Mark Reads ‘Cold Fire’: Chapter 6

In the sixth chapter of Cold Fire, Daja meets Jory’s new teacher, bonds with the Bancanors, and meets frustration during meditation. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle Opens. 

Trigger Warning: For general talk of ableism and learning disabilities.

I’m so thankful that all three of the books in The Circle Opens are so different from one another. LET’S DISCUSS.

Olennika Potcracker

What an introduction, y’all. I suspected that she’d be a no-nonsense woman who would have little interest in any sort of performative bullshit. If she had famously rejected a life cooking for the privileged, the rich, and the prestigious, then it seemed obvious to me that she’d have a little kick to her personality. But there’s not an ounce of cruelty in her straightforward behavior here, even if she is commanding and direct. The more I think about it, the more it’s obvious that Jory needs someone like Olennika teaching her, especially after I read the meditation session at the end of this chapter. Jory’s inability to focus isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, and it’s also clear that she can focus when someone engages with her in a way that meets her own needs.

To me, that’s the most important part of this chapter. We learn differently, and it’s counter-productive and ableist to assume otherwise. Notice how Jory is stimulated here in a way that inspires her to follow Olennika’s instructions without a single moment of hesitation. Why is that? Why does she suddenly seem to discard her need to question everything? Well, I think part of that is the way in which Olennika introduced Jory to the kitchen. She immediately put her to work carrying supplies down to the storeroom, and then she followed that up with a test that kept her moving. As we’ve seen in these six chapters, Jory has a problem sitting still. And instead of trying to mold her into anything else, Olennika utilizes Jory’s need to be active in order to keep her busy. Is that a coincidence? Possibly. I mean, she does put Daja and Serg to work, too. But I suspect that this is her style with everyone, and she recognized that same drive in Jory and accepted her. (She pointed out Jory’s fidgeting, and I think that was her way of observing Jory’s nature.)

More on that in a bit.

The Bancanor Family

I like that, as far as I can tell, Pierce is writing the Bancanors as the kind of family that is supportive, and I’m guessing that’s so that there’s a clear juxtaposition between the Ladraduns and the Bancanors. Seriously, they’re the polar opposite to Morrachane, aren’t they? When Daja sits down to talk with Kol and Matazi, there’s no condescension. Neither person postures in a way to imply that Daja doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Because of this, Daja is a lot more comfortable being honest with the Bancanors and admitting her concerns for their daughters, particularly Nia. That’s a win for everyone, and it’s why this kind of environment is so crucial. You don’t have this kind of honesty in the Ladradun house. No, you have uncomfortable cruelty. Sure, Morrachane is deeply honest with Bennat, but it always stings. It always denigrates him. That’s not what we see from Kol and Matazi. They speak like this:

Kol and Matazi stood when she did, and offered their hands. Daja looked at those outstretched palms, then at the owners, confused. Kol said, “We owe you more than we can say. You found something in our girls everyone else missed, something that could have made them unhappy.”

“We know it’s work for you, and you have your own studies,” Matazi added. “If we can ever thank you properly…”

It’s a completely different world in this household, y’all.


I adore Daja’s epiphany in this chapter:

So there was the lesson of mage-teachers, if Daja wanted to learn it. Teaching was more important than personal objectives. Teaching was a serious debt that could only be repaid by correct teaching of new mages.

It goes further than this, though. To me, this is about how Daja realizes that she has to take the twins’ education seriously and in a way that benefits both of them. Since Daja accepts that her teaching by Frostpine put her in “debt” to the world, then the way she can repay that is through a proper education for Jory and Nia. However, what that entails for each kid is entirely different. We’d already seen how well Nia has adapted to Daja’s teaching, and we’ve also seen how much difficult Jory has had. That is, until Jory interacted with Olennika. In a matter of minutes, Jory was busily learning and applying herself.

Daja is able to recognize why, and she quickly incorporates a new method for meditation. Unfortunately, she ropes Nia into staff work, and it becomes very obvious that Nia is not built for active meditation, especially with Jory on the other end of it. So what’s the answer? I think that, as exhausting as it might be, Daja needs to meditate with these two kids separately. They are not built for their opposing styles, and it’s the only way they might get the best education possible, given the circumstances.

I’m tired just thinking about that, y’all. And we still don’t even know what Frostpine is going to do with Daja in this book aside from MAKE EVERYTHING AWKWARD FOREVER WITH HIS NAKED FIRE-BATHING. What’s the central conflict? How unprepared am I for Bennat’s role in the story?

Questions for the ages, y’all.

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

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.
– 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.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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