In the sixth chapter of Street Magic, Briar and Evvy learn more about one another. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle Opens.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of poverty, slavery.
Oh, so much new stuff to talk about! LET’S DO IT.
Hey. I NOTICED A THING. Granted, it was far more obvious once Pierce just spelled it out, but Briar is having FEELINGS. Mostly GIRL FEELINGS. There was the flirting in the last chapter, and then Evvy’s reluctance to continue to accept Briar’s charity. I was pleased that Briar wasn’t offended by Evvy’s very justified need to protect herself:
He was privately ashamed that he hadn’t guessed she might think this. In her world, his old world, nobody gave anything for free.
That’s absolutely fair of her to think.
Briar’s view of women is changing with the dawn of puberty, but I was VERY AMUSED that he tried to be all detached and unemotional about leaving Discipline and getting away from his foster-sisters. Because guess who’s now drowning in feelings and affection? SEE, BRIAR, YOU ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM THESE THINGS CALLED “EMOTIONS.” They are a part of you, despite how hard you try to mask them or hide them. I just… I love that he has a lot of affection for Tris, Daja, and Sandry.
I know that the last chapter confirmed Evvy’s feelings towards Briar and the respect she had for him, but I think what happens here is just as important. Just the act of opening up about one’s life to someone you don’t know well is a huge step in a friendship, and Evvy casually reveals a great deal about her life. It’s easy to imagine that she never talks about this shit with anyone, you know? And I’m not just talking about the shame and stigma that would come with poverty and slavery; she just doesn’t have the time to make friends. It’s a logistical challenge all on it’s own.
Yet she makes the effort to be curious about Briar’s life while also talking about her own. I can’t even guess when she got to do this last, y’all. It’s clear that she enjoys it, at least with Briar that is. I say that because while she behaves towards Rosethorn with respect, she’s not nearly as open once she meets Briar’s teacher. BUT ROSETHORN, Y’ALL. Did you see how wonderfully she treated Evvy?
“I can’t say that I blame you. Palaces are cold and unfriendly, as a whole.”
Just two sentences, and Rosethorn validates Evvy’s fears. It’s a smart move, and it’s also nice that Rosethorn genuinely believes that. At the same time, Briar is well aware that this isn’t a guarantee that Evvy will listen to Rosethorn. It takes way more for her to begin to trust someone, let alone reach the level that Evvy and Briar already have.
While I initially thought there were structural similarities between Magic Steps and Street Magic, I am happy to see how different these books feel. Evvy’s struggle with her magic and her education is rooted in a desire to avoid being split between worlds. She finds an affinity in some of the nicer parts of her day – like the hammam and the food and the company – but it’s not like they’re part of some dependable reality. Evvy is used to a shifting life. Poverty is not a source of stability, and so it’s natural for her to completely distrust the nice things in her life. I still do this on a daily basis myself, and I don’t know that I’ll ever escape it.
On top of that, Evvy knows that whatever she chooses next will affect a great deal more than she’s used to:
The only problem was that to learn more about stone, she would have to deal with more people on a steady basis than she had in years. Pahan Briar seemed all right, for a plant person, but he wasn’t going to teach her. A stranger, one who lived in the palace, would teach her. Evvy wasn’t sure she liked that. What if a real stone mage scorned her for what she didn’t know?
That’s a valid fear, especially when you’ve lived without access to what most people have. I find that’s difficult for others to understand in a lot of contexts, including in academic circles. If you’re used to money, if you’re used to having access to academic materials, if you’re used to never having to worry about a roof over your head, you often don’t consider how things chance for those who do have to think of these things. I don’t know anything about Stoneslicer, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to theorize that a noble mage isn’t going to be sympathetic towards a poor escaped slave girl. I just hope that Evvy gets the help she needs.
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