Book Club Discussion Questions

The Lord Jester’s Legacy
The Poisoned Past

(warning: some questions may contain spoilers)

How accurate is Lark’s perception of his physical appearance and his physical abilities? How does he describe himself vs. how other characters respond to him and treat him? Does this change through the series as he gets older? How much of that is growth and how much is reputation? His attitude? His masks?

Mark/Lark’s first real friendship is with Grant Roadman. What are some of the positive aspects of this relationship? How about the negative aspects? Is Grant Roadman a good friend for Mark, a poor one, or mixed?

How does Grant’s homophobia affect Mark? How does Mark reconcile/excuse that? What was the most important factor that convinced Mark to forgive Grant and continue to idealize him?
a) Sexual/romantic attraction
b) Heroism/the rescue
c) Grant’s emotional fragility/vulnerability
d) Grant’s loyalty and reputation as a ‘good man’ or ‘best of men’
e) How Grant appears to be a perfect man (like Mark’s memory of his father)
f) Some other reason

Is Lark a groomed victim, and if so does he grow past it, take advantage of that part of himself, or both? Are there instances where his training works to his emotional advantage as he endures trauma and pain? How does his training negatively impact his ability to form trusting relationships? How does his training help him form relationships?

Some of the characters in these books are not neuro-typical, most prominently Rohn Evan, Gutter, Feather, Laura/Ellen, and Cockatrice. Without quibbling over diagnoses, what advantages and disadvantages do these characters have over neuro-typical characters? Would these characters be less successful, more successful, or the same in our society if they had a diagnosis, treatment and support?

How does Mark’s views on jesters change as he becomes more adept at his work? How does this influence his sense of self-worth?

How do the cultural views on male-victim rape in the books compare to our own? Do you see forms of minimizing, victim-blaming, etc. from the characters in the books? What coping strategies do you see in the victim and others affected by the rape? How do you think this will affect the victim’s relationships long-term?

If you had the power, which characters would you prosecute for rape, and what sentences would you impose assuming you could get a conviction?

What conscious and subconscious reasons do you believe justify Mark/Lark’s repugnance for the Too Mon mask? Do other characters seem as bothered by this mask, and if so, can you explain why or why not?

Can you imagine what a mask similar to the Gelantyne mask would be like if it contained the following beings, and should anyone attempt to create such a mask? If someone did try to make such a mask, would you try to stop them at all costs, simply warn them that it might not be a good idea to make such a mask, or support the making of such a mask?
a) Ruby
b) A portion of the Trokellestrai’s consciousness
c) Daprai
d) Wendryl
e) Medronei
f) some other sacred being

As Lark explores his sexuality, he questions his loyalty/faithfulness.How do you think Rohn views Lark’s sexual activities? How do you think Verai views Lark’s sexual activities? Do you think Lark would be more effective, less effective, or just as effective as a jester if he didn’t manipulate people sexually?

Who do you think is Lark’s perfect romantic match in the books, or does he have more than one? What is Lark’s healthiest relationship? His least healthy relationship? If you would give him romantic advice, what would it be?

As Lark matures, his dreams and goals become more nuanced. How does his views about his work affect those dreams and goals, and how do they change over time? When some of his dreams are realized, what aspects of those realized dreams are more satisfying than his fantasies? What aspects are less satisfying or not as he’d hoped? Had he become a sailor instead of a jester, do you think he would be happier at age twenty two, not as happy, or the same? How about if he reached his forties? Or old age/retirement?

Do you believe that Lark’s struggles with substance abuse and the tendency to self-medicate will decrease, stay the same, or become more difficult over time? Is his willpower enough to keep his alcoholism and substance abuse from worsening, or will he need support? Who are his best allies to help him? Which characters make it harder for him to keep these tendencies to self-medicate from getting worse?

Is the Hevether household a good home for young princess Laura, aka Ellen? Which parental figure do you think is best for her, and why? Would she be better off with one or two parents in particular, or is it more beneficial for her to be raised by the entire household?

Winsome’s relationship with Mark/Lark is complicated by romantic feelings. If you were her best friend, what advice would you give her in regard to those feelings and her role in his life throughout the books:
a) when she first tells you about the jester she saw in court
b) when she tells you that she intends to get his help with a dangerous conspiracy that may involve her and her family
c) when she’s approached with an offer of courtship from the colonel
d) when she tells you that she intends to follow her father and Lark to the continent
e) when she leaves the islands again to go after Lark

In the book’s culture, society doesn’t distinguish between different kinds of mental illness and its sources, and attempts to treat and contain aberrant behaviors via asylums. If you had the power, would you separate Stricken, people suffering from inherited, lifelong conditions, people struggling with mental health issues that are a result of momentary health imbalances, and people suffering from side effects of physical/spiritual injury or complications from drugs? If you became mentally ill, what kind of care would you want to receive: care through the Church, care within the context of a family and/or secular physician, self and/or care within a trusted family or group of friends, or care in our real world? Is the world of masks more effective, the same, or less effective at dealing with mentally ill people as our world?

Let’s pretend that three hundred years have passed and technology, democratic politics and the legal system have advanced to equal our own (though of course there will be differences). Do you see masks as something that should be licensed and regulated? Should police officers or other public employees be allowed to wear masks (or perhaps even required)? What about everyday citizens and/or employees and/or employers? Should there be a legal age restriction? Should mask-wearing be restricted around children or permitted only in certain areas?

I hope you enjoyed these questions. Feel free to use the contact form if you would like to suggest some of your own. I may add them with your permission.