Hello, Tor.com! Welcome to where this read of TROK becomes a reread–for I have now read the whole thing. And it is awesome, and now I’m gonna read it again. You should come along and read it too!
(Also, “read” now no longer looks like a word. Read Read REaD.)
This blog series will be covering The Ruin of Kings, the first novel 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 18, “What Jarith Found”, and Chapter 19, “Dream of a Goddess.” Please note that from this point forward, these posts will likely contain spoilers for the entire novel, so it’s recommended that you read the whole thing first before continuing on.
Got that? Great! Click on for the rest!
Before we begin: I will not be providing a full formal review of the book, as Tor.com has already provided you one elsewhere, but my informal, quick and dirty review goes thusly:
This book was good.
Good enough that my sleeping schedule got all out of whack, because I stayed up till almost 6 AM speedread-finishing it, because I had to know what happened. And what happened was pretty momentous, as you probably know if you’re reading this.
Of course, part of the downside of speedreading a novel this dense and complex (Lyons, as I’ve remarked before, does not believe in taking the straight and simple approach in storytelling, or worldbuilding either) is that there’s a lot of detail I have not really absorbed with any kind of permanence yet, I suspect. And there were so many plot twists and turns that Rainbow Road is like damn, girl. I was delighted by this even as I was occasionally confused by it.
So all in all I’m pretty glad I’m rereading it, because there was definitely a lot of nuance I missed, and a lot of things that will likely gain a lot more significance (not to mention will make a lot more sense) the second time around.
Join me for that, won’t you? Onward!
Chapter 18: What Jarith Found
[In Which Kihrin unknowingly flirts with the High General’s daughter, and learns that slavery sucks–more so for some than others.]
[In response to Kihrin’s assertion that he could buy Talea, Morea’s sister:]
Jarith sighed. “Yes, I do. Because it doesn’t matter how much money you have. You don’t have enough. You could be a prince of a royal house, and it wouldn’t matter. Darzin D’Mon is the kind of man who would invite you over with an offer to return her to you, and then torture her to death right there just to see the look on your face. He loves breaking spirits.”
And Kihrin doesn’t even know the half of it, yet. Slavery, man. It is the actual worst.
I sound flippant, but I’m of course dead serious. If any one flaw of humanity will condemn us, it will be our collective willingness to erase another’s personhood for personal gain. I can’t personally comprehend how one can actively participate in it and still sleep at night, but then I remain amazed at the scope of the lies people can make themselves believe to justify what they do to others.
Anyway. This speech of Jarith’s is also highly ironic, of course, as I am now in a position to know. On multiple levels, even. Man, I am not looking forward to meeting Darzin D’Mon as a character again. At least I already know he doesn’t survive the end of the book, which is great. Of course, I’m pretty sure Jarith doesn’t survive it either, which is a bummer.
Eledore Milligreest: What a name. With the introduction and level of description she got here, I was totally expecting her to be a major character in the book, and yet to my surprise, as far as I can recall after this scene we never see her again. Maybe she shows up in future books? I hope so, I liked her.
He looked at the painting again. Kandor was there, or at least there was someone wearing a lot of armor with a crown on his head. He’d been shot straight through his chest by a black arrow and was in the middle of dropping a great glowing sword from his hand. Urthaenriel, the Ruin of Kings.
Aha, the eponymous book namer. I confess I was amused that the Ruin of Kings turned out to be a sword. Like, on the one hand, that is like THE cliché, epic fantasy-wise. But on the other, well, it’s a cliché for a reason, isn’t it? Because, you know, no matter how many times I see the Excalibur trope, it’s almost always still awesome.
In this particular case, it’s actually sort of hard to tell whether it’s awesome or not, because the actual sword itself only turns up at the very end of the book. What we did see of it, though, was a lot more ominous than your general run of the mill ancient prophesied sword. But we’ll talk about that when we get to it.
Chapter 19: Dream of a Goddess
[In which Kihrin has a very metaphorical dream with a not so metaphorical deity.]
I crossed my arms over my chest and stared out at the sea. “How am I involved in this?”
“Big waves start from small ripples. Avalanches begin with a single pebble.”
My breath hitched. “I’m—I’m your pebble?”
“Yes. Also, you volunteered.”
This entire conversation makes a looooot more sense now, I must say. Context will do that.
Knowing what I know now–that Taja and the other gods are actually ascended mortals, and that Kihrin was one of them in a former life–changes how I interpret Taja’s words an awful lot. It also makes me a lot more inclined to be forgiving of her, because originally I was rather put out at how she dismissed Kihrin’s woes. I still kinda am, really.
She rolled her eyes. “Your gaesh is nothing. You will always be free to decide how you react to the world. If you are always free to act, even if it to decide on your own death by defying a gaesh, then you are free. You may not have a lot of options, but you still have the freedom to choose.”
“What are you saying? I should stop being so whiny?”
She grinned. “Yes.”
…Okay, point, but I still gotta say that Kihrin has some justification for deeming his life to be shit. Just because there’s worse shit out there than his personal shit does not make his own shit less… uh, shitty.
But I suppose perspective is a thing worth having, even so. This is why I like to watch Game of Thrones whenever I start getting depressed about my own life: because then I can say, well, Leigh, at least you’re not a GRRM character.
And you know, the (nearly buried at this stage) point that Kihrin had volunteered to be the Chosen One does actually change a lot from the perspective of personal agency. In a macro sense (which is what one would assume gods mostly deal with, after all), Taja is absolutely right.
She exhaled slowly, almost shuddering. “This world is dying, Kihrin.”
“Dying? What do you—”
“The sun should be yellow and it isn’t. The sky should be blue and it isn’t. I am old enough to remember when our sun was not bloated and orange. I am old enough to remember when we did not need Tya’s Veil to keep out the radiation.50”
50 Radiation of what? I would give much to be able to ask Taja for elaboration on these points. Assuming that this dream was really an encounter with the goddess herself (for the record, yes, I am assuming exactly that.) However, in substantiation of these claims, I’ve been able to find no mention of any celestial phenomena resembling Tya’s Veil prior to the god-king era. And prior to the god-king era, poetry involving the sun and sky did indeed use ‘yellow’ and ‘blue’ as central color motifs.
Ah, and here we get a little injection of science fiction into our fantasy. Or is that science fact? I doubt either Taja or Thurvishar know words like “ozone layer” or “ionosphere”, two of the things which protect Earth from the sun’s radiation, but that’s what they’re talking about. I’m not entirely clear on how a war between gods and demons on (presumably) one measly planet is both destroying the atmosphere and aging its sun from a yellow to a red star (which I think is what’s being implied here, unless the protective veil just makes the sun look red), but maybe we’ll be told that at some later point.
More minor points:
The sand underneath my fingertips was an odd, fine black, glittering, as if someone had pulverized onyx.
There are real black sand beaches in various locations around the world (Iceland and Hawaii are the most famous, I think), and I’ve always wanted to see one. Someday.
The tide water was rushing out, but where it should have stopped and come back in again, it continued its retreat. The entire ocean had decided it wanted to be as far from the island as possible. The little girl squealed as the retreating tide revealed pools, sea shells and flopping, confused fish.
“No, that’s wrong,” I muttered. What’s wrong about that?
I remember reading accounts of the Indonesia tsunami in 2004, and that’s enough to make the image of the water rushing away from the shore like that be thoroughly spine-chilling. You ever see water doing that, you run. For what little good it will likely do.
And on that ominous note, we out! I hope you are enjoying re-reading TROK along with me, and if so, tell us about it! And then come back next week for more! Cheers!