In the fifth chapter of Battle Magic, WHAT THE HELL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Battle Magic.
I knew it. I knew it would happen eventually, but in my mind, “eventually” meant “at least halfway through this book.” NOT IN THE FIFTH CHAPTER. But it’s not just a horrific act of power; what Weishu does comes right after he’s sweet and supportive towards Evvy. I think that Pierce was intentional here because she needed to portray the extremes of the emperor.
I’ll back up a bit because I want to talk about the set-up to this. Pierce introduces another character in this chapter – Jia Jui, one of the imperial mages – who doesn’t seem to have much of a role beyond supporting the emperor. For now, that is, and I”m eager to see where she’ll fall in all of this. She’s not openly subversive like Parahan is, but she also has no reason to be. She’s fairly high in the imperial court, and I don’t get the sense that she’s in any immediate danger, either. And I’ll admit straight up that until I learn otherwise, I’m going to be suspicious of anyone who tries to get close to Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy. What if Jia Jui just wants to learn the extent of their magic so she can report back to the emperor?
THIS IS WHAT TAMORA PIERCE HAS TURNED ME INTO, OKAY?
It’s not like you can blame me for it, given what happens in this chapter. I was nervous about Evvy’s meeting with Weishu because I couldn’t fathom what it was that he needed from her. Was he bothered by her display of magic to Parahan in the previous chapter? Offended that she ducked out of the tour of the gardens? Yet even when he offers her the chance to explore her own magic in front of the imperial court, the scene is wrought with terrifying political implications. The emperor knows that he’s got the power to do as he pleases, so he purposely disrespects Mage General in front of everyone by allowing Evvy to handle his neck beads. This is clearly an offensive thing for another person to do, yet the emperor doesn’t care. Why? Did he want to embarrass Hengkai??? Even Briar recognizes that the lesson is for the Mage General. WHY???
I don’t know, at least not yet, but I certainly know (by the end of this chapter, that is) that Emperor Weishu is vindictive and cruel. The Mage General must have done something, no matter how small or meaningless, right? I’m sure it wasn’t worth this punishment either. Again, I think it’s important to note that Weishu portrays himself to Evvy in a manner that’s lost on her, but not Briar. In order to lift Evvy up – even artificially – he must bring someone else down. Was his goal to shame Guanshi Dianliang, too? WHO KNOWS AT THIS POINT. But I can’t ignore that he treats Evvy so respectfully while disrespecting others. I mean, he says this to her:
“I thank you, Evumeimei,” the emperor assured her. “I am delighted and impressed. You have every right – and it is your duty to your teachers and your tradition – to speak what you have been taught. In fact, it would be very wrong of you to speak against your tradition here in Yanjing. We are nothing without respect to our elders and ancestors.”
This sounds like a fairly reasonable man and leader, does it not? It does! He sounds like he wants to present himself as the kind of emperor who cares about cultural exchange, identity, and self-determination. Y’all, he gives Evvy a CINNABAR CAT. I had to look up cinnabar, that’s how rare it is. He then has the nerve to ask Evvy to tell him about her seven cats, and I frame it that way because it’s all a presentation. Either he’s able to completely disconnect from his actions, or perhaps he truly believes the nonsense he spews. Regardless, I honestly believe that he’s trying to win Evvy over so that he can use her in some way. (Oh god, the parallels to Will of the Empress are too much.)
Whatever he has planned for her, I don’t trust him. I have no reason to after he spared the rose bush that Rosethorn and Briar healed and then BURNED THE ROSE GARDEN DOWN WITH ALL OF THE GARDENERS IN THE MIDDLE OF IT. He’s a monster, y’all, and I am utterly terrified for these people. I know already that this is going to get worse because Briar and Evvy and Rosethorn have told me so in the past two books. It doesn’t help. At all. I’M SCARED.
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