raven: black and white street sign: "Hobbs Lane" (quatermass - hobbs end)
[personal profile] raven
Oh, friends, I am discouraged and mostly broken. Writing is terrible. I'm stuck right in the middle of a slough of despond about the stupid novel - it's a terrible book, even if it's not a terrible book it's a book about things literally only I care about, no actually it's a terrible book, it will never be finished and I will be writing it forever, and it will still be TERRIBLE - and the house move is, well, not. It's not off. But it's not on. It's glorious limbo. It's not glorious. I have a death-rattle cough and am miserably ill inna head but I have not been able to not work, which has not been excellent. (As ever, the job is a little more important than - well, me.)

Enough of that. About the only thing that has cheered me this week is Kings Rising, the last Captive Prince book.

I read the first one over the weekend and I enjoyed it a fair bit, while being aware that hey, slavefic, not my kink. But I admired the worldbuilding and the tight plotting, and she writes beautifully. I think she walks the narrow line very well - the one between, yes, a lot of the scenes with Damen and Laurent in the first book are ridiculously hot and written to be so, and this is a slave fic fantasy, but then there's also Nicaise, and Laurent's history, and the unstated horrors lurking beneath. Add the fact that Vere and Akielos are both slave-owning societies - it would have been an easier and less accomplished choice to limit it to Vere - and I'm impressed with how well it's done.

I liked it enough to read the second volume, which is a lot less about the tropes of actual slavery, and much more about the positions of loyalty and bondage people place themselves in willingly: the invisible bonds, or the symbolic ones. Especially the ones that aren't commonly conceptualised as kink relationships but are nevertheless formal power exchanges - like military obedience, and obedience to a true sovereign. HELLO HI MY INTERESTS. But in all seriousness, one of my most enduring narrative interests is the notion of the symbolic ties that bind - dogtags, and badges, and other oaths and responsibilities that have some physical manifestation.

I mean, take this to its logical extreme and witness Simon Illyan, whose body contains the physical marker of himself as object: a feudal relationship that renders consent meaningless; and then Breq from the Imperial Radch books, whose implants mark her as a body slaved to an alien intelligence. But that's a spectrum that begins with things like the golden cuff that Damen wears, and refuses to take off. I love most of all that Damen doesn't articulate out loud or even to himself why it is important that he doesn't take off the cuff. Is it ownership, or a mark, or a recognition that Prince Damianos is gone, and that for all the time he has held the yoke and the crown, the king of Akielos has been a slave? All of those together? And part of the narrative interest, for me, comes from the notion that sometimes things are so important that they must needs live within the body as well as the mind, that the symbol itself is invested with such vital and immediate meaning as the ownership of flesh.

I feel like this is a lot more about me, and my id and kinks, than it is the book? But I suppose that's the risk with something like this.

Then Kings Rising, book three! Which does two things I am here for. The first is the necessary marriage of themes: all the fantasy slave tropes, the collars, the jewelled pets, with the idea of feudal and sovereign loyalty, loyalty across partisan lines. So the fact Damen wears Laurent's cuff and that Vere and Akielos are becoming allied is of necessity the same thing seen two different ways; and then the rank-and-file soldiers find out that Damen was a slave, and the ensuing horror is both, they did that to him, and they did that to us.

(Damen refusing to take off the cuff, though! My god. The gamut that runs from: this is who I am; this is what was done to me; this is how I was marked by it; I carry this; I choose this.)

The other thing Kings Rising does that I'm super here for is how funny and delightful it is! Every time I thought the narrative was in danger of taking itself Terribly Seriously, something hilarious would happen. The power struggle between Makedon and Damen and Laurent is super fraught! And then everyone gets smashed and Laurent can't stand up! They nearly get caught, but Laurent's blue dress saves the day! And then the set piece involving Charls, the renowned Veretian cloth merchant ("Wait! How can you be Charls the renowned Veretian cloth merchant?") made me laugh till I choked. (Everyone's Charls, the renowned Veretian cloth merchant. Except this dude, who's king of Akielos!) The tone is so wry, I love it.

(Similarly: Damen, being a prince of the blood, did not excel at wagon repair.)

Oh, you're all darlings. And oh, christ, the weight of individual themes, the weight of words. I will hold that ending with me for a while.

on 2016-02-16 09:12 pm (UTC)
soupytwist: Miranda Otto dancing (dancing crazy)
Posted by [personal profile] soupytwist
These are next on my to-read list and I am super excited!

(Also, moving is the WORST, but I can promise you unreservedly that no matter how weird you think your story is? There are LOTS of other people who will find that shit interesting. Lots of them. Like, at least twelve, even for the least likely and most idiosyncratic fictional indulgence. All the love, darling.)

on 2016-02-16 09:43 pm (UTC)
soupytwist: Miranda Otto dancing (dancing crazy)
Posted by [personal profile] soupytwist
Never mind 'in time', I can tell you right now I am ABSOLUTELY someone who wants to read your book about bureaucracy! I COULD NOT BE MORE EXISTED ABOUT IT. I am the target audience for any and all stories about filing systems and logistical management, omg omg.

on 2016-02-16 10:02 pm (UTC)
soupytwist: Miranda Otto dancing (dancing crazy)
Posted by [personal profile] soupytwist
YES GIMME ALL THE REQUISITION FORMS AND PROTOCOLS OF AUTHORISATION PLS.

ps. so much love for you. so much!

on 2016-02-16 10:43 pm (UTC)
fyrdrakken: (Frodo - book)
Posted by [personal profile] fyrdrakken
Who are those Captive Prince books by?

on 2016-02-16 11:57 pm (UTC)
fyrdrakken: (Kindle)
Posted by [personal profile] fyrdrakken
Wishlisted, and thanks! (And I bet you will indeed find readers for your bureaucratic book.)

on 2016-02-16 11:40 pm (UTC)
philomytha: girl in woods with a shaft of sunlight falling on her (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] philomytha
I haven't read Captive Prince because I had the vague idea it was slavefic and that's not really my thing either. But now you're making it sound very relevant to my interests :-).

And I hope you get better soon, having to keep working when you're ill is wretched. Also, I wish you lots of good luck with writing and a tow out of the slough of despond, because I really want to read your book when it's done. ♥

on 2016-02-16 11:48 pm (UTC)
riverlight: A rainbow and birds. (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] riverlight
Ah, your post made me giggle so much (Damen, not being good at wagon repair, HA—) but also I just loved your perspective on the themes. That's why, I think, I struggle so much when I try to get my sister (for example) to read the books: because she says, "Oh, those are the slave ones," but they're really so much richer and more complex than that!

So sorry you're coping with work and moving and health issues. I vote a good glass of scotch? If that would help!

on 2016-02-17 03:16 am (UTC)
no_detective: (bellydancing - iconomicon)
Posted by [personal profile] no_detective
Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES - the layers and layers she's built out of the apparent simplicity of Damen's POV! The worldbuilding is extraordinary, and so is the thematic transitioning from one book to the next to the next. I need to re-read Kings Rising (read it twice on the day it came out, haven't had the health and energy since) but the way agency of persons in power gets framed and woven into the structures of power distribution, leadership, loyalty, duty, ambition... GAH. It is such a carefully written work, and I always feel a bit guilty for flying through it because no matter how much I try to slow down, I always end up reading with my heart. Of course, the reason my heart is so engaged is because of the intricacy of the power balancing acts, external and internal. (LAURENT!!! Ahh, I am crazy about him. Would read a million stories in which he is mythologized as the trickster royalty that he is.)

Also. The CUFF. My brain breaks a little when I try to think about it, and the way Damen wears it versus how he wears the scars on his back, and how he privately mourns the fantasy of Laurent wearing the other cuff in return so he can use that symbolic bondage politically, except it's NOT political for Laurent no matter how hard he tries to own it as such, and.... *head explodes*

I'm sorry you are ill; I hope it goes away soon. <3

on 2016-02-17 07:22 am (UTC)
starlady: (crew)
Posted by [personal profile] starlady
My paper copy of Kings Rising arrived today, which I think is my cue to read the first two for the first time so I can reread KR. Oops?

Seriously though, I was nearly in tears at several points in this book despite never having read the first two; she's such a thoughtful writer, and every word on the page does at least double if not triple duty. Slavefic isn't really my thing, so I never got around to reading the first two, but I'm so glad I took a chance on the third one.

on 2016-02-17 09:49 am (UTC)
st_aurafina: Rainbow DNA (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] st_aurafina
The Charls scene killed me. Omg, so po-faced and perfect. We are all Charls!

on 2016-02-17 03:57 pm (UTC)
eccentric_hat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] eccentric_hat
I sincerely admire the fact that you keep writing your novel with so much big difficult stuff going on. I had a job for a couple years that involved a three-hour round trip commute, and for most of that time all the writing I managed was daily journaling on the morning train about how frustrated I was with my job.

on 2016-02-19 04:33 am (UTC)
lemon_badgeress: basket of lemons, with one cut lemon being decorative (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] lemon_badgeress
I hope that, by now, you are more well than you were. And your book sounds all things DELIGHTFUL and I wish to put it in my eyeballs one day!

on 2016-02-16 10:36 pm (UTC)
ext_23799: (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] aralias.livejournal.com
i have also already binged through capitve prince 3 - and i LOVED the charls scene almost the most. the first one is... weak, in comparison to the other two. but i can understand that it needs to be there to work. unfortunately it means that you need to say to anyone who you might want to read the heroic fantasy thing that also has some gay love and intriuge in it - hey, here's a slave fic with incest and non-con and under-age and all kinds of shit. you gotta read this first.

on 2016-02-24 08:31 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] yiskah.livejournal.com
OK I just read these over the course of the weekend because I am, seemingly, helpless in the face of a recommendation from you, and good LORD they were unexpectedly good. So many thoughts! So many feels! So little time to process any of it!

on 2016-02-24 08:32 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] yiskah.livejournal.com
Also I am in Kinshasa and the driver I am using the most is called Laurent, which has been a special kind of cognitive dissonance.

on 2016-02-24 09:42 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] loneraven.livejournal.com
Ahhh I read your last post and I'm delighted you liked them. I mean, I'm still delighted I liked them, it was so unexpected!

loooool at Laurent the driver. I can imagine that being very, ah, yeah.

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