Mark Reads ‘Cold Fire’: Chapter 3

In the third chapter of Cold Fire, I fucked it all up. I fucked it all up so badly. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle Opens.

Trigger Warning: For pyrophobia, ableism, and pedophilia. (I don’t know Bennat’s age, but he’s clearly an adult, so that’s why I’m warning for this.)

I don’t even know how to talk about anything else. I mean, first of all, I’m so embarrassed. LOOK WHAT I JUST WROTE IN THE LAST REVIEW. LOOK WHAT I COMMITTED TO VIDEO AND CAN NOW NEVER TAKE BACK. How? How do I even address this entire chapter after that thing has now overshadowed it all?

I’ll try.

Camoc Oakborn

I think it’s telling that out of every character in this chapter, the one who got most of my suspicion was Camoc. Understandably, he’s a strange one. Abrasive to Daja at first, then shockingly sweet to her once he’s spoken with her for a few minutes, he is ultimately a bewildering person. I wasn’t ready to trust him, though I did understand his hesitance to take on Nia as a student. Look, Daja is biased when it comes to Nia because she’s gotten a chance to get relatively close to her. So Camoc’s insistence that rich children – specifically, the child of the Bancoran family – aren’t worth the investment stings her. She can’t fathom that, though in his perspective, that’s exactly what happens.

Personally, Nia doesn’t seem the type to me, but I also don’t know her well. My gut is that she’ll want to learn and that she’ll respond to this type of environment. But I also don’t think that the kindness we see from Camoc in the second half of his conversation with Daja will show up with Nia, at least not for a long time. And, as Daja points out, we don’t even know if Nia will want to work with Camoc in the first place. What if she hates him on sight, too?

The Fire

I’m sitting here, re-reading portions of it, and I just want to lie down for hours and contemplate the utter wrongness of myself. When everyone in the crowd realized that someone else was still inside the building, I didn’t doubt that Bennat and Daja would find a way to rescue the woman. I expected Daja to use her magic to clear a path, to control the fire to give them access to the person trapped inside that building. And then this line struck me down, especially after Daja’s interaction with Camoc:

Speaking to this man as she would speak to one of her Winding Circle teachers, Daja said, “I think I can get her.”

His reaction made her heart pound. He grabbed a bucket of water from one person, a blanket from another, and soaked the blanket thoroughly. Briskly he rolled it into a small bundle. “Are you ready?” he asked.

Daja nodded, mute with admiration. No going on about her youth, no refusal: he accepted her on her own terms. How many adults did that?

I bought it. Hook, line, and sinker. I so totally believed that this man is what Daja needed in her life. Not that Frostpine or anyone else was lacking or anything like that! It’s just that I appreciated his instant respect for her. He understood that she possessed a power great enough to be recognized as a mage the council, and he stood aside when he knew she could help more than he could do. I don’t think he could have made it in and out of that house as quickly as Daja did.

And what a scene, y’all! I kept expecting the worse: that the roof would collapse. That she’d leave the blind woman behind. That the blind woman would die. That the cage of birds would all perish. I couldn’t help it! The entire scene in that house is built to freak us out, you know? Daja had already been hurt by flames in her last book, so who’s to say she couldn’t be gravely injured here? Hell, and once she realized this fire was set intentionally, I figured that all bets were off.

But I think that’s why I was distracted and not seeing the forest for the trees. I was far more focused on the reaction of the crowd to what Daja had just done. Which, for the record, was spectacular. She jumped into a burning building, climbed to the third story, rescued a woman and her birds, and then:

Ben waved some women forward. They wept as they took the wet blanket off Gruzha and wrapped her in a dry one, patting her head, face, and arms as if they couldn’t believe she was real. As they did they backed away from Daja, taking the blind girl with them. Daja held out the birds’ cage, reclaiming the silvery protective shield she had put on it. The finches began to chatter in tiny voices as a woman carefully took the cage.

Daja looked down. Her shirt and breeches, overcome by more fire than they were spelled against, were crumbling on her body. Firefighters and those in the crowd back away, just as Gruzha’s friends had.

No thanks. No appreciation. As I mentioned before, Daja does not fit into this world, no matter what she does. That includes DRAMATICALLY SAVING SOMEONE’S LIFE. She’s still strange to all of them, and no amount of bravery or heroism will change that image in their heads. Bennat was the only person aside from Serge to show any sort of interest or appreciation for Daja and what she’d done. So when Pierce switched the point of view to him, that’s what I thought I was getting. More of his perspective on Daja’s heroism:

As much as it burned him to see her go where he could not, it had been wonderful to see her in action. To watch the fire bend and reshape itself to her liking. She had gone up the steps and through the flame-wreathed door as she might walk into her own house. Flames slide from her clothes, her hair, her skin. In that moment alone she was a beauty and a terror, this stocky, brown-skinned girl with her calm, thoughtful eyes and her fistfuls of thin braids.

Oh… okay. That’s a little intense, but hey, he’s right. Daja is terrifyingly intimidating when she’s at work, and I was thankful he was able to recognize this, right up to the point that I wasn’t thankful at all.

He’d done such a fine job of shaping this fire, starting on both sides of the basement.


He’d left an escape path clear in case anyone remained inside, because he did try to cover all possibilities.


He’d honestly thought he was being overcareful, that no one was there when he’d lit the wicks in their lamps of oil.


Nobody was supposed to die, particularly not some blind shopgirl, but the firefighters had to be tested. They had to prove themselves, not on some tame fire, in a building that was scheduled for destruction, but on a real fire with lives and property to worry them.

THIS ISN’T HAPPENING. I honestly thought I misread this because… who reveals something like this in the third chapter??? OH GODS, I wasn’t ready, y’all.

They ought to flinch from a goddess like her. They weren’t fit to kiss her bare feet as she stood there in the icy mud, offering the birdcage to anyone who would take it.

Why was she here, in Kugisko, now? Had she come for him, to make him her servant, or her priest?

It’s too much, or so I thought:

He would have to see. He would have to find out if she was worth his service. She might not even be a goddess, just another self-satisfied mage. And wasn’t it funny, at his age, to fall in a kind of love with a teenaged girl barefoot in the mud, her clothes blackened and crumbling, her dark skin gleaming with sweat? Whatever she was, he would love her until they died.

I can’t even fathom how fucked up this is. I can’t begin to tear this apart and examine how complicated and messy and scary this is. THIS IS THE THIRD CHAPTER, Y’ALL!!! HOW IS THIS HAPPENING SO EARLY???

Mark Links Stuff

Please help book/finalize the Mark Does Stuff European Tour!
– 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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