Mark Reads ‘Magic Steps’: Chapter 10

In the tenth chapter of Magic Steps, WHY MUST I SUFFER SO? Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle Opens.

Trigger Warning: For talk of death, grief.

I keep doing this. I keep saying things and then regretting them. I THOUGHT I WAS PREPARED FOR SOMETHING AWFUL TO HAPPEN AND I ABSOLUTELY WAS NOT.

Goddamn it.

I still don’t know how to process this because it was all so sudden, and even now, as I’m going back over the chapter, I don’t see any real signs to it. Some unfortunately ironic things said (one of which Pierce rubbed in all our faces, I’M NOT OKAY WITH IT STILL), but nothing otherwise. I expected that perhaps there would be some major breakthrough concerning the unmagic, given that Wulfric and Sandry would spend so much time with it while cleaning up the Rokat house.

but no


n o p e

Once that was done, he stepped inside and halted. Sandry almost walked into his back. She frowned, reached to tap his shoulder – and Wulfric fell forward. Kwaben grabbed Sandry and yanked her away, into the outer office. She went down with a surprised cry.

This honestly did not register as Wulfric’s death to me. In fact, because Pierce so rapidly shifted over to the fight between Kwaben/Oama and Nurhar/Alzena, I forgot about him. I mean, there was so much to freak out about that I became immediately concerned about whether Kwaben or Oama would survive. And how could they? The terror of that scene was so intense because Nurhar and Alzena had the clear advantage. Yeah, Sandry had at least realized she could throw up a curtain of power to protect her guards, which most likely saved their lives. But the unmagic is so powerful because it feeds off magic, pulling it into itself like a black hole, and IT’S SO SCARY. I don’t know how they’re ever going to stop it, y’all. I don’t feel like I’ve picked up on any of the clues, either, and I am also NEVER going to forget the utterly revolting image of unmagic pouring from the mage’s eyes and mouth while he giggles about it. THIS IS THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES, MY FRIENDS.

What happens if the unmagic takes over Nurhar or Alzena’s bodies? Can it even do that? Are they too far gone? Do they become unstoppable forces of unmagic at some point? These are important questions, none of them are being answered, and it’s terrifying. I can’t even feel comfortable with any of this because I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I see no resolution to this, and I hate these three murderers so much.

She tugged her handkerchief from her pocket and tried to wipe the blood from his face. “Now you don’t have to tell Uncle any bad news,” she whispered.


I admit that there’s a part of me that admires Sandry for how quickly she puts aside her mourning of Wulfric in order to take care of business in the Rokat house. She knows exactly important it is, but I also think there’s an aspect to her behavior that’s her attempt to avoid dealing with Wulfric’s death. Which is fine, I’m not criticizing with her. She’s in shock – as I was – and surrounding herself with the necessary work of cleaning up the unmagic helped her to stay in that state. It kept her together. That’s not to say that she robotically walks about the house, without any emotions in her heart, because that’s definitely not what happened here. She’s focused because the job requires it.

But even Kwaben and Oama recognize that the way Sandry works is indicative of her emotional state:

“Lady, we knew you were a mage, but… Mostly you’re like a cat with it. You never lit it show any more than you can help, I think because you know it makes folk nervous.”

“You only throw it around when you’re upset,” Oama added.

They get it and they do what they can to support her. That’s not quite the case with Captain Qais, and GOOD LORD. It was bad enough that Sandry’s friend, who she respected greatly, was just cut down in front of her, but then Captain Qais decides that this is the best moment to lecture Sandry about her ~delicate and womanly rearing.~ Actually, he makes references to Pasco being a “scapegrace” sort of person with “odd imaginings,” and I half expected him to drop some sort of homophobic or misogynist slur into the mix. HE’S LIKE SECONDS AWAY FROM IT, ISN’T HE? Thankfully, Sandry destroys him, well aware that she’s being rude while doing so, and what of it? Look, when people are this disrespectful and rude to someone right after their friend died, I don’t think it warrants a “polite” response, you know? Bravo for Pierce for being brave enough to write Sandry this way because it shows people that there’s a place for anger like this, unapologetically so.

Still, even though Sandry gets this moment, that doesn’t magically make this better. Not only has she not had a chance to mourn Wulfric, but she’s more desperate than ever to find out how she can stop the spread of unmagic. I don’t have the answer, and while I don’t doubt Sandry’s brilliance or creativity, I understand why Pierce ended this chapter as she did.

Please, gods, she thought fiercely, let them have a way to settle this. Please don’t make me do it.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting help. There’s nothing wrong in wishing that a burden didn’t land solely on top of you. Sandry has been through so much in this book, and she’s done it all without the usual assistance of her friends or teachers. I am perfectly fine with her expressing this sort of exhaustion, and I’m glad that Pierce allows her to express that.

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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