Welcome to the weekly Wednesday reread of The Star Scroll! This week a major mover and shaker moves conclusively off the stage, and a new set of powers begins, equally conclusively, to rise.
So This Happens: The chapter begins in a mood of dread and sorrow. Rohan and family grieve for Andrade. Pol affirms that Masul is not getting Princemarch. Rohan declares that there won’t be a war. “Well, perhaps only a little one.”
In Miyon’s tent, a war council is in progress. Miyon is privately scornful. He’ll sit out whatever happens and move in after to claim the spoils. He schools Kiele, Masul, and Lyell on how to run a proper campaign of conquest.
Pandsala is having a nightmare about Ianthe, Roelstra, baby Pol, and Sioned. She realizes she can’t betray Pol’s real parentage. “She could not do that to him.”
The nightmare ends with Masul moving to kill Pol. Suddenly she is awakened by a boy with green eyes. He introduces himself as Sejast and professes to be concerned about how she’s doing. He plies her with wine. She recognizes him as Hollis’ attendant, and is reassured that he’s harmless.
Segev leaves, feeling smug, and craving the power that passed through him in the conjuring. He moves on to Maarken’s tent, where Maarken and Hollis are fighting over where Hollis will sleep. She bursts out into Segev’s arms, and lets him take her back to her tent. He sees Maarken’s jealousy and is even more amused.
Meanwhile, Alasen is clinging to Ostvel and won’t let go. Ostvel determines that his son is all right, and continues to tend to Alasen. He spends time remembering old times, and grieving for Andrade.
Alasen continues to cling. Ostvel tries to explain the situation to her father Volog. Finally he is able to pry Alasen loose, with some interesting emotional byplay, and a reminder that he is twice her age.
On his way to check on Riyan, he meets Chay, who tells him all the Sunrunners have settled down. They try to guess what will happen next, but can only conclude that they’d better prepare for war.
Andry can’t sleep. He’s the one who freed Alasen from the conjuring. He feels ill; Sorin comforts him.
He reflects on the bond of brothers, and what it’s like to be a twin. They tease a little, and talk about the future. Then it dawns on Sorin that Andry is in love with Alasen.
They talk about the possibility of Andry and Alasen marrying, and what it would mean politically and in terms of Andry’s future at Goddess Keep. Andry rhapsodizes about the glories of being a Sunrunner. There is more teasing and some mild brotherly roughhousing, which makes Andry’s headache worse.
Prince Lleyn interrupts. Urival has summoned Andry. Lleyn is elusive about the reason for it.
Andry enters Andrade’s tent, and Urival presents him with the two bracelets of the Lord of Goddess Keep.
And I’m Thinking: After the previous chapters’ blowout, we get the mopping-up here. It’s remarkably concise and restrained. Everybody gets a bit of attention, the forces line up for the next round of major plot developments, and the affairs of Hollis and Alasen both become more complicated. Segev gets to slither underneath it all, with absolutely no one having a clue as to who he is or what he’s up to.
This is very much an interstitial chapter—until the very end. We’ve been set up for Andry’s big promotion, but it’s still a nice strong smack in the gut. I kind of love the visuals: the filmy white tent, the dim light, the lone Sunrunner delivering the bracelets to sleepy, headachy, startled Andry.
When Rawn wants to move fast, she can really move. As complicated as the plot is by this point, and as large as the cast has grown, it’s plenty clear what’s going on and what side each character is on.
We get a bit of shoring up of motivation about Pandsala and why she’ll keep quiet about Pol. It’s classic for the series: Pol is Pol, of course she can’t do anything bad to him. Like Rohan, Pol is Perfect. Everything is about him. Because! He’s Pol!
It’s consistent, that much we can say about it.
There are two levels of people not seeing here: people not seeing Pol (lucky thing Sioned has green eyes) and people not seeing Segev (because no one can imagine a Sunrunner ever being anything but a good guy). They’re interesting foils for each other—more than Pol and the rather too over-the-top Masul.
In further romantic-matchup notes, everybody seems to be panting after Alasen. Andry has a bad case, and Ostvel actually starts to forget he’s a long (really long) time widower. Alasen makes me think of a baby duckling: she keeps imprinting on whoever is around when she has another magical episode.
So This Happens: Mireva, in the mountains, is fretting. She doesn’t understand why the good guys are doing nothing.
Ruval is scornful about that. He doesn’t understand why she killed Andrade.
She explains. She’s created a distraction, so Segev can steal the scrolls. She has to have them. She craves what’s in them.
She pauses to admire Ruval’s newly mature charms. This takes its natural course.
There are some figurative sparks. Mireva doesn’t trust Segev. Ruval says she doesn’t trust him, either, but his brother Marron is an idiot. “I’m all you have.” If she treats him right, he’ll give her a princedom. She’ll give him everything, she retorts, if he treats her right.
He asks what she will do to Pol. She replies by transforming herself into a young and seductive girl.
Rohan and company make the long hike to the cliffs for Andrade’s funeral ceremony. Andry has had the pyre built. Rohan and Chay are the litterbearers.
Andry presides over the ritual. Rohan notices that he’s looking for someone in the crowd, but doesn’t see them. Rohan also reflects that people may think Andry is weak.
Andry promptly shatters that impression, and the order of the rite. He restores the bracelets to Andrade’s wrists. This sends a message: He’s not following Andrade’s lead. She took the bracelets of her predecessor. He’s starting over.
This could be a wise move, Rohan reflects, or a childish and arrogant one.
Then Andry does a wise and compassionate thing: he lets Urival anoint the body.
Andry calls Fire. All the Sunrunners in the family come forward to watch over the pyre—including Pol. Pol is what Andrade meant Rohan to be: a faradhi prince.
Rohan reflects on the manifold ramifications, including the evil that is Masul, and Andry’s excessive youth, but also his exceptionally capable parents. Rohan is determined to execute Masul.
The ritual, and Rohan’s reflections, continue past midnight, until the crowd breaks up. Then Masul breaks the sacred silence and issues a challenge of single combat.
Rohan accepts it. Pol can’t, though he protests strongly: he’s not a knight.
Rohan gets to choose the weapon—while Masul mocks him. He chooses the knife. Being, of course, “the best knife-fighter in three generations.”
Then Maarken steps up and offers himself as champion, and chooses the sword. The grounds for this: Pol is too young, Rohan took a vow not to fight—and Masul murdered a Sunrunner.
That sets the Sunrunners off. Maarken calls their attention to Kleve’s ring on Masul’s hand. Riyan testifies to the truth of this, in detail.
That puts Andry in a right rage. Masul mockingly accepts the charge, and names Kiele as his accomplice.
Rohan is amazed at Masul’s arrogance. Maarken is still waiting for approval. The family is on board, but Rohan turns the decision over to Pol.
Pol assents, with a not so subtle dig at Masul’s blood that will sully Maarken’s sword. Masul is highly amused. Pol instructs Maarken to “win quickly—but make sure he dies slowly.”
Masul stalks off. His allies make sure to bow to Rohan and Andry before they follow (insurance in case their man loses?). The rest stay to watch the pyre burn.
Pol feels totally alone. He reflects on what’s happened, and on how powerful his mother is, and on how Andry is the right person to succeed Andrade. Pol wonders why Andry wants it so much.
He and Andry are alike, he realizes. They’re both born, and drawn, to great power.
Pol realizes one more thing. “He would not be ruled by his cousin of Goddess Keep.”
He ponders this decision in detail. He doesn’t quite trust Andry, though he tells himself they’ll be all right; they’re relatives, they’ll get along. Pol is what Andrade ultimately bred for, not Andry. But Andry has the Star Scroll.
Pol decides he and Andry won’t end up opposing one another, and relaxes. They’re family, after all.
Dawn has come. Andrade’s body is gone.
The Sunrunners call Air, and Pol joins them—and takes over, joining with Andry. He senses another, trained power in the mix, but dismisses it. He sends the ashes whirling far away, and finally understands why Andry is so thrilled to be a Sunrunner.
Rohan calls him back to reality. Everyone looks at Pol differently now—including Andry. Andry is gifted, but Pol is just as gifted. And he’s a prince.
And I’m Thinking: The balance of power has shifted dramatically here. There’s still the Masul situation to resolve, but with Andrade’s funeral, there’s a new game in town: Andry as chief Sunrunner, and Pol as future High Prince. (Which he will be regardless of what happens in the short term with Princemarch.)(But we can be pretty sure how that will turn out, even if we don’t get to see Rohan being the very best knife fighter that ever was ever in the whole wide world. Ever.)
A whole lot of plots that have been in the works since the beginning are coming to fruition here, and we see the new direction taking clear shape. The younger generation is about to take over.
That even includes Rohan’s champion. Rohan is set to do the job himself, but Maarken presents compelling reasons for a change in plans. It’s abundantly clear that Masul isn’t going to make it, though with the sorcerers and especially Segev in the mix, Maarken might not do so well, either.
A minor note: Marron is an idiot. Is his name intentional? It echoes the colloquial “maroon” or “moron.”
Andry is shaping up to be quite complex. He has a large good-guy component, but he’s also showing signs of utter ruthlessness. He seems like the kind of person who will do whatever he’s gonna do, because he is always right.
We’ve been told endlessly how powerful Andrade is and how she runs everything and she’s the very best master of intrigue that ever was (ever!), but she never shown much evidence of walking the talk. Andry looks like being everything she claimed to be, and then some.
Meanwhile Pol falls into the trap all the good guys fall into sooner or later: he sees a danger (in this case, the potential for a power-fight with Andry), then waves it away because, hey, family. Nothing to worry about. Nope. Nothing at all. We just know that won’t end well.
This is a page-turner, for sure. Events are wrapping up fast. The old tics and habits—all the gigglefests and the teasing and the rest of the good-guy nonsense—have been pared down drastically.
It’s interesting that Masul is such a typical bad guy, but at the same time, he comes across as a bit of a poser. He just doesn’t have the triumphant sliminess of the Ianthe sons, and he certainly doesn’t come close to the byzantine machinations of Mireva. He’s a bully, and he plays everything at top volume.
He does finally sort of get a clue when Rohan chooses to fight with a knife, but then Maarken butts in to switch the choice of weapon back to swords. This puts the fight back in Masul’s comfort zone. It also makes the outcome rather less of a foregone conclusion (since Rohan is the best knife fighter who ever was ever. Like ever).
This is interesting for the way in which it plays on the Perfect Rohan trope. He still gets to be perfect, but the plot gets to be a little twistier. There’s more suspense; we’re pretty clear on how it will turn out, but it’s not at all guaranteed that our favorite characters will make it through alive and unmaimed.
Judith Tarr’s first novel, The Isle of Glass, appeared in 1985. Her new space opera, Forgotten Suns, will be published by Book View Cafe in April. 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 has won the Crawford Award, and been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the Locus Award. She lives in Arizona with an assortment of cats, two dogs, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.