Tithe 9: Roiben’s a Jerk

This chapter is full of things that I griped about in Chapter 7 and Chapter 8. This time, however, they’re a bit more justified. This chapter starts from Kaye’s perspective when she meets with the Unseelie queen, and we get to see what being enchanted is like. It makes Kaye feel dopey, but also devoted to the queen, and willing to do anything for her. After agreeing to take part in the Tithe, she is given to Roiben to prepare her for the ceremony. At this point the POV changes to Roiben’s, which I’m actually okay with, because Kaye isn’t lucid enough to make sense of what’s happening around her.

Roiben takes Kaye to his chambers to prepare her for the Tithe, and they have a normal conversation for the first time in the whole book. Every other time they’ve met, Kaye was either saving his life, or commanding him. Here, they just talk about the fae world and books, but without violence or drama.

In retrospect, it strikes me as a little odd that this budding romance so far has been based on Kaye having all the power in their relationship. But it is YA, so that’s to be expected.

The conversation takes a sharp left turn towards Creepytown when Roiben kisses Kaye. At this point, though, she’s still charmed, much like Corny was in the previous chapter. It’s as though she’s drunk, but also programmed to want to please him and the queen. Roiben has a few misgivings about kissing Kaye at first, but he rationalizes them away fairly quickly.

Charmed. He was kissing a charmed girl. [. . .] He wondered what exactly she might think of when her mind was better disposed toward the contemplation of such things. But then, his mind whispered, tomorrow would never come to her, would it? There was only now and if he wanted to kiss her, well, it was only kissing.

Soon after Kaye does give permission to continue kissing her, and Roiben thinks that the enchantment on her has expired. And since we know that Kaye has a crush on him, she was probably fine with it from the start.

What I don’t like about this scene is similar to the problems I had in the previous chapter, which is, of course, consent. It’s more of a gray area here, but what bothers me most is Roiben’s rationalization. He sounds so entitled, that because Kaye’s going to die the next day, he can do whatever he wants with her. That she wants the same thing is almost an afterthought.

To be honest, I really don’t like Roiben much. I don’t see a lot of redeeming qualities in him. What made him attractive to me when I was a teenager was that he was tall, dark, and brooding. But now his self-loathing and constant angst is annoying, and to be honest, I can’t help but wish he would kind of grow up.

She was gazing at the Queen with adoration with an adoration that sickened him. Was that how he had once looked at the Seelie Queen when he had vowed himself to her? He remembered that when his Bright Lady had but once glanced at one of her knights, it was as if the sun shone for that knight alone. His own oath to her had been so easy to say, all the promises he had wanted to make wrapped into those formalized phrases. And he was still doing her bidding now, wasn’t he? He wondered again as he stared into Kaye’s face, as she waited happily for him to betake her into the sunless caverns of the Unseelie palace and pretty her up for her murder, just what was worth the pain of this.

He doesn’t want to see Kaye sacrificed, but even in these critical moments, he’s focusing on his pain, rather than hers. Roiben has every right to be self-loathing, to be depressed. But I feel that by focusing on that right now, he’s missing the bigger picture, and the bigger evil that’s occurring here. He’s focusing on himself rather than Kaye’s impending murder, and uses it as justification to do what he wants with her. Because if she’s going to die tomorrow, it doesn’t matter what she wants.

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