In the fourteenth chapter of Trickster’s Queen, the Balitang household is forced to deal with the increasingly complex and tense situation left in the wake of Sarai’s actions. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Trickster’s Queen.
Chapter Fourteen: Dove Among The Nobles
Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever read a novel (outside of maybe China Mieville’s work) that’s able to have such a firm grasp of the myriad of social and political issues at hand quite like Tamora Pierce has demonstrated with this book. I admit that it presents a challenge to me and what I do here, as chapter fourteen alone is so dense with intrigue and developments that I worry I can’t ever address every single incredible turn or scene that happens here. At no point during this novel up to chapter fourteen has Pierce ever simplified this story. She adds layer after layer, variable after variable, and she does so in a way that never makes it feel impossible to follow along. It’s a challenge, certainly. There are so many characters to keep track of by now, and it can feel a bit overwhelming at times. But I feel like it should be overwhelming. I don’t think this should be reductive or simplistic because we’re dealing with a political and cultural revolution involving an incalculable number of factors, you know? So, I’m going to attempt to do my best to talk about what happens here because IT’S SO IMPORTANT.
NURITIN. Good gods, this chapter opens with Nuritin revealing in her own special way that she is well aware that Aly is way more than she says she is. It’s through this that Aly recognizes that it’s now time for her to take a risk and urge the luarin conspirators to stop being a “complaint society,” which is about the funniest descriptor for this group as humanly possible. It’s true, though! They complain, but they do not act. So Aly knows that it’s time to suggest – ever so subtly – to Nuritin that if the luarin are ready, they might have more allies than they thought they did, and that it would be advisable to start sneaking in men-at-arms and mages. Well, then Nuritin calls Aly “an impertinent minx,” and it’s just about the best thing ever. BLESS.
There’s a lot of new developments revealed in this chapter two, all of them suggesting that the time to strike is very, very near. Aly learns that Rubinyan is aware of his forces being spread too thin and that he’s worried about the immediate future; she discovers that Dove has already learned how to properly process spy reports exactly as Aly does already; and Fesgao and Ulasim update Aly on their successful attempt to convince the rest of the raka conspirators that Dove is their queen. That doesn’t mean everything is perfect, and I think Dove’s concerns in this chapter are valid and necessary. She’s got a difficult path ahead of her because of Sarai. Pierce doesn’t ignore the complexities of that either, especially since even Aly admits that she doesn’t know that she would have stopped Sarai from eloping with Zaimid even if she’d known Sarai’s intentions beforehand. Still, this chapter’s plot developments and character growth largely relies on what Sarai did; it informs almost everything here, positively or negatively.
One of those ramifications is the verbal abuse and cruelty that Dove, Nuritin, and Winnamine must face from the nobility. Winna in particular is the biggest victim of this, and it’s disheartening and sad to read. We know that Winna wants so badly to defend her daughter, to disagree with the nobles and the regents when then use their predictably racist reasoning to insult Winna and Sarai and the rest of the family, but she can’t. She has to take it. ALL OF IT. It’s the respectable thing to do, and she can’t risk further angering Imajane at this point.
And so, a large part of this chapter details the delicate and frustrating dance that Dove, Winna, and Nuritin are forced into during the lily-viewing party. Dove is, predictably, offered the exact same marriage that Sarai was offered, and Dove brilliantly avoids having to commit to anything by acting properly shocked and honored so as to delay any decision. And throughout the palace, the toxic environment of gossip and faux respectability runs rampant. It’s not just due to recent events, and Winnamine makes it clear that this was always how it was in the palace. It doesn’t help, obviously, that Imajane’s paranoia and bigotry is at the center of this. Imajane, in many ways, represents why Rittevon rule is not just violently oppressive; it’s just plain terrible. Of course, the oppressive aspect of the luarin in the Isles is built into the fabric of everything we see here, and to ignore it would be foolish. It was just fascinating to me to see how Imajane employed a lot of the same social tactics and behavior that made the culture of the palace so despicable.
She’s overly and brutally paranoid. She is willing to insinuate awful, prejudicial things about the Balitangs because she knows she can do so without consequence. She even tries to trick Taybur because…. because she can? UGH WHY.
Then there’s that whole “cosmopolitan” conversation, which Dove so expertly handles. It’s yet another manifestation of the racism that’s par for the course for the luarin society, too, a way for them to not just rule, but to show their kingdom that whiteness in all its forms is superior. Well, whiteness in the context of luarin supremacy. It’s important to acknowledge that not only is Imajane a white supremacist, but she’s a xenophobe, too! She doesn’t even like white people IN OTHER COUNTRIES. The Rittevon line is the most pure and superior to her and to many of the nobles who gain power and privilege from supporting said belief. So I love that Dove casually points out that Imajane is literally quite ignorant when it comes to her own country. LOVE YOU, DOVASARY. LOVE YOU.
Then there’s Taybur Sibigat, and I’d like to summarize his entire appearance here with a quote:
Behind her laughing face lay a bleak thought: This man might die in the storm to come, and I like him.
Hey, that’s just plain good advice. Do you like a character? Stop doing that, they’re going to die in genre fiction. I also have a strange affinity for Taybur, but unless there’s some last-minute change in allegiance, he’s doesn’t have good odds to survive the rebellion. And I’m forced to think about Dunevon and Elsren and Rubinyan and Imajane, too. How can Dove be queen if all four of those characters are still alive? IT’S TOO GRIM TO THINK ABOUT.
So instead, I’ll think about hope. There is a persistent sense of hope in these pages because Aly is realizing that the regents and this whole wretched culture have handed her a veritable buffet of options that she can use to take the luarin rulers down. It’s not just that, though; she’s also got Dovasary Balitang, who proves in this chapter that she’s studious, dependable, clever, and extremely empathetic. She’s perfect for the role, and despite that she has her reservations, I honestly don’t think anyone is better suited to become queen of the Isles. It’s also meaningful to me that she’s got people like Winnamine on her side, especially when she says things like this:
“I wanted to have something good to remember about today,” she replied quietly. “Something that wasn’t petty and mean. Sometimes you have to provide such moments yourself.”
Bless all of this, y’all. Oh, I’m incredibly nervous about the future, but I’ll take this sort of beauty where I can find it.
Please note that the original text/videos contain uses of the words “idiot” and “mad.”
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