Literature / Honor's Paradox
The sixth book in the Chronicles of the Kencyrath
series by P.C. Hodgell.
This volume covers the final third of Jame's year as a randon (officer) cadet in Tentir, the Kencyr military academy, beginning just before the winter solstice and ending at Summer's Eve; it also, of course, covers the final portion of her year as the Earth Wife's Favorite, which began when she was chosen at the previous Summer's Eve, at the end of Seeker's Mask
Being the end of what's effectively an internal trilogy, this book features the closing of a chapter in Jame's life and the end of a fair number of plot arcs, although many others are launched and the series is far from over after this.
This work provides examples of:
- Anthropomorphic Personification/Elemental Embodiment: the Four, the Merikit elemental personifications. In this book, we become more acquainted with the Eaten One, who is linked with water, and takes on the form of a giant catfish with a woman in the place of its tongue. All of the Four were once human, but became something more.
- A Taste of the Lash — Drie, Timmon's half-brother, was treated as a literal whipping boy during Timmon's childhood. When Timmon's mother Distan wished to punish him, she would have Drie beaten in front of him. Aden, the Ardeth war-leader, attempts to do this again when he shows up at Tentir, and Timmon breaks his whip.
- Automaton Horses — averted. Hodgell became an equestrian in order to write about horses accurately, and lessons in the care and tending of horses feature fairly prominently at Tentir, especially for originally horse-phobic Jame.
- Bad Powers, Good People — in addition to Jame, Shade is also this. She's a Changer; all such we've previously seen have been corrupted by Perimal Darkling. Shade, however, had Changer blood from birth, not by her own volition, and this means she is not automatically corrupted since she didn't choose it.
- Big Screwed-Up Family — pretty much any Highborn House with enough members to count as "big". In this book, we see more of the screwed-upness of the Ardeth and Randir, in particular, and the Caineron family continues to show its damage. The Knorth don't count in the present, since there's only three of them left, but they clearly did in the past.
- Bond Creatures — A few new ones show up.
- Bonding Over Missing Parents — Jame and Prid, both of whose mothers died horribly.
- Conflicting Loyalty — so many; after all, this is what "honor's paradox' is all about. Jame and Torisen especially seem to cause this a lot, because they are so personable as to sway many whose loyalty is to lords opposed to the Knorth.
- Driven to Suicide — Narsa, after Timmon got her pregnant.
- Drowning My Sorrows — Jame's response to the Shotgun Wedding to Prid is to get very, very drunk.
- Enemy Civil War — the Randir, who are a house of very divided loyalties.
- Going Native — how Jame's enemies in Tentir interpret her ties to the Merikit and her wearing her hair in Merikit warrior braids.
- Horsing Around — Jame's bound rathorn, Death's-head, is very prone to this; he likes to challenge Jame and show that he isn't subservient, even if he's bound to her.
- I Am Not My Father — This is a motivation and a source of conflict for many of the Tentir cadets, and others:
- Timmon, after he learns the truth about his father rather than the lies he's always been told.
- Torisen, who is very determined to not be his father, but worries that he might turn into him.
- Shade, with her Changer blood, is determined to do right yet worried that it leaves her cursed, Fallen.
- Gorbel, whose earliest memory is his father killing his mother.
- Jame herself, in her determination to be a force for good and not a tool for Gerridon like her mother.
- Internal Reveal — Jame gives several, but the most important is the last line in the book, when she reveals her full name to Tentir and thus (sooner or later) the entire Kencyr.
- In the Blood — a reasonable concern for any Kencyr with Highborn blood, given the number of Houses that are seriously disturbed.
- Invulnerable Horses — very much averted here, especially in the mounted combat at the end; Death's-head finds attacking the opposing horses more productive than the riders; they scare more easily and provide bigger targets. Several die, several more are wounded.
- Lottery of Doom — In the Merikit feast at the Spring Equinox in honor of the Eaten One, a fish carved out of rock crystal is added to the fish stew served to the residents of the Maidens' Lodge. The unlucky girl who finds it in her stew is the chosen sacrifice to the Eaten One that year.
- Metamorphosis — the wyrm Beauty undergoes a transformation, and Jame recognizes what it becomes.
- Mind Rape — In Honor's Paradox, it's shown that the training at the priest's college at Wilden involves this in many cases.
- Mounted Combat — Jame's penultimate challenge at Tentir is mounted combat — alone against against eight enemies. Fortunately, nothing specified what she had to be mounted upon ...
- The Neidermeyer — Aden Smooth-face as temporary Commandant of Tentir.
- Our Zombies Are Different — this book adds zombie salmon.
- Rearing Horse — rathorns are made to fight like this, with armored forelegs, chest, belly and head, sharp dewclaws on the forelegs, and fangs.
- Reasonable Authority Figure — Sheth Sharp-tongue, the Commandant of Tentir.
- Rubber Woman — Shade, who can also shape-shift in the broader sense. Stretching oneself appears to be the first thing a Changer finds that they can do.
- The Scapegoat — Drie was whipped to punish Timmon during their childhood, as a literal "whipping boy". This is taken directly from European history; princes could not be punished by their tutors, so instead they were raised with a boy of more common blood who would be then punished in their stead, in the hope that friendship and empathy would encourage the prince to behave.
- Shotgun Wedding — Jame and Prid, though not for the normal reasons; Prid isn't pregnant and Jame (as a girl) can't be a father. Rather, it's to save Prid from dishonor until Hatch finishes his year as the Earth Wife's Favorite and can marry her.
- Shout-Out — to Dr. Venkman's famous line in Ghostbusters (1984), "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!"; in this case, it's "Rathorns and Whinno-hir, living together ..."
- Thoroughly Mistaken Identity — Adric, Lord Ardeth starts mistaking his grandson, Timmon, for his son (and Timmon's father) Pereden, in a sign that senility may be catching up with him. His warleader, Aden Smooth-face, does the same thing, mistaking Timmon for Pereden, and Jame for Timmon's mother, Distan; again, it is a sign of losing his mind.
- Timmy in a Well — Jame wakes up to find Shade's bound swamp adder, Addy, in bed with her, and works out that Shade must be in trouble. Shade is, in fact, literally down a well. However, Shade did not expect rescue; she sent Addy to Jame to keep her safe.
- Thrown Down a Well — Shade; a rapidly flooding well, at that.
- Twincest — the sexual tension between Jame and her twin brother Torisen continues here. The idea of being her brother's consort clearly arouses her at one point. Later, the two of them dance together and obvious, magical sexual power builds between them.
- Twin Telepathy — Jame and Tori's connection increases and deepens in this book, probably because he's fighting it less, and it is occurring in the waking world more now.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm — Aden's brief reign as the temporary Commandant of Tentir.
- Virgin Sacrifice — A Merikit maiden is sacrificed to the Eaten One at the Spring Equinox every year. If the sacrifice is accepted, she never returns; whether that means death or another fate is uncertain.
- Water Is Air — though only in sacred space, it seems. Jame and Prid find themselves able to breathe underwater in the presence of the Eaten One.