The Kingdom of Kylae is a modern, industrious nation. They have a vibrant arts scene, a posh upper class of society and a thriving middle class. Norose, the capital, is the seat of the government and home of the royal family, who grace the covers of the Kylaen gossip magazines all the time. The economy is a mix of forestry, tourism, and raw material processing.
And oh yeah, they have this colony they bomb every so often. And there’s this death camp that nobody talks about in the north. But about that art scene…
One of the things I was interested in as this story unfolded in my brain was to come up with a good reason why good-natured, kind people would sanction the non-stop bombing of a colony for fifty years. What it boils down to is that media and messaging are important to making change happen. If the media doesn’t highlight a story, then it doesn’t become part of the conversation (that is changing with Social Media in our world to a degree). Just like a huge proportion of America has no tangible connection to the conflicts in the Middle East, Kylaens see the war as an abstraction, something they see on the news that they say, “Oh, poor dears” then move onto their next problem. They can divorce themselves from the story because they can divorce themselves, unlike Theo who is living the war every single day.
It’s that sort of train of thought that I wove into the book from Galian’s perspective. He considers himself to be a good person, after all, he stopped partying and became a doctor to help people. But when he comes face to face with a new narrative, the real, concrete evidence of his father’s policies in the form of Theo, he finds that all of his efforts are a little short.
(From Theo’s perspective)
“If you want more food,” I managed to spit out, “you’ll have to get it yourself.”
He turned to look at me and his eyebrows went up in confusion. “W-what was that for?”
“For killing my people,” I spat. “And not caring.”
“Now hold on a second,” he said. “I haven’t killed a single person—ever.” He paused and gave me an appraising glance. “How many of my people have you shot down, Captain?”
“Hundreds,” I snarled. “Because you were invading my country.”
“If Rave would just quit resisting…”
“You’re unbelievable,” I snapped. I had to leave this conversation before I lost my temper and beat the shit out of him. I could barely stand him as it was, but when he started spouting his Kylaen hubris…that was my limit.
“Oh, did I offend you with the truth?” he taunted.
“You offend me with your disgusting face and your stupid Kylaen arrogance.”
“Arrogant, am I?” He laughed, and my blood boiled. “You’re sitting here telling me I’m responsible for something I had no part in! Something that began before I was even born! In case you didn’t notice, I have no power.”
“You think that absolves you of blame?” I said. “You are the king’s son—”
“And in case it wasn’t glaringly obvious, the king isn’t coming for me!”
I ignored his attempt to garner sympathy. It wasn’t news to me that King Grieg was ruthless, and in my eyes, the deaths of my people were more important than the idiot princeling in front of me.
“Look, trust me, I know my father isn’t in the right here,” he said. “But at the same time, Rave’s no picnic either. Sending their children to war? How can you sit there and defend something so heinous? You were conscripted at twelve, Theo—”
“We wouldn’t have to send our children to war if Kylae would let us go!” I growled, unable to comprehend how he could defend his country after all the atrocities they’d committed.
“But you know my father will never let that happen.”
“Is that how it is in Norose?” I laughed derisively. “The king makes a command and everyone just bows and says ‘Yes, sire?'” I clicked my tongue against my teeth.
“Yeah, because if you disagree with him, you usually end up…” He clammed up, and the faintest of a blush appeared on his cheeks.
As much as I make Kylae to be the bad guys, the reality is a bit grayer than that. Grieg is definitely a bad guy, but his motivations are a lot more complex than Galian believes them to be. Much as we learn more about Rave’s problems in The Chasm, we also see the difficulties that Kylae is facing. Ending the war isn’t going to be as easy as deposing a leader.