It’s all celebrations and disasters this week. Diane and Kaab are tempted to question just how secure they are in their recent successes. Rafe is left questioning how well he knows a dear friend – and Tess must confront the murky underside of progress…

Diane is mixing pleasure with politics in the more traditional style this week, using a public demonstration of the Land’s first hot air balloon as an opportunity to soften up the Council on the topic of bridge locations. On the up side, everyone is so excited by a rain-free morning they all show up; on the down side, the ever-terrifying Lord Arlen is being ominous (what does he know? Was that really a shot across the bow? Or is he just stirring? AHHH)…

It’s a delightful scene in a boggy meadow, as she hobnobs with nobles whose names resound with portentous implication for those of us who have read the books: Lady Fitz-Levi! (Artemisia’s grandmother, I assume) Lord Horn! (Asper Lindley has inherited – and fallen out with Lord Galing. Watch out, boys) And – charmingly, even by Diane’s standards – Lord Perry, who insists his dog has the gift of prophecy. When she can be bothered. Like Reza’s salon last week, it’s a wonderful slice of Hill life. Add in an excited Inventor with his Contraption and an aeronautical chicken (he’s not so confident as to take the first flight himself, after all), and I loved every minute.

All the same, a hot air balloon is perhaps another sign of change in the air. Reza has been facilitating a revolution in City construction techniques; Rafe has introduced new attitudes to education and is pushing the bounds of science (yes, our wild boy has settled down enough that his book is nearly finished). Now we have what feels like our first modern marvel. It’s worth noting that hot air balloons were an 18th century invention, so it’s not highly modern – but still a harbinger of things to come (…yes, thank you Lord Arlen). Progress is afoot. 

In the Balam compound, Kaab is wrestling with the shocking, abhorrent idea of marriage. She has given up so much for her family, worked so hard to rebuild her reputation – but can she bring herself to sacrifice herself? I’m strongly of the mind she shouldn’t have to, but then I’m an unmarried woman in her 40s who believes in the life partner of your choice; not doing what you’re told.

Yet somehow, the delicate sequence of scenes in the Balam household still had me in stitches rather than outraged concern. On the one hand, I am appalled for Kaab – but Joel Derfner and Liz Duffy Adams manage to strike a comical note (no mean feat in the circumstances, but Kaab has always had a self-indulgently melodramatic streak) that sets up the second half of the episode perfectly. Ahkoet may be the ally and partner Kaab needs – if not the husband – and he’s certainly her match in mischief.

We see Micah in person at last this week. Diane was wise enough to let her go, and Micah now lives at the City Academy with some of the Riverside boarders. It’s a brief scene, showing us that Joshua has moved past his temporary outbreak of unreasonable sexism and back into his usual role of wiser, caring friend (well done, Joshua. Keep up the good work). He can see Micah is upset about something even if she can’t; and he moves gently to comfort her and defuse the situation. Perhaps he is the headmaster the school really needs?

Rafe, meanwhile, handles a near-death experience about as well as usual (not very) – and finally discovers who Reza really is. Oh, Rafe. It’s the excuse he didn’t know he needed or wanted to armour his heart against his devastatingly attractive friend; but I think it will break both their hearts anyway. This not-a-love-affair looks set to be stormy as Kaab!Tess – but will it ever be consummated? Not for now, it seems.

…which neatly brings me back to Tess. She’s once again in the right place at the right time to see a problem – and it’s a sign of worse to come. Last week the bridge builders were simply storing boxes on Riverside; this week some drunk navvies have invaded a woman’s home and evicted her family to seize it as a place to sleep. The Hand’s quick reaction once again defuses the situation, but I’m with Tess: there’s a pile of City power and presumption behind these events, and Riverside could be headed for a class war that makes the Siege look like a skirmish. Worrying times. I have lots of Thoughts, but I’m going to wait to see how things unfold…