Mark Reads ‘Mastiff’: Part 23

In the twenty-third part of Mastiff, Beka gets company in her cell and begins to plot her escape. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mastiff.

Trigger Warning: For prison/captivity/claustrophobia, just in case, and torture

hahaha, this is a book? This is real? This is happening???? What have y’all done to me?

From futility…

Goddamn, this section starts off so bleak. I can’t imagine a better way for Pierce to demonstrate the hopelessness of the situation than having Beka stuck in a filthy cell while she wonders if her friends and companions have betrayed her and the Provost’s Guard. Truly, I had not a single theory as to how Beka would get out of this. By “this,” I mean:

  • Getting out of that cell.
  • Finding the prince.
  • Getting him out of wherever he’s being kept.
  • Getting out of the castle
  • Getting him out of the grounds.
  • Getting him across/around the lake.
  • why

That doesn’t even take into account Farmer, Tunstall, and Sabine. Does she get them before she leaves? What if they’re all traitors? Why are there so many variables?

I mentioned on video that I was once locked up, so yeah, I admire Beka so much because she’s able to find a way to take her anxiety and lock it away, to compartmentalize it for the time being. It’s a sign of her training and how she’s able to recognize her own mental limitations. She knows that if she thinks of the fate of her fellow Dogs, it’ll tear her apart. So she goes over events to write in her journal for later, surrounding herself with the details. Of course, Pounce plays an important part in Beka’s well-being, and I am going to be so sad to never see him again. Y’all, this is my last Tortall book. MY LAST ONE. I’m in the last hundred pages of these characters and this world. It hurts too much to think about. 

I’m thankful that Pierce didn’t go into detail about Beka’s torture during her imprisonment because… well, this is all UPSETTING ENOUGH ALREADY. But I did want to comment on one detail she revealed here:

Even I could tell they weren’t that interested, or they would have used instruments on me.

So… are they really just bad at being guards and torturers? I like the idea that Pierce is demonstrating how incompetent these people are at running anything. These are the folks who want to rule Tortall!

…to hope

And then Farmer is brought to Beka’s cell, and I was so thrilled to have them reunited and at one another’s side and –

“I’d hold my thanks, were I you, sweetheart,” he said, pulling me against his chest. “I believe they’ve put us together so when they try me next, they’ll give you what they’d like to give me. That’s why they’re giving us a night together, to make it worse.”

YOU RUINED MY JOY IN LESS THAN A FEW MINUTES, TAMORA PIERCE. But I then had to concede that this was probably the real reason that Beka hadn’t received the kind of torment she had anticipated. They were saving it specifically to get Farmer to talk.

So it wasn’t all that easy for me to let my guard down and enjoy all of the cuteness that follows this reveal because… look, I’m preparing myself! Until that one thing (we’ll get there, I promise), there was not a single sign here that these people could escape the hellish fate that awaited them. No hope, no options, no hints. NOTHING. Let’s be real: I am steeling myself for the possible worst ending here, which is that Farmer is revealed to be the traitor and then he also dies, and Beka has to lose yet another person she’s cared for. (For the record, I actually debated keeping that sentence in the review because every time I try to figure out the “worst” thing that can happen, whatever I’m reading or watching shows me how fucking unprepared I am. But goddamn it, I’m hard-pressed to come up with a worse ending than that. Eh, I’ll probably regret this, BUT THIS IS WHAT I DO.)

At the same time, there’s a sweetness to everything that happens here. Surrounded by filth and despair, Farmer and Beka finally openly profess their love for one another, and I find it intensely meaningful that this is where they do so. Is it ridiculous and tragic in one sense? Of course! They’re in a prison. They have little hope of escape. But it’s the first sign that there might be something positive in the future of this story. I definitely can’t help but ship Farmer/Beka because HE IS SO PERFECT FOR HER. He might just be the sweetest man in all of Tortall, and it’s no surprise that I’ve grown so fond of him. His kindness and care for others is so obvious, and I’d like to think that this completely disqualifies him as the traitor. (But we all know that niceness is not a sign of being a good person, so OH GOD WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME QUESTION EVERYTHING, PIERCE.)

Still, I couldn’t forget that all these proclamations of love and BEKA ASKING FARMER TO MARRY HER (!!!!!!!) were happening in a cell while Pounce was watching. PHEW. This could have gotten real weird real fast. Well, not just weird, but super sad? Because they’re still imprisoned and Farmer can’t do any magic.

He gave me the warmest, sweetest smile I had ever soon on a man’s face, and stood, though we both winced and groaned when he set me back on the cold bench alone. Then he said, “Sweethear, never listen to what my enemies say. They’re very confused people. I know they are because I’ve spent years making them that way.”

I AM SO HAPPY THAT SO MANY OF YOU HIGHLIGHTED THIS BRILLIANT PASSAGE IN YOUR KINDLES. Because holy shit, it kicks off perhaps the wildest, most bizarre, and utterly believable segment in this entire book.

Master Farmer poops out magic.

WHAT, HE BASICALLY DOES. Is there anything better y’all have got me to read on camera than Farmer passing a magical white turd? Is there a better scene to demonstrate the brilliance of this mage who everyone – literally everyone – underestimated from the start? Did you all know that you would ask a gay man to read this sentence?

“Farmer?” I asked, alarmed yet afraid to turn around.

“It didn’t feel so big before!” he cried.

It never does, Farmer. It never does.

I will clean that for you, Pounce said. I heard the sounds of a tiny rainstorm.


“Isn’t that still more meddling?” I asked.

Hardly, Pounce replied. Cats are forever washing things. I have just done a little more than most.

They are forever washing things with their mouth. THEIR MOUTH, POUNCE. THAT’S HOW CATS WORK, NOT TINY MAGICAL RAINSTORMS.

I’m going to skip the entire section where they discuss who might have betrayed them because I am not emotionally mature enough to deal with it, and I figure if I just go into denial about this plot even existing, I can focus on other things. Like an adult.

So let’s talk about the escape, because good god. First of all, moment of respect for Farmer for asking if Beka minded being magicked by him in order to put the map of the castle in her head. I’m sure she wouldn’t have minded, but this speaks to that kindness and care that he shows for others. He’s always so aware of his place in the world and what sort of power he has over others, even if his intent in using that power is pure. Because it doesn’t matter that he has good intentions for Beka; what matters is how she feels about it. And valuing that sort of thing in the world is so goddamn important y’all.

And from there on out, it is a wild ride. I was understandably confused when Farmer appeared to be speaking utter nonsense to the guards when they arrived to take Beka away. But that’s the point. He immediately launches into his escape plan by tricking the guards into thinking they are the prisoners. And christ, that is so brilliant. They won’t try to get out, they won’t make a fuss, and it buys the two of them more time. That is also the reason for the number of things Farmer does after this, such as timing the cells to unlock at a certain time, or making sure the guards are extra drunk, or the spell that disguises them both as guards. How does this man think about so many different variables?

So, now that they’re free, they’ve got a singular goal, one which is not met by the end of this section. I know that their priority is to the prince, so I’m curious how Tunstall and Sabine are going to play into the ensuing chaos. I’m guessing that the horrible plot twist here – that Elyot already sensed someone was using “strange magic” – is how they’ll be dragged into this. But I still don’t know where their loyalties lie! I don’t know where they are in the castle, I don’t know if they’ll help Beka, and now I don’t even know if Farmer’s going to survive his confrontation with Elyot. Farmer can’t rely on his feigned ignorance anymore with Elyot, and he’s also got a significantly smaller store of magic within him. How? How is he going to pull this off?

Goddamn, I’m terrified for the next section.

The videos contain use of the word “mad” in various forms.

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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