In the second half of the thirteenth chapter of The Book of Night With Moon, the fight begins, and I am not forgiving any of you. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Feline Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of gore, blood
Why have you done this to me.
Duane is so good at taking small details or seemingly insignificant scenes and then going, “JUST KIDDING, THIS IS ACTUALLY VITAL TO THE PLOT.” The game of hauissh that Arhu observed so very long ago (though within the novel’s chronology, that was maybe a few weeks ago, right?) is more or less what these cats play with the Lone One. It’s part bluffing, part intimidation, part action. It allows Duane to play with some gallows-esque humor, mostly in Urruah, who, when faced with the Lone One, chose to SHARPEN HIS CLAWS ON THE TREE. Like… that is such an incredible power move, URRUAH IS THE BEST.
I am not forgiving any of you.
I tried to figure this out, y’all. Oh my god, a rogue wizard. THE CLUE WAS STILL THERE, and I assumed that since Ith showed up, that was the sole saurian wizard. It’s funny that this comes after the last Science of Discworld review, where I spoke of the power to convince one’s self of a story. And that’s the story I bought: Ith was the only one. But I’d forgotten about the Great One’s “sixth claw,” the T-rex that had tormented Arhu at the beginning of the novel, the one that seemingly copied themselves over and over again without consequences. I’d forgotten that Rhiow had sensed someone or something else. I WAS SO INTO WORRYING ABOUT ITH MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE THAT I DIDN’T ANTICIPATE THE TRUTH. Which is the whole point: the Lone One was so, so far ahead of everything. It created a wizard of Its own making, perverted the Art to Its desires, and CHANGED EVERYTHING. I’m continually having to accept just how chaotic this confrontation is. How can anything these wizards do be effective if the literal rules of wizardry have been changed to something unknowable?
And yet, they still try. Even in the face of absurd odds, without any assurance that what they do will work, they refuse to give up. Arhu is the first to oppose Haath, and it was at that point that I had to reflect on what an immense character growth we’ve gotten out of him. He used to be so afraid; then he was difficult and rebellious; and now look at him! He’s gained control of The Eye in a way that seemed impossible. He behaves so fearlessly, so certain in this sequence. All of the training that he received from these three feline wizards influenced his friendship with Ith, helped push him along on his Ordeal, and led him right to this moment.
I’m so proud of him.
I don’t want to ignore how vital Arhu is to this, and I certainly don’t think Duane ever intended to say otherwise. These adults had to get him into the Downside because Ith would not have made it as far as he did without Arhu. Arhu’s ability with The Eye was important, too, and indeed, you could easily analyze this whole book through the lens of each of the four feline wizards who enter the Downside. You can’t have this book without all of them together. But one thing that was immensely striking to me—and I mentioned it on video—revealed just how important Rhiow was to it all. Now, There’s a lot that Duane does to get us to that point, and ALL OF IT IS THE WORST, I AM GOING TO YELL AT ALL OF YOU FOREVER.
Because first Arhu is injured TERRIBLY, in such a way that I literally winced as I read it. The gore here is way more intense than I was ready for, but it also speaks to both how dire this fight is and the stakes. Duane had already told us that if one of these wizards die, they’d all be stuck down here, and now, she leverages that threat, and it’s just… good fucking god. I still can’t even picture Saash in my mind because her death is so unreal and horrifying. But she died trying her best to take out Haath by using the spell that would have taken all of them out. I imagine that Arhu saw with The Eye that this was pointless and he tried to warn her not to try it, but it doesn’t matter. She is burned to death by the very fire she tried to use against Haath. And that’s what I mean by the stakes: as soon as that happened, I was freaking out. How??? How was this possible? Saash can’t die; they would all get stuck down there, even if they succeeded!
And then Urruah comes next, and I had hope that, at best, he would be able to hold Haath off while Rhiow finally did as Arhu told her to. Well, the Whisperer told her, too, but it was always in a voice that was easy for her to ignore: her own. But I was shocked when he, too, was felled by Haath in a spectacularly violent way, urging Rhiow to “let it go.” Two down, y’all, with Arhu horribly maimed, and the only thing standing between the inevitable. But what was inevitable here? That they’d all die? That the Lone One had actually succeeded? No, I think the inevitable in this case is that Rhiow needed to be there, too. So often throughout this chapter and the last one, she’s been concerned with getting Arhu and Ith to where they needed to be. She has swam in grief, she has valued the lives of others, and she has done what she can with the idea of Ith’s Choice in the forefront of her mind and her intentions.
But that spell was EVERYTHING. While I am so eager to see the actual logistics of it, I can tell this is going to be huge. And Rhiow had to wield it. Rhiow. No one else.
MY BODY IS NOT READY, but here we go anyway.
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