In the fifth chapter of Sandry’s Book, everyone pines for something. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle of Magic.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of racism, anxiety, classism/poverty, eating issues, and body image
I love this I LOVE THIS SO MUCH.
It’s so rewarding that we’ve got four POV segments in this chapter, all of which convey the parallel journey these kids are on, and yet none of it feels repetitive. That is a masterful feat, y’all.
So, I know there’s probably going to be a lot of y’all asking me which character I like most or who I relate to the most, and the more I read this book, the more impossible this becomes. My gut says Daja or Briar, but they all have such heartwrenching backstories that I empathize with wholly? And they’re all so fascinating and great??? But oh my god, as queer dude of color, I can barely begin to communicate how much I am completely in step with what Daja experiences in this chapter. There is so much pressure in this world to conform to the expectations of your culture from both sides: from those in your culture and from those outside of it. Daja has been stuck in a horrible place for most of her life because as a Trader, she was taught to view the entire crafting industry as the source of her livelihood but not her happiness:
“Traders trade – they don’t do,” her mother had told her time after time. “We don’t handle, we don’t work. We pay lugsha the lowest price we can get for their pieces, then we sell at the highest profit. It’s all right to smile, listen to their tales, compliment them on their craft, if it means closing the trade. It is not all right to show an interest on our own account.”
And yet, Daja finds herself fascinated by the work that Frostpire, one of the local smiths, does. Actually, it’s not just fascination or interest; she harbors a desire to do labor. She wants to forge weapons and doors and anything she can get her hands on. But she still clings to the thought that she’ll be disappointing her people, who are the same people who rejecting her and banished her from the Traders. And it’s just a neverending ball of sadness because I get that desire to feel like you still belong to your heritage. However, Frostpire represents a hope for her, and that’s what I find most intriguing not just about Daja’s story, but how each of these characters interact with their curiosities. While they’re terrified to pursue certain things due to their own histories, there’s still a quiet hope present. For Daja, she’s no longer allowed to be a part of the Traders, which means there is no one around to tell her to stop.
That doesn’t mean that this magically solves all of her issues or concerns, though. She’s still an outsider to these people. Tris still holds prejudicial thoughts against her, and Daja is wary about assimilating with other kaqs. Racism isn’t solved with hope, and I’m glad that while Tamora Pierce is giving us a glimpse of happiness for Daja, she’s ignoring the day-to-day realities of her life.
You know, I’ve never meditated before, despite that I’ve had an interest in learning how. (And given how anxious of a person I am, I could probably use it.) I’m glad that Niko is looking out for Tris. It’s clear now that he knew that Tris was affecting the physical world around her when she was upset. Well, wait, there’s also this:
“That’s right – I had the vision that Third Ship Kisubo was about to put to sea.”
WHAT THE HELL, Niko has visions? Did he have visions of all four of these characters??? Later on, he’ll admit that he can see things others cannot – hence his name Goldeye – so… that’s a thing. That’s a thing now.
Anyway, Tris… UGH WHO DON’T I RELATE TO IN THIS BOOK? Tris has severe abandonment issues and a whole lot of anxiety that comes from it, so Niko starts to teach her how to meditate and control her own mind. And the way he does it is lacking in condescension, which I appreciate because it shows that he understands that Tris is a delicate person when it comes to her emotion. WHICH IS ALSO PERFECTLY FINE. As an extremely emotionally delicate soul, I adore this so much. (Oh my god, I used to cry if I got an answer wrong on spelling tests. Which… well, there’s a totally separate reason for that happening as well, but still. I AM CONSTANTLY FULL OF EMOTIONS.) He gets that her difficulty in trusting others is based in her own history of being given away and left behind, so he doesn’t push her towards something she doesn’t want.
The same goes for Lark, who sees how uncomfortable Tris is with bathing in public and offers her and Daja private bathing rooms. Just… y’all, it means so much to me that the people taking care of these four kids are eager to understand them and support like no one else in their life has.
Well, then there’s Rosethorn, but I’ll get to her in a second.
Gah, I can’t deal with this book already. I’m eager to find out what kind of magic Briar has, since I no longer doubt the fact that he has some mystical connection with plants. Like Daja and Sandry, he is curious about something he’s never been allowed to have. His obsession with plants is at an all-time high because he’s in a place where they are everywhere. However, while there’s certain hope that Rosethorn may help him fulfill his desires and discover his true self, Briar is still afraid of history repeating itself. Throughout this chapter, he expects the worst. He expects to be struck constantly. He eats his food as if it is going to disappear. (And as someone who has lived in poverty, that’s something that still haunts me to this day. I’ve never gotten used to the idea that food is readily available all the time, and I eat as if it is not.) He doesn’t relax around anyone, and he trusts practically no one but himself. I’d even say that his refusal to take a bath is because of this. He does not want to get comfortable in this life because, like most things he’s gone through, it’s temporary. (He has that in common with Tris, doesn’t he?) He’s just going to move on to the next struggle and do his best to survive. Why does he need anyone else?
And that leaves us with Sandry, who spent years being told that her interest in weaving was not for nobles. Yet when Sandry surrounded herself with needlework, which was socially acceptable for her to do?
“They say needlework is all I should want to do, and then they tell me I do too much of that.”
She couldn’t win. And we knew from the opening chapter just how badly Sandry wished that she could learn to spin and to weave, so I was so satisfied to see how beautifully Lark treated Sandry throughout the process. (Yes, I did watch about ten different YouTube videos to figure out what all of these pieces were. I LEARNED A THING. Oh my god, now I’m Sandry. WHO AM I NOT IN THIS BOOK.) Sandry is a natural in one sense because she’s got the magic within her, and the wool and silk loves her. But that doesn’t mean she’s a perfect spinner from the get-go. No, she messes up a couple times, and it’s frustrating to her. It’s not until Lark asks her to think of a “soothing” sound that she finds comfort in herself. (Technically, Lark just taught her to meditate, too, didn’t she?) I think it’s important and touching that Sandry’s memory is what provides her with the soothing sound, particularly because it’s a memory shrouded in the sadness of losing everyone she cared about. She found a way to reclaim that memory in a positive way, and it’s one of a couple signs that she’s ready to start a new life.
OH MY GOD I WANT TO KNOW SO MUCH MORE ABOUT HER. Unlike Lark, she’s not all that interested in being gentle. That doesn’t mean she’s cruel, but she can be a bit brutally honest at times. Well, she also has a devious smile on her face when she brings up the punishments for cheating, so she clearly derives joy from this. But she isn’t careless. It’s harder to get past her tough exterior, but I don’t get the sense that she’s a mean person. I imagine she has her own reasons for being standoffish or for relying on humor or intimidation when she interacts with the children at Discipline. AND I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW THEM.
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