Top of the 2019 to ya, Tor.com! I may still be slightly hungover from my New Year’s festivities, but nevertheless I have toiled mightily to bring you a fresh new post, because y’all’re my favorite.
This blog series will be covering the first 17 chapters of the forthcoming novel The Ruin of Kings, first of a five-book series by Jenn Lyons. Previous entries can be found here in the series index.
Today’s post will be covering Chapter 12, “Behind the Veil”, which is available for your reading delectation right here.
Read it? Great! Then click on to find out what I thought!
Anytime I start feeling sorry for myself and my lot in life, I can come back and read about a character like Morea—who is fictional, yeah, but whose situation has been and is even today very real—and get the fuck over myself, because by all reasonable lights I have it great. I cannot even imagine having to deal with what she does on a daily basis. Eesh.
Our chronicler Thurvishar seems to have a low opinion of slavery, too, judging by his snarky footnote in this chapter. One of these days we’re going to find out who this guy really is and how he’s related to all this hoopla, and that will be a banner day, my friends. Especially since most of these folks seem to be just fine with slavery, or at least willing to turn a blind eye to it, which amounts to the same thing.
(Of course, given that the Walk Free Foundation, whose website I linked above, estimates there are some 40 million-plus people living in slavery in the world right this second, our supposedly more enlightened society is not exactly covering itself in glory on that front either, are we.)
Anyway, getting back to the chapter, it’s no great surprise that neither Ola nor Surdyeh are thrilled about the prospect of Kihrin going to this general’s house, where his still at least partly-murky mysterious background is so likely to be outed. Given that I was all wrong about how the robbery in Chapter 2 ended with Kihrin enslaved, I have to wonder if this general visit isn’t what does it. Although, several things Kihrin said earlier suggest there will be a longer period of Things Happening between the “now” of the flashback story and the moment we pick up with Kihrin at the slave market at the beginning of the book. Because we’re doing simple timelines here, people, catch up.
[Kihrin:] “What if it wasn’t a trick? What if my reactions were my own and I really do enjoy hurting people? What if he only showed me what I truly am?”
“No,” she protested. “Someone like that wouldn’t have ordered me to not touch them—for my own protection. I have known evil men. I have known men who love no sound so much as the screams of their victims. They don’t feel guilt about the hurt they cause. They don’t obsess about whether or not they are good people. This demon wasn’t trying to show you the truth about yourself. He wanted to hurt you. What could cause more lingering pain than this?”
You tell him, Morea.
I mean, clearly Kihrin is hardly a saint—one does not become a master thief without having a certain flexibility in moral matters—but for one thing, there’s definitely an argument to be made that “following the law” and “being a good person” are not necessarily the same thing. In fact, in a society where slavery is legal, just for example, I would say it’s perfectly possible for those two things to be directly opposed.
For another thing, there’s a rather large spectrum between “robbing people” and “gleefully enjoying raping and torturing people”. Especially if the robbing is done more for survival purposes than at any happiness of ruining a person’s day by taking their stuff.
Jorat people sound pretty badass, by the way. I suspect we’ll meet them more in the future—especially if Morea’s right about Kihrin’s dream girl being one. Although from the initial description, I am more expecting her to turn out to be some brand of vané, which would also be cool. (She’s absolutely going to turn up at some point, obviously.)
“But what do the cards say?”
“Oh, you know, the usual stuff. Death, loss, pain, suffering, slavery, and despair.” He started gathering the cards back up. “Not even a nice reward at the end of it, just this.” He picked up the card in the center: a solid rectangle of blackness. “The cold void of Hell. Nice.” He snorted and put the cards back into the bag. “Now I remember why I hate these things.”
Tarot, like coffee, is something you just sort of expect to turn up in some guise in any given fictional society. Some things are universal among thinking beings: someone always wants to know what will happen next, and someone always wants to be awake for it. It is the way of things.
Too bad Kihrin’s reading is going to turn out to be 100% accurate, right?
And that’s what I got for today, kids! If you have thoughts, I would love to hear them. And either way, come join me next week for Moar. Cheers!