Mark Reads ‘Briar’s Book’: Chapter 9

In the ninth chapter of Briar’s Book, Briar copes with Dedicate Crane’s unbelievable jerkiness, only to make a startling discovery. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of disease.

I know sometimes I repeat what I’ve said in the video readings of these chapters, but I do like to accommodate those who don’t necessarily want to watch/listen to me, so bear with me here: I REALLY THOUGHT SPENDING TIME WITH CRANE MIGHT MAKE ME LIKE HIM MORE. Perhaps he acted a certain way when he was outside of his comfort zone! Maybe his workplace behavior was far different than his demeanor at Discipline! Possibly I had read him wrong this entire time!

Crane walked over to Briar’s station. “If it goes missing, I will know where to look,” he said ominously. “You are here to work.”  Raising his voice so it would carry, he told Rosethorn, “I will treat him as I would any other novice. If he cannot be relied upon, he goes. I cannot do my own work and watch his too. He really is too young for this.”

Oh, okay, so you’re gonna play it like that, are you? I took comfort – a misguided one, I admit – in the fact that Crane said he would treat Briar as he treated his other novices. That’s a fair qualification. I didn’t want Briar to be treated worse than the others in his workshop, so I hoped that this would be a sign that at the very least, Briar could work hard and prove himself.

I HAD SO MUCH HOPE. While I think Briar at least gets Crane to leave him alone – a sign of success ALL BY ITSELF – I didn’t realize that treating him “as [he] would any other novice” meant THE ABSOLUTE HORROR SHOW THAT UNFOLDED BEFORE MY EYES.

“Are you a healer as well as a plant mage?” was the acid reply. Crane briskly tied the Number Four label to the new oil’s bottle. “You haven’t the training to understand, nor have I time to instruct.”

Okay. Okay. Fair enough, but no need for the acidity.

He hated to admit it and would never say it aloud, but Crane seemed to have good reasons to do things as he did.

And I like that Briar admits this. That doesn’t excuse Crane’s behavior, but it was clear to me that Crane was good at what he did. It’s just unfortunate that… well:

With a glare for Peachleaf, he pulled three sheets from the stack and put them on top. The healer shrank in her chair. “They appear to have been placed behind the section on the disease’s response to neutral substances. Why, no one can know, because these notes are supposed to be in chronological order.”

I understand the severity of this kind of work. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND PEOPLE WHO THINK THAT CRUELTY WILL GIVE THEM THE BEST WORK ENVIRONMENT. It’s painfully obvious to me – and later to Rosethorn – that Crane’s behavior makes Peachleaf work more poorly than if he treated her with kindness and understanding. While a rigid discipline works for some folks, it can’t work for everyone. Tris later demonstrates how she works well with Crane’s style, but Peachleaf only gets more nervous and more doubtful as she’s criticized, and IT IS SO OBVIOUS. Well, not to Crane, of course, who cares only about his own work more than those doing work for him.

“Asaia Bird-Winged, give me patience and give me strength,” announced Crane. “How often must I spell so common a term as ‘antipyretic’?”

“Couldn’t I just write ‘fever reducer’?” squeaked Peachleaf.

“Whatever term will stop your inane questions,” Crane told her icily as the Hug clock chimed two.

REMINDER THAT PEACHLEAF IS A MIDWIFE. THIS IS NOT HER NORMAL JOB. DEDICATE CRANE, WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO BE SO AWFUL TO EVERYONE AROUND YOU? I was so happy that when she was finally kicked out of Crane’s workshop, she insulted him as she left. Of course, what’s Crane’s reply?

The man surveyed Peachleaf’s notes. “Now what am I to do?” he demanded, forgetting perhaps that he was not alone. “Today has been virtually a complete waste.”

Has it, Crane? Do you even know what the words coming out of your mouth even mean? That’s part of the reason I love that the second half of this chapter turns into TRISANA CHANDLER TO THE RESCUE. Y’all, Tamora Pierce took the two most sharp-tongued kids, stuck them in a room with Dedicate Crane and Rosethorn, and absolute magic happened. I don’t want to ignore the significance of this part of the story, though; Briar calls upon Tris because of his suspicion that there is a minuscule amount of magic within the blue pox itself, which would explain why it’s been resistant to everything Crane and Rosethorn have thrown at it. But before I expand on that, let’s talk about Tris:

“You should not have fetched that. We have writing materials enough, and you won’t be able to take it out of here until we have a cure for the disease – if we find one.”

Tris looked at her case, then shrugged. “I still would have brought this,” she told Crane. “Everything’s how I like it.” She squared her shoulders. “Where do I sit?”

Crane, you are not ready for Trisana Chandler. You are not ready at all.

“I asked, could you wait a moment, please?” That was Tris, ominously patient.

“My dear young woman, if you cannot keep up with me –” Crane began.

“You just gave me a list of numbers, Dedicate. Which would you prefer, that I get them down as you gave them to me, or that I hurry and make mistakes?”

You know what I love about this? Tris turns Crane’s rudeness against him. His need to rush and belittle people can actually cause mistakes, and he doesn’t want that, does he? It’s so important that she points this out because he should know better. For someone who has such precise procedures in place, he sure wants to ignore this one so he can insult the people helping him. I LOVE YOU, TRIS.

But let’s talk about the magic of the blue pox. It was certainly frightening when Tris saw the magic in the blue pox, independent of Briar’s own suspicions. I can’t quite comprehend what this means, though, because… you can do this? Okay, fine, someone imbued the blue pox with magic, right? That means this pox was intentionally released. I THINK??? I don’t quite get what the ramifications are. Does that mean there’s an actual antagonist in this novel, and I had no idea there was one??? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN, Y’ALL? I’m scared!


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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