The Quloi have moved on from intimidating the neutral territory of Twaa Fei to dominating the outlying islands of Rumika. With war seeming inevitable, the first refugees begin fleeing to safety. Can Kris take care of their people and find allies – or will everyone turn their back on the newest member of the Warder’s Circle?

Born the Blade continues to cut close to the bone in its portrayal of the politics of influence. Kris may have brought some of their situation on themselves, but they’re hardly at fault for the disappearance of the Rumikan trade fleet – and rumours and events are both racing ahead of their efforts to try and control the situation.

DIfficult times for Rumika’s first Warder – and testing times for so many (acting) Warders to have so little experience. Only the Mertikan, Quloi and Tsukiseni Warders have experience on their sides – and none of them are likely to try and de-escalate the situation. Mertika can only see opportunity in global unrest; Quloo is at the heart of matters; and Tsukisen is adhering closely to its traditional policies of isolation.

Unfortunately for Kris, neither Cassia nor Takeshi are free to act as their hearts might dictate – they are Warders in name only, if for different reasons. Can Michiko be trusted to help – or is Kakute’s representative as tied to Mertika’s interests as Itaro’s?

Trust is a central question this week. Anton is still harbouring a secret that can only benefit Kris, but Kris doesn’t give him the time of day. To be fair, I’m not sure I would either. He’s just not as clever as he likes to think he is, all flash and no substance (his excess of exclamation marks alone has me rolling my eyes). I can sort of see why Cassia likes him – his flamboyant style is the very opposite of what we see of Vanian culture – but I’m finding Anton increasingly irritating the more exposure we have to him.

I’m also irritated with the narrative flirtation of telling us that the shipwreck survivor is talking, but not getting to a point where we know what they’re saying. I’m not a fan of this sort of tease – tell us or don’t, rather than have Harjo flaunting his knowledge at us – so here’s hoping next week finally lets the cat out of the bag.

That’s assuming the Rumikan survives next week, given the rapid escalation of the final scenes – ill-will towards refugees has built fast (and I don’t believe for a second that the warehouse fire was started by the refugees). Given the current state of our world, it’s all rather bruising – as good SFF should be.

I’m on tenterhooks to know whether war can be averted (and to know exactly how Bellona intends to rehabilitate Adechike – which can only end badly, right?) – without selling Rumika up the river to Mertika – so I’ll be rushing on to the ominously named episode 9 this weekend…

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