Mark Reads ‘Daja’s Book’: Chapter 1

In the first chapter of Daja’s Book, NO. NOPE. NOOOOOOOPPPPEEE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic

In one swoop, a prediction of mine is totally right and another is utterly wrong, and then WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING IN THIS BOOK. It’s a shocking start to Daja’s Book, and I don’t even know if this is a one-time plot twist or part of something larger. But this book caught me off guard long before the disturbing moment at the end of it. Opening months after the events of Tris’s Book, it also features our four heroes far away from home. IS THIS ENTIRE BOOK GOING TO TAKE PLACE AWAY FROM WINDING CIRCLE?

Only time will tell. All I know is that the four of them, along with their teachers, are in the northern part of Emelan, in a place called the Gold Ridge Valley. They’re accompanying Duke Vedris IV’s train as he visits various parts of Emelan. I don’t know why the Discipline kids were asked to come along. Was it because Sandry was related to Vedris? Is it a right-of-passage for those in Winding Circle? There’s a lot left unsaid here, but I’m okay with that. Pierce drops us into Daja’s life and we stay there for the majority of the first chapter as she tries to get settled in the smithy in the Gold Ridge Valley. It’s the twelfth one of the trip, and Daja longs for home, which felt pretty damn significant to me. Daja now considers Discipline her home, and that’s a big step for any of these four kids to take.

This also establishes how uncomfortable she is on the road and away from those she’s familiar with. In hindsight, you could see that as foreshadowing for the truly uncomfortable experience she has later in the chapter. She was already unsettled before Polyam ever showed up, but that’s something Daja’s used to. She doesn’t fit in anywhere in the world that isn’t Frostpine’s smithy, so it’s no surprise that she prefers to work alone in all the strange places she visits. Well, not so much alone. Tris is there with her, just outside the building. I’m going to interpret her behavior here as growth, since she doesn’t seem to fight the fact that she’s being asked to stay behind. She knows that the dry grassland in the valley could easily ignite if her temper flares. Part of learning control is recognizing when you don’t have it.

But what is Daja going to learn in this book? What’s her story here? Initially, I wasn’t sure, and I’m still not certain, though I suspect that might come from the forge scene or from Polyam. At this point in her training, Frostpine is still having her doing apprentice work, despite that she’s demonstrated some powerful magic already. I imagine that he wants to give her a strong foundation in her smith work before she moves on to anything more complicated. But, because Daja is Daja, she secretly works magic all on her own, creating a neat fire-weaving in this chapter to light the forge.

Unfortunately, it’s indirectly the cause of Polyam’s poor reaction to Daja, at least because people are still uncomfortable around the Discipline kids’ use of magic. Which… y’all, magic is an open truth in Emelan, right? So it’s fascinating me that there’s a clear point that most mages don’t cross and that these four kids cross frequently. There are socially and culturally acceptable uses of magic, and a lot of it has to do with how magical power is used. But that’s a conversation for another time, since Polyam treats Daja terribly for an entirely different reason.

So! One of my predictions proved right (I’m so glad I brought it along with this newest set of predictions!), and Daja meets a Trader. Polyam appears, looking for Kahlib, the local smith. Unfortunately, since Daja was left behind, we’re treated to a very real and very disturbing example of what happens when a Trader meets a trangshi. Pierce does not make this an easy scene to read. Trader custom mandates that all trangshi be treated as if they do not exist. So Polyam won’t even speak to Daja; she’s referred to as if she’s not even in the room. And bless Tris, y’all, because even though she’s completely out of her element here, she still stands up for her friend. She knows she doesn’t understand Trader culture, and Polyam’s treatment of Daja still stinks to her, plain as day. It’s rude, and it feels wrong to her.

More on that in a second. Pierce breaks away from Daja and Tris to check in with Briar and Sandry, who are out with Duke Vedris and Lady Inoulia inspecting the grassfires. Is that a significant plot piece or just a momentary setting? I don’t know. But as Sandry examines a jacket’s ornate embroidery, she has a fascinating conversation with Briar about theft and worth. I wasn’t surprised that Briar still stole; it’s a habit of his that’s going to be hard to break. (And it’s even less surprising that he stole food. The boy’s relationship to food is incredibly complex.) When Sandry mysteriously burns the metallic thread on the jacket, she insists that she needs to do something to make up for it. Briar’s response?

“Nobles,” he finally remarked. “You don’t see me having a conscience.” He looked at his jailhouse tattoos, black X’s stained deep into the webs between his thumbs and forefingers. “It just confuses things.”

Now, I do understand what he means. Briar has been “immoral” in the eyes of most people because at a young age, he had to break the law – constantly – in order to survive. And while I might have believed this if he’d said it in the first book, I think he’s demonstrated a morality in Tris’s Book. It’s not on the same level as anyone else around him, but it’s there.  HE’S JUST TRYING TO BE COOL. I mean, Sandry’s busy creating an entire fashion trend and he feels inadequate. OBVIOUSLY.

Anyway, back to Tris. I liked that despite her sass towards Polyam, she started asking her questions about her culture to attempt to understand it. Unfortunately, this really neat moment is ruined by UTTER TERROR. I 100% do not understand what is happening here at the end of chapter 1 because… can’t Daja control the iron? Why is it hugging her? Okay, that sounds gentle and kind when it’s not, but seriously, Tris and Polyam watch in horror as the iron from the forge grows and envelops Daja, “like an ancient grapevine.” WHY? Is someone else doing this??? Did Daja do some sort of magic that she couldn’t control? Is it really because of Briar??? That doesn’t make sense to me, though, because he’s nowhere near the forge. WHAT’S HAPPENING Y’ALL?

Hahaha, welcome to Daja’s Book, I guess.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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