Mark Reads ‘Briar’s Book’: Chapter 11

In the eleventh chapter of Briar’s Book, NO. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Briar’s Book. 

Trigger Warning: For talk of disease, weight loss/body image issues, and classism.

Take this back. TAKE IT BACK.

Right off the bat, this is messed up. The mage who unknowingly created the blue pox – Eilisa Pearldrop – did so when she was trying to created a weight loss potion. THAT’S WHY SHE USED BACON. And yet, even though this woman was directly responsible for the pox, I loved that Pierce didn’t let Crane’s comments go unexamined:

“All this for money,” whispered Crane. Looking at him, Briar thought that only people who were born rich had such a low opinion of money. “The death of hundreds,” Crane went on, “from pursuit of wealth and a reluctance to spend.”

“She didn’t have that much to spend, from the look of it,” muttered Tris.

I love that Tris noticed this and made sure to point it out. SHE’S GROWING, Y’ALL. But it’s true that those who have never had to stress about money like Eilisa did can’t truly understand what that kind of desperation is like. It’s expensive to be poor, y’all, because you have to make choices that are temporary alleviations of problems instead of investing in long-term solutions. You can’t invest in anything for that matter, so to Eilisa and those like her, it was far more sensible for her to dump her potions in the sewer. It was reasonable for her to pursue a scheme that might lift her out of poverty. I know that personally because I spent most of my life making short-sighted decision because it’s the only thing I felt like I had access to. I wrote a brief thing about this last year when I was able, at nearly 31 years of age, to get my very first credit card. That’s not something I ever had available to me. I never could buy nice things that would last years. I didn’t own my first pair of boots until this current winter season. I have made terrible decisions because I couldn’t see beyond the following week.

That’s what poverty does to you.

It’s at this point that Tamora Pierce lulls us all into a sense of security. (I’m including y’all because it makes me feel better.) Things start to get better. Christ, I just realized that SHE ALREADY DID THAT. Didn’t Flick start to get better right before everything got monumentally worse? Great. GREAT. So the progress made on finding the keys to the cure to blue pox should have been a sign. The same goes for Crane’s constantly evolving behavior, since he is more patient and understanding than he’s ever been in this series. The same goes for the scene where Rosethorn borrowed some of Briar’s magic. I foolishly read that scene as yet another example of how the teachers are depending on their students, demonstrating that these relationships are complicated and mutually beneficial. That’s not to say I’m necessarily wrong about that; each of these teachers has looked to their student for support, and they’re not ashamed to do it. Hell, the last chapter featured Tris anchoring Niko during their journey through the sewers!

It’s just that it was easy for me to shove the blue pox essence spill out of mind, to assume that progress made wouldn’t be at some terrible cost. Why? Because it’s simpler. It’s not as challenging as having to think of the worst thing that could possibly happen to Rosethorn and Briar. It’s only now just hitting me that Briar’s worst nightmare isn’t catching the blue pox and dying; no, it’s losing Rosethorn. He’s so fiercely attached to her and her guidance and love that he can’t fathom a world without her. Pierce focuses Briar’s characterization in this chapter almost solely on that. Yes, he wants Rosethorn to get better, but look how hard it is for him to accept that the best thing he can do is help find a cure.

He wants to be the one taking care of her, which makes sense given his guilt over Flick’s death. He most likely still blames himself for Flick’s passing, and he doesn’t want to be useless to Rosethorn, either:

“Let them whiffenpoof Water Temple slushbrains have the care of you? Stay here putting a drip of this and a drab of that into a hundred stupid trays on maybe the side chance one of ’em’ll creep us along a hair to a cure?”

Rosethorn ends up being the only person to talk Briar down, to get him to realize that he’s most valuable in Crane’s work room. Like, can we just admit that Crane’s first outright compliment of Briar is in the most heartbreaking context imaginable???

“Your hands are steady. Your discipline over your power is such that no shadow of it changes the essence of the blue pox or of the additives. You keep your head in an emergency, for all that you speak wildly enough.”

“I can’t,” Briar told Rosethorn softly, pleading. “Don’t make me stay.”

I have some comfort in knowing the best of the best are making progress on the cure. I have some comfort in knowing that Moonstream approved bringing Rosethorn to Discipline to be taken care of. I have some comfort in knowing Lark will be there. And I’m otherwise terrified because this is the last book in this series, and Tamora Pierce could easily kill Rosethorn off, and I am not ready for that.

Damn it.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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