Welcome back to the Heartless read-along! I certainly have been enjoying celebrating the Christmas season with all of you in this fun way. Feels like a party on my computer every morning!
Be sure to check later today to see if you won a copy of Veiled Rose, Moonblood, or Starflower. Everyone who left a comment for each day's post will be entered in the drawing! And if you didn't win this week . . . no worries. You can always try again next week.
And now, back to the story . . .
Sir Eanrin: When Felix hurries down to the practice yard, hoping to find Prince Aethelbald, he discovers the Prince of Farthestshore talking to a knight Felix has not previously seen.
A knight who is blind in both eyes.
Hold on there! you say. Blind like . . . like Monster?
Exactly! And now, for the first time, we see the shape-shifting cat in his other form, as the tall, slender, golden haired Sir Eanrin, poet, warrior, and romantic expert (at least, according to himself). Also my favorite character of the series!
Gervais's Gambling: Along with Felix, we overhear Aethelbald and Sir Eanrin discussing . . . someone's gambling proclivities. Doesn't take a whole lot of sleuthing to figure out who they mean! And suddenly, we know better than ever that we don't want our foolish Princess Una mixed up with this particular loser, charming or otherwise.
Notice the above picture, a fan-art depiction of Gervais gambling with the mysterious blind Eanrin . . . courtesy of the ever-talented Hannah Williams!
Felix's Duel: All right, who doesn't love to see Felix using what he learned from Prince Aethelbald to put that stuck-up Gervais in his place? And here Gervais showers him with compliments first, intending only to make a fool of him. Honestly, I'd forgotten just how thoroughly unlikable Gervais was! I was cheering for Felix in this scene. Glad he learned from Prince Aethelbald and remembered to apply his new skills.
Tidbit: When Felix mutters, "If she marries that goblin's son, why I'll . . ." he's actually using some pretty bad language for this world. In a later book (much later--not finished yet!), we'll learn that to be called a "goblin son" is one of the worst insults there is in Parumvir. And it's an important story-element in that later book, though I can't say why! I just find it interesting seeing little clues dropped like this. Later on, you'll be able to re-read Heartless and go, "Oh, yeah! So that's why that is important!"
Una's Thoughts: So I think it's pretty safe to say that Una is, despite herself, softening a bit toward Prince Aethelbald. Oh, I know she's pretending to herself otherwise! And maybe I'm wrong . . . But don't you think her continued concern over what Aethelbald thinks might mean she's not as indifferent to him as she might be? Maybe Una has better taste than even she realizes.
The family dinner: I think this is one of the few scenes in the novel that hardly changed at all from the first draft to the final. It's funny to read it now, all these years later! I remember sitting in my living room with a spiral notebook in my lap, writing this out by hand. I'm sure it was tweaked along the way, but otherwise, it's pretty familiar! (Though, I believe in the original draft, I gave Una two brothers, who were later condensed into Felix.)
Gervais' banishment: And it's in this scene that we learn exactly why Gervais came to "pay his respects" to Una. The fortune-hunter! Banished from his own father's court for gambling debts, Gervais needs to marry well and marry soon. Our little Una looked like an excellent prospect.
So much for romance. Una's dreams really aren't coming true quite how she wanted, are they?
Did she want to marry him? Finally, Una stops long enough to think the one question we've all been wondering ourselves! She's been so caught up in romantic fancies, she never once stopped to think whether or not this "dream come true" was really all that desirable.
Una's stutter: Once more, in the scene with Aethelbald, Una demonstrates her inability to form a complete sentence when angry. Again, something she inherited directly from her creator, me! I am a terrible fumble-mouth, particularly when I am feeling most urgent. Why is eloquence never there upon command? But it makes for a comic moment for my poor heroine . . . even if readers have to do a double-take and read it again to understand what's happening!
My personal favorite lines:
Monster hopped into her lap and started chewing on her thread. Una watched him do it without seeing until he had unraveled half an armored bean man. Coming to herself suddenly, Una growled, "Monster, you beast!" She tossed the cat over the arm of the chair, then set to embroidered with more will than ever. (p. 94)
Her thread tangled again, and she pulled it so tight that the poor embroidered man's face twisted grotesquely. (p. 94)
Felix, who was sipping coffee, snorted and burnt his tongue, cpped a hand around his mouth, and bawled for water. During his uproar King Fidel could not speak and Una was left to wonder. (p. 96)
Una wanted desperately to spit out elegant barbs, but all that came out was an emphatic, "Don't wan you mister noble go away not your business!" (p. 98)
Una passed her evening imagining all the brilliant things she should have said to Aethelbald but didn't, but jolly well would next chance she got, so help her! They were most of them verbose, all of them witty, and each would have fallen flat if stuttered, but she didn't consider that. She penned them in her journal and practiced them in her mind until they rolled perfectly off her imaginary tongue and Prince Aethelbald, cowed, crawled into his place. (p. 99)
Questions on the Text:
1. What more of Una's character does this chapter reveal? Do you think she's on a road toward growth or not?
2. Do you think Prince Aethelbald did the right thing in this situation, speaking to Prince Gervais about his gambling? Or should he have minded his own business?
3. Felix is used in this chapter (and the other fencing scene) to give us a new perspective on Aethelbald. What do we learn about Aethelbald from Felix's perspective that we miss from Una's? Do you find Aethelbald more or less likable as seen through Felix's eyes?
4. Any favorite lines?
1. "Your world is so multi-layered and intricate. What is a trick you use to keep all your characters straight? Do you outline?" -- Meredith
Good question! It's not actually as difficult for me to keep track of things as you might think, however. I've had most of these stories and characters in my head for years, so the connections and intricacies come naturally to me. I do outline every novel before I write it . . . though I consider an outline a flexible guideline, not set in stone! And I keep files of historical notes and timelines. There isn't any great system, I confess, but I keep up with it all right.
2. "How many books have you planned for the series? Sounds as if you have many more plot threads to come. This series resembles a tapestry, and I like how each story seems to somehow point to all the others. Amazing! Keep up the outstanding work." -- Meredith
Thank you, Meredith! :) That was my hope from the beginning. I wanted to write a series of mostly stand-alone novels that all pointed back to each other to create a bigger, overall picture. Because that's more how life is! All or our own personal stories connect to the personal stories of those around us, back through history, on through the future.
As for how many I have planned . . . lots. But I am currently contracted through six. I hope to write more, but we'll have to wait and see what doors God opens. I know He has a plan for this series. He's created amazing opportunities for me all along. But it's a step-by-step process of faith. I think that's part of God's way of reminding me that He is in control of this series, not me. I'm only the writer!