In the thirteenth and final chapter of Daja’s Book, the circle of friendship becomes the worst thing I’ve ever invented because it ruins me. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic.
What an astounding, satisfying book.
Unlike Daja, I’ve never truly been offered an invitation to join the communities that I was shunned from. I lost nearly all my high school friends, I’ve never been close to my family aside from my twin brother, and I had to find my way through the world without the kind of support that most people might have. But if I had somehow been offered these things again, I don’t know that I’d ever accept them. I don’t seek out relationships with people I knew in high school, even if some of those people are now okay with me. I’ve found my own friends and family, and those are the people who have my loyalty.
So I’m pleased, at least on a personal level, that Pierce wrote this ending. It’s also a good story, for that matter, but it resonates with me and the experience I went through. Through this book, Pierce examines the effects that this sort of ostracizing have had on Daja and how she sees the world. It’s a complex thing! And it’s hard for some of these characters to understand why her old world means so much to her even if they’ve rejected her. Daja has to navigate layers of desire and sadness here, and on top of that all, she’s also got the physical affects of her work to deal with.
Namely, the brass from her staff has become part of her.
It makes sense, given how metal and ore have reacted to Daja over the course of this book. But what she does with her new feature or power or whatever you want to call it is also indicative of Daja as a character. We’re given hints that Daja is building something with these bizarre bits of metal that come off of her hand, but I was admittedly distracted by the EMOTIONALLY UNFAIR things that came after this. I couldn’t figure this out. I saw how important it was that Daja got a staff – one with real etchings on it, not a blank slate – and I figured that Daja’s Book would end with a choice: would Daja return to her people, or would she stay with her family?
As I said, this choice seemed easier to some of her friends than it did to her. There’s that moment when Tris says that it appeared obvious that Daja had chosen the Caravan, given her attachment to her staff. But the reality is so much more complex than that. The staff was meaningful, particularly since it gave her an identity within the Trader community. After having a blank one for so long, Daja would have become attached to it! But not too attached:
“I could give up our circle, perhaps, or I could give up smithing. I think I could, anyway – though I’m not entirely sure. But give up both? I thank you, but no. I’ve changed too much to go back.”
The idea of being Tsaw’ha is enticing, but the sacrifices are too great for Daja. She doesn’t say it, but I don’t know that she could ever give up friends as good as these. When Chandrisa does confront her about this, Daja lets her know that as appealing as the idea is, she cannot let go. In this case, that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a difficult decision, sure, and Pierce doesn’t paint this as something that Daja is discarding without a care in the world. Daja had spent months believing that she’d spend the rest of her life away from her people! It’s a big deal to me, then, that she would have given up her staff after having just gotten it from Chandrisa. Daja has this sense of charity and respect to her that I adore; she’s so thoughtful in her treatment of her others, and she knows that she won’t feel right keeping the staff if she doesn’t travel with the Caravan.
I was pleased that Chandrisa let her keep it regardless, but y’all. I WASN’T PREPARED, I’M STILL NOT, I WILL NEVER BE. Daja’s secret project, the one she worked for weeks on with her friends, is revealed to be a gift for Polyam. Daja is still a Trader, regardless of what any council pronounces her to be, and that means she understands the value of a debt. As hard as it was for her to do it, Polyam gave Daja a chance. She ultimately supported her, enough so that Daja was able to clear her name from the trangshi book. Her gift of debt?
It was a metal leg, shaped entirely of thin iron rods and joints. Everything was covered in a gleaming brass skin. Briar tickled the metal sole. It twitched, just as a living foot might twitch. Tris laid a hand on the shin, and the knee bent.
I appreciate that there’s not a magical healing of a disabled person here, which is exceedingly common in fiction. No, Polyam is still disabled, but the Winding Circle mages built her a leg – using the living metal of Daja’s hand – that would help Polyam do things she hasn’t been able to do since her accident. It’s a beautiful, powerful gift, and I think it sums up Daja’s characterization succinctly: Daja appreciates those around her. She appreciates the people who have helped her to get where she is, and she doesn’t forget it. And above all, Daja is a gift herself, the kind of person willing to help out people at great expense to herself, all because she knows that it’s right. She comes from a place of tragedy and loneliness, and she’s turned that into a motivation, one that brings joy and happiness to others’ lives.
She just wants to have friends.
Well, she wants more than that, and I’m eager to see how she’ll grow in future books. But her desire for validation and friendship in Polyam is one of the best things Pierce has ever written. As I said in past reviews, I never thought this is where this book would go, but here we are. All four Discipline students learned a valuable lesson in control and power while in Gold Ridge, and Daja found acceptance without having to compromise who she is. I think that’s an incredible thing.
My gods, this was easily my favorite Emelan book so far. AND I HAVE SO MANY MORE TO READ.
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