Happy Tuesday, Tor.com folks! Up for a spot of weirdly benign death cult sacrificial ritual? Of course you are, who wouldn’t be! In which case, this post is for you.
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 22, “A Golden Hawk,” and Chapter 23, “Morning Service.” 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!
Chapter 22: A Golden Hawk (Talon’s story)
[In which Kihrin finds Butterbelly’s corpse, and realizes his family is in grave danger.]
This is a spot where it would have been really great if, on my first read-through, I’d thought to take notes about which earlier assumptions by various characters about various events prove to be incorrect, because there are a lot of them, and it got pretty complicated to keep track of.
Butterbelly’s murder is a good example. Kihrin here is assuming that Darzin, aka Pretty Boy, and Dead Man, who we later find out is Thurvishar’s father Gadrith D’Lorus, are the ones who killed Butterbelly, and honestly that’s a perfectly logical assumption to make under the circumstances. That said, I’m preeeeeety sure that we find out later that Kihrin is wrong, and Butterbelly was murdered by someone else.
Problem is, right now I can’t remember who that was. Talon is the obvious choice, though I think that Darzin’s father High Lord Therin might also have been involved? Not sure. I think this gets explained fairly quickly after this, though, so I’m going to try not to stress about it overmuch.
“You tell Ola I saw a golden hawk. Understand? It’s a code phrase that means—” Kihrin stopped mid-sentence.
“That means what?”
Kihrin ignored her. He looked like he had been stabbed.
“Kihrin, what does it mean?” Morea asked again.
He blinked and looked at her. “It means we’re in danger. Danger so bad we have to go into hiding.”
We also learn that the symbol of House D’Mon is a golden hawk, and Kihrin says he was set up to do the Kazivar House job. Which he was. And again, I’m not sure by whom. I do know that we find out eventually that Talon was far more of a mastermind than she was a lackey (though I’m not convinced she isn’t still working for someone else we may not have met yet), so once again she is a good candidate. More as my brain it develops.
Chapter 23: Morning Service (Kihrin’s story)
[In which Kihrin goes to snake church and witnesses a snake sacrifice, sort of.]
Somebody definitely rewatched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom a couple of times before writing this scene, is all I’m saying. Except without all the awkward imperialist racism, so that’s nice. (Unless you count racism against fictional snake people, of course, but, uh, I’m not going to get terribly het up about that.)
And actually there’s nothing to get het up about even if I were so inclined, because of course the twist is that Kihrin is misinterpreting just about everything he’s seeing here, including that Teraeth just seemingly murdered himself for death cult LOLZ. I mean, he did, but it was just a temp job so I kind of don’t think it counts. It’s not often that a death cult’s appeal grows the closer you examine it, but this particular one manages to pull it off.
[Thaena’s statue:] Like everything else, she was carved in black stone, but here and only here could I see the delicate touches of vané craftsmanship. In each hand she held a snake, which reared back to adore or strike at her. I honestly couldn’t tell if she was caressing the snakes or strangling them. Gold leaf covered every inch of her stone gown. The goddess wore a pectoral and belt fashioned from skulls around her neck and hips. Roses crafted from iron decorated her hair and dress. The salt air had rusted them to the color of blood.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a strong flavoring of Kali here, along with Persephone and probably a smattering of others from the rather long list of “real-life” mythological death goddesses, though goddesses holding snakes are often more associated with the earth, nature and rebirth than death. But as we will come to see, Thaena embodies both of those interpretations simultaneously, so it’s all quite fitting.
It’s very different, though, somehow, to read about Thaena (and the other gods) now that I know they were once just ordinary people. Not that I suppose it should make much difference, at least from a pantheistic point of view. After all, unlike the infallible/unknowable God of Judeo/Christian/Muslim tradition, gods and goddesses of most other faiths were extremely human in their flaws and foibles and penchant for stupid drama. Hell, the Greek pantheon puts Jersey Shore to shame on that score. (Okay, admittedly I’ve never watched Jersey Shore, but I seriously doubt the comparison is inapt, let’s just say.)
Aaand on that note: That’s the story for now, morning glories! Come back and see me next week for more!