In the third chapter of Shatterglass, Tris adapts to life with Chime and a new student while Keth does his best to find someone to teach him. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle Opens.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of ableism.
Tris placates those frightened by Chime by giving them THE GLASS BITS OF FLAME THAT CHIME SPURTS OUT.
I want few things more than my own living glass dragon.
Anyway, had to get that out of the way before we got on to much more important things that need to be discussed! This is a dense chapter, one full of exposition, plot twists, and character growth. AND WE ARE ONLY THREE CHAPTERS INTO THIS. So, let’s go through this chronologically:
I’m glad that Tris was finally able to learn enough about Keth from Antonou that she knows why he reacted as he did the day before. (Er… two days ago? I may have the timeline messed up. Let’s blame this one me still being unable to recover from being in a thousand times zones.) Antonou is a goddamn delight on the pages, and he’s one of those characters that you just want to spend ages with. It’s fun seeing him interact with Tris, and you can tell that he also cares deeply for Keth as well. Through her conversation with him, Keth discovers that Keth was struck by lightning and that he was out for the day, eager to find a teacher to help him deal with his magic.
About that, though. There’s a very fascinating section within this chapter about the role magic plays in the greater culture of Tharios, perhaps all of Emelan. He says the following to Tris when talking about Keth’s recent discovery:
“But young people, they don’t understand how many torubles come from the unseen world,” he continued, shaking his head. “They insist that all this reason and rationality that’s so popular these days proves there is no supernatural, only what the mind can grasp and make plain. ‘How about magic?’ I ask them, but they tell me magic is also governed by reason. Pah.” Antonou shook his head. “Law and reason are very well, but to say the gods are only tales told to comfort us…”
Coming off the Tortall books, this is a totally bizarre thing to read, since the gods were very much real and undeniable by pretty much any person within that fictional world. But in Emelan, a world that is “supernatural” relative to our own, there’s still a sense of secular rationalism. WHICH IS SO FASCINATING TO ME. There are people who are LITERAL MAGES who discard all notions of the supernatural, despite that they can do magic. It’s all relative, I suppose, and within a world where magic is in everything, it’s a normal thing. There’s nothing supernatural about it. But I also have to remember that unlike the Tortall books, there are no confirmed “gods” in Emelan. We hear of them, we read characters praying to them or invoking them, but we’ve not had one of them ever “show” themselves, you know?
I’ll just say it: I was heartbroken reading Keth’s POV section. I appreciate that Pierce has created a metaphor for disability while still giving the story to an actual disabled character. There’s a lot to unpack here; you could read Keth’s journey as the frustrating experiencing of sitting in one doctor’s office or exam room after another, having people poke and prod you as if you’re nothing more than an experiment. You could read this as someone trying to get access to higher education while having a learning disability. However you choose to interpret this (and there are SO MANY possible readings, which I adore), it’s easy to see that Keth was dealt a set of cards that would always make his life difficult. It doesn’t matter that the world’s best minds are all gathered in Tharios; to them, Keth is just another problem, another puzzle to be figured out. It’s not until Niko and Jumshida come across Keth that he’s finally treated with respect.
And up to that point? He’s spoken to like he’s a child by Vishaneh Amberglass. He’s passed from one mage to another, each of them contributing to Keth’s anxiety about himself. And then he’s told to come back, giving up another day of work, something that’s a luxury to someone like him. It’s not an easy thing to read because I know that I’ve personally had to deal with unsympathetic bureaucrats before, and this felt entirely like that experience. So I think it’s a sign of what kind of person that Niko is that he’s the first of the group to treat Keth kindly. That’s why he’s so beloved by the Discipline kids; even if he is a rigid person, he’s also nice. And sometimes, that’s important.
Teacher and Mage
Ultimately, I just feel really bad for Keth. After being forced to revisit his trauma due to Tris, he ends up finding out that she is his teacher. I say that knowing that I’m leaving out that largest part of this, which is that both Keth and Tris discover this when Niko brings Keth home unannounced and Chime FREAKS THE FUCK OUT. What does Chime do?
He’d flinched when the dragon came at him, saving his right eye, but that side of his face and head was peppered with thin red, blue, and green needles. Niko tried to pull one out and cut himself.
CAN KETHLUN PLEASE CATCH A BREAK? Actually, I think that having the guidance of Tris and Niko will eventually be that break, but still. HOW UPSETTING. I understand Tris’s perspective here, but I sympathize with the chaos of Keth’s life. He’s just had so much change in a matter of two days, and it’s got to be painfully overwhelming. So I imagine that Tris will accept her duty and do her best to help introduce some stability into this young man’s life. I believe she’s entirely capable of it.
HOW THE HELL IS IT POSSIBLE THAT KETH’S MAGIC ALLOWED HIM TO CONSTRUCT AN ACCURATE TABLEAU OF ANOTHER GHOST MURDER WITHIN A GLOBE OF GLASS? WHY? HOW? WHO? WHAT THE HELL HAS THIS BOOK BECOME? THIS IS THE WILDEST PLOT TWIST IN THE CIRCLE OPENS QUARTET SO FAR. JUST… ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall 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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