In the second half of the seventh chapter of Games Wizards Play, Nita and Kit try their best to guide Penn. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
On a purely superficial level: I deeply, deeply love when sanctimonious, arrogant people are taken down a notch. Like, it’s a trope that pleases me to no end? AND I DON’T JUST MEAN IN FICTION, FOR THE RECORD. When the universe swings towards justice, even just for a moment, I feel alive. So, yes, this was a lot of fun to read because Penn is just so CERTAIN that he’s the best at all times. Plus, he just can’t seem to interact with Nita without being a complete asshole, as this exchange demonstrates:
“Why does Kit let you do so much stuff?”
Let me? Nita thought. This just gets more bizarre all the time…
“I mean,” Penn said,” isn’t he afraid you’re going to get in trouble?”
I hardly believe he’s actually concerned here. Rather, Penn swings between insulting Nita, as if she’s incompetent, or fearing her. It’s like he’s never interacted with a woman before in his life and he can’t deal with them without being rude or othering. So yes! The second Nita drops him into the practice universe and we finally see him act uncertain, I WAS VERY PLEASED. For once, Penn couldn’t act like he knew everything. In that space, he was the unknown element. He had no mastery, there was virtually no way he could be in control.
I did like that Nita couldn’t be outright cruel to him, though. She feels sympathy for him and adjusts the space’s kernel to give the floor a tiled effect so that he can ground himself visually. It’s actually quite a kind gesture, so I got the sense that while she was pleased that he wasn’t so “overconfident” anymore, she didn’t want him to be in pain or to suffer. Of course, it takes him NINETY SECONDS for that attitude to come back:
“It’s very nice.” Penn turned slowly, assessing everything in an amused way. “Kind of minimalist, I guess.” His tone of voice suggested that as a decorating strategy, “minimalist” had been declared to be over.
Well, she TRIED. Points for that???
There’s no denying that Penn is talented, though. His wizardry is clean and concise; he knows what he’s talking about; it’s just that his technique leaves something to be desired. His wizardry might catch the judges’ attention by itself, but what happens when he tries to talk to them? So, it was smart of Kit and Nita to attempt to reconstruct what the judging process is going to be like. Which is hard to do because the participant DOESN’T KNOW WHO IS A JUDGE AND WHO ISN’T. Thus, Penn has to perform well for anyone who comes up to him and starts to talk. And cousins, it’s clear this is not his best quality. Look, putting aside his general attitude of arrogance, the guy speaks about his wizardry like he’s SELLING CARS. Which I didn’t expect!!! It’s kinda funny, actually.
And then it’s not funny. Y’all, does Penn have a PHOBIA of the sun??? Look, I was surprised as everyone else when Nita replicates a sun for them to “stand” above. Penn freezes up, but not just because it’s an overwhelming thing to experience:
Penn was holding himself still. Anyone who couldn’t see his face might have believed he wasn’t longing to turn and flee out the portal. Nita saw him throw a glance at it. But then he turned his head away, scowling. Hanging on hard, she thought. But why’s he freaking out like this?
I don’t know!!! And it gave me an idea: what if Penn is overcompensating? What if he acts as he does because he’s got this deep-seeded fear in him? What if he’s been anxious about other people finding out about it, so he ramps up his certainty in other situations? It kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? That would mean BOTH mentees have mysteries that our heros have to deal with, and I am HERE for this.
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