Mark Reads ‘Sandry’s Book’: Chapter 12

In the twelfth chapter of Sandry’s Book, WELL, NOW THERE’S A CONFLICT, AND IT’S REALLY UPSETTING. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic.

Trigger Warning: For talk of trauma, PTSD, phobias in general, and specifically nyctophobia and claustrophobia.

Good god. Shit just got so real.

What’s fascinating about this is how the conflict that’s been hinted at over the course of Sandry’s Book is finally culminating in a scene where what these kids have learned matters. Their experiences matter and affect the story; they are coming to understand one another better than they ever have. I just wish it wasn’t in the most terrifying way imaginable because WOW, THIS IS SO DISTURBING.

We get a sense that something is wrong from Niko’s behavior and a few other details provided by Pierce, so I admit that the eventual cave-in itself is not that surprising. Well, on top of that, the kids kept saying, “So there won’t be an earthquake here, right?” And I knew that they’d doomed themselves. But what happens after that is shocking, and the build up to it is just as important. Let’s first start by talking about PORTENTS:

“When seers view the future, it isn’t a lone, solid image. The various choices that people make change any one future into many. Each choice in those futures gives birth to still more. Omens and visions are pictures from all those futures. Our task is to find the single event, or events, that started them. Once we find it, we can learn where and when that event takes place and try to prepare.”

THIS IS SO COOL BECAUSE IF FUTURE-TELLING WAS REAL, I IMAGINE IT WOULD BE MORE LIKE THIS THAN ANYTHING ELSE. I love that this is about possible futures that all spring from a single event, and it means that seers are this world’s magical detectives. They gather the clues of each possible future, and they try to determine what they’re branching off of. Oh god, can we have a book about the seers? I want a magical detective mystery novel set in the Circle of Magic universe, and I want that now.

So: Niko is tired and incredibly busy, and no one knows what the hell he’s up to. Then they watch as a cloud of messenger birds burst from the Hub. Then there are mounted couriers that follow them. And then Niko reveals what’s going on and WHAT.

“Ragat will have an earthquake tomorrow, sometime before noon. Word’s been sent to Ragat and her neighbor Pajun to prepare, and to everyone on the surrounding coasts who might be hit by a tidal wave.”

Which must means that this is what all the portents led to. However, it wasn’t lost on me that this was yet another instance in which quakes were playing into the story, and I did not think that this could be a coincidence. So why? Why was this happening? It seems like whoever this Honored Huath is, his constant meddling in the natural way of things could easily be responsible for the quakes, but why risk it? What’s the advantage of turning one kind of magic into another? What is his benefit? I feel like this is the answer, but I don’t have nearly enough context information to explain why.

In the midst of this development, though, Pierce reveals something that’s been happening in secret in the novel: Sandry has been struggling with her own trauma-induced fear of darkness. It was a remarkably hard thing to read because I know exactly what it’s like to develop what feels like an irrational fear of something once you’ve gone through a traumatic event. In addition to this, we find out that her fear of the dark comes with a particularly awful nightmare: she’s forced to relive the death of everyone she ever knew due to the smallpox epidemic she survived. Just… oh, Sandry, I feel so many things for you. Pierce was not shy in sharing the details of this nightmare, and as gross and disturbing as it was, it helped me to understand Sandry better.

And it definitely makes me wonder if Sandry does compensate for her quiet fears by acting as fearless as possibly. After the kids all get trapped within the cave after that violent earthquake, she can’t hide her phobia of the dark any more, and jesus, it’s SO UPSETTING:

“It’s dark.” There was a shudder in Sandry’s voice. “Don’t leave me in the dark, please! I’ll be good –”

Saati,” Daja croaked, tears rolling down her cheeks, “please don’t talk like that.”

And it’s not as if Sandry is the only person upset here; they all are. But to the rest of them, Sandry’s behavior seems so out of character for her. Tris even comments on it at one point:

“What is the matter with you?” Tris demanded softly, her own voice shaking. As panicked as she was, she couldn’t stand to hear Sandry in terror. “You faced down Crane and bullies and a crowd of truly vexed merchants, so I know you’re not a coward.”

Thankfully, though, Pierce doesn’t just leave it at this, and she doesn’t allow Sandry to appear to be a coward. I’m happy about that because it allows the other characters to understand and empathize with her fear. She later explains that her phobia is not just to being locked in a dark cellar, but to the pain and fear and loneliness she felt after she was taken out of that place. It’s part of a long, complicated experience, and it’s important that we and the others understand that.

There’s just so much to like here, y’all. Daja, Tris, and Briar all get a chance to utilize what little they’ve learned in order to give themselves a temporary sense of safety, and it was INCREDIBLE to read. Daja is the first one to use her meditation to draw a parallel between her survival box and the metal, stone, and ore around her. Tris helps to find an air vent so they don’t run out of oxygen, and Briar uses the knowledge that much of the earth is made of living material so that they can secure the earth and prevent it from further collapsing in on them. OH, AND DAJA AND BRIAR TELEPATHICALLY COMMUNICATE WITH ONE ANOTHER AND THEIR INNER VOICES FEEL LIKE SOMETHING THAT REPRESENTS THEIR MAGIC AND THIS IS ALL TOO WONDERFUL.

So of course it’s all ruined:

“And – maybe this is odd, but – it feels like there’s magic all wound up in it. We have some time, but it’s coming. Daja, I’m not sure the thing you did for us will hold.”

WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING IN THIS BOOK.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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