Welcome to the weekly Wednesday reread of Sunrunner’s Fire! This week we’re just reading one chapter, because ditz here went mano a mano with a bread knife and lost. Typing is s l o w.
However! We’re reading Chapter 5, which works out because next week we’ll do the final two chapters of Part One before moving on to the major section of the book. Here we get more setup, more backstory, and a fair bit of character study.
725: Dragon’s Rest
So This Happens: Two years have gone by since the last chapter, the Rialla is just past, and Pol is in a snit because the roses weren’t ready for the festival. Sionell is in a corresponding snit at the newly knighted Pol. He’s horribly arrogant and conceited, and everyone adores him.
Sionell recalls how he came home after six years, riding on the back of a cow. Trying her paces, he said. There was much shock and hilarity.
It was also evident that Dragon’s Rest was not finished as expected—and that Sionell’s opinion was, and is, irrelevant.
She reflects on how much of the palace was ready for the Rialla, along with some backfilling and summarizing about various characters’ whereabouts and doings. She also reflects on how Pol put on a show of Fire at the Lastday banquet, with a pause to reflect on his new maturity and his extraordinary good looks—and his complete lack of Sunrunner rings. He wears one ring: Lady Andrade’s moonstone. This gives Sionell occasion to reflect on the antagonism between Pol and Andry.
Pol appears, looking gorgeous. She both wants and hates him. He notes that she’s staying to see the dragons, and pauses to discuss Feylin’s fear of them and Sionell’s notable lack thereof. (Reminder to self and readers: Sionell is Feylin and Walvis’ daughter. This matters in several respects.)
There is some teasing, and some reminiscing. They talk about finishing Dragon’s Rest, and about rain versus snow. Sionell has never seen snow and would like to. They exchange a bit of gossip about various relatives. Pol is cranky about having to marry. Sionell is cranky about how he fails to notice her feelings.
Pol goes on about the silliness of the girls who fling themselves at him, and praises Sionell’s good sense, in a way that makes her seem like “one of the boys.” Sionell is not sure she feels flattered.
He grouses about the roses, then asks her what she thinks of Tallain. She likes him, she answers. Privately she wonders why Pol wants to know.
A maidservant distracts him. He exits abruptly. Sionell decides he’s not worth the trouble.
Next day Sionell helps Sioned pack presents for Andry’s two children, who were not brought to the Rialla. Andry doesn’t want them tainted by association with non-Sunrunners. His parents were absolutely furious about this.
Now Tobin is fretting that Andry left before she could load him down with the presents she bought for the children at the Fair. Sioned teases her about how many presents there are. The teasing goes on a bit, and includes a round of “Wait till you have grandchildren.”
Sionell is cranky about how Pol will probably provide his mother with those before he gives her a daughter-in-law.
Suddenly the dragons arrive. Everyone is enthralled. Rohan is shirtless and casually gorgeous.
Pol arrives on horseback and takes Sionell up behind him. The dragons are being bloody and beautiful. They take a rapid count, and realize Elisel is missing.
This worries them. Pol ponders the need to get the dragons back to Rivenrock, to have enough caves to breed in. Females who don’t mate and lay their eggs die.
Hollis and Maarken tried in vain to talk to a dragon, as Pol notes. Then he makes his own effort, and fails.
He is carried off, and Rohan and Sioned are half cranky, half teasing about his effort.
Pol does not make it to dinner. There is teasing among those who do. It’s a very small gathering. The conversation revolves around politics and treaties. Sionell realizes that Tallain “like[s] looking at her.” She is flustered.
The gossip continues. Chiana has named her children after her grandfather “and her whore of a mother.” There is more gossip, more politics, and more teasing, with a side of smuggling and various legalities (and not).
Miyon is being a thorn in everyone’s side; they discuss how to deal with him. Miyon is excessively interested in Pol. He may be contemplating marrying off one of his female relatives. They are slighting about the ugly sister, and speculate as to who might be pretty enough.
Sionell heads for bed, and her father Walvis stops by to tease her about how she’s grown up, and to talk to her about Pol. She states that she’s over him. This is good, Walvis says, because Pol has to marry someone highborn and faradhi. Sionell is neither. Walvis then tells her that Tallain has asked permission to court her.
Sionell is taken by surprise. She considers the suitor and the situation, and is not displeased. She also realizes what Pol must have meant the day before.
She agrees to let Tallain visit her. She’s practical: she knows she can’t have Pol, and she hopes she might fall in love with this very good substitute. It’s nice to be wanted, she reflects.
And I’m Thinking: There’s more going on here than I might have thought. It’s mostly summary and synopsis of offstage events, and excessive amounts of teasing and family gossip, but Sionell comes in for some interesting character development. It’s a pretty nice exploration of how a woman would cope in a feudal society with a tradition of arranged marriages.
Though since the author doesn’t come from such a society, I don’t think the ex-chubby lady has sung on the issue of Pol-and-Sionell (Polell? Siopol?)
Sionell is both adolescent and mature, both cranky and practical. It’s an interesting combination. Pol is not looking so good here: he’s an arrogant (if gorgeous) twit. But then Sionell’s a bit of an unreliable narrator.
Modern me notices the flyby sexism with the snark about Miyon’s fat-ankled sister and the assumption that of course Pol must have a pretty bride. Eighties Me would probably not have noticed that, but we’re a different world this millennium.
So we’re spinning down the dial to the big year. Three years to go. Everybody’s lining up and getting ready to dance—including, I get the feeling, the dragons. (I do hope Elisel is all right. Sioned is looking for her, but we end the chapter without finding out if she succeeded.)
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.