Tropes I hate: The Gauntlet School

11 Apr

I just want to make it clear that I actually am quite enjoying the books I’m going to discuss. It’s just a trope I despise.


Offenders?

The Poppy War (The Poppy War)

Rage of Dragons (The Burning)

The Dragon Reborn (Wheel of Time)

Basically, in the newer books, main characters Rin and Tau respectively have to out train and out work everybody else in order to keep their places, fueled by spite and revenge respectively. Technically a more moderate motivation is their lives in their social caste system depends on it, but given that means there’s plenty of other people in their respective worlds who also don’t want to eat dirt for a living.

Wheel of time is a little different – characters Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne have arrived at Tar Valen to do their training as Aes Sedai, and while Nynaeve has been elevated to Accepted from the get go, the other two are generally having a hard time adapting because of their relative privileged positions and the workload on them, with once again Nyneve being a lot like Rin being driven by spite. All three are saddled with punishment upon their return to the school after leaving without permission. Among their punishments, is being forced on kitchen duty. A lot of characters were musing prior to them arriving at Tar Valen how much the other Sedai were going to make their lives miserable, and it’s implied that at least one character is worried about giving them all the soul-crushing work. To me, this read more as a misunderstanding between social classes, because I was all like, “That was it?”

These characters break the rules constantly to get around the obstacles set up for them. They barely sleep. One of them enters the spirit world to get throttled by monsters because time runs akimbo and he can train more.  These young protagonists (teenagers all) are physically wrecked, but find out once they pass one barrier, the next one’s even steeper.

I’m not kvetching about grit. If you have the time to read the book Grit by Angela Duckworth, I highly recommend it.

And I’m not saying you can’t function sleep deprived, or even get used to it. I’m a shift worker, and prior to this worked multiple jobs and school, and and and. Some obligations took more time than others, and you can do anything for a short amount of time, but here’s what I really noticed.

When you have no spare time – absolutely zero – you hate life and everything about it. Granted, multitasking is possible but I’m talking about listening to an audiobook for pleasure while you’re on a treadmill, not studying a textbook while doing the same thing. If you know it’s only for a week or a month or whatever, you can manage. When I get new partners, we talk about the stress of exams and getting that first job. Until third year Uni, I managed to squeeze in a daily hour of physical fitness (and I was probably in beast mode because it was the only way to let off steam), but eventually that had to be dropped as well. It’s a little different now that I can write or do other work on the job, work feels like a vacation compared to being chewed out and force to do rote memorization for a test that’s irrelevant to the job and getting shit on by employers because they figured out you went back to school part time.

 Maybe it’s just me, but does anyone do better when they haven’t slept? Is the person who never has a chance to recover going to outperform their peer groups? Particularly the ones who only have the obligation of school or whatever. There’s plenty of lazy people in the world, but there’s plenty of people who are genuine workhorses. I get it’s supposed to be about the character overcoming great obstacles, but if the problem is the unjust world, what makes that main character so special that they’re the only one that hungry?

Granted, for me it’s not a fun place to be or revisit. I’m all for learning and perseverance, and I’m all for trying to show your character has to overcome an obstacle in their way. Having a very stringent caste system or social hierarchy is a good way.

But you need sleep and to tell us mortals that your can-do attitude has limits. We all may have 24 hours in a day, but you can’t keep borrowing from the sleep bank without paying interest.

I’m going to talk about these books more but they’re not going to be straight up reviews. Meanderings. Honestly, all three are really good series, and worth checking out.

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