Here we are, then. No more of Westmark to be had from here.
I'm more satisfied with that than I thought I would be, more satisfied than I remembered being. It's not that I didn't like the ending before. It's that I used to want more in whatever world I liked--did revolution spread to Regia? Did Theo and Mickle find the elusive Trebizonians? What happened next?
Now I am content with what I have. Sparrow's story isn't over--even Theo and Mickle's story isn't over--but this part of it is. And Lloyd Alexander's strength isn't building fantasy worlds with varied landscapes and chains of consequence from previous character arcs. It's getting in and telling the story he wants to tell and knowing when to stop.
This is when to stop.
We start out with Theo just plain exhausted--
He had tried to forget the war. Justin apparently was still fighting it.
And then things keep happening to him from there. Boy, can I relate.
As with The Kestrel, The Beggar Queen is not trying to tell a whole story. You are presumed to already know who Florian is, to have dim recollections of Pohn, to understand why Theo is so tired and so frustrated in the first place--to see what he and Florian and Justin are going round on. You have to bring a fair amount to this one to get anything out of it. I still think it's pretty successful at what it's doing, though. Bits stuck with me after all these years, like this:
Cabbarus followed the example of previous rulers. With a difference. He had not yet raised a statue of himself, though he looked forward confidently to one day doing so. He had not yet proposed any monument or memorial. Instead, in the first months of his directorate, he offered Marianstat something of immediate, practical use: not a token of his own immortality, but a demonstration of the mortality of others.
He built a gallows.
That central gallows would have been the cover, if I'd been in charge of the cover when I was in grade school, but then the children's librarians might not have been allowed to buy us the book in the first place. As it was, it got smuggled in under the respectability of the Prydain Chronicles, and gave us bits like this:
Theo, in passing, overheard one well-dressed townsman mutter to another: "Yes, yes, the directorate must take a firm hand, I agree. Troublemakers bring it on themselves." He hesitated, then blurted out: "But even so--this? This is dishonorable." By spring, this man would join Theo's army of shadows.
The revolution changes people. It changes everybody who lives through it, anyway. And just as in our world's revolutions, the people who most want it are not always the people who live to see it. As a child, I was touched by Justin's death. As an adult, I felt they'd dodged a bullet.
I am now perplexed by Mickle marrying Theo without his knowledge. Anybody else have thoughts on that one? It's kind of weirding me out.