SPOILERS for The Sacred Band; here’s the non-spoiler post if you got here by mistake.
So, revisiting the first book:
- “Well, I guess, but it would really have helped if there had been even the tiniest hint in this direction at the time” = the Santoth being Eeeeevil.
- “Yeah, no, that’s a retcon, I see what you did there” = Aliver helping people overcome the wine by visiting them in their minds like he did with the mist—the mist-withdrawal is explicitly a Santoth spell in the first book, not to do with Aliver’s communication at all.
- “I don’t care how authoritatively the narrative asserts this, I will never ever believe it and nothing can make me, so there” = the pure doomed tragic and consolatory love of Corinn and Hanish, a.k.a. the Stockholm Syndrome victim and the man who was fully intending to kill her. GAH.
(Corinn is pivotal and understandable, but I really wish that all her motivations and rewards weren’t based in emotions and fears and intimate relationships rather than ideals or connections with a wider population. Also, I have such a visceral reaction to her being silenced by the Santoth and how much different that is when done to a woman that I can’t actually get into an analytic mode regarding it.)
Things that weren’t as clear as I would have liked: the whole childless-in-Ushen-Brae thing. The Lothan Aklun who Dariel melds with says that they “made [the Auldek] barren with the song”; whether the Numrek became fertile again because they were stripped of their extra souls, they came to the Known World, or they ate human flesh, is really not clear to me (the second and third are offered as explanations, and I don’t think the first ever is; it would make more sense than the other two). I also don’t know if I’m supposed to understand the Auldek to be fertile themselves now; under the first or third, they should be (the second depends on whether just crossing is enough or you have to stay there), but then the way Aliver frames the return of the seven children and the emotional weight given to it feels all wrong (and yet seven children is totally not enough to rebuild a population from). Regardless, I should not be in doubt as to something as pivotal as this.
As for the quota slaves, Anira, the one Dariel has sex with (and let me say: having unprotected sex with someone when you know that they think you are sterile, and you know that you are possibly not, is a really shitty thing to do), says that they can be fertile again by “nothing more . . . than joining with Dariel’s people.” Which sounds great superficially, but when I think about how it might actually play out, my, what a big ol’ squicky can of sexual, social, and political worms you have there.
But then, something about the way these books deal with sex and love is just somehow jarring and incompatible with my sensibilities. I don’t say this as critique but rather description, and it doubtless contributes to my discomfort with, and eye-rolling at, so many, many aspects of the Dariel plotline.
The other supreme executive power issue: does Aliver really not tell the slaves that the Auldek are mortal now? What kind of a choice to stay or go is it, if the ones who go back still think they’re in the Auldek’s power? Why don’t they have the right to know that and make their decisions with that knowledge?
Things that came and went too quickly and easily: the wine; Wren’s poisoning; Delivegu’s redemption and falling in True Love with Rhrenna (I can buy Rialus Neptos, but both of them, and him that quickly?).
Finally, just to end on a less grumpy note: Mena is awesome; empire-breakup is good; I don’t care about the league still being in existence; and even though I hate Corinn/Hanish, the end of Chapter 67 still totally got to me:
Po turned and headed west. Before them stretched nothing at all except moving mountains of water, and the rest of their lives.
I just wish those were enough to carry the whole book for me. When I first put it down, I thought they were, but the other things bugged me more and more as time went on.