In the thirteenth chapter of Cold Fire, this continues to get more uncomfortable than I ever thought possible. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle Opens.
It hurts more??? I didn’t realize you could do this??? HOW LONG UNTIL DAJA FIGURES OUT WHAT’S GOING ON???
Watersday morning dragged: she wanted to go to Ladradun House. She wanted to see Ben’s face when he tried the gloves.
NO. NOOO O O O OOOO OOOOOOOO. STOP IT. STOP.
She loved it when she created something people could use, not simply admire. This was the first time she had made something that might save lives. She wanted Ben to have it before the next fire broke out.
THAT HE WOULD BE SETTING. AND MOST LIKELY WOULD BE USING THOSE SAME GLOVES TO SET. G O D. This is the worst. THE WORST.
At least, I thought that was the case. But this book is not even remotely done with me, and I really need to stop being surprised by this. And yet? Pierce takes Daja through a nightmare, but it’s one that Daja DOESN’T EVEN KNOW IS A NIGHTMARE. Bored by Bennat abandoning her in his own house to test out the living metal gloves, Daja begins to explore his place, and she practically drifts straight to Bennat’s bookshelf of “mementos.” AKA: HIS MURDER COLLECTION. I was not ready:
There was the skeleton hand with its molten gold ring. Looking at it, Daja felt the hair stand on the back of her neck. What if it had come from Ben’s dead wife?
HAHAHA. COOL. THIS IS A GREAT THOUGHT TO PUT IN MY HEAD. Is it enough? No, not for Tamora Pierce, who cycles through a number of groan-inducing bits of terror, leaving me to become increasingly concerned about Daja’s well being. Daja is so convinced of Bennat’s goodness that even when her instinct sets off every alarm imaginable regarding his collection, she still choose to ignore herself. Never has she ever been closer to discovering the truth, and yet she’s still far from it. LIKE THIS:
Ben was a good man, maybe a great one, but she didn’t like being near him and Morrachane at the same time. Something wasn’t right there. She wished she could talk to Ben about his mother. It was strange to think that even though she felt they were friends, she didn’t feel able to discuss Morrachane with him.
Of course, on the one hand, this is revolting to us because BENNAT LADRADUN IS NOT A GOOD MAN AT ALL. But Pierce takes Daja one step further. Again, Daja’s instinct kicks in, and she knows deep down that there’s something inherently wrong with the way that Morrachane treats her son. And trust me, this resonated strongly with me because I remember people saying the exact same thing about my own mother if they ever saw me interact with her. So I understand why Daja has this reaction because it’s all to familiar to me.
But what can you do in a situation like this? It’s not like it’s a comfortable or accommodating conversation to ever have, you know? So Daja keeps her thoughts to herself, unsure if she’s out of line to even want to bring it up to Bennat. She focuses on training, she thinks more about the living metal suit, and she remains oblivious to the truth. It’s heartbreaking, y’all, especially when there’s so much joy to be had in everything happening outside the main plot. Like Jory’s training, for example! I adored this specific part:
“Don’t worry about how well Nia does,” she told Jory more kindly. “You picked a kind of meditation that’s more complicated. I don’t know if I would have made as much progress in the same time you have, if I hadn’t learned the easier way first.”
Granted, Jory is the kind of person who relentlessly compares herself to her peers. (See: ME. MY ENTIRE LIFE.) It’s understandable that she’d need to be told something like this, especially since Nia is clearly excelling at her meditation. But Jory’s facing a much more difficult challenge, so I like that Daja acknowledges that and does her best to get Jory to understand that, too. It’s a sign of a good teacher! And Frostpine later confirms as much for us:
“Beautiful,” Frostpine said once Nia had gone. “You’ve brought her along well. You have a knack for teaching.”
Daja felt warmth in her cheeks that had nothing to do with the hearth fire. “You really think so?” she asked shyly.
He hugged her with one arm as they went downstairs. “You’re patient and steady,” he said. “Nia feels your confidence in her. It gives her confidence in herself.”
No, YOU’RE the one full of feelings. YOU.
And then the moment is utterly ruined once Bennat shows up to be all creepy. Like, let’s first talk about his weird line about “friendship.” FRIENDSHIP IS A SACRED TOPIC FOR ME, SO DON’T SULLY IT WITH YOUR CREEPINESS, BENNAT LADRADUN. In that statement, though, I see Ben’s unhealthy and wildly inappropriate view of Daja. He is utterly imagining an aspect of their friendship because he possesses all the information. I have done this specific panel at two conventions with my best friend Jesi about romantic tropes that are hardly romantic, and one of them is this one: when one person possesses all the necessary context to understand a relationship (friendships included!), but the other does not. Bennat has this unnerving adoration of Daja, yes, and I think you could read that into this comment of his. But I get the feeling he’s also referencing the fact that Daja is unaware of who he is and what he does. She doesn’t know the truth of his life, and there’s a tragic irony to their friendship.
AND I HATE IT. It feels like he’s rubbing it in her face, and you can tell that she doesn’t understand why he’d say something like that to her. Ugh, Bennat, STOP. I mean, you can see this same behavior in that later scene where he asks Frostpine about Heluda Salt and the other arson. He gets a kick out of teasing these people, and it’s so goddamn disturbing to me. And then, we’ve got his… sickness? I don’t even know what to call it. There’s that scene where Daja fits him for the suit and notices the trembling. His clammy skin. His odor. What is this a manifestation of??? I DIDN’T GET IT, Y’ALL.
I felt slightly validated about my previous comments on Bennat’s unnecessary interest in Daja when Pierce basically confirmed that others at least interpreted the friendship as inappropriate. While I don’t know that I’d say that Bennat’s behavior is sexual in nature, there’s still a weird and uncomfortable fetishization and adoration within his treatment of Daja, enough that Frostpine has to warn Daja not to pursue a relationship with the man. I never once thought she would, but it’s a conversation that needed to happen, y’all.
Ugh, this is all so uncomfortable. And it’s all gonna come crashing down at any minute, I know it.
The original text contains use of the words “mad” and “cracked” in reference to someone’s mental state.
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