Bit of a bumper session of The Mechanical Crown chapter notes today, as I’ve got a bit behind. Here goes:
Waiting for Gods
‘Waiting for gods’. See what I did there?
Anyway, this chapter is one of those pregnant pauses that TMC’s narrative design enables me to do now and then: because the book uses a limited perspective, with each chapter solely from a single character’s POV (with only a couple of specific exceptions), this time round we’re left wondering the entire time when Tarn is going to wake up. Will it be in time?
It’s also an opportunity to bring the Bruckin squad back into the story, as they’ve been largely absent for most of the climactic stuff at the end of arc 5. They are all soldiers, used to dealing with far more tangible situations – even factoring in the machiavellian machinations of politicians, they’re not equipped or trained to deal with the kind of scenario in which they’ve found themselves. Seeing how each of them is dealing with that is a decent way to also examine the various reader responses that might have come out of Aviar’s discovery and fall: essentially it’s me acknowledging that the story has gone to a pretty wacky place, which most people would not have expected while reading Arc 1.
Tarn’s big return at teh end is couched in all kinds of religous and superhero imagery, but I wanted to make sure it got undercut in some way: Tarn’s cheeky wink to Fenris and the others seemed like a good way to do it. He’s playing to the crowd, because he knows it is necessary, but this is him letting htem know that he doesn’t believe his own hype. It also hints that there’s still something of the boy in there – I don’t want this to be the kind of character development that Luke Skywalker suffered, going from brash, impetuous, enthusiastic farm boy to rather dull, worthy, withdrawn Jedi.
Other than some of the action, this is a character piece more than anything, which is critical as we head in towards the fast downward slope that is the climax of the whole book (currently I’m expecting there to be one more short arc after this one, FYI).
The Search for Kirya
We get metaphysical again, delving into other areas of possibilities. Tarn is very much figuring this stuff out as he goes.
In this chapter we see more clearly the tether between Kirya and Kraisa, which Tarn has been sensing for a while without ever understanding it.
Although the chapter begins with a specific plot drive (Tarn rescuing/finding Kirya), it ends up being important for other reasons: Tarn discovers something of Kraisa’s plan, an Kraisa finds out about Tarn and where he came from. That information will pivot the story for both of them. Hopefully those revelations also give the chapter extra weight and grounding in the ‘real’ world, so that it’s not all spiritual Doctor Strange-style stuff.
The big moment at the end, when Tarn severs the link between Kraisa and Kirya, represents the freeing of Kirya from the abusive parental influence of her mother; it’s the second time in this arc that Tarn has achieved this kind of thing, following on frmo his successful ‘boxing’ of Aera.
These metaphysical chapters have been fun to write, in that they resemble a stream of consciousness as Tarn tumbles through the mindscape. That gives them a different style and pacing to the rest of the book, and I think it’s useful to shake things up a bit at this point in the story, where it would be very easy to settle into too comfortable a rhythm.
Something else in here was very deliberate: while Tarn rescues Kirya by severing the link between her and her mother, I didn’t want this chapter to slide into damsel-in-distress territory. As such, the only reason Tarn manages to escape from Kraisa’s orbit (and subsequently save Kirya) is because he gets a helping hand from Kirya. She piggybacks on the mental link, reaches him and pulls him away from Kraisa’s influence. Without her assistance, Tarn would most likely have been stranded inside the weird metaverse. The chapter is very much a joint effort, instead of it being abuot Tarn rescuing Kirya.
Regrets of a Doomed King
Unless I’m mistaken, which I might be because this book is now ridiculously MASSIVE, we haven’t had a Guijus-POV chapter since halfway through Arc 4. That was a long time ago. He’s featured in chapters since then, but never as the narrator perspective – this was a deliberate move as I wanted to isolate Guijus and have him become more of an unknowable threat. Hence Stryke witnesses him riling up the crowd at the rally and indulging his worst impulses.
Given that the action is pivoting back towards Treydolain in Arc 6 I wanted to check back in with Guijus to take a measure of his state of mind.
We find him isolated, withdrawn, resigned to disappointment and failure. The chapter takes him on a mini-journey towards making his own decisions and taking a stand, which will reposition himself for the events to come.
This is one of those times that a fictional character insisted on doing something which wasn’t in the author’s plan. At no point have I been expecting Guijus to go to the front lines in the looming battle; he was always supposed to stay put in Treydolain. But Guijus simply wasn’t having any of that, and having him continue to be such a passive character didn’t make sense and wasn’t very interesting. This shift makes the character and the plot more interesting, even if it does mean I need to shuffle things around a bit.