In the fourteenth chapter of Page, this is one of the most suspenseful and upsetting things I’ve ever read for Mark Reads. Intrigued? Then it’s time for me to read Page. And nearly cry. And scream a lot. Yeah.
Chapter Fourteen: Needle
I still feel like The Immortals quartet is my favorite series of Tamora Pierce’s so far, but there’s no doubt in my mind that “Needle” is the best-written chapter I’ve come across. This is a culmination of foreshadowing (SO MUCH OF IT, OH MY GOD, IT STARTED IN THE LAST BOOK), meticulous plotting, and some very necessary character development spanning all of Protector of the Small. That makes me wonder how is it even possible that this could get better??? This whole sequence in Balor’s Needle feels like a series-ending event. That’s how huge it is. It means so much for Kel as a character, too! She doesn’t just have to face her fear of heights in the worst way imaginable; she makes a conscious choice to give up the possibility of becoming a squire. I mentioned that in the last review, but it bears repeating here because of how realistic Kel’s behavior feels to me. Throughout this chapter, Kel experiences these brief (but very visceral) sensations of regret and sadness. Pierce allows her to express them in the narrative, and then Kel moves past them. It feels so much more empowering to me that Kel doubts herself, doubts her choices, and doubts her future, and then ultimately doesn’t let this turn her back on her friend and her servant. Hell, it was probably possible for Kel to have attended examinations and gotten to Lalasa in time, but the downside to such a decision would have weighed on Kel’s conscience far too heavily. Plus, there was the chance that Lalasa and Jump’s kidnappers would have seen Kel succeed during examinations and then hurt Lalasa once they realized their scheme didn’t work.
This doesn’t mean that Kel’s journey up Balor’s Needle is a walk in the park, though. While she is better at ascending that horrifying set of stairs than she was earlier in the novel, it’s still a harrowing scene. EXCEPT THAT IT WASN’T EVEN CLOSE TO THE WORST PART, AND EVERYTHING HURTS. My god, everything from the moment Kel gets to the top onwards is horrifying because this is some gritty writing. a the visceral descriptions of the injuries Jump and Lalasa receive to the details of how they were kidnapped, Pierce truly conveys the horror of what these men have done just to derail Kel’s path towards knighthood. Hell, we don’t even know who is ultimately behind all of this, either! But this is a sign of the terrifying desperation that some men feel about the very idea that a woman might be better than they are. That’s really what this comes down to, isn’t it? These misogynist assholes KIDNAP AND IMPRISON PEOPLE because they don’t like women doing what they can do. And doing it better! (Because let’s be real here: Kel is a damn fine page, one who used the very bullying and hazing she was subjected to as a way to become better than her bullies. BLESS THIS BOOK.)
AND THEN THE DOOR IS LOCKED, AND KEL REALIZES SHE HAS TO USE THE OUTSIDE STAIR TO GET DOWN, AND THIS CHAPTER BECOMES ONE OF THE MOST INTENSE THINGS I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED. I used to be fairly afraid of heights, and it’s something I managed to conquer in recent years, but the second half of this chapter? One big NOPE to everything here. I admit that I am still confused as to the physical arrangement of this staircase in terms of what it looks like, but that didn’t diminish the horror I felt at the thought of these three characters slowly making their way down a hellish path. It’s the open air part that gets to me, y’all. Well, that and thinking about Lalasa’s stiff and aching muscles. While going up stairs is harder work, going down stairs is totally awful when you’re sore! You don’t realize how much leverage and balance your legs provide until you’re so sore that you feel like you can’t move an inch. And yet, Kel makes it work. She takes this one step at a time â€“ literally! â€“ while encouraging the frightened Lalasa down behind her. ALL OF THIS WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR:
When I reach the Realms of the Dead, she vowed grimly, I’m going to find the genius who designed this tower and I’m going to kill him a second time. Horribly.
BLESS YOU. I love that we get to see what mental devices Kel uses to cope with her own fear. I adore the fact that this whole chapter is basically about how one can still be a hero while being scared. Gods, that is such a huge thing to read! You don’t need to be a fearless robot to do good things. In fact, fears are natural parts of our lives, and Kel inhibits that idea.
Of course, then the stair breaks, and I am a billion percent done forever with this book. See, it didn’t matter that I guessed Lalasa and Jump’s location correctly. Nothing could have prepared me for such a plot twist, one that makes a whole lot of sense when you think about it. Who is using these stairs ever? They wouldn’t be taken care of like the staircase inside Balor’s Needle, you know? With this one plot twist, this chapter jumps straight in nightmare fuel. It’s almost like everything is so awful that Kel’s fear of heights is the least of her worries. WHICH IS NOT A GOOD THING, OH MY GOD. But that’s why this is called the Protector of the Small series. (At least so far, that is. There could be more things to come OH GOD.) Kel is willing to do anything at her own expense to save the people who need it the most. It was the most unreal relief, then, when they all managed to return to the courtyard, alive. Kel did it. She made it. She saved her friends. BUT WHAT THE HELL IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO HER? Oh, why must I wait until next week for the next chapter? I need it right this second. Will they find out who hired the two men? What is Lord Wyldon going to say when he finds out what Kel did? I MUST READ MORE.
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