The Master of Ceremonies is back in Aquae Sulis. The Rose is being torn up by the roots. And the Poppy is to be united with the Iris – regardless of Cathy’s opinions. Can she find a reason to make peace with Will? Or will she get drawn back into the Sorcerer’s schemes, as well-meaning Sam lurches from one disaster to the next?

Our adventures through the Split Worlds continue through the summer, and this week we’re starting book 2: Any Other Name. It picks up where Between Two Thorns left off, and I for one am hoping it will tie up some of the loose ends.

This week we’re being hosted by Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow to get us started. I apologise now for the swearing. I may have got a little annoyed.

 

1. Cathy’s wedding day arrives, and her mother wasn’t joking when she said she’d make sure Cathy would go through with it. What are your thoughts/feelings on Cathy’s forced circumstances?
Well done Emma Newman, you got me on Cathy’s side. I want to stab her family in the eyes with a fork. I am totally not okay with forced marriage as a concept anyway (arranged marriages, sometimes, but never ever ever against the participants’ individual wills), and forced marriage through the medium of drugs and Charms? Totally. Not. Okay.

It was pretty clear from the end of Between Two Thorns that this was on the cards – Cathy was being given no time to wriggle out and escape – but I didn’t expect it to be quite such an overwhelming show of force. I mean, maybe I should be a little impressed? delighted? awed? that her parents take her self-determination and ingenuity so seriously, but frankly no. Just no.

 

2. On the way to the ceremony, we get some surprising insights into Cathy’s father’s background and why he treats his daughter the way he does. Does this change your opinion of him at all? If so, what do you make of him now?

Because I have learnt to embrace my status as a citizen of the internet, I thought I’d answer this question through the medium of gifs. Inevitably, I just lost half an hour admiring the number and variety of gifs dedicated to asshattery. I am so naïve. So I give you Cameron, instead.

When overwhelmed by options on the Internet, Ferris can always help

*cough* No, my opinions of Cathy’s dad (does he have a name? I seem to have him penned in the corner with a label and a sneer) have not improved. It’s okay for him to ask for something unheard of, but not his daughter? Misogynistic asshat. It’s okay for him because it was for his country whereas she just selfishly wants an education? Self-deluded nationalist misogynistic asshat. Realising that his daughter may have inherited his stubbornness and be worth talking to – on the way to her forced marriage, no less – after years of beating her for talking back? Abusive misogynistic asshat.

And then we get to how the Irises welcome their brides into their family and my cup runneth over with RAGE and WTFery. This. Is. Not. Okay. My mind is bounding with unrelated world-building questions (because it’s me, I’m now curious to know how they receive medical treatment – since clearly the Nether won’t have any lady doctors! – and whether they can even hug their sons) but at a base level, I am wondering how Cathy stopped herself punching Lady Iris in the face with her ‘any woman who objected clearly had lewd intentions’. OR WANTED A HUG FROM HER BROTHER, YOU BRAINWASHED BITCH. GAAAAAHHHHHHH.

Inside Outs Anger erupts with RAGE

 

 

3. The wedding itself, and the honeymoon, brings some unavoidable truths with it, for Cathy and Will both. Does their behaviour in this part of the book change what you think of them/their outlook?

Cathy behaves just as I would expect her to – the magic for me is that I could get behind her this time. While I can see that Will was trying really hard to try and forge a relationship out of a terrible situation, after the wedding day she’s just had I wouldn’t expect Cathy to be responsive to his overtures. He and his entire family can fuck. right. off.

Hermione glaring off-screen
Hermione disapproves. Do not make her come and set you straight.

…and I wasn’t surprised by Will’s response. It’s an old, old script: marry bride, bed bride, have children, live happily ever after. Where bride is unwilling, beat bride into submission is a standard footnote (whether we look at historical or contemporary examples – ‘it’s okay to lightly beat your wife’ brigade, I’m glaring at you.). Never accept rebellion. Force woman to your will.

Will knows what is expected of them, and he knows how the script goes. I was relieved that he didn’t follow it. He knows he ‘ought’ to (by his family’s rules), but it’s clearly not who he is or wants to be. The question now is which matters most to him: his sense of himself, or his need to comply with his perceived duty (and drag Cathy kicking and screaming along with him). I am on tenterhooks here. I have been Team Will so far in the hope and belief that he is a Good Man who can overcome his programming. I really hope I’m right.

Scene from Mad Max Fury Road: Zoom in on old lady holding a shotgun. Painted on the wall behind her is WE ARE NOT THINGS.
Get with the re-programme, Will. Or else.

Emma Newman’s great success with these books is in presenting the level of patriarchal bullshit approaching that of, say, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and making me realise I have moments of urging our heroine to submit to it. Who needs therapy when you can be forced to confront your inner programming to comply through the medium of faerie urban fantasy?

While we’ve spent this week focusing on Cathy, I’d like to take a moment to talk about Sam. He’s always been my least favourite (and we bump into him thinking about drinking until he vomits, so hey, right back where we started), but he goes some way towards finally showing himself to be a Good Person this week when he is resolute in wanting to rescue the kidnapped blond(e)s from Exilium. The scenes between him and Lord Poppy were practically pantomime levels of participation in my house.

Poppy: “I’ll do it if you give me 5 years of your life.”

Sam (to audience): “What do you think, kids? Is he on the level? I’m willing to make this sort of heroic sacrifice for the good of others. This book needs a white knight.”

Me: “NO YOU RAGING EEJIT OF COURSE HE ISN’T DON’T GIVE HIM WHAT HE WANTS”

Sam (to Poppy): “Okay, Poppy, whatever”

Poppy: *rubs hands together, giggling*

Me: *slams head into closest hard surface*

Okay, maybe that’s not quite how I remember audience interaction at pantomimes after all.

And bonus points to Sam for trying, even if he is a clueless twonk who is going to get totally buggered. At least it will be because he meant well. Poor Sam.

I love Lord Poppy.

 

Fancy joining in? Here’s the schedule:

Questions, chitchat and links to all participants can be found on GoodReads and on Twitter by following @SFFReadalongs.