Chivalry in the Time of Plague: Episode Notes

A 3d Print book of Alanna: The First Adventure (her holding up a sword) next to a phone with the new UK cover on it (a green background with a more abstract design)

Welcome to the Hot Nuance Book Club, where it is time for the plague, complicated feelings about femininity, and also horses. Is there anything more heroic than telling Death it can’t have your friend? Is there anything hotter than a blacksmith? Is Roger a weird blogger? All these questions and more will be discussed in today’s hefty episode.

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Produced by Aradia | Fox And Raven Media


The Song of the Lioness, Alanna: The First Adventure. Chapters 4 – 5: Chivalry in the Time of Plague

0:00:10 Introduction, welcome, and Patreon thanks

Ali: Welcome to Hot Nuance Book Club, a podcast in which a novelist, a screenwriter and an editor walk into a book from their childhoods, diving into its craft and impact in their mission to bring nuance back. I’m Ali, and I’m a screenwriter, most recently for Rugrats, and also something I can’t talk about – and the co-host of the podcast Wheel Takes and also the creator of the Grinwell Cup, which is starting, as of this recording, in two days on Twitter.

Bree: Woo hoo! I’ve been training. I’m getting ready. I’m going to come back to Twitter.

Ali: You’re getting ready to fight on Twitter? I promise you, our first poll, I might be out to destroy this fandom. I really might be.

Bree: We need to burn off some steam.

Ali: I honestly hurt myself with this first poll. I really did. I came up with it and I was like, It has to happen based on my line up, but I hate it for me and I hate it for everyone else. So that’s that. We’ll see on March 1st.

Bree: Always the best ones.

Aradia: Oh, boy. Oh boy. Only the most wholesome of absolute knockout, drag down fighting.

Ali: Of course. We’re only being nice to each other while fighting.

Aradia: But it’s going to be vicious. There will be so much acrimony, but it will be the best, most loving acrimony. So links for that will be in the episode description. Come join us in an absolute nonsense bash fest.

Ali: It’s so silly and I love it so much.

Aradia: I’m Aradia, I’m one half of the Wheel of Time Spoilers podcast, currently rereading Knife of Dreams, a podcast editor for Fox and Raven Media, and your pilot for this season of Hot Nuance.

Bree: And I’m Bree, also known as one half of the bestselling sci fi fantasy romance author Kit Rocha, well known for the Horny Dragon Book, which came out in November, and the sequel, which comes out in August. I’m about to get started sending out ARCs of that. I’m going to get the print copy sometime this week. I’m very excited.

Ali: Woo!

Bree: So yay, very exciting for me.

Ali: I’m so excited. I’m excited for me getting to read it. That’s what I’m excited for me about. I’m also obviously excited for you.

Bree: Yes. Co-hosts do get early copies.

Aradia: Mwahahaha.

Ali: I can’t wait.

Aradia: Happy for all of us.

Ali: I’m so excited. I didn’t know if I was getting a copy or no and I didn’t want to be that person. So I was just sitting here –

Bree: You are both getting print copies.

Ali: Ooh, am I pleased or am I pleased? I’m so pleased. I need to know what happens to Sachi. I need to know. I imprinted on her.

Bree: Lots, lots.

Ali: And Zanya, of course, who I also imprinted on, and our grumpy dragon.

Currently we’re nuancing our way through the Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. So if you haven’t read that yet, go do that and come back when you have. For the rest of you, let’s break it down now.

Bree: But before we jump into the time machine this week, we have a Patron to thank, so yay!

Ali: Oh my God!

Bree: All of our episodes will always remain free.

Ali: Don’t tell them that.

Bree: I have to.

Ali: It cost money. I’m just kidding.

Bree: (laughs) If you would like access to an ad free version of the podcast, you can support us at, and the link will be in the episode notes.

Aradia: There are also more levels where you can get fun rewards, like secret discord channels, stickers, an invite to an end of book ,live via zoom book club with us, and of course, Patreon shout outs.

Ali: This week we have one new Patron to thank. Thank you to our new Hot Nuance Patron, Silkthread Valentine. That’s a pretty and awesome name.

Aradia: Ooh. Pretty name. Very February themed name.

Ali: I’m curious as to how they came up with it, I’m interested.

Bree: Very cool. Yes. If you’re on the discord, you must tell us. And if you’re not, you could join the discord and tell us. Or you can lurk, we love lurkers. So anyway, thank you so much for the support.

Aradia: We appreciate you!

Bree: It helps us pay our wonderful transcriptionist, who provides these wonderful transcripts which you could find on our website. When I put them up after she’s finished with them.

(Anna during the transcribing: Awww. Thank you. I’m blushing)

Aradia: It’s a process.

Bree: Which I try to do promptly. It’s a work in progress. And this is also a reminder that we have entered a new era for the Hottest Nuance Patrons. During the last book, if you subscribe at the highest level, we gave you your own custom patron saint name, since we were reading Melanie Rawn and she had a calendar of Saints. Since we have not gotten a new Hottest Nuance Patron while reading Tamora Pierce yet, we have not decided what they’re going to be. I guess the first person who signs up, are we going to give you a magical horse? Are we going to knight you the Knight of something?

Ali: I thought – Yeah, I was thinking knighting. Knighting could be cool.

Aradia: We’re just declaring them a knight?

Bree: I think knight titles, like What are you the Knight of?

Ali: The Knight of – yeah, of nights, evenings.

Bree: So I’m going to be the Knight of fighting chivalry. Let us get into the time machine before we do that.

Ali: I’m the Knight of Jonathan Defenders, I suppose.

0:05:43 Aradias’s Time Travel Adventures

Aradia: Well, I’m the Knight of driving this time machine. So, everyone, welcome to Aradia’s definitely reliable time travel adventures. Please keep your hands, feet, tails, tentacles, and other parts inside the car as we take you back to the 1980s. Also, there are pretzels on the snack bar to your left. Please help yourself. (swooshing sound)

Our second stop is still in February of 1983. So for science news, since we’re doing the plague chapter today, I thought that we should think about medicine in 1983. And it turns out that in February of 1983, the HIV virus itself was isolated by virologists.

Ali: Woah.

Aradia: February of 1983 is when we actually got our mug shot of what was causing the AIDS crisis. So that was a really important turning point.

Ali: Yeah. Yeah.

Bree: So that’s crazy, because this is 40 years ago. I mean, 41 years ago. But yeah, that is wild, how much progress we made in my lifetime. I don’t know if there were treatments, like when you guys were old enough to know, but when I was younger still – because I remember the early eighties, the mid eighties. Well, not the early eighties. I remember the mid to late late eighties. And there were still like, you know – I mean, basically Reagan neglecting the hell out of everyone and everything, and just pretty much us being the worse as a country. And I’m glad that there are a lot of ways that we have improved on that, but also a lot of ways that we need to improve so much fucking more.

Aradia: Yeah, I would describe my understanding as being through the lens of Rent the Musical.

Ali: Yes. Okay. I was like, Why was that –

Aradia: That’s my understanding of the AIDS crisis – at the time. I mean, obviously I’ve gone beyond that now.

Ali: Yeah, it was that. And then I went to my mom and talked about it. Because I feel like many people in my bracket, my demographic, went through a Rent phase, like a hard core rent phase. I was very much a musical theater kid in school. And so, but my mom would talk to me about – she was a lawyer in San Francisco at the time – And like, would talk to me about what that was like and, you know, how awful and scary it was. Yeah, but to make this funny, to steer it into a funny direction, I was talking to Gus – and you know, when you’re married, you start asking each other really random questions, because you’re like, I know all the things about you, so now I’m going to ask you really dumb shit.

Bree: Of course, eventually you have to.

Aradia: Yeah, well, yeah.

Ali: So I tried to, I said, Who do you think is the hottest president? That’s what I wanted to know. You know, if you were DTF a president, which president would it be? And he thought about it for a second and was like, Ronald Reagan’s the hottest, because he’s burning in hell.

Bree: (short scream of laughter)

Aradia: That is a Grinwell Cup answer right there.

Ali: I was like, Damn! Barely hesitated, barely hesitated. I was like, okay.

Bree: I mean, I hate to disagree with Gus, but like, a lot of American presidents probably are, but that’s okay. Reagan’s definitely burning.

Ali: The question is, What circle, Do you know what I mean? Now he’s flamboyant, you know?

Aradia: He he he. Flambé-oyant. So moving from science over to culture, on the topic of stolen horses, we get our, Was the horse stolen moment in this section today. And while Moonlight may not have been stolen in 1983, a horse named Shergar was stolen from his stud farm in Ireland, never to be reclaimed. According to Wikipedia, which is a very authentic source for information, he was stolen by the IRA to raise money for arms, but he panicked and hurt himself within a few days, causing the IRA to have to put him down and bury the body in an unknown location.

Ali: Oh no! No, these facts are so sad! My God, 1983. What was going on? Okay.

Bree: That must have been one valuable horse.

Aradia: Extremely valuable.

Bree: I mean, of all the things you could steal.

Ali: I mean, horses are really expensive.

Aradia: He was an American racehorse, that was like a special breed. Fancy, fancy, wins a bunch of races. And then he got retired to a stud farm in Ireland. And it was very prestigious. And so the Irish stealing him to raise money was like a very – Yes, yes, that was a valuable horse. And then he accidentally killed himself, because horses are delicate snowflakes.

Bree: Because you know what? Horses are probably not easy to probably not fence. Who are you to sell a horse to?

Ali: I was gonna say, a horse heist?

Bree: Like, open your jacket. You’ve got a horse under it.

Ali: And how do you hide it? Like, I just. I find this to be. The ending is obviously very sad, but very much movie material of like, what a weird idea. And also what a weird thing to do. Like, no disrespect at all intended to anybody involved, but I just am trying to imagine the meeting in which someone’s like, Let’s steal this horse. And everyone was like, Yes. That’s what we have to do. I mean, history is so janky sometimes, where you’re just like, somebody really came up with that idea and then everyone was like, Yeah, let’s do that. That’s a great plan. Excellent idea. I don’t know. I’m like, Was there no other way to make money?

Bree: There is a Leverage episode with horses. So, you know, I guess if you need a horse hijinx, you can go find the Leverage episode where they have to fake – I think it’s, let’s go steal a racehorse. I don’t know, maybe some weird racehorse hijinx. All it did was convince me that horses are a very complicated hijinx medium, and I definitely would not steal one.

Ali: I mean, I feel like it’s a bad plan.

Bree: Just no, I mean.

Aradia: Yeah, I would not. Horses are delicate and huge at the same time. This seems just like so many things are going to go wrong.

Bree: Oh, yeah. Like anything will make a horse mad and, like, kill itself. Horses are just, like, the most delicate –

Aradia: They’re so delicate.

Bree: – fragile creatures, that also want to bash your head in.

Aradia: They’re so heavy and so fragile.

Ali: Well, their legs make no sense.

Aradia: They’re walking on their middle fingers. They’re just flipping off the world with every step.

Ali: Have you seen a newborn horse’s hoof, what it looks like?

Aradia: I’ve seen the pictures. Yeah.

Ali: Haunting. They’re haunting. Look it up right now, Bree.

Bree: I’m live reacting.

Ali: It’s actually the creepiest fuck- and listen, I love a good horse, right?. I obviously established that at this point. I think they’re really gorgeous. It’s not for me, just because –

Bree: (shouts) Woah!

Ali: I know.

Bree: The fuck??

Ali: I saw that the other day. I was like, this is fucked up. This lives in my head. I can’t unsee it. It’s like the weirdest looking thing I’ve ever seen. So, yeah, I don’t know how we saw that and didn’t run screaming from horses, but I guess we persevered through the initial horror of what their newborn feet look like. But, they’re on stilts! They’ve got these big ass bodies and they’re on stilts. Those legs break like nobody’s business, and then there’s nothing they can really do. It’s not like they can have a tripod horse. So like, the design flaw is very real. Also, I interrupted my honeymoon with Gus one time at one point, because I saw a horse in a field, and then I got very distracted about the fact that they have butt cheeks, and dogs don’t, my cats don’t. And it really was like, Why do horses – I really was like, Why do horses have butt cheeks, and we have butt cheeks, but cats and dogs don’t have butt cheeks, and that’s really bothering me. And Gus is like, We’re on our honeymoon. And I was like, I need to research horse asses right now, like, I’m interrupting – This is how ADHD works. Like, people don’t understand. I don’t get to control.

Bree: Welcome to the Hot Nuance Horse Anatomy podcast.

Ali: I don’t get to control what interests me all of a sudden, and the fact that horses have butt cheeks bothered the shit out of me. So I looked it up. I looked it up, and apparently it had bothered other people too, because there were papers about it.

Bree: Very amazing.

Ali: It had something to do with – because we’re the only animals with the overdeveloped gluteus maximus and that’s because we’re standing on our feet instead of crawling around. So it’s not that. It’s the gluteus minimus as a muscle, like overdeveloped in horses, I think to help them run faster. Which I guess, they sacrificed the leg development, they skipped leg day for ass day.

Bree: Rock on, horses.

Ali: Sorry. That took us on a tangent.

Bree: Did you know we were going to go here?

Aradia: I did not know, but I never know where we’re going in this podcast, and I love it. Also, in 1983 Tamora Pierce said, If you don’t like the charming guy that everyone else adores, you might be on to something.

Ali: All right.

Aradia: Which honestly, I super appreciated as a message when I was a little kid. So, yeah. Welcome to the First Adventure of Alanna in the Kingdom of Tortall. Let’s go.

Ali: Let’s go.

Bree: Let’s go. I’m going to fight the concept of chivalry. Like, right in this opening paragraph.

0:15:15 Music break. Chapter 4: Neurodivergent Life Hacks

Aradia: All right, so, everyone remember, get your pretzels. We’ve got a fight coming up. Just concessions, you know, go to the bathroom, get yourself organized, because we have a fight coming up. Because we’re starting out with chapter four, Death in the Palace, which does not start with death. It starts with Alanna becoming Stockholm Syndromed to the concept of chivalry. So take it away, Bree.

Bree: Yeah, we had an interesting conversation on the discord this week, basically about the tropes of school books, books where people go off to these special schools, and they meet the bullies, and they learn the rules and everything, like the different beats of that. And one thing I was thinking about this is – because people were also like, you know, we were talking about young adults. So in a young adult book, the parents are, and the adults in general, have to be a little bit negligent in order for the kids to have their agency. usually. Right. Because otherwise, why would kids be allowed to go off and do this stuff?

Ali: Bluey is an exception. Those adults are flawless.

Bree: Because like last week we were like, Where are the fucking adults? And I do think it’s interesting, because I think that in this it’s made very clear to us that the adults knew everything that was going on and they are very proud. Or at least Duke Gareth is extremely proud of Alan of Trebond for not tattling, and for just dealing with the bully himself by pounding him into paste.

Ali: I could not disagree more with that philosophy. As somebody who has loved many, loved being an adult presence in children’s lives, like please tell adults – on the off chance that there’s a youth listening to this. Go to the adults in your life with information, especially if someone’s like, Don’t tell the adults. Like, that’s the time we must tell the adults. Oh my God.

Bree: You guys, this is not a visual medium, but Ali was pushing her fingers to her temples in rage. And Zoom apparently thought she was doing the –

Ali: The peace sign.

Bree: Peace sign. It started putting balloons up over her face. So, celebration.

Ali: The balloons come at the best reasons, the balloons keep coming at the best time. I’m reluctant to get rid of them because they’re so funny. I don’t know how to get rid of them, bBut even if I did, I wouldn’t.

Bree: It’s amazing. This is why Myles drinks, by the way. So I don’t think Tamora is putting this in here unquestioned. This is clearly her exploring this sort of toxic masculinity idea of what it is to be an honorable man. And Myles doesn’t agree. Myles is over there knocking back the liquor because he thinks that this is all stupid.

Ali: It is.

Bree: Which, me and Myles, same page, bro.

Ali: Yeah, Myles and I are copacetic for sure.

Bree: So like, this is not criticism. So I want to make it clear that when I say, Where the fuck are the adults?, I’m not criticizing Tamora Pearce’s writing here. I think she is very deliberately doing this. This is a very deliberate – and I don’t think it’s wrong. I think that this is pretty much what you would expect to see from a militaristic honor training program, which is why those are bad.

Aradia: Right.

Ali: Well yeah, I feel like this is a really good example of having characters with points of view, right? Because people talk all the time about like, Oh, you can’t have characters that are bad anymore or whatever, or have things happen in narratives that are bad anymore. And I’m like, I just could not disagree more. I think that this is exemplifying the clear difference between the character’s opinion and point of view and the author’s opinion and point of view, that she’s using this as an enhancement of her thesis about why toxic masculinity is bad. Because it does things, like forces Alanna to take care of something at an age where this is not something that she should be worried about or taking care of – she’s legitimately worried about her life with that kid, and no adult was stepping in to help take care of that situation? That’s wrong, and I feel like this is a really good example of the writer very clearly presenting a point of view that is not their own. And then, without stepping on the soapbox and being like, this is wrong, but clearly showcasing that this person is not a mentally healthy human being and maybe we shouldn’t be applying that to our life experience.

Aradia: I think it’s especially interesting too, because she does it with you mostly in Alanna’s head, and Alanna doesn’t question it. You get all of that interrogation from the people around Alanna – and a bit from Alanna’s own growth arc, cause she’ll so often return to the concept of chivalry to reconsider it in the light of some new experience – But it’s nice to have the main character not necessarily agreeing with the author. I think that that’s an interesting balance for the author to be able to strike.

Ali: Yeah, I think that’s fun. Sorry, Bree, you go first, because you had a thing. But yes, Aradia, I completely agree with you.

Bree: Well, my next thing is a little, like, sidestep. Because I highlighted the thing where she thinks, Once you know the rules, life is pretty simple. Because I was like, That is a neurodivergent moment right there. She just figured it out, the life hack!

Aradia: (laughs) There’s a lot of neurodivergent life hack advice in these two chapters, honestly.

Bree: So she processes this whole thing by going, Now I understand the rules, so I’ll just do the rule thing. And I was like, Relatable!

Ali: The amount of like, Oh, smile – like now this is, like in the back of my brain when I’m talking to somebody, the amount that I’m going, Okay, now is the moment that you smile, okay? This is the moment that you need to show you’re engaged. This is the moment where you blink, make sure you’re blinking. All this stuff! And then I’m like, Okay, now listen, listen really good. Okay. Wow, you’re doing such a good job listening. You might be the best listener that’s ever been. Wow, you’re such a good listener. And then all of a –

Bree: 30 Rock. Jenna’s listening song?

Ali: Yes. And then all of sudden I was like, Oh, I’m not listening at all. Actually, I was just thinking about what a good listener I am and how good I’m doing it, conversation.

Aradia: Yeah, The moment when you learn that not everyone thinks like that is a really weird moment.

Ali: Shocking, it’s shocking. And yeah, it’s so funny, because looking back on some of the stuff with these characters I identified with, like Alanna, I’m like, Oh, we were there, we were there. They just never came out and said that that’s what we were, but we were definitely there, living, being people.

Aradia: And then the popularity of the books made me think that everyone felt like that. I’m like, Ah, lots of people read these books. Clearly lots of people feel this way. And then the evidence has been mixed so far on that hypothesis.

Ali: I’m also like, how cool that we’re getting these kind of breakdowns of toxic masculinity, prior to us really having that as a consistent part of our vocabulary. I know we were talking about masculinity and femininity at the time, obviously, but this kind of takedown of masculinity is really interesting.

Bree: Yeah. I mean, I think that whether or not we knew we were internalizing it, we definitely were. It was normalizing certain things in our little baby brains, you know, and then challenging certain things, setting it so that it would be easier to have these discussions later, I think. I mean, I appreciate that.

Ali: Yeah, I feel like we were at a point where it was like, girls pursuing the masculine was allowed and cool, girls pursuing the feminine was kind of gross and dumb, but there wasn’t a lot of – obviously there’s a lot of nuance there. I feel like there were definitely people doing that work, but I felt like on the whole, when I was growing up, it was like, Shun pink, that’s uncool. Shun the things that are too feminine, right? Be a cool girl, be, you know, willing to watch football.

Bree: Yes. The overcorrection.

Ali: Yes. Yeah. And then it’s like, the women can do anything, which means women have to be everything, right? That overcorrection. But I feel like it’s cool to see that at that moment I was reading Alanna and there’s this kind of narrative of, Okay, but going hyper masculine and doing all of those weird chivalry things, and these values are not necessarily excellent either. So maybe we don’t need to overcorrect like this, either.

Aradia: Myles would agree with you.

Bree: Yeah.

Ali: And I love that Alanna doesn’t have that kind of come to Jesus yet, you know. That we get the thesis –

Bree: No, no, She’s still in a, Girl things are dumb place, and that’s okay, because, you know, I think, growth. Right,

Ali: We can’t have characters be perfect. Yeah.

Bree: If you start off with your protagonists who they need to be –

Ali: Then where do you go? Yeah, It’s just like, if you start a scene at a ten, there’s nowhere for the scene to go. It’s got to be like, things have to build and escalate and we have to let our characters have flaws. But I think this is a good example of letting our main character and our characters have flaws, without like – when we don’t agree with those. And it’s clear that the author doesn’t agree with them, even though that’s what’s being said. I think that’s cool – that’s a hard thing to do. And I think it’s a really cool balance that she strikes really carefully and thoughtfully. It’s clear that – I feel like, especially when you’re writing stuff for young people, you want to be very thoughtful about the things that you’re saying because you never know what can be internalized or even done. I saw this thing, there was some movie where they had to cut a scene, because the characters were doing a dangerous act and then young boys were copying it and getting hurt, you know? And so they cut the scene from the movie, even though the movie had already been released, because they were worried that –

Aradia: Wow.

Ali: Yeah, So I think it’s clear that Tamora Pierce takes that responsibility really seriously and is striking that really careful balance between soapboxing, versus letting your characters have flaws versus, you know, wanting to also make sure that you’re giving the people the message that they need to hear. I think she’s doing it really well. That’s really hard to do.

Bree: I think that this book has – I mean, for a book that was written 40 years ago – and because part of this podcast started because people are always trying to forgive Robert Jordan for writing anything weird, because it was the early nineties. And it’s like, you know, I feel like this is a perfect example. This is the early eighties, and I think that she’s got more nuance here about gender in this part right here than some of the problems that we sometimes cite with Wheel of Time. So I think that she was – now, not all of it’s going to hold up and it’s going to be some stuff we talk about in this section that I highlighted. But 40 years is a long time!

Ali: It is a long time.

Bree: For something to, you know, still feel like it can resonate with you.

Ali: Yeah. It still feels relevant. I mean, I would still have my kid read this book.

Aradia: Very much so. Very much so.

Ali: Yeah. Because that’s not true of everything I used to love, you know?

Bree: No. Definitely not.

0:27:30 Chivelry in the Time of Plague.

Aradia: For sure. Moving forward: basically, plague.

Ali: Plague.

Aradia: Basically the plague strikes, a very definite, magical, selective, nefarious, malicious plague. But, yeah, you know, we’re all still living through a plague, so it hits a little differently than when I was a kid and was not yet experienced in living through a plague.

Bree: Yeah, really.

Ali: Yeah, whoa.

Aradia: But, yeah, what happens here is, one city gets hit with this horrible sweating sickness, and it’s very clear that it was a specific, targeted, magical attack. But everyone’s suffering from it. It’s not like just a couple of people, the whole ass city is suffering, so that sucks. But our main cast is very carefully either in danger or not in danger, according to their plot purposes. Right? Myles drinks so much that he doesn’t get sick, which is fun. He drinks to ward off the chivalry –

Bree: Good job.

Aradia: – the cognitive dissonance of chivalry. But it also works for warding off magical illness, which is great. And Coram can’t get sick because it’s just too soon to have a parental figure in danger. And Alanna can’t get sick because she’s our hero. But other people do get sick and that drives the plot.

Ali: Other people do get sick, and die.

Bree: This explains to me why I did not remember Francis. I was like, Why did I not remember Francis? Because at least I kind of remembered Raoul and Gary. And I’m like, Yep, this is why I did not remember Francis.

Aradia: That’s every time I reread this book, I’m like, Francis, why don’t I remember Francis? And then he fucking dies.

Ali: Poor Francis. Francis did not die for this, for you to disrespect Francis in this way.

Bree: Pour one out for Francis.

Ali: My God. Poor Francis. Yeah.

Bree: RIP.

Ali: I don’t know how I would feel were I Francis, and Alanna had these powers, and did not use them to save me – Now, listen, Alanna’s got a journey, Alanna’s got feelings. Alanna is ten, right?

Aradia: She’s 11 now.

Ali: 11 now.

Bree: She may be 11 now, but still that’s not much older.

Aradia: Yeah, she turned 11 when the new year turned, around.

Ali: But, you know, I get that that decision was made, but I would be like, Really? You had the ability this whole time to save my life and you didn’t.

Aradia: Well, I mean, his death is not in vain because it spurs her to offer up her magic and be like, even though I’m afraid of using it, I’m going to use it.

Ali: Save the hot men. Maybe if Francis had been a little cuter.

Aradia: Oh, try being cuter, maybe she’ll save you.

Ali: Exactly. Maybe if she had a little bit of a crushy crush on you, maybe she would have saved you.

Bree: I do want to call out one line that I highlighted from when everybody starts getting sick. It said “Instead Alanna made beds, washed dishes, cleaned the stables. She had been taught from birth that no job was too dirty for a true noble.” And I’m like, okay, you know, I don’t like nobility, but if this is an ethos we’re training into these noble kids? I don’t hate that. Because that’s very different from what you see a lot, where they’re like, disdain the servants and the menial work.

Ali: Yeah.

Bree: So yeah, I’m mad at chivalry still. But if they’re going to have to get all these kids together and teach them weird shit, at least teach them that too, I guess.

Ali: Yeah. That there is a noblesse oblige?

Aradia: Yeah, it’s nice to have the internal consistency in a way that YA books can really have. Anything written for adults is going to be like, No, there’s nuance and it’s complicated. In YA it’s just like, what it says on the tin is what you will get inside. That’s just what it is. And it’s beautiful.

Ali: (sighs) Yeah. I mean, I like to picture a world in which the upper classes go this hard to support lower class people, that would be really sick. That would be great.

Bree: Yeah. I mean, she’s like, Yeah, I’m going to make beds and wash dishes and muck out the stables.

Ali: As opposed to fleeing to their vacation homes, right? They’re there, mucking out the stables and taking care of the common folk. That’s great. Yeah. You know, I think that’s good.

Bree: Could have been a very different world. Instead, they’re like, you know, profiteered off of us during Covid. Just a little, little different set of priorities.

Ali: But I really got emotional during this chapter, in that scene where Alanna is working to save Jonathan. Are we ready to talk about that yet or am I jumping the gun?

Aradia: We’re getting there. We’re getting there, Yeah, basically Jon falls sick after Alanna goes to Myles and is like, Am I a bad person for not being magic at my highest capacity? He’s like, I don’t know, it’s morality, it’s complicated. And then Jon gets sick and that decides the issue.

Ali: Because he’s hot, to her. He’s obviously a child, but to her, if we’re looking at it from her perspective.

Aradia: And he’s the prince, right. This is again, we’ve got this nobility structure that’s actually worthwhile and whole and sound and like internally consistent. So this noble son of the king who’s all excellent, it’s really important he not die, right? The entire chivalric honey hive orients around the royal family. Right? He is a really important person. So he has to be saved. And for some fucking reason – this part really was getting me and throwing me out of of the immersion this time reading it – Apparently all the doctors, the best doctors that the highest most rich people have, don’t know the basics of medicine and yet the head doctor of the palace immediately listens when Alanna and Myles call out the incense and prayers as being deeply unhelpful. For some reason, this guy is in charge and allowed the sick room to become a bear circus. But as soon as someone points out that the emperor is not wearing any clothes, he’s like, Yeah, you’re right. I’m the surgeon general. And I say, this is nonsense. I’m like, Why did the surgeon general let this bear circus develop in the first place?

Bree: I looked at it more as, finally someone with a title showed up who can kick these fuckers out?

Ali: Yeah, I think so too.

Aradia: Oh. I thought he had a title. I thought that he had power.

Bree: I mean, his title is Chief Healer, but he doesn’t have land. He doesn’t seem landed or like, you know, nobility.

Aradia: Okay. All right. I hate the system again.

Bree: It doesn’t seem to be part of the peerage, as it were.

Ali: I also thought it was that thing of, like Bree said, that the adults have to be in YA stuff a little bit – Well, here’s the thing. I think we’re moving away from that a little bit in terms of the adults being negligent?

Aradia: Incompetent.

Ali: Yeah. I think for some reason that was a very eighties, nineties, latchkey kid thing where it was like, you’re kind of left to yourself, and like now I feel like parents tend to be, you know, watching things with their kids and stuff. So there’s been a bit of a movement away from, you know, the dumb parent trope and it’s more like – it’s just not as true anymore. Parents are really involved. But I think that for this, yeah, it’s a little bit of that. Also the kids are the more competent people in this because it’s written for kids, you know what I mean?

Bree: Well, maybe he does have a title because I think he’s Duke Baird. So he does have a title, but it says that he’s a beat man and I think maybe he’d just given up, because there was no point in messing with this. So I don’t know. I think that’s a good question. Let’s see, what happened?

Aradia: Maybe.

Bree: I didn’t twig it, so I didn’t read it very closely. Let me look.

Aradia: Yeah, it’s also, I think, another trope of rural medicine versus urban medicine, which is a very real trope in terms of our real lives, cities are death traps until like 200 years ago.

Ali: True.

Aradia: They’re just, you all die. Healthy people have to keep replenishing the cities from the countryside. So I do think that there’s a bit of that going on, too, she might be from this rural fiefdom, but also that means that she has more common sense than the entire, you know, Ivy League academy people that are in the fancy city.

Ali: You just made me realize that common sense might come from being common.

Bree: Well, to be clear, though, they’re not trying to heal him. That’s clear, right? These people aren’t trying to heal him. They’re giving him his last rites.

Ali: Yes. They think he’s dead.

Bree: They’ve just skipped past trying to fix him.

Aradia: Sure. Which, odd call.

Bree: So I think that she came in and basically Myles was like, Let’s try to heal him. And then when he dies, you can do this.

Ali: Yeah, I think so, too.

Bree: Yeah, that’s what the Dark God’s people were.

Aradia: Yeah, I just. Yeah, it’s weird to me how the best, the best care is death.

Bree: No, I think it’s a fair thing to feel weird.

Ali: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know. I feel like maybe they just assumed he was toast, which I think he probably was. It’s implied he probably would have been if Alanna hadn’t stepped in and used her magic to save him. So maybe he was beyond their help.

Aradia: Yes, that’s – They gave up on him before he was dead.

Bree: Yeah. I mean, that’s what it says, that “The healer had learned that people stricken badly from the first always died.” So they were just like, Let’s just get a head jump start on the last rites here.

Aradia: Why not just put a pillow on his face and finish it up?

Bree: I mean, that’s kind of what they are doing. Incense, a pillow.

Ali: I mean, there are people that go into hospice, right? There are people that are beyond the help of medical professionals now. There is a point where they’re like, I guess, go home and get your family around you. Right? You know, or Let’s call the last rites guy.

Aradia: But it’s usually, Let’s make you comfortable. And instead they’re shouting Latin at him and choking him with frickin incense.

Ali: Listen, that feels very true, when it comes to the frickin old timey medicine. I feel like we don’t see as much of that in the Wheel of Time and stuff. How that medicine is – because obviously they have magical Aes Sedai that can heal things – but how a lot of it was just superstition and, you know, that’s how everyone else is doing it. And I feel especially for a royal death – because there’s this weird phenomenon where sometimes the more powerful you were, the more the doctors killed you because they were just poking around in your wounds and shit.

Aradia: Sure. Sure. Yeah.

Ali: Like, I think there are several – at least one president died just because people wouldn’t stop poking that wound and putting their dirty hands in it.

Aradia: Yeah, I’m sure I’ve heard of monarchs that died of, like, being bled when they just had a head cold. And it’s like, You could have just not done that and he would have gotten over it and it would have been fine.

Ali: It’s almost like blood loss is a bad thing. I think that, you know, they’re like, last ditch effort, we’re at prayer at this moment.

Bree: And they don’t listen to her. They listen to Myles. I do think that that’s pretty clear, too. And then the healer is like, Thank God, somebody who can bully them is here to kick them out. Now, the fact that the healer is just like, I guess, but I think, Myles, I mean – and this is the thing, I still don’t entirely remember what Myles’ arc in the series is. I mean, I’m pretty sure he’s important. And I think I maybe remember what he does later, but I don’t for sure.

Ali: I’m honestly not remembering a single thing.

Aradia: I love that for you both, so much. I love that for our audience.

Bree: But it’s clear here that he’s got influence, because everyone’s just like, Okay, we’ll just leave Mylesand this random 11 year old in here with the dying heir to the kingdom. Sure. Do some experimental magic, see what happens.

Ali: But yeah, I mean, I think part of that’s the YA of it all. And I feel like part of it is, they must be really frickin desperate at this point, if they’re letting an 11 year old just, like, poke around.

Aradia: Yeah, well, at this point, they’re very sure that this is like an act of attack, you know? So it’s like, yeah, I guess, sure, throw the 11 year old with confidence at it, because they probably haven’t been compromised, right?

Ali: True!

Aradia: And Alanna is able to make the argument like, I haven’t been tapped. Like, it’s all fun.

Bree: Yeah, she’s the only battery left in the city basically. And so they’re like, I guess the prince is worth to – And, you know, honestly, I mean, what’s the harm in letting her try if you think he’s going to be dead no matter what? I mean, the worst thing that happens is that you accidentally kill a Page and that the best thing that happens is that you save the heir to the kingdom. I mean, I guess what’s going to go wrong here?

Ali: The kingdom queen’s only child, and she makes it clear she can’t have any more.

Bree: Yeah.

Ali: Which I mean, on the one hand, I feel like there’s this trope of, my only child, can’t have any more, and I mean, I don’t think that the value of your children decreases with each child you have? But also there is that, like, then you are no longer a parent, question. That I’ve seen people say where they’re like, do I have, am I a parent, if I – So dark. Don’t even want to think about it. Awful to lose a child no matter what. But like, yeah.

Bree: Heir to the kingdom is like a whole different level of pressure though.

Aradia: Yeah.

Bree: She failed the heir and the spare test.

Ali: Which, unfair.

Bree: Just an heir. No spare. Ugh. Terrible thing.

Ali: It’s all unfair, but. Yeah. So Jonathan’s super important. I got really emotional during her saving him, where she’s like, He’s not yours yet. I’m paraphrasing.

Bree: She was like, Yeah, I’ll fight you, Death! Square up!

Ali: But it was also like, I don’t know, there was something to be – It was, Yes, I’ll fight you Death, square up. But like, there’s also this, I don’t know. It’s kind of beautiful to be like, Oh, he’s not for you yet. I can’t articulate it. There’s something about it though that tugs at the heartstrings. Of going into somebody’s illness and telling death – being able to tell the thing trying to kill him, or death itself, that it’s not his time. I don’t know. There is something really beautiful.

Aradia: It’s always a good moment, that moment in any context gets me, you know, like in the Matrix, in this, it doesn’t matter. When that moment happens, it’s like, Yeah!

Ali: Yeah, yeah. It’s just, there’s like a victory to it?.

Aradia: We all want that power.

Ali: Yeah, right.

Aradia: Like we all want that.

Ali: I think that’s the thing, It’s like having, having been at some thing’s death, right. And being like, I would literally do anything to be able to tell Death that. There’s something about it that just, oof, hit real hard. I was like, Oh, wow. Yeah, because I think we all want that. But there’s also this beauty to caring about someone or something so much that you’re like, I’m going to put – I’m going to confront Death and put it all on the line for this person because it’s not their time. I just like all of that really. I was touched, okay? I was touched by that, it made me feel a lot of feelings.

Bree: Well, I joked that she’s squared up, but she was honestly really polite, just politely firm. You know, No, I’m sorry, but you don’t get to do this. And that is like a different vibe. It’s a, I respect you, Mr. Death, but no, thank you. We have all the death we need at home. We don’t need any more.

Aradia: Yeah. So thanks, but no thanks.

Ali: There’s that poem, like, Because I did not stop for death, or whatever.

Bree: Mhm.

Ali: I feel like, you know, humanity, you’re always like walking around with the specter, right, of this thing. Where it’s like, at any moment that could happen – not to give anybody anxiety, but you know, I mean, that’s just kind of the reality of being a person, right? Walking around is, stuff happens and people are taken away, and that’s part of life. And it sucks, but there’s also a beauty to it because everything is finite. So it’s like, yeah, enjoy your life. But it’s cool. It was cool to have this moment, and I know this a moment that happens in a lot of fantasy, but yeah, it just slaps, it slaps me every time. But I think because of recent life experiences with death, and recent coming to Jesus surrounding death and its inevitability, and like, learning to be cool with it? There’s a beauty to being like, It’s not today, though. It’s not today.

Aradia: What do we say to death? Not today.

Ali: Not today. Yeah, exactly. It’s like, it’s not today. It just slaps, that was a good moment. Tamora. I am not articulating this well at all, but there’s just something about it that really – I’ve read these scenes before and obviously read this book before. It just hit differently this time for me.

Bree: No, I get it. I think you’re articulating it well.

Ali: I also think the fact that she’s a child hit really hard for me about that. You know, like that she’s a child confronting death, being like –

(howling in the background)

Ali: Oh, do you hear my dog howling? He just howled now, out of nowhere.

Aradia: No.

Ali: He just howled out of nowhere. I was like, That’s a little spooky.

0:45:44 Music break. Literal tone policing

Bree: Well, I was saying, when you’re our age and you’re thinking about a 11 year old that is battling literal death, it’s much different. When I was 14 or 15 reading these, 11 was like just, you know, just back around the corner. And now it’s like, Oh my God, that is a child, right? That it’s a wee little baby.

Ali: But I think reading The Hunger Games hurt so much more as an adult than as a teenager.

Bree: That was a Prim!

Ali: As a teen you’re like, Yeah –

Bree: Not even a Katniss, a Prim!

Ali: Thinking about how little 11 is, really. How young that is. And I just – Yeah, and just to be willing to confront Death to save her friend, I just. Mm. Yeah. I guess as an adult, it just hits harder because you’ve lived longer and you’ve seen more things and you don’t see yourself as the protagonist any more, you know, because you’re not 11, you’re an adult and you’re like, Oh wow, that’s really young to be doing that.

Aradia: And she doesn’t just save him with magic. She puts in a whole ass day of like, hard core, like normal medicine first, right? With Coram and Myles’s help, like keeping the fire hot, turning over the sheets, wiping his brow, doing all this stuff, using her magic in little tiny ways. She’s doing a whole day of doing that work, that brutal, difficult work that would be hard on an adult. She’s doing that for her friend all day before she decides to go on a big, huge existential magic’s super tunnel down to Death to tell him, Please, no, thank you. Like, the work she puts in for her friend is immense for an 11 year old.

Bree: Very impressive.

Ali: Yeah, I think it’s beautiful.

Bree: Also, we get another Black City that I still don’t remember. Yeah, I don’t remember the Black City. But we see it again. Some things must be happening.

Ali: I still do not remember this Black City either, but it’s starting to – the back of my mind is starting to tingle, like. Like maybe there’s a woman. I feel like there’s a bad woman.I’m feeling like there’s a baaad woman or man.

Bree: I feel like I know that she and Jonathan sneak out there at something. But that’s all I remember.

Ali: I remember, like, a blast of some kind. I don’t know. There’s a memory of something, a memory, a fragment, where I’m like, there’s a bad person. I think they have a staff, but that could also be made up.

Aradia: It’s going to be really funny. You guys are going to be remembering as we get closer next episode, we’re going to get to it and you’re going to remember it beat for beat as we discover it.

Ali: Oh, yeah.

Bree: I do want to address this. Someone in the Discord was like, Is it spoilers? Like, if you don’t remember someone, does that mean they’re not important? No, no, no. I don’t – do not read into what Ali and I do and do not remember. We have weird ADHD brains, I didn’t remember any of the plot of this book, but I knew George was 17.

Ali: I remembered the sword. This is what I remembered about it. I remember that she was a girl posing as a knight. I remember she had a cool sword and she bound her chest. That’s all I fucking remember about these books. I have not only ADHD, I’ve got fibro. I don’t remember shit.

Bree: I remember the sword. Aradia keeps talking about getting her sword, and I’m like, The only magic sword I remember right now is the Mercedes Lackey talking magic sword. So, like, I’m just – which doesn’t even talk until later books. Long story, anyway. No, I’m just like, No I don’t remember anything, so.

Ali: I feel like it had a lion on the pommel? I feel like that might be true. There’s a lion on this sword, I think.

Bree: My memory is so bad!

Ali: Oh, yeah. I don’t remember yesterday. I don’t remember yesterday.

Bree: Maybe? I can’t wait to find out.

Aradia: So, speaking of things that you guys may or may not remember, how much did the name Roger of Conté of Carthak ring?

Ali: Okay, It’s been bothering me so much, but I don’t know why.

Bree: I remember this one.

Ali: You do?

Bree: But I’m not going to say. I remember this one. I do remember this one.

Ali: Is he a bad guy?

Bree: Me and Alanna both hissed because he was so handsome. Like, once again, Jonathan shows up as a handsome noble and I’m like (hisses). Roger shows up as his handsome cousin, and I’m like (hisses even more).

Ali: Okay. But I feel like Roger was bad, but I don’t remember at all. I feel like Roger is a bad guy name. Apologies to the Rogers, but Roger is a bad guy name. Jonathan is a good guy name and Roger is a bad guy name. That’s what I feel.

Aradia: Yeah. So we’ll get more to him in the next chapter. But just, he gets mentioned in association with the sickness. (serenely:) No one could possibly have sent it except Roger. Too bad he’s not here to save us.

Ali: That seems convenient!

Bree: Roger is the most powerful –

Aradia: Just puttin it out there.

Ali: No. Roger’s bad. Roger’s the Black City guy. Roger’s bad.

Aradia: Also, I just love that the city he’s from is Carthak, because it really, really, really drives home how much this is fantasy Europe. Just in case you were confused.

Ali: Roger wants to take out Jonathan, he might be a lackey. He might be more of a Wormtail.

Bree: It does seem like he would be in line for some throne shenanigans. I mean.

Ali: That’s what I’m saying. He’s trying to take out Jonathan. My boy Jonathan, apparently.

Aradia: It could be. It’s worth worrying about.

Bree: But he’s coming home to teach them magic.

Ali: Oh!

Aradia: He needs to come train them. Yeah.

Bree: Do you really want to teach your enemies how to defeat you? Well, I guess it depends on how well he trains them.

Ali: Not to bring up Harry Potter on this podcast. But I believe that Barty Crouch Junior did infiltrate to teach magic to the wee ones and taught them some really messed up stuff!

Bree: That is true. Oh, gosh. I guess we’re going to see what Roger teaches.

Ali: Yeah, teachers can be bad people. They can! Some of them. Many are good. Before the teachers come for me.

Aradia: You were a teacher. You’re fine. But that will come. But for now, she just unveils her woman voice to talk to the gods. And Myles gets to witness all that. And then it works.

Ali: Is Myles in on the fact that – I forget.

Aradia: No!

Ali: He’s not, okay. That’s what I thought.

Aradia: He has no idea. He’s like, Why is this little boy speaking in a grown woman’s voice? That makes no sense. And the other little boy is speaking in a man’s voice. So,why girl voice? Oh, she’s passing out. I guess we’re going to just table that for later. That’s the degree to which Myles is in on this now.

Bree: I think Myles has suspicions now.

Ali: I’m hoping Myles drinks away this knowledge, because I was like, Alanna, maybe deepen that voice a little, girl!

Aradia: She’s speaking with her future voice, her core voice. And it’s a sexy contralto.

Ali: We love a deep voice.

Bree: I am going to say that was like, I’m not sure, I don’t have weird gender feelings for the most part, but I’m not sure about the voice thing. Like, I don’t know.

Aradia: Yeah, I find that a little –

Bree: Bt we’ll get to that, because boobs are coming.

Ali: Wait. What are our issues with the voices? Sorry.

Bree: I’m not trying to have an issue so much, as it’s just it’s definitely a -I don’t know, like, okay, I don’t know. Did you have a grown woman – like my voice did not change a lot, I don’t know. What’s a grown woman voice?

Ali: I definitely, my voice definitely changed.

Bree: And maybe that’s why I’m just like, I don’t know. Yours just did, mine didn’t.

Ali: Mine dropped. Yeah, mine dropped down. Oh well, also though it’s interesting because I –

Bree: I mean, maybe, when I was like 12. That is a good point.

Ali: It’s interesting because I did vocal training in college for my speaking voice because all the actors had to take voice for performance, partially to learn how to talk for a really long time without your voice getting tired. Because we all have really bad vocal habits that we learn, like vocal fry and stuff, that make it difficult for us to sustain vocal presence, loud, vocal presence for a long time. But one of the things that we learned was something called optimal pitch. So basically you find the pitch at which your voice and naturally is actually at before being influenced by society, right? So society teaches women that we need to have higher voices. So a lot of women speak actually higher than their optimal pitch and have to learn to bring that voice down. And it’s, you know, a whole societal likability bullshit thing. And men usually speak deeper than their optimal pitch because of their attempts to look masculine. And as one of my classmates put it, because if we get mistaken for our mom on the phone one more time, we’re going to lose it.

Bree: That is actually – man, society just fucks us up so many ways, doesn’t it? Just endless ways.

Ali: Yeah. You’re actually being conditioned to speak out of your optimal range and it’s actually damaging your vocal cords.

Bree: Oh, wow.

Ali: So we have to. So basically I was speaking – I don’t even know how much, definitely much, much higher than my absolute pitch. And I had to learn – and Gus, same thing. He was deeper than his optical pitch. We were in the same class together, actually –

Aradia: Aaaah, that’s so cute!

Ali: – and we had to learn how to change our voices, basically, to be able to sustain hours of speaking. But yeah, it was really – and you know, people were trained out of their regional accents, too, because, you know, you needed to have a more versatile voice. And there’s nothing wrong, ultimately there’s nothing wrong with people’s voices if that’s how they speak, that’s how they speak. But if you’re an actor, you want to have, one, the ability to sustain your voice for a long time and two, the ability to have a range of voices that you can do. And so one of the things you have to do is have a neutral voice that you can fall back to, that’s not affected by regionalisms. And they used to do it even more, like back when you watched old movies and stuff, and they all had that kind of strange cadence. It’s called a transatlantic, mid-Atlantic accent. Not transatlantic, mid-Atlantic accent. And actors trained themselves to do it so that they had versatile voices. Yeah. And created a unified speaking voice.

Aradia: Interesting.

Ali: Now it’s a little bit more casual. But they trained us out of, like Midwestern “eh” sounds or – our friend had a missouri dialect and stuff. So kind of training us out of that.

Aradia: Interesting.

Ali: Yeah, it’s interesting.

Aradia: I was thinking initially when Bree brought that up, I was thinking about the, just like bio essentialist gender binaryness of all of it. But then as you were talking about natural pitch and stuff, I went and veered off into autism thoughts.

Ali: Ahahaha. Of course!

Aradia: Because this is a thing, with being autistic is that we autistic people tend to have a very flat affect, is what it’s called. So like super uninteresting, like vocal pitch. It’s low, it’s flat. It sounds like a monotone. Not all of us, particularly people who are super high masking, we get real, real like bouncy and all over the place and colorful with our vocal patterns. But part of – I’ve noticed some people on TikTok doing an unmasking sort of thing, and I started trying it and fuck, my voice went down.

Ali: Mhmm.

Aradia: Like, my natural way of speaking as I have gotten more comfortable with unmasking and just being myself and not worrying what other people think about me so much, and turning those scripts off – my voice pitch has sunk.

Ali: Yep.

Aradia: And I’ve been getting more into singing as a means of stimming, and it’s –

Ali: Oh, singing is great for stimming.

Aradia: I’m finding my natural pitch that you’re talking about. I am stumbling into that through an autistic unmasking process. And yeah, it does make it for much – as a podcaster, I have been needing to learn that so I can sustain talking for hours without being incapable of talking for the rest of the day.

Ali: Right? I mean, people who are assigned female at birth. Yeah, it’s part of this societally ingrained thing of, you need to speak in a higher register to seem less threatening and less commanding as a presence, because yeah, society is as a society is. And then in addition to that, putting on top of that a neurodivergence, where social cues are very confusing, right? And you kind of feel like you have to change yourself to fit what people are looking for. I mean, it absolutely changes what your voice sounds like. And yeah, so it’s kind of an interesting thing where it’s like, well, a lot of the degree at which we feel like men and women’s pitches are different. Yeah, there is some natural pitch changes and there are people with deeper voices than others. I obviously am a very deep voiced woman, you know. So there are some biological things at play, but it’s a lot less drastic for most people than people realize.

Aradia: Yeah, yeah.

Ali: And there is a lot of mental stuff you have to overcome.

Bree: Yeah, I was thinking, that’s what I think – I was like, it seems weird that it would just be so drastically different, but, you know, it could be. It could be that she just has a high voice, woman voice, and (drops a register) Jonathan has a low one. I don’t know.

Aradia: And I mean, she’s still pretty prepubescent. Like all the physical changes that happened through puberty. Like, you do get – your chest gets larger because you physically grow. So he is at least hearing her post pubescent voice. We can at least say that without getting into the, (drops a register too) It’s a deeper womanly voice. But like, it is her post pubescent voice.

Ali: Yeah.

Bree: I was 5’7 when I was 11. I basically like shot up from 10 to 12 –

Aradia: Ouch.

Bree: And then like 12 years old, I was this height and that was just it, I just stopped growing. So I was very tall compared to everyone. I was like the tallest person in my class for like sixth, seventh, eighth grade. Then the Norwegian boys hit puberty. We all went home one summer, we came back and they were all 6’3.

Aradia: I remember the summer my brother did that.

Ali: It’s wild as a teacher having students and they go home, in that age group, and they go home for the summer and they come back with man voices. The men, iIt is actually pretty drastic. They change, puberty to post puberty, it’s pretty drastic. Because there is that high, young person cadence and that young person voice. And then all of a sudden it’s like (drops register) down here. And you’re like, where did that come from? And they shoot up, and their voices change and they all of a sudden have little tiny mustaches. It’s a whole thing that happens over summer. And the girls change, too. Yeah, there is a societal idea of what women sound like and what men sound like that I think is present here. That is somewhat biologically true. But, you know, I think when we’re looking at the hot nuance of the world, like, you know, I don’t think Gus and I, in terms of pitche, have that dissimilar of a voice.

Aradia: You truly don’t.

Ali: In terms of it, because he actually has a voice that’s higher than I think society likes to put on men. And I have a voice that’s lower than society likes to put on women.

Aradia: Yeah, you’re much closer together than you, quote unquote, should.

Ali: Yeah. So but, you know, I mean, I figure I do think, though, that you can somewhat listen to some voices and know whether or not they’re men or women. Not every voice, though.

Bree: Yeah, I think that’s the only nuance I really want applied to that, that it’s not a universal thing. But you know, that’s cool, Myles.

Ali: Yeah. I also think part of it, though, too, when you’re listening to someone and can tell whether or not they’re are a man or a woman, is also a societal cadence that women are forced to adopt, that men aren’t. Men can have a flatter tone. Men can have more direct speech. Women often add a lot of qualifiers when they’re talking.

Ali: All right. So there’s also that somewhat, too, that comes into play? Well, she’s not qualifying, when she’s meeting Death. I think the idea that it’s very easy to tell men and women apart when they’re speaking also comes from those cues that we don’t ever talk about.

Bree: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Like Tamora Pierce is subconsciously thinking this, but I don’t know if there’s a Tortall think piece about women in upspeak or something. Like, I’m not sure they have the same baggage we do.

Aradia: Certainly not. I would not think so.

Bree: Or maybe there is. Maybe Duke Roger’s, a blogger, and at night he’s just like, Women always end their sentences speaking up! I don’t know.

Ali: I mean, when was the, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus era?

Bree: Oh, God.

Ali: When did that start?

Bree: I don’t know, but Robert Jordan was deep in it.

Ali: Deep.

Bree: The nineties.

Ali: I mean, but also women entering the workforce, there was a lot of talk about how to make yourself more masculine and how to navigate that workplace.

Bree: 1992.

Ali: So I mean, I feel like that came into play, because shoulder pads were a direct response to making women appear more masculine.

Aradia: Or Margaret Thatcher and her whole voice thing where she trained her voice to be lower. And it was really weird. Like, bam, right, right in the middle of all that.

Bree: We have a lot of baggage, man.

Ali: Around just our voices. I mean, it’s just our voices, which is like the thing we use to communicate. I mean, that’s what’s wild to me is like, yeah, there were a lot of things to unpack in college about how you felt about just your voice and, you know, that’s a major part of your identity, is your voice.

Aradia: Oh, yeah.

Ali: Yeah. So, yeah, I thought that was an interesting thing to bring up. It’s something that fascinates me anyway.

Bree: Well, we’ve got more puberty stuff coming.

1:04:27 Music break. Chapter 5: Queer neurodivergent clumps

Aradia: Yeah. We can move forward to chapter five, The Second Year, where we’re going to turn the mic over to Ali, because it’s the chest binding scene.

Ali: Yes! Okay. Thank you, Tamora Pierce, for making my ability to immediately understand what chest binding was when my trans friends started doing it. So easy to understand. Not that it’s that hard, but like, you know, they did not have to explain it. They’re like, Oh, I’m binding my chest, that’s my binder. And I was like, Got it. Understood. Not a concern. I don’t need to go into any more detail, unless you want to. Yeah, I appreciate that. Just cultural context and nuance.

Aradia: So. So your first impression of trans men was that they were all knights in training.

Ali: I mean, honestly yes. Honestly yes. I was kind of like, Oh, sick. Well, actually, it’s so funny because my first trans friend, when they came out today, I didn’t quite compute at first what they were saying – because they came out to me over Facebook Messenger, which of course, I totally get, because I came out to Gus via text. So you know, I get it. It’s weird to look people in the eye and tell them something deep and personal about yourself. So they came out to me via text – and they still laugh about this. I thought they were saying that they had secretly been a man the whole time and were like – I don’t even know what I thought, because they didn’t word it very well. They were like, I’m a man. And like, granted, that is what the case is. But I thought they were pranking me?

Aradia: Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.

Ali: And my response was not great. My response was, No, you’re not. And that’s not at all what I meant. I just did not know what they were saying. I thought they were trying to prank me. And that was where my mind went! Because they’re the kind of person that does prank me and likes to mess with me. And so I thought they were messing with me and were pretending, oh, I don’t now. And so I was like, my response is, If you’re fucking with me, I will rip out your uterus. And he messaged me back and said, That would actually be super helpful. And that’s when I realized what he was saying. And I was like, I’m so sorry. I was like, That was the worst possible way I could have gone about that. I am so embarrassed. I was so mortified and I am still so mortified by it. But he took it in stride. He was like, that was really honestly the funniest coming out I could have possibly had. Like, thank you so much for that. But I did not compute until he said that. And then I was like, Oh my God. And Gus was there. And I told him what happened. He goes, Ali, obviously. And I said, I know, I know. I handled it really badly. But he couldn’t have been more unclear. So anyway, it’s been really fun. So we also had this hilarious moment where – because he’s been trans for a long time. So at this point, sometimes – well, he’s been out as trans for a long time and has transitioned a long time ago. And so Gus was having a conversation with him at one point and they were talking about shows they watched and he goes, I really loved the Powerpuff Girls.

And Gus was like, Really? I feel like that’s so cool for a boy to be into that. And he goes, I was a little girl once? And Gus is, Oh my God, I completely forgot. And he goes, That was really affirming of you.

Aradia: That’s awesome.

Ali: Yeah. So shout out to my good friend, but so yeah, I feel like this did help though, just in terms of understanding the context of what was going on. And also gave it a badassery subtext that I really appreciated. Yeah. Because I don’t know, I feel like – even though I didn’t handle the initial coming out very well, because of who I am as a person and my ability to just stick my whole fucking leg in my mouth – I yeah, I was like very very excited about this because I was like, Oh, like Alanna. And it was a nice connection. He had not read the books. I think it’s a compliment!

Bree: So that makes it a little more of a confusing statement. Yes.

Ali: Yeah. He was like, Oh, like who? And I was like, You had to read that. You had to be there. But it’s very cool.

Aradia: I will say, though, it is one of the books that will give you a misleading impression of how chest binding actually works for me, like health and safety perspective.

Ali: Oh, definitely.

Aradia: She’s just like, Slap some gauze on my chest for all time and it’ll be fine. And I’ll have no breathing problems and no nothing. It mentions that her boobs hurt a little bit, but this gives you an unrealistic expectation of what chest binding would be, were one to engage in it in a safe way. But yes, the badassery of the fact that she’s just hiding this thing that people will think makes her soft and silly. It clearly doesn’t. It’s pointing up how much expectations are playing a part in this. But I also like – there’s parts of this book where it’s like the bio essentialism just kind of gets to me as someone who grew up thinking that I was just bad at being a girl. You know?

Ali: Mhm.

Aradia: Parts of this reinforces that, like, well, but you are a girl, look, you have boobs, that means you’re a girl. Deal with it! And that – ergh. That doesn’t sit well.

Ali: Yeah? Yeah.

Bree: There’s a part I highlighted that made me kind of go, hngh. I think that the thing is, there’s a – and I just first I wanted to say that Tamora Pierce has been extremely encouraging of anybody who wants to read Alanna as nonbinary or any gender, you know, thing that they would like to take from this book. She is extremely affirming. So like, I have no opinion like, Alanna is cis or non-binary or trans or anything like that. That’s not for any one person to say, that is your relationship with this text and I applaud whatever you think it is. What I’m reading here, it bugs me, because – and this is not a criticism of her. I think that it would have been very difficult for a lot of people to do this gracefully in 1983 or 84.

Aradia: Oh, sure. Yeah.

Ali: Yeah.

Bree: But like you said, the way that Coram is just like, You can’t change this. You’re born with it. This is just, you know, shut up, you got boobs and that makes you a girl. And it is a very – I can see that being not fun to read, like at all. But at the same time, her only protest seems to be what people will think of her.

Aradia: Mhm.

Bree: And so that’s also like, I think you know, it’s this – my relation with gender was, Stop telling me that things I do aren’t girly. If I do them, they’re fucking girly obviously, because I’m a fucking girl, whatever I do is fucking girly. Fight me. My gender is just Contrary, I guess. So I think that there’s room for reading this in both directions. Like, would she be okay with it if nobody was trying to decide what she could and couldn’t do based on her gender? Or maybe she wouldn’t be, because, you know, that’s the thing. I think there’s that dividing line where you’re uncomfortable being a woman because society is telling you that it limits you. And then there’s the internal just knowing that you’re not actually a woman. You know, I think that that’s the –

Ali: Yeah.

Bree: Where, I don’t know where Alanna falls on that honestly, from reading this.

Aradia: Yeah. And I mean that’s why Alanna is amazing, and Tamora Pierce is amazing, as a template to look at, because like though I find it a little bit Eh, in my experience, the way she has handled this conversation in the subsequent 40 years since she wrote this book and sparked all these conversations has been very affirming.

Ali: Yeah.

Aradia: Right. Like her, Oh, do what you will with it. I’ve learned a bunch of stuff. It’s the thing that we’ve said on this podcast before, write books that will age badly, write books that make a world where your books age badly, right? She’s done that, by creating the conversation the way she did, it set me up for like a very productive path of angst into having, you know, the understanding of gender that I have now. Like, it’s great. It’s just, you know, here is one of the parts where it’s like, Yeah, that’s part of where my confusion started. That’s the bump. But you know, I’d rather it be this book than any of the other stuff that I’ve come across elsewhere, I could compare to it. This is an amazing blank slate for us to project on to.

Ali: And I mean, obviously trans and non-binary people have always been there, right? I mean, there’s a culture and – I don’t want to misspeak, so I’m going to be very general. But I read a while ago about a culture where they have multiple deities, right? And one of them is neither man nor woman. And there’s plenty of examples of that, right? So, I mean, trans and non-binary people have always been a thing. And there are a thing in nature as well, you know, there are plenty of examples of intersex and trans, non-binary people and animals. But yeah, what I think about is, I feel like there wasn’t obviously as much of a conversation about it that you didn’t have to really look for. Obviously now it’s much more of a conversation that people are having more openly. And I think her intent was not necessarily about trans and non-binary people, right? I don’t think that was a thing that factored into her writing.

Aradia: Right.

Ali: It’s obviously been a thing that has since been factored in and she’s handled really well from what I understand. But I think that her thesis did not include trans and non-binary people, not because of any kind of malice or ill intent, but just because it was not something that she was thinking about. So I think that scene was not necessarily intended to cause harm, but is obviously not great now in these contextsm because obviously one’s parts does not necessarily equate to a gender identity, or gender expression.

Aradia: But, you know, at the same time, it kind of does in the sense that, if everyone around you insists that it does, how much water can you push uphill in a sieve?

Ali: Sure.

Aradia: That is the reality. It’s kind of like how race is both real and not real, right? As a society, we’ve manifested it’s reality, even though it’s fucking nonsense.

Ali: 100%.

Bree: Yeah. We’re going to make this relevant to your life experience, whether you want it to be or not.

Aradia: So Coram is kind of like, This is what you get to deal with, figure out a way to live with it. You know, he’s giving her kind of the like, Tthis is what it is, which is like – that is practical. You have to go about your day in the situation you’ve put yourself in. So don’t hate yourself, just figure it out. I mean, that part of his message of just like, It’s not bad girl, it’s fine that you are a girl. Just figure it out, it’s not going to hold you back. That part is good. That part of it is good

Bree: Yeah. I mean, he does say that she could be a woman and still be a warrior, which is progress for Coram. Look how much she’s grown since, like, chapter one.

Aradia: Exactly.

Bree: Good job, Coram.

Ali: Yeah, it’s totally chapter five!

Aradia: He’s imperfect, but he’s learning with the rest of us.

Bree: Big Coram fan over here,.

Ali: Yeah, there’s a certain extent to which, like, maybe Coram is also developing as a person. He can’t go from zero to ally that quickly. Right?

Aradia: None of us can. It takes a minute.

Ali: None of us can. Yeah. He’s learning just like the rest of us. Just like the ones who threaten to rip out their trans friends’ uterus. You know, we don’t always say the right perfect thing as we’re learning to – and that keeps you up at night for the rest of your life. The ways in which maybe you were not great in moments –

Bree: Oh the things we said –

Ali: The things we said, the things we did while we were learning that we have apologized for and are hopefully making amends for.

Bree: You want to hear one of mine?

Ali: Yeah.

Bree: When my niblings, my best friend and co-writer’s kids, one is trans and one is non-binary. And I had a habit, because they were little, and they’re like only 18 months apart. So I would say like, you know, Oh, girly, girly, girly!, to them. And I did that out of habit, I don’t know, a couple weeks after, you know, we had the conversation. And I caught myself immediately and then went, Oh, kitty, kitty, kitty? The way these teenagers roasted me.

Ali: I mean, as they should, but also, good for you on catching it.

Bree: Oh, it was so awkward. I was like, I’m trying. And they were just brutal in the most teenage way. Glorious, just glorious.

Ali: I love teenagers so much. Teenagers get such a bad rep, but I love them.

Bree: Nobody can make you feel ridiculous like a teenager.

Ali: They’re so funny, I fucking love teenagers. Oh, I was on the phone with a friend of mine the other day, and I have had a lot of my friends come out as non-binary at the same time. But I’ve also had a lot of my friends, you know, just kind of exploring themselves as people. So getting like, you know, cutting their hair, dyeing it or whatever. And I have horrible memory problems, horrible. And I was on the phone with my friend the other day and I just panicked. I was like, are they non-binary or did they just dye their hair pink? Like, what? Just, I was like, I can’t remember. And then I was panicking because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. And I was like, I don’t know if I can look it up, because they were just a bunch at once. And obviously I veered on the safe side, but eventually I just said, I’m so sorry. I’m not sure if we’ve had this conversation or not. It’s been kind of a crazy couple of years and my brain doesn’t work, but like, what are your pronouns? And just double checked, because I never want to hurt somebody. But yeah, I was like, I just struggle sometimes because I now have so many friends to remember who has a haircut and who is non-binary, or who is just rocking a mullet right now, you know? So I’ve been working on that.

Aradia: Too many friends?

Ali: Oh, truly. I’m like, I’ve got to cut some of you, but then that feels phobic in some way. So I’m like, do I need flashcards?

Aradia: No, it’s neurodivergent boundaries you have to set.

Ali: I’ve literally been making flashcards in my brain of like, so-and-so: they/them. So-and-so: they/he. So-and-so: Just a fun haircut.

Bree: Listen, the neurodivergent, queer, we run in packs!

Ali: Yeah. It’s true.

Aradia: We do run in packs.

Bree: Don’t we? The queer neurodivergents, it’s just, we do clump.

Ali: We do clump! And in the arts, it’s everybody. When I came out as bi, everyone is like, That is so uneventful, considering.

Aradia: Mhmm.

Ali: First of all, I have the most bisexual voice of all time. So everybody’s like, Was this news for you?

1:20:44 Music break. Hello. Nice to re-meet myself.

Aradia: We’re back at the pond. Alanna’s got her chess binding thing going on, and they’re teasing her about swimming again, and she really seriously loses her temper and snaps at them. And that results in her getting some really cool, like, How To Have Friends advice, which I just, still, as a 30 something, could use to internalize. The advice that she gets from her friends being like, Yeah, you snapped at us. But you don’t have to be perfect. We still like you. You don’t have to be just like us. We’ll still like you, being your prickly, unique little self is actually why we like you.

Ali: Mmhm.

Bree: I know, that actually did make me emotional too.

Aradia: All of the neurodivergent kiddies need to hear that, you know?

Ali: Yeah. I feel like I searched for so long, masked, and just tried to fit in. And it never worked.Do you know what I mean?

Aradia: No. They can tell,they clock us instantly.

Ali: It’s also true that boobs just appear one day. It’s so true. They justv appear.

Aradia: My God, I was just jumping up and down one day and in the middle of one jump I had boobs, between one jump and the next, I had boobs.

Ali: Like, immediately!

Aradia: Where, where did they come from?

Ali: It goes from like the – just, boom!, and no one prepares you for that. You know what I mean? The suddenness of – also the hips change, the hip change really hit me hard because I kept smacking into shit.

Aradia: I continue to smack into shit.

Ali: Oh yeah, still. But like, I was really smacking into shit in a way where –

Bree: TikTok, the ADHD walk.

Ali: I was just constantly – But yeah, I mean, I feel like I always was trying to mask and fit in with these people and the mask always slips, right? And you could tell when it slips with somebody, and then all of a sudden they’re like, uninterested in you, because you showed a bit too much of your real self. And it became this thing of realizing that once I let the mask go – and obviously still there’s masking there, you know, to just exist in public – But, you know, once I let the mask go around people I wanted to be friends with, iIt kind of was easier when like they showed themselves out early if they weren’t interested in keeping a connection with me, you know. And I know it’s trite, but being myself – but being yourself when you’re neurodivergent is terrifying, because the society constantly, when you’re growing up, is like, Be yourself, but not like that!

Aradia: It’s dangerous to be yourself when you’re neurodivergent and marginalized in any other way. It’s dangerous to life and limb. Like you can’t necessarily do that. But also, yeah, once you do, if you’re able to safely, the people who are not your friends will very quickly exit stage left pursued by a bear. Very quickly.

Ali: Nice Shakespeare reference.

Aradia: I learned it from you and I use it perpetually. It’s one of my favorite phrases ever.

Ali: It’s the best. It’s the best stage direction of all time.

Aradia: Of all time.

Ali: The best stage direction of all time. Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare: Exit, pursued by a bear. It’s the best. It’s the best one. Yes. Exit pursued by a bear. Yes. I also feel the need to clarify. Remembering your friends’ pronouns is essential and necessary. Please do the work. I just got anxious for a second. Yeah, obviously we’re working on it.

Bree: Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s very clear that we – hopefully it is very clear, that while we are willing to roast ourselves for the mistakes that we have made – because I think that the people in our lives know that we care so much.

Ali: So much. And at times do make mistakes. And I think that like, you know, people make mistakes with things for me too. And when I know that they care, it’s not like I’m going to be like, Well, that’s it. We’re not talking anymore. It’s different when you care and you just eff up. Sometimes that happens and that’s that’s one thing. But you got to care and you got to be respectful and call people what they fucking want to be called. And if anybody says anything weird about pronouns, we’ll punch you in the face.

Aradia: Repeatedly.

Bree: This is a podcast that endorses violence now. I stopped fighting with chivalry. I’m a bully now.

Ali: Change sometimes takes a second to adjust to, when you know someone in a certain context for a long time. And sometimes that results in you being an idiot. So yeah, anyway. Back to Alanna. I just was like, I feel like I need to clarify that this isn’t chill. You know, it’s just something to be aware of.

Bree: Neurodivergent anxiety.

Ali: So much anxiety.

Bree: Like Alanna has!

Ali: So much anxiety. But Alanna, I feel it’s so great to hear – yeah, the people that want to be with you, once you start being yourself, find you. Look at this podcast.

Aradia: Aww!

Ali: Once I started it I’d be like, I can’t be anything but me at this point, I’ve tried to fit in my entire life. I’m exhausted and I don’t feel like anyone actually knows me, you know, except for Gus.

Aradia: Right.

Ali: But yeah, I mean, I feel like even – you know, there are little ways in which friends prickle at each other. And I kind of sometimes don’t feel like you really understand your friends or really make progress in your friendships until you have that first moment of like, Oh, we have a conflict and can we work through that conflict or no, I feel like it’s kind of an important stage of friendship.

Bree: Yeah, I mean, it’s the year worth, you know, navigating what could be a slightly contentious or stressful situation.

Ali: Yeah, cause we’re all people.

Bree: You know, that actually shows care.

Ali: Yes.

Bree: And that’s what I think is Raoul coming up and saying, Hey, you know, it’s all cool. They care enough that even though Alanna kind of lost her shit on them, they’re just basically saying, You don’t have to push down everything you feel to be worthy or accepted by us. You have a right to have emotions, and you are worth dealing with those emotions that you have. We will deal with your emotions and your friendship is worth being who you are. See, like, “dealing with you” sounds so pejorative. So I don’t mean it like, Oh, I’m putting up with you. But you know what I mean. If somebody cares about you enough to make space in their lives for your emotions, even when they’re maybe on the boil, acting up a little bit, that feels to me – that’s a sign of affection. You know, somebody has place for even your not so pretty – it’s the, If you want me at my best, you have to accept me at my cranky, because you tried to make me swim, so I yelled at you.

Ali: Or to quote one of my favorite YA books, Flipped. It’s, the person is more than the sum of their parts, right? That they’re somebody who – I love that book. And also, the movie is really cute. If you ever need a warm hug kind of movie? It got panned, and I think that’s dumb. Because I think it’s really good. But yeah, it’s about seeing the people in people and going, Okay, that is a part of you. But oftentimes the foibles that my friends have are balanced by something equally lovely, you know what I mean? Or are also contributing to the lovely things about them, right. Like, you know, if someone is late all the time, but they live in the moment and they’re really fun to be around, and they really make the time for you. You know, I mean, those two things go hand in hand. They’re not constantly looking at the clock going, I need to go to my next thing. YThey’re invested in you and the time you spend together. Well, then you know, they’re late not because they’re trying to be inconvenient, but because that’s kind of part of their personality and you kind of have to accept the good parts with the stuff you are kind of bothered by sometimes. But I mean, how bothered are you by the people that you care about? I mean, sometimes. Gus always says I’m his favorite person to be annoyed by.

Aradia: That’s a good way to put it.

Bree: I like that.

Aradia: If I’m going to be annoyed by people, I want it to be you.

Ali: Yeah, I want it to be you, because at least it’s fun. Like, at least, you know, the annoying things about you are, you know, you have a good heart. You are trying your best. You, you know, you try to make me laugh every day. Like there are really great things about me that also really fucking annoying and like, both of those things can be true, and that’s fine. You know, he has left three Lacroix cans out, I’m looking at them right now, from last night. Pounded three Lacroix cans and left them on the table. I will clean them up. You know, it’s that give and take thing, and I think that’s important to – And also the expression of emotion when we’re talking about masculinity and femininity is a great thing to brush on, too.

Aradia: Oh, yeah, I love that the all boys school was like, No, you should have your emotions, It’s fine. Got to love that. Yeah, when I was reading these books, I was also a bit of a terror in school and I was exploding and melting down andn running out of class, like basically every day for several years. That was just who I was. Because, haha, undiagnosed autism, Hi, what’s up?

Ali: Yeah, I’m sitting here going, And they didn’t look into -? People need to –

Aradia: Because I was going to hippie school and they looked down on medication and doctors and anything mainstream.

Ali: Sure.

Aradia: And so of course we’re just going to let the wild child explode because that’s the wholesome hippie, soft voice, patchouli scented, sandal wearing, bead draped thing to do. I don’t have resentment about how this went at all.

Bree: The way that just like, rolled off the tongue was glorious.

Ali: Yeah, that was beautifully said. Aradia, you really do have a way with words. It’s really quite lovely.

Aradia: Thank you. But yeah, I knew from a young age that if I had been in a normal mainstream school, I would have been diagnosed and dosed, nine ways, for sure, absolutely. But so I was perpetually told to stop doing that, to stop having that emotion. And even reading this now in my thirties, Alanna’s just shocked. What do you mean, I’m allowed to be mad? It fucking hits me in the gut because I still cannot feel okay about having my anger. I basically don’t have friends I’ve ever had conflict with. I have very, very few friends. I’ve expanded my social circle so fucking slowly and so carefully that I basically never have conflict with my friends. And when I do, that’s usually the end of the friendship because I’m just, it’s just too stressful. I cannot.

Ali: Sure.

Aradia: And reading this and seeing this advice to her friends and I’m just like, How is it that I am still 11 year old Alanna? This is really fucking annoying. I am like, I have done therapy, I am in my unmasking journey, and yet, every time I have an expression of anger, I am just expecting to be, you know, thrown in a pond and abandoned by Raoul, you know, like.

Bree: Same, honestly.

Aradia: Even though that’s not what fucking happens in the book!

Ali: Can I reframe that a little bit for you?

Aradia: You can try.

Ali: Okay. You are on a journey right now, right? You’re on chapter 12, right? You’re chapter 30 something. But our characters never learn all of the emotions in one chapter, learn all of the things they need to learn in one chapter. It would be very dull if they did. You are constantly growing and evolving, and one of the first steps is recognizing that for yourself, that this is something to work on. But I mean, overall, one: you are somebody that is very much worth, you know, one outburst, right? One conflict. You are a person that is – I’ve known you for years now. You are a person that is worth sticking around for when there’s conflict. So know that about yourself. But two: I feel like we’re all receiving messages at different stages that arrest us in some way developmentally, and that we’re constantly having to unlearn and unpack. One of the things my therapist taught me to do is like, think about the child that I was when I received that message and then absolve them of it and forgive them. And I feel like that’s one of those things where I’m like, 11 year old Aradia received a bad message about friendship. That’s not Current Aradia’s fault, and current Aradia is working on it.

Aradia: Nyah.

Ali: You know, you are in progress. The story is not over yet for Aradia.

Aradia: Well, thank you.

Ali: You are a protagonist still on the journey.

Bree: Yes. Neurodivergent children – and I think that the How To ADHD channel, which I love on YouTube –

Ali: Love!

Bree: Jessica is amazing. I think she’s the one who introduced me to this – ADHD, and I’m sure autistic children as well, get corrected so many times more?

Aradia: (growls)

Bree: I think she says 20,000 times more, is what some research study that she looked up said. And I mean, when you think about how many times we’ve been told: You’re being too much, you’re being too weird, you’re being too wrong, you’re not – That is something where that fear of being tossed in the garbage comes from for me, because I have that, I have that. I think that my best friend is going to toss me in the garbage constantly if I ever disagree or have a fight. And we’ve been having fights for 20 years, and I still think that. Because I just can’t quite unwire this bracing, Well, now I’ve expressed an emotion and it’s not a pleasant one, and so therefore, because I am so much to deal with, if I’m not constantly making up for it by just being agreeable, I’m going get tossed in the garbage. And it’s that lie that we have told ourselves and that we all have to just, you know, like Ali said, we are on the journey of learning. We are on the journey.

Ali: I have several times, throughout middle school, high school, college, had an entire friend group, not want to be my friend anymore. Right. That’s happened three times, right, in my life. I think partially – for a long time I was like, It’s because I’m a bad person and they see that and they don’t like me because I’m a bad person. And really internalized that and was like, You don’t deserve friends. So then I stopped trying to make friends, which is a wild thing to do. That’s a wild thing to – because I was just like, they just see something in me that is unlovable. Eventually it comes out and I just lose them. And what I realized was, what was actually happening, right? And it’s nobody’s fault, right? Was that I was entering into these friend groups with a fake representation of myself, right, in an effort to make friends. Then once I was not that person, because I’m a different person, all of a sudden there was an issue because I was different than what I had marketed myself as.

Aradia: Sure.

Ali: And I was also so ashamed of being neurodivergent that I would refuse to own up to like what I struggled with. Right? That I would just try to squash it and it would make it worse. I would just kind of be like, No, no, no, that’s not what’s happening. Because I was ashamed of the fact that I struggled with things. And I realized a few years ago, it took me until like my late twenties, early thirties, to just kind of be like, You know what? This is just who you are, this is how you are. There are lots of really great qualities about you. You are not a bad person, necessarily. We all we all have our problems, right? But they don’t necessarily make you, throw her in the trash worthy. Maybe just stop trying to present yourself as something you’re not right, and just be open about what you struggle with when you do have a conflict. Just humble yourself a bit and say, you know, This is a struggle for me, I’m working on it. But it’s not going to change tomorrow. And let them decide what to do with that info, you know.

Bree: And then we get neurodivergent podcasts like this one.

Aradia: Literally, that is how that happens.

Ali: And then we get neurodivergent podcasts like this one. I mean, really, honestly, it was like, right before Wheel Takes, that I was – Gus was like, I want to start a podcast. I was like, I’m going to warn you, I cannot be anyone but this. I can’t. So, you know, I’ll be late. I won’t remember the names. And those are just things that are going to come.

Bree: Honestly, some of the best parts of early episodes, though.

Ali: And that’s the thing!

Bree: It’s, you leaned into it and made it a superpower.

Aradia: Morgan and Knife!

Ali: Yeah! Once I was like, yeah, it was so weird. Once – this still brainfucks me to this day, honestly, it completely brainfucks me, that the minute that – and what’s so weird too – is the minute that I stopped trying so hard – and this has happened with my writing, too – the minute that I just was like, You know what? I’m just going to be my fucking self. Be vulnerable, tell people I suck at things, which is the scariest thing in the world to do. The scariest thing in the world is to be like, I don’t. I don’t know how to, you know, I can’t pay bills, that’s Gus’ job, because I can’t do it. Like I can’t do it. I won’t remember. It will happen. And it makes me feel like I’m the worst adult on the planet. But Gus is like, You’re good at other stuff, so who cares? But you know, you internalize it. Once you’re just kind of like, You know, I’m going to let it go. Just be like, this is who I am. All of a sudden, people liked that.

Aradia: I know, right?

Ali: And I was like, What the fuck? I’ve been told my whole life that no one would like this.

Aradia: Yeah. Yeah.

Ali: And so I hid it, my whole life. I was ashamed of it. My whole life. And then the minute, and then all of a sudden,I have these friends, these deeper friendships than I’ve ever had in my life. And, weirdest part is, the friend group that I kind of like, was migrated out of, has come back! Because they’re like, Oh, we get you now. I don’t know.

Aradia: Yeah, it’s weird. It’s weird.

Ali: And I’m like, Wow.

Bree: Be yourself, man.

Ali: But it’s the hardest thing in the world. Like, it’s so trite. And everyone’s like, Yeah, I know. Be yourself. But you’re told your whole life, Not like that, though! And then you’re like, Well, then I had no choice but to not be myself. And then so you aren’t. So then it’s hard to connect with people because you don’t feel like you can be vulnerable and then you finally do. And it’s like jumping off a fricking cliff, because you’re like, I don’t know who I am in my thirties. I’m learning who I am in my thirties. Like, that’s so fucked!

Aradia: Yeah, right! I have a life. But sure, let’s re-meet myself. It’s fine.

Bree: I want to tell you it’s better in your forties, guys, but…

Ali: Yeah, I’m like re-meeting myself in my thirties. That’s like the scariest, weirdest thing. But it’s also amazing. But I feel like when you’re going through such a radical transformation and change, and it’s like, it’s a deep, dark forest for a little while where you’re like, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know what I identify with or what I like. And you just kind of have to start small. You’re like, Do I like to craft? Yeah, I do. I do like to craft. Not because anyone tells me that that’s what I like, but because I like it. And you just kind of slowly build out from there again. It’s crazy.

Aradia: Yeah, it’s bonkers.

Ali: But good for Alanna. We’re having a lot of feelings.

Bree: It’s just giving us so many feelings. So let’s go have some feelings about Roger.

Ali: I’m worried about Roger.

1:40:48 Music break. Bad News Roger Bears

Aradia: Yes. Returning from our intense therapy hour where we were baring our souls for the whole internet to hear. We’re going to talk about Roger now.

Ali: Ah, fuck it.

Aradia: So we get to the entry hall and everybody, everybody, everybody is so excited for this handsome shmancy guy. And Alanna is just like instantly – It’s like the cat that just doesn’t like that one houseguest, like, instantly, instant dislike. I really like that Tamora Pierce said, If you have bad vibes, fucking trust it. Doesn’t matter what everyone else says, if your gut says no, just be suspicious. Because Roger immediately proves that he’s worth being suspicious of. It’s like that Gollum/Sam interaction in Return of the King, where he just gives Sam this look: Yeah, I’m absolutely playing Frodo and you can do nothing to stop it. It’s so quick.Oh, everyone likes him, but Roger’s immediately suspicious to Alanna. And I love that for us as readers, as young, impressionable readers. I love that from Tamora for us.

Ali: Trust your gut, the gift of fear.

Bree: This description of him goes very hard. Like, just a huge paragraph of how (Bree’s voice keeps rising though the list) his beautiful hair, and his neatly trimmed beard, and his handsome face, and his riveting blue eyes, and his perfectly carved nose, and his full red mouth, and his white flashing smile, and his broad shoulders, and muscular arms, and strong looking hands – Guys!

Aradia: Yeah. Bree obviously hates him.

Ali: Bree hates this guy.

Bree: There’s not one bit about his stone face, okay, so I’m just out of here. No weird nose. No broken nose.

Ali: If you’re not craggy, we’re not getting shaggy. That’s Bree’s decision. Okay?

Bree: (laughs)

(a telephone rings in the background)

Aradia: Not even like a sprinkle of gray at the temples or anything.

Bree: I need a bumper sticker. I’m making a T-shirt out of that one.

Aradia: We need that merch in the store. If it’s not craggy, we’re not getting shaggy.

Bree: That’s the next T-shirt. Okay. teenage Bree – I cannot express how much I had internalized this sort of, nerdy disdain for hot people. I was just like, You show me a hot person in a book and I will show you someone who is probably evil. They are probably bad. I hate them all. And so yeah, Jonathan? Mmh?

Ali: I feel like so much of literature is like, the bad guy is kind of scary looking or has a weird scar, you know? First of all, scars are awesome. But second of all, I feel like it is important to tell young people, Hot people can still suck. Just because they’re hot and charismatic does not make them someone you should instantly like. You know what I mean? Because pretty privilege is real and it’s out there.

Aradia: Yeah.

Bree: Yes. And I’m really glad Alanna’s not on team Pretty Privilege.

Ali: There are whole scary people that take advantage of folks just because they’re good looking and charismatic.

Aradia: Yeah, I think the charisma part’s even more important than the good looking, because someone who looks good and opens their mouth and sounds like an asshole is pretty easy to dismiss, like, as a reader especially. But the charismatic ones, those are the ones that I always like – I appreciate seeing that charisma is not a moral positive, that charisma is very much morally neutral and can go either way. Because I feel like we really just often get sent the message that – it’s people who are really, I don’t know, someone who’s charming and who is a good leader and a good team builder is clearly going to be good? And it’s like, No, not necessarily. People who are good team builders and leaders might be building you for very nefarious purposes!

Ali: Well, yeah, I mean, I feel like all cult leaders, right? People are like, How do they fall for that? I’m like, they were charismatic! We will literally die for charisma!

Aradia: It’s true.

Ali: And it’s not always great. I mean, just because someone has that magnetic quality to them does not necessarily make them somebody to trust. It doesn’t necessarily make them evil, but it’s like – I mean, there are plenty of people that just – it’s so complicated. Because I feel like – neurodivergent people, right? We study people and social trends and how to be, in order to fit in and survive in the group. But there are other, equally nefarious people that study people in order to figure out how to get them to like them for nefarious reasons. Right? And I feel like, you know, there’s nothing wrong with being charismatic, and there’s nothing wrong with being likable. But just because they’re likable does not mean you should like them. I think that’s important for young people to hear.

Aradia: Yeah. Especially because all the adults trust Roger, all the adults assume that Roger is on their side.

Ali: Roger’s also an evil name. I’m sorry.

Aradia: Don’t trust the adults.

Ali: I’m sorry.

Aradia: Make your own judgment calls. And he has an evil name, yes.

Ali: He does! Name one good Roger! I’m sure they are existing out in the world.

Aradia: Oh, Mr. Rogers?

Ali: Oh, shit. I totally forgot.

Aradia: It’s RogerS, the s makes it different.

Ali: I’m also pretty sure that the nice husband in 101 Dalmatians is named Roger as well, but. Okay. Okay, that’s two.

Bree: I am actually a Rogers. I am actually a Rogers.

Ali: Are you really? No, you’re not.

Bree: Yes. My grandfather was named Dustin Rogers.

Ali: Are you a little evil? Just kidding.

Aradia: She’s at least a little crazy.

Ali: Again. One of my talents is sticking my foot in my mouth. You know what I mean? Like, it’s really an amazing talent, how good I am at it.

Bree: I mean, maybe he was a little evil. I haven’t established whether or not he was an evil sorcerer yet.

Ali: We don’t know. That’s something people keep to themselves.

Bree: He did not have a jeweled wizard’s rod that he turned between his fingers, though. That’s ominous.

Ali: I remembered a staff! I remembered a staff. I forgot he had one.

Aradia: Yeah, he got his jeweled thing. Yeah.

Ali: You know he’s Bad News Bears. He’s Bad News Bears.

Aradia: And he tries to get into Alanna’s head.

Ali: Bad.

Aradia: Like, Oh, so you’re the one that cured Jon of the sickness, huh? Tell me more.

Ali: You foiled my plan, small child.

Aradia: Tell me more, follow the shiny thing, tell me more! There is a distinct, Alanna throwing up barriers and being like, Nope, you don’t get to learn my secrets here. Like, why do you need to learn this child’s secrets, Roger? I think you might be evil.

Ali: Let’s just say, there should be no secrets between adults and children, at least not one given by an adult. But I feel like, hmm. Yeah, I seem to recall that this one is an evil, evil guy. I don’t know. I remember a staff –

Aradia: Suspicious.

Ali: Remember a nefarious staff. And I remember that there was a man – or woman – who was not a nice person. And there is a dark city. Those are the things I seem to recall. That’s very unspecific.

Bree: I am going to say, she had a headache when she left his office.

Ali: A headache!

Bree: And it made me think he was trying to do magic stuff. But she was stopping him because she’s too magical.

Ali: A headache is bad, when you’re around a magic person and you have a headache, that’s bad. Or a chill of some kind?

Aradia: Every time.

Ali: A chill? That’s magic. They’re trying to – There’s a mist? Bad. All of these things are bad.

Bree: And Coram‘s trying to tell her that Roger can read your mind. And she’s like, Oh, that’s silly peasant shit. Stop getting drunk. Oh, Coram also said she might be protected by the gods.

Aradia: Yeah.

Bree: And I feel like the title of book two is a hint that something is going to go on there. Also, the Goddess was basically chillin with her in the last chapter, like, Hey girl, here’s some magic mojo. Go talk to Death. He’s my bro.

Aradia: Right

Ali: I feel like magic where you can read minds, or manipulate minds, you’re probably evil. Do you know what I mean?

Bree: Ooh, controversial. Controversial thing to say to a romance reader.

Ali: Is that controversial?

Bree: Nalini Singh. It is, because Nalini Singh is one of my favorite authors and she has literally written, I think it’s like 24 books in the series right now. There are about psychics. But they have a whole ethical thing.

Ali: Well, okay, this is the thing. You have to have ethics.

Bree: Yes. I’m like, okay, this is the thing. At the beginning of the series, the psychic infrastructure was frickin evil. They were super evil. But, you know, there’s lots of stuff going on and lots of things. But ethics, man. I’m like, I could go all day because she goes deep and unpacking all of the ethics of mind control shit, and doing what Roger might have been doing there. Big no no.

Aradia: Mhm. Right.

Bree: (whispers) Big no no! If he was doing something, we don’t know for sure. But if she had a headache because he was trying to peek inside there. No, no, no, no.

1:50:40 Horses and pirates and camels, oh my!

Aradia: Yeah. So, moving on. It’s horse buying time!

Bree: Horses! Fantasy horses. I had forgotten about the horse, too. Even though he’s on, like, the covers of all the books.

Aradia: Yeah, the horse is a whole thing. So she gets a note sent to her from George, being like, Hey, I think I got a horse for you. She figures out she can maybe possibly afford it. maybe. And then she gets Jon to come along to help her with the purchase because she wants to not get, you know, blindsided, because she’s only 11. And thus Jon and George meet. And that’s interesting.

Bree: Ballsy to introduce the heir to the kingdom to the king of the criminals.

Ali: Right.

Aradia: But then they almost immediately work out what their respective legal jurisdictions are going to be, so it’s going to be fine for the rest of Jon’s education.

Bree: That is fun.

Aradia: It’s kind of fun and cute. But yeah, they go and look at these horses. And it’s like Ta’veren from Wheel of Time with these horses, right? There’s the perfect horse for Alanna, and then George just happens to have also found the perfect horse for Jon and like, makes this snap decision to sell it to him too. And it’s like, that was Ta’veren before Ta’veren was invented. That’s why these two horses showed up. You know, it’s that kind of like – for plot. For plot. These two horses, that are perfect,just happened to be here.

Bree: A wee bit of fantasy racism in there, too, kind of.

Aradia: Yeah, little skosh.

Bree: Just a wee bit.

Aradia: Little skosh.

Ali: (sighs)

Bree: Because George, did he call him like, a dirty Bazhir?

Aradia: Dirty old Bazhir.

Bree: I never said this word out loud.

Aradia: I say it Bazhir in my head.

Bree: Yeah, I’m like, George, that sounded a little racist. I’m not sure. I mean, maybe he was just literally dirty and old, but I don’t know.

Aradia: I don’t know. I mean, I always figured it was like the used car salesman of horses sort of energy. You know, he’s been out in the wilds and hadn’t taken a bath yet and was just literally dirty. But yeah, given that the Bazhir are a very clearly racially coded group it’s like, well, that did feel a bit racist. Little bit.

Ali: (sighs again)

Bree: Yeah this series’ obligatory desert tribe of horsey people.

Ali: Yeah…

Bree: Every fantasy series has to have one.

Ali: Apparently. (Sighs)

Bree: Robert Jordan was like clearly trying to subvert something when he’s like, Well, mine are all redheads, and also they hate horses.

Aradia: Yeah, for sure.

Ali: That’s true.

Bree: Like, we talk about him coding them as white being subversive. But I do think also the hate, refusing to get on the horse thing is a very deliberate thing, where he was like, My desert people don’t like horses. All of your desert people like horses. Because it is a very fantasy – everybody’s got a desert horse people.

Ali: Desert people. Yeah. I feel like not as much anymore. I’m not reading that as much anymore. But definitely in like the eighties and nineties, that stuff. Yeah. There’s usually some – the fixation that people had on the desert and horses, when camels are right there!, It is truly –

Aradia: No one has a fantasy camel design.

Ali: I just, in a world where we have horses.

Bree: Mercedes Lackey has one, Melanie Rawn had one, just –

Ali: Do we not have camels? Like, are they not a more practical animal to have in the desert?

Aradia: They’re just more ornery.

Bree: But we like horses.

Ali: I know we like horses.

Bree: So everybody wants –

Ali: Obviously we like horses.

Bree: These are still horse girl books.

Ali: But I’m just saying, camels are right there and they’re much better in the desert than a horse. I’m just saying, from a practicality perspective.

Aradia: Practical considerations in my fantasy world?

Ali: Where is my fantasy camel? Where are they?

Aradia: Someone write a fantasy camel series for Ali.

Ali: Please. I’m sure there is one, there has to be.

Bree: That would be amazing.

Ali: There has to be. Somebody has written camels into something, I just. I don’t know. I’m always just like, Yeah, it doesn’t make sense.

Bree: Let me just write this down.

Ali: You’re writing it down? You know what would be really subversive? Camels.

Bree: Not sure where it fits on my pirate ship ice island.

Ali: Pirates. I feel like pirates and camels somehow do live in the same world in my brain. Don’t know why. Like, I feel like there’s a fascination with those things. Like they all kind of feel like, so wow to me? They live in the same universe in my head. Like, if I saw a camel I’d freak out, and if I saw a pirate, I’d also freak out. You know what? I mean, so I – I feel like there’s a world in which – I would connect the two. But I don’t know.

Bree: Pirates and camels.

Ali: Pirates and camels. This is what I’m saying. I love a good camel.

Aradia: The other thing I really like about this part is that George does take Alanna’s money, but only exactly as much as she can afford. He’s basically done the sums and figured out what she can afford, and prices the horse accordingly. And Jon looks at him and is like, That is not what that horse costs. He is like, No, but I’m letting the guy have his pride. It’s really sweet because – and again, we get another friendship passage thing here, where she’s like, Why would you do this for me? And he’s like, Because friends. And she’s like, But I haven’t done anything, this feels not transactional enough! And he’s like, Friendship is not transactional.

Ali: Oh!

Aradia: But also he did underpin it with a transaction. It’s very beautiful and folded together.

Bree: Well, that’s like the way where, if you know somebody well enough to know that it would make them uncomfortable to not give you money, then taking money from them is the respectful and kind friend thing to do. To not, you know, belittle their emotions on that front. So good job George.

Ali: Yeah.

Aradia: Yeah!

Bree: And he didn’t steal the horses because he knew Alan would not like a stolen horse, so.

Aradia: Right, right. He very – again, respecting Alan, knowing Alan, knowing how Alan would feel about this, he doesn’t want a stolen horse and he doesn’t want a free horse. So it has to be above board and for a price.

Bree: And now we have Moonlight.

Aradia: And then Jon gets a horse, which is cool. But yes, now we have Moonlight.

Bree: And Jon gets a horse, I don’t know if Jon named the horse. I wasn’t paying attention.

Aradia: I think he does, because it’s a fantasy series, and horses need names. But yes, this, this horse, this gold and white horse? This was my bike, because my bike was gold and white. So like, this was specifically my fantasy horse, polygram in my mind, on my bike.

Bree: Moonlight.

Ali: I feel like this – and see, this again, bringing it back to Gus’s never imagined – I’m like, you never were on your bike, riding through your neighborhood, deciding that this was my horse and I was riding through a thing – like that blows my mind, how different people can be. Because I was like, That is all we did. All we did was like, create – that and make up weird bake sales where we just stole sodas out of my friend’s fridge and tried to sell them on the side of the road.

Aradia: Sure.

Ali: And we actually got in trouble because we took some beers unknowingly out of the fridge and were trying to sell beers on the side of the road.

Aradia: (laughs) Yeah, that will get you in trouble.

Ali: Yeah, but I feel like, yeah, George gets it. George gets Alanna. I like George, okay? I like George. I just think Jonathan is also great.

Aradia: So how do you think that Jon and George’s relationship is going to develop, now that they’ve met and they know of each other?

Ali: Well, I feel like we’re before the Team Jacob, Team Edward era, right?

Aradia: Very much so, very much before that. But they’re at odds already, because thief and prince, right? We’ve already got a reason to have conflict.

Ali: Thief and Prince. Mhm. But I feel like Jonathan – I don’t know. Are we team Jonathan or team George?

Bree: I feel like I shouldn’t answer this, because I feel like I remember stuff a little bit. Because this is where we get into the dynamics. This is like the one thing I think I remember, and I think – I don’t know. I think now it just seems cool. Like, you know, Jonathan was just like, Now I am a prince who has an eccentric friend. A very eccentric friend.

Ali: Yeah.

Bree: So, you know, and George is like, Now the prince likes me.

Ali: Which, if you’re a thief and having a prince like you, that’s pretty nice as a thing. But I don’t know if, like, once Alanna kind of comes between them if that’s going to be a problem or no. Because it is before the era of the teams of boys. But I seem to recall there being a conflict there in Alanna’s mind between Jonathan and George. I seem to recall that he was interested in both of them.

Aradia: All right. Well, put a pin in that. We may get some stuff.

Bree: I guess we will have to see.

Ali: Will we have to make team Jonathan and team George shirts? Will that be a thing?

Aradia: I don’t – we’re going to have to podcast and find out.

Bree: Maybe. Ali, you can be the Team Jonathan captain.

Ali: I don’t know if I want to be that captain. I’m not sure how this turns out. I don’tl remember if this turns out well, because I’m pretty sure she ends up with George, I think that she ends up picking George. Or, it’s really ahead of its time and we just address polyamory. That would be really cool. But –

Aradia: Yeah, that’s what happens. YA from the eighties, it definitely went the polyamory route.

Bree: I am going to tell you, Ali, this may be me guslighting you a little bit, but there’s a third love interest. I do remember that. So like, don’t get too –

Ali: Alanna’s cleaning up. Good for her.

Bree: Don’t get too comfortable.

Ali: I feel like they get along okay though, I don’t remember them having a particularly adversarial relationship.

Bree: For now, they seem to be.

2:00:38 Music break. Go get your hot blacksmith neurodivergent glory

Bree: Okay, can I say something, speaking of adversarial relationships? Because when we turn the page, the new swords master shows up. And the new guy, Geoffrey of Meron. And I immediately started hissing in my head, and I have no idea why. I don’t know if this guy turns out evil or something, or if I just hate the name Geoffrey of Meron, it just looks evil. But like, I got real mad, and then I just kept waiting for him do something terrible, and nothing happened. So now I’m like, stressed out. I’m like, Did I just randomly decide to hate a child? Or like, what is going on here? But something’s weird.

Aradia: (hums)

Bree: I’m either remembering something or I’m not. I don’t know.

Aradia: Is it because Meron is kind of like Malven? Like Ralon Malven. Ralon of Malven?

Bree: It might be. It might be. Maybe. Maybe I’m getting all this Malfoy like weird last names that sound kind of evil. I don’t know. It just seems like a evil name.

Aradia: So keep an eye on the evil child in the corner, apparently.

Bree: Bree hates children.

Aradia: Bree hates handsome men and children.

Bree: I’m a very normal person.

Aradia: So, yeah, we’re moving into the fencing lessons. It’s the last section of the chapter, really, last real plot point. And we are getting to move into fencing lessons. The Pages get to learn fencing, and they have your quintessential cantankerous old captain who, like, insults them and says that they’re going to be good for nothing. And like, you know, your basic drill sergeant kind of person.

Bree: Oh, Ali, read one of these lines.

Aradia: Oh, yeah.

Bree: Right before we started. That made us all, like, so mad.

Aradia: Yeah, he calls them all girls, insultingly. I’m sorry, go ahead Ali.

Ali: (coming out of the gate HOT) I hate when people do that shit. It immediately makes me not like a character when they’re like, All right, ladies – Ladies? Girls? Not an insult. It’s not an insult to be a woman. It’s just not. It’s just not. We’re done doing that, I’m fucking done with it. I fucking done with using gender as an insult. It is so stupid. It’s so stupid, and it makes me instantly dislike the character, instantly! Fuck!

Bree: And you think I hate kids. He just comes in and starts negging them all.

Aradia: Yeah.

Ali: Yeah. Like, no wonder she doesn’t know how to feel about her boobs. Like, yeah, that’s because – my memories of womanhood, I had no problem. Like, this is the thing. Respect to people who, you know, are non-binary, trans, you know, all that stuff. I, being a woman, that never really phased me at all internally, right? But externally, how I was treated with the identity of being a woman, with being assigned female at birth, I felt so frustrated constantly by how people interacted with me, especially once puberty hit. Like, first of all, this immediate assumption that I was not going to be a nice person as a middle school girl was just bullshit. One. Two: I just I hate how people talk about young girls. I hate it. And I also hate that we use girlhood as an insult. I felt like this year was the first year that like it felt like women were just kind of going like, We’re just having our space. And still, it was just constant. Between the Eras tour and the Barbie movie and everything. It felt like all of a sudden femininity was cool and that we were embracing it and it felt kind of lovely in a way, like that there was this rush of femininity. And yeah, obviously there’s a lot to unpack there, but I just am sick of it. I’m sick of women being like, the joke. And also, could you imagine, all the messages that Alanna is receiving just from that?

Aradia: Uh huh! You have to prove you’re not a girl, because being a girl is bad.

Ali: And like, the thing is, here it’s obviously being done as a statement, right? Here it is obviously being done as like, she’s right there. And this is so uncomfortable, that he is using woman as an insult while she’s there absorbing those messages. Right? It’s still bad if she’s not there. But also, how do you think young men grow up feeling about women when you are this gross and casually dismissive of them?

Aradia: Yeah. Don’t become emasculated. That would be bad.

Ali: Yeah. The messages that these boys are receiving about the inherent value of womanhood right here. And femininity.

Aradia: Right. You’ll lose your man card if you can’t impress me. Like, that’s what he’s saying.

Ali: The amount of women that I know that engage in their partners’ interests and don’t have their partner reciprocate is wild. Because they’re like, Well, that’s girly. Like, fuck you, watch Love is Blind with your wife, she watches football with you every fucking week. You know, I just – Yeah. Anyway, so that bothers me. And yes, there are women who are actually into football, but there are a lot of women who watch it because their partner likes it. Jesus. All right, so now, in addition to that, like, we have Alanna receiving these messages, that girlhood is inherently avaluable. What a mind fuck, when she’s also disguising herself as a boy and lives in a society that tells her that she can’t do things because she’s a woman and she has great boobs.

Aradia: And now she’s growing boobs. Just salt in the wound.

Bree: This would be very uncomfortable.

Ali: Yeah.

Bree: And to be clear, like, because I think some people were like, you know, just maybe confused about what we were yelling at last week. We’re not yelling at Tamora Pierce about this. She is portraying exactly this on purpose. This is not like, Oh, she’s forgotten and slipped in some sexism. No, the sexism in here is targeted and real and it’s purposeful.

Aradia: Super deliberate. It’s very, very deliberate.

Ali: It’s just triggering to read.

Bree: It’s just enraging.

Ali: Yeah, it’s triggering to read, as a woman in the world. And she’s so doing it on purpose and it’s so thoughtful and she’s doing a really, really good job. But it’s triggering to read as a person that’s like, Yeah, this is how it is. And these are the messages you get at as young as 11, younger. Like the amount of times that I heard on the playground that girls’ stuff is stupid from boys, and girls being like, I don’t like that now because now I’m hearing it’s stupid. Even though they loved it yesterday, it’s heartbreaking. Or boys going like, I no longer like to play dress up because it’s a girl thing. I mean, it’s heartbreaking to watch how society puts all of these stupid fucking norms on people that don’t matter. I mean, they don’t matter, who gives a fuck, honestly.

Aradia: Yeah, but it’s, you know, this is the guy that teaches them every year. This guy has been inculcating this in batches of young men for like 20 to 40 years. Every batch goes through his –

Ali: I mean, talk about indoctrination.

Aradia: Exactly.

Ali: It’s laughable to me when people are like, Wah, they’re indoctrinating children! I’m like, Holy fucking God, you’re indoctrinated from the day you’re fucking born. Like pink or blue, who gives a fuck? It’s a genital. It doesn’t mean shit!

Aradia: I do actually kind of like this character, broadly, because of what he says. Something to the effect of, like – because Alanna yells at him, like, Stop telling me I’m bad at this. And he’s like, Well, you’re going to have to work on that confidence, iIf you let an old buzzard like me shatter your confidence. He’s clearly of the school of tough love and you can tell through that he actually singles out Alanna as being potentially quite talented, because he fucking heaps abuse on her and is clearly giving her a lot of attention. And it looks bad but he’s clearly of the old school tough love thing, and it’s actually a vote of confidence. And I like it if I can see under of all the rest of – You can see a little bit of Coram in him, you know? And this guy definitely trained Coram when he was much younger, but still a grizzled old man, and Coram was young, you know. There’s just, I don’t know, there’s something crusty about it.

Ali: I’m kind of hoping this dude goes on a journey. Like, I feel like, yeah, you’re right that there is an underlying tough love-ness in there. I don’t always know how I feel about tough love?

Aradia: It’s complicated.

Ali: I have a very complicated relationship with the idea of tough love.

Bree: I’m not sure why I think my thumbs down is going to play well on a podcast, but just, big thumbs down for me.

Ali: Yeah, it’s not my favorite. I think it’s a product of toxic masculinity. I do, however, love a grumpy man. A gruff, grumpy man – when I meet a grump, I have this problem.

Bree: Did we get a description of his nose? Is it craggy like, you know.

Ali: We love craggy. It’s a weird mind fuck, because I’m like, I do love a grumpy man. I do – with a heart of gold! But they have to have a, they have to be grumpy on the outside, crusty on the outside, and like, lovely on the inside.

Aradia: He’s “a hard-bitten old mercenary with a patch over his missing eye”.

Bree: Oh, yeah, yeah. No, I love it, but I still want to punch him.

Ali: I do a little wanna punch him.

Bree: I don’t know if I could fix him.

Ali: But I do love when I meet a craggy, older guy who’s like, a little gruff, but you can tell there’s a softy quality in there. Whenever I meet a guy like that, I’m always like, I will become your best friend. I will. It’s a mission where I’m like, I will win you over and I will get the soft part.

Bree: Ali, are you just perpetually living in a Sunshine/Grump? Like, is that your thing?

Ali: I don’t think my husband qualifies as grumpy. Anxious, yes. Like, I feel like I’m the-

Bree: It doesn’t have to be a romance. It can just be a friendship. Are you chasing that sunshine/grump friendship?

Ali: I mean, like intergenerational friendships. I love having older friends. Like, I love that. Like, I have – all of my neighbors are older than I am and I’m like, I watch Travel the World with you. I want you to like me so badly, because I feel like – it’s like having a cat, you know, when they pick you.

Aradia: Sure.

Ali: Yeah. You know, So anyway, I feel like there is that part of me that’s like, I like a little tough love, but it’s got to be clearly loving at the same time. It’s got to be like, you know, we give each other a hard time, but there’s the wink behind it, versus the mean. Yeah, because I feel like it can be mean, right?

Aradia: Which, this is not. This is the mean kind where you figure it out over years, maybe, when your skills save you in battle or whatever. But during the time it sucks. Is definitely what’s happening here.

Ali: And I mean, yeah. He is training soldiers. I do want to leave space for that, he is training people where if he trains them poorly, they will die. So I do understand the stakes of that, before anyone comes flocking to his defense because we have ripped him a part of it. I do understand that that is a thing that is playing into – because war is not fun and war is not gentle. And I get that. But at the same time, do we want them beaten down before they even go?

Aradia: Apparently.

Ali: I don’t know if that helps!

Aradia: It’s what they’ve all done before. Right. You know, if I had to suffer this way, you will, too.

Ali: Oh, I hate that!

Aradia: Inter-generational trauma is a healthy thing to hold on to.

Ali: I’m like, The buck stops here, I’m done as much as possible passing that shit on. Like, I hate that stuff. Hollywood does that sometimes, they’re like, Well, it was bad for me, as a PA or whatever. And I go, No, we should go, want the world to be better. So then if you want the world to be better, that means treating people better than you were treated. It’s not restitution.

Aradia: But the other fun part of their sword training is that they make their own swords. I really like that little bit of detail, that they have to go to the smithy in order to learn, in order to begin their journey towards being swordsmen. Like, I think that’s very cool. Coram takes them all off for a field trip to go do their first ever handcraft project, and it’s going to be their first sword.

Ali: We all love blacksmithing. Okay? Blacksmithing is the coolest thing you can do.

Aradia: It is objectively hot.

Ali: It really is objectively hot to be a blacksmith. Universally, coming from the woman who is doing the Grinwell Cup because I don’t believe in universal attractiveness – blacksmithing is where I draw the line. That is a universally attractive thing to do. It’s like, a man who could quote poetry, universally attractive. As long as it’s, like, good. And not their own.

Aradia: Yeah, I know, I know, I have a friend who may possibly be listening to this podcast who was a blacksmith for a while and, um, yes. Very hot.

Ali: Yes, it’s very hot. Well, I don’t know what it is. There’s a lot of pounding, there’s a lot of sweat, There’s a lot of –

Aradia: Muscles and precision and –

Bree: Okay, book rec! Everybody should go get A Duke by Default, by Alyssa Cole. It is about an accidental – It’s about a blacksmith, a grumpy Scottish blacksmith.

Ali: Ooh, Scottish?

Bree: Who finds out – like modern day, modern day.

Ali: Stop!

Bree: And it’s actually based on a guy who existed and kind of went a little bit viral, this like super grumpy blacksmith. And she literally interviewed him and asked him questions about blacksmithing and stuff, to like, get this done. And it’s such a – and the heroine has ADHD and the number of people who’ve been diagnosed with ADHD because they read this book is legendary.

Aradia: Wow.

Bree: So, A Duke by Default, by Alyssa Cole, go get your hot blacksmith neurodivergent glory. It’s made for this conversation.

Ali: I don’t normally do modern romance. It’s either got to be like, sci fi fantasy or like, regency. But I’ll do it. I’ll do it.

Bree: I feel like it’s almost a speculative world, because she built this like alternate royalty, and like, there’s a lot of different royal countries and stuff, and it’s got this whole thing and it’s very cool.

Ali: I will try anything, there’s just – I have a little lingering thing of like – sometimes when I read Modern Romance, and it’s no one’s fault, this is just me. And it’s hard for me to buy some of the premises. Do you know what I mean?

Bree: Yes, but trust me.

Ali: No, no, no. I’m sure, I trust you. I trust you. And I will read it.

Bree: No, I know 100% what you mean, but Alissa Cole.

Ali: No, I think that modern romance, when it’s done well, it’s awesome. But I feel like it’s really hard to do.

Bree: It is. I don’t write it!

Ali: To me would be the scariest thing to write because it’s like, yeah – miscommunication when there’s cell phones? Come on. Like, come on, we’re more connected than ever.

Bree: Oh, you know, one of the best things?Group chats are huge in these.

Ali: Oh great.

Bree: She has a friend group group chat. So, integrating.

Aradia: Nice.

Bree: Integrating the cell phones and funny stuff. I think the only thing left in this is that Alanna is such a little stubborn asshole, that she goes and she gets Coram’s sword, which is the same size as she is and she’s like, Yeah, you’re going to neg me, old man? I’m going to start practicing with a sword bigger than I am, and I’m going to become the best. She is so contrary.

Ali: I feel like that’s so smart, though.

Bree: She’s going to build some muscle.

Aradia: Yeah, I know. It’s completely smart. She’s always going to be a slight short swordsman compared to everyone else. She’s going to have to be pure muscle in order to compete. And I mean, yeah, they put her through this, they do this little duel thing to show them how bad they are. And she turns that into the same level of drive as when she had her arm broken and turns herself into an ambidextrous person. She takes this like very reasonable lessons zero in fencing insult, you know, embarrassing thing, and turns that into the same fire as having a broken arm. And it’s like, okay, I’m just going to do that again. But instead of being ambidextrous, I’m going to be just pure strength. And yeah, practices with Coram’s sword off into the sunset as the chapter ends.

Ali: I feel like that’s such a cool way to be. Somebody, you know, gets you down and you’re like, I’m going to turn this perceived weakness into a strength. I think that’s a nice metaphor for life.

Aradia: It’s incredible. I don’t have the staying power that Alanna has. I am in such awe of Alanna. I do not have the kind of sustained focus that she has for the sort of vengeful skill acquisition.

Ali: I mean, think of it as like a hyper fixation. Because then you do, I’m sure.

Aradia: Well, yeah, sure. But she picks what she’s hyper fixating on, and I can’t do that.

Ali: True. Well, it picked her.

Bree: It picked her, early in life.

Aradia: That is fair.

Bree: Because if she could have picked it, she could have picked something that had a lot less friction.

Aradia: That’s super valid.

Ali: Yeah. I feel like hyper fixations, that’s your ride or die, for as long as it lasts.

Aradia: I’ve never had a hyper fixation that took over my body to that degree.

Ali: Really?

Aradia: I’ve never had a hyper fixation that was like, I need to physically move my body in demanding ways. All my hyper fixations are head, it’s all head.

Ali: I feel like – this is weird. I’m hyper fixating on walking lately. I love walking. I don’t work out anymore at the same level at all. I used to, I did hyper fixate on running for a while and then ended that, and then that proved to be very bad for my knees. So now I’m walking. But I love walking, I love to move, I’m like a hamster on a wheel. I love it.

Aradia: I mean, I love moving, but that’s more of a stim than a hyper fixation. The way that she, like, learns the sword is more than just stimming.

Ali: True. I guess for me it’s crochet then, I got very into crochet.

Aradia: I got really into martial arts in phases for sure.

Ali: Then that’s that, that’s that. Yeah.

Aradia: Yeah. But then it didn’t last, you know.

Ali: Does singing count, because I’ve also done that, like I’ve hyper fixated on –

Aradia: Well I guess for me singing feels more like a stim. It’s not. I don’t know

Ali: When you get a hyper fixation, you know, hyper fixation loop, when people interrupt you, is that, like, the worst thing ever?

Aradia: Well, I mean, sometimes I need it. I need something to break me out of it and that is helpful. Sometimes it’s like, Oh, thank God I needed to eat for the last 2 hours. Thank you for telling me that I need to come eat dinner now.

Ali: Yeah. Sometimes you feel like you’re under a spell, right? You’re like, I can’t function. I haven’t eaten or had anything to drink, but I cannot walk away from this. And then your loving spouse is like, You haven’t moved in 3 hours.

Aradia: Yeah, Yeah.

Ali: But also there are times where I’m interrupted and I feel the rage of a thousand suns.

How dare you?

Aradia: Yes, yes, absolutely. It depends on how worn down my body is for the day. If I go into rage or relief. Middle of the day, I’m like, fuck off. At the end of the day I’m down to, like, running on fumes. And it’s like, thank you.

Ali: Very valid. Very true. Yeah. So this is Alanna’s hyper fixation, this is what I’ve decided.

Aradia: Yes, Alanna has hyper fixated on becoming pure strength, so that way she never is quite as embarrassed with swordplay ever again. And, you know, she has a quartet of having a sword on the cover. So one assumes that she does fairly well at this.

Ali: One assumes. You know, I feel it would be a bummer to read about a woman who was told she couldn’t do something and then was like, You’re right.

Aradia: That would suck. That would suck tremendously.

Ali: That would be a huge bummer.

Bree: I don’t think the series would have hit the same way.

Ali: I’m feeling like no, I’m feeling like no, I’m feeling like there’s overcoming of obstacles for sure. But I’m waiting for the Mulan moment, I’m waiting for the Mulan moment where the jig is up.

Bree: Well, we’ll find out because we’re finishing this book for next week, right?

Aradia: Yes.

2:22:37 Wrap up. Next reading: Finish the book!

Ali: Are we finishing the book?

Bree: We’re finishing the book. There’s two chapters left.

Ali: What?

Aradia: Yeah. Next week – we’re going to finish. We’re doing this book in three episodes. So, yeah.

Ali: This is a teeny tiny book.

Bree: It’s a cute little book.

Aradia: She still has to acquire her sword and deal with the Black City. All of that has to happen.

Bree: Well, I can’t wait.

Ali: These last chapters are going to slap.

Bree: I accidentally turned the page and saw that the next chapter is called Womanhood. So whew, boy.

Aradia: Buckle up for fantasy periods, everyone.

Bree: Here we go.

Ali: Oh, no!

Aradia: That’s your spoiler for next week.

Bree: Someone sound the alarm. Bree has been summoned.

Ali: Periods ruin the party again.

Aradia: Perpetually. But yeah, for now, this has been a very long episode, very long recording session.

Ali: We had a lot to say.

Aradia: Thank you for being here for all this intimate soul bearing.

Bree: So emotional.

Aradia: Thank you to all of our audience for listening to all of this and supporting us on patreon and discord and everything.

Ali: I forget you’re listening.

Aradia: Yeah, we forget you’re listening. So congratulations. Here’s our public diary. And yeah, Ali, want to take us out?

Ali: Abso frickin lutely. Thank you so much everyone. This has been the Hot Nuance Book Club. Our social media details are in the episode description below. For everything else, have a very nuanced day.