zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
I like Numair.

There's a dissonance in the books, between how characters act and how the text treats them. I'm pretty sure this has come up in every one of these posts, and it will continue to. It is rarely more clear, imo, than with Numair.

Pierce seems to act, randomly, like Numair is some flighty, immature mage. But, aside from one really out-of-character scene in early PotS (one that seriously makes me wonder if he has a special little garden somewhere), we're not shown that - and what we know of his history makes it unlikely that he would be either flighty or immature.

You can't really be either and successfully escape from the Emperor Mage of Carthak, or survive on the streets of Tortall - or, for that matter, be a mage as powerful as Numair is without blowing your ass up.

This is why, incidentally, Pierce's flippant explanation for why Daine and Numair are soulmates bothers me so damn much - Daine in the books reads very immature to me ... and Numair doesn't read particularly immature at all. I sometimes wonder if Pierce honestly knows her own characters, or pays any attention to what the hell she writes.

The most glaring example of the textual dissonance, for any character, occurs in WM. The setup for it is this: Daine, ignorant of what she's doing, uses meditation on a whim to stop her heart. And Numair yells at her for this - and not particularly nastily, either.

...And every. single. character. in that scene makes some comment belittling his anger, and talking about how utterly unreasonable it is. Daine even makes some condescending (but, admittedly, in-character for a bratty teen) comment about not being able to talk to him with "this pet he's in".

All I could think about, for that whole scene, was that Numair was right to yell at Daine. Sometimes, especially when dealing with potentially dangerous crafts - and what is more dangerous than magic? - you have to yell. I've been yelled at, a lot, for doing stupid shit when crafting ... and no, ignorance is no excuse. She stopped her heart because she wanted to hear the whales. Daine damn well deserves at least a round of yelling ... but when Numair does this, the text unambiguously and emphatically sides against him, in a way that makes it abundantly clear that Pierce wants us to see Numair as unreasonable and his anger as over-the-top and silly.

Um. No.

This is why I find it hard to talk about her characters, and why I find these posts, frustrating as they are, valuable. It's almost like there are two characters (or more): the one who shines through in action, and the one(s) we're told via text (or deuterocanon) exists. There's the flawed (and more interesting, imo) Alanna you see if you look at her actions - and there's the perfect and frankly Sue-ish Alanna of the text/deuterocanon. Sometimes, there's a third version, the ideal, like we see with Daine: there's the not-really-all-that-nice Daine evidenced by her actions, the text!Daines who are all some variant of Awesome Ecowarrior after WM, and this shadowy Platonic form of Daine, who I can sort of see when I think through what Pierce was likely trying to do with her (and failing, imo).

We get the show/tell split with Numair, pretty explicitly. What we see of how Numair acts doesn't match what the text tries to tell us, or what Pierce tries to tell us. I keep pointing to that Daine-stops-her-heart scene because it's only the most obvious instance of this dissonance that I see: I don't see an unreasonable man at all.

As an aside, I'm sick of Pierce belittling male anger, not least because she sets up this male anger bad/female anger good split that ends up belittling female anger too, by making it just some cute personality trait, and not a flaw for women. Look. I know that too often in fiction and real life female anger is belittled - hello, I'm a temperamental female, I've experienced that often. But the solution is not to then go "Ha! I will belittle MALE anger instead, and make female anger always cute and righteous!"

I don't like hard dualism in any form. I also don't agree with any form of feminism that utilizes dualism at all - and Pierce's morals in Tortall are very dualistic. This is a huge part of why I also get so damn frustrated that all good women in Tortall can fight somehow; it's fine and laudable to say that women can fight, but it's a really warped aesop to take it as far as Pierce does, and say that to be a good/worthwhile woman you must fight.

...And I'll leave that for the Varice post, and get back to Numair.

Ok, head-canon. Most of this will be jossed when the Numair book comes out, I'm sure.
-The Numair we see in canon is largely a facade. He's still a nice guy, but his real personality is not all that jokesterish, and he's got a dark side. (I wish people in canon actually had dark sides... *sigh*)
-Numair, power-wise, is not much more powerful than Roger and Thom, if he's more powerful at all. It's more that he has a ton of esoteric knowledge, thanks to the Carthaki university, that they don't.
-Numair's Gift either was always black with sparkles (gah) or, if I actually use Pierce's incredibly stupid deuterocanon, it changed color from amber because the uni students learned ways to recolor their Gifts, not because he's so uber-powerful or any shit like that.
-If Numair recolored his Gift, his grandma gave him hell for it.
-Numair has a scary grandma.
-Numair is much more loyal to Tyra than Jon - or Daine, for that matter - realizes. I'm working on an AU where he's actually a Tyran agent, but even in canon or non-badass-Tyra fics, I still see him as being very strongly loyal to his home country ... and not really all that happy with being the pet mage of another monarch, though it's better than life on the streets.
-Numair was living on the streets for longer than just a few months. (Where the hell did that fanon convention come from, anyway?)
-Numair had to flee Carthak because he refused to do battle magic for Ozorne.
-Numair's bisexual, and may have had a not-terribly-good-but-he-was-young-and-clueless relationship with Ozorne. If he did, he cottoned on to how awful and manipulative Ozorne was around the time he fled.
-Numair has trouble saying no to women when they proposition him. This is literally the only explanation I can swallow for why he marries a former student who has nothing more than a major crush on him. Well, the only explanation that doesn't make him basically predatory.
-Numair falls out of love with Daine really fast, though he won't leave her or the kids.
-Numair and Onua are really good friends. Onua is actually his best friend, which he'd tell you if you asked.
-Numair is a verbose and sometimes morose drunk, and his reflexes get faster when tipsy ... because he usually moves slower than he could, which is a street magician's trick.
-Actually, I'm wrong. There's another potential explanation for him marrying Daine I can sort of buy, but it requires me to assume things about godborns that aren't at all evidenced in the text - and that's that, basically, he sort of has to to keep her from going on a Carthaki-palace-style rampage when she's refused. GOD, Daine/Numair is so squicky and wrong and out-of-character for Numair, and it's pretty sad when the only way to make your wondrous love match work is to assume that one or the other partner is morally fucked up. Either Numair's a predator, or Daine's hugely unbalanced. THANKS, Pierce. (This is why in most of my fics, Daine/Numair never happens. I can't square it with their characters.)
-Numair likes needling Jon and Alanna. Jon's wise to it, but Alanna never quite catches on that it's deliberate.
-This isn't quite head-canon, but I've toyed with the idea that a young Numair has already enacted the necessary magics for the Sorcerer's Sleep, and so if Numair is ever killed, there's potential for a Roger-style resurrection. Zombie!Numair may not be insane if this happens, but his Gift would go back to its natural color.
-Another not-quite-head-canon bit: I toy with the idea that it wasn't the simulacrum that died, but the real Numair. It would be a neat, if dark, way to explain away Numair's out-of-character reciprocation of Daine's crush in RotG, and Numair's ooc flightiness in early PotS.
-Young Numair was actually not all that fond of Lindhall, until things went to hell with Ozorne and Lindhall got him the hell out of the country. Now Lindhall's his favorite teacher ever.
-Young Numair was a hell of a brat, and prone to pranking his teachers. Really unsubtly, too. This is directly responsible for why young Numair's not fond of Lindhall. XD
-If Numair had stayed in Carthak, he would have married Varice. They were genuinely in love.

***

My Fics
Canon compliant:
Her - Numair learns the hard way not to go pub-crawling with Lindhall.
Love Consumes All Things - Ozorne has only ever had one great love in his life.
Traitors and Monsters - Ozorne and Arram. Sometimes, falling in love is the start of the whole downfall.

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

Making the Best of Things AU:
So far, Numair's a pretty minor character in this 'verse, but he does show up in the following two fics.
Some People - Ten people who weren't ever wary of Thom, and one person who should've been.
Weird Folk - Ten friends Daine makes in Tortall.

What a Flicker Brings AU:
Numair becomes a major character in this 'verse.
Never - Thom never asks Numair what he sees in the charms.
Old Ghosts - Numair never looks Thom in the eye.
Fools in Love - Daine asks an impertinent question.
The Way to His Heart - Numair can cook a grand total of three things.
Nine Clues - Nine ways Thom knows Numair is just as broken as he is. Spoilers for an in-progress fic.
Reasons - Numair is a silly romantic, which makes him way too easy to tease.

Date: 9 Jan 2011 04:05 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] lotesse
lotesse: (tortall_heroines)
I actively ship Daine/Numair (I was fourteen when I read them for the first time, I was into older guys, I over-identified and now I'm stuck with this otp gah whatever) and I'm still in total agreement with you re: Numair not being immature or flighty or jokesterish, and the extreme weirdness of Tam pushing that reading of him. Absent-minded I can buy - I'm an academic, I know what we're like - but everything we see him do indicates imo a fairly serious, earnest, even brooding nature.

In a way, I really love that scene in WM, because even though Daine is a dope about it - which I always put down to her immaturity at that point in the narrative - Numair's open display of emotion completely charms me. He cares. It makes me get all melty.

re: Ozorne, there is no way they were not doing it. No. Way.

Date: 9 Jan 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] lotesse
lotesse: (tortall_heroines)
As I habitually read age difference ships, apparently I do not have a problem handwaving that sort of thing? idk, I'm always kind of surprised at myself when it doesn't bother me more.

I'm now trying to think of any time at all where I'd say - rather than the text saying - that Numair overreacted, and I can't. In fact, I think he significantly underreacts in several instances, like, oh, being sent back to Carthak? In his shoes I'd be hitting the ceiling regularly!

Date: 10 Jan 2011 08:28 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
I was pretty into Daine/Numair when I was a teenager, too, and it's not the age difference that bugs me now but the teacher/student thing. I've seen those kinds of relationships, even ones that officially "started" after the student was of legal age and sometimes no longer a student, and there are...always going to be nasty emotional power differential pitfalls. They don't preclude a healthy relationship, but Pierce never shows them coming up at all and Numair and Daine dealing with them. That bugs me. It's a romanticized version of a teacher/student romance, not a complex and realistic portrayal. (I'm also skeptical about 16-year-olds whose first crushes turn out to be their lifelong True Loves--it happens sometimes, but much less often with a significantly older partner in a position of authority than with someone their own age. I feel like Pierce glosses over the potential issues there, too.)

I dunno what's up with "absentminded Numair" at all.

Date: 10 Jan 2011 09:22 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
Yes, very much so. I've always found Pierce's crushes fairly plausible, and I appreciate that both Alanna and Kel do not settle down with their first crush...but then Daine and Aly do, and in the former case it's her teacher and in the latter, it's a crow (!). I dunno--I think you can marry off 16-year-olds OR give them crushes, but the combination is...unlikely, at least if you want that marriage to succeed. And I don't find Pierce's love marriages all that plausible, for the most part.

I dunno, I'd like to see more overwhelming first crushes that turn out not to be Forever Love in YA.

Date: 10 Jan 2011 09:56 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
Yeah, I wonder. I mean, my youth (and adulthood) was a series of crushes on wildly inappropriate people, both real and fictional. So I get why an author might go "Omg, Aly/Nawat!" but then I hope they will think through the reasons that Aly and Nawat maybe shouldn't get married and have babies right away.

(And the thing is, I think this kind of marry-your-first-crush romance narrative can be actively harmful. I know a lot of people who grew up in communities that encouraged early marriage and discouraged anything that might lead to "sin", and many of them either married someone wildly inappropriate and had kids extremely young, had kids extremely young and didn't marry the inappropriate parent, or had a near miss on one or both counts. They simply didn't have any kind of narrative that told them crushes were different from love, and marriage should be entered into only when you know someone well, and maybe kids should wait until you're out of school and have a good job.)

Date: 10 Jan 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
As an aside, I'm sick of Pierce belittling male anger, not least because she sets up this male anger bad/female anger good split that ends up belittling female anger too, by making it just some cute personality trait, and not a flaw for women.

Hmm, well, I don't think anger is a flaw--anger is an emotion that is sometimes justified and can be a useful tool when controlled. Uncontrolled temper? That's a flaw, not a personality trait. But Kel is the only Pierce protagonist I can think of who uses carefully controlled anger as a tool (and I love Kel and her slightly ridiculous level of self-control, but you know I still have other issues about her characterization).

Date: 10 Jan 2011 09:20 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
I often have trouble believing the Circle books are written by the same author.

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