The Fatal Child is told through the eyes of two characters: Thomas Padry, a high-ranking servant of the King, and Melissa, an orphaned peasant girl.
The choice of viewpoint is a fundamental decision for the author. Is the reader to be in the head of one character, or more than one, or standing back from all of them? If one character, should it be the ‘I’ voice, or the third person? How far should the reader identify and sympathise with this character - totally, mostly or not much? (”Not Much” is very risky!) More viewpoints give the writer more freedom. We can plausibly witness a range of scenes without having to find reasons why one person is there to see them all. But of course there is more work to be done in building characters who are satisfactory companions for the reader. The answers to these questions will colour the whole story.
In this case I did not have to think very hard. The Fatal Child is a story of two camps - the King’s and the Queen’s. I needed a witness in each camp. I also had - it often seems to happen this way - two characters who had taken minor parts in the previous novel (The Widow and the King) and about whom I wanted to know more. Better still, they were very different. The contrast between them became part of the telling.
Thomas Padry is a former teacher, a man who has a big brain and knows it. But his soul is not quite built to match. He means well, thinks of himself as someone who does good, but is blind to his own faults and commits a grave error. Over the course of the novel he finds that all the products of his brain will come to nothing. His good works will be overtaken, his advice is ignored, his peacemaking is futile. This should be a moment of destruction for him but it is not. He is redeemed by the way he has come to love his king, and by his willingness to suffer in service.
Melissa too loves the King - this is the one thing she has in common with Padry. But she sees him from a wholly different perspective. Her journey in the novel is to understand the difference between a love that idolises and one that is realistic, and to choose the second rather than the first. She is simple and practical. The intrigues of the court are way over her head. Where Padry is a doer, Melissa represents the down-trodden and the done-to. But her moral compass is better than his. When the powers speak, at the end of the novel, it is through Melissa that they find their voice.