Welcome to part 3 of the read-along of Max Gladstone’s Last First Snow! This week’s questions are provided by Anya of On Starships and Dragonwings, and cover chapters 38-53. Beware of spoilers ahead through chapter 53! The action seemed to be picking up in last week’s section, and I think we’re well into the peak this week. I’m not seeing how this can end happily for pretty much anyone, so this was a hard place to stop reading!
1. Turns out the Major is more noble than we initially thought! What do you think of his character arc and the big reveals during his sacrifice? (I assume he preferred male pronouns since he was presenting male and it wasn't otherwise specified.)
This whole situation is so messed up that I’m not sure I can even see it as noble. I do think that I judged him a little too harshly on my first impression. He was an agitator to start violence in Chakal Square, and he carried a large part of the blame for why the situation ultimately dissolved into a war they couldn’t hope to win. However, I think he did care about the people, and he did work for peace when Temoc asked. He was going to die anyway, when he volunteered as a sacrifice, but at least he knows that his death will mean something to the people he died for.
Also, I guess we’ll never know why the Major chose to present as a man, and why it was so important to him that the others not see during the sacrifice. Was he trans? Did he just think people would take him less seriously if he was female? I was suspecting, since he was always covered up in armor, that the Major was not human. Looks like I was off the mark with that one.
2. There seems to be a lot of sneakiness going on between the fires being set in Skittersill, someone following Temoc and then Mina and the initial assassination attempt that set everything off. Any ideas what is going on? Do you think they are all coincidences or related?
Given the reveal at the end of the section (more on that later), I think it could be all Tan Batac. There goes his claim that he wants to make the Skittersill a better place for the people who live there. I can only imagine that the assassination golems were sent to ensure that Temoc came back to elevate the violence to all-out war. I guess Temoc was right to be worried about his family, then, because the plan appeared to be to murder his family in order to provoke him. It seems like it would have worked, too, if not for Caleb’s wounds. I don’t want to support Temoc’s decision to do that to his son, but it may have saved his and his mother’s lives.
3. We get a lot of details from the King in Red about how he turned into a skeleton! After so much build-up to that particular oddity of Craft, what do you think? Would you do it if you were a Craftsman or Craftswoman?
That is not actually what I’d been imagining, throughout the series. I had imagined it as a gradual thing, that you become less fleshy and more skeleton little by little, as a result of using Craft. I didn’t realize that it was actually a transition through the moment of death. Somehow, that makes it less awful to me. I think that I would follow Elayne’s path. I would take care of my body, and preserve my natural life as long as possible, but I would plan to make the jump to “full skeleton” when the time came.
4. At the very end of this section, there is a discussion about Tan Batac getting the Skittersill insured long before that was decided on. What do you think that means? Was anyone else a bit confused on the finer points of the insurance contract?
I’m really not a lawyer or economist or even a business person, so Gladstone does kind of lose me sometimes on the contracts. However, if I understood correctly, the contract stipulated that Skittersill land with occupied residences could not be forcibly bought on the market. On the other hand, if the residences no longer existed, the land was fair game. That was why they were requiring such good insurance, so that the residences would not just ‘mysteriously’ burn down, allowing the land to be bought out from under the Skittersill residents.
It seems, though, that Tan Batac orchestrated his own near-death so that he would be unable to sign the new insurance contract for the Skittersill, and so that the peace would erupt into violence. Now the Skittersill is uninsured, and all the destruction that Temoc and the Red Kings’ war is causing is freeing up land for development. This is beginning to look like Tan Batac is really behind everything, and Alaxic was just a distraction. It makes me think that Tan Batac’s last words, “Not at all what I expected,” were simply his shock at how much being shot really hurt, not shock at being shot in the first place.
--The scarring of Caleb was somehow so much worse than I imagined. He made his family believe he had chosen them over his sense of obligation to the old gods, and then he drugged his son and he left him bleeding to death. I can’t imagine what Mina is going through right now, having to deal with the fact that the man she chose as her husband is capable of something like that. I suspect it is not going to get easier when she hears what he is doing in Chakal Square.
--This section had some really intense action, as well! I think the most heart-pounding bit for me was when Mina was fleeing the assassins with Caleb, through the use of giant, soul-sucking, flying insects.
--I am happy Chel is not dead. The way things were going, I had started suspecting her as the sacrifice. That whole scene was pretty horrific, and I dread to see where things will go from here. Still, I’m glad she’s okay for now.