If I try to make all these introductory sections interesting in their own right, I am going to run out of material pretty hecking quickly. To summarise, so far, a god of gravity was stabbed, three hundred years ago, and now a slightly dim boy has gone for a long walk version of ‘I’m going to my room!’
Between Chapter 2 and 3 we’re treated to, well, an interlude. It’s an opportunity in the book for the reader to go grab a drink, get some crackers, and the end-of-interlude comes faster than the end-of-chapter so you can feel more accomplished faster. It tells us the tale of Not-Sparkasuki, the Queen of Birds, her fabled rise to power, the first mention of the Night the Stars Fell, an important event. Don’t think it’s Important? Come on, it’s all capitalised, just like the Will Of The World. Chances are, it’s basically the plot lynchpin.
This fabley section introduces us to a host of visual/metaphorical cues; it suggests the snake as a symbol of treachery and death (after introducing us to a creepy character who lives with a snake) and birds as symbols of tyranny. There’s also a theme I’m going to suspect seeing a lot, which is a heterosexual relationship getting to the childbirth stage before ending terribly.
This interlude ties back to the first section of the book, and is one of the more wholly interesting pieces, in and of itself. I actually quite like this bit in and of itself: it conveys the world, it expresses itself purely, but it also fills in some context for the greater story. I almost wish this sort of thing could be more common. It also implies without stating. The God of Strength, the God of Truth and the Queen of Birds all have ‘stars’ and you don’t really know what that means but you can sort of imply something about them. It seems likely to me that Stars are how god powers are inherited – which in turn, refers us back to the Night The Stars Fell. Gods are new, but not that new.
Chapter 3 begins with Hayr and soup. We’re shown a bit more of Hayr’s childish manner, where he reveals quite a bit about himself, even while his hands are shaking in passive fear. Again, we’re also shown a bit more of Chakori, who continues to differentiate herself from the other characters, in a really charming way. Pay attention to her, chances are she’s going to mess up something important.
Think about what that means in the context. You’re frightened, you’re shaking at the wrist, dealing with a god who’s told you you’re going to die and people who have piles of clothing from dead people around – and a Shoe Pile – and you’re babbling about your brother. Normally I’d say this shows tension but really it just seems that Hayr is a bit dim and doesn’t have experience in shifting social modes. Oh and hey, then the lady with the claws who can walk through a gunshot leaps across the room. I’m just saying that Hayr’s probably wound tighter than a spring right now.
Why, yes, this story is about queer teenagers written by someone who understands social anxiety in a very real way.
I like how in this setting, godhood and divinity are somewhat approachable concepts. It yields such phrases as “there shall be no self-important misuses of the divinity in my house, I swear to Father!” It’s a nice little anchoring detail – it’s not telling us about a location or a person, it’s not giving us a name – well it kind of is – but it is showing us how people interact with and treat the elements of their world. This is the best kind of world-setting stuff – it’s not a geographical textbook, it’s a personal thing.
By the way, by this point in the story, we have had precisely zero instances of a relationship ending well, which makes the next section, following up on Barsamin arriving to meet and potentially woo a lady in which he is clearly uninterested, is obviously doomed.
I’m keeping an eye out for the importance later of red feathers, already outlined in the bird references in the interlude. Red hair is already a very important visual symbol, and we are in the place of flight and birds, after all.
Again, Barsamin narration is very thoughtful, and deliberate. There’s more attention to detail, less, uh, childish addressing of the world around him.
Another thing I’m going to assume is the author has a younger sister. That she’s very fond of.