i’m not going to pretend to be certain one way or another about what level of agency muir intends to give gideon in becoming kiriona/in aligning with john, because i think the level of uncertainty we’ve been given is both important and intentional, but i do think it’s specifically interesting how every other character we see be resurrected in some way and renamed by john it’s heavily implied that he also altered their memories and/or personalities; we see the renaming of titania and ulysses when he turns them into literal zombies entirely under his control and we see that the other lyctors, at some point, had different names and that their resurrection involves john altering them, and we see in some ways that kiriona falls right in the middle of those two - renamed like both of them, and still dead like titania and ulysses were and with her body having been altered by john and able to be “turned off” by ianthe at will, but also moving to some extent under her own power and retaining aspects of her personality (or her entire personality, depending on the reading - and i do think there are multiple legitimate, supported readings here)
and i think what’s specifically interesting here is that the set up of the original lyctors forces us to see them as complicit with john even though he does change and alter them - it is impossible to ignore the fact that m—- and a—- and g—- and c—- (and p—- and n—- and the nun and a—-‘s little brother!) stood with john through acquiring the first nuke, through killing hundreds of people, through necromantically piloting a world leader, etc. they’re fully complicit in the nuclear death of earth’s population even though most of them turned on him last minute, which translates over to being complicit in his empire, where we see the exact same pattern of them standing with him until eventually, later, individually deciding to betray him for whatever personal reasons they individually have. they are inarguably complicit, regardless of what alterations john made to them!
in contrast, titania and ulysses, at least prior to the resurrection, had no control, no ability to go against john at all, and so without knowing more about their resurrection and function as lyctors, it becomes almost impossible to say whether or not they had agency, ability to go against him, etc, and so all we know is that john used their bodies after their deaths in a way in which they could not resist against or do anything about
so by placing kiriona in this middle ground between the two, where we don’t know if she’s working with him entirely by gideon’s choice or if john altered her mind in some way, she’s in between total death and true resurrection, her wounds are still there but she isn’t rotting, the question becomes a question not of “is this her choice” but a question of “regardless of if this is her choice, how complicit is she?”
even if kiriona is mentally altered in some way, she’s only in this situation because she learned and embraced the cavalier role to such an extent that she died so that harrow could go lyctor. even if kiriona is mentally altered in some way, gideon was only in canaan house in the first place in order to earn the ability to “go free” and join the cohort. and, in contrast, even if she hasn’t been altered in some way mentally, she literally does not have physical control of her own body. kiriona isn’t a portrait of how people choose to align themselves with empire, but rather she’s the centerpoint of three books’ worth of themes about complicity, imperial corruption, death as something which the empire owns and corrupts, family, and memory. to say definitively that kiriona is only aligned with john because of trauma and her behavior is exactly how gideon always behaves in this situation or to say definitively that gideon would never act like this and so kiriona must have had her memory fucked with or her soul altered in some way i genuinely think is to miss the point - regardless of how much quote unquote agency gideon has in the way kiriona’s behaving and who she’s expressing loyalty to, she both has no power over herself (ianthe can and does shut her off!!! she spent her entire life obsessing over her body as a method of escape and now her body has been physically altered by john!!!) and is complicit, has been absorbed into the imperial seat of power and is being used as a weapon by that seat of power, etc.
additionally, this is a series heavily interested in themes of agency around death and how death is constantly being exploited by john and necromancers. it is important that gideon died on purpose (although obviously under. external pressures lol) and has been brought back in a manner which robs her of control over her own body, and i think being willing to engage with that and with what we’re told about the original lyctors and how john used them is important to a reading of kiriona
my best friend doesn’t have a tumblr but i made her read gtn and in honor of us working our way through harrow she made this masterpiece.
and agreed to let me post it on tumblr so more people could cry with me.
link to her art insta
she’s terrible at self promotion but please join me in appreciating her crazy magnificent art
the gender in nona the ninth is SO delicious. pyrrha shaving her face. princely titles and she/her pronouns. the concept of paul? chomp!!!!!
The way Gideon's narration, at the end of Ht9, so wildly oscillates between fury and love. I'm obsessed, it drives me insane.
"you sack of Ninth House garbage" right up next to "there were a couple of callouses now on those soft necromancer’s palms, and I was proud of you."
"you cross-patched necromantic shit" mere paragraphs before "don't worry, honey, I'll keep the home fires burning."
And don't even get me started on the brume of pain and devotion that is "I gave you my whole life and you didn't even want it."