Tremontaine: Old in Mischief

Tremontaine Season Two

It’s a delightful return to Riverside, as Kaab moves in with Tess to investigate thefts from the Balam warehouses, and Micah makes a trip to the Brown Dog to upset the locals by winning at cards. Up on the Hill, we are treated to a virtuoso display of swordsmanship as Vincent takes on De Maris at a birthday party and catches the eyes of the Duchess and the Ambassador…

After a delightful evening at Convocation last week, we’re back down to earth as we join Vincent in Riverside, smouldering in a way that’s downright unfair and almost unbearable. This is probably the most detailed description we’ve had of him yet – no longer just ‘not quite handsome’ (although still that, always that), but details of hair and eyes and oh my words his hands.

Vincent Applethorpe rarely had to do more than gesture in order to get what he wanted in Riverside

Or anywhere else, I rather suspect, with those strong, competent hands. Vincent enjoys the same sort of respect and fear-touched affection that Richard de Vier will come to possess many years later (and I’m still fascinated to know whether we’ll see more of the de Viers this season to put the final details of his story together).

None of this does Vincent any favours at home, of course. He’s Tess’s protector and Kaab’s fencing master, which simply makes him the person most likely to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or the right place at the right time, depending on your perspective) to catch the brunt of their arguments. The image of him tearing up the stairs to defend Tess from supposed harm, dripping in perfume (and I’m only a little sad that this didn’t result in byplay up on the Hill) is reassuring. Vincent Applethorpe takes his duties very seriously.

So does Ixkaab Balam, much to Tess’s righteous dismay. Kaab is pretending to have fallen out with her family in order to slip into the life of Riverside in hope of uncovering the thief behind raids on the chocolate warehouses. It’s the sort of over-complicated plot the Kinwiinik prefer, as opposed to roughing up the wrong people in an alley and leaving puncture wounds in a few livers. I have to think it won’t actually get Kaab anywhere.

Schemes aside, flaunting her relationship with Tess to win Riverside’s trust is no way to build a happy marriage – Kaab should be doing it because she wants to be with Tess, and for no more reason than that. It’s hard not to see it as taking advantage. I commented at the end of last season that Kaab had to STOP trying to bend their relationship to her duty, but it seems she hasn’t learnt her lesson yet. I have thoughts, Ms Balam. You’d stab me if I shared them. Assuming, of course, that someone else doesn’t try to stab her first as she stalks the back alleys.

She was stunning in that dangerous way of strangers and blades

If Convocation gave us a season one recap from Diane’s perspective, Old in Mischief does the same for Kaab. Both are remarkable in how fluidly they fit into the broader narrative, adding details that tie past and future together (just who is the inspector from the Batab?). I’m never a fan of Basil Exposition, and he doesn’t stop to visit here – the streams of consciousness and reflection are perfectly woven to seem relevant to the events in hand. It also serves up a little misdirection: Kaab’s flamboyant leap onto the Bridge and her consideration of the Middle City and Rafe left me wondering whether the betrayals this season would be tit for tat for the betrayals of last.

Across town, Micah has run out of money and food. The obvious answer for a straightforward girl with a head full of mathematics is a trip to Riverside; if it’s safe for Tess, it will be safe for Micah. Joshua does his best to dissuade her and I’d like to take a moment to appreciate how fully he has stepped into (and possibly improved upon) Rafe’s role as her friend and protector. Lovely Joshua. I do hope nothing bad happens to him.

Such as, say, a hair raising encounter with two of Riverside’s finest: Shade and Florian. I get the impression we’ll be seeing more of this unsavoury pairing – a dandy con man thief and his ruthless stabbity partner (in every sense of the word) – and their intriguing fence, Salamander. They constantly walk a knife-edge of violence, and my blood ran cold at Micah and Joshua falling within their orbit.

Or as my reading notes put it: Nooooo hands off our cinnamon rolls, knife boy. 

Speaking of the knife-edge of violence: up on the Hill, Lord Bardsleigh has challenged Lord Ferris, so it’s time for Vincent to show that De Maris isn’t, in fact, the best sword in the City. Knowing that Diane is in the market for a new swordsman, I’m fascinated: I had no doubt Vincent would win the bout, but if Diane is determined to have him it means she will once again have to cross swords with Ixkaab Balam.

But no good swordfight is without some simmering distractions: it appears the Chartili Ambassador and Vincent have met before (and when I say met I mean please pass me that fan before I steam up) and the birthday party is to celebrate Anthony Deverin’s 18th birthday.

Booooooooooooo, it’s Ferris! 

He was much too young and quick with a sneer now, but who knew what he might become in time?

Much the same, Diane. Much the same. 

Meeting characters we know from the future is one of the great delights of Tremontaine. I would ask your forgiveness for my inevitable need to treat him with the disdain and cat-calling usually reserved for a pantomime villain, but it appears that young Ferris will display all the character defects that I dislike in his older incarnation.

We close the week with a delightful scene between Lord Arlen and the good Duchess. Arlen is the spider at the heart of the web, the one most likely to sniff out Diane’s secrets if he puts his mind to it and the one best placed to upset or uphold her ambitions for Tremontaine. He’s pretty unambiguous here – he’ll support her if she impresses him. Which is one hell of a gauntlet to slap down. I’m not sure Diane needs that sort of encouragement, but I’m happy to have a ringside seat for the political carnage I think must ensue. As Vincent observed about an entirely different matter: 

The danger did not vanish if you knew how to play the game; it only became more precise

I thought Season One was ruthless and sharp-edged. Now I’m thinking we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Tremontaine is available from Serial Box Publishing in ebook and audio format each week.