In the third part of the eighth chapter of The Book of Night With Moon, Arhu’s power intensifies; Rhiow ponders the future and her felinity. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Feline Wizards.
It’s astounding to me how quickly Arhu’s powers are developing. I went from seeing him as a pretty normal cat who’d met some terrible circumstances, to one granted wizardry, to one on his Ordeal, and all of this happened relatively slowly. I admit that this book takes a while to ramp up, but all that plotting and building has led to a stunning reveal about what this kitten really is. I do love when later information re-contextualizes a story, and Arhu’s visions explain so much about him. His layered way of seeing things is hard to grasp, but only because I can’t even fathom what it’s like to be able to see layers of reality at any given moment.
For example: during the opening scene of this section, it all starts off silly enough, with Arhu claiming that he can see Urruah eating a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder right then. But as he begins to recount how Urruah foiled a domestic violence dispute and an attempted murder, I finally understood that Arhu wasn’t getting tiny glimpses of possible or actual moments in time; he could recount entire moments! Actually, “recount” is the wrong word; it’s not like he is thinking of a memory and repeating it. Arhu sees all things in real time. He’s seeing the past laid over the present, and I imagine he could also see future timelines if he wanted. (Right? Or is that not how it works?) This is his every waking moment, if I understood this, and he’s got to adapt to all of this on top of having an Ordeal. Will he always have the Eye? Or will it fade as he stops being a kitten? We know a wizard’s power levels flatten out over time, but is this specific aspect of Arhu’s always going to be there? Ah, there’s so potential, y’all! I want to see more!
I do love that Duane gives space to build the world outside Arhu and this horrible Ordeal, though. That kind of stuff gives The Book of Night With Moon a texture and realism that I appreciate. I am glad that there are scenes of Mike and Sue, Rhiow’s owners. (I still feel weird about the word “owner” because I know that’s not actually what they are? I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS BOOK MADE ME RE-THINK THAT.) I’m genuinely invested in their subplot, and y’all, Sue might actually escape that job that overworks her, and this makes me so happy??? They’re not even part of the main plot, yet they’re still interesting. That’s an accomplishment, as far as I’m concerned.
There’s also room for introspection, too. Rhiow spends the end of this chapter thinking about her role in the world, her felinity, and the nature of entropy. It’s a dense examination, but I don’t mean that as a criticism of the text. I do like that this feels like an adult novel versus a young adult one. And I admit even going into this can be a bit of a disaster. One thing I’ve known about but only recently experienced as a published young adult author (IT NEVER STOPS BEING GREAT TO SAY THAT) is this notion that those of us who are writing YA are not writing “real” books, that the YA genre is all fluffy and superficial and silly, that it never talks about “real” things, that it’s all easy to read and to write. Now, I’m certain that all of US know this is bullshit. Even if we look at just the Young Wizards universe, we know those books are remarkably complex, contain lots of high-level science, address some truly heavy shit, and are not at all superficial reads. (Though I want to state that I love fluffy, happy reads, too, and YOU BETTER BELIEVE I’M GONNA WRITE ONE.)
In Rhiow’s introspective examination, though, I see a story that maybe wouldn’t necessarily be as relatable in the Young Wizards series, and that’s really where I make the major distinction between YA stories and adult stories. Here, Rhiow is thinking about losing her eventual nature, about aging and entropy. That’s usually more of an adult issue than one teenagers will think about. The same goes for that bit about how dealing with the “larger worldview” might erase one’s sense of individuality or self-importance, or Rhiow’s desire to have a genuine break from the Art, but knowing that she can’t. LIKE, LET’S ACKNOWLEDGE HOW IMPORTANT THAT PARTICULAR THEME IS TO ME RIGHT NOW. That’s one thing that I never really prepared myself for in adulthood: the constant compulsion to be on, to be always working, to hustle toward some distant goal that is years away. Time stretches before you as an adult, and sometimes, it feels more obvious that it is happening.
I don’t think this is a theme that could have been explored with the same depth in Young Wizards, and that’s perfectly fine. I’m glad that it happens here. I am NOT glad, however, that CARL IS MISSING IN THE DOWNSIDE????? NO. DON’T DO THIS TO ME.
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