It’s been a good 10 chapters since we last got inside Kirya’s head and a lot has happened since then.
She’s in the unenviable position of being someone who has always considered herself enlightneed and progressive, only to discover that she was deeply entrenched in the societal problems of the valley and absolutely part of the elite gatekeepers. Even though she’s now on the side of the ‘rebels’, for want of a better term, that doesn’t absolve her previous ignorance. Other than tagging along with Fenris and helping him get out of Treydolain, she’s not yet had much of a chance to begin taking definitive action to counter some of her previous mistakes. Arc 5 will certainly move her character forwards soon enough.
There was supposed to be more plot development in this chapter, but the more introspective character stuff between Kirya, Tarn and Hatch took centre stage and there was no point rushing what happens next – and, actually, it helps to build a bit of extra tension prior to them entering the forest. Instead, we see the bond between Kirya and Tarn strengthening, and it’s a chance to get to know Hatch Eyer a bit more.
I’ve talked before about the tricky balance of having a journey feel long and difficult, without the book itself becoming long and difficult to read. This chapter helps to extend their traversal of the north mountains, while keeping it character-focused. I recently read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, which includes an astonishing, extended sequence of travel across an inhospitable landscape. It’s unrelenting and hard going, which is entirely appropriate.
TLHOD is a fascinating book in all sorts of ways, not least the sense of culture shock in the first third, with Le Guin resolutely refusing to ease readers into the gender-neutral society she’d expertly crafted. It’s such bold storytelling, and by the end of the book you feel like you’ve travelled to a different place – like the feeling after you’ve been on holiday to somewhere with a very different culture and society. It’s uncomfortable, in a good way.
With TMC I’ve gone the other way, I suppose, in that Lagonian society on first glance feels quite familiar and comfortable, with the difficulties lurking beneath the surface.
Anyway, next chapter it’s action time. Unless I change my mind, that is.