The next chapter, “The Hatch,” is again preceded by part of an exchange of messages, official and unofficial, and it begins with Thymara taking up a spot alongside her father to observe the dragons hatching from their cocoons. The scene of the hatching, Cassarick, is described in some detail, as are the Elderlings emerging from among the Vestrit and Khuprus families–Selden, Malta, and Reyn.
Even amid the hope, however, sorrow is noted. Recent flooding swept away many of the cocoons, and several of those that remain are of doubtful viability. The hatching begins, and young dragons begin to emerge from their cocoons, eating the memory-laden clay mixture as it sloughs away from them. Tintaglia arrives with food for the young, and they struggle to clear themselves of their cocoons. Some die in the attempt, and Thymara calls her father away from the peril he faces at trying to help–communicating with the newborn dragons as she does so. She and her father–Jerrup–and others confer about the newborns, noting that they are malformed and suggesting arrangements be made to take care of the young creatures. Political and economic entanglements are noted, and the questionable circumstances of Thymara’s own birth are glossed. The hatching continues, with the Tattooed contributing to the feeding efforts, and implications are noted.
A new section pivots to the perspective of one of the new dragons, who examines herself and proclaims her name to be Sintara. Sintara attempts flight and fails at it, assessing and reassessing herself in the light of the failure and the obvious hunger of the other dragons as they feast upon their dead and dying kindred. Challenging another dragon, she pounces awkwardly upon more of the meat Tintaglia brings, sating her hunger and assuring she will live another day.
The present chapter helps to give a sense of the time of the novel relative to the other Realm of the Elderlings novels, taking place as it does before Golden Fool’s “Tidings from Bingtown.” As such, the novel begins some time between the Liveship Traders and Tawny Man trilogies, perhaps as late as the events in Fool’s Errand, but certainly not after the events of Fool’s Fate. It’s not necessarily germane to the present storyline, of course, but it is helpful in understanding the greater narrative context in which the current storyline takes place, and that, in turn, enriches the story with a greater world in which events can occur. It’s not necessarily looking at the bones of Tolkien’s soup, but it is good to know more of what’s in the stew.
The present chapter also again reinforces how inhuman the intelligence of the dragons is, partaking both of ancestral memories (echoing Dune, perhaps?) and the practical animalism that pervades much of the Realm of the Elderlings. (The fatalism of the Rain Wilders seems akin to it, it seems to me, and there is something of the Gæð a wyrd swa hio scel–Fate ever goes as it must [Beo. 455]–therein.) Too, it does more of the explication expected early on in a book and series, introducing more principal characters–whom it will be fun to follow as the rereading proceeds!