Mistress of the Jewels

Guide and Commentary

The stark dualism of Light versus Darkness (which should in no wise be confused with Good versus Evil) is the pervading theme of the first Westrian duology, originally published in two volumes as Lady of Light and Lady of Darkness and reissued in one volume as Mistress of the Jewels in the US and Lady of Light, Lady of Darkness in the UK.

This is made apparent from even the opening paragraph of Chapter One, where we see the black of a stormy night cloven in two by the white heat of lightning:

Light slashed across the darkness, illuminating in bas-relief the snow-powdered mountains and the outworks of the hold, the glimmer of Faris’ face in the window she had just pushed open…She took a deep breath of the damp wind, blinking as the radiance faded and night swept back over the world.

Through this storm a king is riding. When the lightning shows him the face of the girl in the window, a conflict between light and darkness begins that will eventually decide the fate of a kingdom.

Whether it appears in one volume or two, Lady of Light and Darkness (Mistress of the Jewels) is chronologically the first of the Chronicles of Westria. It sets up the relationships that will drive the action for the next five books. Although (as explained in “How Westria Came to Be” I originally cast these books as juvenile fantasies, the action of Mistress of the Jewels involves some specifically adult themes, so it is fortunate that by the time I had a publishable version ready, the genre fiction market had evolved and adult fantasy was saleable once more.

Structurally, the Westria books are organized around the symbolism of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. From that point of view, Lady of Light and Lady of Darkness represent the two pillars of Mercy and Severity. They can also be seen as Ying and Yang, or any other set of balanced opposites. Although the story in the first book is less tragic than that of the second, Darkness is not equated with evil. Rather, the lesson to be learned is that only by accepting and understanding the shadows can one appreciate the light.

In writing this book, I was faced with a number of questions regarding motivation. Why did Caolin betray the King? Why was the King so irresponsible? Why was Faris so insecure? It gradually became clear to me that only thwarted love could provide the driving force to explain Caolin’s evolution from devoted servant to evil genius, and it was not until I neared the end of The Jewel of Fire that I finally figured out what had originally caused Caolin to block the psychic receptivity for which he so desperately longed. However as soon as I began to write from his point of view, Caolin changed from a villain to a character for whom one could feel some sympathy. His great gift, and his greatest flaw, is his brilliant intellect. He is convinced that only he can keep the Kingdom going, and to some extent he’s right. Of course, he is not the first genius to have reasoned that the end justifies the means, and gradually, preserving his own position and preserving the kingdom become identified. He tries to convince himself he has no choice, that he is only reacting to the deeds of others. But his attempts to evade inner conflict by doing the deed that will finally damn him are unending, because the choice to abandon his pride and turn from evil always comes back again.

Jehan has a different set of problems. He is to some extent a prisoner of his position, and his brilliance and charisma are a disguise for his own insecurities. He has been spoiled, and hurt when his trust was betrayed. Unfortunately this leaves him unable to perceive or comprehend his contribution to Caolin’s problems until it is too late. Because his upbringing did not teach him how to deal with adversity, he lacks the mental toughness and moral courage to face his guilt and go on. Nonetheless, his charm is hard to resist. I always fall a little in love with my characters, and he’s no exception.

Faris is in some ways easier to understand. She comes from a dysfunctional family, and her father has emotionally brutalized her until she has no self-confidence at all. The scarred arm is only a visible representation of her scarred soul.