Monthly Archives: October 2013

Balance of Trade – Chapter 30

Day 158
Standard Year 1118


In which the twins enquire into the sustenance of Jethri’s kin group.

This is a useful trick for an SF writer to know: when a character compares her culture’s customs to those of another culture unfamiliar to her, both cultures are illuminated for the reader.

What’s also illuminated for the reader in this case is some of the lingering questions regarding Jethri’s cousins, like why some of them don’t seem to be attached to any particular parent. (For that matter, it answers the same question regarding the twins.)

If I’m getting this right, Jethri’s two siblings are both children of his mother, but neither of them are children of his father; he’s the only Gobelyn who is Arin’s son. (Which, apart from anything else, answers another lingering question I had, regarding Seeli and Grig.)

The game of piket is interesting. I’m pretty sure it was first mentioned (in publication order) in one of the two prequels that are most often compared to Regency romances, and the name is reminscent of the game piquet which is often played in your actual Regency romance. (It can’t be precisely the same game, though, if all three of them propose to play at once; piquet is set up for only two players at a time.)

And then we get the tale about using Old Tech to remain youthful, which apart from the purpose it serves in this chapter is another instance of the trick of slipping an idea into the reader’s head a while before it becomes important.

Balance of Trade – Chapter 29

Day 155
Standard Year 1118


In which Jethri rolls out the barrels.

A nice world-building touch: some things are still done a low-tech way because the obvious high-tech alternatives have undesirable side-effects.

And Jethri is smart enough that when he thinks of an obvious high-tech alternative, he can realise that somebody must have thought of it before and do his own research to find out why it’s not being used.

Balance of Trade – Chapter 28

Day 145
Standard Year 1118


In which the Gobelyn family is not the market for Befores.

More types of Old Tech: “light-wands” and “duplicating units”, neither of which is ringing any particularly loud bells regarding the tech we saw in the prequel duology. Grig says the man looking for them is a fool, but it’s not clear whether he means “because he expects to find any” or “because he expects things to go well once he starts messing with one”. It could be the latter because Grig clearly knows more about Old Tech than he’s letting on. Another example of which is that he calls Jethri’s device a weather maker, which is not a thing Jethri knows about it.

(And if there’s one thing I’m really learning about from this re-read, it’s the authors’ technique of mentioning a thing in passing a chapter or two before it becomes important again.)

Is it just me, or is there something going on between Seeli and Grig?

Balance of Trade – Chapter 27

Day 140
Standard Year 1118


In which the twins give Jethri the benefit of their vast, sorrowful experience.

When the twins are telling Jethri about how much Pen Rel loves his vines, they tell a story about the “mother vine” that echoes the events of “Necessary Evils” and the scholar’s hearsay in Crystal Dragon. Where those were reports of contemporary events, though, now it is just a legend of “the old days, when such things were possible”.

That’s a connection I didn’t make the first time I read it, probably because I hadn’t read “Necessary Evils” yet. If memory serves, I read all the novels Meisha Merlin published before I read any of the short stories.

The other thing I didn’t realise the first time I read it was that Jethri’s confidence that it wasn’t within his power to match the twins’ devastation of the vines was a sign of trouble to come.

Balance of Trade – Chapter 26

Day 140
Standard Year 1118


In which someone wishes to trade for fractins.

Less a plot development than a hint that one might be forthcoming, this.

I wonder who this guy is, who apparently knows enough about Gobelyn’s Market to be aware of it as a possible avenue for trade in fractins, but doesn’t know enough to be aware that the trader has been dead and the avenue closed for years. I wondered for a moment if he approached Seeli because she’s Arin’s daughter, but I think it’s probably just that she’s listed on-port as Admin and primary contact since Iza shipped out. If he was solid enough on the details to know the names of Arin’s children, he ought to be aware that none of the remaining crew of the Market share Arin’s enthusiasm.

Seeli certainly doesn’t; from the aside about over-abundant nuisances I gather that she doesn’t even know about the distinction between counterfeit fractins and genuine, or else regards it as a distinction without a difference.

Balance of Trade – Chapter 25

Day 140
Standard Year 1118

Tarnia’s Clanhouse

In which Lady Maarilex gets to know Jethri Gobelyn.

Jethri’s account confirms that Arin changed his name to Gobelyn when he married (from Tomas, which means Grig was a relative on top of being a trusted colleague). This sets me wondering again about the monogrammed box; if it’s his monogram, it must have been done after he married, but a velvet-lined jewel box doesn’t seem like the sort of thing a crewman on a ship like Gobelyn’s Market would go in for. Maybe it was a wedding present.

We see, again, that Jethri’s upbringing has taught him not to expect others to exert themselves on his account.

I am not, myself, surprised that Lady Maarilex wanted to hear Jethri’s account of how he met Master ven’Deelin. Certainly she has had Master ven’Deelin’s account, but Jethri’s telling is sure to differ in details, in what is emphasized, included, or left out, and from the differences she can learn more not only about the event but about the teller.

Balance of Trade – Chapter 24

Day 139
Standard Year 1118


In which Jethri is here to learn trade and mountains.

It’s interesting that Norn ven’Deelin speaks of this as “coming home”, and makes one wonder how she would characterize returning to the house of her own clan on Liad.

Meicha and Miandra have something going on: they’re able to pick Jethri’s emotions out of his head – but perhaps not yet able to not do it, given their reactions when Jethri starts panicking (and I wonder if Ren Lar was picking up on that when he suggested it was time to end the meal). “Healer Hall has taken an interest in them”. The Delm is firm that they are not, however, dramliz – but something about the way it’s said makes me wonder if that’s an objective judgement or if there’s a stigma being carefully avoided. (Also, I wonder what it is that tips Norn ven’Deelin off about them.)

The subject of Liadens considering it impolite to mop one’s face in public is one that we will return to in more detail at a later date.

I wonder if Flinx is named (not by the characters, obviously, but perhaps by the authors) after the protagonist of Alan Dean Foster’s series of young adult novels; I can see some similarities between that Flinx and our Jethri.

Master ven’Deelin’s mention of Korval in the parlor is the first time they’ve been mentioned since Crystal Dragon (and if memory serves it will be some time again before they’re next mentioned).

Jethri’s assessment of the parlor as “smallish – maybe the size of Master ven’Deelin’s office on Elthoria” shows that he’s made some adjustments in the time since he first saw that office: back then, he was struck by how large it was.

Incidentally, it’s been nearly exactly a relumma since then, which means that in depositing Jethri on Irikwae for two relumma, Master ven’Deelin is proposing that they will be apart for almost twice as long as the entire time they’ve known each other. I can see that being worrying even without the addition of a Spacer’s horror of being left stranded.

I have a feeling that when Master ven’Deelin remarks on how careful Jethri is of her honor, she’s very gently pulling his leg. He does genuinely want to avoid doing her disservice, and I’m sure she genuinely appreciates it, but she only really makes a point of it when he’s trying to invoke a desire to avoid shaming her to get out of doing something without straight out saying he doesn’t want to do it.

Which, as I said, doesn’t mean that they don’t genuinely care about each other, and I love the scenes in this chapter which show that care.

Balance of Trade – Chapter 23

Day 135
Standard Year 1118


In which Jethri discovers a foster-granmam.

The narrative seems determined to show me a liar in the matter of Jethri’s lucky fractin. If I were the paranoid type, I might wonder if the amount of time it was absent was carefully calculated so that it would reappear just as one was sure it was gone for good.

Vil Tor and Gaenor don’t entirely succeed in unlocking the approaching situation for Jethri; he still has an unpleasant surprise waiting. This is not their fault; being, as Jethri notes, Grounders, they’re not aware of all the Spacer assumptions Jethri is bringing to bear on his understanding of what he’s been told.

It seems to be significant that both Vil Tor and Gaenor touch Jethri on the shoulder as they say their farewells, since the narrator makes a point of mentioning it, and I’m aware that Liadens generally don’t go in for casual physical contact. I’m not sure what it’s significant of, though, unless just how close their friendship has become.

Incidentally, I’m intrigued by Vil Tor, whose family name is never mentioned; even in the cast list he is only “Vil Tor” and nothing else.

Balance of Trade – Chapter 22

Day 125
Standard Year 1118


In which Jethri and the master of Modrid Trade Hall make their opinions of each other very clear.

Jethri shows a couple of times in this chapter that he doesn’t expect the regard of others. As Master ven’Deelin notes, when the Hall Master refuses to accept him as Master ven’Deelin’s apprentice he’s more upset about the insult to her than the corresponding slighting of himself. And then he admits that it hadn’t occurred to him that his uncle might have genuinely considered that he had properly earned the right to hold the ten-year Combine key. Perhaps it comes of being the baby of a large family, with or without the addition of a parent who wants nothing to do with him. It’s something he’s going to have to work on; humility is well and good, but a trader is not going to get very far without a sense of his own consequence.

The historic tapestry of surpassing ugliness is an amusing detail.

Balance of Trade – Chapter 21

Day 123
Standard Year 1118

Modrid Approach

In which Master ven’Deelin’s apprentice trades solo for the first time.

Did I say Jethri’s habit of nervously playing with his lucky fractin had disappeared? Not entirely, it turns out.

The partly-overheard conversation at the end of the chapter would sound quite portentous if I didn’t remember what it’s about.