Last time, Mare got a job at the palace and Cal is the crown prince, oh no! This time, the chapter opens with Mare heading back to the servants’ platform, feeling confused and betrayed.
(I wonder if Cal regularly hires random Reds he feels bad for, or if it’s a Mare, the Super Rare thing?)
The king says, “‘All of you have come to honor my son and the kingdom, and so I honor you[.]’” Then he gestures to the people. Mare tries to keep her eyes on him, but can’t help but look at Cal, whose smile doesn’t seem genuine.
The king continues, “‘I honor your right to rule. The future king, the son of my son, will be of your silverblood, as he will be of mine. Who will claim their right?’” And the High Houses all shout back that they claim it. Now that that tradition’s out of the way, the king asks some guy named Lord Provos — “a telky” —
Italic Abuse: 75
— to do the honours. So he uses his ability to rearrange the Spiral Garden into a real arena: lowering the floor, unspooling the top of the spiral somewhat, that kind of thing. The last step of this transformation isn’t his doing but “a wonder of technology, of electricity” — an electric shield dividing the arena from the onlookers. “Lightning without thunder.”
Italic Abuse: 76
I like the phrase ‘lightning without thunder’. Those italics, however…
Anyway, everyone’s pretty impressed by this and Mare thinks on the implications of an electric shield, wondering what she and the other onlookers need to be protected from. She wonders about animals but thinks that even “creatures of myth, great cats or sea sharks or dragons” aren’t harmful to the Silvers and that besides, “[Queenstrial] is supposed to be a ceremony to choose queens, not fight monsters.”
If great cats and sharks are being lumped in with dragons, what catastrophe did the world face, why did the Silvers get superpowers instead of high water-retention skills or UV ray-resistant skin or whatever, and how the heck are the Reds still alive?
So then the floor of the arena, encircled by statues, begins to open. Mare leans in for a closer look at what terrible, frightening, absurd Lovecraftian monstrosity could emerge from the darkness and…………“[t]he smallest girl [Mare’s] ever seen rises out of darkness.”
I love that sequence. You can almost hear the background music deflating.
The small girl, who is fourteenish (and yet they want to marry her off? Creepy) is introduced as “‘Rohr, of House of Rhambos[.]’” She has large hands but the rest of her is dainty and delicate. She spins to see the whole crowd and “[h]er gaze lands on Cal — I mean the prince — trying to entice him with her doe eyes or the occasional flip of honey-blond hair. In short, she looks foolish.”
Fooling Around: 12
The composition of that sentence is the only foolish thing here. If the clause between the dashes is taken out, the sentence reads as follows: “Her gaze lands on Cal[,] trying to entice him with her doe eyes or the occasional flip of honey-blond hair.” So…the gaze is trying to entice Cal, and the gaze is flipping its hair? This isn’t the case, obviously, but this is what’s written. Putting things between dashes is kinda like putting things in parentheses: it’s meant to give extra information, but the sentence should still work if the parenthetical/dash-encased-info is taken out, and the verbs and antecedents should agree. For example: ‘The constant abuse of italics in Red Queen — which really detracts from the times something should be emphasized — is amateurish and tacky’ is a sentence that still works if the be-dashed info is cut out.
Also, good to see the time-honored YA lit tradition of hating on blondes being upheld. I was worried it wouldn’t show up. (Seriously, though: WHY must books do this? What did blondes do to the entirety of YA lit writers that has gained them such a bad rep? I want this phenomenon explained, because it confuses me.)
Anyway, Rohr looks “foolish” until she slaps a statue’s head off. The Rhamboses inform us that she’s a strongarm, then Rohr goes ballistic onstage, breaking everything she can get her hands on.
Well, this definitely wasn’t what I expected, but I like it! Mare half-agrees: “So this is a pageant.
A violent one, meant to showcase a girl’s beauty, splendor — and strength. The most talented daughter.”
Italic Abuse: 77
“This is a display of power, to pair the prince with the most powerful girl, so that their children might be the strongest of all. And this has been going on for hundreds of years.” That’s really, really creepy. Definitely something a monarchical dystopian government would do, though. Nice work, book.
Mare shudders thinking of what Cal’s strength must be, then watches as he claps politely for Rohr. The next breeding stock queen candidate is Heron of House Welle. She’s “a greeny” —
Italic Abuse: 78
— but because consistency is for losers her family says she’s a “‘[g]reenwarden’”. She grows trees that scrape against the electric barrier and then catch fire, but the next candidate, a nymph, douses the flames. And so on and so on, with each girl doing cool things despite the increasingly ruined state of the arena. Mare notes a twelve-year-old who explodes everything she touches, whose family describes the ability as “‘Oblivion.’” The lightning shield crackles but holds firm.
Italic Abuse: 79
Mare watches, awed and dismayed: the Silvers are stronger than she’s imagined, and they have more powers than she’d thought possible. “I’ve come all this way and suddenly I’m back in the arena, watching Silvers display everything we are not.”
Italic Abuse: 80
“I want to marvel in awe” — wow that is redundant. Marvel in awe as opposed to what, in indifference? — “as a creature-controlling animos calls down a thousand doves from the sky. When birds dive headfirst into the lightning shield, bursting in little clouds of blood, feathers, and deadly electricity, my awe turns to disgust. […]I almost retch at the sound of applause when the cold-blooded animos sinks back into the floor.” So…the sound of applause makes you nauseous but not the actual bird barbecue? Okey-dokey.
The next girl is introduced as “‘Evangeline, of House Samos,’” and she’s announced by the silver-haired patriarch. Mare notes that at Evangeline’s name makes the king and queen sit up straighter, then handholds us: “Evangeline already has their attention.” Cal, however, looks down at his hands.
Mare describes Evangeline’s clothes: black leather with iron studs, in contrast to the other girls who wore dresses or fancy armor. Evangeline’s family stands and cheers for her, but they’re not alone — other houses applaud uproariously, too. “They want her to be queen. She is the favorite.”
Italic Abuse: 81
After showing us once and telling us twice about Evangeline’s popularity, Mare shows and tells us again: “[Evangeline] salutes[…]to the king’s box. They return the gesture, blatantly favoring this Evangeline.”
I really wish I had done a handholding count.
Anyway, Mare realizes that there’s “[a] hierarchy within the hierarchy” —
Italic Abuse: 82
— and is so occupied with ruminating on this that she almost misses her turn to step up in line. The Samos patriarch says “‘[m]agnetron’”, describing Evangeline in a manner that is reminiscent, to me, of Transformers/X-Men/Pokémon, as Mare walks to who she has to serve. “I find a particularly fat clan dressed in garish yellow silk and awful feathers, all enjoying a massive cake. […]
‘What a farce this is,’ one of the fat yellow birds grumbles as he stuffs his face. ‘This Samos girl has already won.’
Strange. She seems to be the weakest of all.”
- Ah, yes, the classy YA lit tradition of ‘fat=contemptible and gluttonous’ has reared its head. Excellent. I was waiting for that. If Mare suddenly says that she’s not like other girls because she likes reading and tea, then the trifecta of YA lit cliches will be complete — and all in one chapter! Impressive! [/sarcasm] (Book, you were doing so well. Why this?)
- Besides the fact that it’s tacky, shallow, unclassy, and overdone as hell, the inclusion of ‘fat=contemptible and gluttonous’ doesn’t make sense in context. If anything, Mare should be envious of the family’s girth, because it means that they’re probably eating well whereas Mare hasn’t been for her whole life, and had a friend who was allegedly starving almost to death. Her tone here shouldn’t be scornful but resentful.
- …Mare, nothing you have said or described has indicated Evangeline to be the weakest of them all. Do you not remember Rohr, the “smallest girl [you’ve] ever seen”? What about Evangeline seems weak, let alone weakest of them all? I think this is the book trying to do the bait-and-switch again, but it’s not working because it’s already been done and this time around there’s no evidence.
4. Italic Abuse: 83
Mare works on tidying up the accumulated plates of the yellow-bedecked family but keeps an eye on Evangeline. She wonders what Evangeline could do, since there’s very little to work with, but Evangeline seems fine: “Her smirk is terrible, like she’s totally convinced of her own magnificence. She doesn’t look magnificent to me.”
Italic Abuse: 84
God, this is so stupid. Why is Mare underestimating Evangeline so much when she’s had the evidence of hours’ worth of Silvers who are stronger than they seem? Is this supposed to be foreshadowing for (calling it now) Mare’s jealousy of Evangeline in an Evangeline-Cal-Mare love triangle? It better not be.
The iron studs on Evangeline’s jacket move, floating in the air. Then they rocket away from Evangeline, into the walls and shield. Mare helpfully handholds us: “She can control metal.” Gee, really???????
Italic Abuse: 85
But a cool power nonetheless. Several of the spectators agree with my assessment, applauding, but Evangeline’s just getting started. “Groans and clanks echo up to us from somewhere deep down in the structure of the Spiral Garden. Even the fat family stops eating to look around, perplexed” oh screw you book, honestly.
Evangeline continues the show. I’m going to quote the entire thing, because I like how it’s written and the characterization in it: “[w]ith an earth-shattering noise, metal pipes splinter the floor of the arena, rising up from far below. They burst through the walls, surrounding Evangeline in a twisted crown of grey and silver metal. She looks like she’s laughing, but the deafening crunch of metal drowns her out. Sparks fall from the lightning shield, and she protects herself with scrap, not even breaking a sweat. Finally she lets the metal drop with a horrible smash. She turns her eyes skyward, to the boxes above. Her mouth is open wide, showing sharp little teeth. She looks hungry.”
Italic Abuse: 86
I love her. Also, very nice writing in that passage, so kudos to the author.
Evangeline furthers my affection by tipping the box of the yellow-bedecked family and Mare — beyond that, even, the entire row. Evangeline the Awesome is focused and amazing, and even in her fear Mare has to appreciate this. That is, until “a yellow ball of skin and feathered clothing knocks into [her], pitching [her] over the rail with the rest of the silverware.”
She hits the electric fence but has time to spare a thought about those no-good dirty rotten Silvers, and then we’re hit with what feels a bit copy-and-paste-ish: “My head bangs against the shield, and I see stars. No, not stars. Sparks.”
Italic Abuse: 87
Sounds like chapter three.
Mare ruminates that “[her] corpse will smell wonderful” —
Italic Abuse: 88
— and that “[she] must be in so much pain that [she] cannot feel it.”
Italic Abuse: 89
Except she can feel something; the electricity courses beneath her skin, setting her nerves aflame, making her feel as though she’s “been living [her] whole life blind and now [she’s] opened her eyes”. (Blind people still open their eyes, book, but I’m just being nitpicky here.) Her clothes burn away but her skin’s fine, and Mare says that this isn’t right, then says “I am alive” because a italicized homage to the almost-exact phrasing in chapter three is so needed.
Italic Abuse: 90
The shield breaks beneath her and she falls into the arena. Everyone stares at her, understandably, including Evangeline the Awesome, who looks “angry, confused — and scared.
Italic Abuse: 91
Mare says ‘hi’ and Evangeline instantly attacks, sending metal shards Mare’s way. Mare puts up a hand to defend herself and electricity bursts from her hands, rendering the attack useless. Evangeline is stunned. Mare is stunned. Everyone is stunned.
The king recovers first, calling for the Sentinels, who then…go and stand stupidly waiting for an order instead of apprehending Mare. Why are they feared, again? Mare uses the opportunity to run into the chamber beneath the arena and finally the king says the obvious and the Sentinels give chase. Mare is thinking that if she makes it to the outside, she might survive. But despite her head start, the omnipresent cameras are leading the Sentinels right to her.
She finds a staircase that leads to a mirrored hall, but a blast of gunfire makes her drop to the ground, with Sentinels following it up. She decides to do the unexpected: she charges them then does a baseball slide on the “smooth marble floor” between them. One of the guards shouts, and his voice breaks a mirror (what kind of disaster made people evolve Canary Cries?), but Mare continues onward.
She finds a window of diamondglass and tries to shoot lightning again, which predictably doesn’t work. Then a blaze of heat rises from behind her, a herald of the Sentinels and the wall of “[f]ire” they bring with them.
Italic Abuse: 92
(Fun fact: the book demonstrated appropriate use of italics throughout this entire ‘Mare running from Sentinels’ segment! There were five instances that were all used sensibly. It’s still egregious overuse, but at least it wasn’t wholly unnecessary. Perhaps there’s still hope.)
Then Mare laughs at her predicament — there’s not much else she can do, so this makes sense — and turns to run, coming face to face with a wall of black fabric. Italics are correctly used again: “[s]hock him, light him up, I scream in my head. But nothing happens.”
The air gets hotter, but what’s really bothering Mare is the smoke — it’s making it hard for her to breathe. Mare passes out, but the last thing she hears (and the last line of the chapter) is “‘I’m sorry,’ Cal’s voice says. I think I’m dreaming.”
How did Cal get here so fast? And where are they even, in the palace? If this is Silver property (which the marble floor and hall of mirrors indicates) then why are the Sentinels burning it? This is the royal family’s stuff, right? Are the Sentinels so incompetent that they have to burn things to capture people? Why are they so feared, again?
ITALIC ABUSE: 92
MARE, THE SUPER RARE: 8
FOOLING AROUND: 12