In the twentieth chapter of Battle Magic, it begins. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Battle Magic.
Trigger Warning: For talk of warfare.
It’s here, and I wasn’t ready for an entirely different reason.
I’m guessing that this battle is going to take up multiple chapters, and I’m certain that the next one will be far more horrifying than chapter twenty. I think one aspect of this fight that I didn’t anticipate was Pierce bringing back the surreal in the form of the magical creatures that open the battle. Oh, was the Temple of the Sealed Eye or cave spiders not enough for you? WELL, THEN. LOOK WHAT WE’VE GOT IN STORE FOR YOU.
Initially, it’s unbearable tension. Seriously, that should be the subtitle to this book. Battle Magic: Constant Terror. Something like that. It’s cute seeing Evvy prepare to care Luvo into battle, but that’s because it was easy for me to focus on adorable things. I was obviously using it as a distraction. Then, Pierce drops this in my lap:
Evvy looked down at him, feeling a pain around her heart. She didn’t want Luvo to go. She liked him. She felt safe with him. If anything could withstand the emperor, surely it would be a mountain. Yet what could a street rat like her offer him? He had gods for friends, not to mention the inhuman curiosities that were his friends underground, and all of the Drimbakang Lho for his home.
EVVY, YOU HAVE NO IDEA. Oh my god, I was thrilled to think about all the adventures they were going to have, and YOU ARE GOING TO GAIN ONE OF THE BEST FRIENDS OF YOUR WHOLE LIFE, EVVY.
But let’s set aside all of this celebration and joy, because there’s none of it to be found in the remainder of this chapter. Not saying that this isn’t an enjoyable thing to read. It’s complicated. It’s well-written, and I’m amazed by what Pierce pulls off here. I’m also getting more and more frightened by what might be on the next page. Will everyone die? What’s gonna explode next? What horrors will the Yanjingyi army release upon the Gyongxean forces?
Over the hill ahead rose a giant tiger. It was bigger than three elephants standing one on top of the other, with red flames for eyes and claws. With it appeared a more fantastic creature of identical size, a winged lion with a horn on its forehead. The lion had a mane made of gold flames and claws like black sickles. Tiger and lion opened their mouths and roared loud enough to flatten the standing grass between them and the army. Flames spurted where they stepped.
WHAT THE FUCK, Y’ALL. My initial reaction – after the shock and horror, of course – was that these must be like the stone tigers the Briar had befriended. But how had the emperor found someone to do this for him? I was relieved when this wasn’t the case. As far as I can tell, these creatures existed mostly to intimidate the Gyongxe people. It’s all show, which I find is a telling sign of what the Yanjinyi are like. Are they not all pomp and procession? Isn’t image everything to Emperor Weishu? Obviously, he’s got the skill and power to crush Gyongxe, but I’m wondering if this will be part of their downfall. (If there even is a downfall.) I say that, and yet… I can’t deny how truly powerful they are:
“Sorry, Luvo. Rosethorn, we’ve reached the imperial army. They weigh tons. They’re crushing my stones over on the other side of the hill.”
Tons. There are enough bodies in this army that it has a demonstrable affect on THE EARTH. As I said in the video, the sheer numbers alone make Yanjing the clear winner, so how the hell are the Gyongxean armies going to counter this?
By going EVEN WEIRDER.
Creatures not quite as gigantic as the tiger and the horned lion stood before them, but there were more of these. She recognized the four orange beings, with their flaming hair and ivory teeth and claws, from temple paintings. They each had six arms and hands in which they clutched weapons. With them stood six blue-skinned creatures with long, flowing, scarlet locks. They had long yellow claws on their hands and feet and full green lips. Each of them had four arms.
HAHAHA OH MY GOD, EVERYTHING GOT EVEN SCARIER. Look, that “shriek” they do when they crest the hill is one of the most unnerving things in this whole book, I swear. A close second? The view of Weishu’s army once Evvy crests the hill herself. It’s unnerving because the scope of the army feels impossible. How can one emperor employ so many people to fight? How can they ever expect to defeat them?
She continued to inspect the battlefield, trying tof ind some good news, some weakness. Where the army’s lines ended to the east, its horse camp began. She had never seen so many horses in her life. Her courage was shrinking by the moment.
I found it interesting that Pierce follows this up with a description of the grandeur of Garmashing, as if Evvy deliberately looked to something that would inspire her to action. Because let’s be real: the sight of that army is the worst. So how do you cope with that? How do you find courage in the face of such overwhelming terror? For Evvy, I think her hatred of what the Yanjingyi soldiers did to her cats drives her. Maybe that’s a simplistic reading of her character, but I found the repeated mentions of it to be significant. She uses that hatred to motivate herself. Alongside Luvo, she helps to BREAK UP BOULDERS IN MID-AIR, which is one of the most badass sentences I’ve ever typed. I love that she is not even a proper mage – she’s still a student! – and she’s able to contribute in a huge, important way.
One last thing.
Only then did she see shriveled bodies on the ground through Luvo’s vision. They wore the colors of Yanjingyi soldiers and, in the case of two of them, the black tunics and bead strings of mages. Luvo had taken the water from their flesh.
WHAT IN THE HOLY HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS BOOK.
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