Amy Plum gave me as an early Christmas present the most precious gift an author can give to a vivid reader and fan: one of her very first ARCs of If I Should Die, the highly anticipated third book in her Die For Me series. At first I was stunned. I had been lucky enough to meet Amy last September in Paris at a book signing alongside Josephine Angelini and Tara Hudson, who also wrote highly recommended YA Fantasy series. I’ve been happy that I accomplished that and now I had this ARC.
I did the obvious: I devoured the book. Amy had left us with the death of Vincent and his imminent permanent destruction in Until I Die. It was such a cliff hanger. I needed to know how if at all the Revenants now could win the fight vs. the Numa and how Kate personally would handle the situation of losing the first person she dared to love after the death of her parents. Oh, Vince! Oh, Kate! Oh, Jules! Oh boy!
When I was done and could breathe again, I wanted to give something back. The least I could do was writing a review doing the book I just read justice. Alas, I had no idea how to do it without spoiling a wonderful story to those, who couldn’t read it yet. It was nobody else but the French sculptor Rodin, who showed me a way out of my dilemma the moment I stumbled over his sculpture The Burghers of Calais while doing some research for my White Collar Art Encyclopedia.
Rodin finished one of his most famous works in 1889. It was a commissioned work by the city of Calais, France. The story behind it takes us back almost to the time in which L’amour Immortel was created by the guerisseur family, the illuminated manuscript Kate finds in her grandfather’s antics shop.
After England’s King Edward III was victorious in the Battle of Crecy in 1346, he laid siege to the French coastal town of Calais. He needed an outpost and harbor on French soil in order to get supplies to his troops fighting for his right on France. Philip IV of France ordered to hold the city at all costs, but failed to send significant help or to show up to fight it out. The siege lasted for almost one year before starvation eventually forced the city to parley for surrender. Edward III made an offer: He would spare the whole city if any six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him. He demanded that they should walk barefooted and dressed in nothing but rags and a noose around their necks out of the city gates towards him carrying the keys to the city. They were presumably to be executed. Six burghers volunteered to sacrifice themselves heroically willing to face their own death for the good of the town. The records say that in the end their lives were spared due to the intervention of the French born English queen Philippa de Hainault, hence we will never know whether or not they were destined to become Revenants.
But there it was, one of the important themes running through all three books and meeting us in all different forms and faces: sacrifice – the willingness to give something without expecting a collectable return for oneself. Of course its most dramatic form is the key itself to creating a new Bardia – self-sacrifice, dying in lieu of another. Yet, Charlotte hiding her love for Ambrose, Georgia volunteering her time and cover for her sister’s search, Charles leaving to a first unknown place to free Charlotte e.g., these are all sacrifices.
Our world today isn’t just geared at extroverts, it is also one where success is measured in money and influence. From advertisement slogans proclaiming that ‘greed is hip’ to the stock markets that are able to doom whole lives and nations with a thumb up or down like a Roman Ceasar, we are raised to believe that we are what we possess. We are far away from Dante’s Love = Charity ideal he elaborated on at the Venus Sphere in his Paradiso.
In the end however, humans are social beings. Even the most introverted person can’t survive and live without society. Society again is in need of people giving without asking what they get in return because if all just expect to gain or gain always more than they give where is nothing left to take from. It’s an easy enough equation, yet everyone thinks to be smarter than the other, expecting ‘them’ to give and pay and oneself to take and win. Prisoner’s Dilemma – already Immanuel Kant showed that it never works. We are back to the point: Sacrifices aren’t just for books and Revenants. We all can pick up the key and noose and do something for the greater good, we have to just like the heroes of the Die For Me series that finds a great and satisfying conclusion in If I Should Die.
PS: The painting is based on Rodin’s sculpture The Burghers of Calais, a medieval illumination of the besieged Calais and a fabulous photo taken at Wall Street, NY by my aunt Birka Wiedmaier. It is acrylic on paper, 73.5×51 cm.