Mark Reads ‘Street Magic’: Chapter 2

In the second chapter of Street Magic, Briar learns of his new responsibility and sets out to track Evvy. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle Opens.

I love so much that this is set somewhere new. The geography and cityscape of Chammur – both Newtown and Oldtown – absolutely matters to the story, and I don’t think Street Magic would be the same without it. I already want so much more from this. (You better believe I’m demanding scenes within Oldtown. I WANT TO GO THERE.) And we’re only two chapters into this!!!

I’m curious, then, if all four of the books in The Circle Opens will follow the same pattern. Briar follows a parallel path to Sandry here at the start of chapter 2, and Rosethorn’s the one to inform him that since he discovered Evvy, he may well have to be the mage to teach her how to meditate and control her magic. I wasn’t surprised by this development, nor was I by Briar’s extreme reluctance to want to teach someone else. I don’t mean this in a cruel way, but Briar is a selfish character, and I think it’ll be a challenge for him to have to put a total stranger before himself. Oh, he’s got a fine motivating factor, y’all, so I don’t doubt that he’ll get it done:

He didn’t ask if she were exaggerating to make a point. He knew her. She would land on him with both feet if he didn’t listen. And she could. Four people in the world had the ability to make him sorry he had crossed them. She was at the top of that short list – his foster-sisters were the others, and they were inside his mind when the four of them were together. Rosethorn didn’t have to be. He’d known for three years that she was what their world called a great mage, but even before learning that, he’d felt the breadth and depth of her power. He also knew there were times he could tease her, and times he could not. This time, he could not.

I think that’s one easy way that this story can feel different from Magic Steps. Briar is not at all like Sandry, so I want to see how he’s going to deal with Evvy. I can see a similarity in Evvy and Pasco, too, since both are convinced that not only do they not have magic, but that magic is for… well, people not like them. I loved this bit from Evvy’s point of view:

All the mages she’d ever known – magic-workers, healers, and hedgewitches – were adults in their mid-twenties or older, very full of themselves and whatever scraps of magic they could use.

It’s a different reticence to Pasco’s, who was more concerned about where he was destined to end up if he truly was a mage. I think that’s why this chapter (and the quarter so far) works so well with the multiple points-of-view. As someone writing a novel that’s from multiple POV, I know how goddamn challenging it is to feel like there’s a justification to shifting perspectives. But like the setting of Street Magic, I feel like we need the bits from Evvy’s point of view, or from the kids in the Vipers gang. There’s a depth to their characterization that we’d lack if we only saw things through Briar’s eyes. It’s also a way to help build suspense, too, so just in terms of storybuilding, it’s satisfying to read. There’s that funny moment where Briar predicts Evvy’s instinct perfectly, and it’s a neat moment that allows us to understand the same act through a different lens.

But it’s in Evvy’s dawning sense of curiosity that I find the most reward here in the text. It’s also not that easy to throw in a new character to an established fictional world, especially one as emotionally charged as these Emelan books are. Like, I was totally ready for another quartet of the Discipline kids ruining my life… TOGETHER. Instead, I’m thrown into a series where they’re all separated from one another, and I’ve got to deal with them having adventures on their own??? THIS IS UNFAIR. Except this has to happen, and after experiencing Sandry’s journey, I get why these four characters needed to learn how to be better mages while alone. I also don’t doubt that Pierce can introduce new characters in these books that are just as meaningful and interesting as the core cast. That’s certainly the case with Evvy, who is perplexed by the bizarre tenacity of Briar and her claims that she’s a mage. We know for certain due to that earlier scene in this chapter that’s she truly a stone mage – she feels an inexplicable connection to the stones she polishes – and we also know that she has every reason to distrust literally everyone. She’s a poor young woman in this city, and anyone she meets might potentially exploit her. (Well, it’s not a “potential” thing at all, since we know that Zenadia wants Evvy, as well as the Viper gang members who recognize that she can make them rich.)

And then she sees his magic at work, and it utterly bewilders her.

Evvy perched on the roof of a warehouse across the street from the eknub temple and wrapped her arms around her knees. He really was a pahan, a mage. It was the only explanation for what she had seen, though she had never heard of magic that made plants act like animals. Where had he come from, this jade-plant boy? What could he possibly want from her?

So, Briar doesn’t even know it, but she’s been hooked. I love all the visual and textual metaphors that compare Evvy to a cat because it’s entirely how she’s characterized. She’s like 90% of the cats I’ve ever owned: spry, cunning, able to escape from any situation in a shockingly low amount of time, quick to distrust every living human ever, and yet? When you shine that goddamn laser pointer on the wall or dangle a thread in their vicinity, they can’t take their eyes off it. So how’s he going to get her onto his side? What does she want and how will that allow her to begin to trust him?

My guess? Feed her cats, and she’ll come around.

The original text contains use of the word “idiot.”

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.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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