Hi all! Up to this point, we've mostly done analysis posts on our first book, The Spinner's Web, but we've found that the book that perplexes readers the most is actually the second title in Grims' Truth, Conundrum. So, we decided to do a bit of analyzing to make more sense of the plot, or more importantly, its main character 'Akira.'
Grims' Truth places a strong focus on philosophical themes as well as exploring character's relationships with theology in the complicated Universe of Euphoria. It takes time to learn the laws of this universe and this is what makes Conundrum so puzzling for many.
The purpose of changing the POV each book is to provide more insight on the events within the story, as it's difficult to make determinations without understanding the full picture. In Conundrum, we wished to take readers through a skewed perspective. In other words, we wanted readers to look through the lens of a character who has a lot of information but views the Universe in a very biased or warped way.
Spoiler Warning for Book 2 below this point!
Akira is an essential reoccurring character within Grims' Truth. By definition, he's morally gray and this makes him either loved or hated by readers. His actions throughout Book 2 come across as confusing because he's not only providing a new perspective but he's an unreliable narrator with a slew of issues.
We have two concurrent things to keep track of: Akira's identity crisis/trauma and the events driving the story forward. In Conundrum, these things are locked in a toxic dance.
Here's what we know about Akira.
Full Name: Ra Bedad (LOA Nuire/Alone)
Family: Father (abandoned him) - Mother (Beautiful but estranged)
Notes: Tainted/ailing, Third Party Leader, High Queen Heqet's Aide, the Council Leader's adopted son, the Lord of Time(?)
Goals: Creation of the New World/rescinding the existence of mortals
We get to see into his Dreamscape, which is sprinkled with clues about his childhood and what the thinks of the Game. On the inside, he seems to be a fragile, beaten up child but on the outside he's morally ambiguous and dodgy.
Although he is leading the Organization, he has few interactions with the members and is constantly suspicious of their behavior and whereabouts. At the same time, he's too busy with his own agenda to hunt them down and interrogate them. Not to mention, too ill.
Note: From this point forward, we'll refer to Akira as 'Bedad' for clarity purposes.
We're left with another question: What is Bedad's agenda?
He says it's the creation of the New World but doing this would conflict with the current Grandmaster's vision of the Universe, which involved the creation of those very mortals. He positions himself as an enemy of the Grandmaster as if he's an anarchist who intends to overthrow unfair leaders. This is somewhat ironic because Bildad is unreachable, but Bedad feels a sense of entitlement over the throne.
Even though Bedad and Bildad share a last name the Organization members as well as other essential characters constantly question his clan and heritage. *Red Flag*
Bedad's sentence of erasure works as the primary antagonist of his story because he's constantly working to outwit the Watchers and the Spirits who have given him this sentence. Although we don't know the exact reason for this sentence, we can make inferences from the dialogue.
Bedad and the Spinner
One of the few things all readers agree on is that Bedad is obsessed with the Spinner. What they don't agree on is the reason why. His fixation with Fate is centered around her power over the fates of mortals, and this too is ironic given that he supposedly doesn't consider himself a mortal. Nevertheless, his aim here is to get Fate to overrule the sentence of erasure, though this too fails. Her final decision on whether he should live or die is made by comparing his role in the Game to that of Hero. This is of course the catalyst for his final blow up and what leads him to attempt to murder Hero prior to the Sweepers coming to collect him.
Bedad vs Hero
Understanding much of the plot requires readers to understand the correlation between Bedad and Hero as well as the conflict they have with each other. It boils down to: Bedad and Hero are not allowed to coexist.
This is confirmed when Fate makes her decision in the Ussan and it is also supported by Bedad's unruly behavior and commentary towards Hero throughout the book. Hero himself asks Bedad why he should die in order for Bedad to live because 'they have just as much right to live as the other.'
The only person Bedad hates as much as Hero is himself. This detail helped readers understand the relationship between them.
Absurdism in Conundrum
The Universe of Euphoria has a law that indicates the Grandmaster provides a Soul's Name to new souls and that name comes with a Soul's Purpose. This purpose is the driving force behind that soul, and Bedad's name means 'alone.' He constantly frets about this because he can't understand why the Grandmaster would give anyone such a purpose. It makes Bedad frequently lose direction in life and begin to believe that there's no purpose in life or the Universe and that he must create it himself or perish from existence.
His relationship with the Grandmaster, and by association the Universe, is marred. He feels forsaken by his family and by Bildad. The only people keeping him afloat are the members of his own Organization, particularly Besil. A lot of the other people in Bedad's life chalk up his behavior and problems to his ailment, and inadvertently this puts more distance between them and Bedad's true self.
The Mortal Affliction
Bedad's relationship with the Mortal Affliction comes from two primary sources: Besil and the Taint. Besil provides the love and care that Bedad is lacking and the Taint afflicts him with an ailment that connects him to his mortal form. It reminds him that no matter how he refutes it, he too is mortal.
These are the things that keep him grounded when he's losing himself to the Game.
The Question of Morality in Conundrum: What seems to perplex most readers is the question of Bedad's morality. Is he good or bad? Readers can decide for themselves if they deem his actions excusable but it's difficult to come up with concrete answers for a character who does so many questionable things without explanation. For example, most ask why he feeds Sally or interacts with her. On one hand, he promises her she can kill Fate. On the other, he acts like he wants to protect Fate. It comes down to Bedad's motives and his ambivalence.
We are faced with the question over and over: Is he redeemable? Does he deserve to be erased? As this is the question Bedad (and those around him) continuously asks throughout the book.
This concept is the focus of the plot. We say: This is Bedad. This is his experience of the world. These are his problems. You don't exactly know or understand the purpose for any of it but do you have enough information to determine a sentence?
This issue of not fully understanding Bedad is one that the other characters face as well. As readers, you are subjected to the same issue of watching his perplexing and erratic behavior and trying to decide how to feel about it.
This shows a juxtaposition between Hero and Bedad.
We want readers to understand how he views the world as someone who is Tainted and ostracized but we also want them to understand the parts of his personality that have nothing to do with his ailing. He has been abused and abandoned but does this excuse the harm that comes to those around him or his choice to mercy kill people at will? Does it excuse his reasoning behind wishing to erase mortals or kill Hero?
This is for you to decide.
That's it for today's analysis. If you see anything we missed or have any additional questions or thoughts about Conundrum, post them in the comments below!