zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
This is the one post I was dreading the most, and the reason I've not posted more head-canon stuff is that I sort of feel like I ought to get through the heroines, more or less, first. (Well, except for Thom, and Numair's the next post slated.)

I love the concept of Daine. I like her a lot in WM, and I think she's a fine secondary character in later canon.

I cannot stand the later three books of her quartet, and she is a large part of why. (The really horribly done cutesy animals are the rest of the reason. WM gave me hope; WS took it all away again.)

First, what I like. I like the sweet, somewhat shy commoner of WM. I like how in WM we see how she has troubles identifying with humans, and overidentifying with animals, and it's all treated like just more, well, problems that she'll have to overcome. (Numair's random curing her madness was a touch too pat for my tastes, but bearable, especially since WM makes it pretty clear it doesn't cure her of her identification issues.) I love the idea of her magic, and watching her tentatively explore it was hella fun.

And then boom, in WS, we no longer have Daine, we have Generic Spunky Heroine (Ecowarrior Subtype). There is no progression from Daine in WM to Daine in WS, psychologically; nothing that we're shown. If there is one thing I absolutely demand in stories, it's a sense of psychological realism; I can assume a lot, but you can't just expect me to assume necessary character growth. I have to see it, and we never do with Daine, not between any of her many changes.

Let me interject here: I am passionately, rabidly environmentalist (though of the "use all of the animal and kill it humanely" subset). But if there's one thing I loathe in fiction, it's the ecowarrior, especially the one who Has A Magic Bond With Nature. Daine in WM was most definitely not this; her overidentifying with animals was a problem. In WS, we suddenly get a really obnoxious aspect of Later Daine: her overidentifying with animals leads to her fucking up with humans - and the narrative treats this all as totally right.

We see this same obnoxious trait over and over again in EM, where Daine repeatedly does things that jeopardize the diplomatic party of which she's a part. She may not be an official negotiator, but you know what? That doesn't matter. There are standards of behavior expected of all members of a diplomatic party, and Daine's not excused just because she's "only" there for the Emperor's birds.

Later Daine is also incredibly judgmental. She (really rudely, esp. for a member of a diplomatic party) decides to teach the boys a lesson in EM - and I hated the sense that I was supposed to cheer her on, just like I hated the sense that I was supposed to root for Daine being an utter ass and jeopardizing the Dunlath mission because the wolves wouldn't understand. Daine, honey, that's what explanations are for.

Most irritatingly, Daine is incredibly judgmental towards Varice. This bugs me greatly for reasons I'll expand upon in a Varice post, but what really irks me is how the text gives Daine what's supposed to be this character-growth moment where Daine realizes she's being judgmental ... except Daine comes off as incredibly condescending. And she's condescending towards her mother, too.

Daine, to me, is the most Sue-ish of Pierce's heroines after Aly. (All Pierce's heroines are Sue-ish. It is, admittedly, part of being a hero ... except Pierce's heroines never really struggle, and are never really wrong. Unconvincing lip service is paid to both notions, and it's never really less convincing than here with Daine.)

Daine being godborn just felt really tacked on, and irked me. Pierce has this trend, with Tortall, of never really being able to write commoners without making them noble or better; the only two commoners, eventually, are Daine and Numair - and Daine's (unconvincingly) godborn, and Numair is so damn powerful and such a fixture of Jon's court that he might as well be noble.

I also loathe to no end Daine/Numair. Honestly, I knew pretty early on that Daine had a crush on Numair, but it never ever felt like real love to me, even though all of the fourth book was contrived to take Daine and Numair away from the main action and force them into a really squicky romance. (It's not the age gap that bothers me, so much - it's that RotG reads like she's still his student. And it all still reads as a crush.)

This is all probably why I have a tendency to break up Daine and Numair in my fics, or never have the relationship form; I see it only forming under really contrived circumstances. Also, no matter what Pierce says, Daine is not mature for her age; she's really rather immature.

Daine/Numair is like Alanna/Jon - they don't really click, and the relationship is bad for both parties. With Alanna/Jon, Pierce actually took a step back and really thought about it, and broke them up; I wish she'd had the insight to do that to Daine and Numair.

...I just realized another reason Daine/Numair squicks me: Numair is just about the only person Daine hangs out with, after WM where she spends time with Onua. Sure, lip service is paid to Daine still working with Onua later - but we never, ever see that again. It's the Daine and Numair show, and it creates this feeling that Daine is only ever around him. The world of TIQ is really claustrophobic, basically, and Daine/Numair is now starting to seem incredibly creepy to me.

Daine, by the way, is superb with a bow, which feels very Sue-ish, the way it's handled. She's the commoner girl SO GOOD she leaves everyone in awe - oh, please. (Incidentally, anyone else note that throughout the Tortall books, it's the ladies who don't/won't/can't fight who get scorn and condescension? The Tortall books are very clear: girls, if you don't want to fight, you're useless and silly.)

And, lastly, I hate the dehumanization of people in the later books. "Two-legger" sets my teeth on edge; calling all the animals "The People" and acting like they're more worthwhile than humans drives me nuts. In WM it was interesting because Daine's tendency to do this was treated like a problem, which it damn well is. The later books throw that all right out the window and expect us to be on Daine's side on all of this - sorry, no. Humanity will always come first for me, and I find the dehumanization we see in TIQ morally repugnant.

Also, wtf is up with acting like humans aren't animals? Or acting like animals are all morally right and wouldn't understand attacking others of their own kind? And while we're at it, can Daine's magic please stop randomly changing to fit the plot? And could more animals than rats hate her, or be suspicious of her? Also, it'd be lovely to see some kind of animal that she can't control; her perfect ability to control all vertebrates is a large part of what makes her so Sue-ish.

OMFG, how did I forget the one thing that made me start actively disliking Later Daine? The fucking temper tantrum she throws in the Carthaki palace. You cannot convince me no one died in that dinosaur rampage; you cannot convince me that the devastation she wreaked was justified. Why did she pitch such a colossal fit? She thought Numair was executed. Okay, you know what? I can understand that, especially for someone who really isn't shown to have much of a moral compass beyond "whatever the animals want is awesome!".

Then the text turns it into a joke. Daine is worried people back home might be upset; every Tortallan in the envoy is all "don't worry about it at all, dear, it's just a story to them". Kaddar and the text act like it's amusing that anyone could possibly want Daine punished for destroying the Carthaki palace, killing God knows how many people, while part of a diplomatic envoy suing for peace. Um. Am I the only one who wonders why it's so cute and okay and funny for Our Heroine to destroy a palace, when it was so Hideous and Awful when a certain smiling duke tried that in Corus?

Let me stop while I'm ahead and simply say that any argument that hinges on Daine being forced to by the Hag, or being distraught, or any other such excuse that lets her off the hook for her actions does. not. work. for me - unless you are willing to make the same excuse for Roger, who was out of his fucking mind at the time. I'm sorry, but madness is more justifiable for me than a fit of temper. Oooh, gee, Numair died. Well, honey, what are you going to do when he eventually does buy the farm? Trash Corus if he died in bed? Rip another country to shreds if he dies on a mission?

The Daine who throws that temper fit I unabashedly hate. If it weren't for the fact that her character as written is so damn disjointed that I can't really connect the Daines of each book, it would ruin her character for me entirely.

I have no head-canon for Daine, other than that I'm starting to become convinced she's some kind of sociopath, and I'm starting to become more and more certain that her marriage with Numair falls apart real fast. (I suspect she'd just take off one day and leave him with the kids. I ... don't really see her being mature enough to raise them.)

I want to reiterate: I really like the idea of Daine. I like to explore her interactions with characters not named Numair in fics; I like to see how my AUs would affect her plot. I think her story and character were horribly mishandled, and part of what angers me so much with the later three books is that I can almost see what Pierce was going for - and it fails miserably for me.

***

My Fics
Canon compliant:
None yet.

Allegiance AU:
Difference - Daine comes to Tortall. Things are different, in this world.

Making the Best of Things AU:
Weird Folk - Ten friends Daine makes in Tortall.

Snake in the Grass AU:
Daine is an important secondary character in the foundation fic for this 'verse.
The Morning Star - Thom is stuck visiting his family at the Swoop when a certain fleet attacks it.

What a Flicker Brings AU:
Daine becomes a pretty major secondary character in this 'verse.
Fools in Love - Daine asks an impertinent question.
The Way to His Heart - Numair can cook a grand total of three things.

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zodiacal_light: Humour: Because angst is not jolly. (Default)
Alix

October 2013

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