Mark Reads ‘Shatterglass’: Chapter 9

In the ninth part of Shatterglass, the title of this book is referring to my heart because IT HAS SHATTERED. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Circle Opens.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of death, murder, grief, poverty.

I knew it, I KNEW IT, and it still didn’t make it any easier to deal with.


At least this chapter starts off with something positive before taking a nosedive into NOT OKAY. I did expect that Tris would not let Keth get away from her and the lesson she had planned for him. With a small window of opportunity to teach Keth about his immunity to lightning, she was definitely gonna find a way to compel him to face his fears. What I did not expect?

Tris’s compassion.

Like I said on video, I didn’t want my commentary on this to read as if I thought Tris was mean, incapable of kindness, or a horrible person. One of her canonical flaws, though, is her difficulty in empathizing with others. Sometimes, it’s a defense mechanism and an understandable one at that. But other times, she relies on this when she doesn’t need to, and it can cause other people harm. Of course, like all of the foster siblings from Discipline house, she’s grown greatly over the course of the Emelan books, and in this book alone? Lord! It’s been a real treat to see her adapt to Keth by empathizing with him and seeking out a connection with her student.

What she does here, however, felt absolutely monumental to me. Keth sees knows that she’s been a great, dependable teacher to him thus far, and he also knows that he does have every reason to trust her. However, I think it’s her behavior in this chapter that truly makes him feel comfortable:

Tris removed her spectacles and rubbed her nose. “Keth, I’m not asking you to play.” Her voice was surprisingly gentle and reasonable. “But I need to show you something.”

“I don’t need to be shown anything.” Keth folded his arms over his chest. He hoped she couldn’t see that he was shaking. “Not in a storm, anyway.”

“But you do.” This time her voice was even gentler; that same kindness was in her level grey eyes. Now she scared him. She wasn’t kind.

It’s a different technique, but it’s not just a technique. I think you can see this new part of her throughout the entire chapter, especially when she later comes to Keth’s defense. It’s a thrilling development for her, and I think it’s fitting that it occurs during one of the most beautifully written segments in the entirety of this quartet. Y’all, the lightning scene? IT’S INCREDIBLE. I was transfixed by the poetic way Pierce described Tris absorbing the power of the lightning into her braids and was even more impressed by the moment where Keth had his epiphany regarding his own power. SERIOUSLY:

They blazed – he blazed – with lightning. He groped his scalp, and found something stronger and far hotter than the power in the globe he’d made for Dema. A bolt of lightning had struck his head, in the same place the last bolt had struck. His brain fizzed, his eyes filled with a glory of white fire that trickled down his throat, into his belly, through his arms and legs. In that splendid moment Keth saw that all things had some lightning in them. Physical matter did not reject lightning; it was simply overwhelmed by it, as a teardrop was overwhelmed by the ocean. Lightning struck objects because it was drawn to the ghost of itself within them.

Chilling. What a huge moment for these characters.


I knew it. And it still hurts. Just after Keth had his first bit of progress, he’s taken to another low after losing one of his best friends. And what of Glaki? What happens to them now that their mother is dead and the woman who took care of them is dead, too?

At the risk of being too bleak, this is some dark shit, y’all. That’s not exactly new for a Tamora Pierce book, sure. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO REFERENCE AT THIS POINT??? But at this point of Shatterglass, we have not one single clue as to the Ghost’s identity, and their mysteriousness has given them an air of invincibility that frustrates and scares me. Whomever is murdering that yaskedasu knows how to manipulate Tharian culture to their benefit, and I hate it. I mean, bravo to Pierce for writing this because it’s too good, but the experience is a stressful one.

I didn’t want to linger too much on the scene with Yali’s body because it’s so upsetting. I mean, the whole thing is a nightmare, and it unnerves me terribly to know that the Ghost is targeting some of the most poor and marginalized people within the city. I’ll address that more in the next section, but I did want to say that this book is yet another example of how Pierce addresses class stratifications through her work. There’s a reason why the Ghost has gotten away with so much; the priests and the spiritual code in Tharios enable him!

But more on that in a sec. I did want to talk about Tris’s treatment of Keth after they all learn of Yali’s fate. Bless her forever for reminding Dema how abrasive and insensitive he was in dealing with Keth. Again, this is Tris learning to empathize with others and then standing up for them when needed! It’s a beautiful bit of character development, and also utterly heartbreaking.


I find Dema to be one of the more heartbreaking characters in this quartet, too. The man tries so hard to do right by these murdered women, and all he meets is structural and societal prejudice and foolishness. It’s not that Dema is stopped by one person or even a small handful. The entire system is stacked against him, guaranteeing that he’ll never succeed. At the very least, I thought it was brilliant of him to seek out Jumshida and Niko. If he couldn’t get the system to pay attention to him, then maybe individual people with power could help him out. Despite that Jumshida had displayed prejudicial tendencies in the past, I honestly did not think she’d react as poorly as she did here.

But I have to accept that Tharians will forever be repulsed by death. There’s no scenario I see playing out in this book that undoes their religion. Let’s say that the Ghost finally starts killing people of the First Class. What then? Maybe the priests become lax on certain rules and regulations, but for how long? I don’t see any lasting change coming from this because there are too many people in Tharios who are just like Jumshida. Yes, the priests have a great deal of power, but could they truly control a majority of middle and upper class citizens? Could they honestly exercise any power if their actions did not instill fear in others? Dema discovers the hard way that many people who aren’t powerful within the church can still uphold the system anyway.

So what good will Niko be in the meeting with the Keepers? We know he’s respected the world round, but this is not his country, nor is it his culture. At best, they might allow him to pursue this case out of academic interest, but Dema’s hostility towards the All-Seeing God hasn’t exactly put him in the best position. And I’ll be honest: I don’t see another possible solution to Dema’s problem. I can’t figure away around the limitations that have been set without shutting down Khapik and guarding all the underground exits from that part of town. And what if the Ghost just adapts?

This hurts.

Mark Links Stuff

– 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.
– 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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