Aug. 26th, 2012 04:15 am
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
Okay, I have to apologize. I went sort of off the internet for a while; I used it mostly for school, and the occasional fic-spree (I will get around to posting the backlog here at some point...), and otherwise pretty much dropped off the face of the earth for, like, a year.

But I am back from outer space, so.

Headcanon post, whoo.

I'll just up and admit it, I love Ozorne. (Pre-Stormwing, anyway.) I think he's flat-out the best Tortallan villain - and I think he's the only one who I can pretty easily see as a hero, or at least a good king, in his own way and from his own perspective.

Post-Stormwing, Ozorne goes the hell off the rails, which is pretty typical of Pierce. She derails her own characters - especially the villains - so frequently that they're less people than caricatures, and they are so hard to get a grasp on.

Okay. So. I am utterly convinced that Ozorne sees Tortall as an imperialist power trying to oppress Carthak, and frankly I'm not entirely sure he's wrong. Jon reads more and more like a tyrant and would-be emperor to me every time I reread; most disturbingly in my eyes, he flat rejects his father's pacifism as weak, and explicitly embraces his grandfather's canonically imperialist mode of thought.

I find it telling that the Tortallan negotiations in Emperor Mage break down over fishing rights in a really narrow stretch of waters - at a time, we should note, when Carthak is suffering severe drought, and it is implied that much of Carthak is desert and poor scrubland/grassland anyway.

There are really two major issues with Ozorne: the whole Immortals thing, and the whole Numair thing. Let's take them each in turn.

1. The immortals thing. I'll be blunt: I think this was a smart move strategically for Ozorne, if we assume he's right (and I do think he might be) that Tortall is imperialist and gearing up to encroach on Carthak. Ozorne discovers a way that he can harry and maybe, with luck, even destroy his great enemy, with no cost. What sane ruler wouldn't use that? If Carthak was threatening Tortall, and Jonathan discovered a spell to unleash immortals on Carthak, do you really think he'd hesitate?

Of course, it backfires for Ozorne, but that's not necessarily something Ozorne could have anticipated.

2. The Numair thing. We're used to viewing Numair as Jon's lovable court mage, who had to flee from Carthak when Ozorne unjustly tried to have him killed. But from Ozorne's perspective, Numair is a traitor. And yes, I do believe Ozorne believes that to be true; his reaction to Numair in EM is frankly too extreme for it to be some trumped-up charge or whim. Let me reiterate: Ozorne thinks Numair really is a traitor. Now, he may not be totally right in that, but in a way, he absolutely is.

I want to note a couple things here. First, it is often assumed, though I am not quite sure the basis for this, that Ozorne asked Numair to do battle magic and Numair, finding this repugnant, fled. If that's true, then I can see Ozorne finding that a real personal betrayal, as well as treason, because there is definitely a way in which mages (or rather their abilities) are property of the state, at least from my reading of the extensive Carthaki mage system. Heck, it may be that Carthaki mages are required to serve the state's interest by law, and if Numair refused, he's at least a criminal.

Second, Numair is at least currently a criminal in the eyes of Carthaki law because he fled his execution. He's a wanted fugitive.

Third, and more importantly, regardless of the soundness of the earlier treason charge, Numair is now a traitor to Carthak. He's gone over to the enemy, and is working for the king of Tortall, and is not just doing his (substantial) magic for Tortall, but is sharing intelligence on Carthak and the Emperor. (And if the common fanon assumption about battle-magic is true, then Numair is now doing for Tortall exactly what he wouldn't do for Ozorne.)

But wait! Numair's a Tyran, so going to Tortall and working there's not treason, right?

Not so fast. Numair quite clearly settled in Carthak. He may not have had any ability to go home - canonically he fled not back to Tyra, but to Tortall, despite having family still alive. Moreover, Numair was a close confidant of Ozorne; he was pretty seriously integrated into the Carthaki power structure. Also, like I said above, from what we see, I'm pretty sure the whole point of the Carthaki university system is to train mages to work for the state of Carthak. Carthak was indeed Numair's country, and Numair did indeed have, at least in Ozorne's eyes, an obligation to it.

The final thing I'll point out about the Numair thing is that Numair's presence in the embassy is virtually a declaration of war. It is certainly Jon thumbing his nose at Carthak, whether he realizes it or not; by including as a full member of the delegation a traitor to Carthak who is also a criminal on the run, Jon is basically saying Carthaki law doesn't matter, and he may well be flouting international law/tradition. He is certainly being rude; this is not a good-faith embassy.

Moreover, Numair is a walking weapon. Couple this with the fact that Jon has also sent his rude, hot-tempered, diplomatically-challenged Champion along, the only logical conclusion Ozorne can draw is that this is a show of force, and it is calculated belligerence on Jon's part.

Ozorne's attempt to capture and execute Numair strikes me as a bit too poorly executed to have been planned out before the delegation arrived; also, something about the scene where Daine witnesses Ozorne crushing the mini-Numair makes me think that Ozorne had actually been trying to be diplomatic, despite the huge insult of Numair's presence, and that that was when he made up his mind to screw diplomacy and execute the traitor.

My final major canon-bit of Ozorne is that I do think he genuinely cares about Carthak. I think he certainly has a militaristic bent; most emperors do. I think he believes in a very strong centralized government, and I do think he may well think that he is in fact indispensable to it. I think he is honestly trying to do right by Carthak, and I think he knows - and embraces - that this means he cannot be a good man. He is too busy being a strong emperor.

I also think that while transforming himself into a Stormwing to escape death may not be out of character, how he acts afterwards is.

Okay, now the fun part: pure headcanon.

-I think Ozorne is the Tortallan version of an atheist: the gods here have physical reality, so he knows they exist, but he does not think they should be worshipped, and he may not think they even have much power to truly intervene. (This would work with the gods as portrayed in SotL, but the later series complicate this.) I am convinced that at the very least he thinks they are corrupt and venal, and he is not really wrong.

-Ozorne loves his family. I also think he thinks Kaddar is a good heir, if a bit too pacifistic.

-Ozorne's birds are something of a mental crutch for him. He can take care of those, at least, even when Carthak falls to pieces around him. I think that their illness, the fact that an upstart Tortallan brat heals them effortlessly when he can't, and the fact that she blithely tells him that he had essentially poisoned them all along couple with the stress of Numair's presence and the horrible delegation to push him over the edge in EM.

-I think Ozorne loved Numair, and my headcanon absolutely is convinced they were lovers. Even if Pierce explicitly denies this, I will still believe it. Ozorne's hatred (and Numair's, for that matter) is too deep to not be rooted in betrayed love.

-Ozorne only ever loved Numair, and it's one reason he never married; Numair was the only person Ozorne ever let in that deeply, and Numair's treason, whatever happened, utterly destroyed Ozorne.

-But more than anything, Ozorne has always loved Carthak first. Even above Numair, which is what ultimately precipitated the break.

-Ozorne goes off the rails after EM because he has no idea how to be anything other than the Emperor Mage of Carthak. He has bound all of himself up into that role.

-Ozorne deeply hates Daine, which is canon, but not for dethroning him or wrecking his palace so much as for seducing Numair, attacking his beloved country (and yes, Daine's actions were either mass murder or an act of war - and a war crime, at that), daring to tell him he had poisoned his birds, and for being an unstable demigod. I think the latter terrified Ozorne more than anything, and I think it's why he wants so much to kill her.

-In a similar vein, I think he probably had every intention of killing Daine at the end of EM.

-Ozorne knew the simulacrum was a simulacrum. (This is a man who a) habitually makes them himself and b) knew Numair intimately, whether or not they were lovers. Numair could fool Tristan, who didn't really know him, but not Ozorne.) It's why he didn't kill Daine immediately; she was meant to be his backup bait when Numair inevitably tricked his way out of his execution.

-Ozorne has divine blood. (I admit, this is totally crackish.) Also, along those lines, there are deified rulers in the Tortall pantheon, and so Ozorne's cult of the emperor thing was not as loony as it would be to us. This one has absolutely no canon evidence at all, but it's fun, and Pierce cribs so much from real mythology that I don't mind doing the same for my own purposes. :)

-When I am not playing around with the idea of the old Thanic Empire as rooted in Maren, I tend to go with the notion that it was old Carthak, and that there was a transliteration error, typo, or misreading (Thak-->Than just needs to lose the uprights on the k, if they use something akin to the Latin alphabet). This gives Ozorne the added benefit of reconquering lands he might consider rightly his - especially if the people who overthrew the Thanic/Thakic Empire were the same people who founded Tortall from its ruins.

I think ultimately what really draws me to Ozorne is that he's really the only human villain Pierce has - Roger is a cartoon, and I honestly don't remember DotL well enough to speak of its villains, except that I was left feeling really skeeved out by everything in that duology. All of Pierce's villains have really opaque motivations - except Ozorne. It is so ridiculously easy to see his side of things - and in a way that doesn't require him to be insane or stupid - that it makes Pierce's usual OTT characterization even more jarring.

Ozorne is what a pre-death Roger crowned king would have been, except Ozorne actually understands what he's doing, and is far colder than Roger ever was. There's a sort of necessary edge of ruthlessness to Ozorne, and I love it.


My Ozorne Fics
Canon compliant:
Traitors and Monsters - Ozorne and Numair, before.
Love Consumes All Things - Ozorne has ever only had one great love in his life.

What A Flicker Brings AU:
Bitterness - Thom does not like Carthak.
Unlucky - (spoils an in-progress fic) This is not how he thought he'd die.

Not not canon, but I do consider it AU:
Red and Yellow - Jon really should've known better than to send Alanna to Carthak.

Iron King AU:
The Bird Empress - Fazia finds a strange stone.

Making the Best of Things AU:
Some People - Ten people never intimidated by Thom, and one person who should've been.


Jan. 8th, 2011 04:07 pm
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.


Jan. 7th, 2011 07:07 pm
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.
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
Thom is probably my single biggest reason for ficcing SotL so much. I just like him. (Dunno why; he's an utter ass.) Also, he's one of the most vexing examples of something that's an unfortunate trend for Pierce: the derailed character.

Let me get this out of the way: yes, I think it's totally possible for an author to write their own characters out-of-character. Pierce does it repeatedly.

Through most of SotL, Thom is actually more paranoid over Roger than Alanna is. He's also the one who pieces everything together, and keeps having to nag his sister via letter to remain on her guard.

Then he randomly raises Roger from the dead. Why? Because Delia said he couldn't.

Are you kidding me?

The other vexing thing about this is that Alanna is very clear in the very first book: among other things, Thom can see the future. So, uh. Was he just not looking that day? Paranoid Thom? Who suspected Roger all along, who played dumb for years to avoid drawing Roger's suspicion, who was more sure of Roger's perfidy than Alanna was?

This all just doesn't add up.

I'm also not entirely convinced that his random stealing of Alanna's Gift is all that in-character for him, either.

Leaving that whole matter aside. It's pretty clear in canon he's a genius; he's a Master at seventeen, has been ready for it for at least a year, and was playing stupid for literally years beforehand. (Which, come to think of it, is probably what really annoys his teachers. Speaking as a substitute teacher and sometime tutor, there's nothing more obnoxious than a smart kid playing dumb. And yes, it's always horribly obvious, too.)

I also think that while he and Alanna may have been born with the same strength Gift (we really don't know either way), it's pretty clear he's got a broader affinity, and with his training, by the end of ItHotG if not sooner, he's probably both stronger and a hell of a lot more knowledgeable than Alanna, with her limited interest in magic, will ever be.

My other big problem with Thom is that his death is so random. It feels wasteful, like Pierce wanted some pathos but didn't want to off a character we (or Alanna, apparently) actually cared about. I think one major reason I do so many SotL AUs is that I'm utterly fascinated by all the possibilities of what could have happened if Thom had lived.

Also, I think it's hilarious that Thom is apparently a Mithran priest. Can you imagine anyone less devout?

-He's gay. I have written the rare fic where he's not, but my head-canon is still that Thom's gay.
-Roger planted a compulsion in Thom at some point - that if Roger died and thus triggered the Sorcerer's Sleep, Thom would, when triggered, raise him. This is literally the only plausible explanation I can come up with for why on Earth Thom would raise Roger.
-Honestly, and I don't know where this comes from, but I always see him as being more aware of others' feelings and thoughts than Alanna. (Oh. Wait. I know where part of it comes from - Alanna's mention that among other things, Thom can read minds.)
-I think, given that he was initially trained by the village healer, he's probably a pretty decent healer himself, even if he's not that interested in it.
-Roger either seduced or compelled Thom into sleeping with him. (Or some combination of both; I think compulsions need something there to glom onto.) I see this happening both before Roger died the first time, briefly (and thus being when Roger managed to plant the other compulsion mentioned above), and after Roger's resurrected. I also don't usually think it was all that happy a relationship.
-Along with the above point, I am fairly certain Thom was in Corus for at least a few days prior to Alanna's knighting. Probably longer, given what we're later told of the state of the roads from the north.
-Thom is pretty wary of his sister. I mentioned this in the Alanna post, but we know basically two things about their childhood relationship: Alanna was the more physical one, and Alanna ducked him in the pond at least once (and brings this up, years later, to get Thom to shut up and stop needling her). I suspect that what Alanna sees as just her playing around or getting a bit exasperated, Thom would see as bullying. The first thing I flashed to, reading the ducking-in-the-pond line, was Raoul and all holding Ralon underwater, which was probably not what Pierce was going for (and it's pretty clear that we're meant to cheer Ralon being half-drowned, which is disturbing), but has tainted that line for me ever since.
-Thom likes the cold north, and heights, and the simple dark stone construction in the mountains. He is really not a people person (understatement of the century, what), and is not at all fond of busy places like cities.
-Thom is nearsighted. It occurred to me that the two major things Alanna mentions Thom being bad at - archery and tracking - require decent distance vision. I can't do either, without my glasses. (Idly, I wonder if there's any way to correct vision in Tortall.)
-(that stupid crap about Gift color aside) Thom, Roger, and Numair are all roughly about as powerful as each other. Actually, I'd peg Roger as the weakest of the three.
-(I have NO canon support for this next bit at all) Thom is in a tricky legal situation when it comes to Trebond, after Lord Alan dies. Somehow, in my head-canon, Mithran priests can't inherit property. I think this came about largely because I was sort of wondering why we never heard of any other noblemen going there, and why Jon would feel it necessary to start up another institution for learning magic if the City of the Gods was already there. (Maybe he pissed off all the Mithrans?) I'm pretty sure that this issue would have cropped up before, but I suspect that the probable solution - give up his Mastery to go run the fief - would not sit well with Thom at all. (Honestly, most of this came about because I love complicated situations with no easy solution. That I can make it work with canon is a bonus.)
-Given half a chance, Thom is a terrifyingly good strategist.
-Thom sees glimpses of the future. A lot. It's his primary affinity, and he can scry in anything - often not even deliberately.
-Thom had too strong a Gift to have safely avoided training it. (My head-canon seems to be on the side of "yes, Thom is stronger than his sister".) I do think we see enough evidence that untrained Gifts are potentially dangerous that it's fully possible an undertrained Thom would have been a walking disaster.
-Thom is a sappy and affectionate drunk. This disturbs him, so he rarely drinks. (Though I can also see him faking drunk, for the freedom it'd give him.)
-And now for a bit of AU-canon: in any 'verse where Thom takes up the sword, he's the natural that Alanna had to learn to be. (Mostly just because it would vex Alanna terribly.)


My Fics
Canon compliant:
Compulsion - Thom never knows why he sleeps with Roger. Canon compliant.
Nothing But Pleasure - Roger is a sadist.
Both of the above are part of the What a Flicker Brings AU, but they are also canon-compliant.
Foretelling - Thom has always been able to see the future.
Growing Pains - Si-cham vs. a certain ornery student.
Letters from the Dead - Fifty letters to the living. Thom's not a major character here, but really, no one is.
Making Conversation - Jon and Thom have precisely one conversation.
The Meaning of Life - Four universes in which Thom doesn't die young.
Radiance - There are only two things Thom has ever loved.
World On Its Head - Also includes the sentence-fic "Sacrifices". Two glimpses of a pivotal moment not seen in canon.

Miscellaneous AUs:
Song of the Seer - My first "the twins don't switch" fic.
Stricken to the Bone - Thom and Alanna both go for page training.

Discovery AU:
This AU centers on Alanna, but Thom is a secondary character. He does get a short little fic, though.
Sounds - To George, Thom isn't silent.

The Iron King AU:
Glass - Killing someone while they're Sleeping is not a wise idea.

Making the Best of Things AU:
Thom is a major character in the whole AU. Here are the main fics where he appears.
Burning Brightly - Jon wants to go explore the Black City. Fortunately, Thom is there to stop him.
New Things - Roger always knew that page was insane.
Some People - Ten people who weren't ever wary of Thom, and one person who should've been.
Irony - Of all the ways Roger could die, it is the Sweating Sickness that fells him.
Jollity - Owen needs a knight-master.

Patchwork AU:
In this 'verse, the Grimhold Mountains are their own country, and Tortall itself is very small.
Ten Scenes from Another World - A short history lesson, and what happens when Tortall sends an embassy to Grimhold.
Away - The twins are celebrating Midwinter separately, and Thom is pensive. This fic may no longer be canon for this 'verse.
Epiphany - Roger figures something out.

Snake in the Grass AU:
Another AU all about Thom. I am not sure how to describe this, save to say that I am ridiculously proud of it.
The Morning Star - Thom is stuck visiting his family at the Swoop when a certain fleet attacks it.
Caduceus - A traitor gets a visitor.

What a Flicker Brings AU:
This AU is all about Thom, and he is in every fic. I am only listing the main fic and a few of my favorites below; for the full list, click the series title.
What a Flicker Brings - Thom gets a glimpse of the future in his mug. The foundation fic for this 'verse.
Bitterness - Thom does not like Carthak.
Ethics - Page training is about to start, and Lord Wyldon's ethics teacher has just up and quit. Of course King Jonathan has a suggestion. Major spoilers for an in-progress fic.
Talking Treason - Thom and Kel have a conversation.


Dec. 28th, 2010 02:49 pm
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
Of all the Tortall series, I fic most for SotL, so I have to spend a lot of time thinking about Alanna. After Kel, she's my favorite of the heroines, but I always feel at least a little bad writing her - it always feels like I'm taking something away from her, because I mostly write AUs, and things go so ridiculously, implausibly perfectly for her in SotL that literally any change makes things start falling apart. (Not that this means her life in these AUs turns out bad, just different.)

So I guess, in retrospect, what bothers me most about Alanna is how contrived her life is by the end of SotL. Also, in getting my thoughts in order to make this post, I came to realize that I unabashedly like SotL-Alanna; it's the glimpses we see of her later that drive me nuts. She really starts going off the rails for me in that first scene in FT, where it seems she's almost become a parody of herself.

I don't find even early Alanna unproblematic, though. It bothers me endlessly that the story never grapples with her biggest flaws - her temper (which is treated as cute), her self-righteousness (she's always right), or her hypocrisy (she's all about duty, supposedly, yet repeatedly runs away and encourages others to do so). The story also never grapples with how her ambition and her drive are double-edged swords. I think that her being made Champion only serves to exacerbate these flaws, not temper them; I can think of few jobs she's more ill-suited to. I honestly think she would have been better served and even more useful as an ordinary knight.

This next thing is a problem I have with all the heroines, but I might as well mention it here: they never seem to lose anything, never seem to give anything up that actually matters. That's one of the reasons I'm so mean to Alanna in fic; I want to see what she'd do if she actually lost something - an opportunity, an accomplishment, a person who actually impacts her. I firmly believe that it's how we react to failure that really matters - but Alanna never really fails.

I am endlessly intrigued by the little glimpses of more depth to Alanna that we get in SotL - I am especially intrigued by her clear interest in the Old Ones and Myles' ruins, and I wish all that hadn't been dropped like a hot potato.

-A lot of Alanna's success is, actually, due to the fact she's god-touched. If nothing else, it's the only way I can satisfactorily explain away the progress reports.
-Alanna doesn't have a great relationship with her kids. At the least, it's a distant one fraught with a lot of misunderstanding. How bad it is, exactly, depends mostly on how angsty I feel like writing at the time.
-Jon only sent Alanna off on that diplomatic trip to Carthage because she was getting on his nerves and he wanted her gone for a while. (In fact, I think that explains everyone he sent, since that envoy's filled with a lot of dumb choices.)
-I sometimes like to think that later, if she ever actually matures a bit, Alanna ends up retiring from being Champion to take over Myles' role as history teacher. I liked the glimpses we saw of Alanna the teacher, though I think she'd be a shitty training master, and I liked the glimpses we got of Alanna being interested in history. (I can see basically two paths for Alanna - she never really grows up, and so never really retires, or she eventually learns to accept aging with grace and finds some other way to be useful.)
-She was never afraid of magic, but she used it as an excuse enough (because she didn't like practicing it) that she half believed it. Honestly, though - even before the Sickness she's awfully quick to threaten Coram with visions, and the whole thing with the cook's visions sounds far more Alanna-ish to me than Thom-ish, not least because she seems to be the more dynamic of the twins.
-She never had the best relationship with Thom, and is not entirely sure why. I see her as a rough-and-tumble girl, and there's that line about her ducking him in the pond that she uses to basically shut him up. I suspect that what she saw as just roughhousing he saw as bullying; I also think she sees him as somewhat pathetic. She really doesn't seem to think too highly of her brother in canon.
-Alanna thinks she got over Thom's death, but never really did. (Why yes, it does rather disturb me that in canon she seems to grieve more for Liam than her own brother.) I sort of suspect that she's used to pushing thoughts of her brother aside, even while he was alive, and she just does the same here and thinks she's over it. I also suspect this colors her relationship with her eldest, because superficially there's enough similarity there to raise all sorts of old ghosts. (Again, how deeply this taints Alanna's relationship with her son depends on how angsty I'm getting.)
-I'll get into this more in a later post on the kids, but I think Alanna feels that none of them turned out quite right; I also think the one she actually understands is Aly. Alan (even my happy version of him) deeply unsettles her; Thom is different and distant in ways she can't quite get.
-At some point in the ten-year gap between LR and WM, someone actually made Alanna get some more comprehensive/official training as a healer. (Honestly, in canon this bugs the SHIT out of me - all other healers we see in Tortall are trained; Alanna isn't, but somehow that's perfectly ok, she's just as good as the trained ones. See also: WWRLAM, and how barely-trained-in-magic Alanna is suddenly competent enough to be a Bazhir shaman and teacher of magic.) Either that, or somehow despite Alanna's apparently incredible reluctance to learn, Maude somehow forced her to learn enough healing that Alanna's actually qualified to do so.


My Alanna Fics
Alanna is a secondary or background character in a lot of my fics, and in compiling this list, I realized that I have written a lot of fics that are about her but do not have her in them. Those fics aren't linked below, only ones in which she is a major character.
Canon compliant:
Midwinter Tradition - It's Midwinter, and Alanna has someplace to be. So of course she has to kick Neal out of bed for it.

Canon-compliant but I consider it AU:
Red and Yellow - Jon really shouldn't have sent her to Carthak.

Miscellaneous AUs:
Kiss and Tell - Delia figures out a thing or two about Squire Alan. Could, with some juggling, be considered canon-compliant.
Song of the Seer - My first "the twins don't switch" fic. I am not nice to Alanna in this fic, at all.
Stricken to the Bone - Thom and Alanna both go for page training.

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

Discovery AU:
Discovery - Lord Alan gets two progress reports.

The Iron King AU:
This AU is all about Alanna, in a way, as it is her decision to marry Jon that starts the divergence. The only fic so far directly featuring Alanna is The Iron King.

Making the Best of Things AU:
Another series heavily featuring Alanna; the fics where she is a major or main character are the only ones listed below, but she shows up in others.
First Impressions - Jon and company meet Alanna.
Odd Couple - Francis attempts to woo his ladylove.
Burning Brightly - Jon attempts to clear out the Black City.
Heroism - the major Alanna fic in this 'verse. What happens to Alanna when she goes to convent instead.
Scrap of a Dream - Alanna dreams.

Patchwork AU:
Another AU that heavily features Alanna, though so far she only shows up in the founding fic. In this 'verse, the Grimhold Mountains are their own country, and Tortall itself is very small.
Ten Scenes from Another World - A short history lesson, and what happens when Tortall sends an embassy to Grimhold.

What a Flicker Brings AU:
This AU diverges because of and centers on Thom, but you can't really write any AU about Thom that doesn't heavily feature Alanna. She's central to these two stories in particular.
What a Flicker Brings - Thom gets a glimpse of the future in his mug.
Three Months - What happens during the time skip in What a Flicker Brings.


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

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