In the third part of Mastiff, everything is incredibly complicated and distressing. ALREADY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mastiff.Â
Trigger Warning: For violence, gore, animal death, and drowning.
This book is going to destroy me, I can already tell. SHALL WE? I’ve got a lot to address.
CAN I EVEN TRUST THE PALACE MAGES AT THIS POINT? I feel a little more inclined to trust Mistress Orielle after being introduced to her becauseâ€¦ well, let me be honest. Master Ironwood is so awful that I am immediately biased against him, and this is, admittedly, a terrible reason to suspect him alone of being the inside man. Like Master Farmer, who is hiding his true self beneath a mask of foolishness, Mistress Orielle could be hiding something, too. But she’s fascinating to me independent of my thoughts of Ironwood, given that she’s got to work with someone like Ironwood day in and day out. She’s astute, she’s honest, and she seems to be eager to solve this whole mystery. I THINK. Damn it, this trilogy in particularly has ruined me for all of Tamora Pierce’s books because it’s made me so paranoid that I’m being tricked VERY PUBLICLY.
Hey, let’s make this book EVEN MORE UNSETTLING AND MYSTERIOUS.
“The spells all around us are shredded, Mistress Clayvynger â€“ apply your own spell if you doubt me. If the Lord Chancellor did anything while he was here, it was damage, not strengthening. If the attackers came up from the seacoast, it was because he destroyed the concealment spells on the cliffs, the paths, and the gates.”
SERIOUSLY??? This is the first concrete evidence that the raid on the Summer Palace was an inside job. But why? Why do this? Why would someone on the inside want to take King Roger’s heir from him? Those are bigger questions that probably won’t be answered for a long time, I realize that. There’s something amiss here, but unfortunately for me, THIS IS JUST THE START. The book gets even more perplexing from here on out! Because how the hell did so many raiders get into a place that is not only supposed to be protected with magic, but is geographically difficult to gain access to? Later in this section, Beka vocalizes her concerns to Pounce, pointing out how steep it is from the ocean up to the wall. Someone had to have helped the raiders.
I also have to definitively state that no character is more intriguing to me here than Master Farmer. He’s the first to figure out that this had to be an inside job, but as we’ll later learn, he purposely plays the fool in order to poke fun at the noble mages, who are largely super, super classist towards him, since he couldn’t afford to go to the fancy mage schools. I mean, I love him just based on that alone because watching him toy with Ironwood (while Ironwood is too proud to even notice he’s being made fun of) is endlessly entertaining. But what other secrets does he hold???
Achoo finally gets the chance to do what she’s been eager to do this entire time when Beka separates from Tunstall, looking for the laundry room. However, Pierce tempers our excitement by reminding us that it’s entirely possible that the hunt will be a moot point:
How far the raiders would get depended on whether they had fled by ship or by land. I don’t know what His Majesty or my lord thought we could do if they’d taken ship. The Rats could be on their way to Carthak.
Hey, at least I can now appreciate the tragic irony of this foreshadowing. More on that in a bit! Beka does locate the prince’s clothing, though the signs of the massacre are still everywhere. While Beka only sees one body during this section, it’s not like she can ignore the blood everywhere. It’s haunting. It’s a visceral reminder of how thorough the raiders were when they decimated the place. And it inspires a really scary thought in Beka: WHAT IF THEY AREN’T DONE WITH THE KING AND QUEEN? What if this was the first step, and the next is to kill the king and queen, too?
JESUS, THIS BOOK IS TOO MUCH ALREADY.
Achoo’s hunt brings Beka into a brief reunion with Orielle and Ironwood, where Beka learns that the Lord Chancellor of Mages was also murdered. HOW CONVENIENT. So, the Chancellor wasn’t involved in weakening the magic surrounding the Summer Palace? Orâ€¦ shit, what if he was and the folks responsible killed him so he couldn’t rat them out? I DON’T EVEN KNOW, Y’ALL. But it’s yet another indication of how frightening this whole situation is. There’s clearly something huge going down. So why was Gershom called in? Why not inform more people of what had happened? Why was there such a huge need for secrecy here?
I knew Lord Gershom and the king were friends from the king’s wilder days. My lord had saved the king’s life on many an occasion, and he’d hidden many a mistress from the knowledge of Queen Alysy. Now I wondered what other things my lord might have done for him, that the king would place all responsibility for this mess as it stood in Lord Gershom’s hands.
In one sense, it’s a sign of trust. King Roger really might suspect that someone close to him betrayed him, so he’d rather utilize his longtime friend than the resources that are expected of him. But this also reveals a new angle to the story, one where Lord Gershom helped clean up a number of crises for his friend, and this is just another one. I think it’s pretty gross to help hide mistresses, so what if Gershom’s hands aren’t exactly clean either? (OH MY GOD, WHY MUST I SUSPECT EVERYONE? Y’ALL HAVE DONE THIS TO ME.) Also, here’s yet another obligatory mention of my extreme dislike of Ironwood, and it would be great if it was him because then we could hate him to death. AWESOME.
Anyway, Achoo continues her hunt, taking Beka through the palace and teetering dangerously on the edge of the collapsed part of the structure. Achoo does her best trying to locate the path the kidnappers took after nabbing the prince, and sadly, she finds it, along with a soldier of the King’s Own who tried his best to protect a stairwell that most likely gave the raiders access to the prince’s room. The poor man is hacked nearly to pieces, and it’s yet another grim and sad sign of brutality. I know that this trilogy has been a lot grittier than most of Pierce’s other work, but I was still shocked by the bloody violence of it all. Have we ever seen anything this gory in her work? Of course, it all leads me to wonder why this happened as it did.
But lord, I was so unprepared for the bewildering turn the book would take in the next scene.
Achoo leads Beka, Tunstall, and Farmer downhill towards the sea, where Beka finds a batch of the most confusing clues yet. They’re floating in the waves, and she wades out in the rising tide to fetch them: the body of a drowned cat. The corpses of drowned rats. A whip. And after Master Farmer uses his magic to light the quartz in a huge rock nearby (THAT IS SO COOL, Y’ALL), Tunstall and Beka continue to discover more objects littering the beach that make no sense. Toys. Scarves. A bronze pendant with a very strange logo on it that no one recognizes. They clearly belonged to people, and they were clearly recently left here.
I justâ€¦ jesus, y’all, the plot twist that Pierce drops into my lap here is one of the most frustrating things she’s ever done because I have not a single fucking theory as to how it is even possible. While Beka and Tunstall were scouring the beach for more clues, Master Farmer was busy using his unique Gift to RAISE GHOST SHIPS OUT OF THE OCEAN. Not just any ship, but they are the exact ships that came with the raiders, and they were destroyed by a mage and sunk less than a day prior. Beka, spell out my thoughts:
“Two ships, crew, and captives? Why go to all this trouble, only to destroy the profits? It must have taken a lot of power to attack the palace, then flat-out sink the ships so fast that none could escape. That’s seriously big magic, right? Surely the realm doesn’t have that many great mages that could do this.”
There are so many possible explanations for this, but Farmer suggests that perhaps King Roger’s interest in taxing mages enraged some, and this is their revenge. But it’s so bizarre. How would the mages know that raiders were planning to kidnap the prince? Why wait until the returned to simply sink them? THIS DOESN’T ADD UP AT ALL! It doesn’t! Did mages from the very group of raiders sink their own ships? Likeâ€¦ that seems like an extremely complicated and not-very-beneficial method of committing assassination, doesn’t it? Why kill your entire crew???
I don’t get it at all. Are Ironwood and Orielle lying? Is there a reason they abandoned the king and queen back at the palace when they should be guarding them? Are Beka and Tunstall going to find anything in the woods that’ll guide them in the right direction? WILL MY QUESTIONS EVER END?
The original text contains use of the word “mad.”
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