This is a fairly brief chapter, and mainly centers on one thing: a declaration of war and the preparations that follow. However there are also some great moments with George, ones that always stick out in my memory of this book. Looking at them now, though, as an adult, I do wish they’d been written a little differently at points (there’s even some things I found questionable at age 12, which is saying something).
The chapter opens on Alanna meeting with George to find the results of what they’d discussed the last chapter – having George’s rogues (and their counterparts in Tusaine) spy on the movements of the Tusaine army to feed information to the Tortallan forces. As it turns out, the Tusaine have the river valley that forms the border between the two countries surrounded, and it’s clear that an invasion is coming sooner rather than later. Alanna displays a pretty in-depth knowledge of tactics here, no doubt the result of her education with Myles.
George shows her some affection, and it’s pointed out that nearly a year has passed since he kissed her – though Alanna hasn’t stopped thinking of it since. In fact, she’s kind of come to terms with the fact that she might enjoy kissing from time to time! Get it, girl. At any rate, in the elapsed time, George has apparently continued to make it clear that he’s still interested in Alanna. And yet, I can’t help but feel that it could have been phrased better? The narration reads, “He hadn’t kissed her since Jon’s birthday almost a year ago; but he let her know – with little touches, with softness in his eyes when he looked at her – that he was stalking her. Jonathan looked at Delia in much the same way.”
Okay, so for one thing, the comparison to Jon and Delia. I’m going to go ahead and chalk that up to the young, inexperienced Alanna conflating lust with love. There is no actual love between Jon and Delia – there’s infatuation and there’s gold-digging. But between George and Alanna? There is LOVE. And it is beautiful, and it is not the same thing. Also… that use of the word “stalking”? I mean… he isn’t stalking her, not in the sense that I would typically think of it. He is expressing interest… persistently… and kind of ignoring her when she says she’s not interested… okay it might be a little stalkery. …It was the 80s, it was a different time (needless to say, this most likely would’ve been written differently in 2018).
Anyway, George’s information is taken to Myles, who takes it to the King (disguising the fact that it came from… the King of Thieves). The entire palace is immediately beset with gossip, as well as preparations for the inevitable. Except Alanna isn’t in the critical meetings and she isn’t a servant, so she’s kind of at loose ends until Jon comes to tell her that they will be a part of the initial force mustering and riding out in three days. Except that when they get there FIFTEEN DAYS LATER (oh, medieval travel times), there’s clearly already several companies of the Tortallan army there fending off the Tusaine fighters. So, not the initial force then. Anyway.
As they’re preparing to leave the capital – literally, they’re all lining up and preparing for the march out – Duke Gareth is thrown from his horse due several tricky bits of foul play. His horse is stuck with a bur underneath her saddle blanket, and his saddle was cinched quite a bit looser than it should have been. So, I just want to point out: I used to do horseback riding (…for a couple weeks at horse camp), and being thrown from your horse is serious business. You can easily break your neck falling from your horse. And if the horse is bucking, you’re pretty likely to get stomped. Horses are beautiful, graceful animals, but they are also skittish, easily-frightened idiots who can trample you to death on a whim. Just throwing that out there.
Duke Gareth fortunately only breaks his leg, but he is removed as the main commander of the Tortallan forces. Alanna is immediately filled with a sense of impending doom, and she’s proven correct when Duke Roger is placed in charge in Gareth’s stead. It’s, uh… pretty obvious that Roger hired someone to mess with Gareth’s horse, but for some reason *again to be explored at the end of this book* no one suspects Roger at all. Well, no one in the palace – Stefan and George figure it out pretty much immediately, and they clue Alanna in, but no one else wonders about these weird circumstances that keep piling up that all just happen to benefit Duke Roger. There is a reason for this, I promise, but it seems a little bit like everyone is stupid, at this point.
At that point, Alanna receives a visit from George, who has disguised himself as a monk and snuck into one of the palace libraries. So roguey, I love it. Anyway, they talk about Duke Roger, and George wishes Alanna safety during her time away – he wishes he could go with her, but he knows he’d be overthrown as the King of the Rogues being away that long. The conversation turns to George “thinkin’ of turnin’ respectable and takin’ me a wife.” And he and Alanna joke about him giving away his collection of ears (I love the ear collection so much!), and how neither of them can see him ending up marrying an ordinary citizen.
And he basically proposes to her. I mean, not quite in those words, but pretty much. He says that he’s waiting for her to earn her shield, but at that point, why not marry? And Alanna… does something real stupid here. She insists that the reason they could never marry… is because she’s a noble and he’s a commoner. Uh huh. Yeah. Because Alanna “disguised herself as male for 8+ years to overturn centuries of tradition” of Trebond… totally cares so much about tradition and societal norms. George points out that that’s stupid, and that if they truly loved each other, what would it matter? Because rigid social stratification is stupid, kids. Let that be a lesson to you.
He says, “I’m a patient man, lass. If need be, I’ll wait years. And I’ll not speak of this to you again. I only wanted you to know I’m yours to command.” And while I initially found this 100% romantic, I’m now torn between thinking it’s romantic and thinking it’s creepy. Everything that’s happened in the last decade or so – nice guys, fedoras, r/redpill, etc. – now reminds me that if someone said or did this to me, I’d call the damn cops. But… they love each other. And she really does love him, she just can’t admit it yet. And he’s GEORGE, he’s so good, and so great… So maybe it’s more like… 70% romantic and 30% creepy. I threw a few percent in there for the fact that he’s 22 and she’s 15.
There’s a Big Damn Kiss, and then Alanna is off to war.
- Based on the description of his disguise, George sneaks in as a literal priest of death – totally not gonna piss off any gods, bro.
- “If we were dealing only with King Ain, there’d be no trouble. He just wants to be left in his pleasure gardens with his wives.” Same.
- When George kisses Alanna she points out that it’s a weird way to say goodbye. Oh, honey… no, it’s not…