This is an incredible and empathetic book. Its reconciliation scene between the gay son and father is one of the most touching I’ve read. Written in 1992, it is way ahead of its time, concerning themes of surrogate gay parenthood, religious opposition to homosexuality, etc.
But Javin, Luke and Timmy hadn’t read the book. So these are some discussion questions:
1. Pedophilia: Vanyel’s taste is inclined towards young, innocent boys. Is it homophobic to portray the major gay character as a pedophile?
a. Insecurity/Vulnerability/Fear of Coming Out: While both Stefan and Vanyel are portrayed as sensitive and vulnerable, afraid to be hurt, Stefan’s vulnerability stems from his history while Vanyel’s from his sexuality. In an episode where Vanyel gathers with other Herald-Mages to re-wire the magic nodes, he expresses his fear that they might reject him because of his sexuality. How is this fear portrayed? And what do the other straight Herald-Mages say to assuage his fear?
b. Sex scenes: There are many, many sex scenes between Stefan and Vanyel. Why do you think the author includes the scenes? Are they necessary?
c. Surrogate parenthood: Vanyel fathers a few children (through the old fashioned way). Why do you think Lackey makes Vanyel a father despite him being gay?
3. Duty: Explain Vanyel’s notion of duty.
4. War and Religion: The other country starts a “holy war” against the Herald-Mages because the country is anti-magic. If we see mages as someone “special,” can we read this “holy war” as a religious war against homosexuals? What is Lackey’s view on religion, as mouthed through Vanyel’s father on p. 220?
5. Ageism: The notion of age keeps coming up. Everyone seems to look SK-2 young. Is there a form of ageism here?
6. Class and Race: Vanyel and Stefan try to eradicate the citizens’ notion of a Herald-Mage being better than a Herald. Is this a metaphor of class or race issues?
7. Family: The reconciliation between gay son (Vanyel) and his father scene is one of the most moving I’ve read. What is the argument that makes the father accept Vanyel for who he is?
8. Why do you think Mercedes Lackey tries so hard to make Vanyel and Stefan to be “lifebonded”? And why does Lackey make Stefan a reincarnation of Vanyel’s previous lover?
9. Happy Ending: Do you think the ending is too forced? If so, why does Lackey force the ending to be such?
10. Male Rape: Why do you think Lackey writes a scene that Vanyel is raped?
a. What are some of the concerns of rooming Medren (Vanyel’s nephew) with Stefan?
b. What is the “origin” of homosexuality in Stefan, as depicted in the novel? Does the author agree with it?
c. Stefan is portrayed as promiscuous in the book. Is this homophobic? If not, why not? Stefan’s promiscuity makes him insecure about his relationship with Vanyel. Is this homophobic?
d. Stefan is described as “slim,” “slight” and”fragile.” If he were a girl, he would be called “delicate.” Is this homophobic? If not, why not?
e. Stefan is often concerned of his future, afraid to be out in the streets again. What is the author’s intention of showing Stefan in this light?