Late because election.
Last time, Cal is so fricking creepy and I’m sick of him can he just leave. This time, Mare gets her schedule on a note, courtesy of Queen Elara.
Mare tosses the note away and three maids dress her, then she goes into the hall and she and Lucas Samos snark at each other and it’s nice. Then time for Breakfast at Evangeline’s (and Elara’s). The queen tells Mare to eat quickly, because “‘Lady Blonos does not tolerate tardiness.’” (These names…) Apparently Lady B. teaches “‘Protocol’”, a class that Silver children take and Mare is about to start. Evangeline is needlessly rude about this because she’s the BITCHIEST BITCH TO EVER BITCH THROUGH THE BITCH-O-SPHERE but Elara shuts her down.
Which yet again begs the question of who taught Evangeline the not-so-cute nickname of ‘little lightning girl.’ Elara’s the only one who uses it (and once Cal), and she only ever uses it as an insult. Did they just both hit upon the same nickname? How convenient.
Elara tells Mare that lunch’ll be held on the Glass Terrace, and the queen candidates and their moms will be guests. Apparently the queen candidates et al. won’t leave until the Parting Ball. Mare is less than thrilled about this, and then is less than less than thrilled because Elara continues that the royal family, Mare included, will be headed off to Archeon after the Parting Ball, too.
Next scene opens with Lucas teasing Mare about having watermelon on her face from breakfast then telling her about Lady B. Also, some worldbuilding: “‘[Lady Blonos]’s a healer. Now, there’s two kinds of healers: skin healers and blood healers. All of House Blonos are blood healers, meaning they can heal themselves.’”
Mare is impressed by this and expresses it with hideous italics that I shan’t reprint, for your eyes’ sake.
Italic Abuse: 151
Knowing of Blonos’ ability also relieves Mare, because that means if Mare zaps Blonos, Blonos will be okay. Apparently Protocol is essentially an etiquette class; Lucas informs Mare that “‘Bess Blonos is going to teach you how to be a lady[…]’”. There’s one instance of Italic Abuse, not this one.
Italic Abuse: 152
Mare’s unenthused, but enters the room with some prodding from Lucas. No one’s there, and she looks out the windows to reveal another room where Cal, Maven, and Evangeline are training – dodging a contraption that’s racing along on a track on a track, hitting targets with their powers, and the like. Maven and Cal seem to enjoy it.
Italic Abuse: 156
“‘Enjoying the show, Lady Mareena?’ a voice crows behind [Mare].”
SUDDENLY LADY BLONOS. I hate the following paragraph enough that I’ll quote a chunk:
“Lady Blonos is a horrifying sight[…][s]he must be over fifty, older than my mother, but her skin is smooth and shockingly tight over her bones. Her hair is perfectly white, slicked back, and her eyebrows seem fixed in a constant state of shock, arched on her unwrinkled forehead. Everything about her is wrong, from her too-full lips to the sharp, unnatural slope of her nose.[…]Somehow she was able to heal or change herself into this monstrous thing in an attempt to look younger, prettier, better.”
YA lit, like Western society at large, has this weird hatred for women who aren’t ‘naturally’ beautiful but try to make themselves pretty through artificial means. It’s half of the ‘I’m not like other girls’ mindset: those other girls care about feminine frivolities like looking nice, and since other girls are bitches they’re secretly ugly (or vice-versa?) and so they must cover it up with that horror of horrors, makeup. (Or plastic surgery, or blood-healing.) And doing so makes them shallow hideous fakers who can’t see that their glamours only work on the dimwitted and horny.
This relegates not just girly-girls but the plain girls to the trashheap. Girly-girls are vilified; plain girls are nonexistent. The preferred woman, fictional or no, must be ‘naturally beautiful but unaware of such’. Which is monotonous and unrealistic and erasing, and honestly, book? Be a little original.
Also, why blood-healing, or the regeneration of damaged cells, would result in a “too full lips” and a “sharp, unnatural slant to her nose” I don’t know. That’s movement, not healing! Jesus, is Blonos a bonebender? Is she a collagen-wizard???
And hey way to be inconsistent, book. If Blonos is aiming to look younger, then why the white hair? Is there anything good about this paragraph?
Surprising absolutely no one, Lady Blonos instantly hates Mare, because Blonos is ugly and so she’s mean because reasons, I guess, couldn’t tell you which ones. Mare hates Blonos in return because of Blonos’ arbitrary rudeness (but more, from the time spent on it, for her appearance, it seems). Blonos mentions that Mare’s posture sucks – “‘[y]ou stand like a tree in a storm’”. Book, you’re not slick, we can all see that’s a thinly veiled compliment coming not from Blonos’ mouth but from authorial edict.
Blonos and Mare get to work.
Italic Abuse: 157
Three and a half hours later, finishing school’s over for the day and Mare is ready for lunch with the failed candidates. Sort of – she feels a bit overwhelmed, but not quite as catastrophically as she did before the crash-course. Also, the fresh air’s making her feel a bit better, almost like she’s Mare again.
That is, until some queen candidates (dark blue/red gown=Sonya of House Iral, black gown=Elane of House Haven) appear to welcome Mare in! They hate her: “their pointed smiles and narrowed eyes don’t look welcoming at all.”
Mare tries to make small-talk but chooses the worst possible subject, Queenstrial. Sonya is pissed and cuts off Mare’s apology by summoning her grandmother. “Grandmother. I almost breathe a sigh of relief, expecting a kindly old woman to come waddling over and save me from these biting girls. But I’m sorely mistaken.”
Sonya, it turns out, takes after her grandma (Lady Ara, matriarch of House Iral and a former spy, codename Panther. Cool.) Lady Ara, true to her spying ways, assesses Mare – not because she’s a creep like goddamn Cal, but because she’s suspicious. When Mare, trying to keep up the charade, says she misses her ‘parents’, Lady Ara asks if Mare remembers them, and when Mare manages to fix that little lie with another, Lady Ara notes that Mare’s brown eyes don’t match up with the Titanos’ blue how weird how strange!
Um, Mare says.
Wow the Princess Mare plan is already unraveling. Who could’ve predicted that?
On a completely unrelated note, here is a poem I wrote for you all because I think poetry brightens up our world. Ready? Here it is:
Thank you, thank you.
Bad poetry aside, I think now’s a good time to unpack the royals’ plan, because I’ve been griping about it for a while but haven’t really gone into things.
The meta reason the plan is the plan is because the book desperately wants Mare to be a princess, or at least in line for such, which is stupid and we aren’t touching that with a ten-foot pole because I like my protagonists well-done, not super rare. So. In the text, there’s a bunch of reasons for Princess Mare:
- So the royals can keep their eye on Mare…which they could just as easily do by adopting her.
- So they can experiment/“‘attempt to understand’” Mare…which they could just as easily do as her new adoptive guardians.
- Cal said a few chapters back “‘If the Reds see her, a Silver by blood but a Red by nature, raised up with us, they can be placated[…]They can look to her instead of terrorists.’” So reason number three is to pacify the Reds, especially the Scarlet Guard, with a rags-to-riches fairytale. Which…no. Look, a person from an oppressed group gaining a position of power usually serves as a role model, true, but that means someone others from said oppressed group can aspire to, look up to. A woman goes into space, and bam, you’ve got a generation of young girls turned astronaut-hopefuls where they wouldn’t have even thought of it before. A black man becomes president of a country built on slavery, and bam, it no longer seems like the presidency has to be a whites-only club. These kinds of things happening are possibility-makers; they don’t suddenly make women utterly uninterested in space or ambivalent about sexism, or black people not care about racism because yay black president!!!! And what, are the Silvers just going to stop oppressing the Reds because there’s a raised-Red girl in office? No. The dissatisfaction will remain, and probably grow – after all, if this girl was raised Red and could become a princess and the only difference between her and Reds is (allegedly) blood and lightning, then why can’t other Reds aspire to power, too?
Maybe little Red girls will hope for princessdom because of Mare, but their parents won’t, and the Silvers won’t start treating Reds like Silvers in disguise. It’ll be the same old oppression. The righteous anger coming from that is likely to drive Reds either to join the Scarlet Guard or to make a separate group. Which the government will shut down. Which will nourish more bitterness. Which the Scarlet Guard will utilize. Etc., ad infinitum.
4. To keep the High Houses satisfied and unsuspicious. Mmmmmmmmhaha no. First of all, Mare marrying Maven means the High Houses have lost the consolation prize prince that also would’ve landed one of them in the palace. No one’s going to be happy about that. Second of all, it’s a slapdash story easily disproven – what, they might ask, did Mare never bleed as when she, thought to be Red, was beaten by a Security guard? Did she never bleed at all from other causes – scraping her knee as a kid, getting a nosebleed, having an accident at her job? (Brings up a question about menstruation for Silvers – is it also silvery in colour?) How would “‘interview[ing] the girl extensively’” yield answers like ‘oh, yeah, I was found on the ground in a battlefield and – through some mad luck – the only people who could definitively disprove my answers are the dead House Titanos, my alleged parents! Weird.’ It’s so obviously manufactured and so little matches up – even Mare’s eye colour doesn’t match up, and the royals didn’t have the foresight to give her tinted contacts. Lady Ara noticed something was off immediately, and I doubt she’s the only one. Evangeline, for example, uses Queen Elara’s scornful pet name for Mare, and I don’t believe that synchronicity is an accident – either Evangeline overheard Elara, or Elara told her the nickname, and either one would foster some sort of suspicion: why is the queen giving a rude nickname to the daughter of our lost friends Ethan and Nora Titanos…unless the girl’s not their daughter? (If the synchronicity is waved off as a coincidence, then hello lazy writing.) So. The High Houses are obviously unconvinced. Also, if the royals intend to kill Mare later in an ‘accident’, the unconvincing will go on. They are building the foundation for their own coup.
Italic Abuse: 158
The queen rescues Mare from Lady Ara’s questioning, and Elane is described as “the quiet Elane” which I think means she’s being set up to be Mare’s friend (FINALLY another sympathetic female character. This book has such a dearth of them.) Quiet girls in YA lit are always such: Angela from Twilight, Madge from The Hunger Games, etc. Not that this is a necessarily bad trend – protagonists need foils, and I much prefer use of the Quiet Girl trope to use of the This is My Alleged Best Friend, A Slut and/or Airhead! trope (see Hush, Hush, An Abundance of Katherines).
Of course, I may be reading too much into that description. After all, Elane was described as being unwelcoming earlier, too.
Next scene opens with Mare informing us that lunch went well, but Lady Ara and Sonya still paid her a lot of attention: “[…]they didn’t push their interrogation any further. But they certainly will.”
Italic Abuse: 159
Maven comes and Mare thaws a bit toward him because at least he’s not trying to unravel the b.s. story that’s keeping her alive.
“‘Still alive?’ he asks. Compared to the Irals, he’s like a friendly puppy.
I can’t help but smile. ‘You should send Lady Iral back to the Lakelanders. She’ll make them surrender in a week. […]I think she’s angry I beat out her granddaughter.’”
Um yeah you didn’t…beat out anyone…Maven wasn’t the prince people were competing for at Queenstrial, remember? (Plus you didn’t even compete, Mare, you fell from the sky.)
“Fear flickers in his eyes, and I understand it. If the Panther is sniffing around my trail…”
Italic Abuse: 160
Maven says he’ll get his mommy to deal with that (which will definitely absolutely for sure make the Panther unsuspicious!!!), and Mare doesn’t want his help but is thankful anyway. She notes that he’s dressed in casual clothes, which makes her feel less out of place, but she says “I can’t let anything about him soothe me. He’s one of them. I can’t forget that.”
Italic Abuse: 161
I feel like I’m going to have to rant about the discrepancy between Mare’s thoughts on Cal and her thoughts on Maven soon. I don’t think she should trust Maven more to match her level of trust with Cal; I think she should distrust them equally. (Or even just distrust Cal a little bit, doesn’t have to be equal to Maven’s, so long as she acknowledges that Cal is also ‘one of them.’) We’ll save that rant for later, though.
Maven offers to show Mare around, and she shuts him down but softens it by telling him she has Lessons next. Also, “[w]hy I care about his feelings, I don’t exactly know.” Mehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Maven takes her hand. This is pretty random, but reads as a more encouraging gesture than Cal’s constant once/twice/thrice-overs and his closing in. It also helps that there’s a witness and they’re not in a private space: Lucas is there with them in the Glass Terrace.
Mare is all ‘omg boy hand wow so warm!!!!’ but Maven leaves before she can do anything about anything. She is a little dazed.
Lucas, my darling, “gives [Mare] a moment to collect [her]self before noting, ‘You know, we’d get there much faster if you actually moved.’”
I love him so much.
“‘Shut up, Lucas[,]’” Mare says, ending the chapter. Other than Gisa, Mare’s interactions with Lucas have been the most pleasant by far.
ITALIC ABUSE: 161
MARE, THE SUPER RARE: 14
FOOLING AROUND: 13