In the tenth chapter of Shatterglass, Tris provides stability and compassion amidst the chaos in Khapik. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle Opens.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of death, grief, murder.
I am obsessed with Tris’s character development.
I think it was easy for me to get attached to the other Discipline foster siblings because there were more obvious likable features to them. Even though Briar could be crude and thorny (STILL LOVE DESCRIBING HIM AS THIS, IT’S SO PLEASING), I related deeply to his homelessness and the ferocious ways in which he dealt with that. I always identified with Tris’s complicated and traumatic family, but her freely-admitted prejudices and lack of compassion made it a challenge to fully adore her. Which is okay, since I want complicated characters in my fiction. Tris being a challenge? That’s rewarding. And I don’t need characters to be perfectly moral, either.
What’s so incredible about her transformation over the course of this book is that it’s so honest. Even when her outward actions and behavior are deeply compassionate, we see how her internal monologue is a million times more complex than that. We get to watch her choose to be a good person and choose to do the right thing. That’s so much more satisfying than it just happening, you know?
How often had Tris herself done this, crept into a corner to weep, knowing the only ones who cared about her were the animals of the house? She had not lost a mother or an aunt as Glaki had, but time after time she had been passed on to yet another relative.
Tris forces herself to think about the chaotic circumstances at Ferouze’s house, and she considers what these people might be going through. But in particular, she latches on to Glaki, who has lost her family twice. Hasn’t Tris also been through a similar experience? Maybe not death, but she’s lost her “family” multiple times, been forced to move repeatedly, had to deal with new home environments and rules… it’s not all that different to what this four-year-old has gone through, you know? So it’s fascinating to me to see her begin to form these epiphanies, only to have them come to fruition later in the chapter when she’s alone with Glaki.
It’s also one of the most heartbreaking things that Pierce has ever written, and THAT’S SAYING SOMETHING. Like, how? How am I supposed to deal with this?
“It isn’t right, what’s happened to your mother and Yali. I hope you grow up to be someone incredible, to repay you for all this misery. Why is it, do you suppose, the gods are said to be favoring you when they dump awful things into your lap? Is it because the other explanation, that sorrow comes from accidents and there are no gods doing it to help you be a strong person, is just too horrible to think of? Let’s stick with the gods. Let’s stick with someone being in charge.”
Let’s stick with my heart being in a thousand pieces right now. And I don’t know how it’s going to heal because the way Pierce has designed this story clearly means she wants us to suffer forever. I can’t say that I was surprised that Dema and Niko failed at Balance Hill, but that’s what I mean about suffering. This is perhaps one of the most mind-boggling conflicts Pierce has given us, and it makes every part of me hurt. I like Jumshida, but I despise her inability to think about her religion and culture critically. I think Tris sums it up for me:
Sheer survival over centuries isn’t a guarantee of virtue, Tris fumed as she climbed the stairs. It’s just a guarantee that nothing will change for the better!
And I’d also add to that the fact that only one class gets access to this virtue, and it’s so enraging that few people want to acknowledge this. How can you claim to hate death and to celebrate life when you allow so many people to die without justice or compassion? It’s an absurd contradiction, and no one of the upper classes wants to admit it. God, I love how they tell Niko that they’ll protect him “for [his] own good,” and by “love,” I mean “UTTERLY DESPISE AND HATE.”
But this chapter is not all tragedy and sadness. Pierce gives us sweetness and victory through Niko and Keth, respectively. First, Niko more or less tells Tris that he believes she’s fully grown up, that she’s a mature and responsible adult mage, and he does so by giving her one of the only books in the whole world concerning wind scrying. The gesture itself is so monumental that it brings Tris to tears. In the midst of so much awful shit going on, I really liked that Niko was able to give something to Tris that was so joyous and necessary.
It was also beautifully fulfilling to finally get a scene where Keth was able to create a perfect glass globe without a disaster. His character development, while not nearly as quick as Tris’s, has been a huge part of this book. He’s still prone to arguing with… well, every word out of Tris’s mouth, but I noticed that even then? He still defaults to Tris. He still comes around to trusting her. And what does he get from that? Aside from protection, he sees progress. When she helps him control the glassblowing at the end of the chapter, he successfully blows a globe without a single incident. It’s a victorious moment for his character, though he slips right back into letting his enthusiasm get the best of him. Which is understandable!!! This guy has been without control for ages, and it’s thrilling to him to suddenly get it back. But he’s got to learn control and moderation, two things he’s eager to forget and push aside in pursuit of his goal. I also don’t want to forget why he’s so urgent here: he is viciously desperate to catch the Ghost.
And I really hope he does.
The original text contains use of the word “mad.”
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