Mark Reads ‘Briar’s Book’: Chapter 10

In the tenth chapter of Briar’s Book, this is far too tense for me to handle. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic. 

Trigger Warning: For talk of disease, death, poverty, and mysophobia. 

This is so upsetting. I mean, bless this book for doing so many important and uncomfortable things, but I CAN’T DO THIS.


Let’s start by talking about Briar’s parts in this chapter before we talk about Tris. I noticed that Dedicate Crane’s behavior in this chapter was significantly different (and far more sober) than it was in the previous one, and I suspect I know why that is. Prior to their arrival at Crane’s workshop, Crane, Briar, and Rosethorn come across a covered wagon heading into Winding Circle. It’s a bizarre sight, and Rosethorn assumes that the city hospitals are so full that patients are starting to be brought into Winding Circle. Not quite, though, and I think the reveal that Temple folk are starting to get sick hit Crane hard. To him, this might have always been an abstract idea, something that was to be conquered and controlled. Combined with the knowledge that the blue pox has magic within it, Crane’s discovery that Dedicate Henna is also sick is a humbling moment for him.

When he arrives at his workshop, he’s not harsh. He makes a joke, y’all. HE SPEAKS WITH KINDNESS. I love Briar’s observation here:

Stick with Crane long enough, Briar thought, and you forget that all of these folk must be pretty smart to get sent here, with so much at stake. He treats ’em like silly bleaters, but they aren’t.

It’s all indicative of why Crane’s treatment of these people isn’t acceptable. Many of them, like Osprey, are not novices at all. We know from Crane’s own words that Osprey was trained by him for five years, and we know he can appreciate good, hard work when he sees it. The problem is that he has such an abrasive way of showing respect in the rare case when he wants to. (Well, except when fighting over Tris. MORE ON THAT IN A SECOND.) Crane, you have got to start treating people better. We know he can do it! Look how he acts in this chapter! IT IS POSSIBLE.

I suppose I have to talk about the thing, even though I’d much rather live in total denial of ROSETHORN GETTING BLUE POX ESSENCE DRIPPED ON HER GLOVES AND ARM. Like, Briar’s right, yes? Her red spot is still red, and she would have said something if it touched her bare skin, yes? Because only good things can happen, okay? THIS IS THE ONLY OUTCOME I WILL ACCEPT.


Let us all bask in the beauty of Tris’s comment to Sandry while Niko and Crane argued about which of them needed her the most on this day:

“Is this what it’ll be like when I’m older and boys are fighting for the chance to kiss my hand?” Tris murmured to Sandry. The noble giggled.

I adore Tris so much. Pierce does a wonderful thing here with her. We know from earlier parts of this book that Tris has had to re-examine her view of the poor because the people around her have been willing to call her out on her prejudice. Now, I’m not prefacing my discussion of what happens here because I want to say that she’s anti-poor for not wanting to wade about in the sewers. I think most of us here, poor or not, would not want to do something like that willingly. I bring that up because Tris is often given character development in this series that concerns her shifting views of the world. She came to Discipline as the most close-minded of the four children. (With Briar in a close second, I might add.) Some of that was entirely because she had to be that way; she had to protect herself against people mistreating her. But she also internalized views of Traders and the poor that were harmful to both Daja and Briar, respectively.

I wouldn’t say that you could see this in her behavior here, though she gets a chance to see how the poor in Summersea truly live, and I think that changes how she thinks about him. But as she winds her way through the sewers with Niko, she is chided for complaining so much about something that Niko knows is very necessary. Look, clearly Tris wants to help out, and she had a good time working with Crane. (Which is a miracle all by itself.) So I don’t think Tris was trying to be purposely unhelpful here. The sewers are gross! But then she realizes that Niko himself is down here at great emotional cost, too, and GOOD LORD:

Niko was sweating. It was damp and cold here, but she saw drops collect on his forehead. When she tentatively rested a hand on his arm, she could feel him trembling. She had been so busy worrying bout herself that she had forgotten how finicky he was. He tended his clothing with minute zeal, inspected tableware in strange eating-shops for dirt that might have escaped a lazy washing, and aired out his bedding the moment he reached a new inn.

Yeah, I’d forgotten about this, too. So Tris’s response? She understands the cost this is having on Niko’s well-being, and she uses her magic to move the filthy water aside for him. It’s a sweet gesture, one that demonstrates that she can sympathize with what he is going through as well. That’s growth, y’all. She is learning to think of others in addition to herself!

So let’s talk about the mage. Tris and Niko track the gold-tinted magic out into the East District, where Tris witnesses firsthand just how brutal the blue pox has been to this part of town. It’s a horrifying sight, and I won’t quote a lot of the more visceral and gory things here. But this is the first time Tris has gotten to see what the rest of Summersea has been going through; her view of the blue pox has been sanitized for the most part. This is not the case anymore, and that’s certainly true when they located the mage responsible. There’s a lovely scene where Briar walks Tris through a lock picking as Niko watches on with amusement. And then… well, it’s just sad. The woman responsible for the blue pox caused it through poor management of her discarded potions. Why? Because she couldn’t afford it otherwise. As the stranger at the end of the chapter tells them, “She was that tight with a copper.”

That doesn’t excuse her behavior, but it’s yet another detail that demonstrates how poverty affects people. This unnamed woman believed that dumping her fluids in the sewer was worth it because it would save her a few coppers. She had no idea it would kill her and hundreds of other people.


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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1 Response to Mark Reads ‘Briar’s Book’: Chapter 10

  1. filkferengi says:

    It was super seeing everyone at Mark’s Atlanta event!

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