At last, some relief. We’ve essentially had 14 chapters of increasing grimness as the story descended into its worst moments so far. This arc was always going to be like this, taking some of the youthful exuberance and optimism of the earlier parts of the book and tearing them to shreds.
I wasn’t entirely sure what form that would take until I neared the end of Arc 4 (the one set in Bruckin), at which point I made the decision to skew the majority of Arc 5 closer towards the horror genre in tone. It never quite goes all the way there – this story is designed to be suitable for a wide range of readers – but that’s the influencer. Imminent doom hangs over the arc, which is a feeling mirrored unfortunately by the real world in which I’m writing. That sense that society has somehow slipped and may never be able to get up again.
Until ‘Fantasia’, that is, and now its direct follow-up ‘Blue Skies’. These two chapters are linked chronologically, though they do switch perspective from Tranton to Kirya. That POV switch works well for this chapter, because the sense of wonder is somewhat temperered by Kirya’s jealously – she is, after all, princess and heir to the throne of the neighboring kingdom, and has suddenly realised that they are WAY behind on just about every level.
That feeling is influenced somewhat, I’ll admit, by reading Kieron Gillen’s staggering alternate WW2 epic UBER, which goes deep into the political, military and social consequences of imbalanced power. Like the revealing of the atom bomb, it changes not only the immediate war but all of history still to come. Aviar’s very existence puts the Treydolain-Bruckin spat in a whole new light.
So, Aviar, then. I don’t want to say too much right now as we’ll get to explore it in due course. It’s exciting to finally reveal its existence, though. The floating city has existed on the other side of the mountains since the very first chapter of The Mechanical Crown; I’ve always known it was there, even while the characters didn’t. This entire time, 145,000 words in, it was my own little secret – and now, finally, I can share it with the readers.
Going back to UBER for a moment: that book’s singular triumph is in a perfectly designed magic system, which in the story is presented as advanced science. Gillen creates each of the super-powers to serve the story from a narrative, structural need, and defines the limitations of the powers such that the audience can theorise and predict their usage. I’ve put in a few hints along those lines in The Mechanical Crown and we get some more in this chapter – with luck, the way everything works, especially things like this new floting city, will start to make more and more sense as the curtain is pulled back. Seeing how Gillen does this so successfully has really inspired me to dig a little deeper into some of what’s coming up in TMC.