ACK! I apparently never took this off of draft mode! I thought this ran last Friday! Whoops!!
|The Warders’ Circle was supposed to prevent this kind of thing. It gave the nations a way to settle their disputes without warfare, with the limited and ritualized violence of a duel. But that only worked if people believed in it. It was a game, and everyone had agreed to play by its rules.
Until they didn’t.
Sure, there were still warders on Twaa-Fei. Juniors thrust into the role of seniors, unwilling and unprepared and, worst of all, unsupported. Their nations had abandoned them to play out what remained of this farce, while behind that disintegrating cover of civility they prepared for and carried out war.
Nations on the brink of war (well, just on the wrong side of the brink), almost everyone’s favorite diplomat the target of assassins (favorite of readers and almost every other diplomat), relationships torn apart — the home of the Warders, Twaa-Fei itself, is being ripped apart by violence. The stakes really couldn’t be much higher.
But this episode isn’t about the stakes for the nations (not that those are uninvolved — it’s just not the focus): it’s about Michiko making some important choices and acting on them, in ways that will leave her life (and potentially the lives of the people she represents) changed forever; it’s about Takeshi finding what’s been missing (I hope); it’s about Kris and Adechike getting all their priorities straight; and about a few other things that I can’t talk about.
In the midst of all this character growth, character development and conflict — we get two knockout duels. Not the civilized, controlled, formal duels of Kris’ trials, either — we’re talking two people who unleash everything they have — magic and swordcraft alike — at each other. Brennan absolutely sold this part.
This episode was everything I wanted — great character moments, better action sequences — and every character (finally) not worrying so much about playing politics, but about doing the right thing (even if it’s the wrong thing for someone else). My notes have me writing twice “this is the high point of the series (so far),” and there’s at least one other candidate for that moment in these pages. I’m hoping that the season finale continues the uptick we’ve been on for the last couple of weeks.