Opening flashback – that’s rare – back to before the Votan dystopia. It’s the day the alien fleet arrives with a girl and a boy. Irisa watches – and Nolan joins her, the boy is him as a child and the girl his sister Rebecca.
In the real world and present Amanda has got Nolan to Yewl (who doesn’t just leave him to die) and is happy to take the help of vet Samir to try and save him. He ends up only alive because of machines – and Amanda asks Samir for a second opinion which does not amuse Yewl. Though Yewl rather graphically reports why she has a very very good reason to kill Amanda and Nolan. They do find Arctech in Nolan’s brain – under the same scar that was on Irisa’s head. Yewl demands Irisa be brought in
Which means Amanda has to find her to save Nolan – as she tells Berlin. Oopsie Berlin. She goes looking for where she left Irisa, pretending to follow a trail of blood to find her.
Bringing her to the clinic they identify the same tech in both of their heads – and they do better when they’re actually together because their brains are inter-dependent, which happened in the pods to help human Nolan survive in a Votan pod. Yewl is gloriously snarky and presents the only answer – cut open their heads and remove the tech.
To do this she needs Omec technology which means talking to Kenzi – who agrees but only if it means they don’t owe them anything. She threatens Yewl, Yewl is way better at word games because she’s awesome like that.
While the doctor keep them alive, Irisa and Nolan continue to get flashbacks of Nolan’s memories: of him and his sister fighting in the war – and young!Nolan refusing to kill an Irathient pretending to surrender who then killed his sister. Irisa tries to talk to Nolan about it who refuses before angsting about how it was his fault they were both enlisted in the first place and how she loathed the war. They have another flashback to 1 year after Arkfall and the end of the war. Nolan has little child!Irisa with him and this is when they become Archunters, making money off selling Arc wreckage; and how Nolan back then denied being Irisa’s dad. And how he was still violently into killing, torturing and mangling Irathients.
Irisa is not impressed by this memory – and child!Irisa looks at her. It leads to Irisa asking just why Nolan would keep her around when he loathed Votans –ultimately because Nolan saw a child. And her being born on Earth made her different to him which Irisa is excellent at countering and makes it very clear she is a Votan, just like the others. But he also considered her untouched by the atrocities of the Pale Wars. There’s a lot of complex there
More memories, including teaching child Irisa to be ruthless – and make her kill a helpless Castithan. Which kind of puts the lie to the whole idea that she was untouched by horror. Which leads to more debate between the two – Nolan upset that it hurt Irisa more than she knew, but still standing by the importance of the lesson. Which leads to another flashback with child!Irisa nearly stabbing Nolan while he slept – oops, Nolan didn’t remember that one. Nolan is aghast that it happened but Irisa tells him she was scared of him.
The surgery wakes and they both wake up – but Kenzi seems to take a tissue sample off Yewl when they do so. Nolan and Irisa can address more of their memories with the lie Irisa now confronts – Nolan is ok with killing but she isn’t and never has been. She decides she has to leave – because she will have to kill with the war coming. She doesn’t want to be there to see Nolan be what he is best – a killer. Nolan concedes the point – living and killing together only works in a war zone, but not when you’re living.
Except Yewl drops a bombshell – she couldn’t remove the arc tech, only strengthen it. So they’re going to be fine – only if they stay together
Irisa tells Nolan to go away – but not too far, obviously
Over to the Tarrs. Datak is losing his temper over Stahma’s failure (he threw a vase at her and really crosses several lines talking to the baby). Stahma is not impressed with the way he’s treating her (though, really, I think her reaction is not close to strong enough) and derides Datak’s plan of just shooting T’evgin because he’s so old and powerful.
Instead Stahma uses her mind (in addition to saying she’s quite like to see Datak disembowelled) and suggests using T’evgin as an ally to exploit Rahm’s fear of Omec (a fear all Castithan have due to them being the bogeymen of their history and stories). Datak doubts she can because sex with her vagina isn’t magic, Stahma disagrees. And tells him to sit back and trust her. He concedes, which is always sensible.
So Stahma continues to have sex with T’evgin and trying to manipulate him (including an anecdote about the horrors of picnicking which I have to agree wholeheartedly with). I’m not impressed, Stahma, she’s grossly unsubtle. T’evgin is not eager to threaten the extinction of his entire race for the sake of Stahma.
Stahma understands and seems to deliberately stand in the way when they go outside to prevent Datak shooting him.
He returns to Kenzi and he’s furious she let an Indogene into their network – but Kenzi reveals what she took from Yewl: her “cerebral source print.” Something that will be useful to them because Yewl is awesome, and this print would allow them to create more Yewls (which is quite possibly a way to create Heaven. A wonderful, snarky Heaven). Lots of Yewls will help their Dread Harvest (which is probably not a good thing). T’evgin wisely realises the world is not ready for many Yewls – and he’s afraid of anything that may disrupt their plans, especially since Kenzi is young and therefore vulnerable.
At camp Rahm, Alakk is giving the unpleasant job of chopping the heads off death humans for trophies. He does manage to steal a knife though which also him to kill the man guarding him.
Rahm gets a visitor from a human arms dealer that even he finds contemptible – selling out humanity for money. However, he also likes Littleshop of Horrors so can’t be all bad.
Alakk cuts Rahm and manages to drive off.
Back at the Tarr house, Andina (Stahma’s servant) seems to be a Rahm sympathiser – when Alak arrives and holds a knife to Stahma’s throat… for killing Christie.
Irisa and Nolan – their memories, their growth as characters, the way they both remembered different things, the way they understood things differently. This was some excellent character building. From Nolan’s hatred to the way he tried to separate Irisa from Votans and her refusal of that (and that does have real world parallels without being directly appropriative – how many minorities find themselves being cast as the “good X” or “not like the rest of them”?) – to the whole new way of looking at Irisa’s congoing reluctance to kill and her relationship with Nolan with a lovely extra hit at how Nolan fighting to survive has left him not particularly able to live with anything like peace. There are a lot of complexities there which really made both characters very real
I also love the world building of Defiance because they always try to work in complexities – look at the Omec. They’re rather contemptuous and utterly unafraid of Castithans – but look at Indogene’s both as an easily mined resource but also as something to fear. It’s the layers of complexity that make a world real.
I still think Yewl needs more push back after what happened to her
I’m also, though it horrifies me to admit it, not a big fan of Stahma’s manipulation because it’s so blatant. She’s better than this. I also really need her to set Datak back a lot more with his nasty misogynist rants