Welcome to the weekly Wednesday reread of The Star Scroll! This week the dragons come back to the Desert, Pol learns an important secret, and Segev plots evilly.
So This Happens: The dragons come back to the Desert, and the family reacts in their various ways. Pol actively tries to sense them, and succeeds, if faintly. Maarken just does. Feylin takes the census from the top of the Flametower, assisted by Rohan and Tobin and their spouses, with some teasing and some discussion of how wonderful the dragons are. Rohan and Tobin also talk about the dragons’ gold, and find that Pol has overheard.
They decide to go to Skybowl. After Pol has been dismissed, Rohan and Tobin go back and forth a bit about saying things they shouldn’t.
Meanwhile Sionell tags after Pol as he runs his parents’ errands, with some bickering, ironically noted by the omniscient narrator, about listening to things she shouldn’t.
Sioned catches them pulling rank on each other, and exacts apologies from them. Both Sionell and Pol are suitably rebuked.
The next day, the Desert contingent arrives at Skybowl. While they wait for Ostvel to come out and greet them, Rohan and Sioned discuss Ostvel’s coming to the Rialla, and the fact that he still misses Camigwen—as does Sioned. Ostvel greets them, with some teasing of Sionell and Pol.
Rohan bathes in the lake, and Sioned takes a regular bath, in which Rohan eventually joins her. Afterwards, they discuss the fact that Pol now knows about the dragons’ gold. They also discuss sending him to Goddess Keep for training in the next Rialla year after this one. Sioned notes that Pol is a hugely gifted faradhi, and they talk about how nervous he makes the princes. But Maarken can show him the way.
They talk about Tobin’s amazing children, and how Sioned wishes Pol didn’t have to go back to Dorval, but as Rohan notes, “it’s safer there,” even with the Merida attack.
Sioned asks if Rohan wants her to magically touch a dragon. Rohan does. Then there is teasing, and the scene ends.
Chay and Tobin are also indulging in pillow talk, with teasing. Chay is concerned about Pol. “That boy is too damned perfect.”
So was Rohan at that age, Tobin points out. But, says Chay, Rohan was just sneaky about his misbehaviors. Pol doesn’t have any. That worries Chay.
Tobin doesn’t see it. Anyway, she’s sure he’ll grow out of it.
Maarken loves the Desert, and today he’s in it, watching dragons. But he’s not happy. Hollis is supposed to contact him on sunlight, and she hasn’t.
He’s out there with Pol and a selection of others in desert colors. He reflects on how Feylin discovered that dragons can see bright colors and will avoid sheep or humans dyed those colors. This leads to reflections on magical colors, and the limitations on faradhi magic. There is actual danger that Sioned could be shadowlost if she tries to “touch” a dragon at the wrong time.
Maarken reflects at length about Rohan’s innovation of wearing a “cypher” or badge of his house, and also about Tobin’s restless, activist nature, which might be useful if she takes to Hollis—who is his mother’s opposite for temperament.
Suddenly the male dragons indicate readiness to breed. Feylin explains the process to Pol. There is some teasing.
The male dragons sing, which does not impress the females, and then dance, which gets a better response. They begin to acquire small groups of females and lead them off to the caves.
Finally Hollis reaches Maarken on the late sunlight. There is some teasing. Maarken tells her Sioned is on board with the match, and wants to tell his parents now, but Hollis wants to wait till they have a chance to meet her. She is worried that they won’t like her. Maarken doesn’t really care. He plans to lead the marriage parade on the last day of the Rialla.
They end their communication. Pol asks Maarken whom he was talking to. None of your business, Maarken replies.
Pol runs off to join his parents. Maarken does the same, with teasing, and ends with the thought that soon he and Hollis will be a couple like his parents and his uncle and aunt.
And I’m Thinking: Dragons! In detail! Finally!
This is amazingly thorough worldbuilding, and the scene is spectacular. I’d love to see it filmed. (Cable television, are you listening?)
The character interactions are pretty much standard by now. Lots of joking and teasing, not quite as much chuckling and chortling as we’ve seen, secrets and intrigue are distinctly amateur level, and the whole “we’re getting old” thing is getting kind of old.
I get it. The young guns of Dragon Prince are middle-aged now. Apparently that’s a Big! Deal!
On the other hand, the kids being kids is a Big! Deal! Too. Especially Pol, whom everybody patronizes and chortles at. He’s reading younger than fourteen much of the time, more like a preteen; there’s no sense that he’s going through adolescence at all.
Then again, my love for Chay rose to immoderate heights when he up and said that Pol is too perfect. Fistpump. Yeah!
I’ve got to hand it to Maarken for painting such a striking portrait of Tobin. She’s really one of the most interesting characters on the good-guy side, because she’s not always perfect and she isn’t always right. She’s human and she gets things wrong. She stands up to her lot in life, and she’s making the best of it.
I’m bracing for awfulness about Hollis. Maarken goes on at such length about how he plans to marry her, and she’s so insistent on dragging it out until the Rialla, that we all just know we’ll be getting some new form of what happened to Sioned in book one. Only probably worse. Because Segev has his eye on her, and Segev is eeeeeeevil.
Not maybe as all-around evil as Roelstra, but he’s right there in Goddess Keep, nobody has a clue, and he’s young enough and amoral enough to be really dangerous. I’ll be very, very surprised if Maarken gets his happy wedding on the day he planned.
So This Happens: Rohan and Pol visit Threadsilver Canyon, where the dragon gold is mined. The cover story is that they’re mining silver. Pol is intensely curious about “this ongoing fiscal fraud,” and about how the secret has been kept for so long. He doesn’t know, yet, where the gold really comes from.
Rohan takes him to tour a cave, and tells him to conjure Fire rather than take a torch. Pol is startled. Rohan is confident. “And don’t tell Lady Andrade!”
Pol is full of questions, but Rohan is evasive. He reminisces about the last Hatchling Hunt, “a hideous sport,” and meanders around to the point, which he shows rather than tells. He shows Pol the dragon shells from which the Desert’s gold comes.
Then he explains how they “mine” the gold from the shells, and what they do with it, and where it goes. They talk about Rohan’s various princely allies, none of whom knows where the gold comes from, but some of whom help distribute it in such a way as not to crash the market.
They’ve been feeding gold to Kierst, where there is an actual mine, and its Prince, Volog, is a valued ally. He now has the funds to do good things, such as making parchment. Rohan has plans for that, involving a scriptorium and books, and a school.
Rohan schools Pol on the subject. Pol is highly receptive. He also explains to Pol how he’s manipulating Volog into doing what Rohan wants and thinking it’s his own idea.
Then Rohan tells Pol about the Plague and how he saved the dragons with dranath, for which Roelstra was charging an exorbitant price. Dragon gold bought the drug to save the dragons as well as the people of the Desert.
Rohan goes on about how rich they are now but how they have to keep the source of their wealth a secret. He also says that these caves are nearly mined out, and the dragons won’t come back to leave more golden eggshells. The conspirators have to find other caves, and figure out how to manage the dragons while also keeping up the supply of gold.
They’re going to have to rebuild Feruche, where there are caves. Pol doesn’t understand why Rohan hates to talk about Feruche.
The lecture ends in teasing. Pol has forgotten to put out his Fire.
Lady Andrade is having a wonderful day. The sun is out and she feels young again.
It’s a big day for the young student called Sejast. He’ll get his first ring tonight. He’s as arrogant as Andry, Andrade reflects. Or herself. There is chuckling.
She reflects on the Sunrunner who will be initiating Sejast/Segev—just as Morwenna hobbles in, having tripped and fallen. She can’t do her duty tonight.
They discuss alternatives. Hollis’ name comes up. Andrade isn’t sure. Morwenna thinks she’s the best option. They joke, rather mildly, about what kind of children would come of such a match, and whether Sejast has any already.
When Morwenna is gone, Andrade ponders the choice of Hollis, and determines that this will remind her of her duty as a Sunrunner. She’s not married yet, and Andrade isn’t about to lose her the way she’s lost Sioned.
Segev meanwhile reflects on how he arranged Morwenna’s fall. Hollis isn’t at dinner, he notices, but neither are two of the other likely choices for tonight’s ritual. He isn’t totally invested in its being Hollis, but he likes the idea of being initiated by the Chosen of one of the Desert princes.
He has an elaborate new room. He goes there, takes dranath, and waits impatiently.
Finally the Sunrunner appears, disguised by magic, and he can’t tell if it really is Hollis, though he tries. He’s actually frightened to discover how strong faradhi powers are. He keeps drinking wine laced with dranath—and then so does she, whoever she is.
In the morning he is exhausted, and he can’t tell for sure if the Sunrunner drank enough of the drug. He’s angry at Mireva for not telling him how powerful Sunrunners are. This leads him to think that maybe he can not only supplant Ruval as Pol’s destroyer, he doesn’t actually need Mireva.
He contemplates this morning’s task, to visit the trees in the forest and see his future in Fire. He’s supposed to just pretend, but he intends to do it for real.
Then terror seizes him. He’s full of dranath, and he’s diarmadhi. The consequences might be dire.
He pushes his fears aside and tells himself he can do this. He’ll be greater than Mireva. He’ll take Princemarch and the Desert—and Hollis. Whether or not she actually came to him in the night. He’s very pleased with himself.
And I’m Thinking: Most of this chapter is old news, going over and over the events of the first book. I guess it’s needed to fill in the reader who hasn’t read the previous volume, but since I have read it, the temptation to skim is pretty strong. Yeah, yeah, we remember all that, nice stuff about gold and economics, but, um, action?
Which we get with Andrade being complacent and arrogant, and Segev being overconfident and also arrogant. We don’t know, yet, if it really was Hollis in the ritual, but the background music is starting to pulse ominously.
Not only for Hollis, either. Segev may be a riding for a fall. Or else all the people who either don’t recognize what he is or don’t realize what he’s really up to are going to get a nasty surprise.
Segev is setting himself up as the anti-Pol. His perfect horribleness is a foil for Pol’s perfect good-guy-ness.
I keep wondering why none of these oh so powerful Sunrunners has a clue. Andrade sees his arrogance, but she just chuckles, which makes her a chucklehead.
It’s as if they’ve had so little exposure to opposition, Roelstra notwithstanding, that they have no conception of basic security. They’re not examining applicants carefully at all, or making any effort to be sure those applicants are coming to them in good faith. They’re all like Andry: they just can’t imagine anyone not being in utter awe of Sunrunners.
They’re going to get a serious wake-up call soon. Which they deserve. They really are horribly complacent.
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 and she’s currently running a Kickstarter for a series of novellas about horses and magic in contemporary Arizona.. 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