Mark Reads ‘Tris’s Book’: Chapter 9

In the ninth chapter of Tris’s Book, Rosethorn asks for Briar’s assistance in repelling the pirates, and then everyone learns just how powerful the circle of friendship is. THIS IS CANON. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic.

THIS BOOK IS SOMETHING ELSE.

Foreshadowing

oh my god NOW I KNOW WHY. NOW I KNOW WHY.

“Some of the spells we’ve done with you four – the weaving spell, the spell Niko used with Tris to see what happened at Bit, the one Frostpine and Daja used on the harbor chain – those are called great-spells. Without a senior mage who understands great-spells to guide them, young mages have been known to get so caught up in one that they die. They feed their magic and their lives into the pattern of the spell, without ever realizing what they were doing.”

I missed one specific detail here that would have clued me in to what happened later in the chapter: Lark says “their lives” were used in the pattern, AND OH MY GOD, THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT BRIAR DOES. I brushed over this, and it was right there.

“I hope they’ll be all right,” Sandry whispered to Tris.

“Maybe bring our cord out here, just in case,” the other girl said quietly.

Sandry nodded, and went to get the circle of lumpy thread.

RIGHT THERE. RIGHT THERE.

Rosethorn and Briar

The vast majority of this chapter covers a single scene, and really, it needs to. This is a huge moment in terms of worldbuilding and character development, and it’s also an important part of the effort to fight back against the pirates. I don’t feel any need to cover the second-by-second actions of the huge fight (since my video does a good job of that), so I think it’s best that I talk about some smaller details and the overall ramifications of what Rosethorn and Briar do. As I’ve already pointed out, I thought that whole great-spells monologue was something meant to highlight that Briar and Rosethorn were about to do a great-spell. I didn’t find it necessarily surprising that they teamed up and used their magic to repel the pirates. It’s in the details that I was impressed and shocked and utterly thrilled.

Let’s start off with this:

Rosethorn waited until Skyfire was done speaking with a runner, then told him, “You’re so busy planning how to weave magics, shield that and blending this, that you forget it doesn’t have to be magic alone.”

Which is a vital point to make within this book because it’s a motif we’ve seen over and over again. The magical world at work in the Emelan books is not one that gives us a separate system that does not rely on the physical world. They’re nestled within one another; they borrow from one another; they rely on one another. There’s no separating them. So I like that Rosethorn reminds Skyfire that their actions should reflect that.

When she and Briar then begin to spread their magic beneath the surface of the beach, it’s clear just how intertwined magic is with the “natural” universe. (I know that’s a clunky phrase, given that magic is natural in Emelan, but I hope it makes sense what I’m referring to by using it.) Plus, their magic is centered around creation, which is just the coolest shit ever. Even if it’s being used as a defensive weapon, it’s still about giving life to these seeds:

In her magic was the power of stone-cracking vines, of pine seedlings that could grow over a farm in a handful of years, mixed with the demand for haste that only humans felt.

It’s potential.

Circle of Friendship

But it feels like this pales in comparison to Briar Moss and his friends and THE CIRCLE OF FRIENDSHIP. Look, I’m not a child, but once Rosethorn started screaming because of the burning plants, I FELT LIKE THAT WAS SERIOUS ENOUGH TO WARRANT AN INTERVENTION. That seemed horrible, and echoing what the kids later say, NO ONE PREPARED THEM FOR HOW BRUTAL THIS WAS GOING TO BE. At no point did Rosethorn tell Briar that if she started feeling pain that it was just temporary, that it was a “mere discomfort.” Here’s one of the only people he has ever trusted, screaming in agony right next to him. I think it’s entirely understandable that once he hears Rosethorn and witness the horror of the attack on the beach (NOOOO, THAT POOR WARRIOR WOMAN WHO TOOK CARE OF LITTLE BEAR, TAKE IT BACK), he’d want to do something more. That being said? I didn’t expect this:

Like this, Briar told his friends. He slammed into his pattern, taking them along. They roared through its crossings and turnings, bringing it to life in the mind they now shared. Now they saw, as he did, how to build the magical fire until every green thing in the cove had to grow fast or explode. They fed the thorns and stickers with their anger and bitterness. Daja had her own memories of pirates, as did Sandry. Tris was furious at these parasites who burned and killed and made her new home unsafe. The four boiled thorugh every root, branch, vein and needle, forcing them higher, longer, thicker, sharper – definitely much, much sharper.

He provided them with a cathartic outlet, y’all. TRIS’S ANGER BROKE ME INTO A MILLION PIECES. And yet? I still wasn’t able to fully appreciate what had happened here. It wasn’t until Niko arrived at Discipline (AFTER THESE FOUR CHILDREN BURIED THE PIRATES IN GROWTH ON THE BEACH HELP ME) that I discovered just how dangerous their collaboration was. However, I’m siding with Tris here. I understand Niko’s fright and anger, but these four CHILDREN have been tasked with dealing with shit most children don’t even dream about until they’re twice the age of these characters. Niko shouts at them as if they do know better, but the truth is that they don’t. Their schooling is irregular and chaotic, and the recent siege is definitely not helping that. There is some responsibility here that Niko and the other teachers need to accept! So I’m so pleased that Pierce gives these kids the space within the text to stand up to Niko because I think it’s super important. I think it makes the story better when this is acknowledged!

Look, this is not exactly the first fantasy novel where someone does something special and “impossible” and all the grown-ups are flummoxed as to how kids accomplished something of this nature. It’s a common trope within the genre, but I’ve never seen it used like this. This whole final scene is uncomfortable, angry, and awkward. It’s not some glorious revelation of a chosen one; it’s about four kids possessing a power that scares the shit out of those around them. It’s about how this magic can easily turn against the wielder in an instant, and no one has taught them how to wield it correctly. And I think that’s what makes this stand apart from other books that borrow from the same basic trope. It’s a lot more emotional and realistic to me.

So, Niko’s taken the circle of friendship thread from Sandry, which worries me a little bit. When will he give it back? Are they going to have time for more lessons amidst the pirate attacks? WHERE WILL THIS BOOK GO NEXT?

The original text contains use of the word “idiot.”

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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