By: Peggy Sue Wood | @peggyseditorial
I think it might be good to recognize that the story itself and the novel Athanasia read in her past life are different. Yeah, they have a lot of similarities, but a common thing in these reborn stories is the character’s reliance on everything being by the book, even when they influence major factors or new information that wasn’t in the book is revealed to them. Athy, for example, knew that Diana (her mother) loved her father but thought her father hated Diana and loved Penelope (her father’s former fiance) because of the book(s) she read. Now we see that Claude, her father, actually grew to despise Penelope for her betrayal and loved Diana. Because of this information, readers get a sense that he keeps Penelope’s portrait less as an image reminding him of affection but, rather, as one reminding him of betrayal by those closest.
Also, if you go back you can see that despite scaring Athanasia in the chapter where she almost drowns (chapter 10, I think), his hand is soaked from pulling her out (she didn’t just swim to shore). He isn’t exactly nice to her throughout her childhood, he even claims to hate her years later, but I think that the drowning thing has a significant influence in their relationship that goes beyond cruelty to a possible teaching moment for Athanasia.
I have a theory that this Claude has even more differences to his book counterpart than we realize right now. Particularly in regards to his cruelty towards Anathasia. Athanasia, despite everything and the possibility of him killing her at that young age being very real, is the heir apparent. Claude is the current Emporer and he got there by severing the familial bonds (which were weak already). He is scarred by the betrayal of his father, brother, and fiancé. He had to take the throne by force and shut his heart off even more and maybe, to him, that is how he now views life as a royal. In addition to hating her, he still sees her as his child or at least has her recognized as his by members of the palace staff. If she hopes to survive such a role, she needs to realize that no one, not even her own father, is guaranteed to be on her side. So he let’s her almost drown, then plucks her from the water and tells Felix to teach her to swim.
Is his treatment of her cruel? Yes. But, then again, so is the world that they live in and, for all we know, he could have a reason for acting the way he does beyond just hatred for her.
Other reasons I think that he might be using cruelty (or at least a lack of kind-phrasing) as a teaching method include:
1. Saying that those teaching her have no etiquette and calling in a tutor for Athanasia, likely because Lilly and the maids have been teaching her a noblemen’s etiquette, which is different from royal etiquette
2. Only ever refers to Diana as a wench in Athanasia’s presence, and acts like he never loved her mother. He might want her to cut off her emotions as best she can without freezing her heart, particularly if the frozen heart thing is something real in their world and something expected of potentially powerful magicians which Claude is and she, as a member of the royal family, probably is too (which we already know to be the case, but didn’t know when she first started meeting with Claude).
3. Keeping Athanasia isolated from potential threats, the first of which is firing the maids that lost her during nap time. The staff at that time weren’t paying enough attention to her, which allowed her to roam into another palace across the garden. The firing seems cruel until you realize that an assassin with a lot more to lose than a small girl getting in trouble for sneaking out of bed could have snuck in to kill her in that time. Having Felix, the only one trusted as his guard before running into Athanasia (from what I can tell he was the only one since he’s the only guard seen with the Emporer thus far), act as her guard. Also getting her to avoid making friends with anyone tied to Roger Alpheus, a man Claude has a distaste for probably because he knows how much of a schemer the man is and doesn’t want her being used.
What I’m trying to say is that potentially, even if he hates Athanasia for being born and “killing” her mother, he doesn’t necessarily want her being used or mistreated the way he was as a child. Maybe because despite his hatred in the beginning (which is probably no longer there), Athy is still his daughter and the daughter of his lover, Diana.
Just a theory, but who knows?