Be careful what you wish for (All is Fair 4)

Read-along: Emma Newman's Split Worlds - All is Fair (book 3)

And I thought last week was tricky to summarise without spoilers. Much is resolved in this action-packed finale. But are we on the edge of exciting new developments or will the powers behind the status quo crush all hope of a freer future?

Oh my word there’s so much we could talk about this week – where to begin?! 

1. Apparently women can’t be Arbiters or Sorcerers. Is this another sign of Nether sexism, or do you think there may be other mysteries at play here? What do you think Rupert will do about it?

After my sarky comments a few weeks back about how the Sorcerers were all old white guys, I shouldn’t really have been surprised to discover that there are actual rules against Lady Sorcerers. After all, every other facet of the Split Worlds machinery is drenched in misogyny – why wouldn’t the gatekeepers be sexist too?

I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that we’ll get told that women can’t be Sorcerers because hormones would result in disasters on a monthly basis, or casting spells would make our brains explode or something equally stupid. Although given that our only other surviving Sorcerer is Rupert – and there’s indications he’s not quite so old-fashioned – we may get told this in tones that drip with sarcasm.

Rupert has also shown us his capacity for vengeance and rapid response, so I have to assume he’ll answer the attempt on his life in kind regardless of the gender of the Sorcerer in question.

But what is the Lady Sorcerer’s goal? Might she be an unexpected ally for Cathy?

2. Were you surprised at Max’s choice? What about his deliberate reaching for his emotions? What do you think the future holds for him and the Gargoyle?

I wasn’t entirely surprised that Max chose Rupert over Ekstrand. His loyalties had come under a lot of strain – even without the Gargoyle’s urgings, he might have chosen the Sorcerer most likely to be effective against the perceived threat. I was surprised that he chose to feel his grief, though, and I wonder what that suggests about his behaviour in future. He looks to be intending to set himself up as a lone policeman on the borders of the Nether – which is a dangerous proposition! – but what can he actually achieve without a Sorcerer behind him?

…I guess the point is secrecy. If Society – and the Agency – don’t know the Sorcerers are dead (which most of them don’t, except in Oxenford – ironically, given Rupert is actually still alive), then they will still fear an Arbiter’s intervention. Can Max be a good enough liar to bluff his way into bullying the Nether into behaving? Maybe he can persuade Sam to back him up?

3. Cathy has had sweeping success in beginning her rebellion. How do you think Londinium – and the Agency – and the Fae – will respond? 

To be honest, Cathy’s success has been a bit too easy for my liking – that’s one powerful wish Lord Poppy granted! But I have to think it will get harder from here on in. Lord Iris may want the worlds disrupted, but I doubt he wants to lose influence in the process – and he’s never going to like being challenged. I suspect Nathaniel Reticulata-Iris will be first in the queue to give him a hand in putting Cathy back in her place. I wonder whether we could see a civil war in the Nether?

As for the Agency, it’s certainly in their interests to try and shut down Cathy as fast as possible. Society may not have a fundamental issue with the idea of paying wages as long as the overall bill doesn’t go up, but if Cathy’s crusade undermines quality – or willingness – of service, and the servants begin demanding more rights, I think she’ll lose support fast. The Nether isn’t really built to look after itself!

4. Will has finally become an ally. Do you think he’s strong enough to stick to it? Do his secrets make him vulnerable?

I absolutely think Will is a chink in Cathy’s armour. Whether someone (the Agency?) tries to blackmail him or actually tells Cathy some of the things he’s done in order to dissolve the trust between them, he could be at best a distraction and at worst an unseen viper in the nest. He seems to have persuaded himself he loves her – so if he thought he might lose her, what wouldn’t he do to keep his secrets? He’s not as strong as she is.

On the other hand, he can’t actually stop her or talk her out of anything (and I don’t think he’d hurt her) – so I’d think all he can really be blackmailed into is passing along her plans. Unless he fell for the old ‘if you don’t give her this potion, we’ll hurt her far worse. This way at least she’ll live and we’ll let you retire in comfort’ trap…

5. Sam assumes the mantle of Lord Iron – what do you think of his intentions to pick up Leanne’s mission as well? Do you think he will find his deeds tainted just as Amir’s were? What do you make of his reflection that he’s found a way to look at the past such that it’s nobody’s fault?

I remain completely disappointed in Sam and his storyline. His clever and successful wife made a number of brave and stupid decisions, largely so that Sam will have a Purpose now she’s dead. Him picking up her mission just confirms the fridging for me (not that it really needed confirming at this point); add it to his white knight need to ‘rescue’ Cathy and my teeth grind every time I think of him.

My only faint patch of hope – and that’s the wrong word, really, because this is a nasty thought – is that as Lord Iron, he may be one of only two people Cathy cares about who aren’t protected by her wish (the other being the Gargoyle); and that I think that he will find that being Lord Iron makes him just as poisonous as his predecessor. So will his taint seep into Cathy’s crusade? Or just his own attempts to steer CoFerrum Inc onto a straighter path? I suspect he’ll discover that best intentions have unintended consequences.

This sort of brings me back to his reflection on where things went wrong with Leanne. For me, his decision to look at the past in a way that makes it ‘nobody’s fault’ is a way of avoiding responsibility and I don’t buy it. Leanne’s decision to keep him in the dark was ludicrous and harmful; there’s no way that couldn’t destroy their relationship – and when it became clear that it was, she pushed ahead anyway. Sam was perhaps less guilty in allowing Poppy to take a memory (technically that was Cathy’s fault), but he remains guilty of a heap of selfish bullshit. His head was so far up his self-righteous ass, rather than being supportive – long before he ran into the Brothers Thorn – that the loss of the memory was just the final straw.

Choosing to take no responsibility for the failure of his marriage – or the death of his wife – bodes very, very badly for the consequences of his actions as Lord Iron, I suspect.

All of which goes to say I wish horrible dark things on Sam, and I’m not even sorry. Well, maybe a little bit. But only a little bit.


It’s been quite a ride. Here’s the wrap for All is Fair:

Questions, chitchat and links to all participants can be found on GoodReads and on Twitter by following @SFFReadalongs.
Book 4 of the Split Worlds, A Little Knowledge, is released on August 2nd. We’ll all be reading separately – watch out for a review in due course.