The Baby Pool

Author: Isabeau of Greenlea

Nominator: Altariel

2011 Award Category: Character Study: Gondorians - Second Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: A sequel to Noble Jewel. Brandmir finds the idea that the royal family of Dol Amroth are his relatives to be very disconcerting. A day at the beach with his new cousins proves to be full of revelations.

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Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

Isabeau has taken a few names from the draft of a genealogy that didn't even make it, I think, into LOTR's Appendices and brought them wonderfully to life over the course of her stories: the Cygnets of Dol Amroth, Imrahil's children, have a killer brother-sister dynamic. However, there is one sibling among them who had failed to really step up and write himself into the story, and that is the eldest, Elphir. [The Baby Pool] changes that: using Brandmir's recent admission into the royal family as the occasion, Isabeau gives us Elphir, being an older brother and also with a certain amount of that roguish charm that goes straight back to his father. He's a gentle tease, though, and the dynamic between himself and Amrothos takes on, eerily enough, overtones of Imrahil teasing Andrahar, which makes me wonder more about this particular brotherly relationship. Through Brand's eyes, the family opens up a bit, lets its hair down and eventually its griefs out. That latter proves to be key in cementing the new, cousinly relationship among Brand and the Cygnets. The aftermath of war, and the loss of another cousin, form the background for the making of new family bonds. Funny at times, and bittersweet: fans of the Best-loved Sons universe should enjoy this one.

Reviewed by: Altariel  ✧  Score: 10

A piece from the "Noble Jewel" arc, concerning Brand, Boromir's bastard son, during his first months at Dol Amroth, as he gets to know his new family better, and discovers that they are just as anxious for his approval as he is for theirs. The Dol Amroth Cygnets are amongst some of Isabeau's most charming creations. Lothiriel is as sweet as ever; Amrothos curious-minded and sceptical. I adore his brief throwaway line that so shocks Brand that's he never seen a Vala. (I know I've got some cheek chucking plot-bunnies in a review, but I'd love to see Faramir and Amrothos discuss such questions of M-e belief.) It is a particular pleasure to see Elphir the Reticent finally step forward and make his presence felt. But the heart of the story is when Lothiriel finds Boromir's gloves left behind in the beach house... and isn't ["a man’s gloves for a man with big hands"] such a brief yet devastating line of description that conjures up both the strong spirit and physical presence of Boromir? Lothiriel's remark, that Boromir was ["always leaving little bits behind"], is artless, yet enough to open a new channel between Brand and his older relatives, letting them grieve the loss of Boromir, while being glad that his son is with them. Warm and tender, as Isabeau's work invariably is, with grief and loss providing the common ground to let new understanding, love, and joy emerge. Thank you for another lovely addition to this arc, Isabeau.

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 4

I love this homely peak into the life of the ruling family of Dol Amroth when they are not fighting a war. The siblings going to the beach to teach Brandmir swimming. Leave it to Amrothos to ask questions about how the world is put together. I could see the scene vividly in my mind. The calm bay, the tide pools the little creatures Amrothos and Brand are observing. In undercurrents the recent past is still visible, although mostly unnoticed by Brand until the end.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 4

A passing familiarity with the shared universe that Isabeau writes in is helpful in appreciating this story fully, but even without that, it's clear enough who the young protagonist is. I enjoyed this picture of young Brandmir as he tries to fit in with his older cousins, still uncertain of his place in the family. The swimming lesson was delightful, and I very much enjoyed the various personalities of the cousins. A very warm and entertaining little slice of life in Dol Amroth.

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 4

I enjoyed very much reading about the Dol Amroth heirs and getting another look at your charming original character. It's been a long time since I last visited your version of this world and it was like seeing old friends after a separation. I particularly liked Amrothos and his scientific method, I grinned and nodded vigorously at this passage: ["And I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’ve never seen a Vala.” Stunned by the casual blasphemy, Brand just stared at him in shocked silence for a moment. Feeling the stare, the young prince turned his attention away from the sea-flower and back to his cousin. He smiled wryly.] All of them are lovely and entertaining as is your treatment of them and their city. Thank so much for sharing.

Reviewed by: Mysterious Jedi  ✧  Score: 2

So sweet! I love how Imrahil's children are trying to make Brand feel welcome, and I love the sibling interactions. I always enjoy seeing scientist!Amrothos, too.