In this particular trilogy, antagonists are people who are good at having very lofty visions, but not at questioning the need for their methods. Not once they get started. They are powered by absolute belief in the necessity of what they do. Whatever needs to be destroyed along the way, whoever needs to die, all justified by the ends pursued. If they stopped to question whether what they’re doing is actually a valid means to the end, that hesitation might ruin everything. That lapse in faith might curse them.
Protagonists have an uphill battle, to put it one way. They arrive super aware of the problematic aspects of their privilege, but they see that they could potentially wield this privilege to change things for the better. Everything that an antagonist might dismiss as a “bump in the road” is a big deal and deserves scrutiny and thought. Protagonists must have the courage to doubt, think twice, reconsider, but ultimately act in the best way they can given the limitations of their resources and knowledge at that instant. They have that valiant struggle against people of absolute faith, who don’t face the same intellectual/moral hindrance to their actions and are therefore unpredictably dangerous. But there are negative consequences to never questioning, and it can also be bad practice for those inconvenient times where physical reality/actual happenings don’t unfold the way you had absolute faith they would, and where thinking on the fly can mean everything.
That creates a three-book plot arc where the primary antagonist starts off with the largest armies, the newest invented weapons and the expertise to use them, and absolute faith that she represents both the demolition of the old world and the construction of a better one; she is so sure that her actions are going to save the world from conditions of injustice, by any means necessary, that she doesn’t do a lot to question the means, and dismisses the advice of her closest associate because it represents doubt and faithlessness to her. And the protagonists still have hope in the face of that, because they second guess, make contingency plans, understand at all times and with deep gravity the human cost of whatever they intend to do versus the human cost of not acting; they have the courage to doubt, and at the best of times, the strength to make sure doubting doesn’t stop them but forces them to behave considerately/thoughtfully.
The reading I did at Albert Campbell Library was an illustration of this. Alathea is going to take full credit for something it took an expert captain, crew, navigator, and thundery contingent to accomplish, and utterly no practical skill from Alathea, but does she speak or behave as if she values their lives particularly much? I feel in the end it’s a bit heavy (and also gory) for a public reading, where given the type of audience, levity is key. I feel a bit like the audience needed the balance of levity and seriousness you get from the better Marvel movies, while I gave them a super serious super grim Batman vs Superman type experience.