Cat’s Maturity

10 Jun

A handful of readers of The Zero Blessing noted that Cat was unusually mature for her age (she’s 12). I would dispute part of that – Cat isn’t always as mature as (perhaps) she should be – but she is more mature than the average twelve-year-old. And there’s a reason for it.

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Cat was raised on the assumption that she would (potentially) take over the family estates, businesses and patronage networks when her parents died. She and her sisters were given quite a bit of training in estate management as well as magic – she knows, at least in theory, how to keep the family’s properties going. Obviously, she doesn’t know everything and she has no experience whatsoever, but the building blocks are there. Cat was given an upbringing that was designed to prepare her for her future role. As her parents believed she would eventually develop magic, they never actually stopped those lessons.

Cat … probably didn’t pay as much attention as she should have done, particularly as she grew more and more convinced she didn’t have magic. She doesn’t know all of the major players of her parents and her generation – she didn’t attend many parties and gatherings – although going to school is meant to correct that problem. But she does understand the basics, which will become more important as she grows older.

Rose had something similar, although on a much smaller scale. She grew up in a community where children were put to work almost as soon as they could walk. She understands the importance of keeping the farm going, of doing everything from milking cows to mending fences every single day. Her parents assumed she would marry a farmer and go off to live with him, not study magic. She wasn’t taught how to read and write beyond the very basics – Cat was – but she did pick up the habits she needed to apply herself in magic school.

This isn’t something that happens in (most) of our society. When I die, my son will inherit my savings, property, car and book collection, but he won’t inherit any connections I might have made in my life. I don’t have either a patron or a network of clients. I certainly don’t have tenants on my land. Publishers aren’t going to publish my son just because he’s my son; anyone who owes me a favour isn’t going to automatically extend it to my successors.

Even for the handful of genuine dynasties out there – the Clintons, for example – it isn’t easy to keep the patronage network going when the original founder dies. Our society dislikes nepotism and regards it as evil, even when the person who benefits isn’t actually bad or incompetent. (Although such dynasties generally do weaken as future generations forget how the world actually works.)

No one in Shallot would raise eyebrows at Cat’s father passing his holdings – including the patronage network – to her or any of her siblings. It’s just the way of things, as far as they are concerned. Ideally, Cat’s goal would be to pass on the holdings to her own siblings – just like any feudal lord. Obviously, things aren’t going to work out that way.

25 Responses to “Cat’s Maturity”

  1. Vapori June 10, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    I think her maturity is reasonable and main char’s in fantasy books aren’t normally the usual folks anyway.
    For Dynasties you could have picked a better example then the Clintons, They are both first or second generation, Bush or Kennedy, might be better examples so are the Rockefellas, Du Ponts, Mars, Koch, Ford, Porsche,

    Or if you go back a bit the Fugger Family.

    • PhilippeO June 10, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

      True, clintons are Power Couple not dynasties.

      one interesting aspect of modern age is that media and entertainment provide outlet for elites children : Chelsea Clinton (politics – >media), Trump (business-> reality TV), Kardashian (business->realityTV).

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard June 10, 2017 at 4:37 pm #

        Trump had help early on from his father, but I fail to see “how being the son of an elite” helped him get into reality tv.

        Sure “Money Talks & Hollywood Listens” but it was Trump’s money that was talking.

        No argument about Chelsea Clinton.

  2. Anita June 10, 2017 at 3:05 pm #

    At one point in the story I thought the same thing, but I stopped and reasoned it out and realized that I was using modern children as a comparison, which was wrong for several reasons. Even during our Feudal time, children of all social levels had to grow up fast and teenage years didn’t exists. Add in that Cat had to study very hard just to survive her sisters and peers magic and the realization that no one in her family was really supporting her, all things that will either break a child or mature them. And the most important reason is that I was reading Fantasy Fiction so as far as I’m concerned the author can write their characters anyway they want and they really don’t have to justify it. 😉

    I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series.

    • chrishanger June 12, 2017 at 7:20 pm #



    • Max Million June 13, 2017 at 1:29 am #

      I’m glad you pointed this out as too many people use their own or children’s or childcare experience in our culture and assume its universal. It’s not and wasn’t even true of our culture in the past (but back then it also wasn’t ‘our’ culture’ as there has been cultural evolution over time).

      An additional point in any culture is exceptional people are different from typical and a few desirable personality traits can make those children seem more mature than their peers.

  3. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard June 10, 2017 at 3:19 pm #

    Definitely agree with Anita.

    A young man or a young woman was expected to “act as an adult” much earlier than the modern age expects.

    Of course, they were also given adult responsibilities much earlier than the modern age does.

    The “age” of knighthood was twenty-one but the young man would be expected to act and be an adult fighting man before then.

  4. Roxanne Piotrowski June 10, 2017 at 9:47 pm #

    Yes, yes, but when will we get a part 2? LOL

  5. Dan June 11, 2017 at 6:16 am #

    One has to wonder what cat’s sisters will do once they realize that she has a very good chance now of taking over the family now that she has power I believe there was a sentence in the book detailing that if cat had magic her father would have confirmed her as his heir.

    • chrishanger June 12, 2017 at 7:22 pm #


      Yes, Cat would have been first in line if she had magic.


  6. Alexey Gladkich June 12, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    I don’t agree. Cat is way more mature then what a 12 years old could be. It’s true that considering her bringing up, she would be more mature in general, however not everything can be achieved that way.
    One can be hardened by difficult life which will make him way more mature. But the brain itself isn’t fully developed at age of 12, the thought process wouldn’t be so… calculating.
    A lot of her knowledge of life didn’t come from her own expirience but came mostly from second hands, and it’s usually very inaccurate, and it should somehow be shown in the way she thinks.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard June 12, 2017 at 3:56 pm #

      I wonder about the brain itself isn’t fully developed at age of 12.

      My suspicion is that human brains, like human muscles, develop based on usage.

      The more they are used, the “stronger” they become.

      Cat’s society expected her to “use her brain” in a manner that modern society wouldn’t expect a twelve-year-old person to do.

    • Max Million June 13, 2017 at 1:38 am #

      While the brain isn’t mature until someone is in their late 20s early 30s having personality traits that encourage conscientiousness alone will magnify impressions of greater maturity. Additional personality traits could add to the effect.

      Maturity impressions from from observers rating behaviours so is a mix of many factors and one has nothing to do with the child but everything to do with their peers.

    • chrishanger June 18, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

      That’s something that will become more apparent in the sequel.


  7. Stuart the Viking June 12, 2017 at 6:19 pm #

    I have no problem with Cat’s maturity. I have a 12 year old daughter, and nothing that Cat did would surprise me out of my daughter if she was in the same situation.

  8. Andrew Jones June 12, 2017 at 10:22 pm #

    When you look at the functions of controlling families, they’re quite different in the modern West than they were pre-enlightenment.

    It’s rare for a family to BE the law in the West, and such would be regarded as corrupt. Families can control wealth, property and the like, but a family, as the family, doesn’t control a division of mechanized infantry. It’s part of the transition between Rule of Law and Rule of Man that men, and their families, control less as the man and more as a man in a position.

    When the family is controlling those things; economics, politics, military, police, religion, as you might see in a feudal setting, there’s a strong incentive to maintain the patronage network as a network. If the network falls apart, it’s not just “Billy doesn’t get into Harvard”, its “Billy doesn’t get to eat” or “Billy dies on a spear”. Feudal and Tribal systems need those networks for stability.

    In the modern West, many of those functions are taken over by legal structures. Even a well connected family can suffer and fail, and while those connected will suffer as well to the degree they are interconnected, the police will still show up when called. The police don’t derive their authority, or physical power, from the family.

  9. Paul W June 13, 2017 at 2:33 am #

    Lord Nelson joined the Navy at the age of 12 as an ordinary seaman and coxswain. (,_1st_Viscount_Nelson) So in the 1700s (seems about right equivalent timeline for the feel of the book) boys of 12 where joining military war ships. I just had an argument with my wife yesterday because I thought my 17 year old should pack his own suitcase for a weeks trip. I think Chris nailed it.

    • Paul W June 13, 2017 at 2:53 am #

      Also my wife’s grand mother was married and in charge of the domestic side of her farm when she was 13. That was only 80 years ago. Not saying it was right but does go to show that earlier societies did hit the fast forward button on growing up.

  10. Kell Harris June 14, 2017 at 11:22 am #

    It’s all depends on what you mean by maturity. I found myself thinking a lot about Emily when I was reading about Cat. Both are in a fantasy setting with magic, but both have a very different background. For Emily often her biggest complaint is that Emily seems very immature. Largely because of her desire for parental approval and her inability to stand up for herself. All are justified by her backstory. These have been some of her biggest issues. She started off as 16 and as she has gotten older at 19 during the cockatrice fair and now at 21 she has taken enormous strides to overcome this. But these are big themes for her and are a big source of her problems.

    Compare it to Cat. Cat has had to stand up for herself since she was 4. Cat was also raised to be assertive and to have a high social standing. As for Cats parents. They put a lot of pressure on Cat to practice her non existent magic. And they spoiled and enabled her two horrible sisters but they do love Cat and they have spent a lot of time teaching her. Therefor Cat seems thicker skinned then Emily in the earlier books.
    She is also “tries” harder to be self relent in a feudal society then Emily had learned to be in a modern society. Emily just didn’t really have the tools coming to a feudal society
    The ways that Cat is immature aren’t as big a problem in her world.

    The ways that Emily and Cat are both immature are different, both show maturity and immaturity in different ways. Cat is very vindictive. Somebody hurts her she will hurt back. Cat has a big desire to prove herself in front of her peers. Cat is very naive to the world outside of magic. And as Chris pointed out Cat was taught a bit about magic Society were as Emily only recognizes the patronage system and society as a concept.

    Contrast Emily who doesn’t hold grudges easily. Emily’s self worth isn’t based on her magic. She doesn’t think that magic is the only thing that matters. And Emily is focused on the world at large. She is often thinking about real world implications of her magic and technology and the outside necromancer threat.

    Even Emily’s and Cat’s Anti-social is different. Emily is a true introvert and doesn’t often understand social situations.and would rather be alone. She struggles to want to put herself out there. Cat is defensive around everybody cause she doesn’t have magic and is likely to be bullied. She has a big chip on her shoulder but she desperately wants to fit in and have friends. She just is weary of people who can in fact hurt her.
    All and all. Emily’s issues cause her more problems then Cat’s issues. I think that’s why Cat seemed more mature for her age to me. Both are just products of their situations. Both have ways that they are very immature and mature.

    • Max Million June 15, 2017 at 1:08 am #

      Cat is not vindictive.
      She doesn’t eagerly seek to repay each hurt with hurt or greater hurt but she does try to be self assertive and teach others attacking her is not cost free. To fail to do so would make her a weak victim. The frog trick on her sister was not one that directly caused hurt so there is evidence for sibling rivalry but no vindictiveness. If vindictiveness were true after her duel victory she would have imposed the consequence for loss – but she didn’t.
      Self assertion isn’t vindictiveness.

    • Kell Harris June 17, 2017 at 3:47 am #

      We would have to disagree on that. She primitively plans ways to get back at people.With a great deal of planing and thought, And I am not saying I don’t understand why she does what she does. But In a 12 year old way yes she is vindictive. The girl doesn’t know the meaning of the word turn the other cheek. And maybe her current world doesn’t allow her too but yes. Anybody who hurts her, she doesn’t forgive. She always gets even. I haven’t said that at any point she has gone to far. But she has that mind set. Cat already beat that other girl in front of the crowd. She basically destroyed her reputation cat didn’t have to go all the way and kick her out of the room she felt that she had already got hers. But showing some restraint doesn’t mean she is not vindictive.

      • Max Million July 22, 2017 at 2:45 am #

        Yes we must disagree and I hope you never get bullied or have to give advice or assistance to someone that has.
        Isabella and Alana cast many spells on Cat but Cat did not show a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge nor a wish to harm them because they harmed her. She didn’t engage in tit for tat but did eventually respond to try to stop their bullying. Her lack of magic means planning was required as any spontaneous action pits physical skill against magic which is stupid.
        If you persistently ‘turn the other cheek’ to bullies you become a willing weak victim. Bullies pick on the weak not the strong. Cat has not yet been vindictive.

  11. georgephillies June 19, 2017 at 10:28 pm #

    ” The girl doesn’t know the meaning of the word turn the other cheek.” There is no reason to suppose that her culture believes in such a strange idea.

  12. Jill June 20, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

    Frankly, I don’t care if she seems more mature. It made her an interesting character for me to read about. This may have been a book pitched more at younger readers, but I (now into middle age) enjoyed it. Looking forward to some sequels!

    • Ann July 22, 2017 at 2:48 am #

      Me too.

      Also curious about what might happen if she tries some of the ancient potion recipes, etc that modern magicians can’t make work without changes.

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