The Duchy of Londinium is back in the hands of an Iris. The Tulipas fan the flames of an ancient enmity. Cathy finds herself at a new disadvantage with a Curse, her own emotions and the outrageous suggestions of a gung-ho Gargoyle to contend with. And the Agency get creepier and creepier by the moment…

Lisa of Over The Effing Rainbow gets us off to a flying start as the plots hit the ground running:

1. We get to visit the Agency in more depth than before here. What are your thoughts/predictions on their shady goings-on after what we’ve been shown?

I am so squeamish about the Agency. The scene with Miss Rainer in Any Other Name, the loyalty of Derne’s guards and the scene with Carter all strongly imply profligate use of Charms or brainwashing to make people into perfect servants. Perhaps some serve by choice, but it feels like there’s a lot of room for coercion – and worse… 

Such as the basement in Scotland. It looks a lot like being strapped in a chair and drugged into compliance (via the IV). I guess this is what it means to be Archived, and I’m with Dave the Gargoyle here: there’s nothing right about this. Not even Horatio Gallica-Rosa deserves this.

If we take a step outside the world for a moment, it looks like a clever application of monopolistic corporate ethics. And there’s no regulation of the Agency – as far as we know they’re answerable only to themselves – so they have no ethics. But this leaves me with a string of questions: how do you end up running the Agency? What does the Agency do with their money? And is there an even shadowier organisation behind them?

…in fact, the only means to control them appears to be fear: of the Sorcerers and the Fae. So where does the Elemental court fit in?

All the questions. None of the answers. But I’m looking forward to this organisation being burnt to the ground. FREE THEM CATHY. FREE THEM.

2. Will finally realises he may have made certain mistakes with all his assumptions… Do you think he’ll step up and correct them, or is it too late for him?

Before we get to that, let’s have a moment growling at Will’s instinctive responses, shall we? ‘My wife has a male friend who saved her life. SHE MUST NEVER SEE HIM AGAIN.’ (even though Will doesn’t consider Sam a threat). Fuck you, Will. Try acknowledging that you owe him a major debt for SAVING HER LIFE. But no, male friendships might damage her honour. GRRRR. 

Then his flash of guilty temper when Cathy struggles to get up to speed on recent events because THEY MAKE NO SENSE. 

Yet Cathy is starting to think he’s an ally, when his behaviour is increasingly (rather than decreasingly) Son of the Nether. I genuinely believe he has come round to appreciating she’s awesome (hey, so have I), but I no longer trust that he’s capable of making good decisions, let alone amends. He can’t even consider the consequences of his actions (such as the impact on Margritte). 

Also, while I’m not overly fond of ‘love is a trap’ as a subplot (unless I’m in Deverry *cough*) I do like that Cathy recognises Will’s looks, tenderness and gifts as possible distractions from her cause. You stick to it, crusader!

3. “It’s nice not being called ‘puppet’ all the time.” Max and Cathy seem to be coming to a better understanding of each other and their situations. Max also seems to be coming around more to the gargoyle’s (more emotional) point of view. What do you make of their scenes here, and do you think he and Cathy can become true allies from here?

I am enjoying the interplay between logic and emotion. It’s so important to remember that Max and Dave are two aspects of the same person: everything Dave feels is Max’s emotion. It also makes Dave the reader stand-in, because he’s one of the few characters who ever has anything like a mundane response. 

…but I’m not sure Max is coming round to Dave’s POV. I think Max is just getting better at recognising and managing it (not the same as sharing it), and Dave is getting better at manipulating him (like the realisation that physical contact forced his emotions back on Max. Max’s subsequent decisions felt a lot more like post-rationalisation than logic!) 

I’d say Dave is finding his feet and testing boundaries rather than that Max is coming round to his perspective …so I think Max is a long way from being an ally. The first sniff of something he can misinterpret and he’ll revert to going on about ‘untrustworthy puppets’. Even after their hilarious prank in Trafalgar Square.

4. Things take an interesting turn for Sam with Lord Iron, following Leanne’s funeral. Do you have any new thoughts about might be going on here after the discussion they have at Lord Iron’s house?

I don’t trust Lord Iron at all. I don’t know if Sam is being played, or where Neugent actually stands, but this is all a bit too convenient. 

‘You’re free to feel what you like and do what you like.’

When Sam’s response to feeling and doing what he liked was that he wanted to kill Neugent, Iron sent Neugent in to see him. I read this as Neugent becoming disposable – Iron said later he was helping Sam come to terms, but I suspect he didn’t care about the outcome either way (he may have guessed Sam would simmer down when he realised Neugent is dying, but I’m pretty sure Iron has ways of disposing of bodies).

And I think Neugent knows it – when he realised Sam could suddenly read him, and knew who Mr Ferran was, he was totally shaken. I think Sam is essentially Neugent’s heir/replacement. But why? And what will that entail?

I don’t buy Iron’s line on feeling guilty, or see any reason Sam would be the only spouse he could help / make amends to if he has known what was going on. No, there’s something else here. So what makes Sam interesting / suitable – is it his link to Poppy? 

Other thoughts this week:

Margritte’s trip to Oxford made me consider how long grudges can boil away when you’re immortal. This can’t end well. 

Also, vintage Lord Poppy getting his thrills from the taste of Sam’s tears! I continue to approve of Lord Poppy as a Fae archetype. But what is Lord Iris’s real game? He seems to be in on the corruption of the Arbiters – is Max right to think he’s aiming to take the Split out of the Worlds? In which case, what are his plans for Will’s firstborn son? *shudder*

Lastly (honestly), I recall that the Sorcerers are supposed to be keeping Mundanus innocent and free of Fae influence. It feels to me like they’re closing the door after the horse has bolted when you give even half a thought to Lord Iron and his influence…

 

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