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The succeeding chapter, “Visitors,” begins with Ronica receiving Cerwin and Delo Trell, with the former thinking to call on Malta. Ronica sends for Keffria amid the faux pas; her daughter meets her en route. When they greet their guests, Keffria seeks to stifle Cerwin’s interest in Malta with subtlety and tact, Malta’s entrance spoiling the effort to some extent. Keffria presses on for control of the situation, however, handling it adroitly, and Ronica reassesses her grandchildren in the light of the changes she marks in Malta.
She moves on to mull over changes in Bingtown, generally, including the increasing divide between servant and served, spurred by increasing acceptance of slavery in the area. After Keffria, Malta, and her guests depart, Ronica confers with Rache about Malta and what has happened leading up to the day.
Elsewhere, the Vivacia approaches port in Jamailla, and the ship wakes Wintrow to show him the city they approach. The overall geography and some of the history of the city are glossed, and Wintrow finds himself bitter. He and the ship confer about ponerology, and the Vivacia warns him to caution. He is smitten by her, and he cannot place why, though he moves towards philosophical acceptance. The results of the affair with the bear are also noted. And when Wintrow is called away to work, the ship considers what she knows of the city and its lurking foulnesses.
Back in Bingtown, Ronica and Keffria confer. Keffria lays bare that she has ever felt neglected by Ronica in favor of Althea. Ronica accepts the rebuke, as well as Keffria’s insistence upon taking back her authority over her daughter and her inheritance. Ronica does note the arrangement with the Festrews, however, and Malta’s possible liability for paying the family’s debt as soon as she is formally recognized as a woman grown.
I delight, of course, in the opportunity to use the word ponerology (I clearly like words, else I’d not’ve sought and earned three degrees in English). It’s not something I often get, so I take the chance when I can, even if the philosophical motions are not as deft as might be hoped. Then again, there is something to be said about the faith Wintrow follows, and it may also be that there is some more commentary to be made. For Jamaillia is something of a shining city on a hill, one evoking London in being rebuilt in stone after a fire in centuries past, as well as one evoking Rome in being made the center of a theocracy. But the Realm of the Elderlings is far more the New World than the old, and it is hard to ignore in such days as these that, however glimmering the promise of the United States may be, there is an awful lot of corruption and filth at its roots, and hungry serpents nurtured on the lives of the enslaved waiting to take another meal.
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