This book presents an amazing conflict, and keeps it going through the whole book. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.
The conflict is between the Biblical and unBiblical views of ‘love’ and commitment. None of the characters say this, and none of them have a Biblical view… instead each of them seem to have a conflicted view which contrasts, in their own thinking, the Biblical with the unBiblical view without ever being able to resolve either.undefined
The Christian view of love and commitment begins with commitment and works out its love in that context. So the woman who commits to marriage, is then committing to loving the man that she is committed to. The love that she is committing to involves both the love that she owes everyone (patience, kindness, not envious, not boasting, etc..) and the specific actions that she owes her husband: sexual access, sexual fidelity, submission, emotional fidelity, etc. A man who commits to a job similarly owes both the love commanded for all Christians, and obedience to the specific commitments that he has undertaken in that particular job.
This book shows the conflicted, failure of obedience to these precepts. A man and a woman, traveling together, both of whom have made commitments, fail to understand both the nature of the love that they owe and the commitments that they have undertaken.
The story, ignoring all of the bits that don’t concern the issue I am dealing with, is simple: a supposedly honourable man is asked to escort and guard a woman who is committed to marriage (far more serious than our modern ‘engagements’) along (what turns out to be) a difficult journey to the man she is to marry. So his commitment is to get her there, safely, ready to marry her husband. Her job is to get there, purely, ready to marry her new husband.
They both fail dramatically at their job. By the time that they arrive at her husband, they have committed to each other emotionally and sexually (although with no sexual intercourse) and have gone through the ritual of marriage (with the excuse that that seemed like the only possible way of making it through enemy lines). They continually make decision after decision that binds them more fully together emotionally and sexually.
Not without conflict. That is the interesting part. This isn’t just some classical ‘girl falls for boy on the way to awful arranged marriage’ story. Both of the characters are conflicted about their own behaviour, even as they engage in it. They don’t merely devolve into the false concept of love as an emotion which permits all infidelity, but attempt to hold the false concept at the same time as elements of the truth!
Indeed even the new husband, once they finally arrive, is conflicted, at least about the proper action. He proposes executing the guardian… for treason. Not adultery, treason. Leaving the ugly idea that if the girl hadn’t been a princess then the behaviour might not have been criminal. And faced with such questions as, “Can I see him again?” he does not respond that that would be the height of foolishness, the two should never see each other again even if her isn't to be executed, he responds merely with the nonsensical, “You may see him if that is your desire” and a plea to call him by his first name.
This is the first book in the series, and I wonder how this conflict will be resolved. Will any of the characters come to a Biblical understanding of their role? Or will they continue in the halfway house of evil actions with guilt and lack of understanding?
I am not hopeful, certainly. The ending of this, the first book, devolves into a morass of folly, of admission without guilt of adultery and failure… of failure treated as if it was success. So I am left wondering… will the characters realise their folly? Or is their folly what the author is trying to promote?