Mark Reads ‘Briar’s Book’: Chapter 8

In the eighth chapter of Briar’s Book, Briar prepares himself to work with his least favorite person in order to find a cure for the blue pox. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of disease and poverty.

I just love so much of what this book has become. LET US DISCUSS.

Crane / Rosethorn

I had a distinct thought while reading the first half of the eighth chapter: the dynamic between Crane and Rosethorn probably inspired a ton of fic. Because HOW COULD YOU NOT. I know that the trope of bickering enemies turned lovers is honestly as old as time, but in terms of what Pierce actually wrote, it’s clear that when you push all the bitterness aside, Dedicate Crane and Rosethorn actually do respect one another.

Of course, you have to get to know these two in order to understand that. On the surface, it’s hard to see any sort of respect between them when they talk like this:

“Charming as ever,” Crane remarked as he arranged himself on the chair. “However did they manage to entertain you at Urda’s House?”

“Only you could make ‘Urda’s House’ sound like an ill wish,” Rosethorn growled.

Crane raised a single eyebrow. “I would have to care about the place to ill wish it,” he informed her. “I assume their own poor management is curse enough for them.”

“How would you know about their management or anything else?” demanded Rosetorn. “You wouldn’t sully the purity of your habit by going anywhere near the Mire.”

SWEET BABY JESUS, THIS WAS SO INTENSE. (And entertaining. I could read them trading barbs for HOURS.) But once Lark gets them to shut up, Crane’s true purpose is revealed: he’s come to ask for help. Which is like the perfect activation moment for our little Briar Moss, who leaps up to defend Briar from Crane. Look, the fact that Briar has someone he cares about this much means the world to me, too. It’s been such a rewarding journey to watch him grow to trust the people around him. Yes, the CIRCLE OF FRIENDSHIP has ruined my life, but Rosethorn’s relationship with Briar is just as meaningful. Briar’s had friends that were mostly his age, but has he ever truly trusted an adult before like he trusts Rosethorn?

My heart can’t handle this.

The Great Mages


Circle of Friendship

There is a value in the kind of friendship that’s displayed here. Briar has a particularly traumatic dream in this chapter, one that signifies the guilt that he feels over Flick’s death. To us, it almost seems absurd; Flick’s death is absolutely not Briar’s fault. But Pierce does a fine job explaining why Briar would blame himself for something that truly was out of his control. There’s been lots of talk throughout the Circle of Magic books regarding magic and its application in Emelan, and I can understand Briar’s frustration because of what I know about it. He feels as if he possesses a magical power that was, at the end of the day, useless. He couldn’t use it to save her, so what good is it?

Obviously, his magic has been used for good, but it’s hard for him to see otherwise. So I love that after he wakes from such an awful nightmare, his friends, sensing his distress through their magical connection with him, come to his room to comfort him. There’s no magic used here; it’s just the comfort of human love. Each of them offer him something: advice. A way to ward off bad air and nightmares. Shriek. (SHRIEK RETURNED, OH MY GOD.) And, of course, they offer the comfort of friendship.

My heart can’t handle this.


I can already tell that one of my favorite things about this is going to be this specific dynamic. The first seven chapters of this book was set in the Mire and Urda’s House for a reason. Who did this disease affect first? The poor. Why? Because of the unaddressed conditions that they lived in. If this pox truly spreads through bad water, then it was the entire city’s problem to begin with. If Summersea took care of its poor – if it genuinely cared about the plight of those who do not possess the power and wealth of those higher in society – then it would have been concerned about everyone’s access to things like water, food, and housing. But that’s often the problem with issues like this: it actually ends up being more costly to these communities to NOT care about the downtrodden, at least in the long run.

After Briar and Rosethorn spent so much time in the thick of it, they’re sent to Dedicate Crane’s workshop, which is the polar opposite of Urda’s House. Everything about this place is sterile and safe. That’s not to say it shouldn’t be; the procedures in place are absolutely necessary. Like I said on video, I was impressed with the organization of the place! Given that these volunteers are all handling the blue pox themselves, you have to be careful or you’ll risk catching it and spreading it further, which is why Yellowrose is kicked out of Crane’s workshop at the end of the chapter. At the same time, Pierce has Briar think about his role in this situation yet again because he’s not used to this kind of cleanliness or wealth. That’s been an ongoing subplot anyway, you know? Briar worried that he no longer fit in with people like Flick because he’d spent time in Winding Circle; now, he isn’t quite sure he fits in with people like those in Crane’s workshop:

He felt as if he’d been magically transported to a foreign land where he spoke none of the language. One day ago he’d been trapped in a damp, gloomy house where people raved in fever dreams and those who cared for them did so in tight-lipped silence. Now he was in a room filled with light, air, and warmth, among people who joked as if the blue pox were inconvenient, as if there were life away from sickbeds and the biting scent of willowbark tea.

Now, Pierce does acknowledge in the following sentences that these people certainly take the pox seriously. But Briar’s observation still resonates because it’s an entirely different world than the one he just lived through. There’s a detachment here because these people are dealing in scientific abstracts. There’s nothing abstract about watching your close friend die of a disease that cooks your brain.

I hope that Briar finds his way through this strange new world.


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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