All Spoilers

by wjw on November 7, 2019

51gj25pb9SL._SY300_Etaoin suggested I create a topic for Quillifer spoilers, and so here it is.

Feel free to discuss the details of Quillifer the Knight‘s complicated plot, or indeed anything else.

Anyone who hasn’t finished the book are now warned.

Etaoin Shrdlu November 8, 2019 at 2:10 am


I was surprised that there was no real discussion or movement on the slaves/hostages who were taken from Ethlebight at the beginning of Q1. I guess Quillifer knows his family members are all dead and so he wouldn’t be frantic about the issue, but I thought there would be more than two sentences mentioning that they’d ransomed many of the captives back. Also, I expected he’d be trying to figure out who betrayed the city; I have a hypothesis about that and was expecting at least some investigation, maybe Quillifer talking with some of the ransomed Ethlebightonians.

Your use of second-person form was a bit offputting to me, especially when the “you” changed to someone else, but I think I vaguely get why you made the stylistic choice. I’m kind of torn on whether it would have been better to remain in first-person mode, especially since so much of their time together (for both values of “their”) was in first-person from Quillifer’s perspective anyway. However, I definitely don’t understand why you identified the first “you” partway through the novel instead of waiting for the big reveal in Chapter 33. I humbly beg for enlightenment.

I *really* didn’t expect Chapter 33. Wow. I have to go through the whole thing over again to see what clues I missed. Probably Q1 as well, at least the second-person sections.

Two years to wait for Q3? Will the story wrap up as a trilogy?

wjw November 8, 2019 at 3:59 pm

The first book was also in second person, FWIW. Except that we didn’t meet the “you” until the last chapter.

Since Quillifer is narrating his own story, I began to wonder whether or not he is a reliable narrator, and in this book he isn’t. He’s lying his head off right up till, as you pointed out, Chapter 33.

The Ethlebight stuff will be dealt with in a future volume. There’s nothing he can do right now other than contribute to ransoms, because he’s not an assassin or a spy, and because he has much else to do.

Q3 is the last on the contract, though I’ve plotted out six volumes and hope to sell them all. Each book so far has been stuffed with foreshadowing, which makes the plot seem more ramshackle than in fact it is.

Etaoin Shrdlu November 8, 2019 at 5:29 pm

I remember the second-person section at the end of Q1, and I think in one or two other places (what I thought of as the major dividing points). I’ve been watching for the foreshadowing. And “unreliable narrator” was what I noticed the most about the second-person sections, after of course reaching the climax. 🙂

I didn’t get a sense of ramshackleness; more like you had a TON of world-building to cram into the first book. I do think the plot of Q2 was much more tightly knit than Q1 was, mostly because of that.

I think it was quite mean of him to kill that poor helpless dragon. It was eating hardly any sheep at all. Majestic creature, beautiful plumage and all that. If only it had lasted longer. It would have been interesting, from a natural philosopher’s perspective, to learn what was in the egrans from the knights it ate.

Egrans? It’s a new word; I just made it up. From “eliminated granules,” for the leftover undigestible armor bits (or, presumably, iron birds) that survive passage through a dragon. . . .

Foxessa November 9, 2019 at 12:50 pm

It’s on order, but it’s going to be a while before I can get to it. I’m even kinda thinking of saving it for January, when it is predicted to be dreadful weather here, whilst Personal Person is spending of it in Cuba. That I will be here instead of there is my choice and preference even so. If I realize I’ve made a mistake, I can still fly down (I fulfill the regulation criteria still in spite of the spectacularly stupid and cruel constriction now in place by the bedbug regime).

Etaoin Shrdlu November 9, 2019 at 5:14 pm

Why would you want to go visit the bedbug regime, though? They’ve been oppressing their poor subjects for sixty years already — imprisoning dissidents and homosexuals, forcibly committing AIDS patients and letting them die, you name it they do it. Starve the beast!

Brad Delong November 9, 2019 at 6:23 pm

The “you” switched? At the end of ch. 33/beginning of 34, but before?

I am impressed that Q has the energy for both the Cecil and the Dudley roles for Good Queen Bess Floria. That strikes me as too exhausting, even for an unreliable narrator

wjw November 10, 2019 at 12:00 am

No, the “you” only shifted at Chapter 34, as the old “you” was shuffled away.

Note that Quillifer has had more success with Floria than either Cecil =or= Dudley.

Foxessa November 10, 2019 at 8:53 pm

The person who wrote about Cuba knows nothing about Cuban, the Cubans or what is going on. Over and out.

Foxessa November 10, 2019 at 8:54 pm

The person who wrote about Cuba knows nothing about Cuba, the Cubans or what is going on. Over and out.

Etaoin Shrdlu November 11, 2019 at 12:53 pm

I know that they risk their lives on inflatable rafts and boats created out of garbage just to escape the Castros’ hellhole. I don’t see anyone doing that to go the other way . . . or staying there permanently if they go by the capitalist route of a jetliner.

Foxessa November 11, 2019 at 2:11 pm

That stopped when Obama began to normalize matters between the US and Cuba.

You’ve never been, there, have never experienced the joy that unites the Cuban people or the love of Cuba that unites the Cuban people, the deep family and community ties. You’ve never witnessed the unleashing of creative entrepreneurship that exploded across the island once they could travel easily back and forth between Cuba and the US. You’ve never experienced the tenderness with which children, the sick, the emotionally and mentally and physically challeged, and the elderly are treated by both family and state. There’s so frackin’ much you don’t know you should probably keep it to yourself.

Foxessa November 11, 2019 at 2:13 pm

And by the way, I do know people who have moved permanently to the island from other, continental nations. As you say, you Do Not, just like you Do Not Know much if anything about Cuba beyond some ancient, out-of-date rightwing talking point fake information.

Brad Delong November 11, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Plus in addition to the Cecil and the Dudley roles, Quillifer also plays the role of my great^12-grandfather Thomas Wyatt. Totally exhausting. And he plays the Wyatt role with much more success: he does not meet his end on April 11, 1554 on Tower Hill at the hands of the henchmen of Queen Berlauda Mary I Tudor…

Brad Delong November 11, 2019 at 3:44 pm

& let me join Etaoin Shrdlu in saying that I had wished for more information in book 2 about the Treason of Ethlebight, the Awakening of Orlanda, and the Brotherhood of the Shadow Horse. With respect to providing us with meaty nuggets of information about these Great Mysteries, your gruel is as thin as that provided by the cook of Sir Basil of the Heugh…

Etaoin Shrdlu November 12, 2019 at 7:00 pm

Sorry, who was Dudley? I did a ctrl-F and couldn’t find the name anywhere in either Q1 or Q2.

I found a Cecil in Q2 only, but he’s the “silver haired” representative for Ethlebight, and I don’t remember him canoodling with Floria at all.

Am I missing an external reference?

wjw November 12, 2019 at 11:40 pm

Dudley would be Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, QE1’s boyfriend. And Cecil would be William Cecil, Baron Burghley, a kind of foreign minister and spymaster.

Trying to draw comparisons between Floria’s court and that of Elizabeth I is hazardous, but fun— at least for me, when I take the story in a completely unexpected direction.

The Awakening of Orlanda remains her secret, and I doubt she’ll relate it. The Treason of Ethlebight will be dealt with in a future volume. The Umbrus Equituus were a bunch of evil mages who became extinct centuries ago, and of course it’s possible Sir Basil wasn’t the most reliable narrator when it came to his own story.

It’s good to know you care about this stuff, though.

Brad, it would seem you’re a cousin of Wallis Simpson. Alas, there are embarrassments in every family tree.

grs1961 November 18, 2019 at 7:15 am

Ah, tricksy author!

When we first met you, I thought, “He hasn’t pulled the Princess, has he??” but then realised that no, it wasn’t the Princess.

But then it was!

Tricksy author!!

mearsk November 19, 2019 at 11:16 am

I thought you did a pretty good job of foreshadowing Keely-Fay having the hots for Floria. That’s who I thought “you” was right up until it wasn’t, and then it was again at the end. You did wrap up the Viceroy storyline a lot more quickly than I figured you would, thinking that would be book three, but I guess that makes sense given how much the English hate the French that they weren’t going to support the Viceroy.

Etaoin Shrdlu November 19, 2019 at 6:25 pm

I’ve been going through both books to try to trace what he’s told “you” at various points, and was immediately surprised to realize that he told the traitoress all about Orlanda, in detail. This seems dangerous. IIRC the only other person he’s told the truth to was Kevin, having learned the hard way that even hinting at the story to others could, e.g., cause random playwrights to write comedies and thus enrage the goddess even further.

Was this wise?

I get the feeling that the second-person sections could end up forming the basis for a dissertation topic for some creative-writing graduate student some day. :-/

pecooper November 20, 2019 at 10:10 am

As someone who remembers taking a fix with a sextant and the American Practical Navigator*, I am really impressed with Princess Floria building an observatory and supporting the creation of stellar navigation tables. And I fully understand Quillifer’s desire to equip his ships with them. Brownie points to characters who understand the importance of knowledge.

*Granted, it was only the one time, assisting an officer who needed to do a celestial fix to qualify as officer of the deck (it wasn’t a skill in much demand on a submarine), but the results were truly impressive. You laid it out on a chart, and there you were!

wjw November 20, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Etaoin, you’re probably right that telling d’Altrey about Orlanda was probably unwise (assuming she believed him), but on the other hand it was necessary for fictional reasons. If “you” doesn’t know about Orlanda, the reader won’t.

There’s the perils of second-person for you.

Building observatories was one of those things the Renaissance did, once telescopes got invented. The King of Denmark gave Tycho Brahe a whole island for his astronomical observations (where he was assisted by his sister Sophia. Brahe wrote a lengthy poem about her as the “muse of Astronomy.”)

There were any number of women astronomers, though generally they were viewed as helpmates or amanuenses to their brothers/husbands. Caroline Herschel did manage to get credit for several discoveries, though she was absent the night her brother discovered Uranus— or “Planet George” as he named it. Elizabeth Hevelius survived her husband (who was three times here age) and published their joint discoveries.

And its could be argued that Jocelyn Bell became more famous for being passed over for the Nobel Prize, in favor of her male supervisors.

Etaoin Shrdlu November 21, 2019 at 3:30 pm

Just noticed that you seem to have a thing against people named Marcella. Marcella Zykov (“Investments”), Lady Marcella the not-really-an-Aeoki. 🙂

I don’t understand why it was necessary from a literary standpoint, since Q’s escape from Sir Basil was described in first-person. I’m looking at the “you” sections as separate from the rest of the text. Is it more proper to understand the entire text as one long story being told to the various listeners? Just that in a few spots he addresses the listener directly instead of making up (unreliable) stories?

All these events in New Mexico make me wish I lived in the same hemisphere.

Brad DeLong November 22, 2019 at 11:13 am

And whatever happened to Dorinda the cook?

pecooper November 22, 2019 at 12:36 pm

Ah. His name is Quillifer. There are quills on his coat of arms. Of course, there will be ink.

pecooper November 25, 2019 at 10:43 am

Rogues and Rogering: Chapter thirty-three gives us a whole new meaning for “Rogered.” I’m sure the spirit of Agatha Christi is smiling, knowingly. I know I am.

Jim Janney December 8, 2019 at 5:00 pm

Hmph. I was up all night finishing this, and now I have read it all over again. Good job.

But Quillifer will never be chivalrous until he learns to ride better.

wjw December 9, 2019 at 12:37 am

Jim, it’s entirely possible to be chivalrous on a ship. Though if chivalry involves playing fair, Quillifer would prefer not to.

Etaoin, the whole narrative is in second person. Q never addresses the reader directly, but only his interlocutor.

Geoff December 24, 2019 at 4:35 pm

The back cover of my book relates a story that is not reflected in the rest of the book. Does that copy reflect an early draft?

I appreciate how you made me feel like the voice of Quillifer was off a little (professing his undying love?) and then that paid off in the largest way possible.

I was telling my wife yesterday how much I also appreciated that how Quillifer shrugs off the bog-standard fantasy quests. Have to kill a dragon? Get some firepower! Bad guy wants to send him across the country on a side-quest? Delegate it!

Jim Janney December 25, 2019 at 2:55 pm

Naufragian but not equestrous then.

wjw December 25, 2019 at 6:20 pm

Geoff, well spotted! That back cover copy was supposed to be replaced with something much more on target (written by me), and the ARCs had the new copy, but the published edition reverted to the old copy for reasons that passeth understanding.

Maybe someone was REALLY FOND of that copy, even though it reads as if it was written by someone who had read the book months before but didn’t remember it very well.

Anyway, that copy makes the book seem really boring, which I don’t think it is.

They said they’d put the correct copy on the second printing, but I doubt there will ever be one, because they fucked up the first one so badly.

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