A favorite! Oh, hoorah. This chapter introduces one of my favorite characters in the series! Lovely Dame Imraldera, Lady of the Haven. I was writing stories about her several years before Heartless came into being, so of course I wanted to give her a role in this novel. It's not a very big role, but you do have to love her as she ministers to young Prince Felix.
The Between. This scene with Felix waking up from poison-filled fever is our first glimpse at the Between: that realm that separates the Far World of Faerie from the Near World of Mortals, and is part of both and neither.
This is represented in the room in which Felix lies. At first, he believes he's looking at a ceiling painted with a lovely mural. But then he believes that the mural is in fact real, and leaves lace a blue sky above his head. Both are true at the same time. This is very difficult for a mortal mind to grasp, however!
Una and the Dragon. I feel that this conversation between Una and the Dragon is the real heart of this novel. It is the crucial turning point of everything, the moment to which all the rest of the story, both before and after, points. In the original short story version of Heartless (which can be read HERE), this conversation was the most important and flesh-out moment. It was after writing this conversation that the rest of the story began to take shape in my mind.
Really, the whole book that is Heartless was written because of my desire to couch this scene in a context. It's just such a horrible scene of Una's sin, reflected in the voice and eyes of the Dragon, tearing her to pieces from the inside out.
Yes, this scene went through revisions. It was not one that I was able to get exactly right the first time. I worked it and reworked it and reworked it again. But I always knew what it needed to be. And I feel that, of all the scenes in this book, this is the most successful.
Interesting to note. Una receives more negative reviews from readers than any other character I ever wrote . . . including Lionheart, surprisingly enough! People can't stand her for being weak. And I find it interesting to note that the Dragon hurls the same abuse on her that she receives from those critical readers. "Not what he mistook you for, are you? Look at you--a crying, sniveling wretch, dirty and ugly. A princess? Hardly."
Una is not the tough, plucky warrior maiden. She's not the girl who will grab a sword and defeat this dragon with her own strength and courage. She's not stunningly beautiful so that every man in the book is falling over himself for love (or lust) of her. She's not what modern audiences expect of a heroine.
And boy, does she know it. And boy, do I know it! Every word of the Dragon pierces her heart, just as the critical slams of reviewers pierce mine. Both of us, as seek our own self-worth from the wrong sources, find ourselves battered down and defeated before such attacks.
Worthless. Dull. Spineless, etc.
But that's why I am still glad, despite those reviews, that I wrote Una as I did. Because she is honest. She is a real reflection of me, of you. And her story is a real reflection of our stories.
Because the Dragon's words may be true . . . but they aren't the whole truth.
The ring. As proof of his words, the Dragon shows Una the very opal ring she had given Lionheart to help him in his quest. The ring her mother gave her, the ring which symbolizes her heart.
And Lionheart gave it up. It now rests in the Dragon's claw.
Fidel. We see Fidel readying himself for one last, desperate attempt to rescue his daughter. He is determined, despite their weakness, to do what he can. I cannot blame him, though I also feel for General Argus, trying so hard to reason with his king!
And Fidel does not yet know what has befallen his son . . .
Una rejects comfort. We know that Una is truly lost in the poison when she rejects the sunlight and the song of the wood thrush, from which she has taken comfort up until this point. She does not recognize it for the only thread of safety remaining to her.
My Personal Favorite Lines
1. The Dragon settled himself comfortably, adjusting his vast wings to wall her in on both sides, intensifying the heat. "Now, little mouthful," he said, "tell me about your jester-prince." (p. 221)
She lost herself in reverie, and although her skin gleamed with sweat in the dragon heat, Una felt cool and distant. (p. 222)
"And so he asked you to trust him."
"Yes, and I do trust him."
"And you gave him your heart."
"My heart is his."
"But he never gave his in return."
Una's lips parted. No words came out.
The Dragon lifted his head and barked a great laugh. "Foolish girl, what kind of exchange was that? You gave him your heart for nothing, and now you have nothing, do you?" (p. 222)
She fell upon her bed and cried as she had never cried before. With each tear that fell, Una felt her soul shrivel. (p. 224)
Questions on the Text
1. What are your thoughts on the symbol of the Dragon "kissing" Una to transform her? What do you think this means?
2. At what point did you believe the Dragon? At what point did you believe that Lionheart had actually betrayed Una and abandoned her?
3. What do you think the sunlight and the wood thrush's song represents during these scenes of Una's captivity?
4. Who among you was taken by surprise by Una's transformation? Had you guessed what was coming for her?
5. Favorite lines?