This is the second in a four-part blog series about THE HEIR AND THE SPARE. This post examines our hero (…?), Jaoven of Capria.
As usual, SPOILER ALERT.
Prince Jaoven of Capria
Jove was a difficult balancing act, creatively, because two sides of his character exist: the bully that Iona remembers, and the person he actually is. The reader gets more exposure to the former, thanks to the mostly-Iona-centered POV. The latter comes to light in how he acts as the book progresses.
Jaoven is four years removed from his bullying behavior, with mountains of personal growth and experience to reform him. He has made peace with many of his erstwhile victims (Neven representing that class) and believes himself truly changed for the better. He and his father have suspended the Royal Academy, which fostered much of the class-oriented unrest that led to Capria’s civil war, and his most ambitious goal moving forward is to engender unity among his people regardless of their rank.
But Capria has to stabilize first, and that means a treaty.
Which brings him face to face with the person he hurt the most.
Politicking gets in the way
On their first encounter in Wessett, Jaoven doesn’t know why “Yanna” is there. Did she flee during the war? Is she part of a faction trying to undermine the treaty negotiations? After four years of paranoia and back-stabbery, he immediately assumes the worst.
This leads to his first political blunder: he should never have taken her with his delegation into Wessett’s royal court. However, he also knows from past experience that Yanna of Ghemp disappears if you let her out of your sight. He couldn’t risk that, so he brought her along anyway.
The revelation that she’s actually Iona of Wessett further derails his purposes. He’s now juggling between a past persona—the bully who needs to make amends—and a present one—the prince who desperately needs a treaty. In one fell swoop, his sincerity is wrecked. Any apology he makes will seem opportunistic and/or contrived (which is how Iona reads them), but he cannot move forward with the treaty when his grave offenses yet stand.
Even if she wasn’t a princess, he would have apologized. However, it would have been more private, given in the course of him assessing what she was doing on foreign soil and whether she posed a threat to Capria’s future. Her true identity puts him between a rock and a hard place. He has to own up to his previous sins, but he also has to push forward with a treaty that his kingdom’s future depends on him to forge.
Mechanics of an apology
I was careful when crafting his apologies, none of this “if my actions hurt you” garbage or brushing aside what he did as water under the bridge. He knows he was horrible, even though from his perspective a lifetime has passed since he was that insufferable jerk.
This is why he sends Neven as an intermediary rather than seeking Iona out and forcing his apology on her. He allows her to come and leave, giving her autonomy in the situation. Ultimately, it is her choice to accept or reject his petition even as he pleads his case.
In his interactions with her from that point onward, he repeatedly defers to her:
- He’s careful about touching her without permission, except in life-or-death scenarios
- He backs off when she tells him to, even when he’s upset with her
My intent was to show him conscious of not overstepping his bounds. He actually does feel remorse for past wrongs and does respect Iona/Yanna as a person, beyond a shallow, political attempt to win her favor. Whether I succeeded reflects largely on how any one reader perceives Jaoven, whether with Iona’s original contempt or her slowly evolving forgiveness.
Not actually all that opportunistic
For me, Jaoven is a study in sincerity vs. strategy. Is he truly penitent, or is he only putting on a show to get his treaty?
As it turns out, he often acts against Capria’s interests. For example,
- His defense of musicians and artists during the first dinner puts him at odds with Lisenn, whose favor he’s supposed to be currying.
- That same evening, he withdraws the Caprian delegation from the assembly in consideration of Iona alone. This risks an insult to King Gawen and loses him an opportunity to network among the Wessettan nobles and deal-makers.
- And, of course, he jumps into a river to save the sister of his almost-affianced. A responsible crown prince should have remained safely on dry ground.
None of these actions helps Capria. Rather, they illustrate Jaoven himself, that he has developed the integrity to say and do what he believes is correct even if it conflicts with what would best benefit his purposes.
The indelible effect of a broken arm
Joaven’s reformation found its start not during the civil war, but immediately before. If Iona hadn’t broken her arm in that year’s hunt, the whole of Capria’s future would have taken a different turn. It was the first time he came face to face with what an utter piece of trash he was. Every other incident he could excuse—as accidents, unintended consequences, deserved comeuppances, or whatever other justifications we humans use to push away responsibility.
But he knew that broken arm was a direct result of his short temper toward someone smaller and weaker. That Iona hid it from him only confirmed he had crossed a terrible line. She didn’t even try to appeal to his sympathy.
For the first time in his memory, he was unquestionably the Bad Guy.
Thus, he entered the war with a better understanding of how his enemies saw him. He knew why they felt vindicated in their cause. The broken arm proved that he and his friends weren’t “just having fun” or that others were blowing things out of proportion. It was irrefutable evidence—for Jaoven, at any rate—that changes absolutely had to occur, especially if his side maintained power after the war.
But again, ultimately, it’s the reader’s choice whether to forgive him, in much the same way that it’s Iona’s.