Tammy: I thought I should at least say something in Kel’s defense, since I’m the one who introduced her to the world. You who dislike her may still disagree, or feel I should have made it clearer in the book, but at least I will have tried.
Multiple loves thing: from my own experience, from the time I started 6th grade till I graduated high school I had serious physical and emotional feelings for (okay, gotta stop to count) 11 guys, one of whom I continued to have passionate feelings about up until 1979, one of whom I dated one more time after high school. Even living with a guy in college didn’t stop me from getting crushes on three other men. And that’s not counting how I felt about certain characters or actors along the way. Moreover, most of the women I know have been the same. Different people fulfill different needs, and hormones are crazy things.
Yamani faces: when she was four years old, fresh from being hung upside down from a balcony, Kel left her fairly open and frank culture to live in one in which open displays of emotion are regarded as rude, immature, tasteless, and even shameless. In that culture, so long as she and her family chose to live as they would at home, they were completely isolated, or at least, her father and mother were treated politely and distantly because they, poor things, didn’t know how to act, but they represented an important ally. If their children, like Kel, were to make any friends and take part in any cultural life, they had to join the culture. Kids don’t allow each other any slack. After six years of this, Kel comes home, at bottom a Yamani. After only a short time to adjust, she is pitchforked into a world where she is constantly watched by people who would be very happy to make her cry. Now it’s not just a matter of her Yamani self; it’s a matter of pride that they not see her cry, or appear doubtful, or falter. So she hides in plain sight, behind the mask of politeness she has already been conditioned to wear, reciting the mantras that all Yamanis use to prevent themselves from shameful displays of emotion.
As for being too noble and protecting everyone who gets hazed: Kel has principles. Since she’s a very stubborn person, her principles are very hard to dislodge. She thinks hazing is wrong, so she opposes it. It doesn’t matter to her that she gets beat up. It doesn’t matter to her that she gets in trouble. Think of her as a self-righteous prig if you like, but her decision to interfere has nothing to do with who’s being hazed, and everything to do with the fact that she believes it’s wrong and is determined to show everyone how wrong it is. And she sucks at it at first, so she keeps getting trashed.
Other people have addressed the training stuff, like the fact that she turns a cruel joke into a training aid, and that she runs uphill even when she’s tired because she knows it’s the only way to get better. That’s discipline. Ask any Olympic athlete how much time they spend in physical training, whether they want to do it or not, because they have something they really want to gain.
Kel would be the first to tell you she owns up to no extra portion of virtue at all. She would also tell you that she is mule-headed to a fault. Once she decides on something, she won’t back down. That can get a girl into trouble. One of the many things she is stubborn about is duty–her duty as a noble and a knight. Alanna, you may recall, was equally un-budge-able on the issues of chivalry and honor.