Mailbag

Why did Brummbar have to die? – Molly W.

Well, it’s fiction, first off; characters die. Eddard Stark in George R.R. Martin is my gold standard for ‘if this character can die, any character can die.’ I don’t think the reader senses reality in a series unless there is the very real possibility of loss. After Reswyt, I was fairly determined to make sure the rules got obeyed in the sequel, and the rules are very much as follows: there is a strong possibility of being physically injured or killed in the dreaming realm, and there’s more risk of true death for a dead mind such as Brummbar; the Balance can heal wounds that originate from entities that manifest in Reswyt (i.e. physical combat between animals); the Balance does not see or understand anything it did not personally manifest. That line of logic led to Brummbar being shot and, eventually, killed. But beyond the logical rationale for his death, it’s necessary, too; he tells her, at one point, that her knowing who he is will change her decision-making process in Reswyt, and that’s not a good thing.

Is Sabine ever going to choose between Dylan and Josh? – Kiersten M.

I get this one a lot. Yes, she will. But part of the theme of the book is that Reswyt is a unique environment in which you get to see, up close, the makeup and temperament of a human being’s soul. Wouldn’t you take the time to evaluate your options?

The scenes in which Taryn goes to find Dylan’s body and Ahriman interacts with the Queen for the last time – are those supposed to be Taryn and Briana sleeping on the flight home? – Emma R.

Yes! I was really hoping somebody got that. I go to a fair bit of trouble to make sure that I’m respecting the realities of human sleep – in other words, I don’t have anyone fall asleep when it’s completely unnatural for them to do so. Taryn is an exception, for obvious reasons. But yes, you’re correct – that’s them dozing off on their respective flights back to California. Although Taryn’s scene may be her falling asleep at the gate; that’s how Sabine finds her, after all.

I don’t remember Ahriman – the Sensate – ever touching Taryn in horse form. How did she know who Taryn was?  – Nilaya A.

She did touch her.  It happened in the scene in which Dylan, in the form of Levanter, serves in the rear guard of the horses – the first night he goes into the valley with them.

What’s the name of the next book? – Megan S.

It’s down to among three names, and to be honest, I just need to decide which of the three is most pertinent to the theme and substance of the book. I’m not keeping a secret here – it’s just that I actually haven’t decided which one it’s going to be.

Would it really have been possible to forge iron of the right grade in a coal-fired forge? What about reaching the Curie temperature for the magnetization process? – Sarah T.

I did my research on this! According to Marks’ Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers , 10th Edition, coal gas burns at about 3,590°F (1,977°C) under 100% air-efficient conditions. More or less air will decrease the temperature. This means that the maximum temperature of a coal fire in a forge is about 3,500°F (1,927°C). The melting point of iron is 2,796.8°F; the Curie temperature of iron is 1,418°F. Matthew would have needed to build a very good, but by no means perfect, coal-fired forge to accomplish both tasks.

How is that Josh returned to Reswyt as Evynder? I thought that, once he was awakened in the dreaming world, he could never go back. – Mackenzie M.

Well, it would be an ill wind that blew no good from Josh’s injury. I’ll give you a hint – oneiric (dreaming) activity was shown to be markedly disrupted in patients with trauma to the parietal lobe of the brain.

Are you going to keep Sabine’s diary going on Twitter for the next book? – Kara R.

I haven’t decided yet, but my initial reaction is no. That was a really fun promotion to run, and I think a lot of people had fun finding and reading Sabine’s diary, but if I do another promotion for the third book, it will be something different.

What kind of mathematical sieve was Matthew coding? – Anandamayi G.

I didn’t pick a specific one, but the Sieve of Eratosthenes – a prime-finding sieve – is the most famous, and probably one of the most likely to be run in an operating-speed contest of the type he participated in.

Can whooping cough really cause narcolepsy? – Katie N.

I did a blog post on this, largely to allay reader concern. I won’t reset it here, since the full text is available on Subterraneum, but the short answer – for the overwhelming majority of human beings – is no. Taryn is something of a special case.

If the rest of the Ennead dies off, as is suggested in Reswyt, how did the Steersman survive? – Sati K.

The causative factor for the decline and death of the Ennead is the loss of human worship. That’s a pretty clear message in Reswyt – that Horus, as a hunting god, saw his worshipers decline once gunpowder was introduced to Egypt. I would imagine that other gods had the same experience as science, particularly the flourishing of advanced Islamic science during the period c.750 CE – c.1258 CE. The Steersman, however, is not a god in his own right; he’s a creation of a god, imbued with an aspect of Anubis (much like Ra created a separate aspect to serve as the Judge in Reswyt, if required).

Would Sabine really have died if her conscious form traveled through all Twelve Gates of Night? – Anna V.

I puzzled over that for a long time, even though it didn’t end up being a plot factor in this book. What I decided was that the weskhet-ra returns to Egypt each morning with no human souls on board. That would mean that the Steersman would at least have had to forcibly put her ashore in the Land of the Dead. Thank goodness it didn’t come to that.

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