The nations are manoeuvring swiftly in response to the disappearance of the Rumikan trade mission to Quloo. When the aggressive new Quloi government position a dreadnought in the skies above Twaa Fei, it evokes memories of destroyed nations and hints darkly that war may soon displace diplomacy. Can any friendships survive the eruptions of belligerence and mistrust?
What did I say about Spiralling? Something about sky rocketing tensions and juicy plot developments? Friends, I had no idea.
No matter what level of epic insanity I could have pitched as likely to happen next, there’s no way I would have come up with anything as edge-of-your-seat dramatic or entirely over the top as the developments delivered by Cass Khaw in Dreadnought. Even if I hadn’t had two glasses of wine for lunch (I have) I would struggle to be coherent about this episode. By way of illustration, here are my reading notes:
Mmmm, food. O hai Cass Khaw!
There’s no avoiding spoilers this week, so buckle up.
Dreadnought begins – in the best Cass Khaw fashion – with a walk through a food market guaranteed to have you salivating. I love these little scenes that take you out of the embassies and into Twaa Fei to get a sense of the islands. They’re a vibrant melting pot, flourishing but still alive to the tensions around them – and more so than ever this week.
But the Quloi have cooled, their servants showing discourtesy even to a (junior) Warder. It’s easy to give Kris the side-eye for the rudeness Michiko is treated to – after all, they did bull their way through the Quloi embassy last week – but given the new Quloi government and the accusations that Quloo attacked Rumika, the Quloi may just have knives out for everyone in general.
Except for ever-charming Adechike. I’ve always had a tiny suspicion that Adechike was a bit too good to be true – everybody’s friend, everybody’s helpmeet, asking all the right questions (or maybe just asking all the questions, even of Ojo) – and gut punches get going early as Takeshi binds him with bladecraft and calls him a traitor.
The surprise here isn’t that Adechike appears to be an agent (of the High Sky faction? It’s still unclear), but that it’s Takeshi who confronts him. I’m increasingly thinking of Takeshi as an unlikely and adorable combination of cinnamon roll, fantasy scientist (YES MY FAVOURITE) and undercover man of mystery – I think it’s more likely that he’s a good-hearted man with excellent observation skills being put to many uses, but I wouldn’t say no to art of him wearing a mask and wielding a test tube. Well I might, that’s a bit unnerving. Anyway.
Meanwhile, Kris compounds their bursting-into-the-Quloi-embassy antics by kicking down Adechike’s door and searching his room. KRIS NO. THIS IS NOT HOW DIPLOMACY WORKS, KRIS. OR ESPIONAGE. LET ALONE FRIGGING FRIENDSHIP.
Because it’s not actually clear why Kris kicks the door down, as it doesn’t occur to them to realise they may have been artfully manipulated by their bestie until they see Adechike’s bedroom and it’s nothing like they expected. Intriguing art and an excess of cushions have never made me re-evaluate a friendship, but then I’ve never been so keen to see a friend I’ve kicked their door down, either.
On the other hand, given we’ve already seen Takeshi’s non-specific accusations against Adechike in person (SEE KRIS THAT’S HOW YOU DO IT AND EVEN THAT IS PRETTY CONFRONTATIONAL IN THE WORLD OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, HONESTLY), so it’s easy to give Kris some rope here. I should know better. Never give Kris rope – they’ll either swing off a ship wielding a sword (…ok, I’m fine with that) or trip up over it.
Guess what Kris does?
It turns out a duel (YES REALLY) is almost as good as the sight of some really good bed linen for forcing Kris to re-evaluate their understanding of their relationship with someone.
This should be enough drama for anyone, but Cass Khaw is just warming up. Because when Kris slinks out of the Quloi embassy they stumble straight into Lavinia baiting the Quloi dreadnought.
Only Lavinia would begin a duel with an enormous military vessel that is scaring the hell out of the entirety of Twaa Fei.
Only Lavinia would stand a chance of beating it.
My favourite thing about this scene is that Lavinia and the dreadnought aren’t even the main event. We stay with Kris, who finally confronts Adechike in person – their argument is the emotional climax; the epic battle takes place in the background.
Hats off, Born to the Blade. We can be wowed by Lavinia’s skills, horrified by her arrogance, adoring of the sudden development of Michiko’s spine and political skills – but the emotional engagement centres on the painful dissolution of trust and friendship.
In the middle of the mayhem, it would be far too easy to lose sight of the fact that Anton is still harbouring the only survivor of the Rumikan disaster. The surviving eyewitness, who we can glean is in need of medical attention – and who is presumably sat on information that could blow the skies open. AND WE STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY SAW.
So much happens this week. And yet I have so many questions.