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.
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.