Mark Reads ‘In the Hand of the Goddess’: Chapter 9 – The Ordeal

In the ninth chapter of In the Hand of the Goddess, Alanna faces the Ordeal of Knighthood. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read In the Hand of the Goddess.

Chapter 9: The Ordeal

I just about shrieked when I saw the chapter title. WAS IT REALLY HERE? WAS IT TIME? OH MY GOD, IT TOTALLY IS.

But before Alanna got there, some important things needed to happen. Namely, Alanna had to talk to Gary and tell him the truth about her gender. Throughout these two books, Alanna has feared the day when she would have to reveal that she’d been lying this whole time. And her fears are two-fold: she is worried about how people will react to her real gender, and she’s worried they’ll feel betrayed because she hasn’t been telling the truth. So far, everyone Alanna’s told has welcomed her with open arms, and I love what that says about her friends. In terms of being a knight, her gender is irrelevant. All that matters are her deeds, and I love the message that sends. It’s especially rad given that Alanna’s journey has included an exploration of femininity as well. This hasn’t been all blood and fights and bro parties. Alanna has been learning what it’s like to live in both gender roles as she likes. God, that’s just so fascinating to me! It’s clear she’s going to leave the castle once she’s through, so I wonder if she’ll choose to live as one specific gender the whole time, or if she’ll be ambiguous about it. Will she jump between worlds as she pleases? This is very satisfying to think about. 

I suppose there’s still a small chance that she’ll remain at the castle (especially since Thom is there), but I’m going to guess that Alanna leaves after her knighthood. That’s what I got from her conversation with Myles. Sure, she’s confused and afraid, but that’s what she wants to do with her life. Has uncertainty about the future ever stopped Alanna from seeking out what she wants? Nope.

Also:

“I love you, Myles,” she whispered, blinking back tears. “I’ll come often, I promise.”

Myles patted her back gently and offered her his handkerchief. “I know you will. I may not know much, but that I do know.”

No, stop it, feelings, you stop it. I’m going to make it my personal interpretation of the opening chapter that the Mother told Alanna about love so that moments like this could happen. Love need not be romantic, and Alanna had to learn how to open up and love others.

Oh god, it’s just so beautiful. It’s really such an important element to Alanna’s characterization. As she explains to George in the next segment, Alanna struggles with the things she can’t fight physically. To her, things like love and betrayal are much harder for her to deal with than an opponent twice her size. That’s why the Ordeal scares her so much! She knows that it’s going to be a mental journey, and she worries she’s not cut out for it. Hence all of the STRESS that she feels over it. Though, I have to say that I was kind of bothered by George drugging her brandy? That’s one of my things that I universally dislike, and it pops up so often in fiction. No, thank you!

Thankfully, George didn’t take advantage of her any further, and the book moves right along to the day of Alanna’s Ordeal. I admit I was nervous. I’ve wanted to know what the Ordeal was for a while, and all the secrecy around it kind of freaked me out. What could be so bad that Gary and Jonathan only barely survived it? Why couldn’t anyone talk about it?

I was glad, then, that Alanna had Jonathan and Gary to help her prior to entering the Chamber of the Ordeal. Like Alanna, I wasn’t surprised by anything the two said regarding her duties as a knight. The information wasn’t new at all. But the situation made it feel so much more important. This was it. This was the moment that Alanna had spent nearly seven years preparing for. BY THE WAY, THIS IS THE SECOND BOOK OH MY GOD HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE. The severity of this scene was not lost on me. Could there be a more integral scene for this character??? (Again, this is the end of the second book of four, so what the fuck is going to happen in the third and fourth books??? I DON’T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING.)

The first night’s silent vigil is fantastic because it works both as an eerie ceremony and as a way to look back on the events of the series so far. Actually, the fact that Alanna cannot speak for the entire Ordeal is really creepy, especially considering what the Ordeal is. But I enjoyed the first half of this vigil. It was nice to find out that Coram had agreed to travel with her when she went to go find adventure. Plus, it was a chance for me to spend time solely in Alanna’s thoughts, which drifted from one question to another. I suppose that’s the point of all of this. Her time in the Chapel was not only meant to provide her with a chance to reflect on everything that got her there, but to set her up for the Chamber of the Ordeal. It put her in a very specific mindset as she was lead into the next room.

Oh god, the Chamber. I had a feeling that the Ordeal itself was more mental than physical, but now I fully understand why no one ever talks about what they saw in there. The Ordeal itself is not just personalized; it torments you with your internal demons. Alanna’s failure to save everyone around her who died is brought back to taunt her. She’s chased by a giant spider. She is forced to relive both near-drownings she experienced in her life.

And then she watches Duke Roger steal the crown from Prince Jonathan, who is dying. Whether this is prophetic or just a manifestation of Alanna’s worst fear, it’s awful. It made me wonder what the other characters saw during their Ordeal. They must have been so deeply personal that there was no chance they’d ever speak a world aloud about what they’d seen. I mean, that’s kind of genius, isn’t it? Shame and frighten a person with their worst fears and secrets to see if they can withstand it. And it makes sense that it’s all mental, too. Alanna’s training up to this point was mostly physical, so she needed to have her emotional resolve tested.

Oh god, was that vision real or was it just a vision?

I don’t know yet, but I was happy to learn that Alanna had passed the Ordeal. Her Ceremony of Knighthood was wonderful, especially when THOM SHOWED UP! Fuck yes, he made it! But it’s the shield he brings her that is the best part of this whole chapter.

“What is it?” she asked as the cat faded and the tower reappeared. Thom helped her put the cover on the shield and hang it in her dressing room with her other arms.

“It’s a lioness rampant, of course. For when you reveal what you really are. Let’s go to dinner; I’m starved.”

Alanna led the way to the banquet hall, thinking: A lioness rampant. I like it.

I LOVE IT. Oh my god, just incredible.

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About Mark Reads

Vegan cyclist, Internet community nerd, atheist bookworm, high-five purveyor.
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