Tremontaine 10: Shadowroot


Relationships take centre stage as the Duke and Duchess Tremontaine have a falling out, and Kaab entices Tess to talk about her nightmares. Micah may have puzzled out planetary orbits, but she’ll never fully grasp the ruthless mathematics of emotions.

Oh my. This is one of those weeks where you just sink back into your armchair with the biggest, steamiest mug of chocolate you can make and relish every minute.

The development of the core relationships in Tremontaine is one of my favourite things(in spite of the strong competition): this week, the dissolution of trust and affection between William and Diane acts as a counterbalance to the growing trust and attachment between Tess and Kaab.

Like most marital discord, the row at Tremontaine comes out of nowhere and should be no surprise to anyone. Diane has been carefully channeling her rage at her husband’s affair into irritating his lover; William seems to believe she remains ignorant of what he’s up to. Conversely, William believes he’s working hard to advance his wife’s schemes for Tremontaine’s mercantile interests, genuinely ignorant that she has long-since taken matters into her own hands. His revelation that his lover’s pet mathematician has found a way to break the Kinwiinik stranglehold on chocolate should be a joyful victory – instead, Diane is luke-warm and Will attacks her with vicious words that make it clear just how much of a marriage of convenience this has been all these years. Affectionate, yes, but unsatisfying to all parties.

Having some familiarity with Tremontaine reputations, I could see where this was going to go, so perhaps I should have felt sorry for William, but haven’t I been #TeamDuchess all along? Yes Diane’s cold-hearted, but she’s been faithful to her marriage vows until now and worked endlessly to restore his family’s fortunes (why yes, that’s in her best interests too, but nonetheless). She deserves rather better than she gets, I feel. Whether William deserves what she’ll serve up to him… well, no, but BRAVO WRITERS. I APPLAUD YOU ALL.

TV still: Livia (Sian Phillips) comforts Augustus (Brian Blessed) in the BBC production of I, Claudius
I always have liked watching ruthless women at work

In fact, given that it’s Rafe who sends William home to apologise to wife, let’s make that a standing ovation. Rafe surprised me – as he has an annoyingly regular habit of doing – with this unusual moment of emotional intelligence, but given I’d guessed what would follow it’s a moment with a generous gloss of Greek tragedy about it.

See me trying to dance around the core of the week’s plot without giving away any specifics?

But that’s not the only exciting development this week. Diane’s bloodthirsty swordsman Reynald is determined to silence our Kaab, and this week he finally makes his move. In a wonderful aside, he reflects that the House’s first swordsman Samuel gets to do the showy fights that make the men swoon – mwahaha – but our Reynald is happy to do the dirty work.

In addition to his general enjoyment of his job, there are elements of sexism and racism in his determination to cut Kaab down (as Diane most certainly didn’t tell him to murder her; he just chose to hear it that way). Reynald’s definitely laboring under the illusion that women belong in skirts (or perhaps out of them), and foreigners don’t know how to fight.

Kaab isn’t exactly pleased to be the one to school him otherwise, but she’s prepared to stand and fight when challenged – and what a fight it is. I spent this whole sequence with my fist in my mouth, and I’m not telling you what happens.

All in all, this week had me on the edge of my seat vibrating with excitement. It’s getting real, people. I should be reading ARCs, but I may be reading ahead…