In the second part of the tenth chapter of The Book of Night With Moon, the next descent into the Downside begins. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Feline Wizards.
Surprise, everything got more messed up JUST KIDDING WE ALL KNEW IT WOULD. But before this descent into a nightmare begins, let us all appreciate the sheer brilliance of Rhiow looking into the abyss and screaming right back at it:
But you will not get me to walk away from the fight.
The Claw may break. Let it. It’ll be in your throat that it breaks.
HELP ME, THIS IS SO BADASS. And I get why it’s so necessary: Rhiow is constantly fighting entropy in this chapter. Every moment, she wants to give up. Sometimes she says it aloud; other times, it is clear from her behavior that she is exhausted and sad and miserable. It’s what the Lone One wanted, of course. The Lone One wanted to wear her down with the death of Sue, and she has to actively resist the urge to give in to it all.
Duane weaves that through these pages, too. It feels real. Raw. Rhiow is all sharp edges here, and there’s an example of it when she snaps at Arhu when he tries to talk to her about Sue. She assumes that he was going to criticize her for living with a human, and then she defensively lashes out at Saash when the mistake is clear. It’s tough to read—partially because I so desperately wanted to know what Arhu was gonna say!!!—knowing that she is hurting so very much. She wouldn’t normally be like this! The same goes for her cynicism, too. She’s a practical character! I don’t think I’d argue against that. But her realistic take on the world feels poisoned by recent events. Like this bit:
Whenever that may be, Rhiow thought. If ever at all.
And do I really care?
It’s a dark moment for her, and while it’s important to acknowledge that it happens, it’s also important that she still pushes on. She has her dark thought, but she doesn’t give up. And I dig that a great deal because it feels so realistic to me, especially since it’s something I have to cope with. I mean that both as a manifestation of grief and on a daily basis, too! These kind of depictions have value to other people, even if the context of how they show up in the text is different than in our lives.
So, with all this in mind, THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS. Y’all, you know what’s a great way to build tension? Warn the reader for pages and pages and pages that a thing is going to be horrifying and violent and terrible and THEN, once we arrive at that point, give us COMPLETE AND UTTER SILENCE. Because WHAT THE FUCK. I braced myself for the wave of saurians to come fighting, even though I shouldn’t have. I mean, we knew that the antagonists had Carl deep in the Downsides, and we knew this was basically a giant trap. So, why would there just be saurians waiting to take them out? No, the Lone One and their allies had to build some drama, and they certainly succeeded at that!!! Because this STRESSED me out a LOT. It certainly didn’t help that Saash had to go and make it clear that the saurians are still sentient beings who more or less got tricked by The Lone One ages ago. Which doesn’t negate their choice; they still chose to follow the Lone One. But there’s a layer to it that makes this whole thing sad on top of being horrifying, you know?
That “horrifying” part, however, wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated, because Duane made it worse. The Sixth Claw. THE SIXTH CLAW IS AN OPPOSABLE THUMB THAT THE LONE ONE GAVE THESE SAURIANS SO THEY COULD USE TOOLS. And for what? Well, based on the conversation that the felines overhear (THE SAURIANS TALK, I HATE THIS, CANCEL THEM ALL, I AM SO UPSET), they want to take back the Downside. And y’all, I’m fascinated by this. The saurians aren’t just changing the functionality of wizardry; they’re changing the ownership of the Downside. At least, that’s how I interpreted the dialogue, though I don’t know how believable this all is. Did the Lone One lie and manipulate these beings into believing that the Downside was stolen from them? Or is there a real, genuine point here? Given that this is the Lone One, I’m inclined to believe that there’s a delusion at work, but what if there is something terrible in the exploitation of the power in the Downside?
I am not convinced of that yet. I’m guessing that the Lone One is trying to make the saurians blame the wrong person for their Choice. Aren’t the Wise Ones down in the place because of what they chose all those years ago? Look, whatever the reason: I DON’T TRUST DINOSAURS WITH TOOLS. Which is absolutely one of the best sentences I have ever gotten to type, BLESS THIS BOOK.
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