Ealyn's motivations - spoilers

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
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When I first read Ealyn I was sympathetic to him - he's tortured by visions of the future, and as a POV character it's hard to be against him.

And yet when he flew his ship into the other, killing both him and Karia, I couldn't believe it. I disbelieved it. I presumed that it was a mistake, a ploy, a plan - and that we would see the secret of how they escaped later.

We never did.

By the time it dawned that it was real, there was too much happening in the story to think too much about it.

But afterwards...

In the beginning, I felt I saw hints of Han Solo in the character, struggling to survive on his own against the empire, helped blasting out from the spaceport, like Han Solo from Mos Eisley.

And yet, he's a despicable character, really - he killed his own daughter because he didn't agree with any future he saw for her. What he carried out was almost a form of honour killing.

Ealyn was troubled by the future of the twins, but according to which moral prerogative did he determine the value of her future? Was it all selfish, according to the future that Ealyn wanted for himself, and that killing Karia was the only way to stop her turning on him in future? Was he being selfish in another way - deciding that she would be subject to pain in the future, and therefore should be killed to avoid that? That would be abhorrent reasoning. So did Ealyn really see a future where killing his daughter would save the galactic empire and save the lives of millions? Certainly not, by what we see later on - Kare's rebellion leads to many deaths and political instability that will no doubt lead to many more deaths.

So, going back to the vision in the Prologue: was Ealyn only ever acting selfishly - for the preservation of this own dignity - when he wasn't driven made by his visions? Had he, in fact, always been mad?

I remember when I first read Abendau's Child that a small part of me wondered why Kare didn't just join his mother. Surely peace for everyone else is a greater good than happiness for the self? After all, these were the same rebels who abandoned his family when they were vulnerable children.

It'll be interesting to see whether any of this will be addressed in the later books - has Kare simply allowed himself to be brainwashed into following other people's motivations and plans? How much is his own? He'd always been brought up to fear and hate the Empress - but we never actually see her doing anything particularly bad. Perhaps he should have joined her in the first place.

Thinking aloud...
 
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It's definitely a scene that's divided opinion, right from the start.

All the characters should have shades of grey in them. All of them make mistakes, I think. One or two might have come out of the first book reasonably intact, but they, too, will have their moments. Because, for me, I've yet to meet a saint or an unredeemable sinner.

I'm actually surprised no one's got stuck into Sonly yet. :)
 
I have some similar reactions to others, and some that are not.

I did wonder how Ealyn could be so sure that sacrificing himself and the one child was what he had to do to save the other, and even then how could he do it? It made a great dramatic moment, but would a sane and loving father really do such a thing? It seems to me that either his sanity or his love for the child comes into question.

However, it would be odd if he had completely recovered during that brief time on Holbec after such a huge breakdown on the ship. What could the Banned have done to heal his mind, after all? It seems to me that he would be extremely unstable when he left. Also, we don't know what all his visions were. I wonder how we would feel if Karia lived and horrible, horrible things happened to her and we knew that Ealyn had foreseen them but didn't crash into the other ship because he wanted to live or was too cowardly to make the decision? Maybe there was no way that we would be comfortable with his choice, whatever he had chosen at that point.

As for this: He'd always been brought up to fear and hate the Empress - but we never actually see her doing anything particularly bad.

Aside from murdering all the inhabitants on a planet to get her hands on her son? And aside from operating horrific torture chambers for the interrogation of prisoners?

My personal opinion of Averinne is that she is a psychopath with great powers and that continuing to leave millions of people at her mercy is a horrifying thought.

I did wonder at the end why Kare used his powers to suppress hers rather than kill her. Letting the genocidal villain live has always struck me as a very, very bad idea, although heroes seem always to be doing it, and I am not sure whether to consider it a necessary literary convention or just a cliché. And maybe in the next book we will find out why Kare did it that way. I suspect it might have something to do with a subconscious wish to get rid of his own powers, for fear he might end up like her. If we don't see some explanation I'll be disappointed.
 
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For me, what Teresa puts in is what was central to me. It wasn't about what the reader knows about the Empress but what Ealyn knows. And, frankly, what he knows isn't reliable (I do like my unreliable narrators, mostly because I believe we all go through life as one...)

I do understand that his actions seem callous but I think throughout his love for the children is evident.

But, people do awful things. They bring their children up in cults because they think it's right, they take their kids into warzones for their belief. Sometimes they do horrific things because they believe it's right. That's not to condone what happens - it is the central tragedy that underpins everything Kare is - but if things happen in life, should they not have a place in fiction? (And now I'm wondering if I should have started a new thread because these things fascinate me, and because I don't want to be seem rebutting criticism that has a lot of validity in it - and that I've mulled over many times.)

Or, perhaps, if grim things do happen it shouldn't be by a protagonist?

Except that domestic violence perpetrators, and terrorists, and misguided, confused, people can be amongst us and our friends, and likeable. But do we want to face that? Those sort of questions are very central to what I write. Sadly, I don't have the answers.
 
But, people do awful things.

What Ealyn did I considered as perhaps comparable to when a marriage breaks down, and the husband drives out with the kids and then funnels the exhaust fumes into the car to kill them all. In both instances, the father has denied their children their future.

There's also the question of just how close Ealyn may or may not have been to the children. How real was his paternal bond - especially when he didn't seem to have been there much for them, physically or mentally, at major points in the children's development? Was his interest in the children primarily centred on denying the Empress? Or simply their potential role in imprisoning him in an alternative future? Was Ealyn only and always about looking after himself?

Rhetorical questions. :)
 
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What Ealyn did I considered as perhaps comparable to when a marriage breaks down, and the husband drives out with the kids and then funnels the exhaust fumes into the car to kill them all.

How is it comparable, though? He's not running away from a broken marriage; he's running away from a very powerful person who kidnapped him, who tortured him, whose torture chambers he has been inside, so that he knows what goes on there. (He may be insane, he may be an unreliable narrator, but readers get to see what she does to people who resist doing what she wants them to do, and he's not wrong about that.) And he hasn't the tiniest hope of legal recourse if she takes the children and abuses them, too.

So while I am not altogether comfortable with what Ealyn did, I don't think there is any comparison with the sort of situation you describe.
 
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I've moved this discussion into its own thread, and removed the spoiler tags from the above posts - as its getting a bit silly trying to discuss something specific behind spoiler tags. :)

I don't think there is any comparison with the sort of situation you describe.

Maybe it isn't - and there are certainly historical examples where people have killed their own children, rather than allowed them to be captured by a conqueror.

I'm simply raising the point that Ealyn did murder one of his children, and musing about the morality of that allowed. Can his action be excused?

Again, am just thinking allowed because I enjoy the grey of relative morality, and hadn't picked up on this issue at first while reading Abedendau's Heir. :)
 
Originally the first 70000 words of the books were Ealyn's story, and then we saw something more of his personal morality, although he was always very shades of grey.

I did know when I put the scene in that I was breaking quite a big taboo in killing a child. As such, I'm not sure there's ever morality to excuse it. But the book is about consequences and paths, some of which are set, and as Teresa says we don't know what the consequences of not taking the action would have been.

I'm glad he is raising questions, though, especially given his much truncated word count... :)
 
I did know when I put the scene in that I was breaking quite a big taboo in killing a child.

Oh, I'm glad that you did - but it's not often we see a protagonist do it. The one other example I can think of is David Gemmell's Waylander, also early on, though the reasons for that are a little less contentious.

Because you're opting for some serious relative morality, it'll be really interesting to see how you develop it. You clearly know you're doing it - now we have to see which roads you lead us down with it. :)
 
Maybe this will leave room for a novella once the series is done, into Ealyn's story. How he was captured, what happened between the prologue and the time the kids were little when we first see them. That would be cool.
 
Maybe this will leave room for a novella once the series is done, into Ealyn's story. How he was captured, what happened between the prologue and the time the kids were little when we first see them. That would be cool.

I'm planning - when I have time! - to do a little short of how he got out of the palace. I probably still have the scene somewhere though it'd need a good tidy up. :)
 

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