It’s week three of the Wyrd and Wonder read-along and our host Lisa of Dear Geek Placeyet again helps us to steer a path through the dangerous, winding ways of the Untheileneise Court. Things have ramped up considerably this week and there’s no way I’ll be able to avoid SPOILERS so please tread carefully!
Week 3 – Chapters 18 to 26 inclusive
These chapters open with a very candid, yet significantly warmer than most, conversation between Maia and Arbelan, and from there things begin to change as Maia learns to act with more confidence. Do you think Arbelan’s kinder treatment of him is what sparks this, and if so, how much of an impact do you think it had?
Maia has seemed determined from the first to do things as he sees fit, driven by compassion and empathy, which is a lot of the reason why I love him. Nevertheless, I think Arbelan’s kindness encourages him. Between his meals with her and his first meeting with his heir Idra, Maia is beginning to see that not everyone hates him, and that not everyone loved his predecessor.
I suspect some of his increasing confidence also simply arises from his growing familiarity with things. This role is to be his for life, without escape, so if he is not going to be a puppet for someone else, he has to stand up for what he believes in.
The river bridge scheme proves to be a delightful plot point to push a lot of character interaction forward, as well as opening up the scope of this world. Were you surprised by the developments involving Lord Pashavar?
I am loving this so much. I adored Maia’s meeting with Merrem Halezh and Mer Halezh from the Clocksmiths’ Guild, where they sat on the floor together looking at drawings. And I was totally surprised by the dinner party hosted by the Presider of the House of Blood, the Marquess Lanthevel, but in the best possible way. That Lanthevel is a scholar was unexpected and interesting, but even better than that was the discussion about the ‘Barbarians’ of the steppes, their way of life and, more particularly, their beliefs and the reasons for the Evressai Wars. It was like having a light shone on the world beyond Cetho and the Untheleneise Court.
And the bridge itself – or rather, the model of it – sounds so frigging cool. I’ve enjoyed the light steampunk touches that Addison has thrown in so far, but with the unveiling of the bridge I’ll admit to clapping my hands with glee. This isn’t just a regular old bascule bridge, it sounds more like a work of art. It feels so important that Maia be able to make this happen. Like, if he can just get this bridge approved, everything might be OK. I’m sure that sounds daft, but I so want him to believe in himself and this bridge could be the thing that empowers him (a symbol of what he can achieve).
As for Lord Pashavar himself, he may be stubborn and grumpy, but he doesn’t seem to hold any grudge against Maia and I feel like he is dealing with his new emperor without prejudice. I think Maia’s got his measure at any rate. I tentatively feel that Pashavar is a good (but so grumpy) egg.
Like a train gathering steam, a great deal of plot drama happens here. Let’s talk about Sheveän and Chavar. Were you surprised by their gambit? And how do you feel about the way it all played out (ie. Idra’s decision to put his foot down)?
I didn’t call this at all (it really shocked me, actually), but once they’d done it I decided Sheveän and Chavar are both stupid enough that I should have seen it coming. Sheveän seems to have allowed her emotions to run away with her to such an extent that she didn’t think to prepare her son for what she intended to do, or even try to gauge what his feelings might have been beforehand, (which makes me think she doesn’t see people as anything but pawns). Chavar, on the other hand, was just plain stupid for falling in with her hot-headed plan. I can’t imagine how they thought they would succeed, even as I am aware that it was only Idra’s response (and Nemer and Csevet’s quick reactions) that saved our emperor. Idra’s putdowns to his mother and the Lord Chancellor were perfect. He has earned a little heart next to his name in my notebook for being so thoroughly kickass.
And the scene in the nursery afterwards where Maia goes to see Idra and his two younger sisters was interesting, not only because none of them really care quite as much for their mother as they do for their tutor and their nursery maid (seriously, Sheveän, you poop head, your children are not tools), but also because Maia has to confront that Sheveän’s fate would have been his own – whether she is sent away or killed for her traitorous actions.
So yeah, I didn’t call that the Princess and the Lord Chancellor would attempt to remove Maia by force, but I was even more shocked by Dazhis’ betrayal. That was something else. Part of me assumed that Maia’s nohecharis must all naturally love him as much as I do because they see more than anyone else what he is struggling with. That someone could have seen his difficulties and judged him negatively kind of blew my mind. I still don’t know how I feel about what Dazhis did, or about his death.
We get another surprising turnaround from Ceredin, Maia’s intended empress-to-be, as well. What are your thoughts on her by the end of these chapters, compared to her initial impression?
I loved her letter about duelling Sheveän! Before that, when she confronted Maia about Min Vechin I felt a little itty bit of hope that she might prove to be more than just a prim and proper empress-to-be, especially as she is one of the few people Maia could possibly safely be friends with. Her fierce letter has given my hope tiny wings.
She now has a little heart next to her name in my notebook too.
The story, and perhaps the danger, is not quite over yet … any thoughts on what might be in store in the final chapters?
Csevet’s deep dislike of Tethimar and his memories of Eshoravee – the fortress Tethimar has suggested Maia take shelter in until the court has been “purged” – has made me very nervous about what that dude’s deal is. Why does he want Maia to come to his fortress, a place staffed entirely by locals and cut off from the court? Danger Will Robinson! Danger!
It’s hard not to see danger everywhere, but I think that now Sheveän and Chavar have played their hand we only really need to know where Setheris stands. I don’t think he is dangerous in the same way that they have been, but I feel that he needs to be confronted in some way (how can Hesero not know about his abusive nature?) and dealt with, even if all that means is that he is given a post away from my Maia.
The rest of my read-along posts can be found here: