Monday, July 28, 2014

Bisexual Adventure Time! (Post is a little darker than it may initially appear)

Content Notes: description of past emotionally/psychologically abusive relationship

Friends, readers, fellow denizens of the internet!

I am embarking on a bisexual adventure. Indeed, a polyamorous bisexual adventure.

Okay, maybe it'll be poly. Eventually ... hopefully.

BASICALLY, I have just started dating my friend, uhh ... I will have to consult him regarding a blog nickname. For now I will call him ... Friend.  o.0 Yeah, that looks weird.

We've been friends a long time, never officially dated, he moved away, now he's moving back, blah blah blah, okay there's your context.

Upon his decision to return to my lovely city, he raised the possibility of us dating, with commitment and all, and I may have slightly freaked out. (Previously I had sort of assumed the commitment issues were his? AHAHAHA oops.)

I will confess to you that I feel nervous, even a little panicked, at the idea of being in a relationship again. It's been ... uh ... good god, five years and change since I broke up with my ex, who was in some ways my first real relationship partner. (No disrespect to my first love, but we only dated for four months when we were fifteen. I've found dating as an adult to be complicated in different ways.) So the prospect of dating again is a little daunting.

Let's give my ex a fun nickname. I know! Let's call him Jerkface.

I dated Jerkface for three and a half years, two years of which were long distance. He was manipulative, emotionally abusive, codependent, and mean. He had me convinced that I was responsible for his emotions. He would explain all of our arguments until I understood how it had been my fault, and I would cry and apologize, and he would forgive me. He corrected my behaviour in public, in front of our friends. He withheld affection and attention. He tried to control my fucking DISLIKE OF CERTAIN FOODS by attempting to guilt trip and shame me into eating foods I already knew I didn't like. He wanted me to be some bizarre, impossible combination of a child he could raise just the way he wanted, an emotional crutch for him, and a carbon copy of his own mother.

Also there were a ton of other shitty things he did I could list. Sometimes when I start to doubt that the relationship was really, truly abusive, I start to list every fucked up thing he did. By the time I have two single-spaced pages in bullet point form, I have usually calmed down.

Dumping Jerkface was an excellent decision that makes me happy every time I think about it. And those times are decreasing as more time passes, my memories fade, and his shadow falls less and less on my face.

That doesn't quite mean that my memories and experiences aren't affecting me as I enter into this new relationship.

The good news is that, over the past five years, I learned something that has improved my life immensely. It is this: when I start to feel sad, or lonely, or panicked, I (try to remember to) remind myself that I am here for me. I support myself. I love myself FIERCELY. I am committed to being here for myself.

I have to remind myself of this a lot. I often forget and drift into the sad spirals of depression that are a pretty constant presence in my mind. There are a lot of other techniques and ideas that help me as well, but this one is the core. This is the one that is essential to me, and which has become, essentially, me.

And that, fiiiiiinaaaaallyyyyyy, leads me into the part of this post that I teased you all with up at the top. Part of my motivation for this blog is to engage in self-discovery related to my sexuality, namely, being bisexual.

(An aside: earlier today I was walking and thinking about how dating a guy means I'm in a "straight relationship" and then I thought, I'm still bi though, OH WAIT that means I'm in a bisexual relationship! No matter who I date! Any potential relationship I can possibly have is by definition a bisexual one! Oh my god I'm so happy about this.)

So when Friend (oh my god texting him about his nickname TONIGHT) suggested dating, I realised that my feelings were essentially in two camps: one was going, yaaaaaaaaaaaaay! He is great and I feel happy when I'm with him and he's moving back and we will have awesome fun times! This is an excellent plan! The other was going, BUT I STILL REALLY WANT TO DATE WOMEN.

I didn't try too hard to suss out which feeling was stronger. They are both strong; they are both true.

It occurred to me that they might not be mutually exclusive.

I broached the topic carefully with Friend, managing to inadvertently worry him that I was going to just say nope! No dating, bye now! (I really am sorry about that!) And I am still a little stunned, and really really happy, that he agreed that 'me also potentially dating a woman if I meet one who also wants to date me while I am also dating you' is a thing we could try, if the possibility ever actually comes up.

My friends, my readers, my loves, I am so excited and happy about this. It feels right. It feels like I figured out how to be myself.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Deconstructing Fire by Kristin Cashore, Part 3: Chapter 2

Spoilers for Fire, Graceling, and Bitterblue.

Content Notes: Jealousy and control in relationships; violence causing permanent injury; rape.

Chapter 2: In which various men are unable to manage their own damn emotions

Recap: In Chapter 1, we met Fire, a human monster who is impossibly beautiful and who can control humans and animals with her mind. A stranger shot her (non-fatally and by accident) and was taken prisoner by Fire's overprotective friend and lover, Archer.

Chapter 2 Synopsis: Fire wakes up to the news that the stranger was killed during the night by an extremely talented archer.  Archer is upset and Fire reminisces about her deceased father, Cansrel, who was similarly overprotective.

First of all, a quote from the text that sort of establishes that the citizens of the Dells tend to be darker-skinned rather than lighter:
"But the men of Pikkia, though not all alike, tended to be big, and lighter-skinned than their Dellian neighbors---at any rate, not small and dark like the blue-eyed poacher had been" [p. 37].
I like this quote because it establishes that the poacher - this is the guy who shot Fire - has both dark skin and blue eyes. I dislike it because it only establishes that the typical Dellian skin tone is darker than the skin of some light-skinned people, which is both vague and a definition by comparison. I'd rather find a quote that clearly describes Dellian skin - and preferably Fire's skin, since we Earthlings are accustomed to red-haired people having the whitest skin of all - in no uncertain terms. And maybe I will! There's lots of book left.

A major theme of this chapter is the introduction of Archer's bizarre and unwarranted jealousy toward Fire. For example:
"You think everyone wants to steal me," Fire said mildly. ... "And you should have a guard whenever you walk out your door, and you should be quicker to manipulate the people you meet. Then I'd have less cause to worry" [Archer said] [p. 37].
Remember in the last chapter, when Fire was unhappy about controlling the mind of the guy who shot her for just so she could save her own life? For pity's sake, Archer, I know she's pretty and everything, but have you ever listened to a single thing she's ever said??? Or do you just think that her freedom, independence, ethics, and right to make her own decisions are all so much white noise compared to your ardent desire to keep her safe and isolated?

The truth is that Archer's jealousy and over-protectiveness cannot be separated. He isn't a villain; he respects Fire's ultimate right to make her own choices (to a point); and the text makes it clear that he and Fire truly love each other; but he is sure as hell going to make her listen to his loud, angry, and bitter opinions.

Archer mentions the name of a new guard whom he supposes Fire hasn't met, and she replies that she has met him, and refers to his hair colour as identification. And Archer loses. His. Shit.
"I won't be stationing Tovat at your house any longer," he said, an unpleasant edge to his voice that drove her to silence for a moment, so that she wouldn't say anything unpleasant back about Archer's dubious---and rather hypocritical---right to jealousy. He opened a feeling to her that she didn't particularly care to feel right now. Biting back a sigh, she chose words that would protect Tovat" [pp. 40-41].
Let us consider this. First, Archer throws a fit and threatens the job of one of his own employees and second, Fire controls her own urge to say something cutting in return. She recognises the damage that a fight could do to their relationship, and decides to avoid it by choosing not to engage in the argument. Archer is allowed to be angry, but Fire feels that she has to control both her own emotions and Archer's - not through her monster mind-control powers, but through the typical tip-toeing and sensitive phrasing with which we women are so familiar. Her aim is not her own interests, but to protect Tovat from Archer's irrational jealousy.

This kind of managing of men's emotions is so common in real life that it could easily fly under the radar. I very much appreciate that Cashore draws attention to Archer's bad attitudes and reactions, and criticizes them through Fire, who is portrayed as calmer, more compassionate, and wiser than her friend.

Cashore continues to weave exposition with action, using such intriguing phrases as, "Archer's father lived in Archer's house" [p. 41]. Later in the chapter, Fire has a conversation with Archer's father, Brocker, which gives Cashore the opportunity to get the reader up to speed on Dellian political history as Brocker, who is an adviser to the king and the former military commander of the Dells, responds to Fire's questions regarding current and past politics.

Brocker uses a wheelchair, and has since before his son's birth, evidently due to offending the previous (unstable) king so badly that [TRIGGER WARNING for horrifying violence] he ordered eight men to shatter Brocker's legs. Let me just draw your attention, lovely readers, to the fact that Cashore does not pull her punches when it comes either to violence or to extremely disturbing psychological torture. This is going to be much more of an issue if I continue to Bitterblue after this. That book really needs to come with trigger warnings. But Fire has its share of distressing themes, particularly in relation to the human monster ability to control minds and the particular type of sexualised violence that Fire faces.

I cannot deconstruct this chapter without addressing the following. [TRIGGER WARNING for rape.]
"... a year or two later, when Brocker had recovered as well as he ever would, [King] Nax had still been angry with his commander.  He'd handpicked a brute from his prisons, a dirty, savage man, and sent him north to punish Brocker by punishing Brocker's wife" [p. 44].
It transpires that Archer was conceived via this man's rape of Aliss, Brocker's wife. Which really does not seem like a punishment of Brocker so much as one of Aliss. The text does make it plain that Nax was under Cansrel's influence, and Cansrel quite likely thought the whole situation was quite entertaining. We are not shown or told how Aliss dealt with her rape or resulting pregnancy. She dies of natural causes before the book begins.

I feel strongly that Aliss's story as a survivor of rape would have been relevant not only to the story, as it deals so much with sexual coercion, but also to Fire as a character who has to navigate so much sexual violence herself. Cashore does draw attention to the fact that Nax's second decision to punish Brocker falls much more strongly on Aliss, but I am not satisfied. I want to know who Aliss was. I want to know her story. She deserved to have it told.

[End of all trigger warnings.]

Anyway, here is one reason why Brocker is awesome:
"I've just finished writing a history of military strategy in the Dells. You're welcome to take it with you. It'll put you to sleep while making you clever and unbeatable" [p. 43].
 Brocker, please be my valentine.

Next time, I'll finish Chapter 2 and cover Chapter 3, which is quite short. We will speak of Cansrel and Fire's childhood, of father figures and Brocker as a foil for Cansrel, and Fire's emotional development.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

WTF is up with being bi, Part 3: No Mum, I'm not straight now (and other super fun conversations)

Content Notes: oops, forgot content notes. Actually I don't think this post needs any? Please let me know if I've missed something!

ME: Yeah, so I wanted to let you know I started seeing someone.

MUM: Oh! What's her name?

ME: Actually it's James.

MUM: Jane?

ME: No, James.

MUM: What?

So, that was a fun conversation. Several years ago now. And indeed it was followed by my poor mother's confused refrain: Does this mean you're straight now?

No. Nope. Not even a little. No, sorry. (Wait, not sorry.)

My mum is really nice, and really supportive, and really really means well. I love her a lot. And sometimes she fucks things up. Outing me to my dad was maybe the worst mistake she made - worse because she had a really hard time understanding why it hurt me - but her clear, insistent need to label my sexuality was NOT HELPFUL, MUM, oh my god stop.

Well. She also might have had an easier time if I had reconciled myself to the word 'bisexual', you know, a lot sooner. See my first post.

To my dad's credit, the weirdest conversation I ever had with him went something like this:

DAD: All the lesbians I know have short hair. Does this mean you're going to cut your hair now?

ME: No. Nope. Not even a little. No, sorry. (Wait, not sorry.)

My dad is pretty great. Also I just told him about this blog. Hi Dad!

But to get back on topic: a casual, nonscientific, and anecdotal survey of my life so far indicates very strongly that most people find the concept that an actual person (ie, me) can be actually bisexual to be really confusing.

Another illustrative conversation took place when a college friend suggested that maybe the reason I rarely get hit on is because people can't tell if I'm straight or gay.

FRIEND: Yeah, so we were talking about this the other day when you weren't here.

ME: You what?

FRIEND: And we all agreed that you don't really present as gay or straight.

ME: ...

FRIEND: So we were thinking that maybe people don't hit on you because they can't tell what you are.

ME: *facepalm*

I would be less chagrined by this conversation if I didn't suspect that this is probably actually the case. I wish anyone who thinks I'm attractive would just tell me so. Whether or not I respond favourably isn't going to depend on their gender - it's going to depend on what I think of them as a person. (Also whether I think they're hot, which I admit seems to be a gendered proposition for most people even though I don't really understand why.)

I do realise that's easier said than done. Today I realise it with with my entire self because today I actually did message a friend and tell her that I have a bit of a crush on her.

Turns out she is straight. *sigh*

But yes, it was actually terrifying, and yes, I actually did it. You can too.

ETA: forgot content notes. Sorry!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Deconstructing Fire by Kristin Cashore, Part 2: Chapter 1

Spoilers for Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue. Also The Hunger Games.

Content Notes: discussion of sexual harassment and assault; discussion of racism. And since I'm talking about that, it seems relevant to disclose that I myself am white. As always, please let me know if I have missed anything!

I love Fire. I mean, I love Fire, the book, but I really love Fire, the protagonist. She fascinated me from the first two lines of Chapter 1:
It did not surprise Fire that the man in the forest shot her. What surprised her was that he shot her by accident [p. 19].
Here's a teenage girl who has lived her whole life under attack - by monster animals, who crave her flesh and blood, and by humans who fear and hate her. Many other humans adore her in a really creepy, possessive, and often sexual way.

Fire is scarred all over her body from various attacks. She is sexualized against her will, and presumably has been from quite a young age. She is only seventeen when the book takes place, and seems accustomed to sexual harassment ranging from micro-agressions, like being stared at, to people actually throwing themselves at her. She also - and I will return to this in a moment - has brown skin.

Fire's choices throughout the novel are governed by three tenets:
  1. She is her own best defender;
  2. She will only use her monster powers under strict ethical rules; and
  3. She is damn well going to go out and live her life.
Did I mention that I love her?

Her entire existence as a fictional character is an exploration of what it would actually be like to be superhumanly beautiful. AND IT SUCKS. I can't imagine dealing with the constant threats and aggressions that Cashore invents for her protagonist.

Fire, though, is resilient. She uses music to escape from or process her emotions. She also teaches music lessons to children, which builds community, but also gives her opportunities to travel around her friend Archer's lands, using her monster powers of mind-sensing to make sure that no spies have infiltrated the territory.

Cashore pretty deftly segues into exposition about the political landscape (fraught) and Fire's personal history (even fraught-er). We receive the first descriptions of her deceased father, Cansrel, a compelling and deeply disturbed man. In between snatches of memory, Fire is gritting her teeth against the arrow-shaped hole in her arm and sneaking out her window by climbing out of her window and down a tree, just so she can see some stars.

A few notable quotes:
These were always the worst injuries, the ones that left her unable to play her fiddle [p. 27].
I'm a singer myself, and the tiniest of sore throats has the power to make me ridiculously miserable. I FEEL U FIRE <3.
Generally she avoided mirrors. It embarrassed her to lose her own breath at the sight of herself [p. 29].
Multiple rereads, and this line still makes me laugh. Awkward.
Or the monthly humiliation of needing a guard during her woman’s bleedings to protect her from monsters who could smell her blood [p. 31].
I love that Cashore addresses this. SERIOUSLY. THIS. YES. Fire is a monster human; monsters of all kinds crave each other's flesh and blood; the scent of one monster's blood can send another into a frenzy; therefore every time Fire has her period, she cannot leave her house without an armed guard. Cannot even imagine. The literal worst.

Okay, I am returning to Fire's skin colour. As I mentioned in my fanart post, I cannot recall any actual descriptions of Fire's skin colour in this book. It is established in a later book, Bitterblue, that her skin is brown. I am committing, in conducting this deconstruction, to a very careful read-through to make sure I'm not missing a description. So far, I am pretty sure that her skin colour  is not addressed in Chapter 1.

I think a probable in-universe (or Watsonian) reason for this is that everyone in the Dells has brown skin and so there is no reason for Fire to think about a skin tone that everyone around her shares. HOWEVER. This book is not being read by Dellian citizens. From an outside (or Doylist) perspective, I really think Cashore had a responsibility to make this clear, primarily because Fire is also described as having red hair and green eyes. Her colouring is artificial due to her monster genes, yes, but her human neighbour Archer is blond and her mother also had red hair of the normal human variety.

I expect that Cashore meant to create a place where dark-skinned people might have hair and eyes of any colour, and I am totally down with this - but we also all know from the terrible way many racist people reacted to the character Rue in The Hunger Games that readers - no doubt almost entirely white readers, no need to beat around the bush - are totally capable of skipping over relevant racial descriptions that actually ARE in the text. (Rue ... I miss you. :( I will never stop being sad about you). And for ALL readers, it is so, so important to have visible characters of colour, characters with different abilities, characters with different body types, genders, sexualities, religions.

So I wish that Fire's skin tone was somehow addressed in the text. I mean. She gets shot because some guy thought she was a deer, and the text just talks about her brown pelt clothes. I guess I just thought when I first read the book that she had long sleeves?

tl;dr: If you guys haven't read Bitterblue, I am telling you now that Fire is brown. Yes, even though she has red hair and green eyes. She's also magically attractive and can control people's minds. Deal with it.

To end this section, one more quote. This one illustrates the difference between Fire and her father Cansrel, and gives us some insight into her fierce stance on the ethical use of monster magic. Cansrel encouraged his daughter to enjoy the constant attention, and tried to pass on his own sense of entitlement. Fire's attitude?
She couldn’t begin to imagine feeling that way, without fear, or shame [p. 31].

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fire - fanart time!

Spoilers for Bitterblue herein.

When I first read Fire, I did not pick up on the fact that the protagonist, also named Fire, has brown skin. I may have missed a description, and one of my goals for this deconstruction is to check for that really carefully.

However, Bitterblue establishes without a doubt that Fire's skin in brown. Upon meeting Fire, Bitterblue notes the following:
“Her skin was brown and her eyes were green” [p. 501].*
I had a little trouble imagining what a person with vivid green eyes, red hair, and brown skin would look like, so I decided to draw her and see how it shook out. I really enjoyed this exercise, and it definitely changed the way I picture Fire in my mind as I'm reading. Yay!

 Pencil crayons.

*Quote is from the 2013 paperback edition.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

WTF is up with being bi, Part 2, in which me coming out does not magically inspire women to return the favour

Today I want to write about something difficult. Content Note for internalised homophobia.

In Part 1, I wrote that my confusion around my sexuality stemmed from my inability to comfortably fit either the "gay" or "straight" label, that my parents raised me to be open-minded, and basically that I was not overly freaked out when I realised that (some) women (sometimes) turn me on. And all of that is true.

It is true, but. Yeah, we all knew that was coming

Feeling attraction for both women and men does not mean that I have the same feelings for women and men. And it REALLY doesn't mean that I have the same feelings about my own feelings. Meta-feelings, if you will.

See, if I'm attracted to a man, I can pretty much deal with that in the same way that a straight woman might, for the most part. I can try to flirt with him (this typically entails attempting to maintain eye contact slightly past the point of discomfort, laughing uncomfortably, and then loaning him books he will probably not read). I can push past my fears of rejection and humiliation and actually ask him out (this tends to work better). It's only on the rare occasions that an actual relationship has ensued that my bisexuality is in any way relevant to the situation - and that could be a post of its own. Probably titled "A Manual for Bi Peeps to Tell Whether Their Partner Is an Asshole".

Everything is different when I'm attracted to a woman.

To begin with, the actual feelings of attraction are followed so closely by anxiety that it's like a one-two punch: heart, then gut. Rarely do I even wonder if she could return my feelings. Instead, my concern is whether she will ever find out how I feel (or felt - I've gotten pretty good at getting over crushes, especially when I really want to be friends with the woman in question) and, if she did find out, what would she think of me? Would she be disgusted? Would she be afraid of me? I have learned to view my own attraction to women as a threat to THEM.

And in the wake of the heart- and gut-wrenching punches, sadness slips in like an anaesthetic. It is the essential aloneness of being unable to trust a friend with my true self. I've grown accustomed to the sadness. It's only recently that I've begun to push back against it with anger and determination that I do not deserve to feel this way.

Of course it helps that I am mostly out now, and I've learned to embrace the awkwardness of finding absurd ways to work a reference to my sexuality into casual conversation with new acquaintances. Things that happened at Pride Week, a celebrity crush, and my work history at my alma mater's Pride Society are all pretty useful topics. In particular, I like to think that the presence of that last one on my resume helps protect me from accidentally getting hired by any homophobes.

But the fear is still there.

Any time I meet a fascinating, funny, smart, attractive woman, there's this tension. I can come out and thus make sure that she isn't a homophobe, but what next? Maybe she makes a reference to an ex-boyfriend - well, so what? I have ex-boyfriends too. That doesn't tell me anything. The more I feel attracted to her, the more afraid I am to just ask if she's straight, or in any way hint that I could possibly ever feel attraction to HER.

Which is kind of silly, right? I mean - she already knows I'm queer. It isn't that much of a stretch. Maybe I need to find even more anger to burn up these socially imposed fears.

(But Anne, you say, why don't you just find some queer women who are out, and date one of them? Oh my lovelies, that will certainly be the topic of another blog post. Short answer: YES THAT WOULD BE GREAT.)

I don't have a resolution for this post. I don't have an iron-clad determination to go forth into the world and tell cute women that I think they're cute. Maybe I'll get there.

I'd love to hear from anyone who's felt something similar. How do you process it? What do you choose to do about it? What do you wish you could do about it? What do you think I should do about it?

Monday, July 07, 2014

Deconstructing Fire by Kristin Cashore, Part 1

NOTE: This post will contain spoilers for Cashore's Graceling trilogy, and may not make much sense to people who have not read Fire and, to a lesser extent, Graceling.

CONTENT NOTES: Um, mind control? Sociopathic behaviour. Patricide. Ableist language. Swearing. If I've missed warning for something, please let me know in comments.

Fire opens with a prologue about a man named Larch and his disturbing child, Immiker, which succeeds in being incredibly creepy and makes very little sense to people who have read Graceling until the final paragraph, wherein Immiker changes his name to Leck.

READER: Oh. Oh. OH. Everything makes sense now. Omigod, Leck could have died like sixteen times already in this prologue and saved everyone so much trouble and grief. But then Graceling would have no plot and Bitterblue wouldn't exist. :(

A brief example of HOW FUCKING DISTURBING this gets:
 Larch tried to lift his head, and cried out, almost blacked out. "It's no use. The pain is too great."

"The pain is not so great that you can't get up," Immiker said, and when Larch tried again he found that the boy was right. It was excruciating, and he vomited once or twice, but it was not so bad that he couldn't prop himself on his knees and his uninjured arm, and crawl across the icy surface behind his son [p. 9].*
I won't focus on the prologue except to note that Larch, upon discovering Immiker's abilities, thinks that his son was able to control him so easily due to Larch's enormous, blind love for his child. This idea doesn't sit well with me for two reasons. First, the text seems to imply criticism of Larch's parenting, but that criticism is completely useless. What was Larch supposed to do, love him less? Or, more to the point, actually discipline the kid for his misbehaviour? Immiker, the world's tiniest sociopath**, has total control over his father's mind from at least the age of three. Probably earlier. The narrative shows that every time Larch perceives Immiker doing something wrong, Immiker immediately 'corrects' his father's thinking. Larch never had a chance of actually raising his son.

Second, Immiker appears to control nearly everyone in his vicinity, regardless of how much any individual loves him. In Graceling, Katsa is as vulnerable to his Grace as anyone else, in spite of her efforts to prepare herself. Po, whose Grace also involves the minds and thoughts of others, is the one with immunity. In this prologue, the only character to resist Immiker's control is his wetnurse, who quits her job at some point after Immiker learns to speak before being weaned and creeps her the fuck out. Since she is not in the king's employ and thus presumably can't be a Graceling herself, a plausible explanation might be that she actually leaves before Immiker discovers or develops his abilities of mind control.

Immiker himself admits that Larch is particularly easy to control, which he attributes to Larch being "stupid" [p. 15]. Certain other people must, then, be more resistant to Immiker's Grace, but the text does not (at least at this point) give us any examples of this.

I don't believe, though, that Larch's love for Immiker has anything to do with Immiker's ability to control his father. Larch may think so, but the man spent the last seven years in a fog of mind control and is dying of a stab wound. I don't have to take his word for it.

Here is where I confess that my opinion on this matter is influenced by having read the rest of the book already. For now, I'll just say that I think that Immiker's ability to deploy his Grace depends more on the skills and abilities of the mind that he is trying to control - for example, Po being immune due to having a Grace in the same general family as Immiker's - than on the feelings that person has towards Immiker.

So, what effect does Larch's love have? It feeds Immiker's contempt for his father, whom he views as a fool. More importantly, though, it makes Larch happy. The reader might be tearing her hair out while Larch misses opportunity after opportunity to get both himself and his unnatural child safely killed off (damn his superior game keeper survival skills anyway), but Larch himself finds comfort and joy in his son's presence, and even in Immiker's control of his mind. And the reason for that is that IMMIKER TELLS HIM TO. I'm not saying it's a good thing, for example, that Immiker made Larch stop grieving for his dead wife; I'm saying that I think it's interesting that Immiker doesn't stop at controlling his father's thoughts - he also makes sure of Larch's happiness, in his own messed up way.

Larch's dying thought, after being stabbed by his loving son, is that Immiker was wrong in saying that he controlled Larch so completely due to his father's stupidity. Larch believes that it was his love for his son, which he remembers feeling even before Immiker's birth, which allowed the child to so easily control him.

From the text:
Larch's love had kept him from recognizing Immiker's Grace, because even before the boy's birth, when Immiker had been no more than a promise inside Mikra's body, Larch had already been enchanted [p. 15].
I find this to be a little contrived. Larch's 'enchantment' with his unborn son prevents him from realising that Immiker is 'enchanting' his mind? Um, no. Immiker's actual ability to actually make Larch believe everything he says does that. But that's okay. People dying of blood loss and organ failure inflicted by their sociopathic sons do not have to be precise in their thinking.

Here's the thing. Immiker killed Larch because he finally figured out Immiker's Grace. In dying, Larch is able, for the first time, to look back on his life since Immiker's birth and understand what his child has been doing to him. And his reaction is not to feel horror, or rage, or guilt that he has unleashed this monster on the world. Rather, the feelings Cashore conveys are peace and acceptance. Larch has no regrets about loving his son. And given what we know about Immiker, that may be the most disturbing thing of all.

*All quotes taken from the 2011 paperback edition.

**I'm using the term 'sociopath' on purpose. I am not a psychologist, but neither is Immiker a real person. For information from an actual expert, I recommend Dr. Martha Stout's book The Sociopath Next Door.

NOTE: Ahahaha, apparently this is what it looks like when I don't "focus on the prologue". Well, tune in next time for Chapter 1 and the introduction of our fascinating protagonist!