In the eleventh chapter of Sandry’s Book, nothing about this book should work AND IT ABSOLUTELY DOES. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic.
Trigger Warning: For brief discussion of eating disorders/hunger.
Let me just start by saying it was right there the whole time.
Tris gasped. “You mean ‘Discipline’ – this house – doesn’t mean punishment?”
HAHAHAHAH I LOVE BEING TROLLED BY THE VERY BOOK I’M READY. This is all your fault, y’all.
I’m still at a point where the character whose story I await the most is Daja’s. Her work with Frostpine is just so beautiful and evocative, not just because there’s a lot that I can relate to. I love the idea that these two people have more or less been waiting for one another, though Daja never knew there was someone like Frostpine out in the world. And really, that is something I can deeply relate to. When you grow up believing that you’re a freak or that you don’t belong, you begin to convince yourself that the world is out to punish you, to make you feel terrible. (Hey, just look to Briar to see this very behavior spelled out for you.) And while I now don’t believe that’s what is actually happening – the universe is an uncaring thing – it’s a difficult feeling to break through. It’s why representation is an issue dear to my heart: I want other people to know that there’s a place for them in this universe. Daja has spent almost all of her living believing that her very core was wrong. So Frostpine is playing a vital role in her development. He’s able to explain feelings she believed were solitary experiences, things that were only happening to her. If everyone else was able to fit into Trader society so well, why couldn’t she?
I also enjoyed that we got a bit more worldbuilding in terms of how magic works in this universe, specifically for these unique mageborns:
“Our magic only works as well as the things it passes through. If you can’t bring a forge fire to white heat with a bellows, or work an iron bar so that it won’t break on impact, or melt down ores without removing the dross –” He shrugged. “The magic is only as strong as your fire or metal. It’s only as pure as the ore you melt down. Before you become a mage, you must be a smith. You must work metal and magic together.”
Which makes sense, given what we’ve seen of the other characters. Briar’s magic works through plants; Sandry’s magic works through the loom; Tris’s magic works through the water and the air. It does not act independent of the natural world. So Daja’s test is a good example of that. Her magic relies on being in tune with the world, both in the sense that she’s got to concentrate and that she can rely on her own experiences with nature. She’s able to identify a few of the metals purely on instinct, while others she recognizes because she’s had an experience with them. Notice how quickly she recognizes the gold because she spun gold wire with her own magic. As she learns more about smithing, she’ll be able to grow her magic, too!
I commented during my initial reading of this chapter that I was struck by how these characters were suddenly finding themselves in a sense of normalcy. Of course, there are plenty of issues they’re all working through, but in their day-to-day lives, they’re dealing with certainties: chores. Bathing. Eating. Studying. Memorizing. There’s less stress in their immediate minds because they have a more dependable schedule. It’s part of how they’re learning to have mental discipline, which will help each of them be able to control the chaotic magic they have within them.
I love it, then, that each of these characters wants to learn spinning as well, hoping that it’ll soothe them like it appears to soothe Lark and Sandry. It’s a practical thing to know how to do, sure, and Rosethorn admits that. But the scene where Briar asks Sandry to teach him gives us one of the rare moments when all four of these kids get along and appear to be on the same page. IT’S A SIGN OF SOMETHING TO COME, ISN’T IT? Oh my god, bonding over spinning. That’s so fantastic.
The passage of time here felt very necessary, since it conveyed that sense of routine that I just spoke of. Before we know it, it’s summer in Emelan, and each of these young mages is progressing steadily from where they once were. I adored that conversation they had on the roof of Discipline; it’s a dense scene full of a ton of important little moments. We’ve got Tris taking (very small) steps towards understanding Daja and her culture, as well as Sandry defending Daja from Briar by suggesting that maybe she doesn’t like being called a word that could be seen as a slur. They all speak openly about their training, which is exhausting at times, but is helping them understand new things about the world around them. LIKE SANDRY LEARNING THAT SHE CAN CONTROL STRAW SO SHE USES IT TO GET BACK AT BRIAR AFTER HE KEEPS TICKLING HER. Gods, I love her so much.
This hit a little too close to home, so I won’t speak too much about it, but holy shit.
“I don’t know what’s to become of you,” she informed him, brown eyes fixed on his. “You may grow to be a true earth-mage. Maybe you’ll join a temple; you might be the most sought-after gardener north of the Pebbled Sea. That’s up to you. One thing is certain – hunger is a thing of the past. You may skip a meal or two, but you’ll never starve. Take my word for that and don’t make me come after you again.”
I probably have not gotten over this particular aspect of my own mind. Just trust me: this is a very real sensation that people who have gone long periods without food have experienced and continue to experience. BRIAR, MY HEART HURTS.
I think I understand something else about how magic works for mages like these kids or Frostpine. There’s a pervasive motif throughout this book concerning harmony. I think it would be easy to read all four of the main characters’ backstories as disharmonious, you know? Each of them was out of sync with the world because they didn’t know who they truly were, and they lacked the support system to figure that out. Even at Winding Circle, you can see how much harmony plays into the architecture, into the ways rules are enforced, into the discouragement of conflict and public arguments, into the physical arrangement of practically everything. It’s all in accordance with nature in a way that accepts and respects its existence.
I believe that plays heavily into the type of magic that Tris is dealing with. Curious, she tries to pull power from the tides and store it in a rock, only to discover why Niko once told her that most windmages perish before adulthood. IT’S DANGEROUS AS HELL. Actually, that probably sounds like an understatement, as that implies there’s a limited risk to toying with nature. No, what happens here demonstrates that nature almost always wins.
There’s one aspect of this that puzzles me, though. How do the persistent earthquakes play into all of this? It’s more obvious than ever that I was dead wrong about their cause, but Pierce is still drawing my attention to them within the narrative. It seems important that Tris can predict their arrival, and some of the adults appeared quite interested in knowing when Tris was aware one was going to happen. So what gives? Is this related to some other type of magic? HOW ARE THERE TWO CHAPTERS LEFT?
The original text contains use of the words “mad” and “crazy.”
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