In the twelfth chapter of Tris’s Book, this is the most explosive chapter yet. HAHAH GET IT? :: lays down and curls up forever :: Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic.
Trigger Warning: For mention of fatphobia and discussion of warfare.
WHAT A CHAPTER. WHAT A BOOK. The more I think about this, the more impressed I am with Tris’s Book and the way it has unfolded. I made a point near the end of my reading of this chapter that I simply did not expect something this massive in the second book of this series. I’m still sticking to that because I think it was a bold move on Pierce’s part to move the story in this direction. AND I HAVE FEELINGS ABOUT THIS, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE IS SURPRISED.
Pierce doesn’t give us an answer to the question posed within this chapter:
“They’re treating us like children,” Sandry commented rebelliously as the four sat on the floor around the topmost step.
“We are kids,” Briar reminded her.
“But if we’re mages, are we kids?” demanded Tris.
This line? Utterly and wholly blurred by the end of this chapter. Y’all, I can barely wait to see how the Discipline adults are going to react to this.
I think it’s impossible to ignore how much anger and rage plays a part in what happens here, and because that’s the case, I feel like Pierce validates what this feels like. It’s a revenge story for Tris, sure, but for all four of them? This is an angry refusal to have their home taken away. As they eavesdrop on the adult’s conversation downstairs, they learn that matters are so terrible that they’ve been ordered to evacuate all the children to Summersea. The notion is so offensive to Sandry that she nearly spoils everything due to an outburst. And Tris – bless her heart – spells out exactly why this is not okay to them:
“Pirates killed my favorite cousin. Now they’re going to drive me from the only place I ever felt welcome,” Tris said very softly. “I’m done with being pushed around by the likes of them!”
Simply put, this is truly the only home all four of these characters have ever had, and so they resolve that they must disobey their charges and fight back. Well, yes, Tris does this all on her own because no one, not even her friends, could have stopped her. But before that happens, they openly discuss how to combine their powers to get past the magical barrier. This discussion is then made reality moments later after Daja, Briar, and Sandry catch up to Tris AND THE CIRCLE OF FRIENDSHIP IS ACTIVATED.
However, let me just talk about Tris for a moment. This passage was gut-wrenching to read:
Tramping through the grass beside the wall, she worked her feelings to a fever pitch. Emotions were the key to her power to damage things, weren’t they? She remembered her parents’ faces when they told a perfect stranger at Stone Circle Temple that they no longer wanted her. She remembered Uraelle taking her books when the chores weren’t done as well as she demanded, and dormitory girls taunting her about her looks. She remembered Winding Circle boys who called her “fatty” and made pig noises at her.
I am curious to see if Pierce will have one of the adults address Tris’s behavior towards the guards, since it was probably VERY MUCH against policy to pin one to a wall with magic. But aside from this possibility? Pierce doesn’t use a bit of the space within the text to invalidate Tris’s rage. Tris takes these ugly, traumatic experiences, and she re-purposes them into something constructive and powerful. That’s amazing to me, y’all. She finds that with the proper motivation, she can control herself, her emotions, and her powers. That doesn’t mean she’s perfect or able to defeat the pirate fleet all on her own. No, it’s a flawed approach, but one that’s rectified once her friends show up.
AND THEN SHIT GETS REAL.
Circle of Friendship
I’ll never get over this, I swear.
These beautiful, beautiful souls work together. They bond together. They meld their magical powers with each other, and they do something that NONE OF THE ADULTS COULD DO. There’s no cynicism or futility here at all, and I think that definitely plays a part in it. They aren’t concerned about the limits of their power; they all believe that when unified, they’re more powerful than they could ever be apart. And they believe this wholeheartedly! There’s only this brief moment of hesitation:
Closing their eyes, the four joined as they had once done in the middle of an earthquake, to become on. Daja was not sure that she liked such closeness. Briar felt the same way. Sandry brushed them with soothing warmth, reminding them that it was just for the moment, then turned her attention to the moon-pale wall that she had built.
Just for that moment, they’re unsure about the closeness, and then SANDRY BINDS THEM WITH KINDNESS. Excuse me while I remain utterly inconsolable over here.
It’s through this union that the four of them break through the barrier that the entirety of Winding Circle’s mage population was unable to touch. Each of them uses their unique abilities to discover a flaw in the design, but then they join together to destroy it. And it’s so fascinating to me how fluid this is. They know when to work as one and when to split off. Even when they do split off, they are constantly aware of what’s going on around them, eager to find anything they can do to weaken the pirate force. Briar focuses on stopping the forces heading towards the shore, and Daja busily disassembles numerous ships by pulling metal parts out of them.
What’s unspoken about all of this until it’s explicitly mentioned in Tris’s POV, though, is death. Daja is killing people, as are Sandry and Briar. They’re much more used to death. But Tris isn’t. This is still so new and scary to her, and yet, she channels her rage and fury at the flagship, and… christ, y’all.
The ship blew up in a spray of flame and smoke. Tris flinched, though her magical body couldn’t be hurt by flying debris. Burning corpses flew by, making her quail. Chunks of burning wood and red-hot metal rained down; sails caught fire. A length of flaming mast speared a lesser galley, crunching through its aftercastle. That ship exploded.
Tris did this. She did it without any hesitation. Holy shit.
The original text contains use of the word “mad.”
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