Hey, Tor.com, this is a reread post! There are many like it, but this one is mine.
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 32, “Lady Miya”, and Chapter 33, “The Dragon’s Due.” Please note that going 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 32: Lady Miya (Talon’s story)
[In which Kihrin gets some salve and some lessons, and more importantly an interaction with someone who is not 100% awful for once.]
I freely confess that I can’t reliably remember at this point what the True Deal With Lady Miya turns out to be. I’m about 86% sure it turns out that she is Kihrin’s real mother, and also that she gets a severe case of Grrreat Vengeance and Furrrrious Anger once she gets ungaeshed toward the end, but I honestly could be completely off base about both of those things. I’m discovering the rather obvious fact that doing a reread of a thing you’ve read about a million times is in fact different from doing a reread of a thing you’ve read once. Whoops.
At any rate, she clearly likes Kihrin quite a lot – and why wouldn’t she, when she’s got frickin’ Darzin for comparison – so even if she goes bloodthirsty at the end I think I still like her quite a bit. I mean, it’s not like you can even blame her, anyway.
“…if I presented myself and attempted to change your aura in order to harm you, and you wore four talismans, then in effect I have to change your aura five times rather than once. So it is a protection, you see, from other wizards.” Miya held up a finger then. “But there’s always a price. For every talisman you wear, your own magic and ability to affect the auras of others is weakened. A witch-hunter is nothing more than a wizard who wears as many talismans as they can maintain. In doing so, they make themselves almost completely immune to magic—but they may never cast a single spell.”
I rather liked the bit of the magic system that gets expositioned at us in this chapter, I think. Balance is always a big thing with magic systems, and rightly so. The most instructive thing I ever heard anyone say about how to write about magic, or indeed any sf-nal system of doing things, is that what your magic can’t do is even more important than what it can do. As conflicts create story, limits create systems. It Is Known.
“But I’m street trash. A throw away from Velvet Town!”
[Miya] set down the mortar and pestle and turned to Kihrin, staring at him with angry blue eyes. “You are never to refer to yourself that way again. I will not stand for it. You are Kihrin D’Mon, royal prince and second-ranked heir to House D’Mon. You are descended from a hundred generations of magi, including three Emperors. You are royalty, and you are born to rule. You are not, and you will NEVER be, street trash.”
Except, of course, he was. Until someone decided he wasn’t, based on something he had no personal control over, and something which had no influence on his upbringing or his experiences. And yet, this is somehow not just a change in his position and inheritance, but an assumed reassessment of his entire character. Kihrin is nobility, so suddenly he’s worthy as a human being. Which is patently stupid on the face of it, yet it is almost inevitably how these things go.
It would be nice to think that this is a prejudicial fiction of the past, as firmly relegated to the olden times so many epic fantasies (including this one) are a riff upon, but it really isn’t. All you have to do is look at the way people still go absolutely bonkers over the doings of the British royals to know that it is a delusion which hasn’t really abated in the slightest, even if people give lip service to the idea that it has. And I’m including myself in this delusion; even though I try not to be part of it, sometimes I just I can’t help it.
It’s such a weird dichotomy, for me, being someone who so firmly believes in the basic equality of all people, regardless of background or skin color or nationality or etc etc, but who also still thrills a bit, in that uniquely fantasy nerd way, to the idea of noble blood and lost heirs and ancient dynasties and etc etc. I tell myself it’s part of the escapism and not indicative beyond that, in the same way that I can enjoy stories about magic without believing in magic. And that’s comforting, somewhat; but sometimes, I wonder.
Chapter 33: The Dragon’s Due (Kihrin’s story)
[In which Kihrin gets a scholarship to badass school, which only partly makes up for the draconic travel ban.]
Yeah, I can’t say I would not be upset at the idea of being trapped on a death cult island for probably forever by an immortal asshole giant dragon who’s never gonna give you up, baby. Ugh. Admittedly, this gets way more horrific later when we find out how the dragon intends to keep Kihrin, but we’ll get to that in due time; for now, let’s enjoy our delusion that the dragon only wants to love him and hug and squeeze him and call him George.
This was certainly the impression I was under at the time, which goes to show you that Disneyfication is a real syndrome we should all be wary of, even in these deeply cynical almost-post-Game-of-Thrones days. Though I should point out that even the deeply bitchy dragons of GOT are still, like, affectionate with their people, so even GRRM apparently fell prey to the romance of dragons loving their humans, so overall I should not feel guilty at all for my visceral horror at this world’s dragons being so… so… draconic. Dammit.
In any case, learning death cult killin’ techniques are for the yay even if you don’t agree with the general death cult killin’, I always say. That probably makes me a hypocrite, but well. Sigh.
And that’s the haps for the moment, kids! Come back next week for more, whydoncha? Cheers!