Is anyone else hoping that Parson will actually die here? Or says "Fuck it" and goes home?
Not me. I would consider it sloppy writing if Rob did this, casually wiping the slate clean of one protagonist and equally casually promoting another to center stage. For a little while. There are a few writers who do that, but the most immediate result is not that the writing becomes 'dark and edgy' but that you lose interest in the 'hero of the day' and the larger conflict pretty quickly.
The story's Parson-centered updates have been somewhat alienating for quite a while. In the interest of providing feedback, I've listed a few of the reasons why.
-The sudden jump he's made from being an intellectual hero to an action hero has simply happened too fast. I would have liked to have seen more of the transition phase before seeing Parson choosing to go face to face with his enemy.
Actually, if you read the epilogue of book 1 and the 2009 summer updates you can see that Parson did feel guilt for his command decisions and has done a lot of soul searching. He casually ordered Bogrol to suicide on the slim hope that it would delay the coalition if they lost their leader. He realised that Misty's death was quite likely in part caused by his tampering with her identity. He blew up a volcano causing thousands of enemies as well as all his remaining troops to perish quite gruesomely, and he ran through the portal to avoid sharing that fate. And then he was told by Maggie that it was because deep down he -wanted- to do those things.
The decision to never again be so callous nor to order people to do what he himself was unwilling to do was not unexpected nor coming as a surprise.
On top of all that, from Jillian's story, especially the latest page, it is clear that a (chief) warlord needs to be in battle to be effective. And not just militarily but emotionally as well. In the case of Parson, when he was promoted his forces were in deep trouble. They were split, cut off from reinforcements and unable to move. The ones at the bridge lacked leadership and were pretty much going to be wiped out. The decapacitation force, including the key caster on which the strength of his entire side rested needed a miracle and all the help she could get to survive. The only help Parson could send at that point was himself.
-Parson has decided to place himself at tremendous personal risk for characters that I have little connection to and that we haven't seen much evidence of Parson having a connection to either. Antium, Lacrosse, and Sylvia are the only named GK characters left for Parson to save by the time he passes thru the portal. (Jack doesn't count since Jack could have escaped.) Parson has already failed to save the one with the most development.
He places himself at tremendous risk for his side (the remainder of the army needs his leadership to stand a chance to survive). I am guessing he also feels an emotional need to actually lead rather than command from the rear. It is a stage most commanding officers in the army need to go through to grow into effective commanders. By Erfworld's rules he is a level 2 warlord, promoted to chief. This means his normal role would be to lead small groups into battle. He needs to gain experience leading before he can lead larger units and armies. Parson has the strategic and tactical genius that a competent military chain of command would recognise and nurture, but he still needs to learn to lead first.
And this tremendous danger does serve to teach him a hugely important lesson too. In book one he learned to cope with (or at least realised the responsibility for) the death of people he new personally (Misty, Bogrol) and people who fought for him (the rest of the surviving GK forces).
In this book, I am thinking, he will have to come to grips with the personally causing the death of somebody. He needs to pull the trigger on somebody he can see, or swing the sword and cut into them. Because that is an experience that breaks something inside a human being and the doing and recovering from that is something that Parson must go through if he is to become the ultimate warlord and the savior of Erfworld.
(and I rather like Sylvia to be honest and hope she is not recrypted yet, even if it does seem unlikely. She is not perhaps the most likable character but she is interesting because she is somewhat unhinged. Not to mention that the story of Sylvia and Jojo is too fascinating to croak before it started to be told to us. Jack is interesting for the same reason while Wanda is much less interesting in that way)
-Additionally, his arrival and actions on the battlefield have felt far too forced.
--It feels like Parson has simply been handed the opportunity to take credit for finishing the battle when it was his underlings doing most of the work. Jack and Wanda got themselves to safety. The archons croaked Slately. Archer and Sylvia were the ones who cleared the rest of the garrison. Sizemore, Janis, Marie, Maggie, and Charlie were the ones who cleared Parson's path thru the magic kingdom. Parson's contributions to this battle so far are a single useful idea and "leading" a small army versus Clonely, Ace, a handful of soldiers and a couple dolls. By placing Parson in what appears to be the climactic battle, the story feels like it is asking me to give Parson too much credit.
Hmm. that is not how I see it at all. Parson does not seem to be in the process of upstaging the others. Besides, you could equally reasonably say that Parson is in the process of fixingp the boop ups several of his underlings made.
Wanda decided to parly when she, in hindsight, should just have destroyed the tower and the king and the side with it. True, she could not know about the turnamancer but she wasn't exactly following the battle plan either. After the fall and taking of the dungeons she decided to wait of Parson rather than press her advantage.
Jack decided to improvise on the battle plan by destroying the tower and the king with it, which would have caused the same problem that Charley and Slately eventually caused.
Sylvia got cute and decided to burn up the entire city with her side trapped inside it because she expected fate to rescue her (and not caring about the rest of her side).
Maggie made Parson chief warlord when there was some pressing immediate need for a warlord on the scene, a promotion that necessitated the entire 'Parson travels through the magic kingdom and sparks off a civil war there' arc.
--The problems Parson faced in the Magic Kingdom were represented by people who didn't act in a realistic manner. In particular, the actions of the great minds seemed very off. They had a far superior negotiating position and let themselves be shouted into submission by Maggie with little explanation as to why they felt the need to back down. The manner in which the thinkamancers allowed Parson thru, presenting the action as their side of some deal, means that they have taken the risk of publically tying themselves to his action for little gain. (The impression I get from the story is that, even with the predictamancers on Parson's side, the thinkamancers could have had enough from the other casters present to be able to get help stopping Parson going thru the portal. The denizens of the magic kingdom seem reasonable enough that the thinkamancers could ask that nothing lethal be done to him and expect for everyone to comply.)
The great minds wanted a quick detour for Parson to their shielded temple so as to talk to him about various prophecies. The likely also wanted to enforce the neutrality of the Magic Kingdom. The were willing to use force to keep him from passing through the Jetstone portal at least until after they had their little chat. When the predictamancers, the carnymancers and who knows how many other factions showed up it quickly devolved into a manyway mexican standoff. Maggie was not exactly winning the argument to let Parson pass if I remember correctly. Rather it was the sudden siding of the carnymancers with the predictamancers that temporarily gave the 'let him pass' faction sufficient firepower to force the issue, unless the others wanted to start a shooting war right there and then.
But this interpretation may well be wishful thinking rather than the actual intention of the storytelling.
The story could go on without Parson and do quite well. Parson has made himself largely redundant during the period between book 1 and book 2.
He spent that time creating several generalized gambits (such as the one that grabbed Ossomer at the start of Book 2) for GK to use. These could be pulled out of a hat and applied to a current situation as needed.
He has also been talking and teaching his way of thinking to Jack, Sizemore, Maggie, and others. This would allow for Parson's attitude, intellect, and sympathies to continue to influence the story even after he is gone.
On the other hand Rob did set up Parson as the central element in many predictions. Writing him out of the story at this point is a bit too similar to suddenly deciding 'booooored, let's play Jillian and Ansom instead'.
The scope of this story is so huge that it need not, and should not, be about a single person only. The Jillian, Wanda, Jack, Vinnie and Ansom pentangle is too entertaining to ignore but telling it does not exclude telling Parson's story, or Charley's or Sylvia and Jojo's, or Wanda's. A novel has plots and side plots and fake plots for a reason. If a story is allowed to have only a single arc then it is a short, or even merely a vignette. Rob clearly has a much greater scope in mind for the story of Erfworld.