In the second chapter of Sandry’s Book, everything is still really sad. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle of Magic.
How the hell is this only the second chapter? WHAT ARE Y’ALL DOING TO ME.
Okay, so I’m going to guess that at some point, all four of these characters will end up in the Winding Circle Temple and Master Niko is going to explain what on earth he’s doing. I don’t get it yet. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. But I’m enjoying that Pierce is taking us through the journey for each of these four characters because it gives me context. I know where they’re coming from and what they’ve been through before they are all in the same place.
So, Sandry’s first in this chapter, and holy SHIT, the ruler of Emelan? THAT’S HER GREAT-UNCLE? I knew she was nobility, but goddamn. Just after Pierce reveals this, we find out that FOUR MONTHS HAVE PASSED. That’s how long Master Niko took to help Sandry heal, which makes me even more curious about the timeline we’re working with here. What order did Niko collect these kids? How could he afford to spend four months with Sandry? How does he know the Duke? WHY IS HE AN ETERNAL MYSTERY?
While there’s not much information passed along here aside from the next part of Sandry’s journey, I’m intrigued by the set-up. Having become an orphan, Sandry gets a choice: to stay with her great-uncle, who she greatly enjoys, at his castle, though she will be underserved; or, she can go along with Master Niko to the Winding Circle Temple to get an education and live there. I got the sense that she was enjoying her time with Niko as well, so it’s not like his option was a terrible one. But Sandry is tired, she’s probably lonely, and she’s still suffering from the trauma of her ordeal. The Winding Circle Temple is better than her Namornese relatives, but it’s also another change in her life. So I’m interested to see how she adapts to her new environment.
Wow, WHY IS THIS BOOK BREAKING MY HEART SO MUCH ALREADY? The worldbuilding in Sandry’s Book is not a terribly obvious, so I’m doing my best to figure out the details of the Trader culture. The Council is the only thing I’ve got to go on right now, and it’s a brutal example of a superstition that they have: lone survivors are considered such horrible luck to their community that they are often permanently exiled. Pierce does not avoid how upsetting this is, and as Daja realizes that she’s to be made a trangshi, we can’t turn away from the heartbreak. It’s such an undeniably cruel thing to do. Daja had already lost her entire family, and there’s virtually no sympathy offered to her. Instead, the council forbids her from ever adding her own deeds to her staff, and she can never ever talk to another Trader again.
“This is to protect them from you. If you do not wish others to catch your bad luck, do the right thing. Stay away from them.”
I am INFURIATED. She doesn’t have a disease. But having to deal with this on top of losing your family? It’s just way too much, y’all. Daja, however, had already resigned herself to this fate; only Niko tries to defend her and get the Council to consider another option. It doesn’t work, though, and Niko promises to take her to where she will be appreciated: the Winding Circle Temple.
BRIAR TAKES A BATH: THE TRUE STORY OF THE CIRCLE OF MAGIC. His name is so perfect because Briar is thorny and difficult, and I love that about him. Again, he has no reason to trust Master Niko, though I can see how Niko is trying to manipulate Briar into staying with him. The bath may not have been a good start, but the fresh food? That’s one method to keep Briar’s attention. Niko also recognized that Briar had a thing for plants, and so he only casually mentions the gardens of the Magic Circle Temple, and how open-minded the Winding Circle mages are, and I see what you’re doing, Niko.
I’ll stick as far as the border, thought the boy. Get a few more meals like this under my belt – so I’d better try this washing. After that, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll have a look at this Winding Circle place; maybe I won’t.
So, I’ve picked up a bit about Trader superstition and culture, and Tris’s section gives us another detail: their magical weaving. It’s the same magic that Pirisi taught Sandry and that saved Sandry’s life, but Tris comes across a complicated magical weaving onboard the ship that Niko took her on to. She recognizes its powerful magic, but it’s later on in the chapter that we get yet another sign that Tris is very special.
Before that, though, Niko has to be all mysterious again:
“If you’ve something on your mind, tell me!”
Niko’s eyelids fluttered – was he laughing at her? “I can’t,” he told her, tearing a piece from a sheet of flat-bread. “Any questions I have might limit how you think, and the way you act on your thoughts. You see, Tris, just now your mind is unformed, without prejudices. If I present you with the wrong ideas, they might restrict what’s inside you.”
I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS. Why doesn’t Niko give this same speech to the others? I suppose none of them have asked where he’s taking them, and Tris is the only one who’s been this inquisitive about his intentions. Does this mean she’s taking some sort of test when she arrives? Is that why she needs to be unbiased? Does he want her to be a mage? What does he suspect has made her so susceptible to magic? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE OH MY GOD.
That same question applies to the surreal scene that follows this, as Tris interacts with Runog’s fire, “the ghostly flame that seamen believed was the lamp of the water-god, leading Runog to bless good ships or to sink bad ones.” No big deal, Tris just CATCHES LIGHT GLOBES THAT REPRESENT A GOD. NO BIG DEAL. So why the hell is this happening? I don’t know enough about the Emelan universe to be able to form even the tiniest of theories, but she can clearly do magic (uncontrolled and in response to emotional stimuli), and the gods have some sort of interest in her. But what’s fascinating about this is that Tris herself doesn’t fall into the Chosen One trope nearly as well as she could. I love that she’s utterly uninterested in becoming a mage or harvesting power. She just wants people to care about her and stop treating her like a freak. The hope she has here of a better life is slim, and she’s reluctant to express it. When you’ve been failed by life so many times, you don’t expect good things to happen.
I hope good things happen to Tris.
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