Of all the characters in The Coming of Áed series, one of my favorites to write is Ninian.
The first few chapters of The Hidden King don’t overtly reveal too much about Ninian. We know he has royal blood that dates back ages, we know he has a scar from some childhood trauma, and we know he’s in a gang--but since his appearance in the book was relatively brief, and since the narrative follows Áed’s thoughts, we never have a chance to delve into Ninian’s mind. Through Áed, however, Ninian becomes a little clearer.
The fact is, in order for someone to love somebody else, that somebody else has to be special. Since Áed loves Ninian, he has to have a reason… so what is it?
Ninian, until the very last time he speaks, is gruff, a bit sarcastic. He fights for a gang, can be a bit prickly, and seems to be an almost painful realist. Superficially, he doesn’t to try to be endearing. So why does Áed love him so much? And how, given his roughness, does Ninian love in return? The answer to this, in light of the secret Ninian kept from Áed, and in light of the very nature of the Maze, cannot be simple.
Áed and Ninian’s story didn’t begin with two strangers making coy eye contact across a room. In fact, we come to find out that Áed met Ninian shortly after the most traumatic event of Áed’s childhood, and that Ninian helped him through it. This means that Áed and Ninian met when they were both young--specifically, ten and eleven. We also come to learn that Ninian, though aware and afraid of Áed’s more savage side, stayed with him, loving him until the end. Áed, in turn, served as a sort of rock for Ninian; while Ninian fought against other gangs--and himself--Áed was the one who could imagine a brighter future.
Clearly, Ninian has had some darkness in his own past.
Ninian’s gruffness, then, starts to look like a front. The face he shows to the outside--confident, collected, cynical--doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s happening under the surface. It forces us to ask: What, exactly, is going on in his head? Why has he constructed such a wall around him, and what need did Áed fulfill for Ninian to let him in? In terms of mysterious (and worrying) pasts, what has Ninian experienced?
Important questions, surely.
For all of the conflict, pain, purpose, fear and relief that Áed feels over the course of The Hidden King, Ninian can fade into the background. But in The Last Prince, we shall see that he is far, far too important to forget.
E.G. RADCLIFF IS AN INCURABLE WRITER and lifelong imaginer of worlds. An insatiable reader and researcher with a penchant for all things Celtic and a love of the mysterious and magical, she brings a knowing touch to her Young Adult fiction. She enjoys adventure, reading on the train, and dreams about flying. She is a Chicago native and is based in Illinois.
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