In the fifteenth chapter of Trickster’s Choice, everything feels wrong. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Trickster’s Choice.
Chapter Fifteen: Winged Messenger
There is only one chapter left. There is only one chapter left. Do you hear that? That’s me sounding the alarm because THIS IS NOT OKAY. I’m so nervous. How? How is this going to be resolved in a single chapter? Why does everything hurt so much? Well, I’m reading a Tamora Pierce novel, so that answers that one.
SO. SO. This isn’t going to be an easy journey, I imagine, as every sign in chapter fifteen points to something awful happening. Kyprioth kept Aly FOR FIVE DAYS. THAT IS HOW IMPORTANT IS WAS FOR HER TO SEE THE EVENTS IN RAJMUAT. Five days. And Aly is quick to pass the news of what she learned far and wide. I’ll touch on this later, but that alone was a sign that shit was about to go down. The passage of information in this chapter is a big deal because it implies a frantic energy on the part of the Balitangs and the raka conspirators.
Real quick, before we continue:
“My mother knew the Cat,” Aly confided. “At least, that’s what she told me when I was a little girl. That the star-Cat became a mortal one, and taught her things as she grew up. It was my favorite story, even if it wasn’t true.”
No, you can’t talk about Faithful like this. IT ISN’T FAIR.
We’ll get to Nawat later when he does that thing, so let’s first discuss the arrival of the titular winged messenger. Like I said, there are a ton of things in this chapter intended to build dread, and the apparently improper use of the winged messenger by Rubinyan is one of them. A royal message can’t be good at a time like this, first of all. Pierce doesn’t let us forget the true context of the kudarung, though, since some of the raka reflect on what the kudarung mean to their culture. To have them re-appropriated for this purpose is kind of horrifying, no?
Rubinyan’s letter is yet another sign of the doom to come. (Seriously, the more I think about this, the less safe I feel. Everything. Feels. Wrong.) Aly and Mequen dissect what’s between the lines, and it doesn’t look good. Why does Rubinyan speak so flippantly and dispassionately towards his own brother? Why isn’t he calling the Balitangs back home?
Does he want them to serve as bait for his brother first?
OH GOD, HE TOTALLY DOES, DOESN’T HE? Goddamn it, these royal families are so messed up. Look, I don’t trust Rubinyan, either. Granted, Bronau is CLEARLY the worst of the bunch. I’m not arguing with this. But it feels like Rubinyan is putting his own desires above the well-being of the Balitangs, and I don’t like it. Clearly, Kyprioth doesn’t like it, either, since he makes Aly glow with godly power so that the duke and duchess heed her advice. It goes back to the point I made about information. It’s now flowing much more freely and quickly than it did before, and that’s because it has to. These people need to prepare for the inevitable.
And I know that Aly is trying to prepare the raka for said inevitability, but I was left uncomfortable yet again by her attempt to claim to know more about luarin-raka dynamics than Lokeij. You know, I think it’s Aly’s attempt to portray many of the luarin as wholly innocent that bugs me so much. She says:
“That the luarin who try to do their best by you, who only inherited the mess the Rittevons have made, may die to ease the collar off your necks?”
Well, okay, but just because they’ve inherited the “mess” you refer to doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from the very system they live in. It favors them, it allows them to accumulate wealth and lands and popularity and prosperity, something the raka have had summarily stripped from them. Yes, there probably are luarin who will turn from the royal line to overthrow them, and when the time comes, I think keeping them as allies is going to be necessary. However, while Aly tries to prevent Lokeij from making sweeping generalizations about his oppressors, she is making a sweeping generalization about the luarin, too. Does she think they’ll willingly share their lands and wealth with people who have occupied the bottom run of the social ladder for centuries? I don’t trust them to do so. If anything, I think Aly is being the simplistic, naïve one here, not Lokeij.
So, let’s go back to Nawat, who is somehow even more impossibly cute than he was before. First, there’s that scene where he kisses Aly and silences her because she’s so affected by his good kisses. But then he goes and drops the most direct statement about the affection and love he feels for her EVER:
“A crow may put on human shape or crow shape, but we remain crows,” he replied firmly. “Hawks, too, are the same, whether they are born in human nests or hawk ones. The nestlings must always be protected. Since you have chosen to protect these, I and mine will protect you.”
I am going to need you to stop. Who knew that such a bizarre character could be so emotionally crushing? I just… I never expected this! And now, Nawat is clearly the most charming character in all of Tortall, and I don’t know how to deal with him.
Anyway, it’s at this point that this chapter dramatically shifts in tone and focus, and everything feels wrong. Well, initially, we’ve got Kyprioth’s warning that he’s done forcing human hands. He isn’t going to interfere because it’s “the hour of mortal choices.” OH GOD, SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN. Admittedly, though, it was kind of exciting, like most of the Tortall books have been, because I believed in Aly and the raka conspirators and the Balitangs. But then, Pierce plays with our expectations, and that’s through the appearance of Bronau. Seriously, that is when this truly feels wrong.
Obviously, I don’t like him, and neither does anyone else, though Mequen is certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I mean, even Aly, who has been trying to convince the raka not to seek blood, confesses that she’d prefer it if Bronau was dead. But what that man does here is FUCKING REVOLTING. He tried to kidnap a three-year-old and then has the nerve to say this:
“Winna, it would break your heart, the way they keep him. No boys his own age in that tomb of a chamber, their servants in place of his… I’d never use a child of my blood so.” He glanced sidelong at Sarai, who ducked her head shyly. “But Imajane is as cold as the ocean deeps. It would never occur to her that Duenvon’s a child more than he is a king.”
SAYS THE ASSHOLE WHO TRIED TO KIDNAP THAT CHILD AND FRIGHTENED HIM SO MUCH THAT HE THREW UP. Fuck you, Bronau, you are disgusting.
I do love that Mequen immediately calls Bronau out on this, and seriously, all of the Balitangs perform beautifully here. They do the absolute best that they can with an impossible statement. Mequen and Winna are magical in attempting to calm the man down, but it’s really Sarai who knocks it out of the park. Her whole faux-concern thing is brilliant, so much so that it greatly impresses Aly.
However, two things worried me. First, there’s Lokeij’s warning about Bronau’s men being brand new. New horses and new men: Are they mercenaries? Where did he get them??? WHY DOES IT ALL FEEL SO WRONG? But it’s Mequen who surprises everyone by OFFERING TO ACCOMPANY BRONAU TO RAJMUAT. Oh my god, what are you doing??? Is that seriously the best idea, dude??? I get that he wants to repair the relationship between Rubinyan and Bronau, but is this the best time to do it? He places so much trust in Rubinyan, and given the man’s letter, I don’t exactly trust him myself. But what can Aly do? For once, I would actually be okay with Aly’s condescension because this needs it. This is not a good idea. Turn Bronau in! Get him out of that place, and win the favor of the current king/regent instead of… bah, I don’t even know y’all. It’s just feels so wrong, and somehow, this is all going to be taken care of IN ONE CHAPTER. Damn it!
Please note that the original text and the videos contain uses of the words “mad” and “idiot.”
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