Imperial Transitions (How much can we trust Paarfi)

charles_sumner at harvard.edu charles_sumner at harvard.edu
Fri Jun 20 09:47:29 PDT 2003

At 11:00 AM 6/20/2003 -0400, Jag wrote:
>We've seen, or seen close to two handing offs of the Orb, where one
>Emperor(ess) willingly stepped down and handed it off to the next
>House.  This happened shortly before the beginning of FHYA, and we also
>know Zerika hands the Orb off to Norathar sometime before Paarfi

Paarfi does talk about the Emperor before Tortaalik stepping down, but 
that's a minor background point in a "historical romance" not an event we 
actually "see" happen.  There may very well have been more going on there 
than we know about (although I do agree with you on this one for the most 
part, I'm just playing devil's advocate).

As for the Zerika to Norathar transition, I can't recall if actually know 
any of the details of this.  We can tell from Paarfi's dedication page the 
date of the hand off, but do we really know what happened?

>And we sorta saw a 'normal' transition after the death of an
>Emperor(ess).  After Tortaalik's death, the Orb did stop and process for
>a moment to determine who the next Emperor should be, and settled on
>Andron.  [Cut how this led to the disaster]

Good observation. I had forgotten about the moment right before the 
disaster when the Orb chose Adron.  Although there was nothing at all 
normal about the events surrounding the disaster, that scene does help us 
determine what a normal transition is as we "see" the Orb making the 
decision - another indication of it's intelligence.

Of course, this brings up a much bigger question about how much can we 
trust Paarfi on these details.  We know that he is writing a work of 
popular historical fiction and he researched the events and interviewed 
some of the players, but we have to assume that he's romanticized it for 
his audience (Don't forget that Brust is basing this on Dumas who took 
documentable historical events and wrote a story around them adding his own 
characters and motivations).

Do we believe that Paarfi managed to get interviews with the first-hand 
witnesses of that event?  The only people direct knowledge of what happened 
in that room are Sethra, Aleria, Mario, and Zerika (through the Orb) and I 
can't see them talking to him about it.  Even if they did though, their 
accounts are sure to be colored by their personal feeling on the 
matter.  We know that Aleria has told differing accounts of the disaster to 
others, so I could see her telling Paarfi a version of what happened that 
makes her father look more noble than he was.  In fact, events in Issola 
make it clear that there are some things about the disaster that Aleria has 
never told anyone.  This goes a long way towards explaining why 
descriptions of the Disaster are different in the Khaavren romances then 
they are in the Taltos novels.

Also, if what Paarfi said was actually true, that throws the whole cycle 
out of whack as it means the actual transition of emperors was Phoenix 
Decadent --> Dragon (for a few minutes) --> Interregnum --> Phoenix 
Ascendant and that just doesn't seem right.  Phoenix Decadent --> 
Interregnum --> Phoenix Ascendant is much more plausible from the 
standpoint of the cycle itself; because if Adron really was the emperor 
according to the Orb, then it should still be the Dragon reign after the 
Interregnum (or possibly the Lyorn reign).  One could argue that the 
Interregnum reset the cycle itself as the Empire didn't exist during that 
period, but I think it's easier to believe that Paarfi may have made that 
part up to make Adron look more justified in his actions.

Don't forget that there's a meta-level to the Paarfi books.  They were not 
written by Brust but by a character in Vlad's world and published 
there.  We know that Vlad and Cawti read Paarfi's works and consider them 
to be romantic fiction, not a history of the events they're set 
around.  Based on that, we have to be careful about taking anything in them 
as fact just because the books are as real to us as the Taltos books are.

Charley Sumner
charles_sumner at harvard.edu

"That's brilliant!  They've hid the information in
plain sight by disguising it as a web page."