In the second part of the second chapter of “On Ordeal: Roshaun,” Rho decides to indulge himself with his newfound powers. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
There is power in validation.
I mentioned in the previous review the way that freedom—or at least the first real taste of it—can inspire joy and excitement, and there’s certainly a whole lot of that to go around as Roshaun visits the Crossings entirely on his own. The sheer spectacle of this sequence reminded me of similar experiences I had. I remember my first bus trip up to San Francisco in 2002 at the start of my freshman year, and driving up the freeway into the city filled me with such an intense happiness that I started crying. Hell, I’m surprised I didn’t start crying while reading this! It’s such a formative thing to be able to go somewhere on your own, and for Roshaun, the Crossings represents the pinnacle of possibility. So many species, so many creatures, so many cultures, and they are finally available to him:
I could stay right here for years and never understand all this, Rho thought in utter joy. And the cultures, the worlds beyond, the sources of all this—I can go there! I can be somewhere else than where I’ve been trapped all this while, I can see those worlds and meet those people and understand them!
And when you haven’t ever been able to do this, when you’re trapped within the machinations of your parents or your culture or the tightening social expectations hoisted upon you, this means everything. It may seem silly, but the first time I road the Blue Line from downtown Long Beach into downtown Los Angeles, it truly was like I’d found a portal to a parallel universe. I suddenly had easy access to an entire world that was kept from me, that was distant and impossible and terrifying, and I could choose to do whatever I wanted in it. I could choose to do whatever I wanted. It’s why I still remain such a fiercely independent person. When you’ve spent over a decade being forced to rely on other people and are suddenly on your own, it’s easy to adjust to solitary support. And I’m happy I did! I do crave companionship and friendship, but I am usually most pleased when I’m by myself.
SO GUESS WHAT, I LOVE ALL OF THIS A GREAT DEAL AND I SHALL CONTINUE TO PROJECT MY OWN STORY ALL OVER IT. Because freedom isn’t just joy, it’s also bewildering. See, I know what it’s like to go from virtually no choices to all of them, and you better believe it’s overwhelming and bewildering. You can see that same experience in the Crossings as Roshaun learns not just about this place but his own powers of wizardry. There’s that wonderful moment where his Aethyr infodumps into his own brain and sassily insists that he’ll remember all the knowledge that pours into him. It’s true that he’ll adjust, but I’m glad that Duane doesn’t ignore how intense all of this. The same goes for his hilarious interaction with the Stationmaster, who must be Sker’ret’s parent, right??? I just love that Rho expects one outcome and is shocked immediately by the notion that while he is going through a unique and important moment in his life, he is still one of billions. He is just another being passing through the Crossings, and the Stationmaster really doesn’t give a shit that Rho’s got four hundred names appended to his own. Rho has to adjust to that, too. He’s not a member of royalty to any of these strangers, so he’s got to rely on different tools. Namely? Kindness. Understanding. Politeness.
Once outside of the Crossings, though, Duane takes us through a transformative experience for Rho. (I must say it was quite awesome to finally get a glimpse of what the world was like outside of the station!) She gives us some context before Roshaun speaks to a star for the first time, and guess what. GUESS WHAT. I could relate to that, too. Y’all, Roshaun had to hide his true nature and feelings from everyone around them because of the anxiety it caused them. HELLO, BIG OL’ GAY HERE. How could I not see a parallel within this, even if it was unintentional?
Thus, when Kishif finally speaks to Roshaun, it felt like such a huge moment for this character. After years spent feeling tortured by his lack of wizardry, Rho was finally in conversation with the very thing he was supposed to be able to talk to. He could finally talk to stars. And that’s what I mean by the opening of this review. It’s a form of validation. It’s a way for Roshaun to feel connected to himself, to his people, to his culture. Yes, his Challenge is looming on the horizon, but I appreciated this for what it was: Roshaun now feels whole.
And it’s a beautiful thing.
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