THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Military service varies heavily between the realms. In the Middle Realm, there is no standing army. This is a rule imposed on the mortals by the Fae; the issue is kept under a very close watch. The soldiers are all mercenaries that are occasionally organized into bands or units. No unit is connected to another. In the Upper Realm, each of the Twelve Houses has their own standing, highly organized military.
At the beginning of Chasing Fae, readers get a front and center view of Leo’s death announcement to his family in the Middle Realm. A group of soldiers arrive at the residence with a scroll and a folded flag and deliver the news. The mother collapses in anguish, and Grace rushes to her aid, holding back her own tears. It is an intense moment at the beginning of the book that throws the reader into the turmoil of the world right away.
When a soldier dies, it is important in both the Upper and Middle Realms that they are treated properly and buried with the utmost respect. Burial is a significant ritual in both locations. In the Middle Realm, a traditional military burial involves a beautiful wooden coffin adorned with simple red roses and a funeral with family and friends gathered around. Occasionally, the head of the unit will give a short eulogy. The coffin is often carved by the family themselves, depicting stories of the soldier’s life. In the Upper Realm, a military burial involves an ornate coffin, purchased by the family and occasionally in conjunction with the army the soldier was a member of (depending on the House). The coffin is then adorned with flowers in the color of their birth House. Fae burials involve an abundance of music and a ancient ritual that is said to guide the soul to a better place. The whole community is usually involved in the funeral.
When the Fae began to call for mortal soldiers to come into their realm and serve within the last few months prior to the beginning of Chasing Fae, there was no established process for sending back those who perished. Each of the Twelve Houses created their own method. Most involved sending the body back with enough funds to cover a sufficient funeral and several medals or accolades given in recognition of their service. Others sent back the body with nothing but a note. Some didn’t even give that. This leads to a lot of confusion and a lot of unnecessary heartache on the part of the mortal families.
All of this history and cultural elements come together to create the conditions for which we find Grace in the first few chapters. Things are already unsteady to begin with, and when Leo’s body doesn’t come back at all, that is a huge red flag to her. She does not want her brother to become one of those numbers that is never properly laid to rest. Hence what unfolds over the rest of the novel…