I hate to admit it, but I might have been wrong about Roiben.
Last week, I talked about how he was sad and selfish, and would make a terrible boyfriend. And while I still think he’s sad and would not make a great boyfriend, he proves himself to be rather unselfish at a critical time.
When Kaye is once again brought out to the Unseelie Queen, Roiben does the unthinkable, and challenges the Queen for Kaye’s freedom. We’ve seen that he still retains some of his old kindness, but never to this extent. Standing up to the Queen like this, especially in front of her followers, would humiliate Roiben at best. At worst, it would result in his death. But he goes for it anyway, at great risk to himself. I think that’s very admirable. Maybe a bit stupid, but admirable all the same.
Kaye does get released to Roiben as his “prize”, but the victory is short-lived when he is ordered by the Queen to offer Kaye up as a sacrifice for the Tithe. He has no choice in the matter. However, he does offer Kaye the means to escape, by whispering a riddle to her before she is chained up and ready to be killed. “What belongs to you, yet others use it more than you?”
I’ve read this book a few times, and while I’ve forgotten some details, I know what happens. Kaye’s obviously going to get out; if she got killed here, then there wouldn’t need to be around a hundred pages in the book after this. Even if you haven’t read Tithe before, it’s not hard to figure out that Kaye escapes somehow.
All that said, the build up to the sacrifice is written really well. She’s scared and struggling to get away, even if she knows that someone is supposed to come and save her. There’s a lot of tension, especially when Kaye realizes that Nephamael isn’t going to stop the sacrifice, as she was led to believe. Just when all hope seems lost, she calls Roiben’s name and orders him to free her, and he has no choice but to obey.
What follows was a huge turning point not just for the story, but the Unseelie Court and solitary fae. Not only was the ritual left uncompleted, Roiben kills the Unseelie Queen. Kaye’s glamour is also stripped away from her – somehow, it isn’t explained why – so Roiben knows that she is actually a pixie. Kaye also realizes that Roiben never had any intention of leaving alive, and was more than willing to fight to his death to release her. She saves his life by commanding him to leave with her.
This chapter also shows us Nephamael and Corny, and what’s most striking about this is the difference between their relationship and Kaye’s and Roiben’s. When he’s near Nephamael, Corny acts like he’s drugged. He’s turned into a toy for the amusement of the fae, and at the same time spoiled by Nephamael. Even the way Nephamael talks to Corny shows ownership and control, calling him things like “pet”.
Roiben’s self-loathing isn’t a great platform to build a relationship on, but he is willing to die for Kaye’s freedom. She’s still a person to him, which is more than Corny is to Nephamael.
Before I end this post, there is one more question I have. Since Kaye’s a changeling, would her real parents have given her a fae name that others could command her with? And if she does have one, how would she ever find out what it is?