This is the homeward stretch of the Wyrd and Wonder read-along. Our host Lisa of Dear Geek Place has been our guiding light along the way, and here she leads safely home. But let’s not count our chickens just yet … and be warned that SPOILERS still litter this last leg of the path!
Week 4 – Chapters 27 to the end
Let’s start with Maia’s grandfather! What do you think of the Avar and his budding relationship with Maia?
Oh my goodness, the Great Avar! What a dude! I love his bullfrog coach. I love that he arrives with his own thunder (made by those ten black horses). I love that after the spectacle of his arrival, he himself is actually more impressive in person – a huge, perfect, bright-eyed goblin, (I have been fascinated throughout by the goblins having orange or red eyes, compared to the rather boring blue or grey of the elves). I love that he speaks and laughs loudly and claps people energetically on the shoulder, but that when Maia immediately confronts him about not writing back to his daughter, Maia’s mother, he appears sad and admits to powerlessness.
I loved, too, the Avar taking a hand in getting Maia a horse and riding lessons as much for Maia to carve out a little time for himself and his own pursuits as for the Avar wanting to share a passion of his own with his grandson. Between these lessons and Maia’s dancing lessons with his empress-to-be I was made up.
That we learn that Maia has a handful of aunts he didn’t know about before, illegitimate daughters of the Avar, but all acknowledged (and one a sea captain, no less!), was also fascinating. There were so many instances in this book where I wanted to know more, and this was yet another one. I feel like a lot of the information I want is implied, but I’d still love to know the full stories of the Avar’s daughters, of Vedero and her friends, of Setheris’ life and Csevet’s. I want to spend more time in this world.
Another plot against Maia is foiled… Were you surprised by the reveal that Tethimar was the one behind the late emperor’s murder? And what are your thoughts on this reveal in light of the way this part of the story played out?
I was expecting Tethimar to do something, just not quite what he did. Although his attempt at assassination made Sheveän and Chavar’s behaviour look intelligent, I guess. It all made sense when it was explained, how he found himself in a corner after his plans went awry etc, but, honestly, I was far more disturbed by Narchanezhen and Shulivar. I am absolutely here for stories in which the workers join forces against the powers that be with the aim of improving their lot and/or destroying outdated traditions. What shook me up was how Narchanezhen used revolutionary rhetoric, but seemed utterly blind to the human repercussions, while Shulivar’s complete faith in his decision encompassed Maia’s own impact. Shulivar claims he “opened the way” for Maia and the change that he has brought and will continue to bring and when Maia argues that the cost was too high, Shulivar’s conviction that “it had to be done” left me chilly.
For all of the enmity that’s shown him, our emperor has a much more hopeful nickname by the end… Looking back, are you satisfied with/pleased by the way Maia handled all of the situations in which he had to make or break relationships? Was there anything you were left questioning or that you feel should have gone differently?
Right back at the beginning I expected this to be a lot darker and grimmer than it turned out to be. Opening as it did with Maia being bullied by Setheris, I felt sure he was going to have far more issues gaining respect and allies. That said, I am so glad it didn’t turn out how I was expecting. I loved that there were characters looking for the kind of compassion that Maia embodies, and that not everyone had thought his father such an amazing emperor that Maia was forever being overshadowed by his memory. At the end when Maia reflects briefly on the alliances he achieved, they outnumber the bridges he couldn’t build, and I really couldn’t ask for anything more. I would have hated to see him bend to Csoru, Sheveän, Chavar or Tethimar, because they’re all so unreasonable in their expectations.
And as for Setheris, Maia did what he could considering the hurt he carried. I was still expecting some awful final gambit from Setheris and didn’t really appreciate that last scene between the two back in chapter 25 for what it was. I had to go back and read it after I’d finished the book to see it for the impasse that it was, and to appreciate that there really wasn’t any other resolution. I forget sometimes that bullies are often cowards, only powerful because their prey is weak. Setheris really does not have any kind of power over Maia anymore. I’m glad of that.
Final thoughts or feelings?
Maia’s birthday! Oh, squeeee! Every time he couldn’t comprehend a kindness done to him my heart squeezed a little bit, but this was the absolute best. From the model airship given to him by the crew of the Radiance of Cairado – the crew that brought him from Edonomee to the Untheileneise Court and shared that first sunrise with him – to the incredible sunblade received from his empress-to-be, from the Corazhas session caricatures gifted to him by Lord Deshehar, to the emperor-clock from the Clocksmiths’ Guild, it’s all evidence of the impact Maia has already had as emperor. After all the awkward moments, bits of nasty gossip and attempts to usurp him, his birthday is like the much needed counter-argument. And just so squeeeeee!