In the thirteenth and final chapter of Tris’s Book, Tris seeks out Enahar at great risk to her friends and herself. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic.
Trigger Warning: For talk of death and slavery
I think you could call this a happy ending because Winding Circle is saved, but Pierce deliberately makes this a complicated one. The mages here are victorious, but it comes at a high cost for Tris. Throughout this book, Tris has struggled with so many things relating to her sense of self-worth and her role within the world. It’s not been easy for her. Initially, she couldn’t trust the people at Discipline because she believed they were just like everyone else. They’d treat her like a freak, and then they’d pass her on to someone else. But even as she grew close to them – and began to view Discipline as her first permanent home – she still couldn’t let go of her sense of rage and suspicion. And I do believe that was both a coping mechanism and a form of protection for Tris, one that I don’t think she should have given up without careful consideration.
So I’m pleased that her growth over this book has been a slow burn of sorts. Hell, it’s definitely not over, either! She’s still got so much left to learn. But in the final battle, she must face her current biggest problem: her inability to control herself. I now know that the scene with her pointing at Briar was foreshadowing for this. Tris possesses the kind of power that’s violent by its very nature. While I think it’s important to acknowledge that all four kids were responsible for killing people during this fight (and ostensibly killed slaves unknowingly), I get why this focuses on Tris alone. Her story is so important to the book as whole and not just because her cousin was part of this plot against Winding Circle.
Which means that Enahar is not so much a foil as he is a glimpse of a possible future for Tris. As Tris and her friends try to locate the mage (who has built a complicated web of magic between the various mages), Sandry takes a moment to gently remind Tris that there’s another option besides violent revenge:
On the wall, Sandry took her arm away. Try a little mercy? she asked, looking at the pirates and slaves who struggled in the water of the cove.
Tris raced away.
Without a word, Tris more or less confirms that she has no interest in mercy, not at this time. Enahar enslaved her cousin, turned him into a power-hungry fool, killed him, and is now dead-set on murdering most of Winding Circle. The concept of mercy means nothing to Tris in this moment. This certainly becomes the case once the other three Discipline children are captured by Enahar’s magic-draining threads and when Enahar begins to goad her into attacking him. Actually, can we talk about how utterly hypocritical he is?
You owe me a considerable debt, my girl. The voice went colder, if that was possible. You killed my sister Pauha, when you turned lightning on her ship.
Oh, but killing Aymery? Totally fine. No debt there!
It’s at this point that the CIRCLE OF FRIENDSHIP is activated IN DUAL FORM. Look, there’s just something deeply meaningful about all of the teachers joining with their students to give them the power to break free of Enahar’s trap. Tris uses this to strike Enahar with a particularly brutal bolt of lightning that is also a manifestation of the Circle of Friendship:
The lightning bolt had stayed nearby while Enahar taunted her. Now it settled into her grip. To it Sandry fed the power of the spindle that had made the four into one. Briar added the green strength of stickers and thorns. From Daja came the white blaze of the harbor chain.
F R I E N D S H I P.
But in this act, Tris loses some of herself. Aymery’s earring is destroyed in order to completely break her connection to Enahar, but it’s not as bad as Tris’s complete loss of innocence. For when she finally breaks from Enahar and her magical self drifts through the ocean, she’s forced to stare into the face of her actions. It’s horribly upsetting, but Tris has to accept that when she destroyed Enahar, she also took out an unknowable number of innocent people. There was collateral damage that she’ll never be able to take back. Did she know about the slaves? It looks like she did, but she merely forgot to consider them when she destroyed Enahar’s ship. That carelessness – and her lack of control – is not ignored by the text at all.
I’ll save some of my thoughts on this for predictions BECAUSE IT’S CLEAR THIS STORY IS NOT OVER. This kind of trauma is going to have lasting affects on her, and we get to see one immediate ramification of that. I suppose it’s a form of repentance for Tris. She spends eight days treating many of the slaves and pirates who were captured, despite how uncomfortable it is, despite that it’s gross, and despite that none of these people will ever thank her. And god, THAT PART IS SO IMPORTANT. Tris cannot work through her control issues and her own guilt expecting to be thanked.
“The first time in my life anybody thanked me for anything was after I came here. I’m not so used to it that I expect it from people.”
Well, thanks for smashing my heart to pieces again, Tamora Pierce.
Look, this is actually an important little issue to me because I’ve been doing activist work for ages. Like… shit, 17 years now? And one of the things I’ve personally come up against and constantly see in people involved in anti-racist work or anti-homophobia work, etc., is this idea of working through guilt by still centering one’s self throughout it. Activist work cannot truly change the world if the activist is still believing that they deserve part of the pie as well. It is uncomfortable, unsettling, and dirty fucking work to do, particularly if you are working with issues that concern privilege and complicity in dominant structures. Like, this example with Tris is such a good one! She meant absolutely well here, and she was absolutely justified in seeking her revenge on Enahar. This does not and can not negate what she did to those slaves. That reality exists at the same time. So Tris has to work through guilt and the ramifications of her actions without ever expecting anything in return. Why? Because this is not about her. Will her guilt be alleviated some day? Perhaps, but that’s not the point, at least not when she’s in the hospital.
It is about her when she asks Niko for help with control. That’s important, too, because Tris is aware of her power and aware of how horrible it can be, and she wants to change. Recognizing that is an important first step for her, but it’s also only a step. At the end of Tris’s Book, we see her accepting her responsibility for Shriek, but it’s also clear that the fledgling is ready to move to the next part of his life. It’s a neat parallel to Tris, since she’s also preparing to do the same thing. But, again, it’s the start of something much bigger, and I love that this book ends by hinting at further development for her.
THIS WAS SO GOOD, AND NOW I’M ABOUT TO READ ABOUT MY FAVORITE OF THE FOUR AND I’M SO EXCITED.
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