In the nineteenth chapter of Battle Magic, I WASN’T READY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Battle Magic.
Trigger Warning: For talk of trauma/PTSD.
This book is going to ruin my life even more, isn’t it?
I have said that I wasn’t ready. Indeed, there have been many moments throughout the past three and a half years while reading Tamora Pierce’s books where I have been shoved off a metaphorical cliff into the unknown. MAY I REMIND ALL OF YOU ABOUT THE TRICKSTER DUOLOGY? OR TUNSTALL? Yet the reunion of Briar and Evvy is unique out of all of these because I knew it was going to happen. I already knew that Evvy survived; I knew that she and Briar were alive and well far into the future. I knew that at some point, Briar and Rosethorn would find out that Evvy was alive. And I knew that since Sayrugo had just found her, it would happen REALLY SOON.
Yet the reunion itself was too much for me to handle. Why does that happen? How is it that I (and many of you) can develop that kind of attachment to a character and a story? I think it’s a sign of good writing, honestly. I know I’ve said this a ton, but the very nature of the story in Battle Magic is very new to me. Look, I’m going into the big battle against he Yanjingyi, and I’m still nervous. This book still frightens me. So I appreciate the tenderness here. The reunion is very physical, but it’s quiet. Muted. There’s no screaming or over-the-top expressions of emotions. Part of that is because Briar can barely believe his eyes. Evvy is alive. She is alive, standing in front of him, and she’s talking. It seems dream-like to him, and his recent injury doesn’t exactly help him grasp reality any quicker. They hug. They touch. He verifies that Evvy is indeed real and alive and whole and alive.
Oh my god, I’m already emotional again.
Preparations for War
I’m not saying this book is repetitive because I feel like we’ve been taken on such a wild journey in the last 350 pages or so. But we are back at a point that feels familiar, only this time, it’s literally a billion times worse than it ever has been. If the last big skirmish felt ugly, scary, and violent, then we’re now on the eve of… well, to put it bluntly, this book’s boss fight. The final showdown. The moment I have been waiting for, but am not really eager to read because it’s very probably that everyone aside from the main characters will die?
The arrival at Melonam was the first moment that freaked me out because I was so convinced that right after the emotional reunion with Evvy, both she and Briar would be LEFT BEHIND. No, are you kidding me? That’s NOT ALLOWED. They just found each other again! I WILL TEAR THIS BOOK APART IF YOU –
Oh, they’re fine? They won’t get split up? Oh. Maybe I overreacted just a little bit. But hey, Briar had just given Evvy her stone alphabet back, he had just begun to get to know Luvo, and all is right with the world! Understandably, I was distressed by the very thought of the trio being split up for any reason. I’m proud of Evvy, though. LOOK AT HER:
“I said I’ve been fighting in this war ever since Snow Serpent Pass, and they can’t call me a child when I can make horses and men fall. And Rosethorn said that if we lost, Melonam would be the emperor’s next conquest. So here I am. Children fight all over the world, and Her Highness wanted to keep me safe!”
There’s a very specific thing I love about this. Yes, it’s incredibly admirable that Evvy is so outspoken and quick to defend herself. It’s easy to get caught in the badass nature of it, too, but then Pierce reminds very bluntly that there’s a reason why Evvy thinks this way about herself:
“But nobody’s let me be a child since my mother sold me.”
It’s easy to valorize Evvy because she’s strong and brave and tenacious, but those features came out of desperation. They came out of extreme poverty. They came out of self-preservation. Look, I’m not going to claim that I’ve had an experience like Evvy did, but I’m conscious of the way that desperation and survivalism contributed to some of my better qualities, too. I’m an extremely patient person; I seek to empathize with other people; I can read situations fairly well. Where did some of these come from? Well, they’re related to my trauma and to the PTSD that I suffer. Some were defense mechanisms that I started using when I was a child. So I relate to this one sentence more than perhaps anything else in this book. It’s such a small moment, but it’s powerful.
I think that a great deal of this chapter carries power, too. From the image and emotional weight of the reunion to the preparations at the end of chapter nineteen, this is all about the heaviness of war. Evvy can’t sleep because she’s so anxious about what fighting Weishu’s army will be like. More than ever before, she’s conscious of the uneven odds set before them, and it unsettles her so much that she can’t fall asleep on the eve of the fight in Garmashing. This gives way to one of the absolute most touching scenes in the whole book: Briar, Rosethorn, Souda, and Parahan joining Evvy on a slate overcrop late at night, all of them consumed with the worries and fears of the upcoming war. They enjoy the silence and the company of one another. So much is left unsaid in this scene, but I like that Pierce doesn’t spell it out to us. These five people have been through hell in Battle Magic, and we’re going to find out very soon who will make it and who will not.
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