In the twelfth chapter of Daja’s Book, I am utterly ruined by the Circle of Friendship. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic.
Trigger Warning: For pyrophobia, body horror.
There’s a beautiful sense of completion to this chapter because so many plot points from earlier parts of Daja’s Book – the introduction of Tenth Caravan Idaram, the glacier, the unification of powers, the themes of rejection – come together in one unreal, frightening climax. This is an immensely disturbing read, both because it’s so physically scary and because Pierce doesn’t let us forget that even as Daja tries to save the lives of the Caravan, they’re in hiding.
It’s so unbearably upsetting. And it is right from the beginning! When Briar begs his mentor to use him as a shield (WHICH DESERVES A MILLION TEARS ALL ON IT’S OWN, OH MY GOD), Rosethorn lashes out at him. He knows that because of what Rosethorn did to fend off the pirates, she’ll take the pain of the plants into herself. It’s just who she is. But her stubbornness gets the best of her, and she violently flings Briar away. It’s scary, to say the least, and I wonder if Pierce will address this in the final chapter. I get the sense that Briar was more than just physically hurt by this, given that he is so jealous that Lark is her shield, not him. Maybe he won’t talk to her about that, but I feel like Rosethorn might want to apologize to him for this.
For the remainder of the chapter, though, we focus entirely on Daja, and I’m glad we do. This is her struggle, and now that Yarrun is dead, she’s the keystone to any plan for success. Without her, everyone would have already died. Despite that she’s receiving assistance from her friends and teachers, she’s still the conduit through which all the magic flows. The horrible irony is that Daja believes that even if she succeeds, she’ll still be unappreciated:
She looked at the caravan, her eyes watering. I’m trangshi. They keep telling me so. They’d be happier if I was dead. If they survive this, the first thing they’ll do is put the whole caravan through qunsuanen.
I had no reason to believe otherwise, so that’s what I expected. Even though she’s been rejected by these people and treated like filth, she still tries to save them. I loved that sequence where she imagined them as her own family so that it would be easier for her to motivate herself to risk her life for strangers. THIS HURTS:
She’d never had a chance to save Third Ship Kisubo. Maybe she couldn’t save Tenth Caravan Idaram – but at least she could try.
Help me, I am overwhelmed by Daja’s entire existence. She is abandoned on a road of fire, and her only assistance comes from those she cares about, who are far, far away. What Daja accomplishes here feels so massive, and Pierce does wonders with the scope of this scene. It’s not easy to convey the sense of magical might at work, nor is it always that easy to write about things that aren’t happening in the physical world. But like many of Pierce’s action sequences, there’s a clarity to the plot. I could see this unfolding in my mind, and that’s not always an easy thing for me. (It’s actually the biggest challenge I’ve had with writing my own novel, since I’ve generally had a longstanding issue with visualizing physical space in my head.) The image of Daja collecting the fire into one gigantic tower of flame – all so she could try to hammer it out of existence – is one of the more awe-inspiring things I’ve read in a Emelan or Tortall book.
And then she does this:
She raced after it. Seizing its base, she wrapped both arms around it and dragged herself into the column’s heart.
Fire was in her ears, her nostrils, her eyes. her clothes turned to ashes. Her wooden staff vanished; the hot brass cap dropped into her palm and melted, puddling there. If she screamed then, she never heard it over the monstrous roar.
Daja LITERALLY ENTERS A COLUMN OF FIRE TO HOLD IT. She holds it in place and, with the harsh goading of her friends, she anchors it into the earth with roots, much like the vine she had created by accident. The metaphor is not lost on me, especially since Daja has had to anchor herself within her circle of friendship in order to survive the events of the last year. Daja takes a horrible, painful situation, and she literally grounds it through pure determination, and it’s through this that her friends help her move the flame deep into the earth, right into that chamber of mineral water we’d seen earlier in the book.
Her victory here is, of course, a meaningful thing. It’s a demonstration of the power of her magic and how well she was able to control it. And she’s still a kid! She’s so young! But her age is irrelevant only in that she was dealt a tragedy while this young, and now, she’s averting one. Daja Kisubo stopped a tragedy from occurring, and she saved a people who ostracized her for being part of a tragedy.
OH, THE TEARS, THEY SHALL NOT STOP FALLING.
“We know what is owed,” the gilav said without looking up. “We know what must be paid. What you have done wipes your name from the record of the trangshi. We will attest to that and speak for you to the council of our people. You will be Tsaw’ha again, and your home will be Tenth Caravan Idaram.”
I don’t know that Daja is ready to accept a place in the caravan, mostly because she’s not going to want to leave her friends or her teachers. That does not negate how incredibly meaningful this is. Lord, I wasn’t ready.
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