In the twenty-second chapter of Battle Magic, WHY DID ALL THIS NICE STUFF HAVE TO HAPPEN FIRST? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read Battle Magic.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of torture and PTSD.
GAH, THIS JUST HURTS EVEN MORE, KNOWING THE END RESULT. It’s not just the calm before the storm, though that dynamic is certainly present here. This chapter is Evvy’s time to shine, to make a stand for the people she cares about, and the thousands she’ll never actually get to know. I now read the opening scene here so much differently than I did the first time because I can see Evvy struggling with the choice she’s about to make.
Pierce presents that as a very difficult and complicated thing for Evvy, too. She’s Yanjingyi, and it’s impossible for those around her not to see that. Yet she doesn’t let this discourage her, and even if these people are being horrible to her, she never once thinks that she shouldn’t protect the Gyongxean people. She appreciates where she is; she marvels at the gods; and she breaks down in tears during a conversation with the God-King because she can’t fathom him getting hurt like she was. She filters this experience through herself, sure, and I think it’s hard for her not to. The Yanjingyi army tortured her, and so she easily projects that same treatment onto the God-King.
It goes further than that, though:
Evvy suddenly had another horrible image in her head: The God-King, chained as Parahan had been chained, at the foot of Weishu’s throne. He said all she had ever done was visit Gyongxe, but all he had ever done was spend long days on his uncomfortable-looking throne, listening to people complain, or at meetings with adults who talked at him, not to him, or reading messages. Did he ever get to run and play as the boys did? She felt a hand squeeze her heart.
Evvy is formulating her concept of justice. She knows that what happened to her was wrong and evil. Here, she’s realizing that what Weishu and his army are doing – or might do – is inherently evil and wrong, too. What could the God-King have possibly done to deserve what was coming? How could someone like Weishu think as they do and act as they do? Thus, Evvy makes a choice that I imagine will have ramifications in the next chapter:
Evvy watched, thinking, I can’t take Rosethorn and briar from him. If I go, I bet Luvo will return to his mountain, so I can’t take Luvo, either – if he’ll stay for me, anyway. But I can’t leave and turn a whole country over to Weishu. Not without trying to help.
I just can’t let them get me again, that’s all.
I should say that we see the ramifications of this choice in this chapter, too. But gods, y’all, she has EVERY RIGHT to want to leave this place, to save herself, to get as far from the emperor as humanly possible, and she makes the conscious decision to STAY.
I love Evvy so much.
That’s not to suggest there aren’t consequences to this. Both Briar and Evvy are still dealing with the trauma they’ve experienced while in this war. In Briar’s case, his trauma manifests as extremely unsettling nightmares, all in which either he or Evvy wind up dead. (FUCK THAT SECOND NIGHTMARE.) Yet, like Evvy, he finds a way to push past this. A great deal of this chapter contains preparation for the inevitable second battle with Weishu’s forces, so it’s a lot “slower” than the recent chapters. That’s okay, though. I definitely felt nervous once I realized that because it only meant my life was about to be torn apart.
Exactly how, though? I think I know what happened at the end of this chapter, but it’s entirely possible I just got it wrong. I saw the preparations as a momentary break from the war, but… did something happen to these people? Both Sayrugo and the God-King report that their scouts were late in reporting back, so I’m curious if this is the reason that Weishu’s people were able to get into Garmashing. Did someone else perhaps sell them out? Betray them? No, I don’t know that I see that as a possibility. I was instead drawn to the inability of anyone to stay awake the night before the siege. Perhaps that’s the result of the calming tea that Evvy brewed, but… WHAT IF IT IS NOT. How did Weishu’s people get past all the possible safeguards??? I DON’T UNDERSTAND. And now I’m worried because this is literally Evvy’s worst nightmare, isn’t it? They’re all captured, and Weishu can do whatever he wants to them.
UGH, I AM REALLY UPSET AND I AM SCARED OF THE NEXT CHAPTER.
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