Day 3: Favorite male character
I started reading the Circle books less than three weeks ago, and Briar imprinted on me immediately. Some people ascribe their attachment to him to the fact that he’s Tamora Pierce’s only male protagonist, but I think that does our Briar a misservice. The truth is, I like him a lot mofr than some of her female protagonists, and not because he’s a boy.
I like Briar because he’s loyal, because he’s dependable, and because he is, in many ways, unselfishly good. He lost his mother (who was impoverished but loving, a rarity in fiction) grew up on the streets of Hajra, dependent on the uncaring thief lord. But in spite of the way street life is imprinted on him, he doesn’t resist Temple life the way so many “hardened” characters do. He isn’t inherently mistrustful of the adults who takes him in. Rather, he lets them care for him, and becomes adorably devoted to Rosethorn, his prickly maternal-figure. He also quickly becomes attached to his foster sisters. It’s here that we see the way he has retained many of the ideals held by those he knew as a “street rat,” but he transposes them. Rather than categorizing the ways of his old life as “bad” and his new life as “good,” Pierce allows him to repurpose the morality of street gangs into his deep understanding of family and loyalty. As he comes to understand the realities of the manipulatiom he suffered at the hands of the Thief Lord–serparting him current self from his former self–he also begins to discover ways in which he can use his privilege to care for those who don’t have it. This surfaces again and again, in Briar’s Book, in Street Magic, and even in The Will of the Empress.
Not that he’s perfect or flawless–although he sort of is to me. He shuts himself off from his sisters, albeit of a desire to protect them, and I’m sure in Battle Magic we’ll see that he’s done some foolhardy things. But even his womanizing in The Will of the Empress is tempered by notions that are so decidedly Briar, those of a boy whose sisters have had a profound influence on him, in spite of their different backgrounds. Once he gets used to being surrounded by females, he quickly stops being judgemental of them, and the way he plays with them in The Will of the Empress clearly comes with a desire for full awareness on the womens’ parts. Although I’m not sure all of them understood that he wasn’t looking for deep connections, his PTSD was clearly his reason for doing so, and I loved that he recognized that this was symptopmatic once his sisters pointed it out, and came to see reason about the mindhealer when Tris. That’s another thing I like about him, he admits and adapts when he’s been called out. That said, I can’t wait to read Battle Magic to see the events that caused his, well-handled, PTSD.
I also love the way he is with Evvy. He reads her perfectly, and the way he lets her keep her cats is <i>perfect</i>. I basically just adore that he’s a brave, intelligent male protagonist with an inherent respect for the vibrant women he’s surrounded with. I’d love to see him pass this onto a male student, eventually, too. I think the comments he’s made about how there should be better identification of ambient mages, and the way he does all he can to help people who are impoverished without imposing his views on them suggests that we’ll see him start a school or identification organization at some point, something like what Nico does, except to a greater degree. After all, Nico was the one who found him, and the first adult male of the mage class who truly cared for him and whom he trusted.
Also, superficially, I love his tattoos, and the way they symbolize the fact that he can’t totally get rid of his old life, it’s still there, under his skin, but his new life is growing over it, vibrantly. They also symbolize his impetuousness, and his willingness to take things–pain–onto himself to avoid making others uncomfortable. (Which is, to a degree, what the tattoos do, though they also attract attention he doesn’t want).
TL;DR: Briar Moss for everything