And a fabulous Tuesday to you, Tor.com! How’s about a little king-ruining to brighten your day, eh? That’s what I thought!
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 26, “Unhappy Reunion”, and Chapter 27, “Sister Kalindra.” 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 26: Unhappy Reunion (Talon’s story)
[In which Ola meets her ex, and does not enjoy the experience.]
So this is a very interesting chapter because we finally get a big chunk of information about what Talon’s Deal is. Not all of it, of course—there’s still more to come—but a good solid amount.
It’s a bit of a tangle, of course, because there are really two different reveals happening here: One is about Talon’s nature as a mimic, and the other is about what the Stone of Shackles actually does, namely that if you’re murdered while wearing it, you switch bodies with your killer. And now we have to imagine what would have happened had the demon actually killed Kihrin a few chapters ago, yeek.
That’s a fairly specific magical property for a thing, isn’t it? And not necessarily a particularly useful one. I mean, yes, on the surface it may seem like a good insurance policy against people murdering you, but that’s only if they know (a) you’re wearing it and (b) what it does. And the latter, it seems, is not exactly common knowledge, so even if you walked around with a sign saying “WEARING STONE OF SHACKLES DO NOT MURDER”, that wouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent. I guess you could try adding the explanation to the sign but then I feel like you’ve lost most of your audience aaand okay I’m thinking about this too hard.
Lyons’ mimics are a combination/variation on a whole slew of imaginary monsters, some mythological and some much more recent. I admit that one of the first things that jumped to my mind was Odo on Deep Space Nine, but shape-shifters of one kind or another litter our fictional landscape from time immemorial, from the Norse god Loki to the Navajo skin-walkers to Japanese kitsune. And most of these legends, of course, likely stem from observations of how plants and animals in nature use mimicry to either defend themselves from predators or to be more effective predators themselves. I am still faintly traumatized by that BBC production about carnivorous plants that do this.
“Do you know I used to be vané?” She caressed a hand over her hip. “Not me personally. I was born over in the Copper Quarter. This body, I mean, started out life as vané. I would never have thought that. I always assumed mimics were some kind of demon, but it turns out they’re some kind of vané.”
The vané, it appears, are a seriously morphologically diverse species. Who cares about crazy hair colors when you’ve got this in your family tree, eh? Sheesh.
Anyway, it also transpires that Talon used to be Ola ex-lover and fellow slave Lyrilyn, who I thought may have been Kihrin’s biological mother, but then Ola says this:
“If you can read minds, you know I’m not lying. How safe would Kihrin have been, back with his mother’s family? With an uncle who’d tried to kill his mother and you could be damn sure would do the same to him?”
So, apparently not. There’s at least three more twists on Kihrin’s parentage coming down the pike, so I ain’t committing to nothin’.
As a more minor note, we also find out that Surdyeh had magically manipulated Ola into keeping Kihrin in town instead of fleeing, for reasons I am vague enough on at the moment that I will refrain from speculating for now. But the moral of the story seems to be: You can sure pick ‘em, Ola.
Chapter 27: Sister Kalindra (Kihrin’s story)
[In which (short) baths are taken, and assurances are made.]
“You’re allowed to say no.”
If words were daggers, hers left deep, slow cuts. I felt a release of tension I hadn’t even realized was there, a wave of disorientation. How powerful was that idea?
Here was a place where I could say no.
CONSENT IS SEXY, Y’ALL. I am here for that.
I imagine the idea of consent being an honored thing is especially poignant for former slaves, which both Kihrin and Kalindra are, but it is a huge thing for anyone who is routinely threatened with having their consent taken away. Which, even in this day and age in the real world, is a shockingly large percentage of the human race.
The more I see, in fact, the more I begin to believe that all justice (and injustice) revolves around the upholding or violation of this essential right. It’s not just about sex; it’s about who gets to do what to whom. Which, isn’t that about what it’s all about, when you come right down to it?
Anyway, also, eponymous sword is eponymously name-dropped:
The only way to kill a god is to kill their avatar. Ynis died when Emperor Simillion came calling with the sword Urthaenriel.
[Thurvishar’s footnote:] Urthaenriel, otherwise known as The Ruin of Kings, Eclipser, The Emperor’s Sword, God Slayer, Map Burner, Saetya, Tyasaeth, Vishabas, War’s Heart, Sun’s Shadow, the Severer, Zinkarox.
I am totally sure that this is not going to turn out to be significant information down the line. TOTES SURE.
Kalindra grinned. “Which makes Teraeth exactly what you think he is: insufferably pretty.”
She winked at me and continued walking, now turning off the main trail to a narrow but well-used winding path.
I let that last bit slide without commentary save a roll of my eyes and then ran after her to keep up. I didn’t think Teraeth was pretty. Insufferable? Yes. Pretty? No.
Still not sure why I’m having trouble getting my head around Teraeth being good-looking. This is a weird block, y’all. I don’t know what to make of it.
However, I’m loving that our protagonist is canonically bisexual—even if he’s having some trouble admitting that to himself. More on this later.
And that’s the haps for now, peeps! Come back for more next week, hopefully!