Beware, here be spoilers...
“I wish you would thrash him, he deserves it.”
“I will one day, sir, I’m getting tired of falling down.”
Perhaps you could call this section of the book a bit too violent for younger readers. But you have to admire Alanna’s tenacity in the face of her bully’s continuous onslaughts. It would be so easy to give up and accept the unfairness as unavoidable but she doesn’t. She withstands it, then finds her own way around it. And I think that’s what Pierce really captures well: kids (and maybe not just kids) are very, very stubborn when it comes to their own troubles and never give up, even when perhaps they should. And the world of young people isn't necessarily as sheltered and simple as we would like to remember it. Sometimes, a responsible authority figure isn't the solution (or at least, doesn't appear to be when confronted by our own, seemingly insurmountable reality).
I also love the moral dilemmas Alanna faces in these chapters. She’s beginning to understand that fighting and being a knight isn’t all black and white codes of right and wrong. As Miles puts it “moral questions rarely have yes or no answers.”
What particularly strikes me each time is how Pierce shows us a mirror image of Alanna's guilt about her combat triumph with her struggling to accept her magical gift. Learning something new that could see her badly injured doesn’t scare Alanna nearly as much as using her instinctual powers. But not using those powers is akin to lying down and letting someone beat her (or worse, her friends). I’m left thinking that even if you feel something is wrong, risky, underhand or ‘not the way you want to do things’, if you have a skill, then maybe you just have to use it for a just cause.
"Does the Walker choose the path or the path the walker?" -Garth Nix
(Av/sig by Amy!)