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[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.
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