This week’s episode is a warning to guard our hearts. Diane’s former mantra – attachment is a weakness – may come back to haunt all our beloved characters. Their affections and their assumptions make them vulnerable. I AM WORRIED ABOUT EVERYONE, OKAY?
It’s two weeks since the Night of the Flames. On the plus side, we are immediately put out of our miserable worrying for Micah’s safety; on the down side, we only hear about how Diane rescued her from her wardrobe.
But I don’t mind too much, because Rafe is spending a chilly afternoon looking at a prospective school site with my darlings, Joshua and Micah. On the down side, Florian has tagged along – but much to my delight, Rafe is happy to mock him for the whining poseur that he is. This relationship seems to be heading for the rocks fast; while it may seem like a big concession for Florian to be present at all, Rafe appreciates neither his snide remarks about the school nor his overt attacks on Joshua.
“I know this is boring for you, Florian,” said Rafe. “I appreciate your coming along, but I’m not done yet. Go if you like. I’ll catch up later.”
It seemed unlikely to me that Florian would countenance Rafe’s constant abandonments. He may not love Rafe as he loved Shade (just as Florian can’t hold a candle to William), but he’s not the type to play second fiddle to anyone or anything.
Sure enough, the tensions come to a head this week, first between him and Joshua – competing for Rafe’s attentions (Micah and Joshua caring for each other in the face of Florian’s spite is just a whole bakery of cinnamon rolls) – and then between him and Rafe. I’d pegged this as a relationship based on sex intended to hold their losses at arm’s length; and so indeed it proves. Hats off to Paul Witcover – he crafted a moment where I almost pitied Florian LaRue (but only almost; Florian is after all a despicable human being). Yet when he turns on Rafe, the things he says aren’t wrong. But he’s no less self indulgent himself and he can’t blame Rafe for not knowing things he’s never shared.
…and unlike Florian, Rafe has the empathy to wish to heal his lover, not just lose himself in him. Although whether he’ll get the chance after their tiff remains to be seen.
But coming back to my opening gambit: it’s Rafe’s assumption regarding the Duchess’s acquisition of the school that strike me as dangerous in the face of this week’s manoeuvrings by arch creep Gregory Davenant. Needless to say my reading notes relating to the insufferable Davenant are entirely profane. I can’t stand his smugness, let alone his patriarchal bullshit. But I have to admit he’s smarter than he has previously appeared; clever enough to know he will do better to attack Diane at an angle: Inconvenience her. Cost her money. Set others against her. Wear her down before he moves in to possess her.
I mean, she’d admire his tactics if they weren’t aimed at her. And I find myself worrying just what he might find in the correspondence that was stolen along with the little red book of his iniquities. I fear for my Duchess. Her walls are tumbling down even as Kaab and Tess build their battlements as high as they can.
Poor Tess. She’s struggling to hold it together, but I liked that we saw her acknowledge that the them and us attitude of previous weeks is counter productive (not that she doesn’t clearly think in those terms, but she knows it’s a war Riverside can’t win). I also loved her moment more gently mentoring young Charlotte (compared to the public humiliation of Ben last week). Clever Tess. Lonely Tess. But not alone – I loved Madeleine for making that point. She may have lost her lovers but she still has her friends.
Kaab, in the other hand, is truly isolated. Even duty can barely spur Chuleb to step up and assume the responsibilities demanded by the rixinkun. And I can’t help but wonder – although I feel terrible for doing so – whether Chuleb is really so far gone in his grief, or playing some deeper game. Kaab catches the barest snatches of his conversation with the rixinkun, filling in the gaps with what may be simply what she fears to hear. She has no allies amongst her own people, nobody to turn to for advice except perhaps Diane (and how much help can Diane be to her? And how much of a threat may Davenant be purely to weaken Diane?)
The stage is set to once again put our principals to the test, and I fear the tests are going to be harsh. Tensions started out high this season and are ratcheting up with every week. Even Joshua has secret affairs to pursue, and the writers have succeeded in making me as paranoid as Kaab, doubting even my beloved favourites. Attachment is a weakness. I’m terribly attached.
Tremontaine is available from Serial Box Publishing in ebook and audio format – episodes available individually or via a season pass to read it all in one glorious go.