Perhaps if the author had put another chapter or two into TGK, perhaps with Void expounding upon in detail why sixth year was so utterly crucial in terms of knowledge for the student, we wouldn’t be getting the impression that Whitehall is holding her back/being a crutch.

        The fact is that, yes, Emily is damaged mentally and emotionally and socially. The Nameless World, from the very first book, it has been EMPHASIZED repeatedly that SOCIAL SKILLS ARE ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL – and IMO, at least HALF of the issues she runs into are because her Social Skills are, at best, poor.

        Perhaps this would not be such an issue if she had not defeated a couple of necromancers in the first few books (unreasonable expectations?). What are your thoughts?

      • Kell October 10, 2017 at 4:44 am #

        Hmmm for me I felt like void didn’t think it would be that important to take 6 year. He even said that she could leave at anytime he already said she was ready. But emily didn’t want to. She wanted to at least finish. Void knew she wasn’t ready to let go. Thats the problem. Emily could go she didn’t want to. I mean yea there is the degree but then she has had to put with Gordian fighting for the wards and school melodrama
        . I think we as readers were just so annoyed with gordian that it made us more impatient😁 Its like seriously she has killed 3 technically 4 necromancers and your sending her to the warden? Some people fight to be treated like an adult then others are comfortable being considered a child. Emily is clinging to what is supposed to be comfortable.

        Emily is suffering from ptsd but whitehall isnt that restful. She has so much responsibility and homework and they just don’t know how to help or understand. The only good thing about this year as far as Emily’ growth professionally (not talking about personal growth because of the story)was learning about soul magic and becoming friends with Melissa. I was happy at least that built that social connection.

        But I don’t think she really ever came out of her shell. From a social standpoint she is way beyond normal students in power and prestige. I think Emily would have better luck with older magicians not her age. She seemed to fit in well with people like cat and jade. People that are older. Yea emily has done so much at this point she might have more luck socially if she interacts with people outside school. I think outside School emily will be forced to leave her books behind and talk to people. On the other hand it really depends on zangria and void. I wonder what void intends for her apprenticeship. Take her to the tower for private tutoring which might be good results for her ptsd or sneak around in the blighted lands.

  19. Kevin Moore October 10, 2017 at 12:26 am #

    I’m happy to know SIM won’t end with Graduation Day. I had thought you perhaps were goingnto end the series when she left Whitehall.
    But what I find most questionable in the series to date, (believe it or not) is that Emily has yet to fund a school for surveyors and cartographers. She has noted the horrible maps used in the Nameless World on several occaisions. She clearly needs accurate surveys and maps made of Cockatrice, and eventually her other lands as well.
    If they can build railroads and steam locomotives, they must either have trigonometry or some workable alternative already. So it seems a simple matter to hire someone to teach others how to apply that to surveying and map making. Though she might need to also introduce the concept of scale.

    • Pyo October 10, 2017 at 1:41 am #

      By the time you are building steam-engines for trains you really got to have blueprints (also super-important are accurate calipers (so for example all bolts are the same size and your boiler doesn’t lose steam or explode), and precision instruments also help for map drawing). Well, maybe not actual blueprints, but some type of engineering plans. And those don’t work without scale, so I’d expect that’s already known.

      • Bryce October 10, 2017 at 3:32 am #

        I think with the steam Engines that it was trial and error and then taught to there apprentice and so on. I do not think anyone other then Emily wrote down how to build stuff it is all about the apprenticeship. This is why the literacy rate was so low in the medieval times is that no won other then Knight and aristocrat would learn to read the rest were just taught there skill and knew no other. This is why the accountants guild could screw its clients until Emily introduces a simple way of accounting.

        As for the crisis after crisis she did go back and finish year 5 but did not pass all the exams so Barb and Sgt. Miles helped her with the classes she needed. So even thought she was busy with school IMO I think she liked it and the Attention of the 2 people she feels are her real Guardians.

      • Pyo October 10, 2017 at 8:23 pm #

        A steam engine in the simplistic sense isn’t too complicated and might be done like that, but a steam engine in the sense of a steam locomotive is far too complex for that to work. You can’t just keep blowing up boiler after boiler and hope it’ll start working at some point. There’s several thousand parts involved in the entire thing, and those parts need to be made, which requires planning and so on.

        Maybe the very earliest steam locomotives are possible without it, thanks to the magic component we didn’t have. But even when starting that soon somebody would be like “might be a good idea to take notes” and it’s not far from there to include drawings which of course wouldn’t be to scale …

        People in that world aren’t any more stupid than in ours, so they’ll figure these things out 😉

      • G October 12, 2017 at 2:43 am #

        Realistically, Emily left earth as a 15 or 16 year old freshman or sophmore in High School–there are going to be very real limits on what she can teach in terms of practical technology or engineering–at this point, she should focus on her development as a sorceress…

      • chrishanger October 16, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

        She’s caught most of the low-hanging fruit by now, so it’s going to be a slog to introduce better ideas. (Although this will kick-off the scientific mindset too.)


      • Bryce October 12, 2017 at 2:58 am #

        So for our society the first known architecture was in 1AD it was not 1698 till the first steam engine. So to think that to think other then the basic drawing that Emily gave them on the tracks and engine most would have been down buy pasted down to apprentices with a very basic drawing as most of the large buildings in the nameless work were all held together with magic. This was the first of this type that had now active magic on it. but there were up till no sense of scale and you built what your master built and so on and so on till one master change something that there master taught them. that is the way today most things do not change until one person or persons think they may have something better and they work to get it to work or it fails. no so long ago in our history you started at the bottom of a company and work up as the schooling was for the rich and not the average. There were no student loans for you to go to school. So you did what you were told unless you were one of the few that thought and worked on something better.

      • Vapori October 21, 2017 at 2:22 am #

        Well realistically it took the USA roughly 70 years to adapt to the railway, (means half the people in the country had driven with a railway after 70 years after the first one had a ride with it, it went a bit faster in the smaller states of europa.) and 55 years for electricity.

        btw blue prints on earth came way way after the first steam steam-powered railway (50 years). while the first steam-engines predate the railways by 20 years. and now we have that in less then 5 years in the nameless world.

        Well the the printing press was a godsend and I assume that the nameless worlds technological development will be a bit different from what has happened on earth.

        Many of the technologies that work for production are actully more important then the big milestones. As an example welding will drastically lower the cost for a boiler used in a steam engine.

        and many of the small chemical break thoughts of the period 1850-1940 make much of todays life possible. Be it plastic, rubber, isolators for cables or just the ability to produce Lye, Dynamite Nitrogen fertilizers Aceton or Hydrochloric acid in large quantities.

        A better explosive device then gunpowder would be the most important one. It makes Mining so much cheaper and with that everything else will be cheaper as well. As gunpowder isn’t really that useful for Mining.

      • Wazman October 21, 2017 at 3:24 am #

        The next evolutionary step would be the introduction of nitroglycerin like it was in our world. Emily might have to use a memory charm to recover enough knowledge that she could pass onto the chemists to start experimenting.

        If they were already researching smokeless gun powder they may accidentally discover it since nitrocellulose (guncotton) since in our world it was the catalyst for its discovery.

        Emily could warn them about the shock sensitivity of liquid nitroglycerin and provide the solution that Alfred Nobel is credited with ‘dynamite’

  20. Wazman October 11, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

    I can understand why would didn’t want to turn Emily to powerful in the first few books in the series. I did think it was a good indication of how powerful she going to become, when she used the portal for the first time and Alassa’s reaction to it.

    As time goes on and if her cover story continues to hold out that Void is her father. Aren’t other magical families are going to start pressuring Void (not likely since he would turn them into small hopping things) or Emily about how she survived coming into her power. Could she lie and say that her father had stuffed her inside a specially created pokey dimension that leeches away her developing powers. This could also be used as a excuse for her ignorance about the customs and rules of magical community.

    Another concern for Emily would be the well being of her own offspring. Despite her break up with Caleb, at some point won’t she start to worry about what could happen to her own children when their own powers start to manifest. Emily doesn’t seem like she would not start considering possible options to safe guard them

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 11, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

      IIRC the problem for “magical children” in the Nameless World is when their power begin to manifest prior to puberty.

      While Emily’s power is “greater than normal for her age”, as far as anybody in the Nameless World knows her power only manifested after puberty.

      The only problem Emily had with her “power level” was when her power level greatly increased after the duel with Master Grey and that sort of “power jump” wasn’t unknown to happen after a sorcerer is forced to use more power than he normally does.

      So I’m not sure that the Magical Families want to know “how did Emily survive” as there doesn’t seem to be any reason for them to wonder.

      As for Emily’s children, IMO she has no reason to worry about “what happens when their powers manifest”.

      • Wazman October 11, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

        But I do remember several occasions where people are amazed that she survived manifesting her powers. Aurelius was bold enough to ask her directly. Then in LLW Lady Barb had to depart to attend to a issue related to a magical child’s birth (not sure it is relatable but…) So I do believe at least some of the magical houses would be interested.

      • Kell October 11, 2017 at 7:39 pm #

        Aurelius asked her directly and she told him she didn’t have power untill after puberty. Most people who see her know she is the daughter of a lone power and should be powerful. Its not really that big of a a deal unless they think she is as strong as a necromancer and people are starting to realise despite what emily has done she is only stronger then anybody her own age. Emily has bigger secrets to worry about. As for having magical children that come into there power early. That is apparently a problem for powerful magicians but its probably an abstract concept to emily. She not even thinking of that yet

      • chrishanger October 16, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

        There’s no suggestion that Emily manifested her powers early . She did figure out why doing that was so dangerous, but that’s something separate.


  21. Fleeced October 12, 2017 at 2:38 am #

    Love this series, and look forward to the next book, but the behaviour of Emily in this one felt a little off… It also doesn’t seem to fit with her character that she told Gordian about the time travel – but not her friends (or Void/Lady Barb) – but then told the History monks. Just seemed inconsistent.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 12, 2017 at 2:59 am #

      IMO It fits.

      What she did in the past makes her look more of a “Child Of Destiny” and that’s not a role that she has liked.

      Basically, Emily had to tell Gordian about the time travel because he had “felt” what she had done to send her younger self to the past. Remember, he realized that somebody was “meddling with the wards” and Emily had to use the wards against him while she was sending her younger self back in time.

      While Gordian ordered her to not talk about it, IMO it was her discomfort about being the Dark Lady that caused her to not tell her friends about it.

      As for telling the History Monks, that was Gordian’s doing. It wasn’t her idea to talk to the History Monks but Gordian “put her on the spot”. Either she tells the History Monks the truth or she claims that “she doesn’t know what Gordian is talking about”. Telling the History Monks was the lesser of “two evils”.

      • Wazman October 12, 2017 at 3:25 am #

        I don’t think this is over quite yet and maybe in the next book, the truth will come out about Emily’s little trek into the past. It would be interesting way of tying the four books together.

        I just hope poor Fredia comes out if thus mess some how, I don’t know why but since her introduction in school hard knocks she has really grown on me. Perhaps in how she has helped bring Emily care for someone more than as a friend but as sort of a older sister. For me it’s helped to humanize Emily and bring her nose out of her books.

        The scene where Emily is lost in her thoughts and Friedia fires off a spell to snap her back to reality, while small it really resonates with me.

      • Fleeced October 12, 2017 at 4:33 am #

        Simply telling Gordian might fit that (and under the circumstances, she’d told him just after her return)… but after that, it made little sense to tell the monks before she’d told others. I know he blindsided her, but he’d also forewarned her to some extent. It just didn’t seem to fit.

        I don’t know. Part of the art of storytelling is putting people in difficult circumstances, and I can see how some of her reactions are intrinsic to the way she fears/handles authority, as Chris explained in this post, but this particular one didn’t seem to fit so well. It’s OK for characters to have faults and get themselves into messes with wrong decisions, but these particular decisions just felt implausible for her character to me.

        I suppose she could feel that she relies on Lady Barb too much, and is making an effort not to, though this wasn’t mentioned in her reasoning. That’s actually a tricky part of storytelling – too much reliance on the mentor. The last few stories has had Barb otherwise occupied, but it pains me to say Chris may have to kill her off entirely to take her out of the picture… Not saying I want that to happen, but the hero has to stand alone, and simply having her “out of reach” all the time gets a bit old. (I suspect Imaiqah will go first, though)

        On another note, I like the handling of the Melissa angle. It feels like Emily and Melissa “need” to become friends to move the story, but it would have felt too convenient for it to just happen. The “mind sharing” thing seems a more credible way to develop that. With Fulvia back in the frame, I suspect their alliance will come full bloom in the next book.

      • Wazman October 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

        It will be very interesting to see how a developing friendship between Melissa and Emily. Will affect Emily’s own friendship with Alyassa and Imaiqah once they find out. But to be honest they left Emily alone at School granted Alassa really did have a choice on the matter. Emily has worried about her first true friends drawing away from her.

        Then throw in the unpleasantness of Imaiqah’s father role in the ill fated coup and Nannette’s hatred towards Emily herself. All I can say is that is going to be one he’ll of a epic cat fight.

      • chrishanger October 16, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

        They’ve all grown up a lot, so they’re not going to start trying to kill each other


      • Fleeced October 12, 2017 at 4:38 am #

        Wazman: Freida has grown on me too, which surprised me, because for a while I didn’t like her at all. I think her character developed a lot in Fists of Justice.

      • chrishanger October 16, 2017 at 3:03 pm #


        It’s difficult to give them all screen time, so they tend to fade into the background when they’re not directly involved.


      • Pyo October 13, 2017 at 2:44 am #

        Call me SJW or something, but Frieda is also (I think?) the only LGBT character the series has. It’s right now not super-important as she isn’t doing anything much about it, but it might be an interesting component in the future, if it ever becomes a bigger topic.

        In that regard (and everything else that goes on with her) it just feels to me like she has a lot of potential for various developments and subplots and whatnot. Other characters, like, dunno, Caleb seem kinda “done”. He’s the concerned, somewhat nerdy friend-guy now, fine. There’ll probably be a bit more once he gets himself a new girlfriend and, who knows, maybe there’ll be a few more twists (not like I have a crystal ball), but just going by current impression I don’t necessarily expect much more from him.

      • Kell October 13, 2017 at 3:24 am #

        You know im kinda feeling the same thing freida is interesting she has grown a lot. I want to see were she will go as a character. In some ways freida seems more important for emilys character then alasa and imique at this point. Caleb is done for me as well. Maybe he can be a moral support character but I don’t think he can ever really stand by her side again.

      • Wazman October 13, 2017 at 3:49 am #

        Bringing up the LGBT point we all know that Frieda has very deep rooted feeling for Emily. Is it possible that she might even take a magical motion to change her own sex just to be with Emily?

        I bring this detail up since in the series it has come up more than once about using magic to change a person’s gender. First Emily wondering if King Randor had considered changing Alyassa. Or the temple of the Crone Goddess that if a man enters he will depart as the opposite sex.

      • Pyo October 13, 2017 at 9:05 am #

        Personally, I’m of course just of the opinion that they should get married, surprising everyone, and roll with that 😉

        But, good point, I could see Frieda doing something extreme at some point. Really depends on how she recovers from here on out, I guess. Right now she’s basically so unstable she could go into any direction.

        Which, again, just makes her interesting.

        Barb or Mills and so on, they won’t change much anymore (again, I might be completely wrong, but it’s the impression I get). Even the other younger characters seem to be fairly established in their roles and characters.
        Some volatile characters that can still go down different paths can only spice things up.

      • Fleeced October 14, 2017 at 6:28 am #

        I have zero interest in reading LGBT fanfic… having a character who happens to be gay is fine, but I’d be bored out of my brain if that became the main story. That’s assuming Frieda is exclusively gay anyway, and not a particular attachment to Emily in that regards.

        They’ve had other gay characters – most notably in the Work Experience book, where the runaway kid wasn’t interested in girls (but was going to have to marry anyway – social obligations, and all).

      • Fleeced October 14, 2017 at 6:47 am #

        Oh, and though I’m not sure about Frieda becoming a man, she is still one of my suspects as the secret identity behind “Cloak”. The only thing against it, is that it would seem to require some time travel aspect, and I’m not sure CGN would want to re-use that device.

        Given the mystery, however, I’m assuming it’s someone we already know.

      • Kell Harris October 15, 2017 at 12:27 am #

        Wazman as far as LGBT goes there is a big difference between lesbian s and trans. Lesbians are attracted to women. Bisexuals men and women but trans feel that they ate different then how they were born. We have seen no sign of that in Freida and sexuality is different then your gender expression.

        This is probably different from what you ment but, the last thing I would want is for Chris’s to throw in lgbt or other minorities just to have token minorities or is o cater to his fans. Only if it’s natural to the story and character progression.

        The reason why I kinda ship frieda and Emily is that time and again Emily is shown to be oblivious to her own feelings and in denial about what she thinks or wants. She often has to has to have someone explain simple things to her about social situations or romantic stuff.

        Emily is shown often giving Freida mixed signals. She is supper protective and wary of anyone approaching her romanticly (beginning of Sergeants apprentice and wedding hells). She gives her a home is her constant companion. When given a choice to have someone enter her mind the person she trusted the most was not Caleb but Freida.
        And yes she gave her reasons but I think of Melissa and her bond with her husband. Could Emily trust anyone to that extent who isn’t bond by oaths and isn’t Barb? She trusted Freida.

        There are just a lot of little hints either it’s forshadowing or Chris is messing with us. I just don’t want Emily to be alone at the end. The person by her side has to be able to stand beside her and understand her. Freida has been the only real contender so far.

        Also I think cloak is harusabals brother.

      • Wazman October 15, 2017 at 2:32 am #

        Kell I am all too aware of the differences of LGBT from my own personnel experiences. I was just pondering possibilities, but in the deeper sense I have grown rather attached with Frieda and find myself actually worrying about her future.

        After what happened in TGK she is going to be looked at in a negative light within Whitehall and possibly beyond its doors. Maybe not on the same scale as the many of the student body believe that Emily might be a Necromancer herself, but hopefully that belief has dwindled with each passing year. Now I think majority are now just awed or fearful of Emily’s power.

        Even if Frieda is somehow exonerated or Emily offers to sacrifice herself for her friend’s life or some other way out of this Gordian Knot I think that whatever the outcome Frieda is going to be in a rather bad state. Once Emily leaves the school and starts her apprenticeship with Void, Frieda will be alone.

        IMO Cloak is true identity has already been introduced and I’m putting my money on him being Void. But a copy of him twisted in a botched attempt to use the Bilocation spell. Of course I have been wrong before.

  22. Domia abr Wyrda October 15, 2017 at 4:11 am #

    I Still think that Emily is a high functioning sociopath and/or psychopath. It would explain her inability to comprehend other’s feelings, her inability for self-awareness, and her unyielding desire to cling to what she has.

    The inability to comprehend other’s feelings, would explain many of issues she has with her friends in the previous books, and her inability to understand that Freida is out of control.

    Sociopaths and psychopaths, tend to cling desperately to things they have, particular friends, associates, mostly because they have issues making new ones.

    Sociopaths and psychopaths also have difficulty at internal reflection, in most it usually manifests in unyielding confidence, but for Emily it shows in self-delusion.

    It is perfectly possible to be one of these yet be a functioning member of society, but it does cause difficulty in human interactions.

    • Fleeced October 15, 2017 at 6:31 am #

      This is the worst character assessment I’ve seen. I don’t think you could be more wrong.

      Of course, as a fictional character, you can’t read too much into things – she’s whatever Chris decides she is – but it’s quite obvious she cares very deeply about other people. She just isn’t very good at sussing people out (she has enough trouble with her own emotions, let alone those of others).

      If anything, I’d say she’s “on the spectrum”, but that could just be myself projecting. Combine that with the fact that she’s… slightly damaged (emotionally), and is in a totally different world, with different values and different “context” for evaluating actions and behaviours, in addition to all the authority stuff Chris mentioned in the OP, and it’s no surprise she’s the way she is.

      I’d say she’s doing very well under the circumstances.

      • Domia abr Wyrda October 15, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

        It’s been a few years since I researched the subject, so I went back and re-researched the qualifications, for being a sociopath and/or psychopath, and you’re probably right she is most likely not a one, I was wrong, while she fits vaguely into some of the traits listed in this article, http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15850/1/Characteristics-of-a-Sociopath.html, its only vaguely and probably not enough to qualify. I would like to apologies and retract my previous ill-informed statement.

      • Fleeced October 15, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

        There’s nothing to apologise for, Dobia – we’re all just speculating on a fictional character here (and psychology is a bit… “fluid” in it’s interpretations at times). I don’t think she’s uncaring of others though – she’s just often oblivious.

      • chrishanger October 16, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

        She’s autistic, mildly so.

        She’s the sort of person who’ll be very apologetic if someone calls her out, but won’t realise before then that she should be apologetic.


  23. Fleeced October 15, 2017 at 8:58 am #

    One more thing… I find it hard to conceptualise the characters as their proper age. Emily is 21 in the latest book, but still acts a few years younger… Even Frieda is 19, but I think of her as 14 or 15. I think it’s because they start at the school when they’re 15+, and are treated like kids, whereas outside the school, they’re treated as adults from that age. I have to keep mentally adjusting – my mind keeps thinking of them as kids as I read.

    Contrast that with the Zero Enigma series, where I keep thinking of the 12 year olds as a few years older. Very odd.

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