Welcome to the weekly Wednesday reread of Dragon Prince! We’re capping off the Rialla with one last chapter, then a brief Interlude. Weddings and banquets and intrigues and enmities—we see them all, along with a glimpse of some difficult and deadly developments to come.
So This Happens: The last day of the festival opens with a flurry of rumors about the burning of the High Prince’s barge, followed by a flurry of weddings. We see a wedding of nobles, then the wedding of Camigwen and Ostvel, complete with gowns and jewels and sacred chants. Rohan is present, as is a suspiciously pale and subdued Sioned.
Everyone expects the two to marry, but Sioned is in terrible condition, cursing the drug she was given the night before.
There is teasing. Tobin and Chay have been teasing each other about the weddings. Now they tease Sioned and Rohan about what else happened last night.
Sioned is carried off to Rohan’s tent, and Rohan swears enmity against Roelstra, who is conspicuously absent. They recap the night’s events, as well as the morning’s drama with the burning barge.
Andrade comes, escorted by Walvis, and fills them in on what happened on the barge. She also extracts from Sioned the symptoms of the dranath with which she’s been dosed. Sioned swears that she will be at the feast tonight, and Andrade declares that she has to be, over Rohan’s objections.
At this point, prompted by Tobin, Andrade reveals that she has a guest in her tent: Princess Pandsala. She also finishes off the story of the princesses’ plot, which she blames entirely on Ianthe—who has been given Feruche.
Rohan erupts at this. He is going to claim Feruche, and he is not letting Ianthe anywhere near his domains. He and Andrade bicker over his military tactics, until Sioned diverts them by asking what happened to the crew and passengers on the barge. Crew and servants survived, Andrade says, but she doesn’t know what happened to the women and babies.
They continue their discussion of the various plots and schemes, stress that Ianthe is both evil and clever, and agree—led by Rohan—that Ianthe will now be turning her energies against them, particularly Sioned.
Sioned has to appear healthy and sound at the banquet. Andrade assigns that task to Tobin and Cami, and Chay takes on the task of preparing Rohan.
When sunset comes, Sioned has had a thorough makeover. “She supposed she was beautiful.” Rohan agrees—and he looks amazing himself in black and silver. Their meeting strikes literal sparks—the Fire that’s always been between the Chosen lovers.
Rohan gives Tobin the emeralds to adorn Sioned, and Tobin gives him “two thin circlets of silver that twisted open at the back.” These, Rohan says, are “Two things…. But one, in the end.”
He crowns her with one of the circlets. She crowns him with the other. She accepts her fate, “without doubts or strivings, at peace.”
Andrade proceeds from here to deal with Pandsala and the newborn daughter of Roelstra, with some reflection on the elder Princess’ antics and repeated attempts to escape. Urival has been dealing with her. Andrade is not charitable about Pandsala, thinking of her as “a girl chosen not for her brains but her breasts.” Nor does she think kindly of Ianthe, “who was so twisted it was a wonder her own guts didn’t strangle her.”
Assured that her charges are taken care of, Andrade proceeds to the Lastday feast. She pauses briefly to remember Crigo, before entering into conversation with Prince Lleyn. She offers him a Sunrunner to help him deal with his new task of sorting out border claims’—suggesting Meath. Lleyn accepts gratefully.
Andrade enters the tent first for the banquet and has time to admire its arrangements at length before the rest of the guests file in. Rohan makes his entrance in defiance of the protocol that dictates a Prince should come in alone, by bringing Sioned with him. “He was putting everyone on notice that his wife would share his princely power as well as his bed.”
This is tremendously shocking, as are their matched royal circlets, but no one argues with it.
Roelstra can’t compete with this entrance, and shows every sign of both knowing it and not liking it in the slightest. Andrade has a great deal of trouble not laughing at him.
The banquet begins, in detail, but Andrade notices that Sioned is not looking well. Lleyn meanwhile sets about interrogating Andrade about the events on Roelstra’s barge; she repeats the story again, briefly, letting him know that Palila is dead but the baby lives.
There is some sparring, but Lleyn is a wily courtier and manages to get the full story out of Andrade. They discuss the faradhi tendency to get sick on or near water, which Andrade ascribes to inbreeding—apropos of Pandsala, whom she hasn’t yet tested for faradhi, and who has shown no sign of water-sickness.
Andrade reveals that Sunrunners originally lived on Lleyn’s island. He is shocked; he didn’t know. They exchange tidbits of ancient history, including the unknown nature of faradhi genetics and heritability, and the fact that Sioned is the granddaughter of a noble faradhi. That will be useful politically.
Lleyn calls her on her plan to breed faradhi through Rohan and Sioned. Andrade cites the Goddess, and is unrepentant. She is also stiff-lipped about not revealing her plans to all, though she’s been rather open with Lleyn.
The upshot of their lengthy discussion is that Lleyn professes to be on her side, and to agree with Rohan that changes need to be made in the way things are done. Sunrunners are vulnerable, he says, and that prevents them from overreaching. He points out the hole in Roelstra’s plan—namely, Sioned—and the hole in the Sunrunners’ defenses, which is dranath. Lleyn warns her not to try to take over the world. She replies that she intends to do better than the Princes who have already tried.
Meanwhile Roelstra is simmering with hate. He’s got a little list, and he knows exactly what he is going to do with it—assisted by Ianthe.
He leaves the banquet early and goes to his tent to brood on Sioned’s refusal, which has never happened to him before. He will make sure she pays.
He is expecting a guest, but the man who appears is completely unexpected: Rohan. Rohan is dressed in plain black, and he wants to know about dranath.
Rohan takes a packet of it, but Roelstra reveals that only he knows where to get it and how to “refine” it. They exchange further hostilities; Rohan declares he doesn’t intend to kill Roelstra, but he will break him. Roelstra invites him to try.
Once Rohan has departed, Roelstra sends for Ianthe, and his expected guest appears: a prince of Merida named Baliaev, whom Roelstra calls “My dear scion of a dead dynasty.” Roelstra intends to introduce him to Ianthe. So the chapter, and the section, ends.
And I’m Thinking: This chapter is heavy on the intrigue and light on the action. Lots and lots of talk. Lots of setup for the next section: Sioned’s dranath addiction, Andrade’s multifarious plots and plans, Rolestra’s likewise. There’s no formal wedding of Rohan and Sioned, but it’s abundantly clear whom he’s chosen for his bride.
The big blowout at the Lastday banquet is a bit of a letdown. We get Rohan’s entrance, and are told how utterly shocking it is, but nobody says much, and there’s no conflict. Everyone just accepts what he’s done, however outrageous. Missed opportunity here, says my editorial self.
We haven’t had this much over-and-overing since Part I, or this much “here’s what we did, here’s what we’re going to do, here’s how very clever we are.” I like that Lleyn pulls Andrade up short. Lleyn is as wise as she thinks she is, and he calls her on it. Their discussion has a certain air of author working out plot details on the page, filling in backstory and setting up future intrigues.
Of course there’s a lot of teasing. Chay and Tobin do most of it, but they have help—and Andrade is sniggering at Roelstra, again. We do get Cami and Ostvel married off, which is satisfying in a wedding-announcements sort of way, and we get to see Sioned in her splendid outfit and Rohan in his.
Rohan is extremely plot-stupid about walking into Roelstra’s tent and demanding dranath, but Roelstra is equally stupid in letting him in and then letting him go. He really needs a copy of the Evil Overlord’s Handbook.
But then, if Roelstra offed him at this so convenient moment, there wouldn’t be any trilogy. We also wouldn’t get nearly the amount of plot payoff we’re expecting, with the buildup we’ve had about Clever, Clever Rohan and his Clever, Clever Plans.
Evil Roelstra is evil. We can tell he’s looking forward to taking Rohan apart—evilly. Rohan plans to take him apart cleverly, of course.
I was a bit disappointed that Sioned didn’t stay captive to Roelstra, and that even with a drug addiction, she’s safely stowed with Rohan. It’s all been foreshadowed so extensively and repeatedly that I was expecting and in fact hoping for a great big giant reversal.
We have had a reversal, with Sioned’s abduction and dosing with the drug. But it’s not as significant as it could have been. She and Rohan got their happy sexy time in the last chapter, and now get to go home and have more of same.
So This Happens: We now have a brief interstitial bit. Roelstra has a long, rough journey home, minus his barge and either good or fast horses. He has to suffer hardship and humiliation, and his journey takes almost three times as long as usual. With Prince Beliaev and Ianthe beside him, he is not in a good mood.
The Desert contingent, by contrast, has a fast and easy journey, and Andrade officiates at Rohan’s wedding to Sioned. She returns to Goddess Keep, and Rohan and Sioned return to Stronghold, where they celebrate several wedding nights in succession.
There follows rapid summary of the next three years’ events, including Ianthe’s establishment in Feruche (unopposed by Rohan despite his declarations in the previous chapter) and her delivery of one son and pregnancy with another by unidentified lovers, Tobin’s delivery of another pair of twin sons, and Cami’s delivery of a son. Meanwhile both Chiana and Pandsala thrive in Goddess Keep, and Pandsala turns out to have faradhi.
A new Rialla year begins, “a dragon year.” Sioned is pregnant—again; she has yet to carry a child to term.
Then the dragons come, and with them a plague that devastates humans and dragons alike.
And I’m Thinking: This could (and maybe should) be a fully dramatized section of the book. There’s certainly enough room here for a good handful of scenes, and after all the buildup, Rohan gets married to Sioned in half a line of synopsis. My editor self, who likes to be economical when it comes to narrative, says just jump ahead three years and do the relevant bits in flashbacks. Which will probably happen anyway, with plenty of over-and-overing.
All the babymaking keeps resulting in boys. Eighties Me shrugs. 2014 Me wonders where the girls are. Aside from Roelstra’s keep, of course. And isn’t that a way of saying boys good, girls bad? It’s not even about inheritance, in Tobin and Chay’s case; they already have two older sons. Cami and Ostvel could have either sex and be perfectly happy. Roelstra is the bad guy, and he’s punished for it by only being able to sire daughters.
Ianthe, who does manage to produce at least one boy, gets the slut treatment. She’s described as being just like her father, whose promiscuity is presented as a Bad Thing.
Monogamy good, promiscuity bad. Our good guys mostly pair off, and mostly in Chosen pairs. Which makes the Sunrunner sexual initiation seem really out of place; it doesn’t come out of anything positive in this society, and it doesn’t seem to add up to much except an opportunity for conflict between Rohan and Sioned.
In the meantime, we’re set up for a right mess, and on top of all the tricky politics, now there’s a plague. The next part is going to be interesting to say the least.
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.