In the fourth chapter of Magic Steps, Sandry returns home to get guidance. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle Opens.
Oh my god, I GET THE TITLE OF THIS QUARTET. The circle opening? It’s the four members of the CIRCLE OF FRIENDSHIP going out into the world. I am excited about what these four characters will get to experience in the world, but Tamora Pierce doesn’t exactly make it easy. At the open of chapter four, we follow Sandry back to Discipline house, a familiar place for us and for her, and we’re instantly show how much has changed. Even the house itself isn’t the same as Sandry left it:
Now she felt like a stranger. She had not helped to whitewash the cottage, weatherproofing it against the winter storms. She had not helped to put a fresh layer of thatch on the roof, or to bring in the last fruits and vegetables. The shutters on her room and the rooms of her three friends were tightly shut, as they had almost never been when the four were there.
WELL, EVERYTHING IS VERY SAD. I couldn’t help but miss the other characters, despite knowing how important their journeys were. (I CAN’T WAIT TO READ THEIR BOOKS.) Discipline felt oddly empty as Sandry entered it, and it was hard for me to separate the place from the history of it. I’m so used to it being boisterous, frantic, full of activity, that it felt surreal to have only Sandry and Lark there. At the same time, Lark’s appearance here was immensely comforting. That’s always been a part of her characterization, though; it seems everyone who spends time with her feels as if they can get comfortable with her.
So when it came to Sandry’s problem with Pasco, it made sense to me that Sandry would be quick to be honest with her about the young boy’s magic. Lark is such a perfect teacher for Sandry because she knows how to bring out the best in her. You can see that here when Lark reveals that Sandry is required by mage policy to be the one to teach Pasco if they cannot find a dance magic teacher. Sandry (and me, too, for that matter) believed that you could just take new students to Winding Circle and like… drop them off? I don’t know, get parental permission slips signed and then everything’s good? (Do they go on field trips in school? DOES THEIR YEAR ABROAD COUNT AS THAT? I’m counting it.) The process of getting the four main characters into Winding Circle probably seemed so simple to me because all four of them were either orphans or ostracized from their families, so it wasn’t like there were many places they could go.
Anyway, it’s a tall task for Sandry, and not just because she’s only fourteen and still hasn’t completed schooling herself. There’s the cultural challenge, too; Pasco’s family will have to be told that their son has magic in him and that it’s the kind of magic that’s so rare that a teenager will have to instruct him. As hard as this is going to be, though, Lark does everything she can to assure Sandry that not only does she believe Sandry has what it takes to do this, but ultimately, Winding Circle is still there for her if she needs help. There’s a difference between inspiring someone with hollow words and giving them actual advice that’s constructive. Lark clearly knows how to do the latter, offering Sandry advice on how to organize her possible lessons, where to start with someone like Pasco, and how she can appeal to the Acalons’ sense of duty to get them to accept Pasco’s ability. But she also knows that Sandry needs affection along with reassurance:
“Personally,” she added, “I think Pasco is very lucky to have you for a teacher. I think you’re going to be very good at it.”
“I only hope I’m as good as you one day,” Sandry remarked softly. “You were so patient with me.”
Lark shook her head. “You give me too much credit. It was very easy to be patient with you, and an absolute joy to teach you.”
I’m hoping that Sandry takes this and uses it with Pasco. He’ll need the same kind of understanding and patience to get through the difficult part of his journey. I expect the initial news won’t go over well with him, and he’s probably going to resist Sandry’s help as much as he can. Like Sandry demonstrated at the end of the last chapter, she’ll have to be able to recognize when she’s pushing him too hard. But she’ll also have to be able to determine when Pasco needs a gentle nudge in the right direction! It’s a challenge, for sure, but lord, it’s a thrilling one.
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