Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Spell for the Lost

In which Moonhawk and Lute, pooling their varied resources, find that which is lost.

Moonhawk and Lute have been travelling together for a month now. Underneath all the teasing banter, Lute has come to regard Moonhawk highly, surprising Moonhawk when she gets an idea of how worried he is for her safety. What she thinks of him is not as clear, since he doesn’t do anything to frighten her the way she frightens him.

Speaking of frightening, the scene where Moonhawk is working her spell is very atmospheric.

We learn that Moonhawk is from Dyan City (like that other Moonhawk, and that settles the question I had about whether Dyan and Huntress are the same). One of the undercurrents of these stories makes another appearance with Lute’s comment about the differences between life in the cities and elsewhere.

The people in this story are named after plants: Cedar is a tree, and Laurel, Aster, Senna, and Tael are flowering plants. (Tael, being a plant that doesn’t exist on Earth, is carefully introduced in passing a few pages before the girl’s name is first mentioned.) The mention of Laurel, Moonhawk’s old teacher, is reassuring; it’s evidence that this kind of theme naming is widespread, and that Tael and Cedar had a better basis for their relationship than the coincidence of both having parents who named their children after vegetables. I also hope that Senna was named for one of her namesake’s more congenial properties than the one that first came to my mind; medicinally, senna is useful but unpleasant, which is not bad for a plant but would be an unhappy reputation for a person to bear.

You know who Lute reminds me of in this story? Shan yos’Galan. They have the theatrical mannerisms in common, of course, but the resemblance isn’t usually so strong. I think maybe it’s the lounging about with a glass of wine in his hand that does it.

Where the Goddess Sends

In which Moonhawk and Lute meet and decide to travel together across the world.

If I was right yesterday, then this is the first time we’ve seen Moonhawk and Lute since the Great Migration – and my, how they’ve changed.

This Moonhawk is human, a priestess of the Goddess. This Lute is human, as well, and though he is a Master of prestidigitation, in contrast to his former self he can wield only enough actual magic to summon a small light, and even that costs him a great deal of effort.

It has to be said that this Lute is much more entertaining than the old one. (Perhaps that’s only to be expected of a man who makes his living as an entertainer.) Moonhawk has something of a dry sense of humor as well. So, come to that, does the narrator, particularly when it comes to people being knocked on the head.

This is also the first time we’ve heard of the Goddess, and won’t be the last. She comes in somewhere in every story set on Sintia, and more remarkably in several stories that aren’t; the Goddess seems to have a presence on many planets. (For those who might find an active Goddess an incongruous thing to find in a space opera, the account of the Great Weaving in Crystal Dragon implicitly provides a context.)

The world they’re travelling through is a bit of a mixture. It seems to be generally sort of medieval, but there are stories about “the ship that brought our foremothers here”, and lingering bits of technology.

Lute mentions Huntress City, famous for its electric lights. In “Moon’s Honor”, we see Dyan City, with its electric lights; I’m not sure whether these are the same city at different points in its history or if there’s more than one city with electric lights. (Dyan is said in “Moon’s Honor” to be one of “the Three Cities”, which perhaps suggests the latter.) Either way, juxtaposing the two names brings to mind the Romans’ Diana, a noted huntress and goddess of the moon. I bet the authors had her in mind, but I don’t know if the Sintians knew enough Roman mythology to be using it for place names.

The part about the two things which must without fail be said is striking, and I have always remembered it. (And since reading “Moonphase”, I have often wondered if the version of this story Priscilla learned included the two things – assuming that her teachers told this story at all.)

Moon’s Honor

In which Moonhawk and Lute meet for the first time… again.

Well, I gave it my best shot and I blew it: Now I’ve read Moon’s Honor, I’m pretty sure it’s set after the existing trilogy of Tales of Moonhawk and Lute.

So, if you haven’t actually read it yet, you might consider leaving it for now and coming back to this post in three days. (Or not. Up to you.)

The other thing you might want to know if you haven’t read it yet is that Moon’s Honor was originally conceived as the beginning of a novel, so while the immediate situation is resolved at the end there are lots of loose threads left dangling.

(Apparently the authors couldn’t find a taker for the full novel; according to the foreword, Meisha Merlin and then Baen were more interested in more Korval novels, and everybody else they tried before Meisha Merlin just wasn’t interested. I can kind of see why, I think; I want to know what happens next, but my interest in the characters and situation got a head start from already knowing something about these people and places from other stories, and I can’t say for certain that I’d have been interested if I’d come to it cold.)

Here we have a Moonhawk and Lute recognisably similar to the pair from the Tales, but also different. They’re still on Sintia, which I had wondered whether would be the case. They’re brought together by the call of the Goddess, but this time it’s Lute who is called to where Moonhawk is. This Moonhawk is still a priestess, more advanced in some ways (and less so in others). This Lute is still a magician whose power lies more in the quickness of the hand than in supernatural gift, but instead of a lone wanderer he’s a member of a widespread guild. (One wonders whether, if it were possible to trace the chain of apprentices and masters back to its beginning, one would find the earlier Lute and the apprentice he took in “Where the Goddess Sends”.) He also seems to have more supernatural gift than that earlier Lute; it’s seductively easy to create a trend out of two data points, of course, but I do wonder if part of the planned arc of the Moonhawk and Lute stories is/was that each successive Lute had more of the supernatural at his beck than the one before. (And then again, Plan B suggests a third data point, and the trend still holds.)

Speaking of the overall arc, it’s also interesting that the embodied Moonhawk and Lute have a tendency to find a pattern with Lute as mentor and Moonhawk as student, considering that with the original Moonhawk and Lute it was Moonhawk who was usually in charge.

We see more of the Temple than in any other story than perhaps “Moonphase”, and there are signs already of what it will have become in that story, in the incidental stories about some of the priestesses’ attitudes, and in that very pointed exchange about where Lady Rowan’s loyalty lies.

I think Master Lute’s interplay with the Lady Rowan may be my favourite part of the story; for my favourite part of my favourite part, it’s a toss-up between the exchange about loyalty and the result of Lady Rowan commanding Lute to be silent.

An odd incidental detail that might or might not have been elaborated on had the novel been completed: in addition to the Moon, the night sky here contains two fast-moving objects referred to as the Hounds.


“Eleutherios” is, without hesitation, one of my favourite short stories in the Liaden Universe. (It occurs to me that several of my favourites are stories that stand alone, without direct ties to the characters and events of the novels; the extra work called for to establish the setting and characters pays off, I guess.)

The title is from the Greek, and means “liberation”.

One of the things I like about it is that it’s a happy ending all around (except, I suppose, for the police, but somehow I don’t find it in me to feel sorry for them, much). Niku is liberated from captivity, and Friar Julian and his church are liberated from their encroaching poverty.

I always find myself wondering how much of a hand Friar Julian’s gods had in that, because one of the other striking things about this story is that nothing Friar Julian believes about his gods is shown to be wrong. Niku may be chuckling to himself about being able to use Friar Julian’s faith to achieve his goals, but I wonder if somewhere there’s a god chuckling to himself about being able to use Niku’s unbelief in a similar manner.

During this re-read, I found myself wondering if the gods and their consorts might be, as it were, people we know; specifically, with certain details from the duology fresh in mind, it occurred to me that “a god and his consort” might be somebody’s understanding of a dramliza – and that the gods and their consorts might even be, perhaps, the same Names revered on Sintia, seen from a different angle. I am, however, less confident of this idea now than I was about halfway through; by the end of the story, there had been enough mentions of men in Friar Julian’s religion pledging to each other as life partners that I don’t even feel confident assuming that the gods’ consorts are female.

“Eleutherios” is the first story in the re-read that doesn’t have any straightforward indications of when it’s set, so perhaps I ought to say a few words about why I placed it here. The answer, in a few words, is “gut feeling”. It seems, to me, like it’s set early in the Liaden Universe, but there aren’t any details I can point to that firmly settle it, and some of the bits that feel to me like they support my theory could probably be seen to support a different theory if you happened to have one. The aspect I think I can explain most clearly is that there are parts of the culture that remind me of the culture in the Crystal duology, which suggests to me that that wasn’t so long ago; in particular, the police and their restraining chip remind me more than anything else of the bond-threads used to control runaways in the old world.

(There is a thing that needs to be said, sooner or later, about Niku’s kin, but that’s not so much relevant to this appearance as it is to their next, so I think I’ll save it until then. I may, at that time, give it a post of its own.)

Crystal Dragon – Chapters 36 & 37

Quick Passage

In which we enter the Liaden Universe.

The tale of Moreta‘s Flight has gotta be a shout-out to Anne McCaffrey.

After being in transition for twenty-eight days, Quick Passage arrives at its destination – alone. It’s not clear here, and I remember being confused by it the first time I read the duology, but the authors have said in interviews that all the other refugees from the sheriekas made it to the new universe (by some mechanism I’m still not entirely clear on, but which undoubtedly had the fingerprints of the dramliz all over it) sooner or later.

And when I say “sooner or later”, some of them arrived later than Quick Passage – and some arrived sooner. There are places in the modern Liaden universe, about five hundred years on from here, that have histories stretching back considerably more than five hundred years. (Not to mention that if the modern era is Standard Year 1393, it’s counting from something that happened centuries before the Solcintrans arrived on Liad. Calendars don’t prove anything; Anno Domini wasn’t invented until AD 525. And even if the Standard calendar is a Liaden invention, it may be counting from something that happened back on old Solcintra.)

I wonder if Cantra bothered to ask any of the passengers before naming their planet for them.

Not that it’s an unreasonable choice. (I just suspect they’d rather have called it New Solcintra, or something.) If anything, naming one planet after Liad dea’Syl is a bit small. It’s not just solipsism: this really is the Liaden Universe.

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 35

In which we’re leaving together, but still it’s farewell.

This is the only chapter in the duology that doesn’t have a caption saying, however ambiguously, where it takes place.

I think the mention of Dancer, “singing sweet seduction to her makers”, must be where I got the idea that she was sent off to act as a decoy; whether that was Cantra’s intention, it’s what she’s doing. (And I love the image of the seedling adding its own insulting messages.)

Hands up, anyone who thinks the Iloheen’s being honest in its offer to promote Rool Tiazan’s lady if she comes quietly. Nobody? Didn’t think so.

I was right about Rool Tiazan’s bargain with the ambitious dramliza, it looks like. (Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are twelve kinds of twisty.)

The “vast and implacable greenness” is interesting. A last-ditch attempt by the ssussdriad? Or … something else? (Do they have Turtles in this universe?)

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 34

Quick Passage
Departing Solcintra

In which the Great Migration begins.

Since I missed all the cosmological hints the first time through, it was the number Master dea’Syl adds to his calculations in this chapter that brought home to me that the universe Cantra calls home is not ours. Such a number, appearing in the equations determining their destination – and then there’s the fact that not one person present in the tower stops and says, “Wait a minute, isn’t that…?”

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 33

Spiral Dance

In which the leave-takings begin.

Jela’s Troop are shipping out with the rest of Captain Wellik’s soldier boys – and have received an official troop designation, so henceforth they are an actual Troop and not just a bunch of people united by shared experiences and a nickname.

Cantra sends Spiral Dance off on autopilot, with a seedling from the tree as passenger or crew. I’d got the idea somewhere that this was a distraction mission, in case the Enemy were looking for Dancer, but that’s not the impression I’m getting this reading. The way Cantra talks, it’s so they both have a chance of survival: Dancer has a better chance of survival on the move than sitting on the ground on a planet that’s about to be attacked, and the seedling’s there to give Jela’s legacy another chance if Quick Passage perishes, and Cantra and the tree along with it. You pay your debts, as best you can.

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 32

Quick Passage

In which the new clan gathers allies.

Yes, I thought that was where I remembered the gambler reappearing.

And I’m thinking that what we have gathered here is the beginnings of Korval’s ally, Clan Erob. Though I’m not sure if it’s all of them, or just the red-headed ones. 🙂

This chapter shows the flip side of Solcintra’s insularity. It neatly explained why the Liadens don’t have some of the things they don’t have, but it also means that another neat explanation is called for regarding why they do have some of the things they do have. Like, as the gambler points out here, healers, seers, and others with abilities resembling those of the dramliz.

The ink is hardly dry on Korval’s charter, and already they’re showing their form as a clan who won’t meekly wait on the Council’s decisions when the right course is plain.

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 31

Quick Passage

In which Clan Korval exists.

I had always assumed, before I read the duology, that the Tree-and-Dragon emblem of Korval was a combination of the emblems of the two founding lines, and that since the Tree was obviously yos’Phelium’s contribution, the Dragon must have been yos’Galan’s. This turns out to be true in a sense, since Clan Alkia’s emblem is a dragon (which is not just the mascot of Light Wing after all), but it seems kind of unbalanced when yos’Phelium has dragons of its own.

Though perhaps the way to look at it is that both lines are represented by the Tree and the Dragon. yos’Phelium is the tree (for the obvious reason) and also the dragon (because of the branches-with-wings); yos’Galan is the dragon (for the obvious reason) and also the tree (perhaps representing, for Tor An, the piata tree that grew by his family home, and by inference the home itself and all that went with it).

The Clan investiture (which reads very much like a wedding ceremony, which I suppose is not inappropriate) also gives us our first mention of melant’i.

It occurs to me that one of the side-effects of reading on a fixed schedule of one chapter per day is that it messes with the pacing. An author who wishes to give the impression that events are picking up speed might go for lots of short chapters, but at one chapter per day shorter chapters mean that events proceed slower (and the long, slow chapters zip by in comparison).

I had completely forgotten the wrinkle involving Mr dea’Gauss’s family. I look forward with interest to seeing what Cantra intends to do about it.