In the seventeenth chapter of Trickster’s Queen, the conspirators contend with the loss they’ve suffered, but learn that they must act quickly to take advantage of the tragic opportunity they’ve been granted. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Trickster’s Queen.
Chapter Seventeen: Mourning
Holy shit, it’s happening. This is it, y’all, and technically, the rebellion itself is just in the early stages of a full-blown revolt, but IT’S HAPPENING. It’s with Kyprioth’s meddling as a tragic background that the Isles begins to move towards an overthrow of the ruling order. The conspirators have a lot of work, and despite that the war between the gods is raging, it’s not precisely the right time. YET. OH GOD.
Chapter seventeen opens with cuteness, however, as what seems like half the household turns out to be watching Aly and Nawat sleep because they’re all so goddamn nosy and adorable. I’m Kioka in this scene, for what it’s worth, because HOLY GOD, HELP ME. NAWAT. I didn’t think you could out-do Raoul in the swoon department, but NOPE. Anyway, Nawat quickly leaves, following Ulasim, so that he can continue his work with the men-at-arms he brought to the city. For the most part, this chapter follows this pattern: hope or joy followed by a moment of utter seriousness. That joy and hope is infectious, though, because luck really does seem to be turning in favor of the conspirators. Of course, that’s not to ignore the chapter title, which refers to the grim pallor of the entire Balitang house. It’s only Aly’s spy network who seem excited to be given the opportunity to put Dove directly on the throne, though that’s largely because Aly taught them to see such options. No, the whole house is in deep mourning over the loss of Elsren, and I’m glad that Pierce is so upfront about this in the text. It’s only been a day since he died, and the excitement over the coming revolution doesn’t negate the sadness. In particular, Winnamine is furious:
Winnamine continued, “Where is our great destiny that was promised by the god? Can it be the god meant my husband and son to die? That my little boy had to drown so the regents would take power and the throne would be strong? Was that it?” Her eyes were overbright, but no tears fell. Aly was certain that the duchess had no tears left.
This scene is so vital because it reminds us that Winnamine still doesn’t know what’s brewing all around her. And yet, even if she did know? That wouldn’t assuage her anger and sadness. Hell, I think it’s easy to imagine that if she knew Kyprioth orchestrated Elsren’s death because he was “in the way,” she’d be beyond livid with him. However, I was totally floored by how this moment was also made into a chance to explore cultural differences between the luarin and the raka:
“That’s the problem with luarin,” Boulaj observed softly. “They think gods have rules and follow them. They should dedicate their lives to the Trickster, as we do. They would not be comfortable, but they would not have this illusion that life is supposed to make sense, either.”
None of this invalidates Winna’s anger and grief, but it struck me as a fascinating statement about the cultural history of these two groups. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. The raka have spent centuries living under a chaotic and oppressive rule, so it’s clear that they’d be used to a life that didn’t make sense. Part of the privilege that comes with being luarin in the Isles is that, for the most part, you’re not worrying about your life falling apart at the hands of something out of your control like the raka do. Again, that doesn’t mean that bad, tragic things don’t happen to the luarin, and Winnamine is a perfect example of that. But it’s about history. It’s about tendencies and trends, you know?
TAYBUR SIBIGAT. OH LORD. How did I not think about this??? Well, I was too sad for Elsren and too happy for Nawat to really form any significant thoughts, but Taybur Sibigat. Of course he’d turn against the regents for orchestrating the death of his FAVORITE HUMAN IN THE UNIVERSE. Does this mean he might survive??? I mean, the chance is greater than before, but still pretty slim. Still, Aly’s right to think that he’s a great potential ally that she’ll have to use at the right time. BUT WHEN WILL THAT BE? I have no clue, as Aly sets a ton of things into motion in this chapter, many of which I don’t understand. Like, for instance, her suggestion of “company coming to call” at the naval shipyards. Or the “dead rat” reference. (Well, I understood it later, but at the time, I WAS VERY LOST.) And all of this contributes to her plan of “giant-killing,” which is to swipe the regents’ base out from under them so that when the time to strike arrives, they’re defenseless. Obviously, Ulasim’s been working at that for ages, but many of the extraneous pieces are coming together. Duke Nomru’s estates are REVOLTING. ON HIS BEHALF! The Lombyn tax collector is dead. Governors have been murdered or have disappeared. Bean is busy messing with Sevmire’s sense of paranoia, and all of this demonstrates such a brilliant understanding of political and social power dynamics by Tamora Pierce. Seriously, the rebels are using the rulers’ own privilege against them. They’re exploiting their sense of entitlement and the fear the regents and luarin experience as they begin to rapidly lose the power they’re so used to. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
I do have to get back to Nawat again because s w o o n. It’s really neat to see how his experience at war and in a human body have transformed him into a man, one who definitively wants to stay a human. He hasn’t lost his sense of humor or his strangeness; that’s as much a part of his personality as it was back in the last book. It’s just that he has such a deep understanding of what it means to be human, of what’s at stake in this rebellion, and what his love for Aly means. And love is a huge part of this! Ugh, that’s so great y’all. LOVE HELPED TRANSFORM NAWAT excuse me while I weep.
It’s near the end of this chapter that Kyprioth appears for what might be the last time until this whole power struggle is over. His appearance – to announce that Mithros and the Goddess have arrived – sets off a surreal visual display in the sky, and it’s fucking WAY more ominous than the storm in the last chapter. Actually, let me just quote Aly here:
It was unnerving to see a sky so different from normal. She didn’t like it at all, and she was nearly certain that the others felt the same.
Because it’s a physical change to something that is always the same. And if that isn’t a huge sign of the change to come, then COLOR ME WRONG. Which I am all the time, but WHATEVER. But the fight in the sky is in part the cause of the riot that breaks out in Downwind and the Honeypot, and it’s hard to ignore that the change in Rajmuat is just as physical as the one in the sky. After three days of fighting and a somber memorial service for those who died on Dunevon’s birthday, we’re left with a bizarre and nerve-wracking political environment in the Isles. Crown spies are dead all over town, identified with a paper pinned to their clothes that just reads Spy, which was Aly’s plan involving the dead “rats.” The rumor is spreading that the Crown clearly caused the deaths of everyone aboard Dunevon’s ship, and Aly is largely responsible for that, too. So I think that’s what the final sentence here is about. I think these spies are suddenly realizing what it is that Aly has been able to accomplish through her intense and detailed planning. The scales are tipping in their favor, almost impossibly so, because of ONE WOMAN. Who wouldn’t look upon Aly in awe upon realizing that?
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