In the first part of the twelfth chapter of Games Wizards Play, Dairine tries to get Mehrnaz to tell the truth; Nita meets one of Penn’s relatives. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of grief
Whew, THIS WAS UNEXPECTED. Let’s discuss!
So, at this point, EVERYONE is aware that Mehrnaz is hiding the truth from Dairine. And Dairine tries so hard to get to the root of Mehrnaz’s panic, and yet? I still don’t feel like we’re close to her coming clean. Which I get, y’all. It’s not easy to talk about shit like this, much less with someone who is mostly a stranger. Actually, to Mehrnaz, she’s not a stranger; she’s an idol. I am certain that she wants to appear as collected and professional to Dairine so that she can impress her. It’s so hard to deal with all of this ON TOP of all the familial issues she must have. Even that is still a bit ambiguous, too! Mehrnaz’s mother hangs over everything, but her presence is distant. Dairine can only speculate how she’ll affect things, so it’s full-speed ahead regardless. They’ve got five extra days to train Mehrnaz on the semi-final round, so… that’s good, right? I’m interested to see how the aschetic universe will work to test out her wizardry. FAKE EARTHQUAKES.
Y’all: this was a surprise. GENUINELY SO. Oh, not that Penn wanted to brag about his “win” within twenty-four hours of the Cull. That was utterly unsurprising. But traveling to Shanghai to meet his grandfather was… well, there’s a lot here, isn’t there? I HAVE TO YELL ABOUT IT ALL.
- Penn behaves differently.
- THAT WAS THE FIRST CLUE THAT I WAS IN FOR A WILD RIDE.
- Finally, we discover that there’s one person who intimidates the hell out of Penn, and it’s his Baba. (Feel free to correct me, but I’ve not heard this term used in this cultural context? It’s about the only thing that pulled me out of the section.)
- I didn’t really get a sense that Penn was embarrassed or ashamed to take Nita to Shanghai. Rather, it was meeting his grandfather that appeared to freak him out more than anything else.
- So, I am curious what we’re meant to think about how run-down and beat-up that building/apartment was. Duane goes to great lengths to describe it all to us. Is Penn’s grandfather poor? Stubborn? Does he have a different standard of living? Or was this supposed to be a contrast between the flashy buildings and skyscrapers that people associate with Shanghai and where people actually live? JUST THINKING ALOUD HERE.
- “He likes Americans! Thinks they’re interesting.” I’m letting y’all know that this was the exact moment in which I was 100% ready for where this ride would take me.
- I LOVE THAT WHEN NITA MEETS HIM, THEY JUST SIT AND STARE AT ONE ANOTHER WITHOUT SPEAKING. B L E S S.
- It only gets better. Because then this man says he has no real interest in giving Penn what he wants, at least not at first.
- I FELT SO VALIDATED
- THAT SOMEONE ELSE ALSO KNEW HOW HARD HE CAME ON TO LITERALLY EVERYONE.
- Also??? We get a classification for Bobo: they’re an “outrider.” COOL.
- FAMILY HISTORY! WIZARDS IN PENN’S FAMILY SINCE THE 1500s!!!!!
- Honestly, that’s the coolest dynamic of the whole scene: a young wizard talking with an older wizard and sharing wisdom and experience with one another.
- And then, in such little time that I still can’t believe how quickly this conversation changed, Penn’s grandfather and Nita get heavy. I can trace it back to that point where he said that “[s]ome of us seem to get pushed into being older quicker.” In Nita’s case, that was the death of her mother. It’s here that Penn’s grandfather reveals one of Penn’s secrets: his mother died a year and a half before his Ordeal. His whole life changed at such a young age, and then he was dealt a difficult Ordeal that involved him trying to bring his mother back.
- Y’all, there are “Ordeal-fueled forays across multiple dimensional barriers” that are “associated with wizards who were very angry, or very stubborn, or very troubled, or all three,” and they’re called HELL JOURNEYS.
- THAT’S WHAT PENN WENT ON.
- A hell journey.
- Oh, and despite passing his Ordeal? Yeah: “Naturally he didn’t bring his mother back; when he came back he was like someone defeated in battle. Any return from Ordeal is a victory. But he didn’t see it that way.”
- Does it excuse his behavior? Of course not. But for the first time since I’ve started this book, Penn is rooted in something that I can empathize with. He was thrust into a complex and challenging Ordeal while still grieving the loss of his mother, and his Ordeal was about her. What did he experience? What did he see? What happened when the Lone One confronted him?
- Y’all, it’s not that his family is annoyed by him. Penn shut everyone out. He’s fiercely private and stubborn with them. Which means that all the times Nita has gotten him to listen and act are VICTORIES.
- Oh my god. PENN. PENN.
- How badly is this kid hurting? Is he lashing out at others because of it?
I WASN’T FUCKING READY FOR THIS, Y’ALL.
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