Mark Reads ‘First Test’: Chapter 8

In the eighth chapter of First Test, WINTER IS COMING and I’m sorry, I just needed to say that, and this review has no other Game of Thrones references, I promise. If you’re still intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read First Test.

Chapter Eight: Winter

EVERYTHING IS GREAT AND THIS BOOK IS GREAT AND I AM SO PLEASED.

Seriously, I’ll repeat myself, and I don’t care. Even in a book with a character that has no magic within her whatsoever, there are still animals being cute in ways I don’t get to experience. WHY IS LIFE SO DEEPLY UNFAIR. 

This chapter transitions into the day following Kel’s fight with the main palace bullies and takes us through her experience during winter at Corus. This is, in part, a journey of confidence. Kel learns her self-worth and the importance of being herself through this, and it’s goddamn fascinating to watch. That doesn’t mean she’s perfect in her execution of everything, but I can tell she’s changing. I mean, I know it seems silly to say that this experience is changing Kel, because that’s generally how life works. What I’m trying to point out is that we’re seeing character development happen over the course of this chapter. Sometimes, it’s obvious. Sometimes, it’s not. BUT IT’S SO SATISFYING AS A READER.

For example, I think it’s wonderful that Tamora Pierce addresses the complex reality of what it’s like to be bullied. I talked mostly about how Kel felt in chapter seven, but Pierce sheds light on Merric’s own struggle here as well. It’s something Kel intrinsically understands. There are issues of pride at work. Merric isn’t necessarily going to feel appreciative of Kel because her actions may have the unfortunate side effect of him getting bullied more. Granted, Kel tells Merric that she did what she did for her own peace of mind, something it seems Merric comes to understand by the end of the chapter. Still, that doesn’t mean Merric’s feelings and experience should be invalidated, so I’m happy that Pierce doesn’t have Kel shame him. She understands why Merric reacted the way he did as well as understanding why she acted the way she did, too. As long as she stays honest about this, I’m enjoying this.

I’m also totally into the ways that The Immortals quartet influences the story we’re given here. Without the events of those books, there’d be no intense winter training like the pages go through in chapter eight. Oh god, fighting spidrens in the snow. That’s a big NO THANK YOU from me. Spidrens are bad enough, but I can’t imagine a battle in the freezing cold! Oh, I’d never survive on the Wall. SORRY, OKAY, I PROMISED NO MORE SONG OF ICE AND FIRE REFERENCES, BUT IT JUST HAD TO BE DONE.

Anyway, Pierce also makes sure to depict the continuing frustration that Kel must deal with in this environment. The very culture of the palace dissuades people from tattling or complaining, and that leaves things ripe for bullying. It’s unfortunate because Kel has no recourse after she trips on the oil and is late serving Lord Wyldon. She can’t tell him the truth because it breaks two unspoken rules. Instead, she must suffer the consequences of someone else’s behavior, on top of listening to Joren’s group’s taunts towards her. These three jerks are so determined to get Kel thrown out! Isn’t it exhausting to be an asshole all the time? SERIOUSLY, DON’T THEY GET TIRED?

At least there’s some pleasantry to be found during gift-giving time. Something nice happened! To multiple people! With no negative repercussions! This is Tamora Pierce’s gift to all of us. I am going to continue wishfully hoping that the ~mysterious~ gift-giver is Alanna because the very idea of it is filling me with so many feelings. Think about it! It’s Alanna’s way of assisting Kel without actually being there, a purposeful attempt to circumvent Lord Wyldon’s rules. I JUST LOVE IT, OKAY.

After this, Kel continues to make sure Joren and company don’t get away with their bullying. She defends Seaver, who was being hit and abused by the group, and in the process, she loses yet another fight. My god, think about that. She purposely gets involved with these fights knowing that they’re three against one and that they’ll how they usually do: with her covered in cuts and bruises. And yet she does it anyway. This has the unintended effect of bring Seaver and Faleron to her study sessions with Neal. Oh my god, is she making friends??? Is she winning people to her side??? That seems to be the case during the brawl that takes place during sword practice. Zahir goads Kel with misogynist insults, and Neal, Merric, Faleron, and Seaver actually join Kel’s side. PUBLICLY. MERRIC JUMPS ONTO JOREN’S BACK. All of them get punished with laundry duty, but it’s still so surprising. Kel is winning people over by standing up to the establishment in her own way. That makes me so endlessly excited for the rest of this book. I CAN’T WAIT TO READ MORE.

Part 1

Part 2

Mark Links Stuff

– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
I have announced what the next books I am reading on Mark Reads will be, as well as updated y’all on the events, cons, tour dates, GOING TO EUROPE OH MY GOD, and general shenaniganry going on in my life. I have a similar post up on Mark Watches, detailing the next two shows I’m doing as well as the return of Double Features, and I finally explain what happened with my Vimeo account. Check these posts out!
– Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
– Video commissions are open, and you can commission a Mark Reads/Watches video for just $25!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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