Mark Reads ‘Daja’s Book’: Chapter 2

In the second chapter of Daja’s Book, my heart shall not heal. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic.

Trigger Warning: For talk of homophobia and racism.

Well, I don’t quite know where this is headed. I think there are seeds of a larger plot here, but I’m stumped. WHICH IS GREAT, IT’S SO NICE BEING UNPREPARED. But I think there’s something to the iron tree which Daja unknowingly made. Frostpine admits that magic getting “away” from a mage isn’t exactly rare, but once again, the Discipline kids’ magic has combined in a way that no one has ever seen before. It’s like the knot thread, I suppose, except this time, they made something from scratch. Because it’s not like iron trees are common in Emelan. IT’S LITERALLY A NEW LIVING THING. I noticed that all the teachers reacted with a sort of muted disbelief at this development, and it makes me wonder if they’re secretly meeting and freaking the hell out about what these kids are doing. (Are they also gossiping during this time? Where on earth did Rosethorn get that ammunition against Frostpine? My gods, she is amazing.)

While this is an important development, I was instantly drawn in by a different plot spread throughout this chapter. IS ANYONE SURPRISED THAT I’M ALREADY OBSESSED WITH DAJA BEING OSTRACIZED? Practically none of you should be, given how I felt about Daine in The Immortals quartet. My own personal history is littered with this sort of rejection, so as Daja coped with her own rejection by the Traders she meets, it was easy to see myself in those scenes. I’ve got the dual identity of being Latino and queer, both of which were things I did not choose and which were assigned negative statuses within the society I lived in. And, unfortunately, I’ve had countless experiences where I was treated as if I was filthy, literally so.

Some of those manifested at my job when I was a manager at Hot Topic. (Is anyone surprised I worked there? NO.) I had parents who refused to have me ring them up because they didn’t want me touching their purchases. I wish I was joking about this. But this mother honestly believed gayness was like… an infectious disease? Apparently, she still believed in cooties. I can crack jokes about it now, but it was a horrifying experience ten years ago because I had absolutely no power to do anything about it. I had a job to do, so I had to sit there and quietly take her bigotry. I also remember when I first started getting tattooed how often I’d hear artists tell me, to my face, that my skin was not good enough for their work. I’m not even that dark, though my arms are far browner than my face. And I’d hear this shit on the regular, openly, with absolutely no hesitation. This was just an acceptable thing to say! (Seriously, I could write a novel about how racist the tattoo industry/fans are. Again, not kidding, but I’ve had people tell me I look dirty and gross with tattoos, and then turn around and desire white men with tattoos because they look “classy” with them. SIGH SIGH SIGH CANNOT SIGH ENOUGH.)

Daja is consistently dehumanized throughout this experience. Polyam, when she’s not outright ignoring Daja’s existence, compares her to a rat. And when Daja finally stands up for herself, demanding that the Traders speak to her if they’re going to buy her iron-tree, this is how Polyam responds:

“Since I heard nothing, I can transmit no offers that are impossible to meet.” Turning, she hobbled off after the other Traders.”

And look, I’m glad that Daja has friends and teachers who accept her and love her, but that doesn’t make this all that easier for Daja. It’s a painful thing to experience, and Pierce does a good job of showing how this sort of treatment gets under your skin. There’s that whole sequence in the baths, which has a strong metaphorical association with cleanliness, except Daja doesn’t feel clean after the experience. She ruminates on what it means to be trangshi prior to the bath, and it’s SO HEARTBREAKING:

This was the closest she had come to Traders in months, and they had treated her like dirt. “Like – like trangshi,” she muttered, entering the castle game. She could have worked all afternoon not caring that she was covered with iron and soot, but the idea of being too disgusting to talk to had sunk into her pores. She doubted a bath would fix that, but it beat trying to peel off her skin, the only other remedy that came to mind.

And when Lark and Sandry arrive, she has this to say:

Daja nodded as Sandry remarked with pride, “She told them they had to negotiate with her. She was splendid!”

“I don’t feel splendid,” replied Daja. “I feel unclean.”

Which is an important point for this text to make. Sandry feels pride towards Daja’s act of defiance, but Daja still feels gross about the interaction and herself. I know from experience that it’s damn near impossible not to internalize this kind of hatred and bigotry. You bury it down within you and it eats away at you, no matter how supportive your friends or family might be. It’s like a poison that sits inside your heart, and it makes you see the world differently.

Pierce does touch on the bizarre magical combinations between the Discipline students in two different scenes. Briar fries a patch of saffron crocuses when he channels lightning through his own magic, which should be impossible. That’s the same experience that Sandry had, so I wonder if this phenomenon will manifest in Daja, too. Sandry later describes her magic as “getting away” from her, too, and this all has to be connected, right? Their magic is mixing up and becoming chaotic. What for? What’s affecting it like this?


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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