Welcome, Once Again, to Elliott RWI

It’s been quite a while since I last updated my landing page, and a fair number of things have changed since then. More details are in my bio, linked below, and something of a table of contents for this webspace appears, well, right down there, too:

So you know what you’re getting…
Image is mine, severally.

I’m happy to take commissions for various kinds of writing and related work. Some more detailed information about the kinds of things I can do is here, but I’m happy to confer with you about your needs via the form below. And I am always happy to accept your generous support.

Proud member of Freelancers Union

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 326: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 11

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

After another missive between bird-keepers in which one–Detozi–complains of earlier rebuke to the other–Erek–“Encounters” begins with Sintara struggling alongside the Rain Wild River, following along with the others with whom she hatched and musing in annoyance at her current status. Her attempts at grooming have been less successful than might be hoped, yet she persists in attending to herself as best she can.

Something of a namesake, even if not something normally visible?
Image is from the Smithsonian, here, used for commentary.

Sintara regards the other dragons with whom she travels and forces a place among them. Soon, the group is distracted by the arrival of their new tenders with meat, and the dragons fall to feasting. As Sintara sates herself, she finds herself addressed by Thymara, who suddenly recognizes the enormity of the task she has undertaken. As other tenders meet with their dragons, Thymara and Sintara confer, the latter haughtily rebuking the former for human presumption, and gaps in knowledge and changes to local geography are discussed.

Continued conversation goes awkwardly, and Sintara finds herself wondering why Thymara is not enchanted by her, searching her faltering ancestral memories for information and parallels. Testing her abilities, Sintara–“Skymaw” to Thymara in the absence of her true name–manages to get some service from her.

Meanwhile, Alise looks on from the deck of the Tarman, Leftrin explaining the arrangements that have led to the current state of affairs. He also comments on the employment of the young to tend the dragons, noting the Rain Wild propensity to kill such children by exposure. Sedric’s acerbic interjections are met with equanimity and more explication, and Alise reflects on the justifications for his aspersion. She considers, too, the effects of exposure to dragons on the people of the Rain Wilds, including Malta and Selden Vestrit, mulling over the connections among humans, Elderlings, and dragons. Her agreement to bring information back to Malta is rehearsed, as well, as is the tour of Cassarick that followed her striking that agreement–in Leftrin’s company.

Arrangements for Alise’s continued travel are made, and Sedric’s objections to the same are noted. So is Alise’s forceful address of those objections, and as the Tarman proceeds, Alise finds herself in unexpected conversation with Sintara.

The present chapter, although well into the book, offers a fair amount of useful explication for the reader. And that makes sense; the Traders books make much of working at length with nonhuman intelligences, and it could hardly be the case that they would be understandable without extended efforts to lay out information overtly. That the dragons are recently returned from a long absence, long enough that records could decay, allows for an authentic setting for that explication, which is to the good.

The present chapter also returns once again to the issue of constraints on women’s behavior among the Traders, something with which the Liveship Traders novels are greatly concerned and which continue to be of no small moment not only in the presumed time of the novel’s composition but also of their ongoing reception. I remain convinced there’s quite a bit of work to do in pulling out an overall idea in this line, but I do still need to do more reading, so…

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 325: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 10

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

Following an exchange of messages in which one bird-keeper rebukes two others for carrying on private correspondence at public expense, “Cassarick” begins with the Tarman pulling into the docks of that city after nightfall. Leftrin advises Alise and Sedric to remain aboard until morning, and, overruling Sedric’s objections, Alise agrees. She muses over Leftrin’s treatment of her and Sedric’s annoyance thereat, considering the prospect of being found attractive.

Yep, this again.
Source remains the same as last time; it’s noted in the text, thanks.

Alise reflects on information Leftrin gives her about the state of the dragons at Cassarick and the proposal to help them move upriver, noting some misgivings about his disclosure but relishing the experience of the upstream journey. Sedric’s attitude is quite contrary thereto, voices with some emphasis to her amid his imprecations of Leftrin, and Alise works to soothe him somewhat as she retires to her cabin.

Elsewhere, Sintara wakes, thinking of Kelsingra again and musing over the dragons’ manipulation of the humans of Cassarick to aid them in journeying thereto. Malta’s involvement in the discussion and negotiation of the effort is noted, as well, as she knows that the local Traders intend and that it will likely work to the dragons’ detriment. Sintara muses once again on what she should have been and is not, determining to travel onwards despite the known futility of doing so.

Alise wakes the next morning as Leftrin calls at his cabin, noting that the local Traders are hastening their arrangements and have summoned him as part of it. She determines to accompany him and dresses to that end, and as they proceed after breakfast, Leftrin extolls the Tarman to her, and Alise marvels at their surroundings. She also notes the appearances of those among whom she moves, marked by the Rain Wilds to varying extents.

Alise and Leftrin arrive at the Traders’ meeting, where Malta continues to wrangle against the local government’s machinations regarding the dragons. The local Traders inform Leftrin that they seek to hire him to assist the relocation effort, and Leftrin immediately begins to find terms and conditions, to bargain for best effect. Alise, having been present when the initial arrangement between the dragons and Traders had been made, speaks up, and, at Malta’s prompting, gives something of a lecture on the topic at hand. Her discourse confirms the existence of Kelsingra for the local Traders, and she volunteers to accompany the relocation efforts–though she is aware of hindering machinations as she does so. Leftrin and Malta both affirm the suggestion.

This is not the first time I’ve been put in mind of romance novels by Hobb’s writing, and I do not know that it will be the last. But the present chapter certainly is a time I’ve been put in mind of what my late grandmother read (and abundantly!), and some of the other work I do–I’m available for hire!–reminds me that I ought not to fall into the trap of genre snobbery. It’s clear that such writing meets needs, somebody’s needs; it wouldn’t keep happening if it didn’t. Too, I like to feel appreciated, to feel like I’m important and desirable for a number of things, and it’s nice to see that presented. So let the romance novel be! That it’s there doesn’t mean the rest of it isn’t, and back when I had students, one of the lessons I tried to impart to them was that the ability to sustain multiple discourses is one of the marks of artistic success…

I could really use your help right now!

Finding Poetry

I have always marveled at
Those who look at the world around them and
Find words to fix in verse therein

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Pexels.com

The words do not come to me so easily as that
I must instead search for them
And that is all the harder to do when I must
Sit here for hours and days and weeks
One window that looks out onto the world to hand
And that with blinds drawn against the summer heat

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 324: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 9

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

After another reported exchange of messengers, in which arrangements to relocate the young dragons are noted, “Journey” begins with Leftrin watching in some annoyance as passengers and their luggage approach the Tarman. He mulls over the dealings with Brashen Trell that have brought about the disruption to his schedule, and he views his incoming passengers with some disdain.

Something like this attracts Leftrin’s attention, I think…
Image is Dighton’s 1805 caricature of Beau Brummel, sourced here, which I believe is public domain and I know is used for commentary.

Leftrin welcomes his passengers aboard, greeting Alise with some grace and Sedric with some aspersion as the latter dithers and complains. He is somewhat taken by Alise’s appearance, finding her attractive, and sees to their billeting; Alise gets his cabin, while Leftrin and Sedric get bunks with the crew.

The Tarman sets out, and Sedric muses upon the indignities of travel aboard the old liveship as he assesses the crew and his condition. His mind turns to the comforts of his home and his earlier rejection of work aboard ship. His tension with his father about gainful employment are noted, as are his mother’s warnings about Hest’s mercurial disposition. Sedric finds himself contemplating the same as he reflects on the arrangements he was obliged to make for Hest’s travel with other friends. And his thoughts turn to his own ambitions as he tends toward sleep.

Elsewhere, Thymara sits amid her companions in the dragon-relocation effort, conferring with Tats and others. One of those others, Greft, makes himself prominent amid the effort’s outfitting, and Thymara marvels at being among a group marked as she is. The members of the group are described in gloss, and Greft lays out a harsh philosophy that occasions objections from Tats. Greft seizes on the objection to isolate Tats from the others and assume a leadership role, which Thymara notices with some concern. That concern is not eased by the implications with which Greft leaves her staring at the fire near which she sits.

I find myself noting Hobb’s reflections on social classes among the Traders. Tolkienian-tradition fantasy literature, in which Hobb avowedly participates, tend to present solidly stratified societies, with nobles at various ranks and an amorphous peasantry in service thereto. In Tolkien, both Gondor and Rohan follow the model, as do the various Elven realms, and in Hobb’s own Six Duchies, there is a clear hierarchy in place. Even where the model does not wholly obtain–which includes Tolkien’s own corpus, as witness the Shire–there is a clear division based on birth. And so much seems to be the case, at least partially, among the Traders, where Trading families have outright power (although somewhat relatively lessened after a quiet revolution, secession, and reorganization)–and are as concerned with financial standings and “proper” behaviors as Tolkien’s hobbits tend to be with “respectability.”

There’s something of a parallel in my own experience; I’ve known a lot of people who are greatly concerned with keeping up appearances, which appearances emerge from the need to indicate having money. I’m not immune to it, either; I’m a product of my upbringing and the contexts in which it occurred, and I am necessarily influenced by those around me. Recognizing my own complicity, I am perhaps more apt to see it in others’ works, but even if it bespeaks some bias on my part, there is something in the books to uncover.

Send something to help offset my daughter’s school expenses?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 323: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 8

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

The succeeding chapter, “Interviews,” follows another message-exchange, opening with Thymara sitting before a number of Rain Wild Traders and musing over her ill fit among them as she faces their pointed questioning. She asks pointed questions about the prospective work in return, receiving evasive answers and recognizing that the work amounts to exile for the dragons and for those who “hire on” to tend them. She agrees to the work anyway, and she is dismissed.

After signing on with the relocation effort, Thymara greets her father, who commends her to the work, and Tats, and others begin to join them. One, Rapskal, introduces himself, and Tats notes that he has also signed onto the effort. Thymara’s father offers her another chance to withdraw, which she refuses, having signed a contract. Thymara’s father affirms his support of her and takes his leave, and Thymara and Tats go to get supplied for their work. The supplies are detailed, and more introductions are made as the group being sent for the relocation effort begins to coalesce.

Elsewhere, Leftrin notes some misgivings about the Tarman, conferring with Swarge about it. The dreams they and the crew have been having are noted.

On the Rain Wild River, Sedric and Alise stand aboard the Paragon, their circumstances rehearsed. Alise notes Hest’s haste in seeing them off and setting about his own affairs, and the ongoing ill-regard for the Paragon receives comment. Alise muses on the dragons’ deaths that enabled the liveships, and Clef delivers the ship’s request for her to come forward and confer. After an exchange between Clef and Sedric, Alise accepts the request and makes her way forward, joining the figurehead in conversation that soon goes strangely and prompts Althea and Brashen to intervene and take her aside. In their cabin, they report to Alise–and Sedric, accompanying her–that the dragons she hopes to see are not, but are the hindered creatures that they are. They note, too, the changes affecting those in prolonged close contact with the dragons, including Selden, Malta, and Reyn, and they speak to the situation at Cassarick. An offer of transport back to Bingtown is made, and Sedric unexpectedly presses for the trip to Cassarick to happen, anyway, despite all the problems in place there.

O! The exploitative labor practices!

I don’t think I need to comment much on the “employment” Thymara and the others take, except perhaps to say that there is a lot of early US history at work in the depiction. Children working in coal mines comes to mind. Sweatshops do, too.

I note with more interest Paragon‘s philosophical notes about his existence as a liveship and the determination to move ahead as he is rather than lament–or attempt to avenge–what he might have been. There is no paying for the predations of the past for him–for his kind. It is something of a Stoic perspective, one not discordant with the fatalism the ship evidences in the Liveship Traders trilogy, but I cannot help but wonder if there is some parallel to be found and explicated…I’d not be surprised to find one, intentional or otherwise (and intent matters far, far less than effect, as is amply and repeatedly attested).

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 322: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 7

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

The following chapter, “Promises and Threats,” is preceded by another part of the message-exchange in which a sealed message is accompanied by further developments of romance among the bird-keepers’ families. The chapter, proper, opens with Alise insisting on taking her promised trip to the Rain Wilds, Hest demurring and attempting to defer it. She rehearses the state of their marriage and recalls interactions with Sedric, noting to herself that the latter is an excellent companion for her husband and remarkably helpful in many situations.

Not quite what’s meant, admittedly…
Cs california’s photo from Wikipedia, under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license, used for commentary.

Conversation with Hest grows tense, and he shifts his tone with and approach to Alise. She has misgivings but sets them aside–by asserting that she has made arrangements for the trip. At his questioning, Alise tells Hest that she will find an appropriate traveling companion, that he need not bestir himself, prompting another tense exchange, and the painful topic of their assignations and not having yet produced an heir prompts yet another. Angrily, Hest agrees to her trip, and Alise begins preparations in earnest.

Afterward, Hest confers with Sedric, the latter recalling trips with him. Hest jests with Sedric, complaining of the lack of an heir despite his reluctance to assist in the conception of one. He also offers insults, to which Sedric responds quietly, noting his distaste for their pretense. Hest responds acidly, focused on money, and Sedric suggests that they might use Alise’s trip to harvest dragon parts–blood, scales, and others–to sell to the Duke of Chalced, who, aging, casts about for any remedy. In dudgeon, Hest assigns Sedric to accompany Alise, to his chagrin.

Rereading the chapter, knowing what will come, I have to wonder to what degree Hobb is relying on stereotypes in her depiction of Hest. Of course, it may be that the perspective from which I read is not the one that would normally be expected–I’m often an atypical reader for what I end up reading–and so I am more apt to look for such things than many. It’s certainly true in other areas in my life, that I look for things others usually don’t, and I focus on them, often to my detriment. How looking at the book for possible stereotypy works against me here, I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it does.

In any event, it’s of some interest how the conflicts emerging in the novel are shaping up. I shall continue to follow them (again) with happiness!

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 321: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 6

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

The next chapter, “Thymara’s Decision,” follows more of the message-exchange between Bingtown and Trehaug, in which plans for Selden are discussed and in which one bird-keeper writes in support of the other’s nephew’s romantic pursuits. The chapter opens with Thymara returning home to news that “an offer” has been made for her, surprising her for reasons that are noted. Thymara’s mother notes that the offer is not one of marriage, which would be surprising, but of employment by the local government.

The decider in question.
ThereseoftheNorth’s Thymara2 on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Thymara considers the implications of the offer and the context in which it is offered as her mother relates more details about it. Her father speaks against the offer, noting that Thymara already has a trade and that her parents will need her help as they get older. Upset is occasioned thereby, and Thymara finds herself curious about the offer and more detail not forthcoming.

Ill contented, Thymara reflects on her limited experience of dragons and the efforts of the Traders to see to the creatures that had hatched at Cassarick. She also notes the mating of Tintaglia and Icefyre, assisted by “Some prince of the far Six Duchies” and the concomitant imminent return of dragons in abundance. The economic implications of the continued presence of dragons at Cassarick is also noted, and Thymara heads out to be alone for a time.

Thymara is soon joined by Tats, one of the Tattooed, who is described along with his personal situation and that of his people. The two confer, Thymara openly disclosing the practice among the Rain Wild Traders of abandoning children born with too much physical deviation to the elements to die by exposure or being eaten by one predator or another. Thymara also notes her mother’s reticence, and Tats remarks that he knows about the offer of work, having heard the same thing her mother had. The offer–from the local Traders’ Council–is for workers to help tend to the dragons at Cassarick and facilitate their relocation, by hunting and by other means. And it is directed at those deemed expendable.

Thymara is summoned home by her mother, answering the summons reluctantly, her housing situation described as she goes. She notes her family’s situation to Tats, reflecting on her relative penury and the loss of funds and access. Moving faster at her mother’s insistence, Thymara surprises Tats with her agility, and the two agree to meet the next day.

When she reaches her mother, Thymara is bawled out for her delay in answering and for speaking at length with Tats in public. She goes back out after the dressing-down, though, and considers falling through the trees, recalling an early incident in which she had fallen from the trees, nearly but not quite to her death. Her father’s approach breaks her reverie, and he explicates the job offer to her again, as well as the politics surrounding it. Thymara surprises him by avowing her desire to join the work, and, if reluctantly, her father accedes.

It’s a long chapter, the present one, and another of a number of chapters in the Elderlings novels that I find it difficult not to read against events current to the reading rather than to the composition. (I am aware of the difference, yes, thank you. I suppose I might see about presenting some updated version of my old lecture notes on the topic…) The job being presented, and which Thymara accepts, is what would be considered a “bad” one, and one that needs doing as much to sate the greed of the already-wealthy as to ensure domestic stability–but even that is problematic, for reasons that should be clear not only from the broader context already established for the Traders’ society, but also from the content of the current chapter. Although, as I think on it, the reproductive rights issue that is hinted at in the chapter is…fraught within the text and its contexts, not only as I read the chapter again, but also as the text presumably was drafted…

There’s a lot to think on, and that’s a good thing. Right?

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 320: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 5

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

Content warning: sexual assault

A chapter titled “Blackmail and Lies” follows, opening after a series of missives between bird-messengers that trace economic developments and betray some reactionary attitudes on the parts of the bird-keepers. Leftirn receives cargo from a Chalcedean ship at the mouth of the Rain Wild River and rehearses his situation.

Having the lay of the land helps…
Winterkeep’s Rain Wild River Map on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Leftrin and the Chalcedean merchant dicker, the latter trying to trade for wizardwood or other dragon-parts and rebuffed in that line by Leftrin. The two withdraw to Leftrin’s cabin to negotiate fuller terms, and the Chalcedean, Sinad of the Arich lineage, tries to secure exclusive trade arrangements and to gather Elderling goods. Sinad also tries to bargian for passage up the river, having papers permitting his passage, and Leftrin frets about how his alterations to the Tarman have become known. Sinad lays out his situation: the ruler of Chalced seeks a cure for his age and infirmity, and the families of Chalcedean traders are held as collateral against their pursuit thereof, so Sinad holds coin and the maintenance of Leftrin’s secrets as collateral against his upriver travel.

In Bingtown, Alise waits at table to confront Hest, their strained marriage rehearsed after he violates her. She rehearses her evidence of his infidelity and challenges Hest with it when he arrives, only to have him explain away all the evidence, confirmed by Sedric. Ashamed, Alise apologizes for her presumption and withdraws.

Elsewhere, Sintara dreams of flight as she struggles in the mud of the swamps along the Rain Wild River and reviews her generations memories against her current situation. She and the other dragons are maintained, but not well, and not as they think befits them. They confer with one another, their diminished numbers and stature detailed, including predations of humans upon them when they attempt to leave. Tensions between humans and dragons regarding the disposal of the dead are noted, and the dragons take it into their minds to travel to Kelsingra, though the challenges are noted and the purpose contested. Tintaglia’s absence is noted, as is her having found a mate–and dismissal of the dragons at Cassarick–and plans to enlist human aid in reaching Kelsingra begin to be floated.

Sintara considers the plan and the loss of what she and the other dragons had thought would be theirs. The idea of going to Kelsingra grows on her, becoming increasingly attractive, and she joins the call to journey thence.

I find myself struck by the rapid succession of missives preceding the chapter, proper. It is an interesting explicatory device, allowing for indication of the passage of time without much vexation, as well as revealing character without being overly intrusive. Even if some of what is shown is unpleasant–and the unpleasantness helps reinforce the verisimilitude of the setting–it helps the world to seem more real, which is to the good for fantasy fiction.

The unpleasantness is unfortunately repeated and intensified in the chapter, itself, although the commonalities between Sintara and Alise may well be noted. Their stories seem to run parallel, and there appears to be no small amount of foreshadowing going on amid the upset. (Even from the vantage of rereading, it’s not entirely clear to me how much is going on at this point. It has been a while since I cracked the Rain Wilds books, after all.) I find myself interested in what will come, as might be expected, even if I don’t know that I want to do quite so heavy a reading as seems to be coming. But then, Hobb is Hobb; I know better than to expect an easy time for her characters…

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 319: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 4

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

The succeeding chapter, “Vows,” features another instance of message-exchange before turning to the preparations for Alise’s wedding. The nature of such events in Bingtown is glossed, and Alise considers her looming entry into sexual activity as she mulls over her changing, seemingly improving, situation.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees this…

Elsewhere, aboard Tarman, Leftrin confers with one of his crew, Swarge, mulling over the changes he has effected to the ship and crew. Leftrin tries to persuade Swarge into a lifetime exclusive commitment to the Tarman, meeting unexpected resistance–due to Swarge’s romantic entanglements.

In Bingtown, Alise is conducted to the restored Traders’ Concourse for her marriage ceremony, which is somewhat delayed, but which proceeds in detail. although Hest begins to rush through his portions of the recitation and agreement. At length, the ceremony is concluded.

Leftrin and Swarge confer about the latter’s romance with Bellin and his prospects with her. Leftrin hurriedly calculates and offers to take Bellin onto his crew, with the same terms as the rest. Swarge affirms his agreement.

Alise attend to preparations for her wedding night in the wake of the ceremony, assisted by Sedric’s sister. Hest is long in coming to her, however, and their consummation is hesitant and unsatisfactory, and Alise is left to consider her new situation as Hest falls asleep, resigning herself to her new status. And in the coming days, she begins to settle into a new life, securing her library for herself, at least.

It seems to be the case that Hobb is very much going to follow up on the feminist discourse of the Liveship Traders novels in the Rain Wilds Chronicles, using Bingtown as a means to comment on the prevailing society of the United States. Whether intentionally or otherwise, the current chapter moves into such commentary and critique, Bingtown already long established as parallel to the United States and tracing of shifting attitudes toward femininity at work in the novels set therein. I know that many will complain of such things, especially as I write and have to hear complaints about “woke” art that was always political to some degree, as if art is not made by people who are enmeshed in political systems by sheer dint of existing and having been raised, having grown up, having lived, as if art does not necessarily reflect the artist in some ways–the artist has to have the art within them–and will therefore respond to the circumstances of its composition. But while it is the case that political messaging can overwhelm a work, it is also the case that such messaging can contribute to a work’s artistic effect; it has long been understood that the effect of fiction relies in large part on the willingness of audiences to go along with the story being told (see, for example, Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria), and readers of fantasy, particularly, will do well to keep in mind Tolkien’s comments on secondary sub-creation in “On Fairy-stories.”

“Write what you know” is long-standing advice for good reason. And what too many know is far from pleasant.

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 318: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 3

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

The following chapter, “An Advantageous Offer,” starts after another exchange of formal and informal missives between bird-messengers. Alise is summoned by her mother to answer the call of her lone suitor, Hest Finbok; she reluctantly complies, musing over the contrast between her desire for adventure and exploration and the sedate circumstances to which she is confined. The current situation of Bingtown, still rebuilding after the conflict with Chalced and the realignment of relations with Jamaillia, is glossed, as is the dashing of Alise’s dream to observe the emergence of a new generation of dragons in Cassarick.

The adventurer in question…
vvrgo’s Alise Kincarron on Realm of the Elderlings, used for commentary.

Alise works to accommodate herself to her situation, which she acknowledges exceeds her social station, and rehearses her various hobbies and skills–including amassing a substantial store of knowledge regarding dragons and Elderlings. She also glosses her suitor, noting his elevated social status and excellent deportment–and considering with some confusion his interest in her, expressed through the usual social channels. Joining Hest, she considers his lack of amorous attention amid his courtship, and the two begin to confer somewhat awkwardly. Alise’s disappointments are voiced, and Hest apologizes for his part in contributing to them, offering in some atonement a recently uncovered scroll from Elderling holdings.

Talk continues, Hest making a formal proposal of marriage to Alise, albeit one openly and avowedly of convenience and social necessity. Alise acknowledges the truth of the proposed arrangement bluntly–“You would buy me, in the hopes of a simpler life for yourself. You would buy me, with scrolls and time for scholarship”–and accepts it.

Hest leaves the Kincarron residence, where he is greeted by his servant, Sedric Medlar, with whom he confers about his imminent engagement and the economic prospects associated therewith. Sedric notes some misgivings, having been Alise’s friend for many years, but Hest laughs off his concerns and exults in his victory.

I note here, as I perhaps ought to have earlier, the dating systems in place, as evidenced by the missives that precede the chapters. It makes sense, of course, that official correspondence would note its dating, particularly among the contract-happy Traders; timing bears in on payment and delivery, and it is clear from early on in depictions of the Traders that they care about such things. But including such information also opens a writer to problems of chronology–namely, getting things wrong. Given how much many of us get dates mixed up in daily life, it can only be imagined that a writer working in a fictional world would get some things off, as well. It is the kind of thing that attracts unfavorable readerly attention, as has been demonstrated (for example). But, handled well, it not only adds authentic verisimilitude to the work, which is desirable, but helps orient the reader to the ways in which the narrative is interleaved and interlaced. And that’s a good thing.

I note, too, the evidence of continuity with the Liveship Traders books, not only in the explicit reference to events within them, but also to the broader social currents that had been at work within them–namely the restrictions on feminine behavior that had chafed at Althea and been so much a source of tension surrounding Keffria’s late husband. That Alise is constrained to marry well for her fortunes, rather than to pursue her honest interests, shows that the burgeoning problems that had been growing up–that had been something of a dominant thread of consideration in the Liveship Traders novels–are not yet resolved as the Rain Wilds Chronicles get underway. There’s more for Hobb to do, it seems…and I look forward to reading it again!

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!