In the fourth chapter of Battle Magic, Parahan is still the best while Emperor Weishu continues to be the worst. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Battle Magic.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of slavery.
My heart is still racing. HOW IS THAT MAN REAL.
Well, before I start shouting in ALL CAPS, let’s talk about Parahan. I am now deciding to be endlessly worried about him because he is too good. He is too nice, too kind, and too caring about people he just met. That includes Evvy here, and thus, I feel like it’s only a matter of time before he outlasts his worth to the emperor. The emperor who, mind you, delights in doing everything he can to strip Parahan of his humanity, which includes dressing him up in revealing clothing and forcing him to wear his chains publicly. Even then, I don’t hold much hope in the promise that one day, Parahan might get to lead an army to destroy his uncle if his uncle doesn’t uphold the same deal as his brother currently does. Why?
Well, Parahan is too willing to subvert and break the rules. Eventually, that’s going to come back to hurt him, isn’t it? I mean, it’s fun reading about him taking off of the path to learn more about her stone magic and then plot to steal food from the kitchens. He is genuinely interested in Evvy’s life! But I can’t help this impending dread I feel. Literally everyone except for Evvy, Briar, and Rosethorn can die in this book. EVERYONE.
I can’t get attached. I CAN’T.
It doesn’t help that for the majority of this chapter, Pierce focuses on Rosethorn’s experience in the emperor’s famed gardens. They are just as beautiful and perfect as she thought they would be, and that’s the problem. Perfection. I now realized that the bit earlier in this chapter concerning stones in a garden was foreshadowing for what was to come. Weishu wants a very specific form of perfection in his life. What’s so mind-blowing and frustrating about this is that he is so clearly imperfect. Yet he demands perfection around him! He presents himself as a wonderful, knowledgable gardener, but he has absolutely no knowledge of plant magic. None! He denies that the plants in his garden can “speak” because… they’re not old enough?
OKAY, SIR. SURE. GO WITH THAT.
But that’s the point. Weishu is not perfect at all. He’s a hypocrite. He has power, though, and that allows him to do anything he wants, as Evvy would put it. So the scene where he discovers a rose that has suffered from a fungus overnight is a fitting demonstration of this flaw. The wetlands fungus can literally present itself overnight and, as Rosethorn points out, there was no time for the gardeners to spot it before their early morning tour. What’s Weishu’s response?
Weishu looked down his nose at her. “It was their duty to know.”
So, plants don’t speak through magic, but the emperor’s gardeners need to magically speak to plants. COOL, DUDE. COOL LOGIC. But let’s just make this worse and worse. Briar and Rosthorn heal the plant and ward it against other possible illnesses, and it brings to light another cultural complication at work: the emperor doesn’t like to mix the Living Circle priests with the state priests. Apparently, they don’t get on well together. Which makes me wonder why that is. What’s the history between these two groups? Does Weishu support the state religion? How separate is it from his empire?
Okay, now I’m asking worldbuilding questions. (THAT I DESPERATELY NEED THE ANSWERS TO.) The point I’m trying to get to is that Weishu makes excuses and devises elaborate logical leaps in order to maintain this aura of perfection. Despite that Briar and Rosethorn heal the ill rose bush, and despite that they use their magic to begin the process to protect all of the plants in the garden, Weishu orders the bush to be uprooted and burned. Why is that? What reason could he have?
“There is every reason,” he told her. “It failed u at the moment of a test, when we came to show the splendor of our works to a foreign guest. Anything that does not present itself in glory and protection betrays us and must be destroyed.”
A plant. He’s talking about a rose bush, as if the rose bush was a sentient being who could have rose to the challenge. But remember, plants can’t speak! They don’t have that type of magic! Gah, it’s so infuriating, and Rosethorn’s reaction to this nonsense is perhaps the most upset we’ve ever seen her. Which, in turn, upset me because I worried that her temper would get her on the emperor’s bad side. She was openly questioning his decision and begging him to change the outcome! But Emperor Weishu goes with sympathy here, gifting the rose to Rosethorn instead of destroying. I’d love for him to realize how important plants are to Rosethorn and Briar, but I fear this is lost on him. He doesn’t seem like the kind of person to learn from a moment like this.
Y’all, he terrifies me.
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