In the seventh chapter of Wolf-Speaker, Daine is frustrated with the task Numair has left her, so her badger friends gives her the reassurance she needs. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Wolf-Speaker.
Chapter Seven: Counting Soldiers
So it’s certainly no secret at this point that I’m ready to propose to The Immortals. (Oh god, how many books am I in a committed relationship with at this point? Too many.) This series does so many things I love and am impressed by, and then this chapter happens, and it just further cements that this quartet is going to become one of my most favorite things I’ve ever read period. Character development! Showcasing a protagonist’s flaws! Revealing the true purpose of the story! Plot twists everywhere! For real, y’all, I love Wolf-Speaker so much.
A great deal of “Counting Soldiers” openly addresses the issues Daine has with what she’s been doing. In many ways, her life reaches a nadir again because of how frustrated she is with the wolves, with Numair, with Maura, and with her entire predicament. What I like about this is that Tamora Pierce gives Daine the space to cope with the issues. Even though she eventually points out how Daine is flawed, that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be frustrated, you know?
First, Daine becomes furious with the wolves when she finds out they’ve done something else to get revenge on the humans in the valley. I understand why Daine is so mad; she’s frightened! She knows that the food theft and spoilage will only draw more attention to the wolves, will only give the humans more of a reason to go after the pack, and will probably bring around another Coldfang. At the same time, Pierce makes it clear that Daine isn’t seeing this situation from any perspective other than her own. She has a reason to be scared, but she also has to realize that these creatures need to defend themselves, too. Plus, as Tkaa points out, why is it always awful that a creature thinks? I admit that I don’t have a counter to that myself.
Anyway, Daine sets out to the southern fort with Cloud and her new squirrel friend Flicker to do what Numair asked them to do. God, I AM SO IN LOVE WITH ANIMALS BEING SASSY AND HILARIOUS TO DAINE. They both make fun of her for not being able to tolerate Flicker’s jumping. Bless. This entire scene presents another problem for Daine: While inside an animal’s mind, it’s very obvious to tell that an animal is behaving strangely. This is something that had not really been addressed before, and here, it proves to be a disaster. A squirrel rummaging through papers is going to be suspicious! Especially when those papers say things like:
Try also to capture the young dragon. If this immortal is shipped to Us live for inclusion in Our menagerie, there will be a reward of 500 gold thaks. As to the dragon’s handler, she is not required. Kill her.
WHAT THE HELL. Also, y’all, OUR MENAGERIE??? Oh my god, is Carthak collecting immortals??? THIS IS GETTING SO FUCKED UP.
There’s a bit of suspense here when Rikash shows up because holy shit. He figures out that this is all Daine’s doing in like ten seconds. Again, that’s not surprising. But I did not expect that the text would so openly acknowledge how difficult this was for Daine. It’s through the appearance of the badger that Pierce not only addresses the issues Daine has, but reveals what’s really going on. Initially, though, Daine only responds to the badger’s invasive questions with anger. Understandably so! Her anger might be slightly misguided, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t feel that way. She spells this out to the badger, too. She’s upset that Numair walked them into Dunlath, that he left he stuck behind a wall of magic, that he might be over exaggerating the effects of a word of power, and that he didn’t tell her anything about what entering a creature’s mind would do to her!
So while I do understand the badger’s ultimate point, I think it’s kind of mean of him to say that Daine is being foolish. She’s fourteen, and she’s been forced into a situation that most people two or three times her age could not deal with. I wouldn’t be so quick to blame her, you know?
Anyway, the middle of this chapter is entirely devoted to the information and guidance that the badger gives Daine. Can we just get to the biggest part of this all? The badger points out something I had not noticed at all: Daine is the only person who can talk to humans, beasts, and immortals. SHE CAN COMMUNICATE TO ALL OF THEM, AND THIS IS HER PURPOSE. I loved that the badger basically guided Daine to come to this conclusion herself. She realizes that Dunlath is the perfect place for all three types of kindred to live in harmony. This is an important revelation because so much of this book is about how the three groups have been unable to get along with one another. (Though I mostly blame the humans for this.) Even Daine herself has been unwilling to look at the Stormwings or hurroks in a positive light, even though it’s possible both creatures have been enslaved by humans.
This ties in so perfectly into Daine’s growth as a person. If she is truly going to be the one to bridge the gap between the three types of kindred, she has to repair her own prejudices as well.
I LOVE THIS BOOK.
The final portion of chapter seven features more of Maura, which is always welcome. I was satisfied that Pierce pointed out how petty and immature Daine’s irritation with Maura was, especially enough so that Maura could come along on the second count at the northern fort. Daine has irrationally high standards set for Maura, despite that Maura continually proves that she can handle her own when given the chance. Even Tkaa corrects Daine’s prejudice when she tries to claim that it will be impossible for Maura to ride along on Tkaa’s back. Daine, he’s amazing. I hardly think carrying a human is going to slow him up that much. But the best part about this? SHE ACTUALLY LEARNS SOMETHING FROM IT. After her conversations with the badger and Tkaa, she finally looks upon the ogres with an empathetic eye, trying to understand why they are the way they are. Oh my god, character growth, I love you so much.
Thankfully, this trip is far less eventful than their trek to the southern fort. Flicker is more frightened than before because they had to return to Maura in the darkness. It’s not until they get back that Daine realizes she’s got a bit of a problem: Her body, more than ever before, has started transforming into that of a squirrel. Like, SHE PHYSICALLY SHRANK. Holy shit, can Daine seriously become an entirely different species? Is this a thing that can happen???
I don’t think the end of this chapter is much of a cliffhanger. More than anything, it conveys just how severe Daine’s transformations have become, but also how far she’s come in controlling them, too. Oh god, there are less than 100 pages left in this book. What’s going to happen?
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