Season 2 of Tremontaine is already my favouritest thing ever at the moment. I just need to say that right up front, before I get started on this episode review. It really does feel like an empty space in my life has been filled, and it’s marvellous. Not only that, but one of this season’s new writers makes her Tremontaine debut in remarkable style. Tessa Gratton took on the challenge of stepping out not only with previous POV characters in hand, but with the task of presenting new characters AND the first POV episode for Vincent Applethorpe, a character who hasn’t been given that spotlight before – and she does such a wonderful job with all of it that if I had had any worries about the whole “new writer” thing, they were thoroughly banished even before the first scene was over.
And with prose like this, who could resist?
He knew this living creature that was Riverside in and out: the guts and stinking refuse, the lip rouge and bright petticoats, the snarls and shadowboxing, liquor, smoke, sex, blood, the music and the screams. And the black, silent spaces between all those things, where tension reigned and the language was sharp steel.
A person could see it all, and smell and hear and feel it all, on an afternoon like today.
It reads like scene-setting poetry, and I love it.
Speaking of lack of resistance and things I love (*cough*), let’s linger a moment on Vincent himself. If you follow my blogging at all, you might have come across this post I wrote just a few days ago, about the Tremontaine ships I hold dearest. Vincent is quite firmly among them (heh), and so this whole episode feels like a precursor to possibly either getting my heart’s desire this season, or getting something better. I’ll elaborate in a moment, because let’s meet Vincent through Gratton’s eyes, shall we?
Holding his hand out, Vincent waited silently. He was not quite a handsome man, but the thrum of violence he carried in his heart lent appeal to his features when the right person looked. Beneath his heavy brow shone bright green-gold eyes with gently curling lashes. His brown hair was too short to be rich or thick, the hairline slightly receding despite his youth, and his compact body neither tall nor very broad. But his hands were strong and perfect, competent, and like the rest of him, they never moved without intent.
Vincent Applethorpe rarely had to do more than gesture in order to get what he wanted in Riverside.
And all that for a belt buckle. I need to go and lie down, and we haven’t even gotten to the duel on the Hill that is his ultimate purpose in this episode. Vincent does it all here, from half-seducing Madeline, the shop girl who sells him the aforementioned buckle, to comforting Tess after she and Kaab have a(nother) fight, and then to feeding us readers the most tantalising tidbit of his past yet – Vincent once had his heart broken, and the Chartil Ambassador is either involved or somehow responsible!
You see, Reza is attending the party on the hill where Vincent is set to duel de Maris (you might remember him, Swordspoint fans…).
Aside: the party is the eighteenth birthday celebration of Lord Ferris’s son, Anthony Deverin. Yeah, him. Take a moment to boo and hiss; I did. It’s fine.
So Reza is at this party, being very carefully won over by Diane, and as if the surprise hint at past romantic entanglement between the ambassador and the swordsman (ready made romance novel title right there) wasn’t enough, Diane is so thoroughly impressed by Vincent’s skill with a blade that she decides then and there that she must have him as her new house swordsman, this being the only to-do item on her list that she didn’t get to tick off last week. But I digress, because romantic entanglement! Did Vincent and Reza in fact have a fling in the past? Did Reza break Vincent’s heart somehow?!
I am so, so torn between being ready to hate Reza on principle already and wanting desperately to know more. I am, of course, prepared to do both. When I’m done fanning myself on this fainting couch what I set up the minute this season started BECAUSE I KNOW HOW THIS GOES NOW.
I will state right here and now that if anything can take the sting out of Season One’s Will/Rafe heartbreak, it’s the possibility that we’ll get a fraught relationship development between Vincent and the ever so intriguing Reza. I AM HERE FOR THIS. (I may not be ready, but I don’t even care. Brava, Tessa Gratton. Brava.)
Now let’s move on, because although I could quite happily ramble about Vincent all day, there were in fact other things that happened here that I enjoyed! First of all, MICAH SHOWED UP AGAIN. I did kind of bemoan the absence of my favourite cinnamon roll in episode one, so it was an utter delight to have her back this week. Micah has been up to her pleasantly oblivious eyeballs in her beloved maths since we left her, and she has quite happily been settling into a routine groove of studying, remembering to eat, and going out to win money at card games in order to afford meals. The problem there being that everyone she’s played has gotten so thoroughly trounced that they’re refusing to lose money to her anymore. Micah’s solution: to go to a tavern in Riverside, which Tess told her about so it must be OK there, and find new people to win money from. In Riverside. Where she is so innocent she doesn’t even recognise a dangerous situation when one is surrounding her.
Thankfully there’s Kaab to come to the rescue, and if this scene (despite the Micah-ness of it) felt a little bit like filler, I did at least get to chew on the notion that there might be some semblance of Feelings developing in Micah for Joshua, Rafe’s flamboyant friend from season one. With Rafe absent, it’s Joshua who’s been taking care of our girl genius, though apparently he still has not realised his “lamb” is actually a ewe. JOSHUA HOW. YOU LIVE WITH HER. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN. Then again, to be fair to both parties Micah has a) been very private, and b) definitely not shown any particular preferences of the romantic sort, so how often would something like that really come up?
However! This little exchange and ponderance from Micah’s POV captured all my feels:
“Why are you doing that?” she asked, frowning.
He grinned, but upside down and all reddish in the face. “If I tip like this all the smarts rush up into my brain and I figure out what I’m missing in this long string of calculations.”
Micah shook her head. “That isn’t true.” But she made herself smile a little. She knew from the wink that he was joking with her, even though she didn’t understand it, amd she liked that he joked with her, because it made her feel like she belonged here. Or more accurately: It made her feel as though Joshua believed she belonged here.
SHE IS SO SWEET. I CANNOT BEAR IT. Aw, lamb. Yay for friendship and understanding people! You can do it, Micah!
*Deep breath* And now for the flip side to All My Feelings.
Kaab in particular, in this episode, gets some insightful page time as she begins the search for whoever has been stealing chocolate from the Kinwiinik warehouses. As it turns out, her very public break with her family is a ruse, a cover to let her worm her way into acceptance among Riverside society in order to complete her mission. Which would be all well and good, if it didn’t mean that living there with Tess is also part of that cover – and Kaab has already put her foot in it by sharing the entire grand scheme with her lover, expecting that it would please her, and quite thoroughly failing to understand that she’s trampling on the feelings of someone she cares about by tooting her own clever spy horn so loudly.
First of all, KAAB THIS IS A GOOD WAY TO END UP BLOWING YOUR OWN COVER. Telling anyone something that’s supposed to be a secret, no matter how loyal that person is, is never a good idea. Ever.
Second of all, this isn’t the first time Kaab has put her family loyalties and her desire to prove herself ahead of doing what might be more morally responsible. Just ask Rafe.
Oh wait, we can’t. Because Kaab threw his feelings to the wolves last season in favour of cutting a deal with Diane.
The thing is, Kaab is well aware of what she’s done, and what she’s doing. The problem is that she expects everything to work out for her because she’s acting in the interest of a greater good. She’s troubled by the secrets she’s keeping from Rafe, and by the fact that it means her friend is forced to be miserable – but she isn’t about to make that right by sharing what she knows, because her family comes first. She also seems to expect to be able to have her cake and eat it too where Tess is concerned. Tess feels disrespected, and she’s made her feelings clear, but Kaab won’t even apologise because she’s Doing The Right Thing, and surely everything will be hunky dory all round in the end.
For her, that is. Not for Rafe or Tess, but for her and her family. Is anyone else just waiting for Kaab’s blatantly oblivious house of cards to collapse? Especially now that this season’s two deadly newcomers, Florian and Shade (OMG they’re horrible and amazing and I need more), have been both rubbed the wrong way by Kaab and her friends (Micah got away from Riverside with a pot of fairly won money; nobody likes that) and, apparently, hired to steal and fence a load of Kinwiinik chocolate… But they need papers for it to close the deal, and for that they need a forger. So the unreliable Kaab’s thieves are pretty much right under her nose, but it looks like her nearest and dearest are the ones in the most trouble.
I’ve got to say it: I love the character of Ixkaab Balam, but I don’t like her very much right now.
On that note, one final wildly flailing moment of speculation, if you’ll indulge me, because right before this episode ended, this happened:
“I am concerned, Diane de Tremontaine.”
She flicked her eyes back to his. “With?”
[…] What did he know? Or suspect he knew? “Me?” she murmured with all the cold control she could find.
“And the future you seek.”
She spun out every possibility she could think of, and the most salient future was her place on the Council. “You’ll support me in becoming the new Tremontaine, in my own right,” she said, in a manner that most men would find trouble refusing. Was this to be a third jewel in the crown of her evening?
But Lord Arlen smiled. “Impress me, Diane, and I will.”
No, seriously. WHAT?! What is going on here? Clearly, as Diane herself starts to speculate, there are deeper and more complicated politics in play in the City than even she is aware of – but the episode ends with her determination to figure them out, and to conquer them; to become “the most cunning spider at its heart”.
BUT WHAT DOES ARLEN ACTUALLY KNOW? Note that he doesn’t come right out and confirm that Diane’s (somewhat bold) guess as to his purpose in summoning her is correct. He agrees that he will support her if she impresses him. Impresses him how?! And what will happen if she doesn’t? Diane’s eagerness to leap into assumptions about that worry me; there are echoes here of her brush with overconfidence last week, but will whatever strings Arlen is pulling lead her into more trouble than she can manage? And if so, how on earth is she going to untangle herself from them?
Wheels within wheels. This episode is clearly spinning out various threads for the rest of the season to pull, and yet the cohesiveness of the whole gives it a smooth-flowing feel; there’s no sense of about-facing to go from one POV to another. Tessa Gratton’s clearly got everything under control here, and the deftness of her various plot teases have me eating it all up. I love it.
Is it Wednesday yet?