In the second part of the first chapter of “On Ordeal: Roshaun,” Roshaun simmers with the trauma of watching an assassination attempt on his mother. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
SURPRISE, I’M GOING TO LIKE STORIES ABOUT ANGST.
Just kidding, none of you are surprised at all. It’s a constant theme over my reviews and my work, and so I found myself drawn to Rho’s silent despair, his quiet existential crisis. Duane accomplishes this by building a contrast. She slowly gives us the details of this home away from home, which is extravagant in a subtle way but still very much a place of honor and hierarchal dominance. It oozes power and privilege, yet at the very same time, what are these people talking about? Once they get past all their greetings and small talk, what does this transition into?
It’s why I think it’s important for Duane to give us these details. She’s certainly a long-winded writer, and that’s particularly the case in these last few novels. She immerses you in her words, in her worlds, in her characters. There might be fast-paced scenes, but I wouldn’t describe the last few Young Wizards books as fast-paced novels. Here, though, I wasn’t thinking about pacing. I was concerned about normalcy. What’s normal for these characters? What are their days like? We get a sense of that, from Miril’s meetings and political concerns, to Nelaid’s duties working with the Sunwatch facilities, it’s easy to see how their lives are full of routines and patterns.
What’s so inconceivable to Roshaun, however, is the clear contrast this normalcy and the absurdity of the assassinations that are constant in his parents’ lives. To the reader and to Rho, this seems impossible. Ridiculous. CLEARLY A GIANT PROBLEM. Yet this is their lives! There have been so many attempts that Miril and Nelaid have had to adjust, to make the new normal something they compartmentalize within their day in order to… well, to survive. To not react as Roshaun does here. That’s not to suggest that Roshaun shouldn’t behave as he does. Duane writes him in a way that’s deeply relatable, and I do believe we’re meant to sympathize with him.
There’s another way Duane achieves that. In a sense, this is a very common trope within fantasy literature concerning magic: What happens when a kid doesn’t have the same magic as their parents or their siblings? It’s a generational and familial anxiety most of us have probably seen before in the genre, but has it ever felt quite like this? We’ve got a dual stress working with Rho: He’s worried about the path of his life and his lack of magic. All of that collides in front of him as his parents calmly and politely talk about their day! Again: the contrast is just so immense, you know? It makes sense, then, that Roshaun feels a chasm growing between himself and his parents, one that he can’t seem to cross or close. He doesn’t want this future, and yet here they are, telling him that this is what life has in store for him, and there’s no way to change people’s minds. It’s a lot to deal with if it was the only thing he had to accept.
SO HOW DOES HE FINALLY GET WIZARDRY??? Oh, I just want to know so badly! How is he offered it???
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