Double-bill of chapter notes here, starting with ‘The Rules of Magic’.
This chapter does what it says in the title, more-or-less. Practically speaking it is about clarifying some of the new systems that are in play (well, they’ve always been in play – the reader just didn’t know about them until recently).
I wrote a separate blog piece on how important it is to have ruels for any magical or fictional system, if you want to have any semblance of dramatic tension. You can check that out over here: https://simonkjones.com/why-magic-needs-to-have-rules/
Having written that post, I was acutely aware that the ‘magic’ in The Mechanical Crown was still rather obtuse and vague. Which has been fine up until now, as our lead characters haven’t had any reason to know more than that. Now that Tarn has inherited this power and we’re heading into the story’s endgame, however, it’s increasingly important that everyone is on the same page.
It’s not a complete explanation, of course – there’s lots left out. But what we have here is Tarn pulling back the curtain on a few bits and pieces.
Choosing to have it narrated from Stefan’s perspective makes the chapter more than just an infodump. He’s the sceptic of the Bruckin gang and is inherently suspicious of much of what is going on in Aviar – not in a reactionary, kneejerk way like Tranton but in a more scholarly, intellectual sense. Having him obseve our protagonists and note how they’re fracturing helps to emphasise how everything is on a knife’s edge right now.
Here, again, we also haev Tranton attempting to run away from his own life. This is the continuing theme of that character, though perhaps not for much longer.
None of our heroes are in good places at this point in the story. They’d better get their act together pretty fast.
And now for ‘Hidden Consequences’:
Often when I’m sitting down to write a chapter, I’m considering what kind of tone I want to hit. I’ll usually know the plot beats ahead of time, and probably the character impact. The Mechanical Crown has its own defined style, of course, but occasionally I like to shift it a little further one way or another. For example, the recent metaphysical chapters drew quite heavily on clasic Marvel Dr strange stuff, even though we’re dealing with prose. Back when the gang first went up into the mountains I emphasised the horror elements.
For this chapter, I was channelling Michael Mann’s film Heat. I iamgine this is fairly obvious.
In having Stryke attempt to start forging alliances in and around Bruckin, I wanted it to feel tense but in a controlled, civilised manner. The scene in ‘Hidden Consequences’ is therefore a direct riff on the scene in Heat in which Pacino and de Niro meet up in a cafe and talk politely over coffee about killing each other. The situation isn’t identical and Stryke and Michels don’t have the same kind of history, but it seemed like a reference which would be both fun and appropriate.
This is another one of those chapters where I had to really pay attention to who knows what. The situation in the valley is fraught and confused, with nobody really having the whole picture.
This chapter is also about giving some flavour of Bruckin, prior to what happens next. It was important to have a chapter down in the streets, with street food, ordinary people going about their day.
What we also see here is Stryke really taking charge of things – not least his own destiny. For most of the book he did his job and was quite content with following orders; it was really Tranton’s interference which altered that. Having Stryke now in Bruckin organising a kind of guerilla defence force is, apparently, the logical consequence.