Now, before I delve into this, LKH is on record stating that the Merry Gentry series was her attempt to cheat on her then-husband without actually cheating. This is not speculation. This is something the author has said more than once. So the premise of this series is actually really shallow: Justification for lots and lots and lots of rainbow sex.
Nicca paced closer to the table. “I don’t know, but I do know this: Taranis has broken our most sacred taboos. He’s been hiding his own infertility for at least a century, because he exiled Maeve for refusing to marry him on the grounds that he was infertile. He has knowingly condemned his own court to a fading of their power, their fertility, and everything they are.
Literally everything in this series is tied to fertility. Magic, political power, sex, marrige, symbolism, it all feeds into this concept of fertility as the be-all-end-all of everything. Admittedly, Wicca, which is what LKH is cribbing off of, is a fertility religion. A great deal of its tools symbolize either a penis or a vagina, the little tiny bit I've been able to dig up on the initation ceramonies make it very clear that it's all about anatomy from the start (I believe the initation involves having to kiss the High Priest's penis at one point, which is why initiation is limited to eighteen and up) So if that's your crib sheet, a lot of that is going to bleed over into the rest of your work. But here, the great crime of Taranis is that he can't impregnate a woman. The great sorrow of Anadais is that she can't get pregnant. If you want to get married, you have to be pregnant first. Everything is either bunny-rabbit level fertile or withering and dying away.
This disturbs me. It comes very, VERY close to saying that you're not a whole person if you are not fertile yourself, and in a fertile pairing. Taranis is a wicked king, not because he's a murdering psychopathic shithead who repeatedly battered our main character and god knows how many other people, but because he's shooting blanks and hiding it. This whole "Fertility first and foremost" attitude that Merry and the Fae in general hold to is awfully close to the Quiverful movement in Christianity (in which you basically forget about birth control and fuck each other's brains out, because GOD is deciding how many kids you get.) which is in turn probably the single most damaging movement in Christianity today. And it takes a great deal of the value of a person, and a marrige, off of how one treats others and puts it all on how many good eggs you've got in your ovaries.
I would say that, in the Fae's defense, they're dying out, but that doesn't hold. As I have said in almost every entry so far, the entire conflict of this novel could be solved by a petri dish and a turkey baster. Human science could absolutely help in this senario, and if the fae really were that desperate, they'd be falling all over themselves to get to a fertility expert. It probably wouldn't be a perfect fix, but it's an option that NO ONE has tried in this series to date.
The reverse of this is a line from Erin Brockovitch. To paraphrase, if you've got no uterus and no breasts, do you still count as a woman? Even if you exclude the issues transgender people face (Which you shouldn't do) placing the focus of a person's identity and value on not only their assigned birth sex but also on the functionality of their genitalia opens the door for massive amounts of psychological damage, and equally massive amounts of psychological control. And while I don't think LKH intended even one single ounce of this to appear in the book, it even holds true here.
“We all agree that what Taranis has done was selfish and not deeds fit for a king,” Doyle said, “but he is king. We cannot accuse him of his crimes, and see him punished.” “Why not?” Kitto asked, still huddled in his chair, sipping his hot chocolate. “He is king,” Doyle repeated.
Basically, you've got a society in the final stages of collapse, being ruled by a tyrant who allows no questioning whatsoever, and thanks to the massive amounts of institutionalized control installed here, he will never be at risk for being thrown out.
Sage, the little demi-fey, then interrupts this by saying that he'll have to tell Queen Niceven, but that if Merry will fuck him, he'll keep his mouth shut until he is physcially at the court.
It takes several pages for him to tell her this. Most of the chapter.
Then they go back to "should we give Taranis back the cup?" and it is page after page after page after page AFTER PAGE of unrelenting boring "As you know bob" recaps, most of which is already covered by preceeding pages, and most of which is chasing its own tail. They basically say "Merry has to go to Taranis's ball and we don't know why" for three pages. Nothing is resolved. Then they go back to "Merry has to screw the half-goblins" and everyone begs her not to because it's going to be just oh, so nasty to do so.
And then LKH shits on the Irish, just to make everything very special.
“The Irish fight among themselves, that’s why they keep coming up short,” Rhys said. Doyle gave him an unfriendly look. “It’s the truth, Doyle, they’re still killing each other over who crosses themselves when they bend a knee to the Christian God. You don’t see the Scots, or the Welsh, slaughtering each other over a matter not of which god they pray to, but of how they pray to the very same God. I mean, that’s a crazy reason to kill each other.”
Something completely unrelated to LKH or Merry Gentry: One of the concepts that I really, really like is the idea of symbols and how they interact with spirituality. In one system of thought, there's two types of symbols: Typological symbols, or things dealing with type--ie that Sage=air--and Mythological symbols, or things dealing with time. The example one of my favorite books uses for a mythological symbol is the story of Cain and Able. That within that story is an explination that two brothers will kill each other, not in spite of worshipping the same god, but because they worshipped the same God. It seems to be a characteristic of humanity.
Finally, they decide to stick the cup in a bedroom drawyer and forget about it. End of chapter.