Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
I think we’re at the 1/3rd point of this book. Yes, we’re going to be awhile on this one. I just want to finish up the set-up and get to the promised spy story already. But maybe what Diana found last chapter will play into that. At the very least we’re told Diana is sure this will give Joanna what she’s been wanting…a chance to beat a certain jerk into the ground…possibly literally. The sad thing is I’ve run out of spoiler-free commentary to make into two paragraphs way too early in the book’s run. That doesn’t usually happen until closer to the end of the book but this is a 32 chapter book. At any rate let’s get into it and see what Diana’s learned.
The framing for this chapter is an odd choice, going back and forth between what’s currently happening and the events that lead up to it from the previous chapter. In the present Joanna is getting a mech battle with Ravill, Joanna in a Mad Dog and Ravill in a Timber Wolf, two of the mechs illustrated in the back of the book. That gives us an idea what the mechs look like for those unfamiliar with the game. The honor duel is being done in the polar regions and we only see the fight from Joanna’s perspective as the polar air and warm engine lead to malfunctions with her scanner. I’m hoping next chapter, when we see more of this, there’s more combat, but any tension in watching her stalk her prey is lost as it keeps flashing back for the majority of the chapter to how she got here. Thurston might have been better off not going this route.
As for the flashback, it starts with Joanna finally getting into the position of getting some kind of challenge out of him. Ravill announces a set of competitive games based on the bloodname competition. This is one of his only victories along with battles against weak raiders and his supposed way of allowing the warriors assembled on Sudeten to gain some kind of victory since they aren’t allowed to fight. The games actually seem rather fun, though “the only rule is there are no rules” bit is something Joanna really uses to her advantage, the irony being it was a rule loophole that allowed her to compete at all since Ravill really doesn’t want to deal with Joanna’s actual warrior skills. Both of them do very well, which means Ravill can at least back up some of his boasting. Eventually they are the last two remaining.
It’s here that we finally learn what Diana found out, and sadly it’s not that Ravill is the Wolf spy, though it does explain some of his tendencies being closer to the Wolf Clan than the Jade Falcon Clan. Apparently secret experiments Ravill himself is only barely aware of are being performed when it comes to mixing genetic material. The scientists in this case are mixing material from both Clans in hopes of creating better warriors. Joanna isn’t happy about this, though she is in favor of experiments in general that improve the genes of the Falcons. I don’t know a lot about how good or bad Clans get along. With some minor exceptions the show only focused on the new fledgling Star League dealing with the Falcons (and getting along with each other since they were from two rival houses the Clans had both attacked) as did the only comics I’ve read that even featured the Clans. However, it seems Falcons and Wolves really don’t get along. We have seen that the Falcons see themselves as the mightiest warriors with a strong honor code while Clan Wolf is supposedly more sneaky. This would not sit well with someone as dedicated to the Falcon code as Joanna.
Also interesting to note is that Ravill seems almost scared that Joanna knows this, not for his reputation or even Joanna, though his warnings hit that she would be in danger if she revealed the existence of these experiments. Even the leaders of the Clan don’t know about this and Ravill seems to think the science caste has more power than Joanna realizes. Still, all she wants is to get her honor duel. If she wins, she gets to stay here and live out her days as a warrior rather than as a caretaker of the test tube babies. If he wins she’ll leave quietly and never reveal a thing. However, this is a battle to the death because she really hates Ravill even more now for his impurity. I do know from researching the franchise that Ravill Pryde isn’t going away and Joanna’s not about to die one quarter of the way into the book so seeing how this ends should be most interesting. And there’s still the part about her potentially being recruited to ferret out the Wolf spies. I wonder if that ties into what the scientist caste are doing? This might get really interesting before we’re done.
Next time I’m hoping we get the full mech battle between Joanna and Ravill, without further flashbacks. Who will win, will anyone die, and how will all of this come together? We should get at least some answers next time.