This post is part of a series of posts discussing characters and events in WARRIOR WITCH. They will all contain serious spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book, I’d suggest holding off on reading them. I’m even sticking a giant image of the cover below so that you don’t accidentally see anything you don’t want to.
I’ve heard two sorts of reactions from readers about the relationship/connection/chemistry between Marc and Sabine. The first is, “I totally shipped them! Why, why couldn’t you let them be together?”, and the second is, “I hated that plot arc! It felt unnecessary and like a betrayal of Pénélope!” Talk about a disparity in reaction!
First off, neither reaction is right or wrong. As a reader, you are 100% allowed to love or hate or be indifferent about anything an author puts in a book, and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to piss off. And the point of these character discussions is not to convince people who disliked certain aspects of the novel to change their opinion, but rather to share my reasons for making certain choices. Which, if nothing else, I hope you find expands the depth of your experience with my novels.
Many of you will be familiar with the blogger, Authoress, who runs lots of agent contests, posts great writing advice, and is generally awesome. (It was one of her writing contests where I met and subsequently signed with my own agent, Tamar). Anyway, she posted a question on Facebook a few months ago asking what was everyone’s favorite aspect of novels: plot, character, etc., and I responded with RELATIONSHIPS! Not just those of the romantic variety, but friends, family, nemeses. And not just between the protagonists or the protagonists and secondary characters, but between secondary characters themselves. I often find, especially in first person narratives, that almost all the conversation and relationship development involves at least one of the protagonists, which I find can lead to flat secondary characters, because they seem to exist solely to be sidekicks or sounding boards for the protagonists. With Marc and Sabine, I wanted to create a dynamic that was separate from Tristan and Cécile. For them to have conversations that didn’t include the protagonists, and for the reader to have the sense that many more of those conversations were happening off screen.
The second reason I created the connection between the two of them was to develop their character arcs. As much as I possibly can, I try to give my secondary characters their own plots, even if they are tiny. In my post on Marc, I talked a lot about the importance of Pénélope to his character, but here, I want to talk more about his identity as Tristan’s second-in-command in the revolution. Marc is deeply involved with the fight to overthrow Thibault and change the world of Trollus for the better – enough so that it is what allows him to push through the pain of losing Pénélope. There are many hints dropped throughout STOLEN SONGBIRD and HIDDEN HUNTRESS that Marc is doing much of the work behind the scenes, but he is never the leader. He always keeps to the shadows, both literally and metaphorically. Much of that is driven by his anxiety over people’s reaction to his appearance. Marc believes he looks like a monster – he says as much to Cécile in STOLEN SONGBIRD – and he expects negative reactions from those who look upon him. To that end, he is content to let Tristan constantly be in the limelight.
But in WARRIOR WITCH, Marc needs to step up and take a leadership role. This requires a huge step outside Marc’s comfort zone, and the connection he develops with Sabine helps him do it. Unlike Cécile (who screamed the first time she saw him), Sabine never reacts negatively to his appearance. She gravitates to Marc, and unlike everyone other than Pénélope, she values him more than Tristan.
“I respect Tristan,” Sabine continued. “Sometimes I even like him. And I truly believe he loves Cécile, and for that, I can forgive his faults.” Staring at the plate, she set it on the table. “But damned if he isn’t the most entitled creature I’ve ever met.”
Marc laughed softly. “It’s a common trait amongst the nobility, human and troll alike.”
Her eyes flicked to him. “Not you.”
“Yes, well…” He turned, tugging his hood forward so that his face was obscured. “He had some advantages I did not.”
She touched his sleeve; and though they looked nothing alike, for a moment, she reminded me of Pénélope. “I think you are the better man for it.”
Self-confidence comes from within, but that doesn’t mean that another person doesn’t have the power to harm an individual’s internal strength, or to bolster it, as Sabine does for Marc.
For Sabine, Marc plays a rather different role in her character development. He helps her find empathy in her heart for the trolls. Certainly at the beginning of HIDDEN HUNTRESS, Sabine HATES the trolls for what they did to her best friend. Despite everything Cécile tells her, she refuses to see the trolls as anything other than monsters that need to be punished. And Tristan’s arrival doesn’t do much to change that. In him, she sees a beautiful, brilliant, and powerful young man who has her best friend’s heart wrapped around his little finger. Nothing about him suggests that the trolls are in anything other than a glorious state in their city under the mountain. And his personality doesn’t exactly help the situation 🙂
It isn’t until she meets Marc that she sees the proof she needs to feel empathy for the trolls. The hurt he has endured is written all over him, not just from his iron-inflicted disfigurement, but also the black bonding marks on his hand. Unlike Tristan, Marc’s personality is the sort that speaks to her heart – he makes her see that not only are the trolls and humans alike in need of help, but that she is in a position to give it.
As she turned to leave, Marc caught her arm. “You aren’t helpless in this, Sabine. Circumstance has put you in a position to make a difference, if you are willing.”
Together, they form a team that holds Trianon together while Cécile and Tristan are off fighting other fights, and I am very fond of the unified force they create.
So why, oh why, didn’t I let them be together? Well, for one, just like Tristan, Marc would’ve had to go back to Arcadia. So there always would’ve been an end date on anything between them. Two, Marc’s heart belongs forever to Pénélope, as I think is made clear by the choice he made in the end. Which isn’t to say that he didn’t feel anything for Sabine – the heart, especially a heart like Marc’s, has room for many people.
So did anything happen between the two of them? Any stolen kisses or affectionate words that we didn’t get to see or hear? Cécile says it best:
I did not know the extent of the relationship between the two of them. How far their sentiment for each other went or whether it had been acknowledged. Sabine never said, and I knew better to ask. Whatever had happened was hers to share. Or not. But I knew he’d left a mark on her soul that would not soon fade, if it ever did.
Next post, I’m going to talk about Sabine’s life after the trolls left for Arcadia.
Comments are open for questions!