Mark Reads ‘Games Wizards Play’: Chapter 4, Part II

In the second half of the fourth chapter of Games Wizards Play, the mentors meet their students. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.


Penn Shao-Feng

So, my prediction was that we’d gotten that scene with Dairine, showcasing her frustration with Nelaid and his teaching style, because it was a hint at what sort of student she’d get. She was going to learn why teaching/mentoring was so hard by getting a difficult student! And as Kit and Nita approached their mentee, I suddenly had a theory: he would be overwhelmed by how famous they were in the wizard world.

I LOVE THAT THIS IS LITERALLY THE EXACT OPPOSITE DYNAMIC. Y’all, the rug was instantly pulled out from under my feet, and it made for a compelling read. Now, I can’t possibly be certain that this is what Duane intended! Part of the fun of doing this is putting down my impressions and interpretations for all of you to see, and then coming to realize I read a scene unlike EVERY HUMAN ON THE PLANET. Regardless, this is SUCH a fascinating choice for Duane to make. Kit and Nita were nervous about meeting Penn, but not for the right reasons. One of the feelings that’s evoked by Penn’s introduction scene is an unease that’s palpable. Both Kit and Nita had not prepared themselves for the possibility that Penn would be a jerk. Indeed, it’s not like the world of Young Wizards is full of assholes. I’d argue that for the most part, this series is full of nice people who, even if they might be challenging to be around, are still trying their best. The thorniest characters are still great people! (I’m thinking of Ronan and Roshaun in particular.)

But Penn is uninterested in Kit and Nita as people and as wizards. He just wants to talk to Irina, who is arguably the most desired person in the room, and he’s shockingly condescending about it. For someone who comparatively knows so very little about wizards and Irina, he sure has an intense reaction to Nita not knowing where Irina is at that exact moment! AND NITA’S RESPONSE IS SO INCREDIBLE, Y’ALL.

More on that response in a second, though. So, what little I can gleam from this is that Penn is certain. Even when he’s setting up a meet-and-greet with Kit and Nita for the following day, he doesn’t sound anxious, worried, or like he even cares all that much if they get to know him. He thinks that all he’ll need is an hour. AN HOUR! Also, how the fuck does a teenager have a “nice place” in San Francisco in this day and age? I LITERALLY GOT PRICED OUT OF THE WHOLE BAY AREA A COUPLE YEARS BACK, Y’ALL. Does he live with his parents? Is that what he’s referring to?

Who fucking knows??? Because almost as soon as Penn is thrust into Kit and Nita’s life, he’s gone. No ceremony, no fanfare, and certainly no sense of camaraderie and respect. Y’ALL, I WAS NOT READY FOR THIS AT ALL. Maybe there’s something else going on here? Maybe he seems distracted and detached for a reason??? Whew, LORD.

So, let’s talk about that line. For reference:

“Someone who’s sure he’s the hottest thing on the street,” Kit said. “Or thinks he is. And doesn’t mind who gets annoyed by the shade he’s throwing.”

Oh, no. I have two primary problems with this:

  1. It does not sound like slang Kit would use. This series is modern, yes, but aside from this, there’s virtually no slang used like this. Where did Kit pick this up? They don’t watch shows where they might here this, and their primary friend group is wizards, none of whom I’ve ever seen speak like this.
  2. But even if I could momentarily excuse the first point—it’s really not that big of a deal—I’m less inclined to ignore that Penn never threw shade. Look, this term and it’s related slang—to “read” and to “drag” someone—are rooted in the ball/voguing communities, and were invented and initially used by almost exclusive queer and/or trans Black and/or Latinx people. They’ve come to prominence lately because of the popularity of Rupaul’s Drag Race. And I get that they are very good words when describing the acts properly, but if ANYONE threw shade, it was NITA. Nita was the one who used some condescension and wit to insult Penn to his face, and he didn’t seem to notice it at all. Throwing shade is more subtle; it’s a roundabout, indirect way of criticizing someone or something, and it’s best executed when the subject doesn’t even know that it’s happened. And you could argue that’s the case with Penn, or he’s just such a jerk that he doesn’t care. But yeah, he doesn’t throw shade at all!

So, writers: please be careful about this sort of stuff. At best, this took me out of the text in an instant. At worst, it hurts. It hurts to see terms misappropriated like this.

Merhnaz Farrahi

I promise to scream about this cinnamon roll, too pure for this world, but I wanted to acknowledge the long internal narration where Dairine considers her dedication to finding Roshaun. It’s been a subplot since the Pullulus War ended, but I don’t want that to seem like I’m discounting how heavily it has played into Dairine’s characterization. It’s practically her only motivation at this point, and you can tell from the long sequence here just how much she thinks about finding Roshaun, how much she misses him.

It’s difficult to read, too, because it’s so sad. By it’s very nature, the disappearance of Roshan denies Dairine closure. Sure, she found out definitively that he’s not dead, but everything else is a mystery. And until she finds him, there is no real means to get that closure.

So I understand the obsessiveness that we see here. I get why she’s so intense about it, too! It’s not like she wasn’t intense before she met Roshaun. That’s always been a part of who she is! It just has a new focus. Which is precisely why Merhnaz already seems like the best possibly student for Dairine to be paired with. Mehrnaz is like a jolt of electricity; she’s a shock to Dairine’s system. And in that sense, it’s very similar to what Kit/Nita went through. She wasn’t prepared to get a mentee who adored her, who viewed her as someone worthy of a fangirl moment in person. Y’all, Merhnaz thinks so highly of Dairine that SHE ASKS DAIRINE IF IT WAS A MISTAKE THAT THEY WERE PAIRED TOGETHER.

Oh my god, she is such a ray of sunshine, and I am already eager to read literally every scene she is in forever. She’s from Mumbai! She wears a GEOMETRICALLY PATTERNED HEADSCARF. Her speciality is designing a spell that can “take earthquakes apart from underneath.” HELP ME, WILL THE GROUND OPEN UP AND EAT SOMEONE

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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