Love’s Labour’s Won: Playing the Blame Game

24 Mar

Warning – Spoilers!

A couple of reviewers had issues with Emily getting the blame for the events in the novel. While I understand their feelings, there are some reasonable reasons for her to be blamed by people who only know her by reputation (and, in one case, don’t like her.)

First, Emily is generally assumed to be Void’s daughter. While it is perfectly in character for Void to hide the existence of a daughter from everyone else (obviously, no one heard of Emily before Schooled in Magic) he should have given her a working knowledge of the magical/aristocratic community before sending her to Whitehall. Void’s powerful, but not powerful enough to take the prospect of accidentally starting a vendetta with two powerful families lightly. Ergo, she should have known the dangers.

Second, Emily has spent two and a half years at Whitehall and another four months at Mountaintop, schools that exist to do more than just teach magic. Like the English colleges and universities they were based on, they provide places for the elite to meet and get to know one another before they get into power. (Harvard and Yale serve the same purpose in America.) She might not be friends with anyone outside her circle, but she should at least know the major players and which side they’re on. It’s hard for them to understand why someone sent to those schools wouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to make contacts among the elite.

Third, Emily is the Baroness of Cockatrice; she isn’t the heir-in-waiting (like Alassa) or an unconfirmed successor (like Alicia). In a feudal society, the ruler is solely responsible for what her people do. (“I was only obeying orders” is a legitimate defence, as it was in the Middle Ages.) It’s natural for people born in such a society to see her as the person who nearly created a disaster, particularly as it was a long-standing custom not to invite both families (and the grown-ups on both sides accepted it, as they didn’t really want to get into an open fight at knife-range.)

In short, they reasoned she should have known and taken steps to avert a potential disaster.

To add to this, Master Grey doesn’t like her, so he took the opportunity to call her out on what (he thinks) was a deliberate attempt to showcase her power or an immensely stupid decision to court disaster.

Lady Barb’s case is a little different. On one hand, she believes Emily (and everyone else her age) needs to learn to be self-reliant, or at least to have the wit to ask for help well ahead of time; on the other hand, she realises (and Emily doesn’t) that Emily is taking her friends, including Barb herself, for granted. She tries to tell Emily this several times through the book. (Hosting the Faire was a good idea, but Emily should have looked into what it meant and arranged for someone to coordinate it well before she completed Third Year at Whitehall.)

YMMV, of course.


27 Responses to “Love’s Labour’s Won: Playing the Blame Game”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 24, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    Obviously Emily shouldn’t be blamed. It’s all the Author’s Fault! [Very Big Evil Grin]

  2. ioriangel March 24, 2015 at 9:19 pm #

    Lady Barb should have understood from the background of Emily that she need special attentions. I don’t really blame the heroine either, I would be lost in the politics sometimes.

  3. MADness March 24, 2015 at 10:13 pm #

    I don’t take issue with others blaming Emily for anything and everything. People are irrational. Blaming everything on Emily isn’t really out of line with what happens in the real world.

    What is questionable, to me, is when Emily accepts undue criticism. It isn’t reasonable to expect a 19 year old girl to have perfect confidence, especially not one who experienced a childhood like Emily’s, but from a Doylist perspective it would be nice if she grew a backbone at times and said “that is BS.” She tends to go from idealistic and judgemental to passive and timid to being backed into a corner and totally fierce.

    • chrishanger March 24, 2015 at 10:33 pm #

      To be fair to her, one person tells her that immediately after the crisis – when she’s far too aware of just how close she came to total disaster – and the other is someone she thinks of as a mother, of sorts. It isn’t a random stranger attacking her. Chris Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2015 22:13:55 +0000 To:

    • Nicholas March 27, 2015 at 9:50 am #

      I question everyone who thinks a 19 year old in our current (western) society would act rationally, logically and consistently. Some reviewers seem to think that she should act like an adult. When do adults act rationally, logically and consistently.

      Irrational behavior is human nature. We all have strings and buttons that when pulled and prodded make us act out of normal character.

      Chris has, in my opinion, repeatedly explained through Emily’s self reflection that she really has issues from her childhood that cause certain behavior. More specifically, her stepfather causing lack of confidence and fear of male presence.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 27, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

        Well, I might argue that a nineteen year old can act like an adult if they were expected to act like an adult, but that’s a discussion for another place. [Wink]

        On the other hand, Emily’s step-father (and other factors) have made Emily less of an adult than she could be.

      • chrishanger March 27, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

        I keep thinking about writing an article about the different perceptions of childhood in the past – perhaps entitled ‘compressed lives’


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      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 27, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

        It would be interesting.

        When I read about times in history where teenagers are expected to “be adults” and “act like adults”, I get annoyed at comments about 19 year olds not being adults.

        Modern society just doesn’t expect them to be adults so they get away with “not being adults”.

        Of course, I suspect we can all think of people who are “legally” adults but don’t act like adults. [Sad Smile]

      • Jack Hudler March 28, 2015 at 3:26 am #

        When ever I think of ages in medieval times, I remember Romeo and Juliet. Thought it’s after end of medieval times (late 16th), Romeo and Juliet were only 13 year old there about’s.

  4. Dennis the Menace March 24, 2015 at 10:13 pm #

    “A couple of reviewers had issues with Emily getting the blame for the events in the novel.”

    A much shorter version could have been, “It’s my novel, I got your money and if you have a problem with this, then too damn bad!”


    About Lady Barb…Is she even aware of Emily’s true origins? I thought the head honcho at the school and Void only know the full story.

    • MADness March 24, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

      I think that this might be the result of a very slight disconnect between what the author intended and what some readers take from the writing. Not so much justification as it is additional explanation and detail.

      Lady Barb was read in on Emily’s origins by the Grandmaster after the events of the second novel, IIRC. She knows about Earth.

      • chrishanger March 24, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

        More or less, yes. There are some aspects that cannot be brought out into the open because the main character doesn’t know them. Chris Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2015 22:17:31 +0000 To:

      • Jack Hudler March 26, 2015 at 5:34 am #

        “More or less, yes. There are some aspects that cannot be brought out into the open because the main character doesn’t know them. ”

        NOW HOLD ON JUST A GALLDARN MINUTE! You can’t say something like that and let it smolder! You gots’ some ‘splainging to do! 🙂

      • chrishanger March 26, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

        As a general rule, you – the writer – should know the outcome of the book beforehand. However, you cannot let your character do it, otherwise you’d end up with the murder on page one and the butler on his way to jail on page two. Emily cannot reasonably know anything she cannot reasonably know, which means she may make decisions that look silly with hindsight, but make perfect sense at the time.

        So she cannot know there’s a landmine ahead of her, or I’d have to write something that explained why she knew it was there and put her foot on it ANYWAY and got her legs blown off, which is really stupid and hard to explain .


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      • Jack Hudler March 27, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

        I know the realities… but taunting?! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr! 🙂
        I like the first poster! Yep it’s all your fault!

      • chrishanger March 27, 2015 at 9:50 pm #

        Um … sorry?


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    • chrishanger March 24, 2015 at 10:32 pm #

      It’s a problem with writing a book that is (almost completely) told from one POV. Emily has problems grasping emotions, so she is largely blind to what Lady Barb is trying to tell her. From a writing POV, that means I have to hint at things rather than say them outright because EMILY doesn’t know them to say them. (If that makes sense.) Chris Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2015 22:13:52 +0000 To:

  5. jay kominek March 25, 2015 at 3:39 am #

    I just find it hard to believe that everyone manages not to stick their nose in Emily’s business on a regular basis, offering her unsolicited advice. They’re all still supposed to be human, right? Surely the rumor mill would’ve floated some of her impending screwups past the ears of someone with minimal restraint?

  6. Charles March 25, 2015 at 8:23 am #

    Really certain things I liked from the book, others dissapointed me, I think that the author in an effort of developing emily forgets about emily.

    What do I mean? well the author by trying to tell us how emily develops on that society and all that sometimes forget that emily comes from a different society with a different worldview, and that when barb start telling her something emily could with a lot of tranquility rebuke her and pretty much tell her “I didn`t grow up here”, and that would give chances of barb needing to change and grow as a character, but instead we got all the perfect adults and emily needing to be the stupid one who needs to learn and change, you know everyone should learn and change and barb should stop assuming that her methods of teaching who are good for people of that world will work perfectly with people from our world, thats why this book dissapointed me.

    Sorry if this criticism appear more destructive than constructive, thats not my intention, I would like to see the characters around emily grow, but except for the princess in the first book and the girl from mountaintop all the other are stuck.

  7. Guy Marc GAGNÉ March 25, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

    I confess to getting enjoyment from all the books I have read.
    Br they your ” young adult ” series (Bookworm, Schooled in Magic) or your more profound and dense works.
    Your ability to maintain machine like productivity is truly both inspiring and intimidating!

    However, returning to Love’s Labour’s Won …
    You intrinsically have a knack for entangling precepts of morality, philosophy, the angst of adolescence and their difficulty in juggling the transition from childhood ‘s vicariousness to assuming responsibility whilst establishing their perceived and projected sense of self.
    No small feat, considering you manage to do so in a non moralistic/judgmental manner.
    Anything that offers food for thought in that target segment is laudable.
    Regrettably, I failed to track typos etc. and forward them in your last few books, my apologies.

  8. Andrew Crossman March 26, 2015 at 4:09 am #

    Of those who criticized Emily for the mistakes of the Faire, Lady Barb is the one who bears some blame herself. She knows where Emily comes from, she knows how anti-social Emily is and she was there when Emily received the petition to hold the Faire in Cockatrice. An excellent opportunity to say “better check this out first”. To be fair though, she did not realize the depths of Emily’s ignorance. It’s one thing to know that someone doesn’t understand but quite another to have it graphically demonstrated. And really, 3 years (or so) is not very long to become acquainted with an alien culture. Sure she can speak the language, but by magic not by learning the culture behind it. Emily is all about the magic and changing society. Doesn’t really care that much about knowing who’s who (not that I blame her, social studies boring). She’s busy being critical of others for not having her modern sensibilities. Lots of toes to be stepped on when you don’t see them.

    PS. Isn’t she in a Social Studies 101? Feudalism for Dummies? 🙂

    • chrishanger March 26, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

      There’s some truth in that. However, Lady Barb is very much a ‘learn by doing’ teacher – she expects Emily to either figure things out for herself or have the common sense to ask for help before it’s too late. (Which, really, is very much the attitude at Whitehall.)

      But, like you said, she doesn’t really understand the depth of Emily’s ignorance and her mindset – Imaiqah would have understood what she needed to do, even though her family had been merchants instead of noblemen, but the average American/British teenager wouldn’t.

      (Honor Harrington does a much better job with Grayson because she comes from a society with an real aristocracy AND she has much more life experience AND she’s an experienced naval officer used to command. Emily has none of those things.)


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  9. elkwood March 29, 2015 at 12:12 am #

    My biggest issue with the character to date is her short sightedness. Just wait till her invention is used to kill someone close to her. Which i think was hinted at in the 5th book.

    I had some experience with folks of her background. U chosen the “Hey dont look at me nothing to see route” to explain how she coped with it. Hide in books and stay unnoticed. With a dash of seeking approval from a parental figure.that she always craved but never gotten.

    Not sure how that is going work out in the long run. Looks like a train wreck waiting to happen currently.Just don’t forget to survive in that type of enviro takes some real strength. of character.

    Also the other thing that i find worrisome is her selfishness. Her keeping that dangerous book and feeling slighted over not being told about Shadye’s possible possessions and what not. I really didn’t like that. I hope the character doesn’t go down the road and become unlikable. That is my biggest fear right now.

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