This is part of a series called Margin Letters, where I write open letters to fictional characters of content I love. This particular installment is a stop on the blog tour organized by Caffeine Book Tours. Please read my non-spoiler review here. Though this letter does not contain any spoilers for The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng, the very premise of the character gives away a huge plot twist for the first two books.
Sayu is the widow of Agos–the former captain of the royal guard and Talyien’s erstwhile lover–and mother to Kisig and Teo. She works as a scribe, and much of her income comes from copying and binding historical manuscripts.
Happy Mother’s Day! Is the holiday also celebrated in your country? I hope it is, because you deserve to be celebrated for the wonderful mother that you are. This day is for you, okay? I hope that you take the time to set your writing materials aside and get a breather from everything.
Kisig and Teo are so blessed to have you as their mom. It’s so reassuring to grow up in a home where children are secure that their mom would give anything it takes to keep them from pain and sadness. In this war-torn Jin-Sayeng, your home is a rare place of rest and a quiet space to dream of a bright and bloodless future.
You’ve built something unshakeable and beautiful, and I hope that your own story will be handed down to generations as an example of strength. It’s worth listening to.
I’m pretty sure that the almighty Queen Talyien also thinks so. You aren’t the person she expected to find, and everything that you do and choose feels so removed from the cage where she has been raised. Like her, you were set up to fail. The part has been cast and pre-written for you by the hands of madmen: scorned woman, third party, and avenging wife. A foil for the Bitch Queen. The harbinger of even more scandals to shake the Dragonthrone.
But you wanted none of that, and so you did the unthinkable: you stood your ground and walked away from all of it. You did away with all those and you wrote your own. You were ready to take down anyone who would dare treat your children as pawns in a cruel game for power, and you built them a refuge of love that is more than enough to fill the space Agos left behind. Moreover, you worked with Talyien, the woman you were meant to hate.
I can’t even begin to imagine the strength it takes to keep going. You shoulder all the weight of society’s failures against you and your sons, yet you still remain tall and proud. If the world doesn’t yet have a way to keep your children safe, you forge your own. For Talyien, who wants to do the same thing for Thanh but has no idea how a new life would look like, you are an unlikely inspiration. For Kisig and Teo, you are queen of your little kingdom where no bad dreams will snatch them from your hand.
For me, you are a secret superhero. You are a picture of strength and bravery, and I hope that when I become a mom someday, I can be as strong and brave as you are. You remind me of the advice my own mom gives to new moms: The world is hard and painful, but choosing my children every single day is easy.
Although your name will likely be left out of historical manuscripts like the ones you copy, your story deserves to be remembered and celebrated. You literally fought against nobles with nothing but adrenaline in your veins. You would dare go toe to toe with the right hand man of Yeshin the Butcher just to keep your boys safe. You’ve taught a queen to reckon with her own legacy. You’re a badass mom, Sayu, and I bet Kisig and Teo are boasting to all their friends about how lucky they are to have you.
Master Ichi rok Sagar is wrong. History does not have to be grand narratives populated by men who carry old names of privilege and who pursue dramatic displays of power. History is also built on the backs of mothers, whose ordinary acts of love are achieved through extraordinary lengths.
Maybe… instead of copying old Sagar narratives, you can finally write your own history of Jin-Sayeng? One that honors the women, especially the mothers, who have held this country together? One that bares the past in order to dream of a future untainted by a madman’s schemes?
You have in your office the beginnings of such a tale. Your story is not worth any less than a former queen’s. In fact, she will probably be thrilled–albeit awkwardly–that she can finally read a history that centers a properly written woman: flawed, strong, and true. I know for a fact that your words will not be futile. I hope that the stories of women by women do not end with Talyien: you and countless others are the bedrock upon which this country is built.
The world will be a different place when these stories are finally heard.
But that’s a project for another day. Right now, you deserve to rest. Crack your knuckles, get a massage, and leave the kids in the neighbor’s house. Have a party for one. Enjoy the peace and quiet. The light of the home needs to recharge, too.
Tomorrow, we write our histories for Kisig, Teo, Tahan, and Anino to read. May they finally live in a world without fear. May they be free.