In the twenty-first and penultimate chapter of Melting Stones, I am spent. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Melting Stones.
Trigger Warning: For brief mention of abuse.
Wow. WOW. There’s a lot I need to react to here, y’all, in much more depth than what you got on camera. LET’S DO THIS.
“She won’t talk. Evvy understands reality.” Rosethorn looked as bleak as a slate. “We have been here before, haven’t we, Evvy?”
I nodded and sat on the ground. Puffs of ash rose around me. We had been here before. I hadn’t wanted to be in this position ever again.
It’s still so fascinating to me that an entire story that we’ve never gotten in full informs so much of the narrative in Melting Stones and the previous book. Here, though, Pierce invokes this backstory to remind the reader that the decision Evvy must make here isn’t even the first time she’s made it. They’ve had to leave someone behind because there was nothing left for them to do. Y’all, THIS IS HOW THIS CHAPTER OPENS: with all the characters agreeing to leave Meryem behind. What the hell.
It leads directly into one of the most emotional passages in the whole book. I won’t quote it because it’s so lengthy, but I feel like Rosethorn’s conversation with Evvy highlights an important theme of this novel. Evvy’s growth has always been about how she sees the world around her. As I’d pointed out before, her struggle with her selfishness was due to her upbringing. It kept her alive. She wouldn’t be here without it. At the same time, it’s turned her into the kind of person who – oh, I’ll let Rosethorn explain it.
“But you haven’t learned to go easy with the defenseless, something I’d hoped Briar and I would have taught by now.”
I used to know someone like this, and it was unfortunate seeing how willing she was to turn against anyone she viewed as weaker than her. In particular, she despised people who were in abusive relationships. In her mind, you should be able to just leave them, and if you didn’t? You were a terrible person who deserved the abuse you were subjected to. Now, I wouldn’t say that Evvy blames people for what happens to them, but she doesn’t understand tenderness. She doesn’t jump to empathy.
It’s fitting, then, that this happens immediately after this moment:
“You’re not angry with me?” I couldn’t look at him.
“You didn’t order Meryem to go back.” He steadied me. “Nory’s blaming herself. She’s wrong, too. This is a mess.”
Oswin offers Evvy kindness and understand. I think that is incredible important because it explains Evvy’s behavior later in this very chapter. Well, partially, I should say. I don’t there’s a single moment that inspires and influences her; I think this is all an amalgamation of her experience and growth. But Oswin, like the others, must make a terrible choice in leaving Nory and Meryem behind. When he does, Evvy is torn by guilt and sadness. She might have been impulsive here. I could accept that. But she decides to do something that is unmistakably good and noble, even though the risk to her life was nearly definite.
There’s such a finality to the tone that this chapter takes once Evvy decides to head back down into the earth and lead the volcano spirits to the place she and Luvo had chosen. She urges Luvo to take care of Rosethorn; Luvo gives Evvy his power, and then turns into a solid rock, WHICH WORRIED ME BECAUSE I THOUGHT HE MIGHT BE DEAD; and then Pierce nearly made me cry with this line.
I hoped she would understand why I had left. I thought she might. I wanted her to know that I meant to build and not destroy, at least when it came to meat creatures.
God, THE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT IS TOO MUCH FOR ME TO HANDLE. Evvy just wants to create, not destroy. HELP ME. I say that only because what comes next? Evvy thanking her own body. Y’all, that’s what this book has done to me. There’s a whole section wherein the main character thanks her physical body for what it has done for her, and it’s tear-inducing and entirely sensical within the context of the story. It’s the way she bids her body goodbye in case she can’t return, and it’s what ultimately anchors her to it, too.
HOW IS THIS REAL.
I just admire Evvy so much for what she does here. She risks her life by returning to Flare and Carnelian, despite how risky that is. She toys with the sea, who keeps berating her within the fault. And when she realizes she’s got a small window of opportunity, she uses her diamond shield to push through all the volcano spirits and treat Flare and Carnelian like disobedient schoolchildren.
For some reason Carnelian and Flare still kept the humanlike shapes they had taken after they had met me. That was my good luck. I grabbed each of them by an ear.
THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE TURN OF EVENTS, AND I APPROVE WHOLEHEARTEDLY OF IT. Oh my god, through sheer force alone, she drags these two spirits in the right direction, despite that both of them quickly come to distrust her. Watching that happen was horrifying, too, especially since they both begin to use the power of the quartz trap to make themselves more powerful. What if they eclipsed her strength? What if they refused to leave out of the crack that she had designated?
But there’s a hint that this is not the resolution of this story:
It’s not death at all. If you weren’t so temporary, you would know. We go to the next place, the next part of ourselves. Who wants to swim around through all of time! We want to grow up.
It’s right there. “We want to grow up.” I feel like that’s a direct reference to Evvy’s story, since she made the decision to grow as a person by building instead of destroying. Whether Pierce intended this or not, I found it to be an illuminating parallel between these characters who otherwise would have been completely different from one another. Won’t the volcano spirits ultimately build instead of destroy? Won’t they grow into a brand new island as they pile on top of one another?
That’s why I like the ending because… well, these spirits are basically the precursor to an island. And who arrives to tell them what’s what? ALL OF THE OTHER ISLANDS. THE OTHER ISLANDS HAVE SPIRITS. WHY DID I NOT THINK OF THIS? And you know, I don’t even think of this as a cop-out because Luvo wouldn’t have even thought to reach out to them without Evvy. She’s the catalyst here, and it looks like she’s the one who will actually save EVERYONE.
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