Mark Reads ‘Daja’s Book’: Chapter 6

In the sixth chapter of Daja’s Book, Daja’s negotiation with Polyam heads in a surprising direction, and Lark oversees the mapping of the kids’ powers. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic.

I love being surprised by fiction.


I went into the opening half of this chapter expecting the absolute worst possible. Given Daja’s previous interaction with Polyam, it seemed certain that her negotiation with the Trader would be disastrous. How could it not? Polyam had not only been unsuccessful in bullying Daja into selling her iron tree for a terrible price, but she’d been set back by a bunch of children who weren’t Traders. I expected her to return even more irritable than she was the first time. Even when she first spoke, I was so confident that she was only following custom because she had to, not because there was any lasting respect between her and Daja.

BUT THIS IS NOT AT ALL WHAT HAPPENS. This exchange in particularly showed me that I’d gotten this wrong:

You must have done better then, to afford this, thought Daja. The plate was worth at least two silver astrels, a lot of money for a wirok. “I couldn’t take one of your things.”

Polyam shook her head. “I was a different woman then. The business I hope to do with you is more important.”

Polyam wasn’t deceiving her, and it was a genuine gesture of respect. So…. what??? Why the change in heart? Initially, I thought there was an easy way to explain this: Polyam did not care for these people (especially not Daja), but she really wanted that iron tree, so she was going through the motions. And then my little theory was destroyed after Polyam… did none of those things? I was so ready for an abrasive and uncomfortable experience, and it didn’t happen. Now, it’s entirely possible that Polyam was being polite and holding a meaningful conversation just for the sake of it, but that doesn’t take away my shock. Daja gets to eat her culture’s food for the first time in six months, and Polyam can’t take that away from her. I do think there’s a big part of me that understands this, though, since I was adopted outside of my culture, and I know what it’s like to spend a long time away from cultural familiarity.

I’m sure Polyam knew it’d been a long time since Daja had eaten Trader food, and she also knew how meaningful it was to invite the others to join them in their meal. Well, she says she has a soft spot for children and dogs, BUT I SEE THROUGH YOU. I think it’s traditional of the Traders to have long conversations during negotiation, so I don’t want to assume that this means that she likes all of these people, but I was still impressed with her kindness. As Polyam learns more and more about the people who surround Daja, she expresses interest in their lives. She tries to understand why they know so much of the Tsaw’ha culture, and she doesn’t balk when she finds out. I kept thinking there’d be more condescension! More anger! More irritation! Instead?

When she turned back to Daja, there was no way for the girl to guess what thoughts were behind that scarred and yellow-marked face. “They say the ice caps from which the glaciers spring are miles deep,” Polyam remarked. “I have a feeling that your story is much the same – I see only the tiniest part of what is there, for you and for all of them.” She hesitated, then added, “When we have finished our bargain, I will add a packet of tea. I know it cannot be found.”

THERE IS NO NEED FOR THAT. Is this empathy that Polyam is expressing? Does she understand the horrible experiences that Daja has been through? Even after the iron tree magically grows into the copper plate that Polyam gifted her, Polyam insists that she get another token for her. ALL AFTER OFFERING HER TWO GOLD MAJAS. Just???? I know I shouldn’t expect too much from her, and by the end of this novel, it’s highly likely that Polyam will leave with her caravan and Daja will remain trangshi forever. That’s honestly what I’m expecting, even though I’d say the iron tree is perfect evidence that Daja doesn’t have bad luck. If she’s so poisonous, why would something this incredible grow in her presence? That’s not how this culture works, though. At the very least, I’m thankful that Daja got to have a positive experience with Polyam, one which reminded her of how meaningful her culture is to her.

Magical mapping

I’ll repeat what I said in the video for this chapter: I bet Yarrun would be furious to hear that Lark cannot do the same magic that Sandry does to help map the quartet’s power. I’m sure he’d wine about procedure and runes and protective circles and he’d insist that Sandry wasn’t qualified enough, and it just makes me endlessly amused. I appreciate that these kids’ teachers support their students in a way that demonstrates that, ultimately, they respect them. They respect the unique way in which their magic manifests, and they respect their individuality.

But a full day without magic? I think it’ll be good practice for them to work without magic, but I’m also curious to see why their magic has gotten so tangled up in one another. As Lark says, I want to know why this magic is sprouting out of them. Has it taken on a life of it’s own? IS THERE SOMETHING SINISTER GOING ON HERE? Okay, probably not, but I’M EXCITED.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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