Last time, the Barrows read Shade’s letter and Kilorn became eligible for conscription. This time, we learn about the war’s origin.
Mare tells us that the war has been going on for about a hundred years. It started over fertile land and bodies of water: “The Lakelands are flat and fertile, bordered by immense lakes full of fish. Not like the rocky, forested hills of Norta, where the farmlands can barely feed us. […] [The Lakelanders] wanted our rivers, to get access to a sea that wasn’t frozen half the year, and the water mills dotting our rivers.”
Why do the Lakelanders care about the sea? The book makes no mention of other countries across the sea to conquer or trade with, and the Lakelanders already have freshwater and fish, so what is the appeal? Pearl-diving? Book, please explain!
Other than that, though, it seems believable. I don’t see why the book felt it was necessary to use the word ‘rivers’ twice in one sentence, though.
Apparently Norta, Mare’s country, is famous for its technological advances and the fact that most of the population, even Reds, have electricity. Those who live in the Lakelands or Piedmont, another country, don’t. Mare says “[w]e were lucky to be born here. Lucky. The word makes me want to scream.” Not giving this an Italic Abuse point because it’s repetition+emphasis to lend the word an ironic twist.
However, I will criticize it. Mare, you are lucky to have electricity. Sure, you’re a Red and thus your life isn’t good, and you’re downtrodden/oppressed/made to fight in a war that’s not yours, but in matters relating to electrical power? You’re lucky.
Mare used to find it funny that the “high-and-mighty Silvers need to eat[,]” but not anymore because Kilorn’s leaving! She wonders if he’ll give her an earring, even though this has been established as a Barrow thing.
Kilorn says he has one week until they take him and tries to be defiant, “[b]ut I can see the fight going out of his eyes.” Mare says there must be something that can be done, and Kilorn reminds her that no one has escaped conscription with their life. Mare handholds us: “He doesn’t need to tell me that. Every year, someone tries to run. And every year, they’re dragged back to the town square and hanged.”
Mare says they’ll find a way, admirably if confusingly – she didn’t show much concern over her own upcoming conscription, didn’t seem concerned that she’d die, but Kilorn? Oh hell no, how dare they touch him.
“Even now, he finds the strength to smirk at [Mare]” uuugggghhhhhhhh why. I approve of the sentiment, but still. He says, “‘We?’”
Mare blushes for some reason and suddenly isn’t resigned to her conscription anymore and says that no, she and Kilorn are going to run away together. “The army has always been my fate, my punishment, I know that. But not his. It’s already taken too much from him.” Your punishment? Um, what? And yes, I agree that the war has taken a lot from Kilorn. But it’s not as if you’re untouched by it, Mare – your three brothers, your hope for your future, and your father’s good health have been taken from you as a result of the war. Why isn’t this “too much”, too?
Kilorn says there’s nowhere they can go – the north is cold, to the east is the ocean, to the west is the war, the south is irradiated(?), everywhere else is under the government’s eye – which pleases Mare because she thinks his arguing means he hasn’t entirely lost hope yet. I don’t agree. Seems to me like he’s just outlining how hopeless it is.
“The words pour out of [Mare] like a river” rivers don’t pour, that’s more a waterfall thing. Anyway, her argument is that the Stilts is under the government’s eye, too, but they manage just fine despite their thievery and participation in the black market – and if the black market smuggles items, why not people?
Kudos for trying, but that’s not the same thing, Mare.
Kilorn’s probably about to point this out, but he smiles and nods instead. Mare, upon seeing that Kilorn’s clinging to this flimsy chance, tells us that “[she] do[es]n’t like getting involved with other people’s business.” This is literally the worst time to tell us this, book. It makes her seem almost annoyed that Kilorn, her “only real friend”, came to her for help. If this had been shown earlier and then we got to see that her involvement in Kilorn’s business is going against character but she’s doing it because she’s a good friend, then it’d have more impact. As it is, it just makes Mare seem put-upon.
Despite her reservations, Mare says that Kilorn should leave it all to her.
Mare opens the next scene by telling us about an old shopkeeper, Will Whistle, who is one of her black market connections. Mare first met him when she was nine when he paid her for some buttons she’d stolen.They continued doing business for years, and “[n]ow I’m his best customer and probably the reason he manages to stay afloat in such a small place” Mare what do you think he did before you came along, hmm? I’m tempted to give this a Mare, the Super Rare point.
But yeah, it’s been years, and “[o]n a good day [Mare] might even call him a friend.” So good a friend, in fact, that she’s “betting that they might make an exception and transport a person instead.”
“‘Absolutely not[,]’” says Will, shutting her down. That actually is pretty terrible for Mare’s plans, so I understand her frustration and emotions here: “In eight years, Will has never said no to me. Now the wrinkled old fool is practically slamming shut the doors of his wagon in my face. I’m happy Kilorn stayed behind, so he doesn’t have to see me fail him.” A realistic reaction, but that “fool” is grating on me.
Mare begins to beg, but Will shakes his head, explaining that even if he could help, it’s not the nature of his business. Mare’s hope starts diminishing, but Will takes pity on her and beckons her inside the wagon.
Inside they find a woman about Mare’s age but taller, “with the air of an old warrior” and a gun on her hip. She’s blond and fair and unused to the heat, all traits that Stilts natives don’t usually have – she’s “a foreigner, an outlander, and an outlaw at that. Just the person I want to see.”
Well that was convenient.
Italic Abuse: 20
The woman stands and beckons Mare, and all three of them sit. Will introduces the woman as Farley. Farley is right on the ball, assuming that Mare wants to transport cargo and stopping Mare from referring to said cargo (herself and Kilorn) as people, just in case. I like her already. She asks where Mare wants the cargo to go, and Mare decides on “‘Somewhere safe from the Silvers. That’s all.’”
Farley informs Mare that “‘Safety has a price, girl[,]’” and Mare retorts with “‘Everything has a price, girl.[…] No one knows that more than me.’”
- It should be ‘no one knows that BETTER than me.’
- Mare, what the hell. Why are you antagonizing your chance out of here??? What is wrong with you? You realize that this woman has no obligation to help you, right? And you do realize that asking for money in exchange for transporting two conscription-bound Reds is sensible and fair considering the high chance of death and torture, right? Even if you don’t realize any of this, this sass isn’t really conducive to you getting out, so what are you doing?
- Mare, what the hell. Farley wasn’t even being rude to you, so why so snippy?
4. Mare, the Super Rare: 6
Everyone is shocked into silence by Mare’s goddamn rudeness, then as Mare grows impatient and uncomfortable in the quiet, Farley makes her wait by not saying anything. Ha! Farley has now replaced Shade as my favourite.
Then she says, “‘The Scarlet Guard accepts, Mare Barrow.’”
The one problem with Farley is how stilted (and she’s not even from the Stilts!… Sorry.) her speech is. Also, while Mare doesn’t care that Farley randomly switched to third-person/is speaking on behalf of an organization, I do, because it’s so jarringly inserted.
Mare restrains herself from jumping out of her seat with joy and continues to be a rude brat by not thanking Farley, who then says, “‘Payment is expected in full, to the equivalent of one thousand crowns[…]’”
Yikes, another wrench in the plan. This development rightly shocks and dismays Mare: “‘A thousand?’ I manage to choke out. No one deals in that amount of money, not in the Stilts. That could feed my family for a year. Many years.”
Darn, if that “years” hadn’t been italicized, that sentence wouldn’t have earned a point. As it is…
Italic Abuse: 21
So close and yet so far, book.
Mare “get[s] the sense that [Farley] enjoys this[,]” and okay, Farley, Mare was needlessly rude earlier, but you don’t need to rejoice in her desperation and disbelief. Farley lists methods of payment, like “‘paper notes, tetrarch coins, or the bartering equivalent. Per item, of course.’
Two thousand crowns. A fortune. Our freedom is worth a fortune.”
When this book uses italics well, flowers bloom all over the world. Also, once again, Mare’s refusal to cheer to get ’lec papers in chapter one stabs her in the back, and the book doesn’t even notice.
Farley says that the cargo will be transported the day after tomorrow, which Mare thinks is impossible: “Less than two days to accumulate more money than I have stolen in my entire life. There is no way.”
There is no way those italics can have any impact considering how many times you’ve used them this chapter.
Italic Abuse: 22
I agree with Mare’s sentiments here, though. This is ridiculous and unfair and seems counter-intuitive, too. Does the Scarlet Guard not want to make money and recruit Reds (because I’m certain that’s what they’ll be doing)? They can’t do this if they’re imposing these unreachable deadlines. Farley, your goodwill with me is lost.
Farley asks if Mare accepts the terms, leaning forward to do so. Apparently she smells of gunpowder.
Mare thinks, “It is impossible. It is foolish. It is our best chance.”
- STOP USING ‘FOOLISH’ AND ‘FOOL’ OR SO HELP ME I’LL CREATE ANOTHER COUNT. I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK AND COUNT ALL THE ‘FOOLS’ BUT I WILL IF I HAVE TO, BOOK
2. Italic Abuse: 23
And Mare accepts the terms.
In the next scene, Mare is trying to think of ways to meet Farley’s unfair price as she walks home through “the muddy shadows.” This is a terrible description. Kilorn’s waiting for her, “looking like a little lost boy.” Poor guy. You’d think that on top of the fact that the fisherman’s death means conscription for Kilorn, his woes would also include the simple matter of the fisherman dying, but whatever, consideration for the dead is for losers!
Kilorn asks if there’s bad news and Mare explains, trying to keep hopeful for Kilorn’s sake. She says that they can achieve this: “‘If anyone can do it, we can. We can.’”
Kilorn’s given up, though, and when Mare tries to argue against this he takes her by the shoulders and demands that she stop giving him false hope. Mare thinks this is fair enough, as “[i]t’s cruel to give hope where none should be.” True. I admire how she tried to make Kilorn feel better, and how she then gives up when lying to spare his feelings is just having a worse effect.
Kilorn says that Mare should just let him accept it so he can get into the right mindset for war. Mare grips his wrists and says that Kilorn’s speaking as though he’s already dead, and Kilorn half-agrees with this. Mare tries to use her brothers as an example of survivors, but Kilorn cuts her off by pointing out that Pappy Mare made sure they were prepared, and that “‘it helps that they’re all the size of a house.’”
“He forces a smirk, trying to get [Mare] to laugh” this is in first-person. I can see that the first clause might be obvious to the non-mind-reading Mare, so I have no issue with it – it’s the dependent clause that doesn’t work with the POV. How can Mare know what Kilorn’s intention is with the smirk? For all she knows, Kilorn’s doing this for himself, or he’s trying to cement to the readers his place as the love interest before he leaves, or he’s smirking to keep himself from crying. The book could still use the second clause if it just put a ‘probably’ or ‘I think that Kilorn’s trying to_____’ there – the sentiment would get across without cheating at narration.
Kilorn continues, saying that he’s good with aquatic activities and that he’ll be useful on the lakes. Then he hugs Mare, who only realizes then that she’s shaking. “‘Kilorn–,’ I mumble into his chest. But the next words won’t come. It should be me.” Right, because if you’re conscripted then Kilorn definitely won’t be.
Mare then remembers that she is going to be conscripted soon anyway, and hopes that Kilorn survives long enough for the two to see each other again. She tells us that “Maybe then I’ll find the right words to say. Maybe then I’ll understand how I feel.”
siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh don’t do this to me, book.
Kilorn thanks Mare for everything, adding that she could get out via Farley if she saves her money. Mare nods but has “no plans of letting him fight and die alone.” What was that line about ‘oh, I hope we meet again in the trenches’, then?
Mare goes back into her house and lies on her cot, and Gisa coughs prettily in her sleep. “Even unconscious, she manages to be ladylike.” That’s an interesting quirk. Mare continues talking about Gisa, saying that Silvers like her because she’s a perfectly unassuming Red. Mare says “[i]t’s a good thing she’s the one who has to deal with them, helping the superhuman fools pick out silk[…]”
The ‘fool’ count will commence next chapter. For now let’s address a different problem with Mare’s use of the word: nothing the Silvers have done has convinced me that they’re stupid. Frivolous, wasteful, cowardly, entitled, oppressive, sure. But not stupid. Mare doesn’t seem to think they’re idiots, either, and there is a multitude of other ways she could insult them that would stay true to her voice and character, not to mention THE ACTUAL MEANING OF THE WORD.
Mare hates the Silvers even more because “the stockings they lose would probably be enough to save me, Kilorn, and half the Stilts from conscription.”
Which suddenly gives Mare an idea! She starts to try to wake Gisa, ungently because Gisa’s a heavy sleeper, and Gisa groans, expressing a wish to kill Mare. Mare responds with “‘How sweet. Now wake up!’”
Mare pounces on Gisa and covers her mouth to keep her from getting Momma Mare involved. She asks that Gisa not talk but listen, and leads with Kilorn’s name, which makes Gisa blush like crazy. So…now Mare has super-sight, too? It’s still dark, is it not?
Thankfully, Mare doesn’t “have time for her schoolgirl crush” and tells Gisa to stop, informing her that Kilorn’s going to be conscripted. Gisa stops laughing and Mare informs us that “[c]onscription isn’t a joke, not to us” – wow, the serious way you’ve been treating it all book long made it seem like you thought it was a laughing matter, Mare. Thanks for making sure that we understand!
Mare says she has a plan but that she “‘need[s] [Gisa’s] help to do it.’” Then she basically repeats herself (“‘I need you, Gisa. Will you help me?’”) but for some reason the second time she says it, “[i]t hurts to say it[…]”. If the book is trying to characterize Mare as someone who hates asking for help or owing people, then it’s doing it wrong — it should’ve ‘hurt to say it’ the first time. This is just inconsistent.
Gisa agrees to help, and Mare feels affectionate. Thus far, Mare’s relationship with Gisa is definitely the most humanizing.
The next scene begins with Mare being thankful for her short stature because otherwise Gisa’s extra uniform would be too small. She describes the outfit as being ill-suited for the summer, and says that the backpack she carries is heavy. Gisa wears a similar outfit and carries a similar pack, “but they don’t seem to bother her at all. She’s used to hard work and a hard life.” Which implies that Mare isn’t, which implies that Mare’s talk about the difficulties of her own life is invalid. I mean, we know it isn’t – conscription’s no joke, as Mare helpfully informed us – but the line here doesn’t really work.
They sail up the river in a wheat-carrying boat owned by a farming friend of Gisa’s. Mare tells us that people in the Stilts trust Gisa “like they can never trust [her]”, which considering Mare’s ‘profession’ makes sense. Though I do wonder – if all Stiltsian Reds know that Mare’s a pickpocket and thus not to be trusted, how does Mare ever get away with it?
Gisa and Mare hop off the boat with a mile to go and walk with merchants toward the Garden Door, which is a misnomer: it doesn’t lead to a garden and it’s made of glass. The wall surrounding it is made of the same material. Gisa tells Mare that it’s not really glass but diamonds melted down and mixed with glass. That’s pretty cool, actually, and good characterization through worldbuilding. It’s practical – Gisa adds that “‘It’s totally impregnable. Not even a bomb could get through that.’” – yet opulent. Silver-esque.
“Diamond walls[,]” Mare thinks to annoy me.
Italic Abuse: 24
Mare snarks about the walls and Gisa decides that she, not Mare, will do the talking. They keep walking and we get even more nice characterization for the Silvers via worldbuilding: the road goes from “cracked black asphalt” to “paved white stone.” This stone floor is “so smooth I almost slip[…]Kilorn wouldn’t have a problem walking on this, not with his sea legs. But then Kilorn wouldn’t be here at all. He’s already given up. I will not.”
- Yeah, no. Kilorn’s ‘sea legs’ can’t lessen the effects of a low-friction surface. His legs might be helpful on a moving floor, but not here.
- I like Mare’s determination here, even if it was strangely absent in relation to her own conscription.
3. Italic Abuse: 25
Summerton’s only in commission for its eponymous season, but it’s huge. All the buildings are “pointed to a shimmering monstrosity of diamondglass and marble.” The aforementioned “shimmering monstrosity” is the Hall of the Sun, which gets its name from its shininess. Some parts of it darken to give the occupants privacy, which Mare snarks about. She then marvels that this magnificence is just the royals’ summer home.
A guard demands their names as they enter, and Gisa, true to her word, does all the talking. The guard barely skims Gisa’s ID but looks at Mare’s for a while, which makes her wonder if he’s a whisper and will thus lead her to death by hanging once he reads her mind.
But nope! The guard lets them through, slapping bracelets/manacles on their wrists. Mare handholds us: “‘Move along,’ the officer says, gesturing with a lazy wave of the hand. Two young girls are not a threat in his eyes.” Gee, is that why he’s lazily letting them through? And here I thought he saw them as a threat, given his previous actions.
“Gisa nods in thanks but I don’t. This man doesn’t deserve an ounce of appreciation from me” oh my god Mare just nod you don’t have to mean it I mean are you not trying to blend in here??? Does everything have to be a rebellion to you???
They enter the city, which is bustling. Reds work and Silvers move “with a slow grace no Red can claim.” I just imagined them moving in slow-motion, which made me giggle, so I share this with you.
The girls walk past a bakery, a grocer, and a menagerie “full of wild animals beyond [Mare’s] comprehension.” Near the menagerie Mare notices a Silver girl feeding an apple to a giraffe (though Mare doesn’t know what the animal is, describing it vaguely). Said girl is a telky. This observation sets off a list of Silver classes: that florist is a greeny, there are nymphs entertaining children near the fountain, etc. Mare is impressed despite herself.
“‘This is how the other half lives,’ Gisa murmurs, sensing [Mare’s] awe. ‘It’s enough to make you sick.’”
Which brings on a bout of guilt for Mare – “I’ve always been jealous of Gisa, her talent and all the privileges it affords her, but I’ve never thought of the cost. She didn’t spend much time in school and has few friends in the Stilts.” This is sad, but it doesn’t jibe with what was said earlier about Gisa the Trustworthy. True, being trusted≠being befriended, but if Gisa has the time and temperament to earn the trust of her fellow citizens, what’s stopping her from earning their friendship, too? Unless you’re being openly antagonistic, you typically earn both at a similar pace.
Anyway, instead of having friends, Gisa puts “the future of her family on her back, living neck-deep in a world she hates.” Weird possessive pronoun usage here – why is Mare referring to the Barrows as “her”, that is Gisa’s, family, when it’s really their family and she should be using ‘our’?
Then Mare says, “‘Thank you, Gee[.]’[…]She knows I don’t just mean for today.” Book, you are written in first-person, PLEASE ACT LIKE IT.
Gisa points out the store where she’ll be if Mare needs her, and Mare promises that even if things go wrong, she won’t get Gisa involved, which is good of her. Gisa squeezes Mare’s hand and tells her to be careful because “‘[i]t’s crowded today, more than usual.’
‘More places to hide,’ [Mare] tell[s] [Gisa] with a smirk.”
(I’ll try to make this the last time I mention this, but – THEN WHY DO YOU HATE THE FIRST FRIDAY CROWDS, MARE??? THIS MAKES NO SENSE.)
Gisa doesn’t take Mare up on the joke, saying that more people means more officers, too. They walk toward where they’ll split up and Mare slowly grows more panicked, rambling Gisa’s instructions to herself under her breath to stay calm. She ends with, “‘It’s ten miles to home[,]’” and Gisa echoes her.
Then Mare watches Gisa go into the shop, wishing she could join her. But she has a job to do, and she ends the chapter with “‘[Gisa’s] gotten me this far. Now it’s my turn.”
ITALIC ABUSE: 25
MARE, THE SUPER RARE: 6