In the first chapter of Sandry’s Books, Niko finds what he’s looking for. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle of Magic.
Oh my god, it’s here.
I realize that there’s an undeniable crossover between Tortall fans and Emelan fans, so while I don’t expect and entirely new audience to show up, I think it’s a good time to revisit the rules just in case.
Please do not spoil me or anyone else. While I have extensively written about what constitutes a spoiler in my Rules and FAQ pages, there is a very, very simple way of abiding by this: if what you are about to say in any way refers to something I have not reached yet, don’t say it in plaintext. Just don’t. You don’t need to say it to me, I will survive to live another day, don’t.
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All right, y’all, let’s do this!
Trigger Warning: For discussion of imprisonment, claustrophobia, drowning, death, and bullying.
Oh lord, I understand so little of this. I can tell in an instant that this is Tamora Pierce’s writing, but I’m now in an entirely new fictional world, one where all my familiarity with Tortall doesn’t matter anymore. Pierce does not make this easy, which means that I am thrown into Emelan – not just with one story, but four of them. (Oh my god, it’s the names of all four books HOW EXCITING.) It’s bold and overwhelming, and it’s perfectly immersive. I admit that while I know nothing of the Emelan universe aside from MAGIC, I’m also much more willing to enjoy the ride because I’ve developed a sense of trust of Pierce. I know what her worldbuilding is like, I know that she thrives off of my eternal shock and pain, and I know she cares deeply about writing believable, multi-faceted, and thrilling characters.
And in the first chapter of Sandry’s Book, I GET FOUR OF THEM.
I wonder if we’ll move entirely to Sandry’s voice after this chapter, given what the title of the book is. She’s the one who we are first introduced to, and this book is already a nightmare ON THE FIRST PAGE. All we know is that Lady Sandrilene fa Toren – Sandry – is locked in a windowless storeroom in her palace with a lone candle nearly burnt out. She is terrified of a number of things: the light going out, never being found, losing her sanity, the “mob” outside, the threat of smallpox. WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED HERE. The last person she interacted with – Pirisi, her nurse – was murdered outside the storeroom by a mob that hated “Traders.” I still don’t know what that is either. An ethnic group? A culture? A religion?
So Sandry is left to her own means, which is her previously-unknown ability to do magic. I was reminded of Farmer’s ribbons (oh god FARMER i will never heal from the Doggy Books) when she began to weave the three coils of silk. This is not the sole demonstration of magic in this chapter, but it’s one I found delicate and perplexing. Of course, I’m supposed to feel uneven. I AM THROWN INTO FOUR SEPARATE NIGHTMARES BECAUSE YOU’RE ALL EVIL OH MY GOD. Just… what? What is this?
Hey, was everything pretty bad? How about introducing a character by telling us that she is the sole survivor of a shipwreck and her dead family floats past her. BECAUSE THAT IS A THING THIS GODDAMN BOOK HAS JUST DONE. Just…. ??!?!?!?!?!?!?!
It’s going to be hard to even begin to think who might be my “favorite” of these characters, mostly because I know so little of them. But here’s something I liked right off the bat:
When she sat up and looked at herself, Daja thought she was a ghost. Her skin was all sparkly white. Had an enemy mimander turned her from a brown Trader into a white one? Why on earth would anyone do such a thing?
The fantasy genre is (and has been) in a dire need for diversity, and I’ve written about how hard it was to get into fantasy because it was so overwhelmingly white. When the only people who look like you are consistently made to be servants, the enemy, or the mystical exotic, it’s frustrating, particularly when the paler characters get all the incredible, trope-twisting developments. So I love that Pierce does not allow for re-interpretation here. Daja is brown, THE END. SO I AM REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS. I’m also interested to see how she fits in with Master Niko’s plan. With the exception of Briar, each of these characters possesses a hidden or previously-unknown magical skill. In Daja’s case, she’s able to coax a suraku – a survival box – to her, despite that she had no expectation of being able to do so. I also noticed that each of these examples of magic are massively different. Sandry uses thread, Daja uses intention, Tris affects the world around her due to her emotional state, and Briar… he grows moss? I DON’T EVEN KNOW.
AM I IN THIS BOOK? ARE YOU? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? HOW IS IT AT ALL POSSIBLE? How long have y’all been waiting for this?
If you’re not familiar with the concept, I have Xs tattooed on the back of my hands because I’m straight edge. I grew up listening to hardcore, but drank a lot in my teens. I decided to become straight edge just after my 17th birthday, and I’ve been completely sober since then. (This November will be thirteen years, holy shit!) So no, I have not been convicted of a crime twice before. (I have been arrested once.) And no, I cannot see into the future, so I did not predict that one day I’d get to read these books. but what if i had.
Anyway, BRIAR. Holy shit, yes. I love that he’s introduced so unapologetically. He’s lived most of his life in poverty, and he does what he can to survive. There’s no part of him that regrets what he’s done to keep himself alive either, and I appreciate that Pierce has written him like this. It’s fascinating and honest, and it sets him apart from the other three characters that Niko collects. (Why? Why is he doing this?) More so than anyone else, Briar is openly cynical and mistrusting. (Though I’d say that Tris is quite cynical, too.) He’s had no reason to trust anyone, has he? Because of this, it’s even more obvious that there’s something to Niko that makes him special. Briar has had to mistrust everyone in order to survive, and he’s used to taking risks. And yet, he seems to immediately recognize that Niko is not like other people he meets. Niko comes off as too clever and too powerful, and Briar doesn’t want to cross him.
WHO IS NIKO OH MY GOD. What is the Winding Circle Temple? What do they do there? WHEN WILL MY QUESTIONS EVER BE ANSWERED.
As much as I enjoy each of these new characters, there’s no one I felt as quickly drawn to as Tris, since we are way too much alike. Abandonment issues? Check. Victims of bullying? Check. Constant angst and problems with self-esteem? Check. My heart was broken reading Tris’s introduction because I have had an intimate experience with a lot of the problems she’s going through. How much of what the other girls say is true? Was Tris really handed from relative to relative? We know from her narration that her parents really did give her to the Dedicate Superior of Stone Circle; was it because she was too different? Too emotional? Did she exhibit the same signs of magic as the one we saw here?
I’m not quite sure yet. I do know that Tris is tired of being handed off to other people so that they can deal with her, and Pierce does a fantastic job conveying this complicated emotion to us. It really feels like she’s been subjected to a life of cruelty at the hands of everyone: her parents, her cousins, her fellow classmates, even the dedicates who are supposed to take care of her. They make fun of her size, the ease with which she becomes emotional, her worth, and anything else that makes her different.
She swayed, feeling ill – and then clenched her fists. She was sick of it! Sick of being gotten rid of, sick of being discussed, sick of not being helped!
Absolutely no one is surprised that I’m drawn to a character who is bullied and then unintentionally uses some mysterious new magic to fight back or to be heard. NO ONE IS SURPRISED. So I hope that Niko is able to help Tris find joy and power in her life, because this is a story I want. I WANT GOOD THINGS FOR TRIS.
Y’all, this first chapter jumps all over the place, and I’m so into it. I have so many questions though! Did Niko pick up these people in the order they’re introduced in the chapter? Does he have a ship full of magical children, or was he only looking for four of them? What for? How did he know where to find them? WHAT’S AT THE TEMPLE?
While I don’t know the answers to any of this, I love that Sandry opens and closes this chapter. Her magic allowed her to survive long enough for Master Niko to find her. But how did he know she was there? How is any of this possible? I don’t quite know, but good lord, am I ready to find out.
The video contains use of the words “mad” and “crazy.”
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