It’s not entirely accurate to say that the anime version of Whale and Milcha’s Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion ended exactly as the story began, but there are times in this first volume that feel that way. Following what Raeliana almost likely considers The Kiss and her encounter with Justin at the graveyard, the novel immediately throws our heroine into the deep end when Noah’s brother, the king, “invites” her to the palace. Raeli may be new to the nobility’s games, but she recognizes that this is more of a “summonses” than a “invitation,” and that it doesn’t care if she isn’t fully comfortable with the setting.
King Siathrich does not appear to be concerned with anyone’s ease or comfort. He puts on a devil-may-care demeanor that may fool his long-suffering aide Naomi, but it fails to fool Raeliana. This is due in part to her knowledge with the text, but he also doesn’t appear to be as involved in deceiving her. Siathrich’s attitude is at least partially motivated by his desire to taunt his younger brother, but there’s something more sinister lurking beneath the surface. This is illustrated by his preference for go (baduk in Korean), as opposed to Noah’s preference for chess. Chess, according to the British Go Association, is mostly about tactics, whereas go mixes tactics with strategy, a semantic distinction that effectively separates the overall picture from the procedures required to get there. Chess is about the small steps; go (by this definition) also considers the overall plan. As someone who hasn’t played either game, I can’t comment to how true this is, but the symbolism between the brothers’ games appears to be accurate: Noah is concerned with each precise move, whereas Siathrich appears to have a goal other than a generic “win” in mind. It’s unclear how Raeliana and her assumed power on Noah fit into that right now, but Siathrich believes she’s essential in some manner, even if he’s still deciding whether that’s a good thing.
He may be attempting to evaluate how important she is to her fiancé by making it tough for her to leave the royal palace. Siathrich is unmarried and has a reputation for being a womanizer; he has a child with a mistress. Said mistress is Freese Eriteal’s sister, which adds to the spiderweb of relationships at court and among the nobles, and the presumptive inclusion of Vivian as queen tightens the web even more – especially since her brother Justin is also powerful at court. If Raeliana isn’t at the center of the web, she’s certainly trying to navigate it carefully, and Siathrich may be more aware of this than she realizes. He’s a difficult guy to read, which makes him dangerous, something Noah appears to be completely aware of.
Beatrice is also beginning to resemble the spider in this metaphor. While Raeliana is stuck at the palace, Noah is investigating the exploding jewel event, and when he finds the probable perpetrator, he discovers that she has already been removed from the game. Was Beatrice involved in this? She’s been planning a move for at least two volumes, so she’s either getting sloppy (unlikely) or isn’t relying on Adam’s investigative abilities. If we assume she’s the real villain in this scenario, she’s been manipulating Vivian like a fiddle the whole time, and Raeliana is now the main impediment to gaining Noah. The preview says that the two will meet in volume five, which should clarify her ambitions, but right now we should be wondering how much Raeliana’s survival has changed her plans and what that’s done to her as a person. She was deadly before, but has Raeliana pushed her over the edge?
I use that phrase on purpose since we’re getting closer to understanding Eunha Park’s death (or migration). No one can resuscitate her when she falls asleep at the top of a clocktower, and it’s only when “Grandpa” Heika arrives that answers begin to emerge. Despite his earlier actions, Heika proves to be not only competent at his profession, but also a good grandfather, and his knowledge of all things spiritual and magical may be Raeliana’s best source of information. None of the answers have yet come together, but we can see distinct pictures emerging, much like a jigsaw puzzle of a quilt, with each square assembled separately.
In this chapter, Raeliana acknowledges that Noah has fallen for her, which is a huge victory for readers tired of oblivious romantic interests. That’s another square in the larger picture, albeit it’s unclear how or where it fits in. Should Noah have always ended up with Raeli, and is that why she was slain in the version Eunha knew? Is her death a catalyst in more than one way? And what is the villain’s true purpose, whether it is Beatrice or not? This volume is heating up quickly, and the wait for the next one will feel long.