Update: transitions are the worst

20 pages into the transition chapter of doom!

General feeling: ugh.

Probably my favourite passage:

“Was she part of the royal family?”

Arceptra nodded, then shook her head. “A cousin. Distant cousin. But everyone knew of her. She was the favourite of Princess Evadne, and a captain in the war like Aunt Ariana, and … ” She swallowed again.

I almost asked about that, but I found it so easy to believe that Alaia Cordell had been a soldier that I didn’t bother.

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.