The Book of Bantorra


That’s where all of these threads of love and devotion lead in Bantorra. If someone’s relationship with another entity is highlighted in the series, it’s because that relationship is going to lead to the individual in question discovering something about their inner state of being– they find out who they are by seeing inside someone or something else first. That runs counter to what most people say about love– that you usually need to love yourself before you can express that love to someone or something else– but I think Bantorra makes a pretty compelling argument otherwise. You need to know your place in the world before you can know your place within your own psyche.

Mirepoc has the most obvious case for this argument. Before Volken’s return, she dives into the Lascall investigation– a supposed myth about a man who brings the books of dead women to those they loved yet could never express said love before their death. It turns out that said myth is rooted in truth, and Mirepoc discovers that people have been murdered when looking into the case. Her investigation leads her to a case involving a murdered movie actress and a former member of the Church who is also looking into the case for her own purposes.

Throughout the investigation, Mirepoc doubts her abilities to carry through on her own. She’s gifted with supreme telepathic abilities, and is clearly competent on an intellectual level, but she’s lacking in martial prowess and is often chided by people like Hamyuts for not being a capable warrior. This leads Mirepoc to realize that her strengths need not be personal. She’s gifted with friends willing to stand by her side and aid her. She’s able to convince her Church antagonist to side with her temporarily to defeat Lascall, and when that’s over and the two of them have a showdown to settle their personal score, Mirepoc has the aid and friendship of Mattalast to help her survive and defeat her foe.

Mirepoc realizes that she needs to have that love for herself and who she is, but she only comes to that conclusion after going through an ordeal and listening to the criticism of her fellow Librarians. That may be the defining difference between her and Volken, in that she can confront her hubris and weakness and find a way to turn it into a strength. Volken may be even more devoted to his beliefs than Mirepoc, but he never has that moment of knowing his place in that system and therefore never reaches a moment of self-realization. He dies broken and without a cause, while Mirepoc accepts the contradictions and finds a way to be better than them.

The other major Bantorra “couple” is centered around this idea of self-realization. It’s never overtly stated if Enlike and Noloty are anything beyond friends, but their fates are tightly intertwined, and their stories play off of one another more intricately than anyone else’s in Bantorra.

Enlike’s another Meat– taken away from wherever he’s from, his former memories stripped from him, and forced to learn magic in order to become fodder for a man who eats people’s Books and absorbs their magic. He’s forced to train with, fight against, and kill other Meats in the same predicament, and despite fighting against his Church masters, he’s ultimately “eaten” by said Book Eater. He’s able to retain his sense of individuality and his willpower, which leads him to taking over the body of the Book Eater.

Despite being able to temporary overcome the man who essentially devoured his soul, Enlike wants nothing more than to die. Not only is he trapped inside the body of another man, only able to surface and exert his will occasionally, he’s also burdened with the deaths of his fellow Meats– some at his own hands, some because he refused to act earlier– during his magical training. He’s without a place in the world, metaphorically and physically, and actively seeks out someone to put an end to him.

That’s when he meets Noloty. She’s not a total pacifist, since she’s more than willing to engage in physical combat (and may be the most capable Librarian as far as straight up martial prowess goes, short of maybe Hamyuts), but she’s unwilling to cross the line into killing other people. Even Volken, in all of his idealism, was willing to kill to serve his devotion to the Library, but Noloty takes that idealism several steps further.

Noloty firmly believes that every life, no matter how wasted or corrupt, is precious and worth saving. She sees it as her duty to preserve every life possible, since the world “belongs” to her. Every life lost is a life she’s personally failed, since that’s a life she personally owns, and she takes it upon herself to save Enlike from his self-loathing.

Noloty and Enlike are polar opposites in terms of how the see the world. He’s without a place, and Noloty is never lacking for a place– between the two of them it’s everything and nothing. Enlike’s very existence is an uncertainty, since his continued being hinges totally on his ability to supplant another’s will, and Noloty is as certain as anyone in the series.

In fact, Noloty is the only character who arrives with a full sense of self-realization.

She has no doubt as to where she stands in the world, and has no doubt that her way of viewing things is absolutely correct. Plenty of characters can posture and pretend to be so sure of themselves, but only Noloty shows no kinks in her armor. She’s able to help turn Enlike away from self-destruction, ultimately overthrowing his “captor” and taking sole possession of his body, and she’s likely the only person who could have inspired someone so close to the edge to turn away and reclaim their life.

She also suffers the absolute worst fate of anyone in the entire series.

The head of the Church, the Governor of Paradise, is well aware of Noloty’s persistent, unwavering idealism, and uses it against the entire world. Through a series of events involving a kid with the power to project his hatred and a plot to poison an entire town, the Governor has the kid and Noloty encounter one another. The kid is very much like Enlike in that he’s filled with self-loathing, and being a child he’s also far less likely to listen to Noloty’s brand of wisdom. She’s able to worm her way into the kid’s heart through their interactions, but he never lets go of that rage. Ultimately, the Governor has Noloty murdered in front of the kid, and the resulting rage, and capacity to spread it, is amplified to literally possess entire nations.

For a series built on ever-escalating insanity, this may be the series’ craziest moment. All the nations of the Bantorra world unite under the banner of Noloty’s death and wage war against the Library. Battleships and tanks encroach upon the Library’s island home, and swarms of zombie-like soldiers fight to the death under the banner of this kid’s love for Noloty. The war ends only when Enlike works his way to the Governor’s mountain retreat, dispatches of him, and gives the kid Noloty’s Book so that he can see the true her and how she would never want anyone to die in her name.

This isn’t the only time in the series where the fate of the entire world rested upon someone’s feelings for another person, but it’s a testament to just how true and pure Noloty’s feelings were that her memory could spark and end a world war. She may come to a horrible end, despite her altruistic ways, but as an individual she has a greater impact on the world of Bantorra than anyone else. She knew who she was, and therefore reshaped the world around her.

The world truly is hers, but that isn’t the end of this diatribe. One more part to go.

Another reminder that I have a Patreon. It’s still a work in progress, but if you’re so inclined, it’d be cool to get your support and all that.

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