In the eighth chapter of Page, Kel returns to the palace for her second year as a page, only to be forced to face her fear of heights in the worst way possible. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Page.
Chapter Eight: Messages
OH MY GOD, SO MANY THINGS ARE HAPPENING.
Tamora Pierce wraps up the story started in the last chapter, and in doing so, she acknowledges multiple aspects of this world that convey how complicated things are. Particularly, it’s how she brings up the poverty of the bandits that caught my attention. I think it’s important that Kel realize that there are no easy answers when it comes to war and violence. They’re uncomfortable with how many bandits are killed, but they’re also kids. What can they do? They don’t have the power or courage to stand up to Lord Wyldon, and it also wouldn’t be fair to ignore the bandits, since they’re robbing people just as poor as they are. I hope to see this addressed more in the future, honestly. I think it’s a big deal.
Anyway, after this, Pierce transitions the narrative to Kel’s second year as a page. She gets two months off, which she spends with Lalasa and Jump. And then we get that lovely scene with her mother, where Ilane and Kel talk openly about Kel’s body growing up. That’s when Tamora Pierce fills my heart with joy:
“Remember â€“ you may be able to do so, but no one can force you to have babies. You do have a choice in these things.”
PRO-CHOICE MOTHERS IN A FANTASY NOVEL. THIS IS SO WONDERFUL THAT I COULD WEEP. Bless you, Tamora Pierce. Bless you.
There’s also a set of brief scenes spread out over this chapter that all concern Lalasa’s mistrust of women. We’ve seen Lalasa express things like this before. Every time, Kel is completely unable to understand why Lalasa would feel this way. Oh god, Kel, you should stop. Given that Lalasa has probably experienced sexual and emotional violence at the hands of quite a few noble men, she has not had the same experience Kel has had with the boys in her life, many of whom are not grown men. I’m hoping that when Lalasa is honest about what has happened to her and why she distrusts men, Kel actually listens to her. Because there is nothing wrong with how Lalasa feels; she is allowed to exercise fear in order to protect herself, and lord knows I do the same thing all the time.
Anyway, once Kel is back in the palace, everything is very exciting! Owen is there, being loud and inappropriate! (Poor Kel.) Kel has LOTS OF FRIENDS who are willing to CONSTANTLY DEFEND HER. She’s already a bit of a LEGEND! Did I miss something, however? Does Kel not sponsor anyone at all? It seems intentional, since she believes she is still “at the bottom of Lord Wyldon’s list.” Oh, Kel, I think that’s certainly not the case by the end of this chapter, but at this point, she hadn’t experienced the thing.
That thing is spawned by Gareth the Younger (!!!!!! OH MY GOD !!!!!!), when he tasks Kel with getting a message to King Jonathan up on Balor’s Needle. There’s a part of me that wonders if he heard of Kel’s fear of heights and had her deliver that inconsequential message to the king. Of course, it could just be a coincidence, but the significance of that journey for Kel would be monumental. It’s so significant, first of all, because Kel does conquer her fear to climb up the long and terrifying spiral staircase. We must acknowledge this! Sure, it’s a harrowing experience for her, but she does it. That’s so wonderful! And I love that King Jonathan is still described as being one who inspires fear in people not just because he’s the king, but because of his ~smoldering good looks.~ For Kel, though, this is such a scary reality because she knows that Jonathan was partially responsible for her probation. If she messes anything up, it can’t end well for her. So when she’s faced with descending the stairs, it’s a nightmare. The worst possible thing to happen to her would be the king seeing her at her weakest. She already believes that she’s the most vulnerable page because she’s a young girl, and even if this fear of heights has nothing to do with her gender, it’ll be perceived as being a problem of her gender. Which is already terribly unfortunate as it is, but that’s the reality she faces: If she does something awful or makes a mistake in this context, it’s because she’s a woman. Nevermind that she’s done wonderful things, too. Those positive actions are never assigned to her gender. BECAUSE THAT WOULD MAKE TOO MUCH SENSE, WOULDN’T IT?
I didn’t find King Jonathan’s reaction Kel’s agoraphobia to be condescending or rude, but I think it’s a perfect example of how personal experience and fear define how we perceive things. Bringing this back to Lalasa, it’s a direct parallel. Kel fears the king because of his role in her probation. So she’s going to view her interactions with him more negatively because he’s never really given her a reason to trust him. So, why can’t Kel see that Lalasa’s negative experiences inform her current state? I really hope Kel has this epiphany, you know, because I think she can empathize with Lalasa more than she’d like to admit.
Of course, it’s the end of all this that surprises me the most. Kel is called to a private meeting with King Jonathan and Lord Wyldon after supper that night, where Jonathan wants to hear her recount the Battle of the Cliff. One part stood out to me in particular:
“Just as you told it to me,” murmured Lord Wyldon.
It’s a very, very subtle affirmation on Wyldon’s part. I know I constantly grasp at the thinnest of straws when it comes to Wyldon, but he doesn’t make any disparaging faces at Kel. He seems to okay her story, to give her permission to be honest, andâ€¦ BY GODS. COME ON, WYLDON. She has proven herself multiple times. However, I think that while Wyldon’s opinion of her may have changed, he might think it more practical to keep his thoughts to himself. That way, Kel will continue to outshine her peers without thinking she has Wyldon’s acceptance. Maybe??? I’M PROBABLY WRONG AGAIN, OH GOD.
And then there’s the mysterious extra training revealed in this chapter. Are the leaders of Tortall planning for some sort of war or skirmish? Why? What don’t we know? Wait, y’all know everything. What don’t I know? Truthfully? EVERYTHING. I KNOW NOTHING, JUST LIKE JON SNOW.
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