In this chapter of Tithe, we get some of the answers that both Kaye and the reader have been wondering about. For example, where have Kaye’s faerie friends been, and why did Roiben kill one of them? These are far from the only things Kaye has on her mind when she is awakened at night by Lutie-Loo and Spike, her childhood friends. They take her to see the Thistlewitch, thus far the closest thing Kaye has to a fae mentor.
I really like the variety of Fae in this book, of all different…races? Species? What exactly do you call the different categories of fae? Either way, Lutie is what most people would think when they hear the word “faerie”. She’s small and silly, and flies on iridescent wings. Spike is more feral and rugged, and the less kind of the two. The Thistlewitch has only a minor appearance in the book, but she also has a wild appearance, with reeds and briars covering her.
The Thistlewitch tells Kaye that she is a changeling, or a fae that was glamoured to look like a human, and left in place of a human child. Kaye takes the news surprisingly well at first, saying that it all makes sense, considering her unintentional magic. She gets over the shock pretty quickly, not even bothering to question her friends about her origins. For me, she just accepts it way too easily.
There’s a couple reasons that I’ll give this one a pass though, and the first is that faeries cannot tell lies.Having fae friends during her childhood, Kaye would have likely known about this rule, so she wouldn’t have any reason to disbelieve what they’re saying. The second is that curiosity gets the better of her later in the chapter, and she acts more like a teenager who’s just been told their entire life is a lie.
Later in the night, Kaye does remove her glamour, against the advisement of the Thistlewitch, and discovers what her “true self”, such as it is, looks like. Grass-green, with liquid black eyes and an extra knuckle on each of her fingers. Kaye doesn’t know how to put her glamour back on, and can’t find anyone to help. She winds up finding Corny to help her out. Their friendship might have seemed unlikely, but thinking about it, Corny is the perfect person to go to. He’s a well-established nerd, and if there was anyone I’d want on my side in a situation, it’d be a fantasy geek.
In other words, I may never be a fantasy heroine, but at the very least, I’d be a great genre-savvy sidekick.
The Thistlewitch explains exactly why they had to bring Kaye back to New Jersey and reveal her true nature: She is going to be selected for an Unseelie ritual known as the tithe, in which a mortal is sacrificed by the Unseelie Court of fae. When the ritual is complete, it will bind the fae without a court to the Unseelie Court for…reasons?
There’s a lot of lore in this chapter, and my background as a fantasy geek means that I can keep up with a lot of it. But I was never totally clear on why, exactly, the solitary fae are bound to the Unseelie Court. Even if the Thistlewitch tries to explain:
‘Why do the solitary fey trade their freedom for a human sacrifice?’
‘Some do it for the blood, others for protection. The human sacrifice is a show of power. Power that could force our obedience.’
‘But won’t they just take you back by force then?’
‘No. They must obey the agreement as we do. They are bounded by constraints. If the sacrifice is voided, then we are free for seven years.’
That’s one of the things about fae lore: a lot of it is just ‘because I said so’. It’s one of the things that make them so interesting to write and read about: there are a lot of rules they have to obey, and fae are clever tricksters who find ways to bend those rules without breaking them. This is exactly what’s happening here: the tithe will be performed, but voided once they discover that the sacrifice is a faery, not a mortal.
But I still wish there was a better explanation than that.