Last time, Paperman is an asshat, and Colonel Macanthos debuts. This time, montage and telling. So much telling.
“Even though I’m constantly surrounded by servants and Silvers, loneliness sets in.” Alright book that’s dandy but how about you…show us that….instead of just saying so….
She lets us know she doesn’t see C.A.L. much because he’s busy training and leaving the palace to address troops (thank goodness for small mercies).“I suppose I could talk to Maven, with his blue eyes and half smirk, but I’m still wary of him.[…]As nice as he is, my instincts tell me not to turn my back on Elara’s son, that he’s hiding something.”
Yes, Mare!!! Listen to your instincts!!! You don’t have to be BFFLs with Maven right away (or ever) if you’re sketched out by him, especially considering his familial relationships! I am all for Mare watching over herself in regards to her betrothed. He’s just a step down from being the epitome of everything that’s ever oppressed her, so of course she’d be wary.
What bugs me is she doesn’t extend this to C.A.L. From a Doylist perspective I’m gonna say this is painfully obvious, badly done foreshadowing – maybe Maven is, unwittingly or not, involved in a detrimental-to-Mare plot of Elara’s, and the reveal will be all ‘But I trusted you!!!!!’ while Maven insists he didn’t know and angst flies around. Could also be that the book’s trying to create some friction between Mare and Secondary Love Interest Boy, because it’s more interesting to read about the evolution of a relationship rather than it being insta-love. I could appreciate that.
But. But but but. Looking at things from the book’s world’s perspective, Mare’s trust of C.A.L. compared to Maven is ridiculous. Both Maven and C.A.L. have rebelled against or shown outright dislike for Elara, and C.A.L., like Maven, is related to someone who is a direct force of Red oppression. There’s not much practical difference between them, other than one half of their bloodline and the fact that C.A.L. got Mare into this mess in the first place (another point in the favour of ‘why doesn’t Mare distrust C.A.L. more’? Obviously Mare’s disproportionate distrust of Maven isn’t based on logic, so the argument of ‘well C.A.L. didn’t mean for this to happen’ shouldn’t sway her, either.)
There’s no reason given for this discrepancy – in fact, I doubt if the book even realizes it exists. Which is annoying; it could’ve done something interesting with the illogically unequal distrust Mare displays toward Maven – maybe a commentary on bloodlines, since blood is so important in this society. (Of course, the book would have to make a case for Mare distrusting C.A.L. for his paternal bloodline, too.)
Point is, C.A.L. is protected by Plot Amor Armor and it makes me dislike him all the more.
More summarizing. Mare is having fun with Paperman, “[b]ut the going is slow, frustrating us both.” We don’t really get to see any of Mare’s real struggles with calling up her powers – when the book pulls out of summary it just shows how she’s overcome her difficulties by finding a “trigger” for her powers, rather than showing those difficulties at all – which is weak writing and a not-so-sneaky avoidance, but whatever.
So after two pages of summarized ‘work’ Mare has summoned a l’il ball of electricity. It looks harmless, but she remembers that “This power can destroy if I let it.”
Italic Abuse: 170
Paperman, whose awe would mean more if we saw more of Mare’s struggles but WHATEVER, suggests Mare try to move the ball. She chucks it at his emptied bookshelf and it topples and crumbles. Paperman doesn’t care, saying only that they’ll need a bigger classroom.
Next scene opens with more summary: after a week of searching, Mare and Paperman find an underground room they think’ll work. “Here the walls are metal and concrete[…]” um. Does metal not…conduct electricity? So when Mare throws her electricity balls, they won’t dissipate but keep moving around the room? Ooh, maybe Mare will electrocute Paperman. Fingers crossed!
While Mare practices, Paperman, who is shockingly still alive (sorry), takes notes. He measures Mare’s pulse, the heat of an electrified cup, etc. and mutters “‘Fascinating’” at one such inspection. You’re a cliché bore, Paperman, and your stock-character dialogue reflects that.
Mare asks what’s fascinating and Paperman hesitates but actually answers for once: “‘Before you powered up and fried that poor statue[…]I measured the amount of electricity in this room.[…]And now I just measured you.[…]You gave off twice what I recorded before[.]’”
Paperman goes on to tell Mare she produced electrical energy, and Mare and I have the same reaction: so what? Big revelation, Paperman.
But then! “‘No, I thought your ability was the power to manipulate, not create,’ he says, his voice dropping gravely. ‘No one can create, Mare.’”
But what about C.A.L. and Prince Younger Prince, Mare says.
lol no, their little bracelets create itsy-bitsy flames for them to manipulate, Paperman says. “‘Without something to start the fire, they are powerless. All elementals are the same, manipulating metal or water or plant life that already exist.[…]Not like you, Mare.’
Not like me. I’m not like anyone.”
Italic Abuse: 171
Mare, the Super Rare: 15
Paperman goes on to say “‘You are something else entirely. Not Red, not Silver. Something else. Something more.”
Man oh man, I almost want to bump that count up to twenty.
Mare is upset by the revelation, though, so I won’t. Learning this just brings up more questions, as well as tears – she’s even less herself than she thought, and she’s scared. Memories of home pop up, drowning out Paperman’s platitudes about how being different is great!!!, and when Paperman goes to see if Mare’s okay, Mare notices that he’s standing at arm’s length for his own protection. This makes her even more upset, and sparks begin racing up her forearms. Paperman tries to keep his voice steady as he calms Mare, but “[h]e even looks frightened of [her].”
He implores her to maintain control, which makes Mare think about all the things she can’t control – her future, her thoughts, “this ability that is the root of all [her] troubles”. I mean, C.A.L. is a big part of her discovering her zappiness, so he’s the root of the root of her troubles, but I already ranted about this so moving on.
Mare remembers the one thing she can control, her feet, and “like the wretched coward [she] [is], [she] run[s].”
Although no one stops her, she knows she doesn’t have much time before Lucas or the Sentinels find her thanks to the cameras. I wonder if there’s a control room or something where everyone can access the videos, or what – a stationary room wouldn’t do so well unless technicians were feeding Mare’s location into, say, earbuds in the Sentinels ears. Mare pushes on regardless, because “I just need to breathe. I just need to see the sky above me, not glass.”
She finds herself on a balcony, and outside, it’s thunderstorming, matching Mare’s angry tears. The air’s not as warm as usual, reminding Mare that time’s passing and her life is changing as it does.
Suddenly, a pair of Sentinels show up, one grabbing her arm to take her back to Lessons, over Mare’s weak commands. “Maven” comes over to save the day, though.
Italic Abuse: 172
Maven says he’ll escort Mare back to her lessons, and the Sentinels reply with “‘Very well, sir,’ the Sentinels say in unison, unable to refuse a prince.”
Gee, really??? Is that why they’re agreeing despite other orders??? Golly, book, tell me more, couldn’t have figured that out on my own.
The Sentinels leave and Maven informs Mare that “‘[w]e have working showers inside, you know.” Mare manages to respond with similar casualness even as she wipes her eyes. The rain has already washed away her tears, though, but thankfully the Silver makeup holds. Which begs the question of who is making this stuff, for who, and why. Silvers wouldn’t need to use it, right? Are there other Reds in hiding? Is Mare not as super rare as proposed? Hmm.
Maven tells Mare he understands, and Mare rants internally about the complete difference between their situations then says only “‘You can stop pretending to know anything about me or my feelings.’”
Maven gets all pissy about that, with exclamations about “‘You think I don’t know how difficult it is to be here?’” and about how his mom is over-controlling and how C.A.L. outshines him in every way, though for that latter bit of jealousy “The words stick in his mouth. He doesn’t want to say them, but he feels them all the same.” Book. Book, book, book. Stop hand-holding the audience. Did telling us how Maven had to force the words out really need an explanation?
Also, big help you are, Maven, taking Mare’s distress and making it all about you. He apologizes, but not for that, just for the outburst. Mare is more charitable about this than I am, saying “‘It’s nice to hear that I’m not completely alone in feeling out of place.’”
Maven tells her that Silvers are always alone in the head and in the heart and that it keeps them strong. Mare thinks that’s stupid and blessedly refrains from Fooling Around, and Maven chuckles all supervillainly and tells Mare “‘You better hide that heart of yours, Lady Titanos. It won’t lead you anywhere you want to go.’” mehhhhhhhhhh
Mare shivers at Maven’s inappropriately ominous words (more evidence in favour for the ‘Maven=pawn in plan’ hypothesis?) and remembers it’s raining. She starts to head back for lessons, then Maven says he can help her with her problem.
Um what problem, says Mare.
And Maven answers with the chapter’s closing line: “‘You don’t seem like the type of girl to weep at the drop of a hat. You’re homesick.’ He holds up a hand before [Mare] can protest. ‘I can fix that.’”
So, whining about his life instead of providing a listening ear for the girl who just ran out sobbing from her class? Check. Diagnosing her problem for her instead of asking what’s wrong? Check. Talking/gesturing over her? Checkity-check.
Good to know that both princes are meh love interests at best! Better to know that the book doesn’t even notice.
Also, “‘[y]ou’re homesick’” is the ultimate telling-instead-of-showing line of the chapter. I mean, to be fair, the book did show that Mare is homesick, sort of – there was a token half-sentence mention of Kilorn and Gisa a couple pages ago. But:
- Lack of control and fear of hurting Paperman is what made her run away from him.
- The above, and “[Her] life[…]moving on, no matter how much [she] want[s] it to stay the same” is what made her cry. Note that Mare’s not saying she wants her life to go back to the way it was; she wants to keep it the way it is, i.e. in the palace with her new, calm routine. Doesn’t speak much to homesickness.
- A good bit of this chapter is told in narrative summary, and whole weeks have passed without a hint of Mare thinking about home, let alone missing it. So, other than blithely skipping over Mare’s training difficulties, the montage-ness of this chapter also skips over any little signs of homesickness and any build up or strain that would show Mare on the way to this breakdown, making Maven’s/the book’s diagnoses of homesickness seem pulled out of nowhere.
ITALIC ABUSE: 172
MARE, THE SUPER RARE: 15
FOOLING AROUND: 14