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Author Topic: Exploitation of Women in ITKS  (Read 5919 times)

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Offline Raksha the Demon

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Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« on: April 27, 2014, 05:32:41 pm »
It struck me, as I read In The King's Service for the third or fourth time, that at least some women, even the highborn women, are shabbily treated even for a medieval culture:

Stevana de Corwyn was supposedly abducted by Keryell and forcibly married to him.  No one seems to think that this was a particularly heinous act. 

Jessamy was forced to marry, as a child of some eleven or 12 years, a Deryni 16 years her senior who always distrusted her as her father's daughter, the alternative being death.  Her brother has the support of the same Deryni who seem to have mandated that marriage; because he was trained by them.  No one forces him to marry or suggests he be killed.  The child Jessamy only escapes having to consummate the marriage by the interference of the kindly Crown Princess; and is allowed to wait until she's 14 to be bedded by her husband.  As we all know, King Donal selects the older Jessamy to be the mother of the bastard Haldane protector of the infant Brion that Donal is set on having.  It did make sense to me that Jessamy, after years of a loveless marriage to a man who distrusted her, might overlook that she was betraying the Haldane queen she professed to love; since Jessamy was probably desperate for a little illicit, uncontrolled, fun.(to my mind, Donal's excuse that the future Deryni protector of Donal's son just had to be sired by Donal himself was a bit convenient; it's not as if there were no other Deryni in the world who could have assumed that rule - why didn't he ask Sief if he knew any young Deryni who might be trusted with that role, rather than cuckolding Sief in order to produce one?  Especially since Donal has apparently sired various bastards in the past).  And then Donal and Jessamy conspire to produce a replacement for their dead child by having Donal slip into Alyce's bed and make a baby without her even being aware of it.  How could they?  How could Donal be so horribly cruel as to enlist Jessamy, who was mourning their raped and murdered little boy, to help him make a 'replacement' for the child?  And how could Jessamy go along with him?  I can only come to the conclusion that Jessamy was used to obeying not only the king, but men in authority who told her to do things she was reluctant to do (like get married at 12). 

Which brings me to the scenes when Donal actually puts his plans into action.  Alyce was far more forgiving than I can understand anyone being, given she awakened to find a half-naked king at her bedside trying to lift up her gown.  And Kenneth!  He doesn't seem to be at all angry.  I can understand Kenneth having the wits not to attack the King of Gwynedd in a fit of rage, especially since Alyce stopped the assault before it happened, but I did expect more anger from him, or at least some feelings of disappointment at the king's betrayal of the liege/vassal relationship.  And I didn't quite buy Donal's explanation that his repressed grief over Krispin's death had pushed him to attempt such an awful betrayal of people who trusted and had served him devotedly.  (yes, I believed that Donal was saddened by his son's death, but that doesn't really fly as an excuse to sexually assault a woman)

Unless Donal has some kingly right of having sex with any subject's wife whenever he feels like it, not just on the wedding night (which was a medieval custom, I believe)...

And then the Camberian Council, believe that Donal has managed to impregnate both his queen and his liegeman's wife at the same time, admire Donal's virility and audacity, and happily speculate what a cool genetic mix will result from Donal's union with Alyce de Corwyn. >:(  Ick.

I don't think that I'm applying 21st century morality to the situation.  But feel free to correct me or disagree with me. 

Though I don't like Donal at all as a character, I note that he produced my favorite line in In The King's Service, when discussing his decision to betroth Alyce to Kenneth with Alyce herself, after Queen Richeldis has suggested that Donal be a bit more tactful:
"But I'm sure he'll make you a fine husband, my dear.  You've seen him ride today-and you know that he can carry on an intelligent conversation.  What more could a woman want?" ::)


Offline DesertRose

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2014, 11:25:49 pm »
I always felt bad for Jessamy.  Life dealt her a bad hand of cards.

And you're right about Alyce.  I couldn't believe how calm she was.  I would NOT have been half that calm, but I'm not sure I'm not applying my raised-in-the-20th-and-21st-Century mentality to the situation.

Offline Raksha the Demon

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2014, 01:14:37 am »
Well, Alyce would have had strong self-control after being raised to avoid public displays of power or loud objections to anti-Deryni invective. So I can see why she didn't slap the King of Gwynedd or try to mind-ream him on discovering him about to have his way with her.  But I didn't understand why she seemed to feel no resentment toward Donal in her thoughts afterward.  She even seems to be in love with him, or infatuated, in CM, feeling safe in his arms, etc.

And no one seems to feel it's at all reprehensible that Keryell abducted and forcibly married Stevana de Corwyn.
 



Offline DesertRose

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2014, 01:36:32 am »
Keryell and Stevana's story takes place before the events of ITKS, but you're right.  Even accounting for this being a medieval time frame, that does seem heinous.  If nothing else, where was her family?  IIRC, she was an orphan, but she had NOBODY to stand up for her?

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2014, 09:04:47 am »
Unfortunately, abducting a noble heiress and making her an unwilling bride was not that uncommon an occurrance.  Keryell saw an opportunity to advance his fortunes and took it.  Although we know very little of Stevana's life (I would love to know more) she was not necessarily an unhappy wife, or any unhappier than she would have been in a marriage the Camberian Council would have arranged for her.  Keryell would have made her lack of options very clear, but I don't think he was so heartless as to not have pointed out the advantages.  A love match was probably never in her future.
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Offline Evie

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2014, 09:49:48 am »
IIRC, the Camberian Council did refer to Keryell's abduction of Stevana as scandalous, although once it became a done deal, it was probably accepted in that society far sooner than it would have been in ours.  In theory a bride could not be married without her consent, but in practice the "consent" was often coerced, perhaps not by as drastic a means as abduction, but at least by familial and societal pressure, compounded by the fact that a woman without a husband was in a very vulnerable position, so a loveless marriage was often viewed as preferable to not being married at all.  The expectation was also that marriage would hopefully lead to love rather than love leading to marriage.  People who  married due to emotional attachment rather than for more practical reasons were often viewed as foolish, marrying for feelings or physical attractions that were likely to blossom and then fade over the years, potentially leading to more unhappiness than finding a compatible life partner and marrying for practical reasons, then allowing love to grow within that relationship, which was the cultural norm.  It's not that they thought love was unnecessary to marriage so much as they thought it was the icing on the cake, not the foundation.  So if Stevana had settled into her unexpected marriage by accepting it, and possibly even falling in love with Keryell over the years, then the scandal would have ceased to be viewed as such.  I think even in the Council's mind, the scandal was more focused on Keryell's open disregard for whatever match the King might have had in mind for Stevana, rather than on the abduction of a possibly unwilling bride. 

Then again, although she was abducted, do we know for sure Stevana was unwilling?  I don't recall if there is a mention of Keryell and Stevana knowing each other prior to their marriage (in which case the "abduction" might have been more like an elopement), but Alyce doesn't seem to remember her mother as being unhappy or hating her husband, so perhaps Stevana at least thought of Keryell as being a preferable husband compared to others she might have been given to as a Royal Ward.  The King might have decided to give her to some loyal follower with even less to recommend him as a husband, after all.
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Offline Evie

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2014, 10:09:18 am »
Well, Alyce would have had strong self-control after being raised to avoid public displays of power or loud objections to anti-Deryni invective. So I can see why she didn't slap the King of Gwynedd or try to mind-ream him on discovering him about to have his way with her.  But I didn't understand why she seemed to feel no resentment toward Donal in her thoughts afterward.  She even seems to be in love with him, or infatuated, in CM, feeling safe in his arms, etc.

I tend to read Alyce's feelings for Donal as being rather conflicted, though that may be something I'm reading into the text rather than something that's actually implied or stated.  On one hand, as her Royal guardian, Donal has become sort of a father figure for Alyce, so I think she feels "safe in his arms" at times in that sense, not due to any infatuation for him.  She believes most of the time that he has her best interests at heart...at least to a point.  She also knows that he is the King, though, and that as such, he ultimately has the Kingdom's best interests at heart over her own best interests.  All his decisions are filtered through what he thinks is best for his Kingdom, whether that's his choice of a husband for her (fortunately, he happened to pick a man who Alyce already respected and could easily come to love) or his use of his power (regal, physical, and/or arcane) to secure his heir's safety and the future of the Haldane dynasty, etc.  I think she intellectually understands why Donal tried what he did, which is not the same thing as thinking it was OK to do, but I think because she could understand his motives, that made it easier for her to come to terms with the near-rape.  And once Alaric was born, she would have known she wouldn't need to fear another rape attempt from Donal, since it was a Deryni protector for his heir that he was after, not Alyce herself.  She does seem pretty wary of him later on, though, and you see signs of that when he unexpectedly shows up for Alaric's and Duncan's Naming Ceremony.  What I see in their relationship at that point is that she is 100% certain that Donal will do what is in the best interests of his kingdom (whether or not she agrees with his methods), and what Donal chooses to do may or may not be in her own best interests or those of her son, but she also believes Donal won't deliberately hurt her or her son unless he feels that's the only way to secure his kingdom's best interests. So she's wary of him due to that potential of conflicting motives. She allows herself to trust him, but only so far.  And remember, by this point in her life, he is also her father figure, which colors her outlook.  Yes, that makes his abuse of her trust even more squicky, but if you think of how many children grow up genuinely loving their parents despite having been abused, and if you also consider that Donal's abuse was a one-time instance rather than a life long process, I think that makes it more understandable that she'd try to rationalize his behavior and forgive him rather than lose yet another "father."
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 10:12:43 am by Evie »
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Offline Laurna

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2014, 12:41:42 pm »
Quote
Then again, although she was abducted, do we know for sure Stevana was unwilling?  I don't recall if there is a mention of Keryell and Stevana knowing each other prior to their marriage (in which case the "abduction" might have been more like an elopement)

According to the Codex Stevana was born in 1042 and was married to Keryell in 1068. She was by no means a child. The Cynfyns and the Corwyns were the only surviving openly known Deryni Families remaining in Gwynedd. I am sure the Council and the King would have thought the joining of those two families would have made Keyrell too strong and therefore they would never have allowed it.  I also believe these two families would have known each other pretty well. Keyrell was looking to improve his status, it seems he would have been very charming to Stevana to win her over. Otherwise how could he have stolen her away from her guardians and the well guarded Corwyn Castle. It was everyone else who saw it as an abduction.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 01:01:06 pm by Laurna »

Offline revanne

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2014, 12:54:39 pm »
I have far more problem with the idea of Alaric's loyalty to Brion and Kelson hard wired in to him as it were. I know that in Medieval times deciding the destiny of a child was normal but it somehow seems to diminish the value of something I had seen as very precious. And surely both Brion and Kelson would have felt the same - it's the same principal that makes Javan apologise to Charlan for the enforcing of his loyalty; bought or enforced loyalty is no better than servitude.
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Offline Laurna

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2014, 01:09:47 pm »
I never read it as a "hardwired loyalty".  I only saw that Donal gave Alaric the key to his son's power assumption so that Brion would be free of the influences of the Camberian Council. It was his parent's trust and Brion's friendship that won Alaric over to complete loyalty, which passed wholeheartedly to Brion's son.

Offline revanne

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2014, 01:20:48 pm »
That sits much better - must reread both ITKS and CM which I have to confess were spoilt for me a bit by the issue it raised for me. Hopefully I'm wrong...
"All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
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Offline Raksha the Demon

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2014, 01:41:23 pm »
Well, Alyce would have had strong self-control after being raised to avoid public displays of power or loud objections to anti-Deryni invective. So I can see why she didn't slap the King of Gwynedd or try to mind-ream him on discovering him about to have his way with her.  But I didn't understand why she seemed to feel no resentment toward Donal in her thoughts afterward.  She even seems to be in love with him, or infatuated, in CM, feeling safe in his arms, etc.

I tend to read Alyce's feelings for Donal as being rather conflicted, though that may be something I'm reading into the text rather than something that's actually implied or stated.  On one hand, as her Royal guardian, Donal has become sort of a father figure for Alyce, so I think she feels "safe in his arms" at times in that sense, not due to any infatuation for him.  She believes most of the time that he has her best interests at heart...at least to a point.  She also knows that he is the King, though, and that as such, he ultimately has the Kingdom's best interests at heart over her own best interests.  All his decisions are filtered through what he thinks is best for his Kingdom, whether that's his choice of a husband for her (fortunately, he happened to pick a man who Alyce already respected and could easily come to love) or his use of his power (regal, physical, and/or arcane) to secure his heir's safety and the future of the Haldane dynasty, etc.  I think she intellectually understands why Donal tried what he did, which is not the same thing as thinking it was OK to do, but I think because she could understand his motives, that made it easier for her to come to terms with the near-rape.  And once Alaric was born, she would have known she wouldn't need to fear another rape attempt from Donal, since it was a Deryni protector for his heir that he was after, not Alyce herself.  She does seem pretty wary of him later on, though, and you see signs of that when he unexpectedly shows up for Alaric's and Duncan's Naming Ceremony.  What I see in their relationship at that point is that she is 100% certain that Donal will do what is in the best interests of his kingdom (whether or not she agrees with his methods), and what Donal chooses to do may or may not be in her own best interests or those of her son, but she also believes Donal won't deliberately hurt her or her son unless he feels that's the only way to secure his kingdom's best interests. So she's wary of him due to that potential of conflicting motives. She allows herself to trust him, but only so far.  And remember, by this point in her life, he is also her father figure, which colors her outlook.  Yes, that makes his abuse of her trust even more squicky, but if you think of how many children grow up genuinely loving their parents despite having been abused, and if you also consider that Donal's abuse was a one-time instance rather than a life long process, I think that makes it more understandable that she'd try to rationalize his behavior and forgive him rather than lose yet another "father."


Alyce could well have regarded Donal partially as a father-figure; since he had been a constant authority figure in her life for longer than her own father had been, but those last paragraphs of Chapter 19 of CM indicate, at least to me, that she also had romantic yearnings for the king and he for her, yearnings that Alyce knew could never come to fruition.

Donal buries his face in her hair and inhales its perfume after kissing her brow, Alyce feels his heart beating "where her cheek pressed close against his chest, and for just an instant it seemed that she had always belonged there, safe in the circle of his arms.
  Then he was pulling back with a gasp, the grey eyes haunted by a pain that had nothing to do with his grief over his lost son or the ache of his weary body.  Hardly daring to keep looking at her, he brushed her jawline with his fingertips as if to memorize its curve for all eternity.  Then he tore his eyes away and thrust her from him, turning to lurch painfully from the room, leaving her trembling beside her husband's chair with a hand pressed to her throat to still the sob that threatened to undo them both.  She did not try to stop him, and he did not look back
."

The movements and emotions in these paragraphs seem a bit more painful and intense than if Donal and Alyce had a father/daughter relationship.  It seems pretty obvious that Donal cares for Alyce in more than a fatherly way.  And if Alyce loves her king only as a father-figure, why would she tremble as he leaves and be trying to still a sob that would "undo" both her and Donal? 

Offline Evie

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2014, 04:19:17 pm »
Well, Alyce would have had strong self-control after being raised to avoid public displays of power or loud objections to anti-Deryni invective. So I can see why she didn't slap the King of Gwynedd or try to mind-ream him on discovering him about to have his way with her.  But I didn't understand why she seemed to feel no resentment toward Donal in her thoughts afterward.  She even seems to be in love with him, or infatuated, in CM, feeling safe in his arms, etc.

I tend to read Alyce's feelings for Donal as being rather conflicted, though that may be something I'm reading into the text rather than something that's actually implied or stated.  On one hand, as her Royal guardian, Donal has become sort of a father figure for Alyce, so I think she feels "safe in his arms" at times in that sense, not due to any infatuation for him.  She believes most of the time that he has her best interests at heart...at least to a point.  She also knows that he is the King, though, and that as such, he ultimately has the Kingdom's best interests at heart over her own best interests.  All his decisions are filtered through what he thinks is best for his Kingdom, whether that's his choice of a husband for her (fortunately, he happened to pick a man who Alyce already respected and could easily come to love) or his use of his power (regal, physical, and/or arcane) to secure his heir's safety and the future of the Haldane dynasty, etc.  I think she intellectually understands why Donal tried what he did, which is not the same thing as thinking it was OK to do, but I think because she could understand his motives, that made it easier for her to come to terms with the near-rape.  And once Alaric was born, she would have known she wouldn't need to fear another rape attempt from Donal, since it was a Deryni protector for his heir that he was after, not Alyce herself.  She does seem pretty wary of him later on, though, and you see signs of that when he unexpectedly shows up for Alaric's and Duncan's Naming Ceremony.  What I see in their relationship at that point is that she is 100% certain that Donal will do what is in the best interests of his kingdom (whether or not she agrees with his methods), and what Donal chooses to do may or may not be in her own best interests or those of her son, but she also believes Donal won't deliberately hurt her or her son unless he feels that's the only way to secure his kingdom's best interests. So she's wary of him due to that potential of conflicting motives. She allows herself to trust him, but only so far.  And remember, by this point in her life, he is also her father figure, which colors her outlook.  Yes, that makes his abuse of her trust even more squicky, but if you think of how many children grow up genuinely loving their parents despite having been abused, and if you also consider that Donal's abuse was a one-time instance rather than a life long process, I think that makes it more understandable that she'd try to rationalize his behavior and forgive him rather than lose yet another "father."


Alyce could well have regarded Donal partially as a father-figure; since he had been a constant authority figure in her life for longer than her own father had been, but those last paragraphs of Chapter 19 of CM indicate, at least to me, that she also had romantic yearnings for the king and he for her, yearnings that Alyce knew could never come to fruition.

Donal buries his face in her hair and inhales its perfume after kissing her brow, Alyce feels his heart beating "where her cheek pressed close against his chest, and for just an instant it seemed that she had always belonged there, safe in the circle of his arms.
  Then he was pulling back with a gasp, the grey eyes haunted by a pain that had nothing to do with his grief over his lost son or the ache of his weary body.  Hardly daring to keep looking at her, he brushed her jawline with his fingertips as if to memorize its curve for all eternity.  Then he tore his eyes away and thrust her from him, turning to lurch painfully from the room, leaving her trembling beside her husband's chair with a hand pressed to her throat to still the sob that threatened to undo them both.  She did not try to stop him, and he did not look back
."

The movements and emotions in these paragraphs seem a bit more painful and intense than if Donal and Alyce had a father/daughter relationship.  It seems pretty obvious that Donal cares for Alyce in more than a fatherly way.  And if Alyce loves her king only as a father-figure, why would she tremble as he leaves and be trying to still a sob that would "undo" both her and Donal? 


I think they do have intense feelings for each other, though not necessarily romantic ones.  I read Donal's reaction towards Alyce in that passage as stemming from keen regret and grief over how his previous actions towards her could have tainted their relationship, and a realization that her forgiveness and loyalty to him went beyond what he deserved due to his treatment of her.  And her trembling response indicates strong emotion, yes, but strong emotion isn't necessarily romantic or physical passion.  Actually, trembling can indicate anger or even hatred, or fear, or any other strong emotion.  In this case, I think it was more likely strong relief that Donal didn't go through with his original plan, and the recognition of her narrow escape, with some element of fear at the recognition that despite Donal's fondness for her, even she could be a pawn in his games if he felt it necessary to use her to secure his heir's safety.  Given the charged emotions of the moment, a sob at that moment could have caused both of them to lose their composure.  She was probably just barely clinging to her own already, and causing a king to lose face (more than he already had) would not have been wise.

Now, given Donal's straying eye when it comes to women, it would be less surprising if he feels some element of physical attraction to Alyce despite her being his ward, but I never get a sense that such feelings (if he had them) were reciprocated.  She is clearly attracted to Kenneth at least on an intellectual level before their marriage, and after their marriage her feelings for him blossomed very quickly into love.  She seemed at least halfway there already, or at least quite receptive to and relieved by the idea, by the time Donal proposed the match.  But I think in this scene, his actions stem more from realizing that he nearly sullied something that was very precious to him--Alyce's innocent trust and loyalty, on which he had staked all of his plans for Brion's future protection.  After his rape attempt, despite her willingness to forgive, the relationship would never be quite the same, so I think that is the loss he has come to realize in that moment, and that he is grieving.
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Offline Raksha the Demon

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2014, 02:31:57 pm »
Quote
Then again, although she was abducted, do we know for sure Stevana was unwilling?  I don't recall if there is a mention of Keryell and Stevana knowing each other prior to their marriage (in which case the "abduction" might have been more like an elopement)

According to the Codex Stevana was born in 1042 and was married to Keryell in 1068. She was by no means a child. The Cynfyns and the Corwyns were the only surviving openly known Deryni Families remaining in Gwynedd. I am sure the Council and the King would have thought the joining of those two families would have made Keyrell too strong and therefore they would never have allowed it.  I also believe these two families would have known each other pretty well. Keyrell was looking to improve his status, it seems he would have been very charming to Stevana to win her over. Otherwise how could he have stolen her away from her guardians and the well guarded Corwyn Castle. It was everyone else who saw it as an abduction.

What convinces me that Stevana de Corwyn was abducted and forced into marriage are the later thoughts of her close friend Jessamy MacAthan in ITKS.  In Chapter 7, when the young Alyce and Marie come to the Queen's household, Stevana remembers her close girlhood friendship with their mother, and how Jessamy and Stevana remained friends until the day Stevana died.  If anyone would know the truth of how the Keryell/Stevana marriage was made, it would be Jessamy, and she remembers Stevana de Corwyn: eventually abducted and married by force to the man now standing with their son and heir, young Ahern

I think that if Keryell had not abducted and married Stevana by force, Jessamy would have caught at least some hints from Stevana, or Stevana would have told her the truth.  But Jessamy uses the words abducted, married by force.  To me, there isn't much room for equivocation.

That does not mean that Keryell didn't admire Stevana before seizing her, or even that he raped her on their wedding night (he could have waited until she gave him permission).  Stevana might have come to care for him; it's implied that they were of united minds concerning their children; and Alyce does not appear to remember marital strife between her parents.  Keryell could well have been a better alternative than whatever other bridegroom might have been chosen for Stevana.  But in my opinion, Keryell did abduct Stevana and force her to marry him. 

Which makes Kenneth Morgan all the more admirable; since, after Donal cavalierly awards him Alyce's hand as a reward (and all the increased status and revenue that comes with her hand) for saving Donal's life, Kenneth has the decency to ask Alyce how she feels about becoming his wife and tells her he would be a kind and respectful husband and good father to their children.  (I love Kenneth!!!). 



Offline Evie

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Re: Exploitation of Women in ITKS
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2014, 11:09:15 pm »
I had forgotten that reference of Jessamy's point of view. (I've only read ITKS once all the way through, several years ago. Clearly I need to go back and review it and CM again prior to the next book's release!)
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