[Review] Tremontaine S1E8: “A City Without Chocolate”

Soooo I survived Christmas! And with plenty of snacks and sweets left over to cushion the landing! How about you?

Anyway! Yes. Normal scheduling is resuming in the House of Rainbow, and that means one thing in particular – my Tremontaine reviews are back! Aw yeah. This week’s episode is a tasty treat, and no mistake. Let’s talk about it! (With the usual spoiler warning!)

A City Without Chocolate

Rafe sits for his exams and a desperate city seeks substitutes for chocolate.

Diane’s secret arrangement with the Balam family bears fruit as a strategic withholding of chocolate wreaks havoc on the city’s social fabric, from the Hill to Riverside. But Kaab has her own private stash, for which she has a special use in mind, involving a certain pretty forger. Meanwhile, Rafe sits for his exams, with his dreams of starting his own school hanging in the balance. Diane ploys all her wit and wiles upon the Dragon Chancellor.

So nobody’s wasting any time after the fiasco at the Swan Ball! So much is going on in this episode, I love it. What I found especially interesting, where I wasn’t particularly expecting to, are the economic consequences of what happened at the Swan Ball. Nothing happens in a vacuum, so of course there would be fallout, but I love the cleverness of it here – everybody’s getting something out of this, even if it isn’t quite what they believe it to be. (Lord Davenant, I’m looking at you, you poor sap…)

The Balams and Diane are still on deal-making terms, it seems – with their plan to withhold the chocolate supply until they can “renegotiate” the tariff on their goods, their supposed alliance is holding out. I say “supposed” because they each have rather different ideas about who’s really got the upper hand in all of this. Diane believes it’s her. The Balams (in particular Aunt Saabim, who mirrors the way Diane has been pulling strings in the background so neatly that I can’t help being both amused and a tiny bit unnerved by it) believe they know better, because they who control the chocolate control the nobility. Or something. This is a bit of a powderkeg, isn’t it…

Speaking of powderkegs, Aunt Saabim isn’t the only one I’ve got a wary eye on. Diane’s having a vindictive affair because, as I understand it, her husband started it, she’s got a killer dressed up as a noble swordsman working for her, and she’s attempting to pull the strings of people who are, if not smarter, then at least every bit as smart as she is. And she seems to be growing more confident and assured of herself, instead of having more to worry about…? Yeah, that will not end well, will it? Especially given that final scene:

“My lady, the Kinwiinik Trader girl who was at your ball—the Balam girl—she has been trying to discover who killed Ben Hawke.”

The duchess stands very still in the twilight. “Are you certain?”

“Yes, madam. She has been making inquiries about Ben at various houses on the Hill. I also followed her into Riverside and discovered that she is the lover of the woman Ben was protecting, Tess. She painted that illustration that Ben had when he came here. I believe that is why the Kinwiinik girl is seeking Ben’s killer. For the sake of Tess.”

The duchess licks a trace of blood from her lips. Her finger still smarts from the bite of the thorn. “She must not discover the identity of his killer,” the duchess says.

“No, my lady.”

[…] She says to her swordsman, “I trust you know what to do.”


Also, as an intriguing little side note, did anybody else pick up on the way Diane pricks her finger on the roses here? Gloomy portentous symbolism, anyone? Seriously, Diane, start taking a better look at yourself and what you’re doing!

That… is probably not going to happen, is it…

Rafe and Will, likewise, could maaaybe stand to be a bit more careful about their affair. It seems Will isn’t happy to confine it to clandestine dalliances anymore – though I suppose this fits with him. However much he might like to think otherwise, he has not exactly been subtle about it so far. On the other hand, I did think this development, with his (apparent?) first visit to a student bar to spend time with Rafe after his exams, was a sweet moment. It was also a pretty hilarious scene in general. As I mentioned, the chocolate shortage affects many, and not just the privileged nobles on the Hill. Students are endeavouring to adapt and improvise, as students do, and poor Thaddeus has not had the best of luck in that regard. But this still leads to important questions being raised:

Was it a goat? Or was it actually a unicorn? THESE ARE THINGS WE MUST KNOW.

And yet… OK, I am warming a little to the Rafe-Will relationship. Because that is clearly what it’s becoming, and in light of what we know Will is avoiding at home, even if he’s not too clear on it himself, I’m finding it harder to blame him…

And yet. I worry that this, along with everything else Diane is messing with, will not end well. Which, given the apparent developments in Camp Rafe in this episode, is more troubling than ever. Our boy is learning to think beyond his temper and his instant gratification! By the end of this episode he has passed his exams and become a Master, and things with Will seem to be going well, or at least in a healthier direction. This is good! This is what I had hoped we’d see from Rafe, because he really was starting to become a bit unlikeable for me. Now the wider world is suddenly upon him, what will he do? Will he cope with it well? I suspect not, at least not at first, which is totally understandable. I hope he learns to, though. Or at least, I hope he gets half a chance. DIANE “BAG OF CATS” TREMONTAINE, I’M WATCHING YOU, LADY.

Kaab and Tess

Speaking of developing relationships… Oh, my. *Fans self* That scene, people. That whole damn scene. I just. Wow.

I will never think of hot chocolate in quite the same way again. Heck, I’m tempted to change the way I drink it. Ahem.

In all seriousness though, I loved everything about this scene. I mean, you just know things are about to take a horrible turn, and while I have to flail and protest and I DON’T WANT TO SEE, it’s worth it for development like this. These two are clearly falling hard for each other, and as we’ve seen before, Kaab may just have what it takes to be the match for Diane that the lady’s not expecting, nor is she ready for. (Remember that thorny rose.) Kaab is clever and could make an amazing spy one day, but that temper… If Diane pushes that button the way it looks like she’s going to push it, I doubt it’s going to end cleanly, that’s all I’ll say.

That said, I kind of really don’t want Tess to be fridged, here. It would be awful and tragic and if it happens I am totally in Kaab’s corner and hope she messes Diane up something good, but… Please don’t fridge the girlfriend, you know?

But that’s the thing, here. I love this story and I trust these writers. So it’s all good. Sort of. I hope. OH GOD I CAN’T STOP NOW ANYWAY WHO AM I KIDDING.

Is it Wednesday yet?





4 thoughts on “[Review] Tremontaine S1E8: “A City Without Chocolate”

  1. I’m shaking in my boots, too. More worried about Kaab than Tess, actually, since she’s the one doing the snooping around. Although they’ll probably be after Tess as well. I’m hoping today’s chapter will allay my fears, but they’re going to drag it out until the end, aren’t they?

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