Next week I will review what was likely one of the most anticipated books of the year for me, Andrew D Meredith’s Gloves of Eons. While I am still deeply impressed with Andrew’s writing and the world he has created, there is something I think needs to be addressed. That is the absolute brilliance of one character—Dane Marric.
If you’ve read the Kallattian Saga at all, you probably wonder if I’ve gone crazy. Hear me out.
Dane is a fantastic character exactly because he is who he is. Terrible. He’s an awful human being, and I hate him. But I also kind of love the reliability of his awfulness. I love every moment when he does the wrong thing for what he believes are the right reasons. He’s the sort of character where I wish I wrote him. He is the embodiment of the type of villainy I love to read and write.
I will say, that this article will have very slight spoilers for the Kallattian Saga (events that are not exactly central to the plot, with a lot of context removed). Though I suspect if you were averse to this, you wouldn’t have clicked the article link.
One of my first jaw-dropping moments in the series was when a group of paladins visited a farm and was served by a humble farmer and his family. Classic Meredith moment. Cozy and making the world feel lived-in. But then. Oh, but then. Dane, a Paladin of the vow of chastity, refuses to let the farmer’s young (prepubescent I believe) daughter serve him because she is female and his dogma suggests that he cannot interact with her.
He even quotes a scripture that I will paraphrase, “do not accept temptation from the sin maker.” And he says this with a smug sneer that completely brings the evening to a halt.
In thinking himself pious, he insults the farmer and his daughter, the hosts of the paladins, and causes an uncomfortable tension that goes beyond palpable to gut-wrenching. This horrible behavior gives the POV character, Jined, a chance for a perfect retort to Dane, “what about this young girl do you think will lead you into temptation?” Having set things right for his foil’s mistake, the dinner continues while Dane stews in anger.
But that is only the beginning of the conflict between them.
THAT is brilliant. To expose folly is one of the greatest things fiction can do and shows why fantasy is not only for entertainment. It shows that fantasy, and indie fantasy in particular, has a seat at the table for big conversations.
Dane’s misogyny is repugnant and he is chastised for it. Unlike other authors who sometimes veer into, “Is this what the author thinks?” territory with their characters, Meredith’s treatment of Dane gives us no such questions and hopefully serves a lesson for those who feel similarly to that character. Books can change minds, and Meredith uses Dane Marric to great effect to expose the ridiculousness of dogma that sexualizes or demeans women.
Now, it could be easy for that to be all Dane is, a tool for exposing folly, but Meredith doesn’t let it be that easy. Dane is very devout and wants to do the right thing, but he lets his zeal sway him in all the wrong directions. Evidence that he is multi-faceted comes pretty early on when he performs a miracle in the name of his god and feeds those who need it. Even from someone as horrible and repugnant as Dane, good can still be done.
For those of you who haven’t read the series: The gods of Kallattai are very real, and this is no fluke. Though imperfect, Dane is still able to be used for good. His superiors comment on his potential but are quick to note that it is a long road for him. And that’s like a lot of us. Who of us haven’t had horrible ideas that then recognized the error of their ways? Which of us can say we aren’t truly a work in progress? Growth is hard and not always even or upward.
A lot of this continued difficulty can be seen in Dane’s interactions with Jined. When the story starts, they are presented as two men of a similar rank, though in many ways Dane seems to be farther along than Jined. When Jined’s story takes off and he is chosen by his god, we see the dismissal and bullying that Dane’s interactions with him were marked with turn into something no less antagonistic but almost reverent in its nature.
The complicated feelings of jealousy and awe Dane feels for Jined is one of the most human things I can imagine. Even if he is not cognizant of it, there is some part of Dane that seems to wish he was Jined.
In true Marric fashion, there is a particular moment in Gloves of Eons where Dane speaks about his god revealing something to him, that was something he discovered by snooping after Jined. The implication that Jined could be his god or what he aspires to be is not lost on me, and I can’t wait to see how this dynamic progresses.
Before I conclude I want to be clear. Dane is one of the worst types of religious people. He is close-minded and arrogant, but there is a purity to his zeal that is at once both dangerous and admirable. The deftness and nuance Andrew Meredith writes with make an already fantastic series so much more complex in its examinations of the nature of faith and the human condition through the inclusion of Dane.
All is not said and done of course. I’m still at a crucial part for Dane’s role in Gloves of Eons, but I’m SURE he will be mentioned in my review. Who knows where this character will end up, but, I will try my best to wait patiently.
Every time Dane is on the page, I feel myself drawn to see exactly what he is going to do next. From his hate/rivalry/friendship with Jined to his suspicion and deeply seeded disdain for women. Dane contains so many of the horrible things that make us human and gives the author ample opportunity to point out the errors of our ways of thinking.