Greetings and salutations, Tor.com! In tribute to your awesomeness, I give you: blackmail! Torture! Really bad parenting! Huzzah!
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 30, “Family Reunion”, and Chapter 31, “Tyentso at the Beach.” 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 30: Family Reunion (Talon’s story)
[In which there is breakfast avec a side of torture, and the Father of the Year award goes to literally anyone other than Darzin D’Mon.]
“You son-of-a-bitch,” Kihrin screamed.
“No, that would be you, my son,” Darzin laughed. “Just remember every time you throw a tantrum I’ll make sure an innocent person dies. I think you’ll run out of sanity long before I run out of slaves.”
Just in case you ever thought you had the worst dad ever, for 99.99% of you, I submit that you don’t. Sheesh.
(As a side note, I try not to get too into nitpicking over stylistic choices, but: I really don’t care for the use of “screamed” as a dialogue tag here. It’s not that I think there shouldn’t have been a descriptive verb used, because a plain “said” would not have worked either, but “you son of a bitch” seems like something more likely to be “spat” or “hissed” than “screamed”, especially by a male character. But that’s just my subjective taste.)
I admit I was pretty startled by this chapter. And not so much at the casual brutality of Darzin’s behavior—“casual brutality” is what everyone’s wearing this spring in Quur, apparently—but at how very crude and unsubtle it was. For someone who just advised Kihrin that noble family members should play their cards close to the chest, Darzin certainly isn’t invested in following his own advice.
But then again, why should he, right? The kind of person who would torture and murder a slave just to blackmail his alleged son into toeing the line is exactly the kind of person who would believe that their power makes them invincible, or is enjoying it too much to care that it doesn’t.
God, but I hate bullies. And I hate even more how often bullies get exactly the power they should never be allowed to have—and not even because there’s no one willing to stand up to them, but because the system is, more often than not, rigged in their favor no matter who stands against them. As Kihrin just found out.
Of course, Kihrin was also being a hot-headed fool here. He (and the slave girl, frankly) would have been so much better served by Kihrin refraining from rising to Darzin’s taunts, by playing it cool until he got more of the lay of the land. But then again, it’s hard to lay that on Kihrin because the kid is fifteen, ffs. Most fifteen-year-olds I know couldn’t keep their cool over losing at Mario Kart; dealing with this level of shit? Yikes.
Granted, most fifteen-year-olds I know aren’t also experienced cat burglars who grew up in a brothel, but there’s some things no one would be prepared for no matter how tough their life was. We should probably be impressed that Kihrin isn’t curled into a whimpering ball in a corner somewhere.
Welp. But on the bright side (she says, brightly), eventually we find out that Darzin isn’t Kihrin’s father after all, anyway! Yay! Though probably being related to him in any way whatsoever is a net loss, at least he’s not Kihrin’s father. That’s just gross.
(I think he’s really… er, either his uncle or half-brother. I can’t remember which at this point. But hey, let’s not look a gift genetic distancing in the mouth, amirite?)
Chapter 31: Tyentso at the Beach (Talon’s story)
[In which Tyentso explains that sexism is bullshit, the Brotherhood is probably a front, and unexpected dragon is unexpected.]
Okay, that last part is literally just the last sentence of the chapter, but c’mon, I couldn’t resist.
[Thurvishar:] The definition of ‘witch’ is one of the most hotly contested words in the Guarem language. According to the Academy at Alevel, a ‘witch’ is “an uneducated magical adept who operates without official license from the Royal Houses” but since women are never given licenses and are forbidden to attend the Academy, the gender-neutral term is almost exclusively applied to women.
The fun thing about the misogyny of this world is that even in a place where magic is both commonplace and valued, the word “witch” still manages to be a slur on women. Figures.
In any case, that right there is a classic formation in the Oppress Yer Wimmin playbook: You won’t have to worry about women proving they can do X thing just as well as men can if you never allow them the education to try, now will you? Or, in Tyentso’s case (as in that of so many other women who were self-taught, or taught on the down low), by never allowing their education to mean anything. “Infuriating” isn’t even the word for that horseshit, and it’s still going on today in the real world.
But let’s not just limit our bigotry to education, now:
[Tyentso:] “The one nice thing about looking the way I do is that when a cute bit of something wants into your pants, you don’t have to guess whether they have an ulterior motive. The answer is yes.”
Ouch. But also, correct. Sadly. This is less gender-specific than the other thing, true, but if you think it doesn’t disproportionately affect ugly women over ugly men, you have not been paying attention. Kihrin and Tyentso’s snarky banter about cults they sleep with not respecting them in the morning was pretty cute, though.
Tyentso’s theory that the Brotherhood’s rep as fancy killers for hire is a cover is, I think, both true and misleading. I mean, you might as well turn a profit while you’re advancing the agenda of your very hands-on goddess, right? But yeah, I’m fairly sure we find out that she is in essence correct, so, nice head on your shoulders there, Tyentso.
[Kihrin:] “Specifically, there’s this sorcerer. I don’t know his name. I’ve always just called him Dead Man. He’s powerful. I’ve seen him melt the flesh off a person with a gesture.”
[Tyentso:] “Charming. He sounds just like my late husband.”
Yeah, uh, about that…
And then blah blah prophecies whoops a dragon. I was way more excited about this before I knew how horrific the dragon would turn out to be. Oh well.
But that’s for next time! For this time, I hope you had a lovely, possibly pastel-and-sugar-filled weekend, and invite you back next week for Moah!