Welcome to the weekly Wednesday reread of Melanie Rawn’s Sunrunner’s Fire! This week we continue the summary and exposition, and various characters shift around and move into place. Lines of conflict, long since drawn, are etched in deeper.
So This Happens: Riyan and Sorin discuss the rebuilding of Feruche. Miyon has been seriously foot-dragging in repaying his debt to Sioned, and Sorin has been facing numerous challenges. The conversation moves on to family matters, including the fact that Sionell (and Pol) is growing up.
At dinner, we see that Alasen has given Ostvel a daughter and named her Camigwen. Riyan reflects on her marriage to his father, and they tease each other about fathers’ reactions to their wives’ pregnancy announcements. The conversation shifts to admiration of Sionell’s forthright manner and her fixation on Pol (and how pretty she is). There is more teasing.
There is further teasing about squires and their duties, with focus on Riyan’s new squire, Jahnavi, about whom Riyan reflects at some length, along with the décor and importance of Skybowl.
Then Sionell drops an inadvertent bomb by asking Ostvel how Rohan reacted to the announcement that Pol’s mother was pregnant with him. Ostvel claims not to know. Alasen defuses the situation by telling him she’s pregnant again.
Suddenly the dragons return to Skybowl. Feylin counts them, and everyone is enthralled. Feylin notes that they need more caves, if they’re to have more dragons. The dragons have refused to return to Rivenrock since the Plague.
Feylin sees Sioned’s dragon, Elisel, in the herd, and describes how Sioned communicates with her. Riyan and Feylin warn Sionell not to try it.
Sionell speculates about what could be accomplished if the conversation were really two-way. Feylin says Sioned hasn’t succeeded in convincing Feylin the dragons need to go back to Rivenrock.
The dragons leave, heading for their winter home. Everyone heads to bed. Riyan and Alasen converse, with teasing, about various plans and excursions. Riyan makes clear to her that he doesn’t want to succeed to Castle Crag; he’s content with Skybowl. Alasen’s unborn son can have the larger domain.
Ostvel comes in and there is more teasing and more family gossip. This turns to the fact that Sioned is not going to send Pol to Goddess Keep. Alasen feels sorry for Andry. They discuss the political situation, and the growing split between Goddess Keep and the Desert, plus the matter of sorcerers, who have been nowhere in evidence since the incidents at the 719 Rialla.
Riyan and Alasen, supported by Ostvel, differ sharply about Pol versus Andry, and whether the sorcerers removed Andrade in order to divide and conquer. Later Riyan reflects on how to tell those with sorcerer blood from pure Sunrunners, and wonders if Andry knows that Sunrunner rings burn a Sunrunner sorcerer in the presence of sorcery. Riyan is very glad that Pol has no sorcerer blood for Andry to exploit in this way.
And I’m Thinking: By now it’s clear we’re being given a year-by-year summary of events leading up to (pages ahead) the next big year, 728. This time a family gathering, with dinner and dragons, serves as a vehicle for summing up events, introducing and reintroducing characters, and making oh so clear that the family dynamic among the good guys is tease, tease, and more tease, with a side of chuckle and bicker.
Not much really to do here except keep an eye on the character index in the back of the book, try to keep track of who’s related to who, and be assured that the course of the plot as steady as she goes. Marriages are still perfect, sorcerers are still evil (except those with Sunrunner blood or training, except when they’re Pandsala, then they’re absolutely evil but in the cause of good), we’re still worried about the Pol vs. Andry cage match, Pol is still completely ignorant of his real parentage, Sionell is still determined to marry Pol when she grows up, and Camigwen the first is still a character even though she died offstage in Book I.
Personally I wish we had that book, and those scenes, and here we could just skip ahead to 728 with some flashbacks. Though it is nice to see everybody again, and of course there are dragons. Dragons are always worth a pause on the way by.
So This Happens: Rohan is surprised to hear the visitor horn. After a slightly lengthy speculation as to who it might be, a young person named Arlis announces Lord Urival and a female Sunrunner—who may have been thrown out of Goddess Keep. Rohan reflects, at some length and with a couple of pages of stage business, on who Arlis is, how rapidly he is growing up, and how Rohan doesn’t want him to.
After further descriptions and deliberations, Urival and Lady Morwenna appear onstage. There are introductions, small talk, and family gossip, with much talking around the point, including the revelation that Andry has, without benefit of wedlock and through the sexual initiation ritual, made a girl pregnant—and that was why these two left. Andry is abusing his power.
There is some teasing about how both Urival and Morwenna were frequent participants in the ritual. And so Rohan learns who initiated Sioned.
Now Andry has changed the tradition. He deliberately bred this child and refused to marry the mother. This is a scandal, but most Sunrunners are staying. Urival and Morwenna left to train Pol, though as far as Andry is concerned, Urival has retired and Morwenna is his escort.
Morwenna points out that Urival is also breaking tradition by training Pol outside of Goddess Keep. And Rohan realizes what Morwenna’s function in that training will be. She observes that she’ll be far from Pol’s first, from what she hears.
They discuss Pol’s training so far, Andry’s inability to do anything about it, Andrade’s original plan and how it has changed, and, inevitably by now, the sorcerers. And, that they have a secret copy of the translated Star Scroll.
Morwenna is afraid of it. She believes Andry is not. Urival sets up a demonstration, conjuring with Water instead of Fire. After some teasing, Urival reveals that his rings burn in the presence of sorcery, but not when he works it. Morwenna reveals that she also is of Old Blood. Sunrunner rings, Urival has realized, have a warning installed during manufacture, and this is what it’s for.
Rohan reflects on the nature of conjuring the elements, and sees Sioned in the water, assisting Sorin in the rebuilding of Feruche. He also sees Myrdal arguing in favor of secret passages.
The purpose of this demonstration is to show Rohan what Urival intends to teach Pol—and Sioned. They discuss the plans for Pol and the completion of Dragon’s Rest. This has been coming along extremely slowly, because it’s being built to impress, and every detail has to be perfect.
They discuss the move of the Rialla from Waes to Dragon’s Rest, and the political repercussions of this. This segues into why Andry is Lord of Goddess Keep: Andrade “chose Andry to succeed her because she could choose none other—and was just as trapped into accepting Pol as her faradhi prince.”
Rohan and Urival are not in agreement here. Pol is not going to rule according to anyone’s plans but his own. Neither will Andry, Urival retorts. To which Rohan replies, “You trust Pol.”
And I’m Thinking: The plot gets a little thicker here. Nothing unexpected about what Andry is up to, though getting the girl pregnant at her initiation is definitely pushing the limits of power and basic morality. Still, it’s a natural extension of Andrade’s breeding policies. She bred princes to Sunrunners. Andry is breeding Sunrunners, right up close and personal.
It’s kind of squicky. It’s also quite cold, though I’m sure Andry’s disappointed love for Alasen plays into it. I suppose it’s better than pulling wings off flies or murdering kittens with sorcery.
Rohan is on the cold side here as well. Less adoration, more hard political calculation. Urival calls him on it, which is rather interesting.
So Pol is sexually promiscuous. That doesn’t seem to fit the prim little boy he used to be; it’s kind of not in keeping with the general morality the good guys, either. Ianthe’s blood coming out?
I don’t buy the “no choice” argument about the succession to Goddess Keep. There really was no other possible candidate? Anywhere? Even as an interim choice until Andry received further training?
On the Pol side of it, it was never up to Andrade. Rohan and Sioned have always made their own choices, and damn the magical torpedoes.
Which argues that maybe Urival should not trust Pol, either. The only assurance we have that he’s trustworthy is Everybody Says So. He’s maybe not as arrogant as Andry, but he’s Ianthe’s son, and we already know that this world is fairly deterministic about genetics. And Rohan is a fairly amoral control freak when he wants to be, as well. He just angsts over it more. Never stops him from doing it, if it serves his purposes.
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.