In the eighteenth chapter of Battle Magic, it’s already too much and it’s NOT ACTUALLY TOO MUCH YET. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Battle Magic.
Trigger Warning: For warfare, gore/blood, PTSD.
Lord, let me break this review up by character and hope it gives me the strength to get through this. IT’S TOO UPSETTING, and nothing super huge has even happened yet!!! For the moment, I am going to focus on the mega weirdness that is the country under the Gnam Runga. As it was in the Temple of the Sealed Eye, Pierce keeps on giving us the weirdness over and over again. I cherish it so much, even if Evvy does not. But Evvy is understandably not in the best mental and emotional space to be underground. She’s already reliving the trauma of what she’s been through, even if it’s only been a week at most since she was tortured and left in a pile of the dead:
She couldn’t tell him the cold winds would always remind her of the piled dead, or that the jeweled night sky would show her the picture of her cats’ limp bodies.
For what it’s worth, Luvo believes her, and he knows that she might fair better aboveground. I wonder if Evvy will come to appreciate the strangeness of this world, but I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t. I imagine that she’ll forever associate that place with the trauma that she experienced because that’s where she started to heal. I say that because there are physical places that remind me of my own trauma or that trigger my PTSD, and I can’t control. Some of them don’t even make all that much sense, but then again, PTSD doesn’t follow a rubric or anything.
I found it really satisfying that Pierce took until this chapter to spell out the meaning of the title. While there have definitely been a number of battles throughout this book, chapter eighteen feels like a turning point in the action. It’s not just the INCREDIBLY STRESSFUL thing that happens in the second half that makes me think this. Here, Briar and Rosethorn definitively must make a choice each day on the battlefield. They are either battle mages, or they are healers. There’s no combining the two because they need to be able to focus their power. And Rosethorn explains this by pointing out that she’s never done both things heavily in the same battle, not even when Winding Circle was under siege from the pirates.
So what choice do these characters make? I assumed that they’d choose to be battle mages at this stage, especially after the last attack. Sure, they’d help the healers and shamans prepare, but when it came time to choose a side, they’d pick the battle. But things didn’t turn out like I expected at all FOR ANY REASON OR IN ANY CONTEXT. First of all, let’s talk about the fact that in the middle of TENSION and TERROR and EVERYTHING IS FRIGHTENING, Pierce just casually reveals that LARK AND ROSETHORN ARE CANONICALLY POLY AND HAVE FUN DEALING WITH THAT. Just???? What????? HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME AND EXPECT ME TO HAVE A NORMAL DAY? WEEK? LIFE?
She thrives off of this, I swear. And given that I now have a CANON POLY COUPLE THAT I CAN POINT TO AS BEAUTIFUL REPRESENTATION, I’m fine with her ripping my soul out of my body. Especially since she follows this immediately with a tense, scary fight, one where Rosethorn and Briar are healers. It was a smart decision for Rosethorn to make, given the physical location of the Yanjingyi forces. It really was too risky for them to try to launch an attack from a hill, so Briar and Rosethorn were best suited as healers. But I think it’s a brutal and necessary writing choice because it allows us to see the extensive damage that the Gyongxe soldiers are dealt. In previous skirmishes, we’d hear about the wounded or the dead, but here? We see them. We experience a number of intense sequences, one after the other, and for me, it made this war feel intensely real.
Therefore, it becomes even more upsetting when Briar dashes off to investigate a strange green light and then DOESN’T RETURN FOR HOURS. Look, I already knew this was bad!!! DON’T HURT BRIAR ANYMORE. However, I’m thinking that this is a deliberate move that Pierce makes to build off of Briar’s plot in the last chapter. Briar is still an impulsive person at times, and I see his actions here as part of that and his need for revenge. Maybe he was just curious, and maybe he wasn’t going to run off to battle. But now, he’s been seriously injured, and Rosethorn has had to repair her boy, all while hoping that he’ll survive, all while realizing that Evvy is gone, and everything is THE WORST. I utterly believe this line:
When they had him by the hands, shoulders, and legs, Rosethorn said, not caring if Briar was awake or not, “This will hurt, my lad, but not as much as you will hurt when I talk with you in the morning.”
WE’VE LITERALLY SEEN THIS HAPPEN IN THE BOOK ALREADY. As funny as it was, it was still heartbreaking to me. It broke my heart because Rosethorn had to entertain the idea that Briar might die, too, and it was just too painful to read. How long will it take Briar to heal from this? What will the ramification of his actions be? HOW IS THIS HAPPENING SO CLOSE TO THE END OF THE BOOK?
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