In the third chapter of Lady Night, Kel returns to where she once fought the most frightening battle of her life, where she learns what her assignment in the upcoming war will be. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Lady Night.
Chapter Three: Long, Cold Road
OH MY GOD THIS IS ALREADY SO DENSE AND COMPLICATED AND DIFFICULT AND I CAN TELL I’M GOING TO LOVE THIS. There are many themes and issues I want to discuss, so let’s break things up a bit.
The Loneliness of War
There are multiple items that Tamora Pierce has already brought up in these three chapters about how war affects a person physically and mentally. That ranges the full scope of the human emotional spectrum, and it’s making me excited to read this book. This is not a simple journey into battle with a lot of slashing and killing; no, Pierce is analyzing what this experience would be like for the military as a whole and for Kelady, who is about to experience her first full-blown war.
It’s appropriate, then, that this chapter is called “Long, Cold Road,” because that’s the precise road to war. It’s long, it’s cold, and it’s lonely. We saw bits of that at the beginning of chapter two, but here, this feeling manifests with Cleon’s appearance. Kel discovers that her isolation from Cleon has affected how she feels about him, so much so that she doesn’t really miss him, at least not in the way she did before. Now, this is something that actually happens outside of war! So I don’t doubt that that’s part of the reason. She’s been away from Cleon long enough that her priorities have changed. Hell, she says as much:
So much had happened, too much, all of it more vivid and recent than her memories of him. She didn’t want Cleon as a lover now, of that she was sure. There was work to be done. She wanted no lovers until she had settled the Nothing Man’s account.
In one context, this is an exploration of Kel’s sense of duty. She prioritizes her life because she is a knight. So this makes me wonder how much the very existence of war has affected Kel’s feelings for Cleon. Would she feel the same just because she’d been away from him in general? I mean, she did lose her attraction to Neal after a while, but I got the sense that Cleon wasn’t the same. She chose to become a knight over being with Cleon, so I think she might have subconsciously started to distance herself from Cleon anyway.
Of course, it’s all kind of a moot point when Cleon reveals that he’s got to marry Ermelian of Aminar in order to raise funds for his house. So Cleon/Kel isn’t endgame, which is surprising to me. Obviously, I expected this! AND I WAS SO WRONG. Oh god, Kel, on the one hand, I feel bad, but then I know that this coincidence provided Kel with a way to essentially break things off with Cleon anyway.
BASICALLY, HUGS ARE NEEDED ALL AROUND, RIGHT?
This is an ongoing theme throughout this chapter, and it appears both in Tobe’s story and in the introduction of the refugees in the second half of the chapter. I know from experience that it is very difficult and uncomfortable to confront one’s own privileges, but Kel handles this like a champ in this chapter. When Tobe reveals that he’s never cried over a friend because he has literally never had one, she doesn’t do that irritating, condescending thing where you shower guilt and pity on the other person. Instead, she accepts that Tobe’s worldview is drastically different than hers due to his experiences, and then she merely promises to be his friend. You are a champion, Kel.
And I think if she wasn’t such a grounded person, she may have reacted poorly upon meeting the refugees at Giantkiller. Instead, she realizes how much worse these people have it and that she has an integral role to play. Yes, she does view the situation selfishly in one regard: She sees it as an attempt to keep her safe, instead of an opportunity to do good. But I also think she’s aware of why Wyldon is so insistent that she be in command at the refugee center. Plus, she makes multiple comments about how she thinks the commoners and refugees should be treated better than they are, and this is a great sign that she’ll treat them right. Oh god, can I quote Dumbledore? I’m gonna do it: “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
Protector of the small, y’all. I love you, Kel.
Kel and Wyldon
I think it’s fair that Kel question why Wyldon is not sending her into battle after having proven herself to be such a proficient fighter. First of all, it’s understandable that while Wyldon has progressed a lot since the beginning of this series, Kel is still suspicious of his choices, given that he has stated on numerous occasions that he doesn’t think women should be in combat. She doesn’t think he’s malicious! No, she’s basing this on his past behavior, and it’s only just that marginalized people judge their peers based on how they’ve treated them in the past. How can she ignore this dynamic? It fuels her disappointment, even if she knows that Wyldon is right that Neal and her peers are not prepared or qualified to deal with refugees at all. At the same time, there’s something powerful in the trust that Wyldon places in Kel. He knows she is unlike other first-year knights. He knows she is talented and knowledgable. He knows she isn’t a raging bigot. And that’s important! He’s aware that her treatment of those who are socially “below” her is a qualification the other knights don’t have.
I still don’t know how she’s going to find Blayce and Stunmun. At all!!! She’s not even going to be near the border as far as I can tell. How can she run a refugee camp and find these two monsters?
HE’S GROWING UP. OH GODS, IT’S TOO MUCH.
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