Firestone Key Character Study 1 – Elaine
There’s no doubt that Elaine is a troubled soul; even her conception was overshadowed by a portent of doom, courtesy of the arriving Firestone. It’s no accident that she spends much of the book oblivious to the cursed rock hanging around her neck as though it were a noose.
When we first meet her, she’s already laden down with the heavy baggage of an appalling childhood, scars apparent, both external and internal. It takes a while for the origin of her livid facial scar to be revealed and, fittingly, it’s another marred victim who is forced to witness it; their tortured bodies a visual metaphor for their wounded internal worlds.
Unlike Harlin, Elaine’s unlimited mind has served as a blessing of sorts; an escape from her private hell and the only home she has ever known. The move to the Academy brings little in the way of further trauma to a child who is effectively alone, alienated and utterly withdrawn. The extraordinary and vibrant friendship of Leila and Neil changes her world in terms of opportunity and action, but does nothing to penetrate the hard shell and actually touch her heart. She feels a duty towards them and mistakes it for affection. Her sense of self remains anchored in her usefulness and capacity, rather than in character or soul. The concept of innate human worth remains a mystery.
It’s the oppressed villagers, and especially the equally damaged Harlin, who finally pierce the darkness, partly because he acts as a mirror to her own condition, but also because he wants nothing from her and even acts in her defence – something her mother left far too late. The tragic consequences of that one flash of defiance lies dormant until Elaine is faced with the fate of surrogate mother, Melith. For the first time, she fights for the welfare of someone she cares for, even facing the monster that was her father, in the form of Baal.
It’s hardly surprising that, once the craving for family has been unleashed within her, she will do the unthinkable to return to them. That understandable, but far reaching betrayal sets in motion events that blight the lives of all around her and deliver them up to their own impossible choices.
Consequences accelerate, spilling over in time, until the cycle of darkness can only be broken by the shattering of the seemingly indestructible Firestone. The elusive Key comes to stand for, not just the breaking of addiction, but an escape from the prison of alienation and the redemption of dark choices.
In the end, Elaine finds her redemption, whilst the Queen does not, and it has little to do with what either woman deserves. So, is it fair? Frankly, no. Redemption is not a fair concept, after all, principally because it supplants justice. It is, however, a necessary one, for on it hangs the hope of becoming more than we have been.
Live it like it matters.