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Things go from bad to worse, as if that’s even possible, though you do have to be paying some attention to realise.

This chapter, in large part, is about seeing glimpse of what Pienya could have been, given better role models. We catch a glimpse of what might have happened if she’d ever felt part of the wider King’s Eyes network. Of course, she did have good role models, but instead leaned heavily on Queen Anja, who it’s turned out is perhaps not the best of people.

This is the middle part of a mini-trilogy inside this arc, where events in Treydolain come to a head. I’m aware that the characters I’m dealing with on this side of the story are supporting or minor characters, so hopefully they’re still engaging and there isn’t frustration at being away from the core group.

THAT SAID, while this Treydolain-set sequence is important to the overall plot, it’s also a way to draw out the tensions and sense of despair after Fenris & co arrived on the other side of the mountains to find it a desolate wasteland. This part of the story is about dragging everyone down into the mire, and we haven’t yet got to the point where they can hit bottom and push back up to the surface.

There’s a few real world political reference points in this chapter which I hopefully deal with more subtly than back in ‘Late warning signs’ (which marks a rare instance of me going back and tweaking dialogue in a post-publication edit). It’s a brief, almost throwaway reference in the chapter, but demonstrates the benefits of having named minor characters. Hearing what is happening to the top tier families is one thing, but having encountered some of the nobility in earlier chapters we have ae more direct reference point.

What makes this more interesting is that the Verase family was demonstrated to be morally fairly dubious and highly scheming, so they’re hardly innocent bystanders caught up in the political fallout. That helps to emphasise that TMC isn’t really a goodies-vs-baddies story – although it skews pretty close at times – and that it’s aiming to depict something messier.


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