Last week, I didn’t get around to answering any questions. Why? Because during the weekend I was in Brighton, meeting Scott and fellow Right People. Without my laptop. So I think I may be excused. This week, I’m doing both last and this week’s questions though!
Blood And Breath And Water: Patience tells Locke that the ritual to save him is serious business. She wasn’t kidding… What did you make of this scene, and do you think any of it might (perhaps literally) come back to haunt Locke?
I don’t think the pain and such will come back to haunt him, but oh, I do hope the ghost Bug will keep nagging at him because it was amazing! My heart was racing as I read it in the middle of the night! It was unexpected, and discomfiting, and I loved it! And I like sins-written-in-the-eyes thing, absolutely gorgeous.
Orphan’s Moon: Back to the childhood of the Gentlemen Bastards, and here we get another ritual, this one in service to the Nameless Thirteenth. It looks as though it might be Locke vs. Sabetha, round two – but this time Locke seems to be a little slow on that uptake… Who do you think deserves to be given the final oath? Locke or Sabetha?
I’ve got to say I squealed with utter delight on seeing the title of this interlude. I was hoping we’d see it some day! It intrigued me when it was mentioned in RSURS, and now we got it! I’m an absolute sucker for rituals and rules and all that, so it really hit the spot.
As to the Locke-Sabetha rivalry, well. At this point it seems Locke gets the things Sabetha wants, which is unfair considering how much drive she has, how hard she works, how ambitious she is, as opposed to his kind of drifting to places and turning out to be a natural. I wished Sabetha had gotten the final initiation, although of course we knew Locke was getting it. But there was that small flickering of hope they’d both get it…
Across The Amathel: This chapter takes a breather for quite a bit of Eldren history, while Locke starts recovering. What do you think of the history lesson, and Patience’s ominous speculation regarding the Eldren? Is this something you’d like to know more about?
I’m not really concerned with the Eldren, never have been. I like cities and countries and cultures and societies, but am not all that infatuated by obscure mysteries – something that probably sounds odd coming from a fantasy reader, but there it is. Mannerpunk is my thing more than epic fantasies. Unless it turns out the Eldren were rather people-like, I’m fine with anything we’re revealed about them. I am, however, interested in the magi of Karthain, those high-and-mighty assholes. Very, very interesting, they are, and I definitely like it that their power is far from infinite and that they are far from invincible.
Striking Sparks: The gang’s off to Espara, after a bad summer and a pretty thorough dressing-down from Chains, and we finally get to the source of the book’s title – they’re bound for the stage! What are your thoughts on this latest ‘challenge’ and the reasons for it?
Oh-ho-hoo, I love the teenage Bastards! Especially the twins! They are such annoying little ass-hats that you can’t but love them! I completely understand Chains, I would need a break, too. He’s harsh with them at this point, sure, but if you’ve lived with surly teenagers you know how bloody annoying it can get.
The Five-Year Game: Starting Position: The election gets underway with a party (as you do) and before it’s even over, the Deep Roots party has problems – and not just thanks to Sabetha. What do you make of Nikoros and his unfortunate habit?
I think the addiction really adds to his character. It’s a touch that gives him an identity, above that of a tool. He’s a person, he’s got weaknesses, an inconvenience, no matter how helpful he tries to be. I like it.
Bastards Abroad: The gang arrives in Espara, and already they’ve got problems (nicely mirroring the Five Year Game!)… This aside, we’ve also seen some more of what seems to be eating at Sabetha. Do you sympathise with her, or is Locke right to be frustrated with her?
Of course I sympathise with Sabetha! Being the only lady in a group of guys can be tough, and when you don’t get your voice heard except for occasionally – yeah, it’s frustrating. And wrong. Locke’s reasons for frustration make sense because you see things mostly through his focalisation and therefore understand him a bit better (not to mention we’ve had time to adjust to him over the course of two books), but when you think about Sabetha’s position it’s pretty clear why she is how she is. She’s tough, and she has to be. Where is Nazca, they should hang out more.
As an extra, I want to say how much I love it when Locke starts arranging security matters. There’s an urgency and a drive, and I enjoy it so so much. It’s great fun to read, and you can just hear the wheels spinning in his head, the sheer effort and joy of thinking. Love it to death!
The election competition. Sabetha isn’t wasting any time throwing pranks at Locke and Jean. Mostly it seemed fairly harmless, or at least not overly serious, until they were kidnapped and put onto a ship and taken out to sea. What did you make of Sabetha’s latest plan? And what did you think about the way she executed it?
I readily admit I did not see it coming, and then chided myself because of course it was coming. It’s what I like about these books in general though – I’m always one-upped. I never expect the things that happen. And it’s great. Plus I think it was a very good plan, and I love the attention to detail Sabetha puts into it. It shows she knows them inside out. And I really appreciate the twenty men she placed outside the door to take Jean down, one of the most amusing things so far!
During the escape overboard and Jean’s rather subtle nose dive into the water – I was curious about the lights Locke saw deep in the water when he was performing his rescue – Locke thought they looked different once he was under the waves which I suppose they would but he also had the feeling that he was being watched? Do you think this relates back to the Eldren or some other presence?
They’re probably something to do with the Eldren, given that no one seems to know what they are. Maybe something related to the mist at Parlour Passage (in RSURS)? For some reason I’d like to think so, although it might be the way in which the phenomenon’s are described, with that eerie Moomin Ghost Ship tone, and the connection to water and ships.
Given that Locke hadn’t seen Sabetha for five years how did you think their first meeting together went (well, it wasn’t strictly speaking their first meeting of course – were you surprised that Jean and Locke hadn’t figured out that the woman pickpocket was Sabetha?) and also what did you make of Jean and Sabetha’s reaction to each other?
Again, one of my favourite scenes. You need to reread it to see what was going on, once you’ve read it once. Ever so amused! At some point I started suspecting this was Sabetha though, as what are the odds she would find such an accomplished pickpocket in Karthain, where the underworld is quite non-existent? No, there’s no one who could match Sabetha in that respect, and oh the pure joy of it! It’s always good fun to see Locke so outplayed. You think you’re so clever mister.
So, the gang have arrived in Espara and already the plans have gone wrong through no fault of their own! Jail for a year plus lose a hand for slapping a noble?? What do you think of the justice system in Espara and how does this bode for the gang?
Jasmer’s punishment serves to show that Esparans are not very tolerant, and you can only imagine the punishment for murder or some such crime. I will take this opportunity to say how much I like these little cities in the book. Espara is wonderful, by the sounds of it very small but having pretences at grandeur, and don’t even get me started on Lashain! I hope we go back there at some point, in the novels or in whatever short stories and novellas are forthcoming. Lashain seems like an excellent place for a game, a good place to exercise your attention to detail, with all the strict societal rules and the constant assessment of your peers. I’m only sad we didn’t stay there longer…
The acting company are finally coming together and we’re watching the gang as they try to read, act and grab the best parts – are you all ‘happy face’ with the whole theatre scenes or, sad face! Also, I can’t help feeling like this whole storyline is a step out of character for the gang. Any ideas of how it will play out?
Initially, I wasn’t too keen on the play: I don’t usually care for much recited fictional things inside fictional things, if you get my meaning. Having said that, I utterly enjoy the play The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death in Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword, and therefore feel inclined to give especially plays some consideration inside narratives. Republic of Thieves is so Shakespearean that the metre (or lack thereof) bothers me to some extent, although of course there’s no reason to expect it there.
On discussing the play on tumblr, there arose some speculation as to the characterization and the correspondence to the Bastards and their immediate circle – but that’s a conversation for later, I think.
We are also being introduced to a number of new characters, particularly Moncraine and Boulidazi. What are your first impressions of these two and the other new characters in the Company and any particular likes or dislikes so far?
Jasmer is exasperating, but I kind of write him off as an artist and let him be. Boulidazi, though… He makes me uncomfortable. He’s not all that smart or sophisticated, but he’s not unobservant, and that spells trouble. He draws conclusions very much to Locke and Sabetha’s advantage here, but that is also a dangerous aspect, because he takes what he sees for granted and doesn’t really stop to ponder on alternative explanations.
And I have a soft spot for nobility, titles, the upper class society. The social history fan in me squealed with delight when he asked how he should address Locke and Sabetha. I’ve marked it down as “useful information”.
The rooftop scene and the apology. How did it all go so wrong? And how will Locke get out of this latest fix with Boulidazi?
I refer you to my previous answer. Boulidazi interprets things based on his observations and doesn’t really entertain any thoughts of other options. Dangerous, very dangerous.