Monday, June 17, 2013

Can a Story Change Your Life? - The Bevelled Edge of Love and Hatred: The Tamir Triad, by Lynn Flewelling

I came across Lynn Flewelling's The Bone Doll's Twin - the first book in the trilogy that she calls The Tamir Triad, succeeded by Hidden Warrior and The Oracle's Queen - via, as those who've been reading this series may be able to guess, a review by OSC.  (While his recent works seem to fall short of the stories he churned out in the 1980s - Ender's Shadow being the exception - and I share very little common ground with his political polemics, the man remains a consummate judge of the storytelling art.)  He would later call it "[p]erhaps the deepest psychological novel I've ever read - the fantasy makes the unconscious issues real.  Gorgeous but dark," and "brilliantly original and moving. This story still haunts me, months after reading the books. . . . Th[ese] book[s] drag[] you through so much emotionally painful territory that you're almost relieved when it's done and you can escape to your safe regular life."

I agree completely with his sentiments, yet for me, The Tamir Triad isn't so much about darkness and pain as it is about their polar opposite.  It's about love in all of its forms - family, fellowship, and romance - how fine a line separates it from hatred, and how subtly a relationship can shift from one mode - or extreme - to another.

The premise of the books is certainly a dark one, and Flewelling doesn't shy away from exploring the grimmer corners of her own magic systems and milieu, or the human psyche in general.  What struck me the most - and haunted me long after reading the books - wasn't the dire acts and situations, but how genuine, wholesome, and loving the relationships that evolved between the principal characters were.  Despite the complications that necessarily flow from the opening acts of The Bone Doll's Twin, the main character's childhood is one surrounded by caring and invested adults, and - as the story progresses - is further enriched by peers of approximate age, and a best friendship that comes to define the course of the story later arcs.  True, many elements of those relationships serve to deepen the plot and punctuate the conflicts; in fact, the corruption of the familial love between the protagonist and a cousin into an embittered hatred between rivals to a throne is perhaps the most tragic aspect of the entire story.  But it is also the strength of those bonds that serve to carry the protagonist and other principal characters through the pain the plot demands - and to emerge from it whole.

While right and wrong may never blur together, there are no one-dimensionally good or evil characters.  Even the nastiest actors are given touch points of understanding, so that even if the reader cannot condone their actions and roots for their downfall, he or she at least can perceive where they are coming from - or, perhaps, where they went wrong.

As with most stories worth discovering, The Tamir Triad leaves you not only with a greater and satisfying understanding of the characters and events in its own world, but imparts greater insight into your own.

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