This is a long chapter, with a fair bit going on, as we move towards the climax of the book. First, a short flashback of a scene that was skipped over in the last chapter – Nita going back to Wellakh, making sure that the stream of consciousness was taken out of Dairine’s information feed to Dad’s phone, and talking to Neleid again. Neleid mentions that Dairine is really ‘on fire’, as it were, with her sun-wizardry studies, and they talk about the possibility of Dairine sleeping over to avoid the long transits every day, but agree that it doesn’t seem necessary until Neleid and Papa Callahan have their meeting, and before Dairine suggests it herself.
Nita mind-talks with Kit a little before he heads off to church, and asks him to let her know when he’s going to head back to Mars, because she wants to come too, but Kit doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about that. Sure enough, when Nita heads over to the Rodriguez house, Carmela tells her that Kit came home from church and headed straight off to Mars first thing. The girls chat about the work that Carmela is still doing on translating the messages from the archival site in Arsia Mons, and how the text seems to fall into two categories – very slanted, propagandist history, with plenty of loaded adjectives about the struggle between the two factions, and this one evocative poem that doesn’t make much sense yet.
Nita heads off to Mars courtesy of Carmela’s closet, and wanders around for a little while. She ‘overhears’ some of what Aurirelde was telling Kit in his dream, the night before, and figures out that her visionary gift is going on overdrive, and changing its sensory orientation, because of all the wizardry that the ancient Shamask-Eilith put into the superegg, which has now been released over the whole planet. She also worries more about the fact that the Mars kernel is still missing, and tries to find Kit too, only to find that his location is indeterminate.
When Kit first gets to Mars, meanwhile, he immediately finds himself talking to a Khretef persona inside his own head. Khretef explains a little about how he and Aurirelde met, a sort of Shamaska-Eilith Romeo and Juliet story, and guides Kit through the quest that he was undertaking when he died, for the fragment of the Martian kernel that the Eilith stole from the Shamaska. They work together to find their way to the fragment, ‘The shard’, and fight off the robotic scorpions guarding it. When Kit touches the shard, though, it appears to give Khretef control over his body and put Kit’s own persona to sleep.
There’s one other thing that happened in this chapter, which doesn’t appear to be a key plot point, but it’s an important step in something that I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while as a Nita/Kit shipper, which is Nita actually starting to look at her relationship with her partner in a different way. This is before Nita goes over to the Rodriguez house, when she’s worrying about Aurirelde, and her stream of consciousness nearly finishes the thought ‘Why’s she coming after my boyfriend?’
There Nita stopped. From what seemed about a thousand years ago came the memory of Dairine’s voice: Nita’s got a boyfriend! Nita’s got a boyfriend! At the time it had been an annoyance, like being accused of having a large and unusually noticeable pimple — especially since there had been much more interesting things going on. Now, though, a she’d occasionally done over the last year or so, Nita held the word up against her and looked at it, the way she might have looked at a new skirt she was thinking about buying. Boyfriend… is it really that bad?
She tried to consider the word dispassionately. It’s not as if he’s not good-looking. Especially since he hit that growth spurt and got so tall. This in particular had been turning some of the girls’ heads at school, as Kit’s early stockiness had shaken down into a leaner look. And he’s funny. And smart. And he’s a wizard.
Interesting how for a change, instead of coming first, that idea came last… Once again Nita wondered whether the B-word was something she might safely say out loud, one of these days when the moment seemed right… But that thought immediately cast a long shadow of fear across the whole train of thought: the idea that Kit might hear the word… and not agree. Where would Nita be then? Everything would be ruined. Was it worth chucking years of shared wizardry, a partnership that until now had pretty much worked fine, over a word?
She sighed and mentally put the word back on the rack.
This is not the last time in the book that we hear the B-word mentioned by Nita in reference to Kit, so this passage counts as foreshadowing and setup for the other incidents. There’s a few things that occur to me as I read it. One is the delightful callback all the way to the very end of ‘So you want to be a Wizard’, which is a moment that I dearly loved. The entire passage is just a beautiful example of Nita’s voice, and an excellent example of writing with style on Diane’s part.
More particularly, I like the way that the word ‘boyfriend’ is seen as a powerful thing, compared to an item of clothing that could be worn, and how at the end of the passage Nita is portrayed as being afraid of that power; afraid that if she misuses the word, it could have disastrous consequences, afraid that it’s something that she’s not ready for. Like the recurring theme of honesty, this is a good example of how a wizard’s stock and trade would affect their personal lives and philosophy of life – ‘if you describe something a certain way, that changes it.’ Possibly, like the Wizard’s Oath says about living creatures, Nita doesn’t want to use a new word to describe her relationship with Kit, and possibly change it, until the old partnership is threatened, or until she realizes that their relationship needs to become something new in order to keep growing.
This is the last week before the A-Z challenge starts, so I won’t be keeping these review chapters on specific days of the week anymore, but I’ve got a few letter days earmarked for further posts. One may be filed under ‘A wizard of Mars’, if I can manage to get it sorted out by Friday.