In the sixth chapter of Sandry’s Book, Niko introduces the kids to the circle of magic. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle of Magic.
Trigger Warning: For bullying, sexism, fatphobia, and racism.
There’s no way I’m going to avoid being destroyed by this, so let’s just accept that this is par for the course. At this point, each of these characters has come from tragedy of some sort, and their lives are informed by that experience. It shapes their behavior and their view of the world, and it influences the choices they make. I appreciate that sense of history, given that we’re dropped into a world that’s so strange and new to me. The sixth chapter of Sandry’s Book feels like the first big chunk of worldbuilding that we’ve ever gotten, so I like that I’ve got a decent understanding of the main characters before the major worldbuilding arrives. I know why Briar eats so voraciously. I know why Sandry is contrary. I know why Daja and Tris fear crowds of people, why they’re always bracing themselves for a fight. With this minimal understanding of context, I can then immerse myself in this world.
Of course, I want to immerse myself because Emelan is new to me. Up to this point, I didn’t even know why this quartet was called The Circle of Magic, nor did I understand how magic worked. Now, I’m not saying I understand everything. I don’t, and I’m not meant to. Pierce is still hiding a lot from the reader about what’s really going on here. I’ve also noticed that there is practically no central conflict yet. It’s very obvious given that I just came off of reading a trilogy of hers that was all about these big, sweeping narratives. This feels a lot more like Alanna in that sense, or maybe even First Test. It’s the start of something big, and that means there’s a lot of set-up.
So, I think that’s why it’s important that all four of these characters experience those bullies prior to meeting up with Niko. All of them are told explicitly by those jerks that they do not belong, and then Niko gives them an experience that contradicts this. Hell, for Tris specifically, she gets a chance to feel validated for the first time in her life. But before I talk about that and weep all over the screen, I wanted to delve a bit into the dynamic of the bullying scene. It’s not anything that’s unfamiliar to me. Nay, IT IS QUITE REAL. Too real. There’s racism, classism, and fatphobia, all rolled into one massively vicious attack on the four members of Discipline. Are the kids in Discipline often subject to abuse? I’m actually curious about that! Clearly, the students in the other homes/dorms know that kids in Discipline are different, and I imagine that historically, that contributes to the bullying.
Regardless, I was totally fascinated that both Sandry and Daja knew that they had to get the hell out of there before Tris caused something terrible to happen. Daja in particular was ready for a confrontation, but even she knows that Tris has some sort of power that’s related to her anger. She can’t quite define the instinct, but her gut told her that if they fought, it would not have turned out well for anyone involved. And Tris – oh my god Tris – goes into a state of shock over it. But I’d like to think that maybe she didn’t cause anything to happen because of the meditation she’d been taught. She doesn’t have perfect control, but I feel like there’s something here that I’m missing.
SO LET’S TALK ABOUT THE HUB BECAUSE HOLY SHIT SPACE MAGIC. This place is unreal, I am so happy there’s an entire SERIES around this, I want to know eighty thousand things about it, and S P A C E M A G I C.
“What’s magic got to do with me?” demanded Briar. “If I have any, it don’t bother me.” Daja nodded; Sandry and Tris both looked troubled.
“That’s all very well and good, my boy,” Niko said dryly, “but have you ever thought that you might bother magic?”
HAHAHA WHAT DOES THIS MEAN OH MY GOD I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS. And y’all, I cannot believe it took me until this chapter to realize that all the mentions of the colors of the habits and elements were intentional. They each correspond to one of the four Discipline kids:
Daja heard metal call from underfoot. Kneeling, she found pieces of black, glassy rock embedded in the dirt. Briar heard the roots of plants, twining around each other to form a giant net. Tris felt the shift of rock and the trickle of water between stones. Air pressed on Sandry. For a moment she thought that she stood on the whorl-wheel of the biggest drop spindle in the world.
Again, this is so important. Each of these characters feels as if they are not part of this world. Sandry lost everyone she ever loved, and she’s never been allowed to pursue what she wanted. Daja’s family drowned in the ocean, and then she was ostracized from her culture in response. Briar has never had a family (as far as I know) and has had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to survive. Tris’s own family willingly gave her away, where’s she been passed from one person to the next for years. They’re all listless, they lack purpose or direction, and they have no reason to believe that life can get better for them. Until the Circle. Each of them experience a connection they never knew existed, and it demonstrates to them that there is a future waiting for them. And shit, that is life-changing for Tris, particularly when Niko later mentions that hearing voices is part of the magic of this place. She had spent her whole life being called a freak and believing terrible things about her sanity when nothing was wrong with her. AHHHHHH THESE CHARACTERS, I CAN’T DO THIS.
Also SPACE MAGIC:
“It’s not of this world.” Kneeling, the man ran his fingers over a shiny piece of stone. “Thousands of years ago, a rock from the stars crashed here, leaving the crater where this place is built. The stones are its remains. Their magical power can be used for many things. They made it possible for Winding Circle’s builders to anchor complex protective spells here without their affecting the magical work done afterward.”
Incredible. INCREDIBLE. I love how much detail is here, since Pierce explains how messages are passed, how the magic of the Hub is protected, how the dedicates and initiates contribute to the work that needs to be done in the various temples… it’s just not enough. I wanted to spend ages here, exploring the place, and I’m hoping we’ll learn more about it in the near future. What’s the hearing room for??? How is the clock powered? Where do the birds get messages from? I have so many questions. SO MANY OF THEM.
I wanted to end this by talking about the incredible scene between Briar and Tris that we get. Each of these people has come to Discipline with their own experiences that affect how they treat one another. I’m enjoying that Pierce is also exploring how they are prejudiced against each other, too. We’ve seen that Tris holds some terrible views of Traders, and this chapter is full of Briar’s sexism. He’s largely disgusted by girls, believing them to be shallow and unable to shut up. It’s grating, certainly, and Pierce isn’t hesitant to make his bias extremely open. It’s right there! It’s not a subtext, and it’s not something you have to read into the narrative either.
Why didn’t she say something? Was there ever a girl who didn’t talk her teeth out? Certainly that Sandry had a mouth that ran on fiddlesticks.
I was thrilled that Pierce put his sexism on the page, and then makes him unbearably uncomfortable for it. He fidgets on that roof while Tris meditates on the other side of it. He is so convinced of his conclusion about girls that he eventually has to go break the silence like a giant hypocrite just to find out why Tris isn’t acting like his sexist idea of a girl. Their cloud-gazing instead becomes a teachable moment for both of them. Tris is getting a grasp on how to control her anger and her anxiety, and Briar is definitely forced to accept that, at the very least, Tris does not fit his idea of a girl. It’s a step – a small one, yes – but it’s there!
The video contains use of the words “mad” and “insanity.”
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