Mark Reads ‘Mastiff’: Part 20

In the twentieth part of Mastiff, the team faces yet another setback, and HOW DOES THIS KEEP GETTING WORSE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mastiff.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of death and fire.

It really does get worse and worse as Beka gets closer to the prince, doesn’t it? And if the external forces at work here weren’t bad enough, Tunstall and Farmer bicker fiercely, which causes me to wonder if the emotional and mental toll of this hunt is affecting these people more than they’d let on.

I’m so close to the end of this book, so that could be part of the reason I’m worried. But even if you don’t think about that, it’s undeniable that things truly have never been worse for these Dogs. There are two big turning points in this section, so let’s talk about them both!

Farmer’s protection

I really should have figured that a moment of rest would turn into a disaster. TWICE. Despite that I’m reading this book in such a fractured manner, I still feel like I’ve got a good grasp on how tiring this journey is for Beka and her friends. I picked up on the exhaustion a while back, but it has never felt so treacherous as it does now. The fact that a wayhouse came off as an oasis was one sign of how goddamn tired these characters are. I mean, y’all, Beka was thrilled to spend the night in a STABLE. Granted, I know that has another meaning for her, but when was the last time they slept under a roof? Back at Queensgrace? WHY DOES THAT SEEM LIKE IT WAS A MILLION YEARS AGO. Oh gods, y’all, remember how this book started? That was literally forty eons ago.

I’m being ridiculous, I know.

But the wayhouse where the group stops felt like a much-needed break for them all, which is why it’s so upsetting to me that it goes awry as quickly as it does. They all needed the rest. They needed that moment of quiet productivity in the stable. They needed a hot meal, the company of others who weren’t on a hunt, the kindness of strangeness… all of these things could have been a wonderful way for them to recharge their minds and their bodies. And they got so close! Gods, everything was so cute and nice and it’s all taken away from me. Well, except Sabine making Farmer and Beka friendly with her horses. THAT CANNOT BE TAKEN FROM ME.

It’s not lost on me that something as simple as Beka asking Tunstall if he needs help with his aching bones would act as the catalyst to an argument. But Tunstall’s always been a prideful person. Combine that with his clear exhaustion and pain, and it’s a recipe for a disaster. Well, Tunstall also has had a longstanding dislike of magic, so when he blows off Sabine’s offer for help with a rude dismissal, Farmer’s kind of the only person left to help him. When he obviously needs help, I should add! That’s when this happens:

“Hurt me and you’re a dead cove, mage,” Tunstall announced.

Tunstall, I honestly don’t think that Farmer would dream of doing that. Is that how little you think of him after all this time???

Farmer glared at Tunstall. Now there were sparks in his blue eyes. Tunstall had finally gotten under his skin. “Enough carping, curse it all! I have a headache!” he snapped at Tunstall. “You haven’t been holding off four or more harmful spells a day along with everything else, you rock-skulled hillman. We’ve been under constant assault. If Gershom hadn’t been lucky enough to have me at Blue Harbor, you’d be dead by now, do you understand that?”

It’s just relentless after that, as both men take shots at one another. Tunstall is convinced that Farmer thinks he’s a superior person, and Farmer is furious that Tunstall has so little faith in him. It’s not like these are new issues; they just came to a head right then. Hell, I didn’t even find myself all that surprised by the reveal that Farmer was constantly warding off multiple spells a day. It made sense, and Farmer’s always kept his work to himself. Still, that doesn’t necessarily make this easier to handle or less awkward. Is this the start of something worse? Are they going to be able to get along, or will we see them bicker more?

It was nice, then, that when Farmer joined Beka in the stable later that night, the two of them got a chance to bond over what had happened. It’s also the point where we can no longer deny the attraction between them both. Again, it’s not a surprising thing; Pierce has been hinting at it (if you could call Beka outright complimenting Farmer’s muscles in her mind a hint) for some time now. But their attraction isn’t just a physical thing. It’s related to Farmer’s revelation earlier in the day. He’s not interested in the attention and grandeur that might come with his work. He wants to help the helpless, he wants to learn more about the world around him, and he wants to make a difference. AND IT’S SO GENUINE. That makes him such a good fit for Beka, who came from the lowest class herself and has devoted herself over the course of this trilogy towards helping those who might not ever get it.


The Fire

No, not this one:

I was considering that and rubbing my wrist as Farmer got to his feet. I say this only because I wish to explain how it is he caught me by surprise when he leaned down and kissed me softly. His lips parted from mine gently, he stroked a lock of my hair away from my face, and then he went to the privies to ready himself for his watch.

WELL, GODDAMN. But no, this is not the fire that ruins practically everything for these people. I kinda wish I was wrong about stating on video that there was no way this wasn’t a coincidence. It’s disheartening and, frankly, an infuriating moment in Mastiff, a book that is utterly filled with enraging moments. I don’t feel the need to discuss the horrifying details of the fire itself (because for real, it’s so fucked up), but I thought this was a good time to point out that YET AGAIN, the enemies here are willing to dispose of human life to get what they want. Like Linnet, like Achoo, like any of the people who have been in the way, like the animals Viper has murdered… it’s the same mentality. Human life has no meaning for these people except to serve their interests. In this case, an arsonist set fire to Tunstall and Sabine’s room in order to torch the group’s packs and supplies, and aside from the shoulder packs those two grabbed, they succeeded. In the process, they killed over thirty people. How many others would have died if Beka had not helped the people panicking on the stairs? How many others would have died if not for Farmer’s help in using his Gift to channel water into the wayhouse? Of course, I’m thinking about this in a manner that’s the complete opposite of how Beka reads the situation. She’s upset about who she couldn’t save, from the man who died because of a backdraft to all those who burned or suffocated up on the third floor.

Unfortunately, Pierce doesn’t really let her characters off easily, since in the final pages of this section force these people, who just survived a possible assassination attempt, to think about what their presence at the wayhouse means. Despite that this was a Crown wayhouse, and despite that it was meant as a place to help out Dogs, it’s going to be incredibly easy for anyone to blame the fire on their presence. It’s admittedly incredible uncomfortable because we wouldn’t actually think to blame this fire on the Dogs, but, as Tunstall points out:

“Folk in general lose control of their tongues when they are frightened.”

So it’s a matter of time. By the time the Dogs from Babet arrive? The rumors will be out of control. So the chief hostler, who is as tactful and as kind as he can be, recommends that they all leave before dawn. This was supposed to be a chance for them all to rest and recharge, remember? Except now, they’re gonna have to make a move with little sleep and little energy, and I’m extremely worried that this’ll have a negative effect on the group.

Seriously, it’s gonna get worse, isn’t it?

The videos contain use of the word “crazed.”

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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