Mark Reads ‘Daja’s Book’: Chapter 3

In the third chapter of Daja’s Book, the local firemage shows off, and the children are scolded. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Daja’s Book. 

As this book starts to settle into it’s narrative, I think I’m getting a sense for where this might go. Vedris came to the north to support these people through their drought and hopefully secure things before a brutal winter strikes and leaves people hungry. But now we’ve met what probably will be this book’s antagonist: Yarrun Firetamer.

Before we meet him, though, Pierce seeds a lot of little details that I think will contribute to an utter disaster in the Gold Ridge Valley. We know that the grassfires burning are a result of the dryness in the valley; we also know that Daja is upset that she’s got very little to do, which means SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN, and she’ll have LOTS TO DO. But it’s through Pierce’s exploration of Inoulia and Yorrun (as well as the exploration of both the noble and academic culture in Emelan) that I think she reveals the most about this story.

It’s only with Sandry that we get a chance to see what the nobility in Emelan. I think it’s neat that “old fashioned” means something totally different than what I expected. Inoulia is a more modern noble, which means that there’s a deliberate distance between herself and those she sees as “beneath” her. Duke Vedris, who is more old school than her, has a friendlier and respectful air to him. That dynamic is very clear when the two of them discuss Sandry’s schooling. Inoulia believes that Sandry is wasting her time at Winding Circle, but both Niko and Vedris disagree:

“Then surely Lightsbridge University is a better place for her to live,” Inoulia said to Duke Vedris. “Their mages receive a proper education – like our own dear Yarrun Firetamer and his father, Ulvmerin Valeward. I believe most noble houses will hire only university mages.”

“A custom I deplore, my lady.” Niko, on Sandry’s other side, leaned in to meet Inoulia’s eyes. “University training does not cover all magic, and unusual power requires unusual teaching methods. Lady Sandrilene can perform prodigies unknown to Lightsbridge.”

So we’ve got a clear social hierarchy when it comes to schooling, at least in certain noble houses in Emelan. This is something we’ll see again near the end of the chapter when Rosethorn confronts Yarrun. Yarrun arrives to pay respects to Duke Vedris, but upon news of a fire burning in town, he acts VERY VERY STRANGELY. Initially, I did not understand why he behaved like this:

Yarrun held up a finger to silence the boy, then pondered for a moment – a long moment, Sandry thought, impatient – while everyone in the room shifted nervously. The village at the foot of the hill on which the castle stood was surrounded by forest.

Come on, Sandry ordered the mage silently. This isn’t a play on a stage, it’s real people –

Yarrun smiled brightly. “Would you like a demonstration of my skills?” he asked Niko. “I’m sure you will find it amusing.”

Look, I definitely knew that a fire in a dry play like Gold Ridge was a bad, bad thing, so it seemed particularly glaring to me that he was playing up the drama of the situation. Every second he delayed action was a risk. So why single out Niko? Did they have some sort of history together? Of course, matters only get worse once they follow Yarrun out to the location of the fire. The man deems it totally necessary to goad Niko into action, knowing full well that Niko’s magic cannot put out the fire. Why humiliate him? Why risk people’s livelihood all to embarrass someone???

“You were helpless, Niklaren Goldeye!” he remarked, his voice as harsh as a crow’s. “You, a memeber of the governing board of the university, and famous all around the Pebbled Sea! But I did it. The fire obeyed me.

OKAY, SIR, WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON WITH YOU. I was genuinely surprised when Niko revealed that he didn’t actually know Yarrun, but this part helped give it some context:

“I’ve seen it before,” Niko said wearily. “Some get renown whether they feel they deserve it or not. Others who feel they should be famed labor in obscurity.”

So it’s an issue of pride. However, that’s only part of the story. Yarrun’s pride in his abilities might be misguided, but it’s also fueled by his dislike for all non-university mages. His argument with Rosethorn is RIDICULOUS. I mean, first of all, anyone who thinks they can survive a toe-to-toe with Rosethorn is a fool. SHE WILL EAT YOU FOR BREAKFAST. But he’s not even subtle about why he dislikes her and Niko!

“You Living Circle types are all alike. There is no order anywhere; there is only instinct, and currents, and movement without meaning or structure. Yours is simply a way to avoid study and research –”

I’M ALREADY BORED BY HIS REASONING. This reminds me of people who believe that because they’ve studied something in certain universities, it automatically makes them more qualified than the vast majority of the population on everything. (Specifically, this past year, I met someone who honestly and totally believed that because they had studied critical race theory for a semester in college that they were more qualified to talk on race issues over me. It was a white dude. LORD.) And what’s so absurd about this is that on this issue – the amount of debris littering the forest floor – ROSETHORN IS ACTUALLY MORE QUALIFIED THAN YARRUN. But he refuses to listen to her because she didn’t jump through the hoops he did. YAWN.

So, I think the excess mast is a big deal, and I imagine that a huge fire will break out in the forest, and EVERYTHING WILL BE AWFUL. I was feeling pretty smug about this; look at me, I figured something out! And then Pierce drops a whopper of a plot twist: Niko catches the kids eavesdropping and forbids them from doing any magic outside of the supervision of their teachers.

On the one hand, I get him. I get that these kids need to learn Discipline and that they need to learn how not to use magic and rely on it for mundane tasks. That’s an important lesson! But it’s jarring to me that the four Discipline students have been put through these very adult situations, that their training and education has been haphazard and unusual, and Niko doesn’t seem to acknowledge this. He does say that he didn’t realize that they “would not understand the manners or the common sense that goes with magecraft,” but it’s a lot bigger than that, isn’t it?

Still, it’s a big twist for the book, one that will have massive repercussions for the story. It is a vital lesson for them to learn, but I do long for some normalcy in these kids’ lives. Their education happens in spurts, and it often comes during times of stress or duress.

The original text contains use of the words “dumb” and “crazy.”

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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