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The King of Attolia: Discussion Post 3 - Chapters 11-14

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Apr. 9th, 2017 | 02:56 am
location: home
mood: overwhelmed
music: Thomas Bergersen
posted by: ibmiller in sounis

Section notes - from "The long summer's day was ending" to "He is an Annux, a king of kings."

In today's post, I'm going to pose two questions about all the chapters, and then a unique question for each chapter. I will then answer each of the questions with my own answers, and hope they're interesting enough to provoke discussion!

Questions for all four chapters:

1) What is accomplished in this chapter? (Could also be phrased, "Why does this chapter exist?")

2) If the chapters had titles, what would you call this chapter?

Individual chapter questions:

11: Is Barond Erondites an effective villain?

12: How has Irene changed since The Queen of Attolia?

13: Is the duel effective as a narrative/scene?

14: Is the reaction of the guard to Gen plausible?


Chapter 11:

1) I asked the first question because chapter 10 could easily be the climax of the book, were the Attolia books more typically "YA" and building to a simple climax. Gen has just accomplished an incredible feat of destroying the most powerful (by four times at least) of Attolia's political enemies in an extremely satisfying way. So why does this chapter exist? Mostly as an aftermath to the Fall of Erondites, and linking to the next conflict, that of Gen's need to ascend the throne in both his own and his subject's hearts as an Annux, as planted in the myth.
2) I would call this chapter: "The Fate of Go Betweens." Partly because Costis as POV, and partly because so many of the consequences of this story fall on those who don't initiate those actions. Plus, it has the sense of aftermath that I think is so vital to the chapter.
3) I'm not sure Erondites himself is a very effective villain. His actions are pretty top notch, like a spider at the middle of a huge web of plots against the Queen, but when he appears himself, he's kind of a greedy jerk. He's very plausible, but not very interesting, which is likely why he's not on page very often.

Chapter 12:

1) This chapter has two purposes, I believe. The theme of the healing of Irene's soul was introduced in the last chapter, but here we see it, in Irene's major revelation of the book. Additionally, in Costis's eyes, we see the problems that Gen refusing to visibly take the throne causes, despite his massive victory in chapter 10.
2) I would call this chapter: "The Inevitable Conflict." This highlights the purpose of the chapter in not just prolonging the book, but actually bringing to the forefront the real conflict of Gen's kingship, rather than just destroying Erondites.
3) I think I've made it super obvious that Irene is my favorite character in this series :). Here, I see her slowly coming to accept that she is worthy of love, not just the necessary evil to keep her people alive and as fairly ruled as possible. Seeing her through Relius's eyes, as well as Costis and Aris, has fleshed her out - one sees her as both daughter figure and beloved, terrifying sovereign, one loves her as the embodiment of strength and justice, and one is fiercely loyal while also regarding her as completely alien, if necessary. Seen from below, Irene is just as awesome as seen from Gen's perspective in the second half of The Queen of Attolia.

Chapter 13:

1) Obiviously, this chapter serves as the action climax of the book. After two massive, emotionally draining chapters, spanning many days (possibly a month or more, to justify how physically amazing Gen is after being gutted), we have the thematic problem of the book - the King of Attolia - combined with the first problem - Erondites.
2) I would call this chapter: "The King's Tower." Named after the idea of a tower duel sequence, where the hero works his way up through various opponents.
3) I think it's extremely effective. Though I'm still puzzling about the move Gen uses to take down Teleus - jumping in the air using a sword-armed version of the Superman punch seems like it would leave you way too open for an opponent of Teleus's caliber to counter - but it's an awesome image. I like that the sequence is Costis/Teleus/Aris/Menon/Damon/Laecdomon, instead of ending with Teleus. Though Teleus is likely the most skilled opponent, having the tension build up because of both Gen's increasing fatigue, and the gradual widening of the audience is masterfully done. Though not much actual fencing is described (similar to how C. S. Lewis describes the fencing in Prince Caspian, to similar great effect), the moves described are extremely emblematic of the characters, and very effective in creating the emotions that actually describing the thrusts and parries would not. Possibly too effective - I'm reminded of the way some authors (okay, really just Laurie King in The Beekeeper's Apprentice) describe chess to express the characters of the players, which don't resemble the emotional impact of actually playing or watching any chess games I've ever played or watched. :)

Chapter 14:

1) Even though the last chapter is the action climax, this chapter allows what Gen's done to actually sink in so we can believe it. Seeing his body, literally and thematically stripped of all disguise, we also can see him as Costis and the whole Guard do.
2) I would call this chapter: "Revealed in All His Glory." Because "King of Kings" seems a bit like cheating, being the closing line and all.
3) I think developing Costis's relationships to the guard is part of why we can buy this change of heart of the entire guard, after spending a whole book seeing and feeling their contempt for Gen. Costis is more than a stand-in for Teleus - I think he's partly a stand-in for Attolia as a country, and the Guard as a microcosm of the best of the country (rather than the court, which is the worst).

I haven't even touched on the gods or the mythtelling in chapter 11 very much, even though I love the way Gen's faith in the god of thieves is a fascinating picture of what it would mean to really have faith in a god who was there. Not to mention my love of Costis's love and loyalty to his queen and king, and Gen and Irene's love for each other, and the effectiveness of the language - each word so carefully chosen. It's all so excellent. :)

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Comments {16}

Leng

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from: manderelee
date: Apr. 10th, 2017 02:35 am (UTC)
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Whew, I *just* finished KoA. I was waiting until I was done to reply to this.

Great questions!! And great answers to your own questions!!

"Revealed in All His Glory." I love this, because it sort of puts a spin on the same thing Teleus said, "You are revealed at last." And how funny it is, because it's the first time they're seeing him undressed.

I think I've made it super obvious that Irene is my favorite character in this series :). Here, I see her slowly coming to accept that she is worthy of love, not just the necessary evil to keep her people alive and as fairly ruled as possible. Seeing her through Relius's eyes, as well as Costis and Aris, has fleshed her out - one sees her as both daughter figure and beloved, terrifying sovereign, one loves her as the embodiment of strength and justice, and one is fiercely loyal while also regarding her as completely alien, if necessary. Seen from below, Irene is just as awesome as seen from Gen's perspective in the second half of The Queen of Attolia.

I love that entire paragraph. I love your interpretation of her and of others' perspective of her. I didn't know Irene was your favourite though!

-o-

Now, for my attempt at answering some of the questions...

11. It's interesting to me how Baron Erondites actually does not appear very often, but a lot of the conflict that Eugenides had to overcome was orchestrated by him. I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, I would consider him to be an effective villain for all the grief he's caused, even though that grief is brought about by other characters.

12. I think one of the biggest changes I see in Attolia here in KoA -- and one I didn't really understand during the first few times I read the book -- was her desire to have Gen assume the role of king. I used to be really confused about this. In my reread though, it makes sense. I think she quickly realized that if Gen was to remain a figurehead, it would be more difficult for both of them to rule, with all her barons fighting to control him.

13. Yes! Gen was so awesome! His cleverness always amazes me, but I tend to forget his super cool kung-fu skills.

14. Well.... it's plausible. I think Costis and Teleus's reactions were reasonable, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were others in the Guard who were not as persuaded.

-o-

Anyway, after rereading, I'm reminded of how much I love this book! T__T I love it so much. Here's a sketchdump.



Edited at 2017-04-10 02:36 am (UTC)

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ibmiller

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from: ibmiller
date: Apr. 10th, 2017 03:38 pm (UTC)
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Aww, thanks! And those are some amazing sketches!

I was struggling to make sure my chapter titles didn't just repeat a line from the chapter itself, since I feel only authors are allowed to do that, since they came up with the line in the first place. :) MWT's thematic and literal parallels are magnificent!

How odd - I shall have to be more vocal about my love of Irene, I see!

I definitely agree that Erondites is an effective villain - I was thinking more about complaints by some people who say that there's a lot of telling and not showing - but I think there's a very deliberate choice of who and what is shown. If you're looking for counterfactual narratives - like the Tale of Erondites and His Noble Fight Against That Evil Queen Attolia, you're reading the wrong book. :) But I do think that it's interesting that we never really see Erondites himself, just his catastrophic meddling.

One thing I didn't think about until you brought it up is that Irene's desire to have Gen rule is a sign of her trust. Unlike her barons, who want to rule Attolia for their own enrichment and power, Irene wants all of Attolia to prosper - and for her to want Gen to rule indicates to me that she now trusts that he has the country's best interest at heart as well.

One thing I'm really hoping for in Thick as Thieves is a check-in with Costis, Teleus, and the (now much smaller) Queen's Guard, to see how everything's going.

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Leng

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from: manderelee
date: Apr. 11th, 2017 12:32 am (UTC)
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Aw, thank you!

You should, because Irene deserves more love =P

Oh, interesting, I don't think I've seen those complaints before about Erondites in particular. I did hear of "telling-not-showing" complaints in QoA, the most common of which was that all the characters were talking about how awesome Gen was, but some readers didn't see it. I agree with what you're saying; I think it was deliberate. It also adds to the subtlety we all like about the books. There were so many things I thought I was being "told" in the narrative, when I was actually being "shown" something else.

Ahh yes, good point about the trust!

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ibmiller

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from: ibmiller
date: Apr. 11th, 2017 04:50 am (UTC)
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Irene deserves ALL the love! :)

I think the whole "telling instead of showing" is actually silly - it all depends on what you want told and what you want shown. I think MWT got the perfect balance of reader desire to be shown some things and told others.

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freenarnian

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from: freenarnian
date: Apr. 10th, 2017 07:36 pm (UTC)
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Errmergersh, sketches! YOU HAVE BLESSED US.

(I lol'd at poor lil Costis, rocking in his corner.)

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Leng

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from: manderelee
date: Apr. 11th, 2017 12:34 am (UTC)
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Aww, thank you!! ^__^ I'm glad you liked it!

Haha, yes, "Poor Costis." Come to think of it, that should probably be the title of every chapter in this book.

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freenarnian

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from: freenarnian
date: Apr. 10th, 2017 08:36 pm (UTC)
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Here are my (complex, disorganized, and in some cases emotionally compromised) thoughts:

Erondites may be the main villain in a Sauron-esque sense (the evil puppet master, pulling strings and sending out his minions in pursuit of his own consolidation of power, while remaining himself out of sight)...

But I would say the main conflict in KoA arises from Eugenides fighting with himself. (And by extension, his servants, his wife, his gods, etc.)

Re-reading the end of QoA reminded me just how cleverly MWT set this up beforehand. Similarly, we see some foundations laid in KoA for Sophos' journey in ACoK. I look forward to slapping my forehead repeatedly once it's revealed how Thick as Thieves fits into the larger scheme of things. :)

"Gen's faith in the god of thieves is a fascinating picture of what it would mean to really have faith in a god who was there."

Gen's relationship with his god is the most memorable, original, insightful, well-crafted (in other words, best) depiction of faith I've encountered in a fantasy novel. (With the possible exception of Puddleglum in The Silver Chair, but that may fall into different, perhaps more purely allegorical, category.)

Interesting comparison of the fencing duels in KoA and Prince Caspian. I hadn't thought of that before. The pacing and description of climactic conflicts is so tricky, and both are examples of excellence (particularly in creating an empathetic weariness in the reader as Gen takes on opponent after opponent.)

I've shouted my admiration of Costis from the rooftops of this fandom, so I'll limit myself to only mentioning how ADORBZ I find it that, of all the things he had to go through and endure over the course of this story, it's the fact that people think he's dishonest that drives him to drinking and brawling and generally indulging in a brief but sufficient emo phase. No wonder Aris teases him about that rather blinding honor badge he's constantly buffing.

Okay, another Costis-related thought: Anyone else notice how Costis notices Ileia? No doubt, as one of the queen's attendants, she's too high-born for the likes of a lowly lieutenant-at-large... but they seem to get along. Yeah, I'm reading into this. (Now kiss.)

ONE MORE. When pre-downfall Sejanus gets all testy with Costis and asks, "And whose orders are those?" Can we just appreciate the boldness and snark and subtle implication of Costis's reply:

"My captain's, Lord Sejanus. From whom else would I take my orders?" (Huh, HUH?!)

Thus I suggest the chapter title: In Which Costis Becomes A Player

Or how about...

In Which Relius Seeks an Unlikely Pen-Pal (The Magus)

In Which Philologos Figures Something Out

In Which Gen Kills Attolia's Enemies (With Kindness)

Alternatively...

Attolis: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

The House of Erondites: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

The Medes Did It: (°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

You Were Supposed To Be In Bed: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

(You get the idea.)

Edited at 2017-04-10 08:37 pm (UTC)

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from: manderelee
date: Apr. 11th, 2017 12:36 am (UTC)
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Those emojis!!! Ohhh my gosh, I was going to say, "Hey one of them is missing an arm." And then it dawned on me.

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freenarnian

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from: freenarnian
date: Apr. 11th, 2017 01:09 am (UTC)
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And here I thought nobody would notice. ^_^

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ibmiller

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from: ibmiller
date: Apr. 11th, 2017 04:57 am (UTC)
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Ahh, Sauron - that's a good comparison (though obviously not in power levels :) ).

I am half agony, half hope about how Thick as Thieves pays off things...

Agree about Gen's faith (I totally forgot Puddleglum! :) Shame on me!)

Costis's stoicism is such an endearing trait, I think. I just melt when Gen calls him mini-Teleus. Your comment about honor makes me think of Zuko from Last Airbender, too.

I would be SO ON BOARD with a Costis/aristocratic lady romance.

I like the Player idea for Costis, both in Costis's Thug life sense, and the chess metaphor sense!

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an_english_girl

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from: an_english_girl
date: Apr. 16th, 2017 06:55 pm (UTC)
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What about Costis/Heiro?
I have an idea for a fanfic shipping those two!

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ibmiller

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from: ibmiller
date: Apr. 18th, 2017 02:13 pm (UTC)
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Totally down for it! Fanfic!!!!

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an_english_girl

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from: an_english_girl
date: Apr. 16th, 2017 06:42 pm (UTC)
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"...Gen's relationship with his god is the most memorable, original, insightful, well-crafted (in other words, best) depiction of faith I've encountered in a fantasy novel..."
Sorry to be so late getting to this discussion section -- I did read the chapters on time, but then work got hectic -- so starting to read everyone else's comments I just had to stop and most heartily agree with this!
Gen and the gods are one of the bits which make me want to jump up and down, like in QoA when Irene says "Rare the man whose gods answer him," and say myself: "Yes! Yes! Yes! A wonderful picture of it! But the reality of a God who is really there is even more wonderful!"

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ibmiller

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from: ibmiller
date: Apr. 18th, 2017 02:16 pm (UTC)
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Very true (and Schaefferian :) ). QoA and KoA have some of the best theological statements in all fiction.

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an_english_girl

Belated random thoughts

from: an_english_girl
date: Apr. 16th, 2017 06:50 pm (UTC)
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1. Does Teleus' and Gen's conversation at the end remind anyone else of where Anne Shirley says in 'Anne of Avonlea': "I never expected to win Anthony Pye's affections by whipping him" ?!?
2. Erondites is a very realistic villain: a chap with a Villainous hare lip and pockets bulging with papers marked "Treason" would not have been at all a problem to Irene!
3. This section contains what is probably my Totally Utterly Favourite Line in the whole series, which always makes me grin unstoppably just like Costis: "Because Eugenides was King of Attolia."

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ibmiller

Re: Belated random thoughts

from: ibmiller
date: Apr. 18th, 2017 02:21 pm (UTC)
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Interesting - I hadn't made the Anne vs. Pye connection, which is odd, since I just watched the BBC Anne of Avonlea miniseries that actually includes that episode.

I definitely agree Erondites is super realistic - just not very present (as in, on screen/page).

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