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KoA Section Two (Chapters 6-10)

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Apr. 2nd, 2017 | 07:09 am
mood: very curious about the oracle, apparently
posted by: agh_4 in sounis

Welcome to April, the month before the month of Thick as Thieves! This week, we’re reading from “The stool hit the wall with a satisfying crash” to “Costis returned to his room, freed himself of belt and breastplate, and fell, otherwise fully dressed, onto his bed.” As always, these discussions are spoiler free for “The Wine Shop,”The Knife Dance,” and the Thick as Thieves arc, but we WILL probably discuss content from all four published books. Page numbers are from the 2006 paperback.

The discussion for the first five chapters is here. Next week, led by ibmiller , we will finish the book!

What could possibly happen in a five-chapter chunk that begins and ends in Costis’s room? EVERYTHING.

In Chapter Six, Costis expresses his frustration at himself and at people who know more than he does, and, though Aris disagrees, he decides to tell Gen about Sejanus and Susa. Ornon worries. Gen visits the Oracle, receives only his signature, and returns furious and miserable to his room, where Costis tells him about the queen and Susa, but not Sejanus, and is dismissed. He realizes why Gen has been looking out the window.

  • “By all accounts, the last time Eugenides had addressed the Great Goddess, she’d answered by smashing windows all over the palace” (138). This is an odd (to me) reminder that such a weighty personal moment is also open to public speculation. Do the Attolians (other than Costis) realize that this is the gods responding, or are they hampered by disbelief, hostility towards Gen, and/or something similar to the way the impression left by Hamiathes’ Gift fades for those who haven’t worn it? The tension between what is and what seems to be is … really, really vital to these books. Here, it’s a quick example of how absurd the Attolians' underestimation of Gen is. The dude has a personal and dramatic relationship with his gods; surely that must indicate something? “You think to come between me and the Great Goddess?” (140)  :o

  • Does this scene work as a parallel of the “stop whining” scene in QoA? Besides the literal messages from the gods (delivered through Moira and the Oracle), this: “Without a word, he stalked from the doorway … and leapt across a construction ditch to firm ground without looking back. His guard and his attendants hastily followed. … Eugenides never slowed and he never looked back” (140-1) reminds me of the way he flees from the library to the temple after being shown the hooks and false hands (QoA 75-6). Both flights are prompted by confrontation with something he doesn’t want to accept or deal with (all the baggage of the loss of his hand and … being king). One is to a temple, one is from, and now his options for escape and privacy are even more limited.

  • A comprehension question that I’ve never quite been able to answer: Why does Susa (and therefore Erondites, I suppose) care that Gen looks out the window?

Chapter Seven is extraordinarily eventful. It starts with Costis and Aris again, who drown their sorrows and celebrate, respectively, as well as discuss their monarchs’ marriage and whether Attolia has “one womanly bone in her body” (149). Attolia wishes her husband and Teleus got along better while Gen wishes Teleus weren’t an idiot, and we get our first glimpse of Eddis and the magus, who discuss the bridge plan. Sejanus reports to his father in the conspiracy room ;) … where someone is listening. We hear of and then meet Heiro. Costis abruptly transitions from deciding whether to sit in the shade or the sun to RESPONDING TO THE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT and learns that his king, in fact, could probably hold his own against a toddler with a toasting fork. Costis considers his promise to Philia, helps the king on the stairs, and looks into his eyes, before shoving a baron and finding himself at surprising proximity to a rather iconic kiss.

  • I’m going to go ahead and quote from tearoha and pigrescuer’s segment of the 2010 readalong, because it pops up in my head every time I read the scene in the garden: “As he runs towards the king in the maze, Costis prays that he won't be too late. The very next sentence (p162) begins like this: Blood on the flowers, blood on the green grass, blood blossoming like a rose in the still waters of a fountain. [Dramatic pause] In his mind Costis saw it all. And then, just a couple of pages later, Costis is numb, staring at blood spreading through a fountain from a body floating there. NOT ONCE BUT TWICE does MWT make us think that Gen is dead, TWICE. I'm sure i'm not the only reader who had to put the book down for a little hyperventilation there, especially as MWT's proven she's willing to do horrible things to characters. Is this a nasty authorial trick to play on us? Or is it a brilliant piece of obfuscation, using pre-conceptions and expectations to blindside readers? I'm leaning towards both.”

  • As Costis becomes aware of his loyalty to Eugenides, he clearly becomes more comfortable talking to him, which, on their walk back to the palace, essentially means that he responds to Gen's provocation, whining, and animal noises with wit and, well, rudeness. For Costis, the loyalty is perhaps in spite of that aspect of the king's personality, but, of course, all the relationships that are important to Gen all have this element of playful engagement with his ridiculousness (??) (except, perhaps, Relius?). I've never really questioned it, because that's just who he is, but it must be one of the reasons that the need to be "a proper king" is so constricting. He needs to cultivate loyalty and respect in a new way, and he needs to do it with everyone.

  • Related example: “Thinking that surely someone else would escort the king that far, Costis was eyeing the first set of steps ahead of him.” (175) Even after all their bonding, Costis is quite ready to be finished dealing with wounded and annoying Gen..

  • What is it about stairs? Great things happen there, eh?

Chapter Eight is much more contained. Essentially everyone gathers in the king’s bedroom, where it becomes apparent how serious he has been hurt. Costis questions the motivations of stoic men. Gen amps up his complaining until Ornon convinces him to shut up, which, and Irene faints. Costis catches her and contemplates the fact that she is a person, Ornon is quite aggressive, and Petrus makes a second attempt at his stitches.

  • These chapters (and ... the whole book. The first three books??) are structured around revelations about Gen, but here, especially, it is clear that Attolia's role and the perception of it are changing as well and tied to the king's. As someone who has maintained tight control over her kingdom and identity, what must it be like to react in ways she can't control (faint)? In later scenes from Costis's point of view, she doesn't seem phased, and maybe this discussion would fit better into next week's section (see: night chats with Relius),

  • "Eugenides glanced at the hook on his arm and conceded the point. 'Yes,' he said. He seemed lost in a memory.” (186) "Lost in a memory" sounds so fond and wistful, but this must be refering to the main time Irene has seen him in/caused him to be in pain. Is it meant to sound wistful? Those two certainly have an understanding about allusions to how she cut off his hand -- when she makes jokes, they are threats, and he finds them hilarious! -- but, to me, his experience of the loss post-conversation-with-the-mystery-goddess seems to be a mix of lighthearted acknowledgments and permanent trauma. I'm not sure where wistfulness fits in.

Chapter Nine: For once, Gen is the one being woken up in the middle of the night – by Costis, who hopes to prevent the execution of Teleus, Aris, and Aris’s squad. Teleus resists the king’s help but eventually recites the invocation of Hephestia to Attolia, with the intended outcome and inevitable terrifying rage. While Costis flees and hunkers down in his room, the queen storms over to Her Lord Attolis, they fight, and she hits him. The attendants and guards, who assume the rift will continue, speculate about their rulers’ relationship, and Costis creates an awkward moment by asserting his unconditional loyalty to the queen. Costis is then ordered back to the king’s apartment, where Gen meets with Ornon, Dite, and Heiro.

  • "The room darkened as a sudden morning draft swept through the open windows near the ceiling and blew through the chandeliers, guttering their flames. In the flickering light, the queen seemed to swell with rage, seemed to burn with it like a flame, simultaneously motionless and ceaselessly moving. The fabric of her robe wrinkled across her knees very slightly as the hands holding it clenched into fists. Costis drew a breath, sucking at air that seemed too solid to inhale.” (193-4) The veil is thin for everyone in the throne room right now! Attolia resembles Hephestia (as described in The Thief) in more than just costume, and the solid air is straight from the moments leading up to the hand chop (QoA 31), which we know the gods arranged. How do we look at the gods' presence here; what stake do they have in this decision? The words are an invocation, a vivid callback to an event for which they are responsible and delivered to someone who emulates Hephestia... Is it more than that, though? Do the gods care about circumstances on the level of Relius and Teleus? It’s established later that their pardon is extremely important to Irene as a person, which I suppose ends up benefitting her country and, eventually, Eddis and Sounis. I find this scene so vivid and effective, but I guess I want to know the secrets behind the ~stage direction~

  • “The Great Goddess of Eddis is not known for her mercy” (194). Is "mercy" the word Gen gave Costis, or did it get fudged somewhere along the way? Does this (deliberate???) (mis)translation map onto the mercy Gen prayed for in prison and the ruthless love he received? Are mercy and ere necessarily opposed to each other? What about ere and justice? All this a chapter since the mention of Philia, in a series with a character named Agape...

  • Onus Savonus Sophos At Ere -- it's the first time we get the full invocation and clearly a deliberate Sophos cameo. TFW your name reminds your friends of really terrible memories

  • "Maybe his part in the play enacted in the throne room would be overlooked in the moment and forgotten in the future" (196). It is, though, isn't it? Maybe because so much happens in the next chapter, maybe because Irene comes around to Gen's decision to unmake hers.

Chapter Ten is another massive one, stuffed with plot developments and extremely memorable moments, such as Costis shooting off the lock on the king’s door when he hears him screaming. After the queen shows up and sits down (like a heron) to acknowledge that her husband’s nightmares are embarrassing, Costis commits to protecting their privacy at gunpoint, if necessary, but he ends up guarding an empty room until Phresine brings him to the queen’s apartment. Attolia orders Costis to watch the king, who sleeps until another nightmare comes. Costis gets the opportunity to be embarrassed, himself, then gets to watch a very eventful series of audiences between Gen (in Irene’s nightshirt) and people who may have put the quinalums in the lethium but didn’t. The king chagrins and horrifies his attendants, topples the house of Erondites, and breaks to his wife the news that Dite was in love with her. Then, he visits and pardons Relius and gets in a shouting match with Teleus, before getting some alone time on top of the Comemnus tower. Meanwhile, our exhausted Costis finally gets to go to bed!

  • "Just bad dreams" (QoA 179) vs "Just a nightmare" (KoA 206) -- This has surely been discussed before, but it's so fascinating and devastating to compare Gen's second nightmare here with the first time he had it in QoA -- his hurt and alienation at the Eddisian court's jokey reaction to Attolia's relayed threat, then, with the utter sweetness of Attolia's response, now, and their "unassailable companionship." Each time I read either of those scenes, I go through a slightly different mix of emotions. Such a good connection between books!

  • When, in 40 years, we receive confirmation that The Thief was about the evils of television, can we also get a run-down of what Attolia says to the king's attendants before she makes him deal with them? That is a bonus feature/fly on the wall situation I would appreciate. :)

  • Even bearing in mind that he has yet to be literally in the presence of a god (next week!), Costis's description of Eugenides as a god revealed is pretty effective ... it's vindicating if you've been waiting for him to show that he's not a fool and tragic if you feel like reminding yourself that he really does not want to be king.

  • So, after surviving an assassination attempt and getting in a very loaded fight with the most important person in his life, Gen still managed to seize the opportunity to plant the quinalums and accomplish his raze-the-house-of-Erondites-and-salt-its-earth goal? And he had Dite's purse and letter of introduction ready in Attolia's bedside table? Sheesh.

  • "imprisoned for life a man I would have preferred to execute" (242) -- I have always had trouble taking this literally, but Gen does seem earnest about his motivations when he's explaining to Dite why Sejanus will live. We know why Sejanus wants Gen dead, but why does Gen want Sejanus dead? (Not that there's any shortage of reasons for him to hate Sejanus...)

  • The prison scene is probably the grimmest in the book and so well-written. I don't think I can do it justice with any real questions or observations, but I did notice how the mood shifts/erupts with Teleus and Gen's fight (placed after two very direct paragraphs about each of their contexts) to lighten slightly by releasing some of the tension, only for it to crash down again and then soften with Gen's last words to Relius as well as the way Teleus and the guards carry him to the infirmary. (If that makes sense.) Has the way you read this scene changed over the years?

Favorite "lines"
I decided I wasn't even going to try to make a section for this, because there are so many good lines, so many moments that are what I think of when I think of KoA. But, as I went on and took way too long to write this post, my restraint eroded and I saw that I've gotta mention just a few...

  • Costis on the stairs: "It wasn't what the king saw that was important, it was what he couldn't see when he sat at the window with his face turned towards Eddis." (144) This moment is so beautiful. Is it weird to plug someone's relevant art?

  • "Yet you prefer his mercy to my justice," "Open the doors!" and "I would see My Lord Attolis." They aren't my absolute favorites (too terrified of enraged Irene to claim that), but I have never successfully gotten through these lines without dramatically saying them to myself, with volume dependent on how many people are around.

  • "I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT!" (250) Of course.

  • "He wished the floor could open and swallow him, the floorboards split apart and he and the upholstered chair and the small three-legged table all be sucked down out of sight. Assuming, of course, that it could happen without a sound, and without drawing the attention of the king or queen." (218-9) This ... starts with a fairly common sentiment/expression, then gets more and more detailed only to bump up against the limits of reality. It's hilarious to picture and to read. How do you make a heartwarming moment between Gen and Irene even better? Add commentary from an uncomfortably-close Costis! Wait, are you saying that happens more than once?!

  • "The king paused as if admiring it, then went up the decorative brickwork as if it were a staircase and disappeared over the edge of the roof." (254)

  • I would also like to express my enjoyment of all scenes of Costis springing into action, Teleus falling in the pool, and every conversation Gen has with Attolia and/or Costis. Special accolade for Attolia after Sejanus and Dite's visits -- she seems so relaxed and happy! I feel like Relius in the infirmary, privileged to see her smile...

This section gives us Costis’s progression from “I don’t care if he gets poisoned as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with me” to (at Aris’s disbelief, 135) “If he choked on a bone and died, I wouldn’t care” to “Costis’s heart twisted sympathetically. He sternly reprimanded that weak and traitorous organ” (142) to “I hate him” (145) to his prayer to Philia (160). I love the image of him “[smiling] back at the king” with relief, just before the assassins attack. There’s just so much warmth, even if it only lasts for a moment. Then, of course, there’s “Costis knew he would march into hell for this fathomless king, as he would for his queen” (168), and their fantastic conversation on the walk back to the palace. The discoveries continue, of course -- can we divide them into several mini-arcs? Loyalty to king, understanding of king's abilities, understanding of king and queen's relationship (to a point), understanding of king's presentation of himself...?

Anyway, thanks for your patience while I got the second half of this post up. I know there's A LOT in this section that I didn't touch on, so please feel free to take the discussion in some other direction -- I definitely went for an all-over-the-place approach to fit in everything I wanted to mention.

----------------------
I'd like to take a moment in this post to acknowledge and remember philia_fan, whose username came from Chapter Eight. Philia meant a lot to many of us here, and it was very sad to lose her when she passed away five years ago. Her insight shaped my readings of these books as much as her thoughtfulness shaped my experience of this community. So, so, so, shoutout to Philia. <3

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Comments {27}

freenarnian

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from: freenarnian
date: Apr. 2nd, 2017 11:18 pm (UTC)
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Lovely tribute... I was just thinking about Philia_fan as I reread this section. My time on Sounis overlapped with hers briefly, but she was always kind and so very insightful. Like you said, she helped shape so much of my understanding of the books. <3

I've gotta get dinner in the oven. More thoughts to come!

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agh_4

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from: agh_4
date: Apr. 4th, 2017 01:02 pm (UTC)
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Yes, Lady Jane thought that this would be a good week for a small tribute. <3 And, yes, the in-text Philia has definitely become, to me, a reference to and reminder of the one we knew ... no matter who was actually named after whom, that's how it will be.

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an_english_girl

Why does Baron Susa care that the King stares out the window?

from: an_english_girl
date: Apr. 3rd, 2017 12:08 am (UTC)
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I'd always figured that Barons Susa and Erondites aren't allies. See their different reactions to Gen and Irene's engagement at the end of QoA: Susa "hisses" at Gen, while Erondites calls it "droll." So, while they'd both like to be the ones manipulating the king, they're not in collaboration but opposition. Susa wants to know what Gen's doing when the attendants are shut out, and he's very glad (a whole gold coin's worth of glad) to hear that the king is just sitting alone, not amusing himself with the mistress Erondites is trying to push on him. Ie, what Costis tells Susa is that Erondites' plots haven't got anywhere yet.
Does that make sense?

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agh_4

Re: Why does Baron Susa care that the King stares out the window?

from: agh_4
date: Apr. 4th, 2017 12:48 pm (UTC)
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That makes a lot of sense to me! I'd never thought to connect the question to Erondites' mistress plan -- but of course there's a whole constellation of barons aware and wary of one another's plots, and there are ways to get information that don't involve hiding in the ceiling. Thank you!

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Rosalee LuAnn

Re: Why does Baron Susa care that the King stares out the window?

from: rosaleeluann
date: Apr. 5th, 2017 01:14 am (UTC)
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Ah-ha! See, this is why I come here. Everyone is so smart.

I really really really want to re-read this now. Because Costis.

But LIFE.

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an_english_girl

Re: Why does Baron Susa care that the King stares out the window?

from: an_english_girl
date: Apr. 5th, 2017 07:01 pm (UTC)
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LIFE. Re-reading. Tell me about it!
Can you join me in keeping book or eReader somewhere to hand for those odd two seconds? Like, on top of the microwave (while you're waiting for the kettle to boil); or next to the phone (all those 'please-hold-while-we-play-music.....' calls)?
Because, you know, COSTIS :)

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an_english_girl

Attolis

from: an_english_girl
date: Apr. 3rd, 2017 12:23 am (UTC)
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Hands up if, like me, like Costis, you missed noticing this is the second time we've seen Gen's handwriting ;D

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checkers

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from: checkers65477
date: Apr. 7th, 2017 01:01 am (UTC)
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Very nice analysis and discussion on these chapters! Some random thoughts:

Maybe part of the reason Irene is so angry when Teleus quotes the invocation the Hephestia is because she knows she must (once again) comply; it's not only that Gen has unmade her decisions, she has to show mercy or risk offending the gods. Plus, it reminds her of that awful night when Gen cried it over and over, and her failures, especially with personal relationships. And, I do think Hephestia showed mercy to Gen. A trade, the loss of his hand for the lives of everyone in Eddis.

I love your comparison of fleeing to the temple and later from it.

Gen IS frightening when he's god-like. Luckily, he seems (so far) to be able to control his potential I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT terrible decisions and actions. Like, for example, not having the captain of his guard gutted.

I still haven't forgiven Irene for slapping Gen when he's injured and pathetic.

The writing in this book (and QoA) is extraordinary. So many layers and poignant scenes, and so funny, too.

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Leng

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from: manderelee
date: Apr. 7th, 2017 12:57 pm (UTC)
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I still haven't forgiven Irene for slapping Gen when he's injured and pathetic.

This was one of the things that really bothered me the first few times I read KoA. And by bothered, I mean I wrote an entire blog post angsting about it in my old LJ, lol. I'm currently doing a reread, and I just finished that chapter a few days ago, and for some reason, I found it more understandable this time around. I don't know if it's because I was expecting it, and I wasn't as shocked about it as before.

My interpretation this time around was based around those last two lines they exchanged before she slapped him. For most of the book so far, she's really been trying to get Gen to act more kingly, and to demonstrate his kingliness to the court. But he's been resisting. And for the first time, he's used his kingly status to reverse her decision publicly (at least if I remember correctly, it's the first time he did it publicly), and it had to be by reminding her of one of her biggest failures as a queen and human being. That's gotta be a slap in the face too for her (metaphorically speaking). And I think she was hurt, that when she needed his support most (she was just betrayed by her secretary of Archives *and* her captain of the guard), he takes that opportunity to remind her what a monster she actually is.

Of course as readers we know why Gen is trying to save Teleus. It's for her sake. I'm not sure if she completely understands that yet.

Anyway, that's just my interpretation. It changes every time I read the books. But there are still many things I don't understand. Like, why does Gen find it funny when Attolia offered him her wine? Why was Attolia so angry having to dance the Eddisan dance with Gen? What was the evidence against Sejanus that Gen didn't "want to bring to the light of day"?

Why is Gen so generous with his kindness?? (This has been a very, very confusing part of my reading this time around. In the past, I just took it for granted that he's kind, he's just that nice. But the scene in the prison cell with Relius? It was heavily implied that Relius tortured Gen in QoA, and yet... why is Gen so nice to him? Just for Irene's sake? What? I mean, obviously Gen's a better human being than me, because I'd be pretty apathetic about Relius and Teleus after all the grief they caused me if I were in his place.)

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frosted_feather

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from: frosted_feather
date: Apr. 8th, 2017 03:35 pm (UTC)
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I love your questions. I see many of the moments between Gen and Attolia that the court witnesses and are confused/angered by (with the wine cup and the dance) as part of the balance between their private lives and their public lives. Most of what we see of them are their public image, the appearance of their marriage that most of the court thinks is a sham. But Costis (and we!) slowly get a glimpse into their real affection for one another. I think Irene is very unsure of how to show any affection in public, and thus she maintains her cold face most of the book. Gen, on the other hand, sometimes wants to throw caution to the winds and be himself.

With the wine cup scene, Gen laughs, knowing she wouldn't poison him, but the court thinks she wants to (and could!). And in the dance scene, Attolia doesn't want to reveal anything of herself to the court or to make a spectacle, but Gen doesn't care because he loves her and wants to show off. I just re-read QOA and realized Irene and Gen make a personal commitment to each other at the end of that book, but in KOA they seem to be unsure of how to conduct themselves in public. With a brood of vipers around them, hiding their true feelings seems the safest option.

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checkers

(no subject)

from: checkers65477
date: Apr. 8th, 2017 09:02 pm (UTC)
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<iWith the wine cup scene, Gen laughs, knowing she wouldn't poison him, but the court thinks she wants to (and could!).</i>

I wondered, too, if he laughed because she was showing that dry sense of humor she has by mocking herself. As in, "Ha ha remember that time I poisoned my first husband?"

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11rod88staff11

The Wine Cup Scene...

from: 11rod88staff11
date: May. 6th, 2017 03:05 pm (UTC)
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Yes~ I think you're absolutely right that this is one of those examples of the King and Queen's shared dry sense of humor full of empty threats that works for them while sounding absolutely terrifying and appalling to everyone else outside of their relationship.

I'm sure Gen is laughing because he knows that she's joking but the court thinks she isn't. She exercises her dry, terrifying sense of humor a number of times similarly to this across the books (there's the other part of KOA where she threatens to have him flayed.

Her dominating, masochistic sense of humor, while abrasive to those who feel more sympathy for Eugenides, I appreciate its presence in the story. It makes sense to me. It's human nature to joke about things that we are uncomfortable with in hopes of lightening their weight. It shows that even though Irene's been historically capable of wrecking people literally in the exact way she jokes about it later on, she's not really comfortable with that part of her, and so regularly references it sarcastically. When all is said and done, she does so self-mockingly. For someone who appears on the surface to have so much pride, deep down we know she has painfully low sense of self worth. She brings up that part of herself in her sense of humor in hope of lightening it enough to heal from it. And I think Eugenides is helping her heal from it by receiving her "threats" as jokes and turning them into humor himself. There's a part in KOA where he says to Irene, ("loftily"):

"I shall throw something at you. You are embarrassing me in front of my attendants."

(As if any of us could EVER imagine Gen throwing something at Irene.)

I positively cherish how MWT describes her response to Gen. It's one of my favorite exchanges in the whole series. I LOVE the part right before it where MWT gently describes Irene starting to soften into what might be her first experience with truly unconstrained laughter (right after Gen describes just how jealous he was of Dite for having loved the queen too:.... "WILDLY."

*The queen's lips thinned, and her eyes narrowed, but even her control was not equal to the task, and she had to lift her hand to cover her smile and then duck her head. Her shoulders shook lightly as she laughed... The queen lifted her head, but kept her hand in place a moment more.*


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checkers

RE: The Wine Cup Scene...

from: checkers65477
date: May. 6th, 2017 05:37 pm (UTC)
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And I think Eugenides is helping her heal from it by receiving her "threats" as jokes and turning them into humor himself.

The first time I remember him doing that was in QoA when Helen and Irene come to release Gen from the room he's been locked. Irene threatens to cut off his other hand and he laughs. At the time, it really threw me and later I realized this was just how they interacted and, really, sort of flirted.

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11rod88staff11

Re: The Wine Cup Scene...

from: 11rod88staff11
date: May. 6th, 2017 05:50 pm (UTC)
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haha yes I remember that part. And luckily Helen was there to witness that exchange and be completely appalled by it on behalf of the rest of us... =)

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Leng

(no subject)

from: manderelee
date: Apr. 9th, 2017 02:55 pm (UTC)
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Aah, thanks so much for your answers! It definitely makes more sense when viewed from that lens.

After reading your answer above, I realized there might be an interpretation to these scenes that I just haven't thought about yet, and that makes everything clearer if I just shift my perspective a little. If you don't mind, I have another question. Why does Irene get so angry when Gen suggests cutting down the guard by half? I mean, she's angry enough to have thrown an inkpot on his head, and judging by the fact that Gen's inkpots created dents in the plaster of his room, then Irene must have been angry enough to want to dent Gen's skull, lol. I'm not sure if I understand the reason for the intensity of her anger.

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frosted_feather

(no subject)

from: frosted_feather
date: Apr. 10th, 2017 04:23 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if it’s because she made the guard what it is by raising people above their normal rank and rewarding them, and considers them wholly loyal to herself. They were pretty much the only ones keeping her in power, and she doesn’t like the idea of giving up their support. But Gen sees such a large guard as dangerous to her because they could turn on her, though she doesn’t want to admit it? So far I don’t think we’ve seen her loyal guards or army betray her, but the barons do it all the time, so the army could be next.

As for why she’s personally angry at Gen, Attolia does seem to switch between supportive and angry at Gen a lot. Even though she wants him to take the Kingly role, maybe she struggles with actually giving up some power herself.

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11rod88staff11

Attolia's Anger at Gen's Request to Reduce the Guard

from: 11rod88staff11
date: May. 6th, 2017 04:11 pm (UTC)
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Wow manderelee and frosted_feather this is such a prodigious discussion! Thank you for your fantastic insights on Attolia's wrath about the possibly reducing the guard.

I think the totality of her anger comes from a number of places.

There's this one heartbreaking part in KOA where MWT describes how the "embattled queen" takes great comfort, as if it is her only comfort, in how loyal her guard and soldiers are, not to her, but TO THEIR PAY, even though as a result her treasury is nearly empty. It makes me so sad for Irene because it describes how she knows she has nobody to protect her in the world unless she pays them. Although money can't buy love/friendship, it can buy something that vaguely resembles it. She clings to inauthentic loyalty because she's never experienced authentic loyalty... except in Relius and Teleus but I don't think anyone really knows how deep their feelings are for each other until Eugenides helps them all realize it.

Attolia is very aware of how vulnerable she has been and her gradual loss of her old control of things is happening in a good way through Eugenides but she fears that the loss of control is happening in a bad way, and that's why she reacts so strongly to anything that threatens her precarious sense of control over her surroundings.

If I remember correctly, before Eugenides came along and started chiseling away at the walls around her heart and getting "her entire palace up in arms and her entire court in chaos" just as Helen said he would (QOA p. 343), none of her court or staff or attendants had ever even seen Attolia angry. "Phresine had never seen the queen lose her temper..." (QOA p. 198) There's even a part where her youngest attendant Chloe, naive to the nature of transcendent relationships, despairs, "Why does she stay with him when he makes her SO angry???"

She spends a lot of KOA hysterically, violently angry at Eugenides, for all to see, a HUGE contrast to how she presented herself publicly in QOA.

Irene is angry because she is so afraid and Eugenides brings up her fears one after another to be faced and danced with until they are nothing but dust. And one of the ways he brings up her fear of losing control is by reducing the guard-- because he sees that their loyalty is not really to her, but to their pay, and he knows that she deserves better. And he makes sure to KEEP the love and loyalty that IS real and authentic in her life, by pardoning Teleus and Relius. And she is so angry because this loss of the facade of loyalty and protection are what she is most afraid of even if it means clearing a space so authentic loyalty and protection can replace them...

In this slow, arduous, painfully conflicting process, MWT paints so magnificently the real learning curve that precedes trust for an individual who's lived a lifetime never having known it. There's so much angst in how Irene is wrought with guilt over having hurt Eugenides, physically cut off his hand and destroyed his constitution and yet she's so overpowered by her own fear that she physically hurts him again by striking him that first time he undermines her power in public, showing that in addition to being triggered by the thought of losing half the guard, she is triggered by the thought of losing half her sovereign power.

Also, it's not the main reason for it, but like frosted_feather said, "she made the guard what it is." Maybe it's not a masterpiece, but with all the strategic promotions and demotions, she does take pride in how she molded the guard into the only well-oiled machine she has amidst the other disasters that surround her.

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Leng

Re: Attolia's Anger at Gen's Request to Reduce the Guard

from: manderelee
date: May. 9th, 2017 01:35 am (UTC)
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Thanks for all the thoughtful responses! It took me a while to find these, because there's been so much flurry of activity the past several days, that my email conflated most of the responses together, and I missed a few.

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frosted_feather

Re: Attolia's Anger at Gen's Request to Reduce the Guard

from: frosted_feather
date: May. 16th, 2017 04:38 pm (UTC)
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Brilliant analysis, 11rod88staff11! I agree completely. And you captured so well the depth of the writing in this story, that we can see so much beyond what is strictly written on the page.

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11rod88staff11

How Gen can go as far as he goes for Irene

from: 11rod88staff11
date: May. 6th, 2017 05:44 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for all these great prompts!!!

Manderelee said, "Of course as readers we know why Gen is trying to save Teleus. It's for her sake. I'm not sure if she completely understands that yet."

You're right that she doesn't understand it yet.. I don't even think she understands it fully throughout CofK as her character development kind of tables or goes along evenly and uneventfully as the time required to heal passes and Sophos has his turn in the spotlight. I think she'll reach her full healing potential in the 5th or 6th books and we'll start to see Irene give Eugenides the world in the same way he has wanted to give her everything from the very beginning...

Watching the process of Irene learning to understand this is one of the most beautiful parts of the book. In QOA, she states her disbelief that anyone could love her like this to ("Who am I, that you should love me?")

*Why is Gen so generous with his kindness?

He knew from the very beginning that Irene needed to feel safe enough to be the person she really is behind the mask... He sees the bigger picture. He sees beyond the linear timeline. From the time he saw her dancing beneath the orange trees, he saw the person Irene REALLY IS, and that's what enables him to give to her as he does and have endless compassion for her even when she lashes out at him. When she strikes him, in KofA he "makes no attempt to duck or avoid her blow.." That he accepts her blow when he has the skill even when injured to avoid it says something huge about how he is choosing to share her pain for her.

. And also... Gen's divinity (that he is favored by the gods) is reflected in his unique ability to love unconditionally.. I'm not sure what came first, Gen's beyond-human capacity for unconditional love or how he runs with the gods and speaks with the gods as if he is in the image of God or a God (oh right, he IS, hence his namesake)... it's like question about the chicken or the egg...

In QofA he confides to Eddis:
“She's like a prisoner inside stone walls, and every day the walls get a little thicker, the doorways a little narrower."
"And?" Eddis prompted.
"Well," said Eugenides, "it's a challenge.”
“I can't leave her there all alone, surrounded by stone walls... She's too precious to give up.”
**
The part about the "challenge." Eugenides, we know, loves challenges.

He's kind to Irene in such an infinite way because in experiencing her open to his love, however slowly gradually and painfully, it's simultaneously opening his heart. He wouldn't have recognized her loneliness and longing for love so many years ago sitting in those orange trees without it already being present within himself.

Edited at 2017-05-06 05:59 pm (UTC)

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Leng

Re: How Gen can go as far as he goes for Irene

from: manderelee
date: May. 9th, 2017 01:34 am (UTC)
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I can understand what he does for Irene, but I still don't understand how he can go around kissing Relius when Relius tortured him, you know? In KoA, Eugenides forgives Relius for what he did, because as he says, he "was within his rights." I can even understand this part, but to go as far as developing a deep enough friendship with Relius in the duration that it did... lol, like I said, it must be that Gen is a much better person than I am. I doubt I would ever be capable of that.

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11rod88staff11

Re: How Gen can go as far as he goes for Irene

from: 11rod88staff11
date: May. 28th, 2017 05:58 am (UTC)
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Gen loves Relius from the same soul place as he loves Irene-- no matter how much she hurts him he still loves her because he sees into her soul and the goodness that is there. Gen sees the whole picture of all Souls, He loves Relius, because he Sees how Relius has loved Irene... and Gen Sees how Relius only hurt him out of fear and desire to protect Irene. This is the most brilliant display of a character that is not only in Love with his Beloved but he IS love, and freely shares it with all of those around him. He makes everyone's fears dance until they are no more and then all of a sudden there's a place for Love to grow. Divine Love, not just romantic love.

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an_english_girl

Sejanus

from: an_english_girl
date: Apr. 8th, 2017 12:23 am (UTC)
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Looking up a crossword clue in "Who's Who in the Ancient World," a familiar name caught my eye: Lucius Aelius Sejanus!

He was an aristocratic Roman, 20BC to 31AD; a close friend, confidant and manipulator of the emperor Tiberias; and commander of the Praetorian Guard. He wheedled, blackmailed and poisoned his way into a position of power secondary only to that of the emperor, but was finally arrested and executed for conspiracy to assassinate the emperor.

Just a /leeetle/ bit familiar sounding??!!??

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(no subject)

from: anonymous
date: Apr. 9th, 2017 03:19 am (UTC)
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Feeling a bit heartbroken now---I didn't even know about philia passing away. I suppose that is the consequence of only popping in and out of the forums haphazardly. And now it's been five years.

Looking over her blog posts, these snippets of her diaries, it's so strange to think she's no longer with us.

--faerietaleredux/cherryblossomjen

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agh_4

(no subject)

from: agh_4
date: Apr. 9th, 2017 08:19 am (UTC)
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I'm so sorry -- it's not easy news to receive, and I'm sorry to have broken it to you so unexpectedly.

Over the last five years, I've continued to be grateful for her writing -- both the hilarious/charming short stories on her journal and her novel. I've tried to pass them on to friends as often as I can, even if they didn't have any connection to her or Sounis. (The Emerald Thread is still here ... last year I ordered a copy for a book exchange with a dear friend who grew up near where Philia lived, so I think it's probably available forever, thanks to her family.)

Sending thoughts your way. I know that I and others are always open to talking about her/sharing memories. <3

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Emerald

(no subject)

from: emerald_happy
date: Apr. 11th, 2017 02:54 pm (UTC)
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💛

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11rod88staff11

Gen running away from things he doesn't want to face

from: 11rod88staff11
date: May. 28th, 2017 05:54 am (UTC)
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There's so much wonderful stuff in this analysis!!!! I keep coming back to it as much as I keep coming back to reading the books:

You said:
****“Without a word, he stalked from the doorway … and leapt across a construction ditch to firm ground without looking back. His guard and his attendants hastily followed. … Eugenides never slowed and he never looked back” (140-1) reminds me of the way he flees from the library to the temple after being shown the hooks and false hands (QoA 75-6). Both flights are prompted by confrontation with something he doesn’t want to accept or deal with (all the baggage of the loss of his hand and … being king). One is to a temple, one is from, and now his options for escape and privacy are even more limited.****

I'm not really able to answer this question on the nose but as I've been doing my re-reads I continue to notice how both Gen and Irene both have their moments reacting in pretty much the same way over the course of several kinds of reactions (although I think there are differences in their respective executions of their actions): Both of them kick their attendants out of their bedchambers while they throw the mother of all temper tantrums, shredding the drapes, throwing ink pots, smashing furniture... Irene's was in reaction to realizing that Gen was still a danger to her (in QofA) and Gen's in response to realizing that Nahusaresh was still a looming threat in KofA.

Your analysis got me thinking of how across the series, there are descriptions of both Gen and Irene "fleeing" from various things... and because I love Irene the most and I hang off of every word and action she makes in the books, one scene that sticks with me is how she "uncharacteristically fled" the room when the discussion of whether there would be an alter to Hephestia at the wedding... The difference between Gen and Irene's fleeing from things is it seems Gen really wants the privacy whereas in contrast it seemed like Irene... wanted to be followed, in how she went to her throne room and "ignored [Gen and Helen] until they were standing right in front of her" and in turn, when she reveals to Gen that Moira/his gods had betrayed him to her TWICE, it is Gen who flees and in response to him fleeing, Irene wants immediately to follow him (and Helen puts her hand on her arm to stop her and advises her to let him go).

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