Welcome back to the Servant of the Empire Reread. If discussion of human sacrifice and general gore is distressing to you, you might want to skip this one. I kind of wish I had. But even a queasy stomach won’t stop me from bring the snark to House Acoma!
Not nearly enough making out in this chapter.
Chapter 4: Vows
SUMMARY: Turakamu is punk rock. Otherwise known as the Red God of Death, his priests are all about skulls, blood, nude dancing with skeletons, and let’s face it, probably sticking safety pins through their noses. The worship of Turakamu is hardcore.
Desio of the Minwanabi is desperately hoping to achieve vengeance on Mara and a reputation for being seriously ruthless. Having invited a group of guests over for a party, he surprises them with a blood ritual. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that no one ever wants to be SURPRISED by a blood ritual.
After thoroughly traumatising his party guests with a public pledge towards violent angry death to his enemies, Desio sits back in his fancy formal robes to welcome home his cousin Tasaio.
Incomo the First Advisor, meanwhile, is having a quiet panic attack in the corner about exactly how erratic and dangerous his master has become. He conveniently remembers all the highlights of the previous book for the benefit of you, the reader, and starts to figure out that the Acoma must have at least one spy in the Minwanabi household.
REALLY, Incomo? This only occurs to you now? Because Mara has pretty much been assuming spies in her household as a default position.
The welcome ceremony ends and Desio takes his guests out to witness the monument to Turakamu being formally dedicated—with more nude dancing and some unexpected human sacrifices.
To take his mind off the social awkwardness caused by the aforementioned unexpected human sacrifices at the welcome home party (seriously, imagine the Facebook updates by the startled guests!), Incomo continues to think his way through the ‘who could be the spy’ problem.
After an interminable several pages of blood sacrifice and violence, the ritual is finally complete, and Tasaio comes over to chat to Desio and Incomo about how they might actually put this whole ‘death to the Acoma’ idea into practice. He suggests that the first thing they do is find the spy.
Desio is shocked that Tasaio has even considered there is a spy in his house, and Incomo is surprised that Tasaio was a thinky enough person to come to that realisation so quickly.
So far, the only person I would put in charge of the family is the only one without an official job description.
In a meeting later, Desio continues to struggle with the idea that Mara is clever enough to have organised a spy network so quickly. Tasaio and Incomo do their best not to roll their eyes at him behind his back.
Tasaio suggests that to flush out the spy or spies, they pass different pieces of information to the grain factor and to the Force Commander, so they can narrow down which part of the household has been compromised.
Desio agrees with the plan, but is horrified when Tasaio elaborates that the information they pass will not be false, meaning that the Minwanabi will have to deliberately weaken themselves for the greater good, either accepting a military or financial loss.
The meeting then grinds to a halt while Tasaio is forced to explain in words of one syllable why if they find the spy, killing them straight away is not the best use of that information. In short, he is doing Incomo’s job for him, though Incomo doesn’t seem to mind too much.
It must be such a relief to finally not be the only vaguely competent person in the room. Things are looking up for Incomo, but he can’t help wondering how long it will be before Desio’s natural paranoia about Tasaio’s abilities lead him to attack his cousin. Incomo only hopes that his Ruling Lord can hold off for as long as possible…
This chapter is actually quite a grueling one to read! I love the politics and the machinations—and I am enjoying Incomo’s growing man crush on Tasaio and his enormous sneaky brain. But oh, the misery and the blood and the horrible random killing of peasants is all so nasty, and it feels like this chapter is wallowing in the violence.
I get it. Desio’s a bad egg. Even the other villains think he’s gone a bit far. But do we have to read about the blood and the killing and the grief of the relatives for pages and pages and pages?
However, it was almost worth it for the juxtaposition of the party guests standing around all horrified and awkward because they’ve just realised Desio is a maniac. The nude priests shaking their junk while dancing around the monument also provided a bit of comic relief!
I’ll admit it, part of me is imagining the committee it took to organise that particular ritual, as if it was an episode of Parks and Recreation. Like: how many buckets of blood should we requisition, and what are the forms we need to arrange the deaths, and who decided that the public nudity was a good idea, and which local businesses will provide the food trucks and the snacks?
Possibly that means that Incomo is Leslie Knope. I’m not sorry.
More seriously, all the Minwanabi discussion about spies makes me worry a bit about Arakasi’s continuing safety and wellbeing. But then, I spend almost all of these books worrying about Arakasi, and I’ve read them before. I don’t know how Mara copes with the stress, I really don’t.
I’m completely over Desio. Not that I was ever fond of him. But he’s so dull! Tasaio and his crushworthy brain is a far more interesting antagonist already. Incomo’s eyes aren’t the only ones that lit up when you entered the room, Tasaio! Welcome to the party. Please don’t perform human sacrifices.
Tansy Rayner Roberts is an Australian fantasy author, blogger and podcaster. She won the 2013 Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Tansy has a PhD in Classics, which she drew upon for her short story collection Love and Romanpunk. Her latest fiction project is Musketeer Space, a gender-swapped space opera retelling of The Three Musketeers, published weekly as a web serial. Come and find her on Twitter!