The City is bustling in the run up to the annual Swan Ball at Tremontaine House. Saabim and Chuleb can’t understand why the Balam have been invited; is Diane trying to soften them after failing to keep her promises? Kaab takes a break from her swordscraft to find out, and beleaguered Rafe finds he really is the only person in the City who doesn’t want to talk about the Ball…
This week starts with an echo of The Privilege of the Sword, as the Tremontaine butler rues the need to count and clean the silver. The annual Tremontaine Swan Ball is nearly upon us, and he must find a way to hide the gaps in the ducal fortunes and put on the expected show. It’s a rare glimpse from the perspective of the household, who naturally know far more than their master and mistress would like. There’s recognition that excuses are being made to lay staff off to save costs – but I sense more respect for ruthless, pragmatic Diane than distracted William.
If Katherine hadn’t been already on my mind, the cut to Kaab being drilled by master swordsman Vincent in Riverside would have put her there. This is one of the things that will always bring me back to Riverside; it’s a familiar delight. Kaab is a less biddable but more willing student than Katherine, however frustrated she may be at being second-best. I particularly like that she can keep her temper in check when she tries, and that her frustrations never brim over into antipathy for Vincent. He’s awesome, and she knows it. #TEAMVINCENT
We get much more Micah this week than we have done for a while, reconfirming as usual that she is a precious cinnamon roll. It’s pretty amazing that she is coping with the disturbances of student living, but her mathematics and the tomato pies appear enough to sustain her in spite of her unsettled circumstances (hey, who doesn’t feel better with regular infusions of pizza and hot chocolate?). I was mildly intrigued to note how good she is at reading the people around her – she may not recognise social cues and she may get very anxious in a social context, but she has a very good grip on how others feel and what they are hiding.
This suddenly makes me think that there could be all sorts of interesting opportunities for her and Kaab in the future. That said, Micah’s inability to lie could be a major constraint…
I never expected all the women in Rafe’s life to gang up on him (at once!), but I’d be happy for it to happen more often (no, I’m still not really warming to Rafe). Diane’s condescension and subtle digs are measured, little pin pricks of irritation to transfer her disquiet to her husband’s lover. It’s practically social acupuncture it’s so targeted. Rafe is left almost but not quite certain of what she knows, wrestling with what he may never admit is a guilty conscience and with his own deflating sense of self-importance. Diddums.
But there’s a Ball in the offing, and everyone except Rafe is excited about it. Micah is convinced it needs turnip swan centrepieces (<333). Kaab, irritated by Rafe’s unwillingness (or more likely inability) to answer her questions about Diane’s intentions for the Ball, cheerfully goads him and encourages Micah in her unexpected and inappropriate demand to be permitted to attend. The idea of Micah at a ball is incongruous, but once the idea gets into her head it sticks – and we shift to a beguiling and bemusing Cinderella storyline.
While I enjoyed the scenes of Tess forging an invitation and taking Micah and her Fairy Kaabmother to a Riverside ‘secondhand’ couturier to find an outfit, my favourite moment this week was Kaab’s grumpy return home from the market to relate what little she had discovered to her aunt. Frustrated that she had got nothing of importance out of Rafe to help the Kinwiinik understand why they have been invited to the Ball, her aunt and the cook turn out to be fascinated by the menu. I loved that the most useful morsel of intelligence was a domestic detail. Now the Kinwiinik know Diane’s secret; but how will they use it to their advantage?
This felt like a lighter week in the build-up to the Swan Ball and I am now agog for the social and political manoeuvring that are sure to take place there.