To preface: this is probably my favorite fantasy series ever. I mean, the flaws are there, and I can cheerfully name them off, but the truth is, I don't really care. The sheer--I don't have the right word? Audacity? Utter insanity?--glee. This writer who said, hmm. So I can do anything, right? Awesome. Let me start with this list of totally random stuff and see what happens.
So below. Points of random pondering, since I finally read the Dreams Made Flesh in June and have re-read them all to the point that I no longer have a copy of Heir to the Darkness. I mean, I do? And it is in pieces gently cradled on my bookshelf. I have read it that many times.
1. Body Count
I love that trilogy so much. I mean, it's fun. It's insane. It's one of those fantasy stories where the author didn't go near a single known convention and just said, huh. I wonder what I can do with cock rings and male sexual battery? Oooh! Fun.
For the life of me, I have yet to understand why some of these people lived. I have yet to work out why in the name of God (or the Darkness), Daemon just didn't kill Dorothea. He killed lots of other people! He killed many Queens. Do not tell me that Mr. I Wear The Biggest Black Jewel Ever and Also a Virgin and Hey My Name is Sadist could not just kill her. She was a Red Priestess! Take him like, five seconds! I read the books. I totally get the unleashing of the Black thing. It's called lots of dead people. That, my friend, would have taken care of that ring of obedience and you know, maybe saved us all a lot of stress at the end of Book 3. And hell, quite a bit of Book 1 as well. And that entire extraordinary vivid castration scene that I could live without remembering. And God, that thing with Lucivar and that chick and the safframante and the God, I still wince when I read that so many kinds of ouch.
Same for Lucivar. They both talk about OMGALLTHEEVILPEOPLETHEYKILLED except you know, the ones that really needed to die. Hekatah. Why. Not. Dead. God. Dorothea, mentioned. Prythian. Jesus God in heaven, Luthvian, who I spent all of Book 2 and 3 (and every second of the Marian and Lucivar romance in the short stories) wanting to die. I mean, I'm just saying--the High Lord of Hell should not make idle threats. And that's all he did! All through it! I WILL SEND YOU TO HELL ALIVE. NO, WAIT. I WILL STRIP YOU OF YOUR JEWELS! NO, WAIT. I WILL LOOK AT YOU STERNLY. Argh.
And just--okay. Luthvian peeved me most. At least Dorothea et al had a plot function of Horrific Evil and Bane. Luthvian was just there to make me stare at her and think, please die. Please stop talking. Please fall into a ditch. And die.
Then Hekatah did and perhaps that was the only time I ever really liked her.
I have issues with that. I just think if you are going to have Amazing Cosmic Powers, you damn well better use them once in a while. Look at Jaenelle! You people could take lessons from her. She said, I will kill them all. And then she did.
(Randomly: they really did make things a lot more complicated than they needed to be, considering they don't actually have laws against murder. Rape, yes, but murder? A-okay. A lot of their weirdness works if there were strong social stigmas on killing, but since there weren't? It felt weird.)
One of the few times that you will ever hear me argue on teh rightness of a Mary Sue is this trilogy and Jaenelle. If you are going to be dreams made flesh created by the dreams of a lot lot lot of people (and animals), you had damn well better be not only cosmically powered but super awesome all around. I think my biggest disappointment with her was the fact she didn't waltz into the Dark Council men and wipe their asses out.
However, the Briarwood storyline bothered me. Not the place or the concept--but the fact that they were breaking witches regularly and no one noticed. Not just lowborn witches, but highborn ones as well. Through all the books, it's made clear you can tell when a witch is broken. So I am completely and utterly bewildered that for however-many-years, highborn girls went there, got broken, stripped of their jeweled power, and no one noticed or you know, went huh. So my sister got sent there and she came back doing basic Craft, but there's no connection, let me send my daughter.
It's this massive disconnect even in the society as it was presented to us; almost an active sense of denial. I almost had this feeling that all these women knew, knew, watched it happen, and kept thinking that if they just denied it, then saying it wasn't true made it true.
I still struggle with that one. I guess it could be seen as a symptom of how their society had fallen apart, but it felt like too much.
3. Alexandra, Queen of Chaillot
I've been trying to classify her for a while and I almost want to call her the Anti-Sue, in which everything she says and does is wrong. Which is an interesting balance.
Actually, she got on my nerves in a differnet way, mostly because I couldn't understand her jumps of logic, but in a way I liked because it was very consistent. Her constant reinteration of how she Could Not Sleep With Phillip Because He Loved Her Daughter and She Could Not Do Such a Thing felt like her mantra of Good and the thing I noticed most (two or three times! Jeez. We get it. You do not nail Phillip. Yay you). But it was more than that--it was a really creepy sense of non-responsibility. Everyone was to blame but her. She did everything right and if that is an absolute truth, everyone else is not only wrong, but they're actively against her.
It makes a weird sort of sense why she would start sending Jaenelle off to Briarwood so young; it wasn't social embarrassment or thinking the girl was ill, though she told herself that. Jaenelle must have been hideously uncomfortable, a living, breathing, watching, and completely unconscious refutation of Alexandra's belief in her own rightness. Jaenelle wasn't her reflection, like Leland and Phillip.
Which is part of the reason I didn't blame Leland and Phillip all that much; while they fucked up, they actually did occassionally go to the place of saying, huh, maybe I did something wrong. But they didn't fight Alexandra that hard, which made a weird kind of sense; Daemon and Lucivar and some of the others got somewhat warped, but they had a solid sense of something better basing them, an inner bedrock, if you will. I never felt that even when they did something wrong, they thought of it as anything but a betrayal of that sense of right. That's something that neither Leland or Phillip ever had. They had a landscape of Alexandraness as their base (kind of like, in the words of a QAF fanfic writer speaking of an entirely differnet, yet at this point strangely related topic, navigating by clouds; it's insane and you know it, but that's all you have and it's not like anyone gave you a compass and a map), and a vague sense of disquiet--this is not right--but no ability to figure out what right is. It was kind of horrific in a way; a person could do that, create that in her own family a dissonance that powerful.
(Interesting point: Wilhelmina escaped it. I think Jaenelle had something to do with that, gave her the bedrock to know the difference between right and wrong. She just couldn't do anything about it except at the most subtle level, but she really did do a lot to protect Jaenelle, more than her age and her position could really have expected of her. Which I bet is another reason Alexandra wanted to get rid of Jaenelle--she stole Alexandra's reflection in Wilhelmina.)
It's almost a worse evil that what Dorothea did both to the Blood and to her son; Dorothea never pretended she was doing right. She was just evil and spread it. Dorothea was a celebration of immorality, of working against good, of a classic dark/light struggle--ooh. Entropy? I think that's the concept I'm searching for. Chaos. Alexandra was something more insidious and more terrifying, something that treds close to amorality - I say this is right, and therefore it is. She wasn't saying, go out and do evil because you can; she was saying, this evil is right. And evil is that which opposes what I think is right.
4. Sexuality in the Realms
Things I always really wondered. Mostly because the author tended to throw it in so casually that I wasn't sure if she meant what she wrote. Which may say a lot about the fantasy genre in general.
1.) Saetan and Andulvar. I still wonder if they had a sexual relationship. Lucivar in Book 1 confirmed that Eyrien hunting parties had sexual relations with each other. I'm still curious about that. And by curious, I mean--okay, honestly. Who does not want to know if Lucivar and Falonar ever had a really passionate night after taking out some jhinkas? Come on.
2.) Daemon attempted to seduce Lucivar--and by attempted, I mean, would have succeeded if he hadn't chosen to back off. Lucivar did have sex with other men. Daemon's performance with Ranier in Dreams Made Flesh shows he was familiar both with seducing other men and the lack of stigma attached to it. He worried that Jaenelle would be horrified, but I tended to read that as due to Jaenelle having serious sexual issues, one, and two, the entire thing with male fidelity rather than any kind of social stigma. Especially since Ranier was introduced as gay and was in Jaenelle's Second Circle and had no problem inviting Daemon to dance in public.
3.) Honestly, I have to put Saetan and Daemon in their own strange, strange category. Their behavior with each other, their friends, their family, their blood relatives, dead people, random furniture--it's one of those rare time I kept having to go back and read again, because I did not just read Daemon licking his father's neck. No, I did.
4.) Karla was confirmed either a lesbian or asexual; from the wording, I think lesbian, because the emphasis was put on interest in males, not on disinterest in sex. I'd noticed in Book 2 and Book 3 that she was the only featured coven member who didn't have a consort. Which actually doesn't mean much in itself; Dreams Made Flesh did a surprising amount of work in confirming a lot of the subtext in the books without making it glaringly obvious.
Hmm. I don't know. I think I'm used to writers either completely sidestepping the issue (aka Anne McCaffrey's really bewildering way of going about it by not explaining a damn thing for freaking ever) or Mercedes Lackey, who throws out entire series, or the authors who token-place it in.
It didn't feel token; it felt more like there are some chapters I'm missing. It's very odd.
5. Rut, The Weird Biological Imperative.
I really got vaguely freaked out by Rut. Now, this is one of those things that seems to be only in Dreams Made Flesh; unlike Zuulaman, which was foreshadowed by a conversation in Book 1 between Daemon and Dorothea (and hey, nice work there, Ms Bishop. Subtle but memorable), the first three books didn't have any of that. We knew Warlord Princes are, you know, insane. But are supposed to be and this is a good thing. And okay, so their biological imperative is to protect and serve. Awesome.
Then you have Rut. Which is explained in a way that makes their normal insanity very sane, and crazy, and right, with added amnesia. Saetan's nervousness, Lucivar's terror, and Marian's mental litany of all the many horrors that result from it--this is like Pon Farr with a sexual casualty rate.
(Randomly: The entire mini-novella of Marian and Lucivar managed to have more sex than all three of the other books put together. I still can't get over that. It was almost like reading fanfic. Good fanfic. By someone I really, really like.)
So--what was the point of Rut? It's not sexual bonding, because they don't mention sexual bonding at all. I don't see what it's supposed to do, other than give drama (which I am A-Okay with) and provide us all finally with sex that does not involve maiming (though it could is my point). And most of that world has some kind of--something to base it. I really did think they were going the "this is how a Warlord Prince gets his woman; lots and lots of bonding sex!" It's dangerous to the women they have sex with, which is 180 from what their stated function for three books was supposed to be, and I just--can't. Figure it out.
They go totally violently insane and fuck in a way that can lead to maiming or death. And I don't know how that fits with the mythos she created.
And I rambled long enough. *blows out breath*
Still my favorite books. *happy*
ETA: Tangled Webs comes out in March 2008! Available for pre-order from Amazon! AND THERE IS NO FREAKING TEASER ON WHAT IT IS ABOUT. I AM GOING TO HAVE A BREAKDOWN.
Er. Carry on.