Welcome to the weekly Wednesday reread of Dragon Prince! In this installment, Rohan gets to be a hero, love wins the day (or more accurately the night), Palila’s plot with Pandsala comes to a head, and Ianthe has an epiphany.
So This Happens: Rohan is in his tent, royally drunk and wondering where his squire is. The dragon’s cries from the previous chapter flatten him. “A dragon, far from the usual flight paths, traveling at night when landmarks below were only dimly lit by the moons.” Something is distinctly not right.
Suddenly Urival bursts in. Roelstra has abducted Sioned. Rohan is abruptly, completely sober. Urival fills him in on the warning and on Crigo’s death, and urges Rohan to “Think!”
Rohan determines to do exactly that. He and Urival head directly to Roelstra’s camp, where they find Walvis being brave and Sioned under the influence of something, playing off each other for the benefit of Roelstra.
Rohan shows himself, and immediately takes the offensive. He threatens Roelstra with the wrath of Andrade and orders the boy and the Sunrunner to be released.
Roelstra takes Walvis hostage with a knife to the throat. Rohan continues to talk his way through the situation. He points out that Roelstra thinks not with his brain but with his genitals, and that it makes no sense for either of them to kill each other before Rohan is presumably married off to one of Roelstra’s daughters and has produced a son.
Roelstra is not playing. Rohan gives up on talk and goes for his boot knife. That distracts Roelstra from killing Walvis and focuses him on doing the same to Rohan.
Rohan keeps talking. He tells Roelstra he knows who set the Merida assassins on him. Roelstra isn’t playing into that, either. The fight turns distinctly physical, and Rohan is wounded, then wounds Roelstra in return.
Rohan will ignore this incident, he says, “officially.” Roelstra counters that he’ll kill Rohan eventually. Rohan wounds Roelstra again. Roelstra refrains from giving Rohan an excuse to kill him, allowing himself to be disarmed instead.
Having won the match, Rohan frees Walvis and Sioned. There is a further exchange of taunts, during which Rohan emphasizes that Roelstra lets his hormones do this thinking for him, but Rohan is “a prince first and a man second.” Roelstra, says Rohan, will behave himself for the next three years, or Rohan will make sure all the princes know what Roelstra tried to do tonight.
Roelstra is still taunting, but Rohan has one last zing left: “If you touch my wife again, I will kill you.”
With that, they leave Roelstra to his guards and his physician. Rohan tells Walvis he’s proud of him, and sends Urival to tell Andrade all’s well. He and Sioned, meanwhile, will be somewhere other than in Rohan’s tent.
Walvis and Urival agree in chorus. Rohan carries Sioned off to the river and a handy weeping willow tree.
Sioned is trying to understand what happened, and admits that she was stupid in going to Roelstra’s tent and drinking his wine. This quickly gives way to teasing and then to lovemaking.
Rohan confesses that he’s a virgin. Sioned doesn’t believe him. She says it’s her first time, too—“Nothing else counts.” Rohan giddily agrees.
And I’m Thinking: Big-time action chapter here. A dragon in the night! Our Heroine abducted! Rohan with his shirt off! A knife fight! Rohan and Sioned in bed together at last!
My teenage self (which predates Eighties Me by mumblemumble years) is all excited. Things are happening and they’re happening fast. Roelstra gets to be evil and Rohan gets to be all manly and heroic while he puts Roelstra in his place. Sioned gets to be, well, stupid, but she gets rescued so that’s all right. Even Walvis gets to be heroic and male and all that cool stuff.
2014 Me thinks Roelstra is right. Rohan talks too much. He can’t keep a plan secret to save his soul. He’s just told Roelstra everything he’s up to and then some.
But Roelstra, like Sioned, is being colossally plot-stupid, so he doesn’t catch on to much at all. By the time he’s done posturing with knives, he’s put himself totally in Rohan’s power, and been seriously humiliated as a result.
And then there’s the sexytime at the end. Because by damn Rohan is going to keep finding handy hideouts beside the river no matter what might be out there. Sunrunners are guarding him anyway, after all. So even if they know what he’s up to, being Sunrunners and therefore sex-positive and anyway Sioned is already to all intents and purposes his wife, they won’t get in his way. He’s just following Andrade’s grand plan.
The fact that it would make the most sense for him to take Sioned to Andrade and find out why she’s in such a strange state doesn’t seem to occur to either of them, or to Walvis or, worst of all, Urival. Or that having been abducted once already tonight, Sioned might be in danger. Or Rohan might. Nope. River, tree, sexytime. That’s all that’s on their minds, and Walvis and Urival are the happy dittoheads.
Speaking being a prince first and a man second. And all that.
So This Happens: More action and the culmination of one key bit of plotting. Palila is suddenly, intensely in labor—much earlier than expected, as are all three of the potential mothers of “her” son. To her horror, the Princess who comes to assist is Ianthe, and Ianthe insists that Andrade be summoned.
Ianthe wants to know why Crigo is dead and Roelstra is wounded (in a fall, supposedly). If Palila doesn’t tell her, she’ll make sure Andrade finds out about Crigo.
Ianthe, it turns out, helped Roelstra abduct Sioned. She knows Crigo warned the Sunrunners. She also knows about the plot with Pandsala to make sure Palila’s child turns out to be a boy. She even knows what dranath is.
Ianthe is going to make sure neither Sioned nor Pandsala marries Rohan. Pandsala meanwhile is watching over the three servants in labor; it’s clear that the sisters colluded to bring them all in at once. Ianthe lets Pandsala know Andrade is coming—supposedly to provide an unimpeachable witness to the fact that Palila’s child is a boy.
In the meantime Andrade is dealing with the aftermath of Crigo’s death. She doesn’t have a name for the drug that killed him. She speculates about it with Urival, Camigwen, and Ostvel.
She’s sure she can get the information from Roelstra, and Sioned can tell her “how this drug feels,” and everything will be just fine. Once, of course, she finds Sioned; she sends someone to find the Sunrunner assigned to watch over Sioned.
At that moment a messenger in the High Prince’s colors summons Andrade to attend Palila, who is in labor. Andrade is perfectly confident that she’ll be safe, and goes off to Roelstra’s barge with the servant, Gernius.
On the barge, Andrade is immediately afflicted with the Sunrunner form of seasickness, but she manages to get to work helping Palila, none of whose women is any use at all. Once this is taken care of, Ianthe shows up to let her know there are three more women below, also in labor. Andrade is perfectly stumped by this, but she does manage to observe that Palila and Ianthe hate each other.
She leaves Ianthe with Palila, over Palila’s strong objections and her own unease, and goes to take care of the other women. There she finds Pandsala with a girl baby whom she and Ianthe helped deliver. Andrade allows herself to feel wonderfully maternal about the baby, since there’s no personal or political investment in her.
Andrade is having a hard time being on the water like this. She’s not able to think especially coherently, though she manages to observe that “It strained credulity that four women were giving birth on the same night at the same time, but what explanation was there other than bizarre coincidence?”
She also manages to wonder what Princesses are doing serving as midwives to serving women, but Pandsala answers that by reminding Andrade of the exceptional incompetence of the rest of the women in Roelstra’s entourage. One of the pregnant women, a blonde who, we’ve already been shown, has a history of producing sons, is most insistent that she not be left alone with Pandsala. She is also praying that her baby is a girl.
Andrade goes back up on deck and succumbs to a fit of seasickness. Gernius kindly helps with the consequences. Andrade, somewhat recovered, finds all of Palila’s women outside her cabin and only Ianthe inside—and hears a baby’s cry.
She sends someone to fetch the High Prince and bulldozes her way into the cabin. Where Palila is exulting that she has a son, and Ianthe is holding a baby.
Ianthe disappears with the baby while Andrade calls Palila’s women in to make her ready to see the High Prince.
We then shift to Ianthe’s viewpoint. Ianthe is thrilled with her own cleverness. She sends a signal to Pandsala, just in time for Andrade to find her and ask what she’s up to. Just taking the baby away from all the commotion, Ianthe replies.
Pandsala comes up just then, saying she’s brought another baby up with her—then sees Andrade. Ianthe pretends to be astonished, but her plan is working. She tells Andrade the baby is a girl, while offstage, Roelstra is shouting that he has a son.
Andrade has to disillusion him of that fact, with Ianthe all wide-eyed innocence and Pandsala left holding the baby, as it were. The results are as ugly as Ianthe could hope, as Andrade talks them all through the details of the plot as she herself figures them out.
Roelstra is furious. He tells Ianthe that if it had been a boy, she would have killed it, which proves that he knows her well. She would have killed the three serving women, too, because she’s so clever.
Pandsala is the one in serious trouble here. Roelstra charges her with treason. Andrade speaks up and demands that he give the girl to her in return for the Sunrunner who just died, along with Roelstra’s youngest female offspring.
Roelstra has no problem with surrendering his daughters to “living death in Goddess Keep.” Then he sneers about Sioned and dranath.
He orders Ianthe to hand the baby over, and names her Chiana, which means “treason.”
Pandsala is in complete shock and abject terror, but not so much that she can’t try to strangle Ianthe. Roelstra drags them apart and orders his guards to take Pandsala to Andrade’s tent.
He and Andrade share a moment then of pure mutual hate. Roelstra will never have a son, Andrade says. He orders her out, at top volume.
Ianthe has won. She’s just about to relax when she realizes Palila is begging Roelstra for mercy. He threatens her with flame, but not before he gives Ianthe a domain called Feruche, which sits on the border between Princemarch and the Desert. It needs a ruler whom he can trust.
She’s not getting Rohan, he says. “It seems the Sunrunner has a prior claim.”
At this point Ianthe understands the hatred between Andrade and Roelstra. “And at last she had found her definition of power—not through her princely husband or her father or any other person—power stronger than the paltry gifts of a Sunrunner.” That power is hate.
She leaves the cabin, and the screams begin.
Meanwhile, back under the willow tree, dawn has come, and Sioned is euphorically, madly, incandescently in love. Their son is going to be a faradhi prince, she knows.
Rohan wakes blurrily. There is teasing and further lovemaking, and a breakfast of mossberries. Then Rohan notices that it’s very bright up the river for so early an hour. It’s in the wrong direction for sunrise—and it smells like fire. Roelstra’s barge is engulfed with flames.
And I’m Thinking: Since Roelstra lost his brain somewhere south of his navel, my hero is Ianthe. She’s found a whole new track to power. It’s a totally villainous one, of course, but as Maleficent and Elphaba can tell you, that’s often more interesting than turning to the side of good.
Look at Sioned, after all. She’s pretty much incapacitated, between drugs and love, and the latter hobbles her quite a bit more than the former. There’s not a thing she can do to resist her fate, and she’s not even bothering to try.
Whereas Ianthe has seen an opportunity and seized it. Her father’s mistress dies as a result, and Pandsala and the new baby girl go off to a fate that is, in their estimation, worse than death. Ianthe wins a huge reward, one that gives her as much autonomy as a male vassal—and we just know she’ll make good use of it. She’s her daddy’s girl through and through, and he’s the first to acknowledge it.
Both of these chapters depend a little too much on the phenomenon of plot-stupidity on the part of the good guys. That Sioned doesn’t know what dranath is is reasonable enough; she’s young and her training isn’t complete. But Andrade should know. Andrade is supposed to be the great mover and shaker who sees all and knows all.
She’s not living up to her reputation here—not only about dranath but about the rather blazingly obvious nature of the Palila/Pandsala plot. Excusing it by saying she’s seasick doesn’t quite cut it, since she’s obviously able to do whatever else the plot needs her to do.
I’d like to see her worry a wee tad bit more about Sioned and Rohan going missing right after Sioned was kidnapped, and with Rohan already having fended off multiple Merida attacks. She could be a weed tad bit less confident about walking onto Roelstra’s barge, too; if Sioned would make a powerful hostage, what about the Lady of Goddess Keep herself? She’s not thinking things through, or taking them seriously enough, either.
Ending the chapter in fire is a great authorial choice. It shows how extremely cruel and ruthless Roelstra is, and it echoes both Sunrunner’s fire and dragon fire. Also, maybe, sexual fire. That’s well done.
Judith Tarr’s first epic fantasy novel, The Hall of the Mountain King, appeared in 1986. Her YA time-travel science fiction/fantasy/historical novel, Living in Threes, appeared as an ebook from Book View Café in 2012, and will debut in print this fall. Her new novel, a space opera, will be published by Book View Cafe in 2015. In between, she’s written historicals and historical fantasies and epic fantasies, some of which have been reborn as ebooks from Book View Café. She lives in Arizona with an assortment of cats, two dogs, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.