I’ve been mulling this question over since Week 1 because the answer keeps changing. Relationships are an important part of The Elder Throne and subsequent books, so it’s difficult to settle on just one dynamic when a few have their own unique merits. The top three contenders I considered were:
- Anna Squires and Grandfather Abe
- Grandfather Abe and Holly
- Burr and Spindle Larkspur
I finally decided on Burr and Spindle Larkspur. They’re chalk-and-cheese siblings whom Anna discovers are her long-lost second cousins (after believing she had no extended family for the last 11 years). Burr, fourteen, is an arrogant, proud and somewhat aggressive person, whose greatest strengths are physical prowess and combat. Spindle, nearly twelve, is a softly-spoken, scholarly pacifist who would rather avoid people completely in favour of a good book.
Despite their differences, Burr and Spindle are very close. Their parents, Juniper and Cormac, died – Juniper from childbirth and Cormac from assassination (which Burr witnessed at 5 years’ old) – and they’ve cemented a strong relationship out of necessity. Being the eldest of the two, Burr always takes charge and dominates any situation the two siblings are in. This is not to say that Spindle always lets Burr lead the way without complaint; for instance, they disagree strongly on the subject of their cousin Anna, and neither will be swayed. Burr loathes Anna upon first meeting her and Spindle is immediately attached to and fascinated by her.
When Spindle disagrees with Burr about something, Burr retaliates in frustration, often gently ridiculing his younger sibling for not seeing things his way. Such ridicule bounces off Spindle like water off a duck’s back; Spindle doesn’t care what other people think and is quite content as an individual. Despite his bravado, Burr is not as confident as he appears, which is why he masks his feelings with arrogant and unpleasant actions. Spindle knows this, and is always seeking to be the peace-keeper between him and whomever has upset the oldest Larkspur.
With Spindle looking after Burr’s emotional well-being, it is safe to say that Burr looks after Spindle’s physical health. Anyone who threatens his younger sibling is dead; anyone who ridicules Spindle that isn’t Burr will get a tongue-lashing of their own.
Throughout the wider series, the Larkspurs go through many changes as they find their feet as individuals and as family. As they mature, they both experience roles as the protector and the protected and are, ultimately, both willing to lay their life down for the other. But that’s almost a spoiler…
I can think of one snippet from The Elder Throne that sums up their relationship nicely. It’s mid-way through the book, when Spindle has an accident. Burr and Spindle are in the middle of a sibling squabble at the time and haven’t spoken in a few hours.
Someone let out a sharp cry of pain from behind her and Burr streaked past, skidding to his knees.
Anna turned, aghast. Both her cousins were on their knees, Spindle curled into a ball, face hidden as Burr tried to get a look at it.
“STOP!” Marsh yelled, “WEAPONS DOWN!”
Everyone halted, and then slowly started to crowd around the Larkspurs.
“What’s wrong?” Marsh asked, and Burr finally succeeded in prising Spindle’s fingers away, exposing a nose gushing with blood.
“Oh, Spindle, I’m so sorry,” Anna blurted out, “I didn’t know you were behind me.”
“It’s okay,” Spindle whispered, face crumpling as tears welled. There was an unkind laugh from the group.
“It’s just a broken nose, Larkspur. Don’t be a baby.”
“How about I break your nose, Reed, and see how you like it?” Burr snarled and Thistle** stepped back, hands up in apology.
** It’s worth noting that Thistle is one of Burr’s best friends. This apparently means very little when he’s defending his family!