LADS. I am so sorry. I am posting this with maybe ten minutes to spare before midnight. I was so convinced the next readalong post wasn’t due until the 22nd October, and I’d run out of pre-scheduled posts, but I was convinced it was fine and I could catch up on them at the weekend. IT WAS NOT FINE. I nearly missed today entirely.
And that would have been tragic! Because on the twentieth of October, Isabel wakes up after believing she was dying, and asks Daragh what the date is. And that means today is one of the only dates that is actually on the page, in the book, and therefore of all the ones to miss, this would have been the worst.
‘What day is it?’
‘Saturday. It’s the twentieth of October.’
There’s no particular symbolism to this date. I chose it because it matched up with the calendar and an appropriate number of days had passed, that’s all. I wish I could tell you there was more to it than that, but if there was actual symbolism, I probably would have remembered that it was due to happen today, and would’ve written this post on time. OOPS.
For obvious reasons, given everything I’ve told you over the course of the last few posts with regard to the development of this section of the book, this scene showed up in the sixth draft. It has always been Saturday 20th October. In fact, that might have been one of the dates that helped me pin down the year (2029), because I needed the days of the week to match up — not that I was particularly attached to this being a Saturday, for the record, but just because I needed to pin it down somehow and that was one way of doing it.
That first iteration of the scene has a few small wording differences compared to the current one, but otherwise it’s almost identical, and the same goes for the whole of this scene. That’s the beauty of the late additions: they tend to show up in roughly the same shape they’ll always be in, and don’t have to be wrangled quite so dramatically into place.
The only real difference — and truly, it’s not particularly substantial — is that in the final book, Isabel wonders whether Ashvin has found somebody to take over her paper round, because she doubts she’ll be getting her job back. Again, it should be obvious by now that that wasn’t in the earlier drafts, because the paper round itself was a late addition, but while it might be a throwaway detail, I think it does add something to the scene: Isabel’s civilian life is a real, concrete loss, and this is the moment she realises she isn’t getting it back. Her paper round is a symbol of that. It was a job that bound her to the world outside the guild, gave her a way to exist within it. Now it’s gone, and she didn’t even get to say goodbye, and she’ll probably never see Ashvin again.
This scene is very much grappling with irreversible decisions, and harm that can’t be undone. They made the antidote. The poison is gone. So why doesn’t that change anything beyond the likelihood of Isabel dying in the next five minutes? I mean, sure, that part’s important too, but… there’s a very real grief here for even the illusion of safety, and Isabel is also blaming herself quite significantly for what she’s been through.
It was always herself she needed saving from.
Whether she’s right to hold herself responsible for making the poison, I’ll leave up to readers. It’s one of those questions the whole series is grappling with: can you be blameless while still being culpable? Are there moral justifications for working in weapons development? The line between victim and perpetrator is never a clear one here: Isabel is harmed, and does harm. Both of those things are true.
But here. Here in this moment the person she has done harm to is herself, her own creation a weapon in her father’s hand. She’s going to need time to process that, and processing requires safety, and she’s got precious little of that at the moment, here in the heart of the guild. So she’ll probably get right on with repressing it very soon. But that’s a topic for the next few days.
Speaking of which: my calendar marks the events of chapter 25 (“recovery, contd.”) running from 21st October through to the 29th, when we next have a specifically-dated conversation, and then on to chapter 26 on the 30th. I will probably write a single post to cover that first 8 days, and post it some time between the 21st and the 23rd, depending on when I finish it. Sound good? Cool. I’ll see you here tomorrow/Sunday/Monday, then.
SORRY AGAIN FOR FORGETTING TODAY
I’d say it won’t happen again but let’s be honest. It will. There’s a reason I was scheduling these posts at the beginning. 🙈