Monday, December 03, 2018

The Silk Betrayal main character: Pavresh

Welcome (back) to our month-long dive into The Silk Betrayal. We’ll start out this unbirthday celebration with a look at one of the characters. The first character we meet in The Silk Betrayal is Pavresh. The novel is a multi-POV story, with many key characters and interesting side characters, but Pavresh’s arc is what gives the novel much of its overall storyline.

So who is Pavresh?

He’s young, around twenty at the start of the novel, and trying to make his own way in the world. He grew up on site of a remote mine, isolated from most of the world. His father is the operator of the mine and relatively well to do (mid-caste), but because of that social standing and because of the strict caste system, Pavresh has little interaction with the low-caste miners, and even less with the untouchables, who are sent to work in the deepest, most dangerous parts of the mines.

At some point prior to the book, though, he managed to get to know one miner fairly well and learn the rudiments of a new form of magic, arcist magic. I’ll write more about arcist magic in a future post, but what matters most to him, what intrigues him is that it’s a magic of performance, more like music than some powerful thing done to change the fates of armies and nations. So it seems.

Having learned all he can in secret from that low-caste miner, he runs away from his father’s mine to seek out the man who discovered arcist magic, the now-infirm former soldier named Chaitan. He wants to learn everything about the magic, to earn a measure of fame even, if possible. As for the other serious matters facing the Eghsal Valley at large, he has never had any occasion to concern himself with those things. Not yet.

In appearance...well, I tend to be a minimalist with physical descriptions of characters. Certain key details might be mentioned and much left to the imaginations of readers. He is described as thin, and his skin is compared by different characters to copper, cinnamon, and rust. And like all the people of the valley’s dominant culture, he has dark hair.

The key feature of his appearance, though, is that he has an uncanny ability to blend in. Not in a camouflage kind of way, out in the wild, but among other people he always seems to belong. People overlook him, forget about his presence, assume he is supposed to be wherever he happens to be. Over the course of the story he learns to augment this natural ability through his magic and become next to invisible.

Like his family, Pavresh belongs to the Enshi religion, a minority religion that worships the fire but casts aside the gods of the valley’s dominant religion for a more mystical approach. Pavresh wears a sacred belt as part of his practice of his religion, a thin rope called a kusti that he wraps several times around his waist and ties with specific sacred knots. He performs specific rituals with that belt, specific movements that would look to our eyes like some cross between yoga, martial arts, and meditation. When he finds himself threatened, he uses the belt, which is a pretty poor whip-like weapon but a pretty good distraction if he can time the quick, cutting movements right.

I’ll talk more in another post about real-world inspirations, but I want to acknowledge here, with respect, the Parsi people and their traditions, which influenced this religion and the way Pavresh honors it.

The book opens with Pavresh nearing the capital city, Romnai, and encountering a field of devastation, where two trains—new contraptions of the impending industrial changes—have crashed. From that image of destruction and change, the book’s core storyline begins.

Come back for more on The Silk Betrayal soon!

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