Mark Reads ‘Magic Steps’: Chapter 9

In the ninth chapter of Magic Steps, Sandry takes Pasco to his first dance lesson. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle Opens. Alzena and Nurhar

I really shouldn’t be surprised by how mercilessly violent they are, but I can’t help it. There’s no reluctance on their part to murder anyone they come across, and aside from Nurhar’s concern over Alzena’s bloodloss, they haven’t once worried about being caught. They commit these acts with such certainty, and that’s probably what frightens me the most. They’ve got a sense impunity to them, and I know that having that mage with them is part of the reason why. They can exploit an addict who gives them an undeniable advantage over literally everyone, and it’ll allow them to wipe out the Rokat house. Which, of course, brings up my primary worry right now: that Sandry and the others will have to fight these people in the Citadel. No one knows how to break through the unmagic yet, so I WILL CONTINUE TO BE CONCERNED.

Sandry’s Dream

I didn’t realize it until I finished reading the first dream, but the unmagic disturbs Sandry on multiple levels. Of course, the idea of it is terrifying, as is being stuck in it or captured by it. Right? But Sandry is also AFRAID OF THE DARK. That’s why she seeks her crystal night lamp; the darkness of her room reminds her of the unmagic. But I can also see how the dream might also reference the way she feels so overwhelmed by her life and everything that’s smothering her. She speaks of that later in the chapter, and I think it’s easy to see that kind of anxiety in the dream. Her uncle tries to save her, and she’s unable to save him from being swallowed by the same terror. IT’S UPSETTING.

Not as upsetting as this:

I wish you were here, she thought passionately, touching the lumps that represented Briar, Daja, and Tris. In those hard rounds of thread she could feel their powerful spirits. If we were together, we could stop these monsters. Instead it’s just me, and I can’t even talk to you. However am I going to deal with this unmagic?

Wow, THANKS for reminding me that The Circle Opens is a reference to the LACK OF A CIRCLE OF FRIENDSHIP. At the same time, Sandry’s been handling this disaster rather well, so I suspect that part of the reason for separating her from her friends was to show us that she can do things on her own.

I’m still sad.


The bulk of this chapter deals with Pasco’s first lesson with Yazmín, which takes place after another failed attempt to get Pasco to meditate properly. I do wonder how those meditation sessions would have gone if Sandry herself wasn’t so distracted, but I ultimately think that’s a moot point. She’s young, she’s never been a teacher before, and she’s still doing a fine job. It’s a challenge, sure! But Sandry is such a resilient person, y’all. She is aware of her shortcomings, and yet she still does her best for Pasco. I loved this line:

At moments like that, she began to see why some teachers were eager to use a switch on skittish students. She chided herself for the thought: that was just her weariness speaking, or at least she hoped it was.

She’s fourteen, and she realizes this kind of stuff about her own abilities and teaching others. I think she’ll be fine.

Let us take a moment here to talk about the beauty that is Pasco’s bubbling excitement. Right up to the second where he finally gets started on stretching for the first time, he can hardly contain himself, and it’s ADORABLE. It’s so infectious because Pasco is truly passionate about dance, and I feel like this is the first time in his life that he’s being put into a situation where he can be himself without the pressure of performing in a specific manner that is expected of him. He can forget about the role his family wants him to play; he can forget about the inconvenience of having dance magic, which his uncle believes will be useless to the Provost’s Guard. Here, none of that matters, and I suspect that might be part of the reason that Yazmín is so harsh with Pasco on his first day. There’s a value in training someone this way, and she reminded me of my track and field coaches. They were huge fans of this style, which is basically tossing someone in the deep end to see how well they perform. Granted, she’s giving Pasco the framework to understand dance through understanding of his own body. (Seriously, STRETCHING IS SO IMPORTANT. I’m thankful for all the years I spent learning from great coaches in middle school and high school because they drilled this into my head.) At the same time, that entire first lesson is a shock to him. But notice how obedient and focused he is! Yeah, he’s still super sarcastic because that’s the kind of person he is, but he still does exactly as Yazmín instructs.

It’s pretty cool, y’all. I am very interested in seeing what sort of magical ideas that Sandry comes up with that Pasco might be able to use. It’s clear that this will have to be a collaboration between her, Yazmín, and possibly Lark, since this is such a new form of magic. (Maybe Nico? I JUST MISS ALL THE OTHER CHARACTERS, BRING THEM BACK.) But I’m comforted by Yazmín’s presence, and I’m excited by the routine that’s developing. That structure will help out both Sandry and Pasco, and I think it’ll make it easier to determine how they can develop his magic. But I’m not going to be fooled into safety. We are too close to the end of this book. SOMETHING HORRIBLE IS GOING TO HAPPEN.

Look, I’m trying to be prepared.

The original text contains use of the word “mad” and “crazy.”

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S., Canada, Europe, the U.K., and Ireland. Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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