Doors close, doors open. Rafe is still seething over the changes to University regulations when he is unexpectedly offered a position in the Tremontaine household. Can Rafe achieve his goals through his new lover’s influence? Or will the vengeful Duchess ensure that the young upstart meets a similar end to Ben the would-be blackmailer?
I’m going to be honest: I was slightly disappointed this week. It felt like less happened than in previous weeks, with more lingering over mundane details and fewer grace notes. Or perhaps I’m merely a little jaded that the developments we did get were precisely those I expected, which is rarely the case in Riverside. That said, even slightly disappointing Tremontaine has its moments and is pretty damn compelling (in places, at least)…
Kaab discovers Tess the forger in mourning for her best mate Ben, recently drowned. Much of this thread is about world-building, which I usually enjoy enormously; if I am just being contrary in finding it dull on this occasion, I apologise. I have the advantage of having recently read Swordspoint, which brought the district’s violent undercurrents and hard-drinking locals to life with a flair I felt this chapter lacked. While I enjoyed some of the asides, such as Kaab’s dawning realisation of social and economic stratification across the City (and what this might mean in terms of Riverside as a potential market for low-grade chocolate), Tess’s fellow mourners and even her pet urchin felt lacklustre.
The strongest element was the stories told at Ben’s wake, which I suspect is the bit we were actually meant to focus on. Ironically – and probably crucially, given where Ben got the locket that got him killed – most of them focus on his Dad, rather than Ben himself. Here at least is a larger-than-life character, begging for some short stories in his own right: a flamboyant highwayman with songs and legends to his name, not least one about how he waylaid a carriage Up North, stealing all the riches and murdering all the men, but leaving the two noble daughters alive and untouched… but did he really? I do wonder whether Diane de Tremontaine might have a slightly different perspective on this tall tale?
Up on the Hill, Diane has a new problem to deal with. Ben may be out of the way, but William has decided that he needs a new secretarial assistant to put the sex into secretary (sorry). The scene over dinner was easily my favourite of the week. William is completely oblivious to what his wife is capable of and how much she knows; he is also very naïve, so wrapped up in his obsession with Rafe that it never occurs to him that he sounds like a lovestruck teenager as he goes on and on and on about him over the rapidly-cooling dinner #WILLIAMNO
This was surprising, and Diane disliked surprises that she had not orchestrated herself.
My heart hurt for Diane. It’s the double whammy of being the first time her husband has been unfaithful to her and one of those rare occasions when she realises she’s not in control. This bodes badly for Rafe. This is fine by me (not so much for Diane’s sake as for Micah’s – Rafe’s casual appropriation of Micah’s gifts to build his own career really set my teeth on edge this week), although I suspect the twists and turns will be many as the situation plays itself out – no simple stabbing of the student and dumping his body in the river!
We end the week back in Riverside, with Kaab – as predicted – offering to find out who killed Ben to win red-headed Tess’s favour (and commissioning the forger to produce some documents to derail Rafe’s mathematics – although given Micah’s latest insight, this may be too little too late). This puts her on course for a war of wits with Diane. A headstrong spy in a foreign city against a devious Duchess? I love both these women, but I AM HERE FOR THIS. Here’s hoping for Kaab’s sake that the distraction at home levels the playing field… and that Tess doesn’t end up the same way as her last lady friend.