Thinking some more about Loriana’s story–

I mean, it’s not Loriana’s story. It’s her daughter Loraya’s story. She is the distant, powerful father mother whom Loraya struggles to live up to. I actually had Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in the back of my head, though of course Loriana and Loraya’s relationship is completely different. Just that sort of father-son dynamic: the absent warrior-hero idolized by the child, then giving way to reality when they actually interact, yet ultimately the bond between them does hold and takes precedence over all else.

Of course, context does exist–that’s where I think a lot of “well, you wouldn’t say that if [character] were a [whatever]” goes astray. Yes, the father-son tension resolving in paternal sacrifice is… a thing, but sacrificial motherhood is a very different trope. And if you go there, you’ve–gone there. 

So, I decided that while Loriana’s love for her daughter certainly affects her conduct as they’re trying to escape the maze, she wouldn’t actually sacrifice herself for her. She dies fighting for their lives, not as a human shield, but simply because their enemies exhaust her. Loraya lives not because of the manner of Loriana’s death, but because she was never the target at all, and that moment of hesitation gives her the chance to completely lose her shit. And that’s disastrous

Ultimately, Loriana’s death leads to failure. Loraya is able to escape, but only by violating her mother’s express command not to reveal herself, and consequently she gets shut away. “Tragedy” seems overblown for something this short, but it’s certainly meant to be tragic.

On the flipside, there’s a similar dynamic between Arceptra and her mother(aunt) Ariana. Arceptra is a young, inwardly troubled protégée intended to follow in Ariana’s footsteps. And Ariana is an elite wizard–an Inquisitor, and a particularly powerful, hypercompetent one. So, Arceptra is in many ways very much daunted by her (as much as she ever is, anyway), while also resenting her for her perceived abandonment, while also looking up to her. And it’s not tragic–tense, sometimes bordering into antagonistic on Arceptra’s part, but there really is nothing tragic about it.

And somewhere in-between, we have the third pair, not much explored in the novel (and only a little more in the Loriana-Loraya story). There’s Princess Evadne, a warder whose magical passivity prevented her from succeeding her mother as queen, and her two oldest, magically powerful children–Lyssaré and Valandyr. Evadne is far more demonstrative as a maternal figure than either of the others, but unlike them, an inattentive parent by in-world standards. She spends her life consumed by guilt for her actions as a military captain in a very petty war, so much so that she can’t really see her children as they are. She’s not as tragic as Loriana or as ruthless as Ariana, but her choices are ultimately far more destructive. 

Fathers, by and large, are … not terribly important. The most significant one that comes to mind is Cordelain, the prince who married Arya, the Chosen One of this universe, hundreds of years earlier. He matters because he was the only child of Queen Cordela the Magnificent, and thus his descendants were heirs to both Arya and Cordela. Which, again… well. 

Speaking of Loriana, one of the interesting things about writing her is that she is very much defined by her motherhood in the narrative, but not in-story. She is that charismatic, dauntingly impressive parent to the narrator, and so that’s how we see her–and a pretty terrible parent by our standards, no less. Yet she’s a spectacularly amazing one in the context of her society and what’s customary there.

Parents in their culture rarely even mention children that belong to a spouse’s house rather than their own, as Loraya does. However, Loriana writes to her, visits her, takes her on holidays in the capital, exerts her legal authority, takes her under her protection and, ah, fully commits herself to that protection. Loraya, at twelve, is perfectly aware of this; a lot of her adoration comes from that, as well as Loriana’s glamour and simply loving her personally.

In fact, the germ of the idea for their story actually came from thinking about all these fraught father-son and very occasionally father-daughter relationships, with a commanding, charismatic, distant, but ultimately loving father and awed but devoted child. 

It’s actually a trope I enjoy quite a bit, perhaps because I am myself the frequently-overwhelmed but devoted child of a charismatic and commanding parent! But it’s my mother, and it seems to be very rarely told with mothers, and especially mother-daughter pairs. Or if it is, it’s in a very… idk, normalized, “feminized” way. I didn’t want “and here’s the stereotypical feminine version,” I wanted that trope with women.

That’s what a lot of the story comes down to, really.

Official Introduction/Cast

The Elentian Empire collapsed long ago. In the fragmented remains, however, its people live on, a bastard hybrid of human and demon spread through three nations. Even a sheltered girl of thirteen like Giva Poldan knows that. She’s heard all about their witches, too, the Elentian women who bargain with their demonic kin for power. Giva, the daughter of a diplomat, isn’t sure she believes it. All she knows for certain is that they’re enemies of the Cedeirans, her own people, and have been fighting against Cedeira for ten years. But when a delegation of Elentian witches arrives to negotiate a treaty, they reveal Giva herself to be a witch—to the shock of her father, stepmother, brother, and most of all, herself.

Under Cedeiran law, Giva must walk through Guthek’s Gate, a cursed archway through which all vanishes forever. She is not killed, but instead emerges in the Elentian nation of Marelia, hundreds of miles away from everything she’s ever known—and it turns out, fifteen years in the past.

Major characters:

Giva Poldan (13): the third child of a dutiful, rule-abiding diplomat, whom she strongly resembles in character. Now, Giva is cut adrift in a world where she’s alienated from her own people, yet confused and uncomfortable among the matriarchal, only maybe-human, definitely alien Elentians. She doesn’t know the rules, and everything she does know seems to be wrong.

Lady Arceptra Cordell (27/12): one of the leading noblewomen of the Elentian delegation, she leaves a strong impression on Giva as a charismatic and gracious lady. She appears later as a girl sequestered with Giva in the magical sanctuary beneath the Collegium of Cyrada, but very different from Giva’s memories, overpowering one minute and inattentive the next. She turns out to be a member of the old ruling house, a magical prodigy groomed by her family to join the elite Alayr—but she’s losing control of her magic, and the enemies of the Queen have different plans for her.

Rei Andastal (16): a long-standing resident of the Sanctuary and protégée of an off-putting Alayr bureaucrat. Friendly in a more restrained and muted way than the highly-strung Arceptra, Rei is an illusionist like Giva, but highly skilled, able to shield Giva from her magic, and offer advice and reassurance. Rei, a relation by marriage of the Queen, lost her family to the same enemies who intend to make a puppet queen out of Arceptra, and was consequentially placed in the Sanctuary.

Loraya Deylar (28/13): an official ambassador in the delegation, in close association with Arceptra but much less obtrusive. Later/earlier, she’s the last of the girls to arrive in the Sanctuary, fanciful and gentle, but so cripplingly shy and nervous that even Arceptra seems even-tempered next to her. She is a distant relation of Rei’s and looks up to her. Otherwise, she flinches at so much as an acknowledgment of her existence, setting Giva and Arceptra on edge when she isn’t withdrawing into her books.

Rei tells Giva: everyone in the Sanctuary has a secret.