Last time, Mare did the electric slide and passed out in Cal’s arms after Queenstrial. This time, flashback!
It’s about Bree’s conscription. Momma Mare sobs and clings to him, while Shade and Tramy prepare to catch her if she falls. They aren’t crying, for Momma Mare’s sake. Pappy Mare does nothing but stare at the guy who’s doing the conscription — “the legionnaire” — who looks small next to Bree. Bree and the legionnaire leave and “[a] shadow follows, haunting after him on terrible dark wings.” I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean, but I feel like it’s important, so there you go.
Mare falls into a different flashback, one a year later. Momma Mare clings to him and begs with the legionnaire, and Shade has to pull her off. Gisa’s crying — apparently Tramy’s her favourite brother — but Mare and Pappy Mare do not. The shadow’s back. Guess it was important.
And the last flashback, when Shade leaves. Mare hugs him, and when she pulls back there’s blood on his shirt, which she guesses are from her pierced ears. There’s some brief angst about the ear-piercing — “I guess I did it wrong, as I do everything wrong” — and the shadow appears again, “[a]nd it feels angry.”
The shadow gives Mare a rundown of her worst nightmares, including “The Choke” —
Italic Abuse: 93
— where she sees her brothers: Bree wrestling with a Lakelander, Tramy trying to keep a soldier from bleeding to death, Shade smiling at Mare even as the ground explodes beneath him. Mare screams and reaches for “the smoke that was once [her] brother” but then that shape becomes that of the shadow. The shadow engulfs her and more memories rush past, and Mare deduces that “Something is not right.”
Italic Abuse: 94
THESE ITALICS AREN’T RIGHT ARRRRRRGGGGH
Anyway. She thinks it’s not right because memories that she shouldn’t be remembering, like learning to talk and walk, show up as well. “This is impossible.”
Italic Abuse: 95
The shadow says “‘Impossible’” and Mare falls to her knees, the visions fading. “Concrete and steel bars rise around me. A cage.”
Italic Abuse: 96
Beyond the cage is Queen Elara, to whom Mare says, “‘I’d bow, but I might fall over[.]’”. Since she’s not in the best state of mind right now, this snarking can be excused. Also, Mare is immediately scared about the ramifications of what she did rather than continuing her wisecracking in the fine tradition of her YA lit contemporaries, which also helps.
Queen Elara smirks instead of becoming enraged, and Mare doubles over when they make eye contact. “‘That looks like a bow to me,’ she purrs, enjoying [Mare’s] pain.” Mare demands to know what Queen Elara’s doing to her and the queen touches Mare’s temple, which triples Mare’s pain. The queen explains that this is to prevent Mare doing something stupid, then Mare does something stupid: “‘Like stand on my own two feet?’” Again she reprimands herself for it, but it’s still annoying — she says that she “can hardly think through the pain” yet she’s able to eloquently form snarky sentences? Also, this is basically conditioning: snark the queen, feel the pain, that’s what just happened a paragraph ago. For someone who’s allegedly in a lot of pain and would like to not feel said pain, Mare sure invites it.
Queen Elara’s like, no, by ‘something silly’ I meant ‘electrocute people’. Mare muses on this and the memories of Queenstrial come back in fragments. “It’s not possible.”
Italic Abuse: 97
The Queen agrees and expands on that, saying that Mare is “a miracle[…] and impossibility. Something even I can’t understand, and I have seen all of you.”
Mare, the Super Rare: 12
Gave it three because it goes against the basic premise of ‘Reds=normal, Silvers=super-powered’, and because this has apparently never been a thing before.
Mare understandably freaks out at the fact that the queen was messing with her memories, to which the queen retorts that if you know someone’s fears, you know them, and she needed to know “‘what it is we’re dealing with.’
‘I’m not an it[,]’” Mare says because this is YA and talking back to authority figures is a must, even if they’ve demonstrated that they can and will hurt you badly at the littlest provocation.
The Queen’s all, ‘if you say so,’ then comes close to the bars, calling Mare the girl on fire “‘little lightning girl’” and saying that she should be grateful for one thing. Mare’s legs seize up “[l]ike [she’s] paralyzed” and she spares a second of empathy for Pappy Mare, despite her current, more dangerous condition. Good on you, Mare.
Italic Abuse: 98
Then — not of her own volition — she marches to the bars, her footsteps in time with Queen Elara’s blinks. Mare realizes that “[Elara’s] a whisper, and she’s playing with me.”
Italic Abuse: 99
The thing that Elara said Mare should be grateful for is that Mare did it in front of a bunch of Silvers, “‘people who will ask questions, people with power[…]that is the only reason you are still alive.’” Hmm.
Mare is pissed off by this and tries for lightning, which doesn’t work, and Elara punishes her for it and leaves. Suddenly, Mare feels exhausted: “I am only human, and humans are not supposed to deal with days like today.” She realizes her wrist is bare of the red band and wonders what this could mean, and just before she falls asleep, she wonders, “What’s happening to me?
What am I?”
Italic Abuse: 100
When Mare wakes up in the next scene, a bald Security officer is watching her. Commendably, Mare’s first thought is of her family: she tells the bald Security officer that he has to tell them about what’s happened to her, and she’s thankful that her last words to them were ‘I love you’.
The Security officer, though, says that he doesn’t have to do anything but take Mare upstairs, though he says it calmly. He also orders her to change her clothes, which I’d originally thought had all burned off. This is not the case, though, and Mare changes into the clothes set out for her, which are nicer than she’s ever owned. Also there’s no red on the clothes, “[b]ut why, [Mare] do[es] not know. [Her] ignorance is becoming a theme.”
Italic Abuse: 101
Mare gets the last boot on and then the officer opens the door without keys, as he’s a magnetron. Apparently he is a cousin of Evangeline the Awesome, and Mare apologizes for almost frying her. The guard replies with, “‘Be sorry you missed her. […]Evangeline is a bitch.’” Saying this, of course, makes me more certain that there will be a Evangeline-Cal-Mare love triangle and this ‘bitchiness’ will be Evangeline’s main characterization. It also makes me adore Evangeline more, because I run on spite apparently.
Mare asks if bitchiness is a family trait (god why did you think that was a good idea), then reprimands herself for sassing a Security officer. But the guy doesn’t mind that he’s just been insulted and instead of hitting her he smiles, saying Mare will find out the answer to her question in time, “his black eyes soft.” Ughhhhhhh — actually, wait. One of the worst things about YA lit is that I can never tell who’s meant to be a love interest and who’s not, so every kind action or complimentary description or smirk a male character does/gets becomes a big warning sign in my mind, like in the case of Kilorn. I’ll try to suspend judgement on this guy, “‘Lucas Samos[.]’”
(Speaking of: Evangeline smirked last chapter…maybe she’ll be a love interest and have her characterization saved. Here’s hoping.)
Lucas says Mare should follow him and she does, into a crowd of Security officers that flank her. Mare handholds us and I regret not having a count yet again. The cadre gets to the upper levels of the palace and Mare notes the tinted walls, deciding she’s in the category of “what shouldn’t be seen.” She notices that the windows aren’t darkening because of a mechanism but a redheaded woman whom Lucas says is “‘a shadow, a bender of light’”. Haha, that’s terrible because shadows are what happens because light cannot bend around objects!
There are cameras watching them, which creep Mare out. “Normally my head would ache under the weight of so much electricity, but the pain never comes” book you’ve not shown us this or talked about this once, do you realize that? There’s no ‘normally’ about it. Mare thinks that the shield must have cured her never-before-seen-or-mentioned headaches, or changed her.
The cadre moves beyond some doors and Mare is relieved: “The eyes cannot see me here.”
Italic Abuse: 102
Before her is the royal family, and Lucas and the other guards leave. Mare refuses to look at Cal, instead focusing on her shoes, and the queen says “‘You will kneel[.]” Mare tells us that she should kneel but is too prideful to, a rebellion that — unlike the no-head-nodding of chapter three — is stupid for the right reasons. Tiberias is all, do you like hanging out in the cell?, but Mare still doesn’t kneel, instead asking what the king wants with her.
The queen says “‘I told you, she’s Red through and through –’ But the king waves her off like he would a fly.’” I wonder how Elara won Queenstrial if she’s a whisper? It’s not as if there’s more than one girl in the ring at the time. Maybe she controlled young Tiberias. Obviously she’s not now, as “[s]he purses her lips and draws back, hands clasped tightly together. Serves her right.”
Italic Abuse: 103
Tiberias says that what he wants concerning Mare is impossible, and Mare says that she’s not sorry that he can’t kill her. The king compliments her sharp tongue and Mare is relieved, thinking she might not die here. Not yet.
Tiberias throws a sheaf of papers onto the ground: Mare’s documentation. Mare wishes she could again be the girl in her ID photo, “a girl whose only problems were conscription and a hungry belly.”
To my delight, the king tells us Mare’s full name: “‘Mare Molly Barrow[…]’” Okay. Mare’s first name an Irish variation on ‘Mary’. Next up is ‘Molly’, which is a diminutive form of ‘Mary.’ The name ‘Mary’ is of Hebrew origin and means ‘bitter.’
So. Mare’s full name is “Mary Mary Barrow”.
Remember this forever.
According to Tiberias, Mary Mary was born “‘November seventeenth, 302 of the New Era, to Daniel and Ruth Barrow’”, which are apparently Pappy Mary Mary and Momma Mary Mary’s names. Tiberias talks about Mary Mary’s criminal record and dispassionately dresses her down: “‘All together you are poor, rude, immoral, unintelligent, impoverished, bitterTM, stubborn, and a blight upon your village and my kingdom.” Tiberias, you don’t have to call her poor twice.
Mare is shocked but agrees internally, which is really…sad. This seems to be a characterization from the pick-pocketing days: Mare doesn’t have much self-regard, and so she thinks anything bad said about her is true. She deserves a hug.
Tiberias gets up and says that while he thinks his assessment is great, Mare is also something he doesn’t understand: “‘So what am I to do with you?’
Is he asking me? ‘You could let me go. I wouldn’t say a word.’”
Italic Abuse: 104
The queen finds this ridiculous: “‘And what about the High Houses? Will they keep silent as well? Will they forget the little lightning girl in a red uniform?’
No. No one will.”
Italic Abuse: 105
So ‘little lightning girl’ is going to be Mare’s YA title, ala “The Girl on Fire” and “The Boy Who Lived”. As far as titles go, it’s pretty condescending. Also not very special, because surely there are electric-powers-having Silvers — are they all ‘lightning people’?
The queen says that she has a solution if Tiberias would just listen, and Cal clenches a fist, making Mare finally look at him. She looks away quickly, though.
Tiberias says that Elara’s right and that he’ll follow her advice: “‘We cannot kill you, Mare Barrow.[…]So we are going to hide you in plain sight where we can watch you, protect you, and attempt to understand you.’”
Cal has an outburst that the “paler, leaner” prince suppresses, and Tiberias continues outlining the queen’s plan as was stated in the summary: “‘Your father was Ethan Titanos, general of the Iron Legion, killed when you were an infant. A soldier, a Red man, took you for his own and raised you in the dirt, never telling you your true parentage.[…]You are Silver, a lady of a lost High House[…]and one day, a princess of Norta.’”
They think this is going to fool the High Houses? Just how stupid do they think the High Houses are? This slapdash story will make it painfully obvious that the royals are just covering their butts and have no idea what to do with Mare.
Mare is shocked: “‘A Silver — a princess?’
My eyes betray me, flying to Cal. A princess must marry a prince.”
Italic Abuse: 115
Ten points because why this.
…in all seriousness, though, why is marriage the first thing on Mare’s mind rather than ‘whoa, shifting of identity that’s different’ or ‘whoa, my entire life has just been swept away by a falling-to-pieces lie’ or ‘whoa, they are hella desperate hmm hmm HMM’? Seriously, the marriage thing is such a non-sequitur that you’d think it was just inserted to establish the love triangle to bump up sales of the book.
And that’d be ridiculous, right?…Right???
Also. Why does she have to be a princess when she could just be a noble? I guess so the royals can keep an eye on her, but they could say she’s a lost noble and ‘out of the goodness of their hearts’ adopt her, trying to rein in her savage Red ways. It’s great propaganda. Then again, the Reducation system shows that the royals suck at such things.
So why a princess?
Mare, the Super Rare: 13
That, and if Mare’s betrothed to one prince and pining over the other (with the Samos siblings on the side to fill the harem), there can be a proper love triangle, and we all know we couldn’t do without that!
The king says that Mare will marry the younger son, Maven, without whining, and Mare is even more shocked. So am I — why are you marrying off your son to a Red whom you dislike and distrust and don’t understand? Are you not worried she’ll kill him in his sleep one night via electrocution? Maybe the royals secretly hate Maven and wish him dead, who knows. Anyway, Maven wants to do something, but Cal restrains him this time, so he settles for verbal protestation, which his mother quickly curbs. Maven glares at Elara but stays silent.
Mare is still stunned and says so: “‘You don’t want to make me a lady, much less a princess’” thank you, Mare, even if your narrative doesn’t make sense you still do.
Tiberias says that actually yes he does want to make her a princess. “‘Here we are, in the early stages of a badly timed rebellion, with terrorist groups or freedom fighters, or whatever the hell these idiotic Red fools call themselves, blowing things up in the name of equality.’”
Wow, usage of ‘fool’ from someone whose voice and background and character befit it! Amazing, book. You’ve come so far. But Tiberias is still being redundant here: ‘idiotic fools’ as opposed to what, ‘highly intelligent fools’?
Mare thinks that Tiberias is more worried about the Scarlet Guard than he’s letting on, and that it’s bigger than a few bombings.
The king goes on to explain his reasoning for making Mare a princess: she might help with the Scarlet Guard problem. Mare again speaks my thoughts: “‘By marrying — sorry, what’s your name again?’”
Maven tells her, blushing — or, at least, his cheeks go white, which Mare assumes is the Silver version of a blush considering their blood’s colour. His voice is soft and quiet, and he is lean with “eyes like clear water” goddamnit this is going to be a Sensitive Guy-Mare-Manly Man love triangle isn’t it.
Maven still doesn’t get why he has to marry Mare — BECAUSE THE BOOK WANTS HER TO BE A PRINCESS THAT’S WHY — and Cal explains that the whole ‘Red-to-riches’ story might give Reds someone else to look up to that’s not the Scarlet Guard, a distraction. But like also: the royals could, idk, just adopt her and make her a princess that way??? Instead of this ~*romance*~-abetting B.S.????? Why is that not an option???????????
Mare tells us that this isn’t a fairytale, “[t]his is a nightmare” —
Italic Abuse: 116
— damn effin right it is, my girl, and only now that the love triangle’s been established does she think about the fact that her life’s been stolen, her past essentially erased. She’s being made “[i]nto one of them. A puppet. A show to keep people happy, quiet, and trampled.”
Italic Abuse: 117
The king is an idiot and hopes that the High Houses will believe this too. Mare looks to Cal to help but “[h]e can’t help [her] here.”
Italic Abuse: 118
Tiberias says that he’s quite serious and reiterates that Mare will be a princess and she will like it! Elara says she’ll tutor Mare to be a proper princess, but that if Mare makes one misstep she’s so dead. Mare asks about her old life and Elara scoffs, but Cal explains to his mother that Mare’s talking about her family. “Gisa, Mom, Dad, the boys, Kilorn — a life taken away.”
Italic Abuse: 119
The king says he’ll give them an allowance to silence them and Mare does some quick bargaining: “‘I want my brothers brought home from the war.’ For once, I feel like I’ve said something right. ‘And my friend, Kilorn Warren. Don’t let the legions take him either.’” I like how much sacrifice the ‘Kilorn=conscripted’ subplot involved. Gisa’s hand, a flaring up of Mare’s self-blaming flaw, and now this — Mare’s whole life. Even if her first concern is the end of her single status.
The king agrees to Mare’s terms, saying “‘Done.’” The chapter ends on the ominous line, “It feels less like a pardon and more like a death sentence.”
ITALIC ABUSE: 119
MARE, THE SUPER RARE: 13
FOOLING AROUND: 12