A+ Ships is a bi-weekly feature celebrating relationships in fiction between characters that fall along the asexual spectrum. For more information, see the A+ Ships FAQ.
Book two in The Shadow Campaigns, the “epic fantasy of military might and magical conflict” (Library Journal) from the author of The Thousand Names…
The King of the Vordan is on his deathbed. Soon his daughter, Raesinia will be the first Queen Regnant in centuries—and a target for those who seek to control her. The most dangerous is Duke Orlanko, Minister of Information, and master of the secret police. He is the most feared man in the kingdom, and he knows an arcane secret that puts Raesinia completely at his mercy.
But Raesinia has found unlikely allies in the returning war hero Janus bet Vhalnich, and his loyal deputies, Captain Marcus d’Ivoire and Lieutenant Winter Ihernglass. As Marcus and Winter struggle to find their places in the home they never thought they would see again, they help Janus and Raesinia set in motion events that could shatter Orlanko’s powers, but perhaps at the price of throwing the nation into chaos. But with the people suffering under the Duke’s tyranny, they intend to protect the kingdom with every power they can command, earthly or otherwise.
Last year I read The Thousand Names and was very pleasantly surprised to discover that Winter Ihernglass was a canon lesbian. That (as it usually does) made me extra attached to an already very enjoyable book, and I was excited to read the sequel. My main ship for The Shadow Throne is non-canon, though, at least in the way I think of it.
I read Raesinia as aromantic asexual. This is never explicitly stated, but there’s evidence for it. Her plot line involves sneaking out of the palace and pretending to be a University student, using this disguise to stir up the citizenry against Duke Orlanko. One of the members of her cabal, Ben, has an unrequited crush on her, which she sees as problematic both for the security of the group, but also because she doesn’t know how to handle it:
“If he ever managed to spit it out–Then what? Break his heart, and risk him leaving the group? That didn’t sound like Ben, but Raesinia didn’t have much experience when it came to men and romance. Or else…play along? How? That possibility was just a blur in her mind, a vaguely unthinkable gap. I don’t think I could fake love well enough to fool him.
It would have been easier for all concerned if she had actually fallen in love with him. She wasn’t certain she was still capable of that, though.”
The “still” in the last line refers to a magical binding placed on her several years before, when she was deathly ill, that grants her a sort of immortality by not only healing her, but preventing her from aging and even becoming drunk. She wonders if the binding views love as an illness, and says she “wouldn’t mind that, on the whole.”
The only other time anything vaguely romantic crosses Raesinia’s mind is when she’s contemplating possible marriages now that she’s Queen, appraising both Janus and Marcus as potential matches. Her assessment is based on personality, loyalty, and monarchal competence, though, with “handsome enough” as an afterthought.
Sothe is Raesinia’s maidservant and a former assassin for Orlanko, and is both Raesinia’s protector and her closest friend and confidante. She never gets a point-of-view chapter, and she’s a fairly stoic character, but her dedication to Raesinia and Raesinia alone is clear, and Raesinia herself is very attached to Sothe. During a period in which Sothe’s whereabouts and wellbeing are unknown, Raesinia thinks of her frequently, “throat thicken[ing]” with worry. When Sothe finally reappears, Raesinia throws herself forward to embrace her, “heedless of her dress and her dignity.”
I’m feeling a major connection here.
What I love about this ship is that while Raesinia has other friends, it’s clear that her relationship with Sothe is on another level entirely. She worries about her more even than her best friend from the cabal, despite Sothe’s obvious skill at protecting herself, and values Sothe as a companion as much as anything else. I’d love to see the beginning of their relationship–why Sothe left Orlanko’s ranks, and how she came to protect the princess, and how the princess came to trust her so much.
In the meantime, they are on my list of fave aromantic ace ships.