Mark Reads ‘Battle Magic’: Chapter 17

In the seventeenth chapter of Battle Magic, Briar experiences a reunion and copes with his need for revenge. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Battle Magic

Trigger Warning: For talk of warfare

WELL, THIS IS STILL QUITE PAINFUL. That is a powerful thing, y’all, because it doesn’t seem to matter that I know that Evvy is still alive. The text CONTINUES TO HURT. How is that possible? My mind knows that these three characters get out of here alive, and yet, I still can’t help but feel sad. That’s because Rosethorn and Briar believe it. For them, the act of mourning holds no other meaning. Evvy died. Weishu’s army killed her, and there’s no coming back. So when they grieve, it’s the real thing, and it affects me as if that’s the only reality.

However, I can’t ignore how pleased I was that this chapter featured the glorious reunion of Briar and Rosethorn. A small part of me (IT’S REALLY SMALL, I PROMISE) wished that I’d gotten more time with Rosethorn in the temple because I wish to know everything that happened there. For now, though, Pierce isn’t going to reveal anything beyond what we learned the last time we were there. Instead, she teases us:

Finally, Briar had to ask. “What was it like?”

Rosethorn sighed. “I can’t say.”

“Wasn’t it just a temple?”

“It was and it wasn’t. I can’t put it any better than that.”

“You could try.”

“Briar, it’s not permitted. I had to swear an oath.”

NOOOOOO, BREAK THAT OATH JUST FOR ME. It’ll be worth it! Everyone wins if you do this, WHY WON’T YOU TELL ME EVERYTHING???

In a shocking burst of affection, she leaned over the seed balls between them and hugged him. “You will always be my boy. And you would never listen to me again if I broke an oath.”

I’m not emotional YOU’RE EMOTIONAL. All right, fair enough, Tamora Pierce. I accept this logic because it’s both sound and because it was like a punch in the chest. I still wanna know what that temple was like on the inside, but I’ll take this emotional reunion, too. As pleasant as this was, the book wasted no time jumping right into another tense cat-and-mouse game, but this time? The threat of the Yanjingyi army felt a million times more real, despite that we’ve already come across them multiple times in the story. There have been skirmishes, but all the signs in this chapter pointed to a huge confrontation between the Yanjingyi forces and the Gyongxe… army? Assortment of fighters and warriors? God, y’all, this really is a David and Goliath story in a lot of ways, but I’m still terrified. If what I know from The Will of the Empress is just as horrific as I think it is, that means that Goliath CRUSHES David in the remainder of this book.

So I wasn’t all that comforted by the battle that does take place in this novel, though it wasn’t due to solely that. I have a lot of faith in the power of the determined Gyongxean “army,” and I believe that Rosethorn and Briar offer them a unique and powerful advantage. During this confrontation, it became clear to me that Weishu’s armies would most likely continue to underestimate these people. In their eyes, the invasion is justified because they’re an inferior people. However, that also means that they don’t take them seriously, and in every attack they’ve made against this specific group, they’ve been successfully repelled. But how long can that last? What happens when they face an army the size of the one we saw near the beginning of Battle Magic? How do they stop that? Oh god, they don’t, do they???

I’M SCARED. Look, the first appearance of one of the Yanjingyi scouts/spies was bad enough. WITHIN A FEW SENTENCES, I FIND OUT THAT THEY SAW SIX OF THEM TOTAL. Six??? And all of them got away? This was bad. SO BAD. And yet, the fight itself wasn’t what upset me. It was Briar. I believe that Pierce gives us a complex moral situation in Briar here because it’s very easy to sympathize with him. Every depiction of the Yanjingyi we’ve seen has shown us how willing they are to murder without hesitation, and thus, when Briar goes after the commander and their two mages, we don’t necessarily feel bad that he’s hurting them. However, once Briar gets dangerously close to killing them, Rosethorn pulls him back. Now, she tells him that he was being risky by allowing himself to get consumed in his magic. It meant that he could have been separated from his body. But she doesn’t comment on what he’d been doing, and I wondered if she was quietly trying to stop him from killing those people.

Initially, that seemed likely, but then I remembered that Briar had already killed Yanjingyi soldiers in numerous clashes before this. So I read this scene as Rosethorn’s attempt to get Briar to re-think his compulsion for revenge. They were inevitably going to kill people. So why would Rosethorn care? Why would she claim that revenge was just as bad as those he directed it towards? Briar dismisses her because she’s religious, but I was fascinated by her reasoning. She chose to put aside any desire for revenge because she wanted to turn the Yanjingyi away from their emperor:

“The more of them that have decent treatment here, the more of them will know that Weishu’s is not the only way. The more of them will realize that these people are not monsters.”

I’m reminded of the guidance that Rosethorn will give Evvy during the events of Melting Stones, and it’s so similar to what we see here. As angry as Rosethorn can be, she’s learned to temper her rage with sympathy and passion, even when she doesn’t want to use it. So does that mean that Briar will experience a change of heart, like Evvy did? (I realize how weird it is to speak of that in past tense, since the events of Melting Stones take place AFTER the events in this book. Bear with me!) Or will Briar seek revenge at any cost?

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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