Mark Reads ‘Wizards at War’: Chapter 11, Part I

In the first half of the eleventh chapter of Wizards at War, NOOOOOOOOO. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards

Trigger Warning: For talk of spiders/arachnophobia.

I just want you to know that Apple has this feature that now auto-suggests words you might be typing, and it’s right above the keyboard on iOS devices, so that means that it just suggested the SPIDER emoji as I typed the trigger warning for this review, and I thought there was a real spider on my iPad and I have never felt so embarrassed for something so silly in my whole life.

You’re welcome.

So, let’s talk about the incredible amount of worldbuilding that Diane Duane accomplishes here while introducing us to the world of the Yaldiv. It’s clear she thought long and hard about how their society and culture would be constructed. It’s not just that she invokes real-world ideas (such as cults, fascist governments, dictators, and brainwashing), but the Yaldiv truly felt a manifestation of everything that the Lone One is. That is my favorite accomplishment out of all of this, y’all.

What is it that we learn through the events in this chapter? Well, it’s unsurprising that there’s some sort of hierarchal structure to the Yaldiv world, as that’s precisely the sort of thing that works perfectly for the Lone One. It thrives on the conflict and friction that comes from an existing class structure, you know? There are workers, who exist below warriors. There are handmaidens, who seemingly exist only to serve the king when he needs to feed or when he needs to procreate. The warriors are the Yaldiv assigned to protecting the city-hive and to attack the Others, the neighboring Yaldiv who they’ve been brainwashed into completely mistrusting and hating. LOOK, THIS IS SIMPLY TOO REAL, OKAY. I would hesitate to draw any real-world comparisons because this dynamic is far more general in the book itself, but it’s still a recognizable dynamic.

Isn’t that the case with most of this? Look at the way the Yaldiv acknowledge one another. That creepy gesture, those words honoring the One, literally moving out of the way to give the warriors more space… IT’S ALL SO CREEPY AND REVERENTIAL AND AWFUL. This is a society of dedication and loyalty, but even saying that doesn’t feel like I’m truly capturing how deeply upsetting it is. The fact that these creatures don’t even have personal pronouns is a huge thing, y’all, because they literally view themselves as the physical extension of the King and the Lone One. Like, the levels of de-personalization that speaks to – they must believe that they don’t even have agency of their own! – is unnerving. Once the group moves into the bizarre tower at the center of the hive, though, these same motifs manifest in much more blatant terror. Take the messages – the rules, rather – that repeatedly scroll across the walls of the city. It’s a form of propaganda and brainwashing; these messages act to reinforce a common theme of obligation, subjugation, and duty, and it limits the chance that any of these Yaldiv can ever break free of this collective. (I could even see a bit of the Borg in their design!)

Of course, it’s the hall of the King that is most disturbing here, an amalgamation of all the terrible things the group witnessed as they made their way into the building while camouflaged as Yaldiv themselves. These creatures worship and venerate their king, who has the ability to stoke anger, hate, and rage in them through the detailed and pervasive system built up all around them. You know, I initially misinterpreted the King’s warning about the incoming warriors as being a reference to the wizards who had already made it inside, but I can see why I thought that. Even I got paranoid about what this King was capable of! However, my concerns for the moment should be directed elsewhere: these wizards are going to have to somehow find the Hesper on the eve of a gigantic battle that will break out between these two warring citizens. I suspect that they aren’t going to be able to find the Instrumentality before this war erupts again, and… oh gods. This is going to be chaos.

I am thrilled to confirm that I will be a Guest at CrossingsCon 2017! Badges are now available, so COME HANG OUT WITH ME THIS SUMMER.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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