Rising Up: It’s Always the Quiet Ones

 

Current fangirl status is: Awaiting the season two finale of Tremontaine with chocolate ready, pillow clutched and nails well bitten.

In the meantime, let’s have a TremonTEAM challenge post!

 

The challenge: The women of TREMONTAINE are passionate, powerful, and driven. Write a blog piece discussing your favorite one and why. 

 

*Cracks knuckles* Oh, I’ve got this.

 

If you’ve been reading Tremontaine, you might think that this is a difficult challenge to rise to, and you’d be right. I’ll be honest: I love all of the women in this story, for various heartfelt reasons. They’re not all likeable all the time (and arguably, some aren’t likeable at all). But they’re all important because they all have their own story, their own voice, and their own lives to lead.

Diane de Tremontaine is ambitious, ruthless and occasionally (delightfully) vicious. She’s also breathtakingly messed up, and I will never not be fascinated by her. The same goes, in certain similar ways and some vastly different ones, for Ixkaab Balam. If you think of them as sort of mirror opposites of one another, as I do, then there’s plenty of fuel for a blog post like this on either of them.

But I’m not going to talk about them today. Instead, I want to talk about a couple of women who aren’t as loud, or as ambitious, or even (arguably) as self-confident as either of them, but who still deserve – and indeed earn – their place at the front of the stage. And to my absolute delight, I’m not the only one who feels the way I do about them.

 

Cartoon by Michelle Fee

 

Let’s start with the cinnamon roll, shall we?

Leaving aside all of the pure, unfiltered, nerdy love I have for her that leaves me wanting to simply bash at the keyboard until my adoration is spent, Micah Heslop is a more powerful character than anyone might expect. It’s well established by now that Micah has, at her unwitting metaphorical fingertips, the key to ending the trade monopoly that the Balams not only enjoy but are relying on for their security, and that whoever has control of her may well have control of that as well. This might leave me worried that Micah’s role in all of this was to be a sweet and adorable dupe, and potentially, eventually, little more than a political pawn – possibly even a victim of a certain someone’s ambition. I’m still worried about that; I won’t lie. But in what I feel is the most surprising and ultimately the most satisfying twist that could have been applied to her story, Micah is now the one person with any sort of connection to Diane de Tremontaine who leaves the devious Duchess unable to use any of her usual deceptive tactics to get what she wants.

In order to keep Micah under her thumb, and thus have her genius skills at her disposal, Diane has to be nothing less than straightforward and plain-spoken with her, because anything else would mean a breakdown in communication – and this has resulted in us seeing a side of Diane that I wasn’t even sure existed at all. A gentler, less manipulative Diane who, as she herself discovers, can still enjoy simple pleasures for their own sake. This is a kind of power in itself, and Micah isn’t even aware she’s got it.

Diane is undoubtedly willing to use any and all connections she has to get what she wants. She schemes and manipulates as easily as breathing. But this season has shown us that, somewhere deep under all of that flawless poise and the ambition it masks, she’s still capable of affection, even love. At the end of the day, will she be as willing to use and dispose of Micah Heslop the way she would (and has) so many others? When this season began, I would have said yes. Now … I am honestly not so sure. And that’s the power that Micah brings to the table. Diane would be underestimating it at her own risk, or at least at the risk of whatever goodness is still in her heart.

 

But I’ve talked about my love for Micah before, so it’s time to extend the squee to the other lady who surprised me the most this season: Tess the Hand.

Like Micah, Tess was looking likely to become a victim of sidelining or being overshadowed by bolder, more prominent characters. For most of this season, I’ve ranted about the emotionally abusive aspects of her relationship with Kaab – like Micah, Tess is a character I find it easiest to relate to on a personal level, and this plot thread hit me pretty hard. Thankfully, though, it looks like I’ll get to enjoy her story without that downside from here.

She may not have the flashy physical skills of a swordswoman or the all-consuming ambition of the Duchess, but in her own way, and in her own place, Tess the Hand is emerging as (I hope) a formidable player in her own right at last. The nobility might look down on Riverside, but those who build their lives there have just as much pride as any one of them, and Tess has – happily! – turned out to be no exception. Riverside is her home, its people are her family, and if she can’t have the equal footing with Kaab that she deserves, she can and will still look after her own. It speaks well of Tess’s integrity that she’s kept it intact despite the breakdown of her relationship.

Her reputation as a forger has gotten more close examination this season, as it was revealed that she has a connection to the Salamander that may just be unique: not only have they known one another and worked together since Tess was a girl, but she’s evidently the only person who knows the Salamander’s real name. If political power is all about who you know, then this is a potentially winning card in Tess’s hand and no mistake. The question now is, how will she play it? And regardless of her motivations, how far will she go to win? She does have enemies despite her somewhat romantic views of life in Riverside, and while she’s got a good heart she has less of a foolish head. What’s gotten interesting about Tess is not how well her reputation protects her, but how willing she is to use it, and to what (or whose) advantage.

Let’s not forget that power is like a drug. In this instance, I can’t shake the feeling that the Salamander is a cautionary tale where she’s concerned. Tess might be stepping up to the plate for the sake of doing right by someone else right now, but that’s a slippery slope… Is Tess the Hand about to become a real player, worthy of being cautious around, or another cautionary tale herself?

I don’t expect this finale to answer that question, but I am eager for it to follow through on asking it. I want to see what Tess is really made of, because I think she’s made of fiercer stuff than anybody expects.

Possibly even Diane de Tremontaine. And wouldn’t that be something to witness?

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Rising Up: It’s Always the Quiet Ones

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *