Mark Reads ‘Briar’s Book’: Chapter 3

In the third chapter of Briar’s Book, the mysterious disease affecting Briar’s friend begins to affect other people in different ways. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic.

Trigger Warning: For talk of disease.

Oh god, I’m starting to get worried, y’all. I want the best outcome for these characters, but there’s too much that’s unknown at this point for me to feel good about anything. Flick doesn’t seem like she’s gotten worse, so… that’s good? BUT IT COULD BE BAD? I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT DISEASE THIS IS. So I have no basis for any sort of informed guess about what’s going to happen.

Admittedly, I feel better about Rosethorn being around. This chapter gives us a sense of her tenderness, something that we’re absolutely not used to. I feel like there are small ways she’s shown affection to Briar throughout the series, but the kind of physical kindness and consideration that’s in this chapter is definitely shocking. I’m used to Rosethorn’s coldness; I actually admire it, and I love that Tamora Pierce writes characters who are so varied in their temperament. The Rosethorn I have known is the same one who processes the details of this disease with order and calm. As she explains the process of giving up fluids to help determine what disease this is, she’s methodical. It’s not that she doesn’t care; I think she knows that this is a good teaching moment for Briar! But she’s not one to lose her cool, so to speak. It doesn’t matter how bad things are; like Frostpine, she’s able to keep her calm while around Briar and Flick.

Like I said in the last review, I do love how Pierce combines real-world quarantine procedures with the magic and practicality of Emelan. I would actually like to see what Dedicate Crane or the other mages do with the cloth squares. How do they examine them? How do germs work in Emelan? Do they have some manner of testing these fluids to determine what diseases caused them? How does that work for new diseases? ARE THERE MAGICAL MICROSCOPES OR SOMETHING? Y’all, I love that this book is making me ask questions like this! W O R L D B U I L D I N G

But y’all, let’s talk about Rosethorn:

Briar had seen Rosethorn be gentle as she tied up bean plants, coaxed grapevines to wind more firmly around a trellis, or patched a tree that had lost a limb in a storm. This was the first time he’s seen her use that delicate touch on a human. She could have been the girl’s mother, had Flick’s mother loved her kid, he thought.

First of all, that last isn’t okay at all. I want to repeat what I said on video to open this conversation: I don’t feel like something must have happened to make Rosethorn the way she is. People’s lives aren’t always easily categorizable, and any number of factors could have led to her coldness. I suspect that a lot of her irritation with humanity comes from dealing with people who have treated her poorly; she mentions that there is “a difference between people like [Flick] and adults who think they know more about your life, and their illness, than you do.” In the context of healthcare, I get this, but Rosethorn’s like this with everyone. She’s always been snappy in this series, you know?

I’m curious, that’s all. But surprise, I want to know EVERYTHING EVER about the people in this book.

Briar is hopeful at the end of this chapter, but I am not so sure that I am. There’s a brief break from Briar’s POV within this chapter when Pierce switches over to Daja. Look, I know shit is bad when Frostpine is angry. He is the barometer by which I measure my own reaction to events in the Circle of Magic books. So when he storms home while yelling at a Water Temple mage, I knew some shit had gone down. This is what makes me uneasy about the fate of Flick and the rest of Summersea:

“What did they forget this time?”

“The warded boxes, the ones for samples of body fluids from the sick,” he said, sinking down on the bench across from her. “They have five.”

NOPE. NO. N O P E. Look, even if Rosethorn and Crane get a grasp on whatever pox this is that Flick has, I see two huge problems looming over this: 1) No one knows where Alleypup is, and he could be spreading it further, and 2) the city is not prepared for any sort of outbreak, which means it could spread wide quickly. If there’s only five boxes available at any given time… oh, this is bad. Really bad. REALLY REALLY BAD. Not to mention that I’m also on edge because the four Discipline kids are being forced to spend so much time away from one another. That aspect of this also unnerves me. I’M BARELY AT THE FOURTH CHAPTER AND I’M CREEPED OUT. Great!

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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