Welcome back to Reading the Wheel of Time! This week we pick back up in the middle of Chapter 12, with Siuan’s encounter with Cetalia and continuing on into Chapter 13, in which Moiraine visits her banker and teaches Siuan how to deal with a seamstress. Among other things. So let’s dive in!
On their way back to Siuan’s room to finally have their breakfast, Siuan and Moiraine meet another Blue whom Moiraine does not recognize. She realizes that the woman is nearly as strong in the Power as Moiraine and Siuan will be one day, and isn’t sure how much deference is required. The woman introduces herself as Cetalia Delarme, and deduces who Moiraine is by a description she’s heard of her as “the pretty little porcelain doll.” Moiraine is incensed, and keeps her composure with difficulty.
Cetalia then turns her attention to Siuan, who she has heard is good at puzzles, and thrusts a stack of papers at her. Moiraine and Siuan examine them, and while Moiraine sees only a random list of playing cards, Siuan deduces that it is a record of the order of play in a game called Arrays, which she has read of. Cetalia remarks that Moiraine has probably played the game but Siuan, who has only read of it, is the one who found the answer. She commands that Siuan come with her and be tested on more puzzles.
Moiraine goes back to her room and her own breakfast, but has only taken a bite when Anaiya comes in. Since Anaiya is nearly as strong in the Power as Cetalia, Moiraine stands up and waits respectfully.
“I’d tell you to sit down and eat,” the motherly woman said, “but Tamra sent a novice to fetch you. I told the child I’d carry her message because I wanted to offer you Healing. It can help with the tightness of the Oaths in some cases.”
Moiraine feels her face redden, but she thanks Anaiya, both for the offer and also because she thinks that Anaiya might have been giving her a clue about how Moiraine should treat her—then again, she can’t be sure. The Healing doesn’t lessen the tightness of the Oaths but it does make things more comfortable somehow. She puts her shawl on and hurries off towards Tamra’s quarters, excited and hopeful that this summons means that Tamra intends to make her one of the searchers for the child.
Several hours later, Siuan finds herself dangerously close to earning a penance as she protests to Cetalia that she doesn’t want a job as her assistant. She’s exhausted from going through puzzles and documents in Cetalia’s cluttered rooms, and her stomach is rumbling. Cetalia tells her off briskly, saying that she has need of Siuan and that is that, then sends Siuan off to eat something so that she stops sounding like “the leaky drainpipe.” Siuan keeps her outward composure with an effort as she leaves.
Stalking down the hall, she upbraids herself for showing off with the card puzzle—Moiraine had counseled caution and Siuan hadn’t listened. Now she will be trapped for years, until she rises enough in the Power that she will outrank Cetalia. Despite her hunger, she goes looking for Moiraine so that she can tell her that Moiraine will be forced to go search for the child by herself.
Seeing Moiraine makes her smile, and she considers that Cetalia had been wrong when she called Moiraine merely pretty—she is beautiful.
The first time Siuan saw her, she had been sure the Cairhienin girl would crack like a spindle-shell in a matter of days. But Moiraine had turned out to be as tough as she herself if not tougher. No matter how often she was knocked down, she climbed back to her feet straightaway. Moiraine did not know the meaning of “give up.”
But Moiraine doesn’t look much like someone who doesn’t give up at the moment. Instead, she’s sitting slumped in a chair looking sulky, a pot of tea apparently forgotten at her side. Siuan asks if Moiraine has been given a penance already, but Moiraine responds that it’s worse than that. Tamra has put her in charge of distributing the bounty; given that Moiraine was taught how to manage an estate, she has all the skills needed for such a task. Plus, as Tamra put it, she was “lying around loose.” She asks after Siuan’s day, and when Siuan accidentally mentions that Cetalia wants her “to puzzle out what happened forty or fifty years ago in Tarabon and Saldaea and Altara,” Moiraine immediately deduces that Cetalia is the head of the Blue Ajah eyes-and-ears network.
Siuan points out that distributing the bounty will only take a few months and then Moiraine can do what she likes, but to her surprise, Moiraine confesses that she’s been keeping a secret, and admits that she believes that the Hall intends to put her on the Sun Throne. Siuan remarks that Moiraine would be a wonderful queen, and that most rulers have an Aes Sedai advisor these days. But Moiraine counters that it’s a long step from advisor to queen—she’s not as sure as the Hall seems to be that there won’t be riots in the streets if she were to take the throne.
“And even if they are right, no one has ruled Cairhien for long without being willing to stoop to kidnapping, assassination and worse. My great-grandmother, Carewin, ruled more than fifty years, and the Tower calls her a very successful ruler because Cairhien prospered and had few wars under her, but her name is still used to frighten children. Better to be forgotten than remembered like Carewin Damodred, but even with the Tower behind me, I will have to try matching her if the Hall succeeds.”
Suddenly she is near to tears, desperately comparing her situation to a fox caught in a trap. Siuan cuddles up next to her friend and assures her that they will find a way out. She speaks more confidently than she feels, however, and is surprised when the First Oath lets her say the words.
“If you say so, Siuan.” Moiraine did not sound as if she believed, either. “There is one thing I can remedy. May I offer you Healing?” Siuan could have kissed her. In fact, she did.
Standing beside his horse at the foot of Kinslayer’s Dagger, Lan studies the snow-covered mountains ahead, but he can see no sign of the Aiel. One of the soldiers demands to know why they’re waiting, but Bukama saves Lan the trouble of answering, declaring that only a fool tries to fight Aiel in the mountains. He expresses worry that Pedron Niall, who currently has the command, won’t try to “paint his face” today.
“He won’t,” Lan said simply. Only a handful knew war as well as Niall. Which meant that this particular war might very well end this day. He wondered whether it would be called a victory. Sliding the looking glass back into its saddle-case, he found himself looking north. Feeling the pull, an iron filing feeling the lodestone. It was almost pain, after so long. Some wars could not be won, yet they still must be fought.
Bukama sees the look, and adds that only a fool jumps straight from one war to another. Lan assures him that a month or two (the time it will take to travel back to the Borderlands) will be enough rest, but Bukama pushes for a year, or at least eight months. Lan counters with four, wondering if it’s Bukama who needs the rest. But he has been waiting two years—he can wait four more months.
Pedron Niall doesn’t try for a fool’s glory, which Lan figures is just as well given how much of the army has already departed, feeling like the war has been won. Many are calling it a great victory, including the historians already writing the accounts, but Lan isn’t sure it should be called that at all. He and Bukama turn north, giving Tar Valon a wide berth. Bukama is interested in seeing some sights, but Lan doesn’t talk unless Bukama addresses him directly.
He felt the pull of home sharply. All he wanted was a return to the Blight. And no encounters with Aes Sedai.
Both Moiraine and Siuan are excited to go down to eat in the Aes Sedai’s main dining hall. Although they’re embarrassed when some of the older Aes Sedai smile or chuckle at seeing their shawls, neither of them are ready to go without something they’ve worked so hard to achieve. The experience is much more elegant than that of the Accepted. Instead of benches and heavy pottery, there are low-backed chairs and fine china, and they are given a list of choices rather than just being served whatever the kitchen has made.
Despite the comfort, however, Moiraine finds that she can’t eat much. She’s too busy worrying, unable to think of a way to escape being put on the Sun Throne.
Just walking away from a task assigned by the Amyrlin Seat was unthinkable. Maybe the Hall would decide the plan was untenable. No one had approached her concerning the matter since Tsutama had asked whether she had thought of being Queen of Cairhien. They might decide so. It seemed a thin hope, but thin hopes were all she could find.
When they return to the Blue quarters they are summoned by Eadyth, who provides them each with a letter-of-rights for one thousand gold crowns, and informs them that they will receive the same each year. She also tells them that they can ask for more if they need it, though if they ask too often they will probably be brought before the Hall to be questioned about their spending. Siuan is clearly stricken at suddenly possessing so much money, and deposits it with the Tower immediately, despite Moiraine’s offer to introduce her to Moiraine’s banker.
Nothing Moiraine said could convince her. Safety alone concerned her, and it seemed a banking house old enough to have loaned gold to Artur Hawkwing could not be challenged in that regard by the first bank founded after the Breaking.
With her shawl on her shoulders, Moiraine goes down to the great square and hires a sedan chair to take her to her bank, which looks like “a small palace, on a broad boulevard with tall leafless trees marching down the center strip.” A doorman lets her in and a footman guides her down the hall to the study of Mistress Dormaile. Moiraine’s father had banked with Mistress Dormaile’s brother and still handles Moiraine’s accounts back in Cairhien, so it had been easy to choose her new banker when she came to Tar Valon.
Mistress Dormaile smiles when she sees Moiraine’s shawl, and offers congratulations. Moiraine finds that she very much enjoys the sound of someone calling her “Moiraine Sedai.” Mistress Dormaile correctly assumes that Moiraine has come to deposit her stipend, but then she references a letter and that she has learned nothing more since sending it.
For an instant, Moiraine’s smile froze in place. With an effort, she unfroze it, made her voice casual. “Suppose you tell it to me again. I may winnow out something hearing it fresh.
Mistress Dormaile tells her of a Cairhienin who came to her nine days ago, a cultured-sounding man wearing the uniform of a Tower Guard with a scar by his left eye.
“He presented an order purportedly signed and sealed by the Amyrlin Seat directing me to lay open your finances to him. Unfortunately for him, I know Tamra Ospenya’s signature well, and the White Tower knows I would never reveal the affairs of my patrons in any respect. I had several footmen overpower him and lock him in an empty strongroom, and then I sent for real Tower Guards.”
She continues to explain that the man was able to escape by bribing one of the bank’s employees, and Moiraine gives her a look upon hearing the punishment visited on the offender. Mistress Dormaile reminds her that the false Guard Captain broke Tower law and so was turned over to the Tower, but that she prefers to handle internal matters internally, and is only telling Moiraine because she was involved. Moiraine nods her understanding; no bank can afford to have it known that their employees took bribes.
Mistress Dormaile doesn’t ask Moiraine what she thinks of the false Guard and his false order, or even seem curious. Her discretion and professionalism are one reason that Moiraine only keeps a little money in the Tower—she doesn’t want her affairs known to other Blues, and certainly not to other Ajahs.
But the fact that the Tower didn’t tell Moiraine about the letter proves to her that they are making moves to put her on the Sun Throne, and Moiraine suspects that this isn’t their first move, either. Still, she keeps her panic from her face, and very calmly and professionally thanks the banker for doing so well by her, and asking Mistress Dormaile to transfer suitable recompense from Moiraine’s account. “Very properly, the banker demurred twice, bowing her head, before accepting with a show of reluctance,” but Moiraine isn’t paying much attention to that as her mind furiously looks for a way out.
Moiraine begins laying her plans, giving certain instructions to the banker, then returning to the Tower and asking around until she confirms the name of the best seamstress in Tar Valon. She and Siuan go to see Tamore Alkohima. She has to prod Siuan into ordering six dresses, but she herself orders twenty, in the best silk, and half with skirts divided for riding. She doesn’t need that many, but she wants to give the Hall the impression that she has settled in Tar Valon.
The fabric selection is a struggle for Moiraine, since Siuan has no concept of the behavior expected in this situation. Moiraine cautiously barters with the seamstress, trying to avoid having to accept too many light colored dresses or too much embroidery, but when she realizes that Siuan has been asking about prices and trying to pick cheaper fabric, she pulls her friend aside to lecture her about the proper way to speak to a seamstress.
“You must observe the proprieties, or she will believe you are mocking her. But try thinking of her as a sister who stands just a little above you. A touch of deference is necessary. Just a touch, but she will tell you what to wear as much as she asks.”
She also tells Siuan that she is lucky that they don’t need a hairdresser, as “[the] best hairdressers are true tyrants, nearly as bad as perfumers.” Siuan thinks she’s joking.
When it comes time for the fitting, Moiraine sees that she will pay for making Tamore wait while debating with Siuan—she’s going to end up with some dresses even paler than the ones she agreed to, while Siuan’s dresses look like they’re going to end up pretty form fitting. Siuan’s eyes go wide when she hears the price, but Moiraine is grateful that her friend at least keeps her mouth closed this time, and promises a generous gratuity if the garments are completed quickly.
Before leaving, she tells Tamore that she has decided on five more riding dresses, “in the strictest Cairhienin style, which was to say dark, though she did not put it that way, each with six slashes across the breast in red, green and white.” These are fewer slashes that Moiraine has a right to, and suggests that she is a minor member of a noble House. She also asks that they be made last, and tells Tamore that someone will come to pick them up. Tamore assures her that the riding dresses will be made last.
Oh, yes; her first dresses were going to be pale. But the second part of her plan was accomplished. For the moment, she was as ready as she could be.
I believe there has been some mention here and there of Moiraine’s lineage throughout the first five books of The Wheel of Time, including an off-hand comment from someone about how she was at one point a possible candidate for Queen of Cairhien, but I had no idea that the Tower had actively sought to put Moiraine on the Sun Throne. The push and pull of whether the Aes Sedai are honored, feared but given respect, or hated is actually a pretty complex situation, but the reader doesn’t understand this until the Emond’s Fielders have traveled to enough different countries. Siuan claims in this section that most rulers have Aes Sedai advisors, but I don’t believe we’ve seen any such Aes Sedai besides Elaida. Though to be fair, a lot of the nations we’ve visited have been in chaos and/or had their leaders recently deposed, so maybe the situation was different twenty years earlier.
But from everything I understand about how the nations interact with the Tower, it seems pretty unlikely that people would put up with having an Aes Sedai ruler. It reminds me a bit of the backlash against having a Catholic president of the United States; when JFK was running, people argued that he would allow the Vatican to dictate American politics. In the case of the Aes Sedai, you can see why the people of Cairhien (or anywhere else) might fear that an Aes Sedai Queen would have divided loyalties.
After all, we’ve seen what the White Tower is like. At best, it has the world’s interests at heart, and at worst, it is mostly focused on its own. So what would happen when an Aes Sedai Queen was faced with a conflict of interest, when her own judgments or the advice of her counsel and nobles conflicted with what the Amyrlin Seat wanted her to do? I mean, we’ve heard that anecdote from Bryne about Siuan dictating how Andor handled the Murandian raids, but having the Amyrlin come in as an outside authority and put pressure on a ruler is still different from having your ruler sworn to obey the Tower. You see this theme with Lady Jessica in Dune, and the disaster that befalls Duke Leto and his House is largely because his men refuse to trust Jessica or believe that she is loyal to Leto. You can imagine what Moiraine would have to do to keep control in Cairhien, a place that requires its rulers to govern with an iron fist even before this kind of complication comes into it.
So all this makes me very curious as to whether the Tower knows something that Moiraine doesn’t about the situation in Cairhien, that makes them more confident in the endeavor than she is. Or is Moiraine right? Is the Hall overconfident in their ability to put her on the throne? I guess the answer probably lies somewhere between the two possibilities—I could certainly see the Tower approaching this whole idea as an experiment. The possibility may just be too good for them to pass up, and what they would gain by having a successful Aes Sedai Queen is probably a lot greater than what they might lose. From their standpoint, it’s a question of nothing ventured, nothing gained.
That math is very different for Moiraine, though, because she loses a lot if she’s unsuccessful at keeping the throne, but arguably loses just as much if she is successful. Her explanation to Siuan about what would be required for her to survive as Queen, of how Carewin is regarded as a successful queen by the Tower but remembered by her people as a figure of nightmares, reminded me a lot of the way Rand thinks about his identity as the Dragon Reborn. It feels very fitting to be reading New Spring right now, after watching him get his Daes Dae’mar lessons from Moiraine in The Fires of Heaven. By the time we read The Fires of Heaven, we know that Moiraine was a Cairhienin noblewoman and that her knowledge of politics and how to handle being a leader comes from that background as well as from her training as an Aes Sedai. But it feels very different to see what that knowledge means to her personally. After all, the Moiraine we meet in The Eye of the World has already made her choices, and knows the path she’s on. This Moiraine is still learning, still finding her destiny.
And being Queen of Cairhien isn’t it.
Moiraine may have been born a high ranking noble, but it is clear that she was never interested in that life, just as her father wasn’t. She has wanted to be an Aes Sedai since she first discovered the ability in herself, and I am sure she never expected to be a possible candidate for the throne. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, but there’s nothing to say that being a queen is part of her destiny—indeed, given the timing of her life, the fact that she and Siuan alone heard Gitara’s foretelling, and the fact that she was raised just at the right time to become part (or all, as it turns out) of the search for Rand, it would seem clear that the Wheel does not intend her to have any part of Cairhien’s government. Of course, we the readers know that from our foresight (or is it hindsight? Prequels are confusing) of how the next twenty plus years are going to go for Moiraine. The Tower’s just… doing their thing.
But this also makes me wonder what it was like for her to watch Rand struggle against his own destiny. His constant fear that he’ll be used as a puppet by the White Tower was unfair to her, and amped up by Ba’alzamon, but it wasn’t unfounded either. And now we see that Moiraine also had her struggles against being used by the White Tower in ways she did not want to be. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out, but I know that she’s going to escape being made Queen of Cairhien and spend most of the next twenty years traveling and searching for Rand, just has she hopes she’ll get to. Rand doesn’t get off nearly as easily. And she has used the same knowledge she would have had to bring to bear as Queen to teach him how to be a leader. Now he is the one trying to prevent wars and unite not just one country but all of them, while being the stuff of nightmares to most of the people he’s trying to protect.
Of course, Moiraine would never allow pity to turn her from what she knows must be done. Plus she was trained as an Aes Sedai—she kept that serene expression throughout her testing, she’s going to keep it in front of Rand even if she does feel a lot of empathy with him. Even if it might have helped her win his trust to show a little more empathy, a little more of her personality. The personality that Siuan loves her for, the personality that will win Lan over to her cause and make him decide to become her Warder. The personality that made her crave freedom and adventure and a chance to be involved in the Dragon’s story. I think Rand would like that Moiraine. I know I do.
The problems with power and leadership is a big theme in The Wheel of Time. The story explores the ways it corrupts good intentions (see Bornhald Sr.), the sacrifices it demands (Rand, Nynaeve, Elayne), and the complications it brings to the lives of those who have it (Siuan), and those who crave it (Elaida, not to mention most Darkfriends). The lessons The Wheel of Time teaches us about leadership and power aren’t confined just to Rand’s journey. We see what happens to Morgase. To Amathera. To Ingtar. To Alliandre… and heck, to Masema too. Never mind what happens to institutions of power, such as the Whitecloaks, or even the Aes Sedai.
But to move on to a very different kind of power for a moment, I found it interesting how differently Moiraine’s encounter with Mistress Dormaile was from the experience with Tamore. The narrative seems to have some very specific ideas about how women behave towards each other and in their own spaces when there are no men around or involved, and I am not really sure what to make of it. At first, I was thinking that the point might be that a seamstress is a talented artisan, and that part of respecting someone’s art is allowing them to have some say in what is best. You might commission a painting of a certain subject and in a certain style, but you’re not going to stand over the painter and tell them what colors to use, or what brush works best. But I’m not sure that’s really what’s happening here. It seems more like the way we’ve seen women behave in the village councils, or the way village Wisdoms and healers come down on anyone who challenges their knowledge of their craft. Why should Tamore get to tell a customer what to wear, or a hairdresser get to make all the decisions about a client’s hair, but shoemakers and the like just make what they want? There’s no suggestion that the banker would tell Moiraine what to do with her money, although I suppose it’s possible. It just feels a little weirdly gendered—dresses and hair are “women things”, and so there’s a specific bitchy way that women interact with each other in such matters.
I really loves the character of Mistress Dormaile, and the description of the incident with the false Tower Guard was an intriguing bit of Daes Dae’mar. I had to read though that section a few times to finally make sure I understood what had happened—the man was not sent by the White Tower, so he must have been sent by some Cairhienin noble to see if Moiraine might be a threat to those trying to claim the throne. The reason Moiraine knows that the Tower has plans of its own for the Sun Throne is because they kept the letter a secret; if they’d had no personal investment in events, they would have just passed the information on to Moiraine.
I also enjoyed seeing how Moiraine handled the whole thing, avoiding admitting that she knows nothing about the letter and not letting any of her opinions about the matter slip. Again we see that she is already a good Aes Sedai, both because the Tower has designed her to be and because of her natural skills and upbringing in Cairhien. We also see, again, how little she trusts the other Aes Sedai. She keeps her affairs as secret as she can, and knows very well that the Tower will always be as up in her personal business as it can manage.
Those riding dresses that Moiraine ordered at the last minute are a clue to her plans, I think. She clearly wants to get out of the Tower, and is hoping that as soon as she’s done overseeing the distribution of the bounty that she can slip away somehow. The narration states outright that she is buying more dresses than she needs in order to make the Aes Sedai believe she is settled in Tar Valon, but she clearly intends to take those dresses with her—I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to work out, but it’s clearly strategic that she puts her own House colors on them but in a way that makes her look like a lesser member than she actually is. If she’s trying to get away from the White Tower she might want to pass for someone other than an Aes Sedai, and she wouldn’t want to broadcast her identity in the other direction either. This is a good compromise.
What would happen if Moiraine was ordered to stay and chose not to? The penalties for deliberately disobeying the Amyrlin Seat, or even a Sitter, must be great. Would she risk such punishment rather than risk being made queen? It does sound like she views being queen as a worse fate than almost anything the Tower could do to her, short of stilling. But… would they still her for such an offense? I’m not sure.
Siuan’s trajectory is much clearer. We know she ran the Blue Ajah eyes-and-ears before she became Amyrlin, and now we know how she got set on that path. I wonder if she’ll decide at some point that she really likes, or at least is very interested, in being involved in that work. Or does she just get too deep in, and realize that she can’t get the freedom she talked so much about wanting just a few chapters ago? Maybe at the point where she can finally tell Cetalia to stuff it, she realizes that she can do more good in the quest to find the Dragon from the Tower than she can by leaving and going out to join Moiraine.
I feel really bad for Siuan. But it’s a lot of fun hearing her old way of speaking come back after she is made Aes Sedai. I’ve remarked before that I feel like Jordan overuses the idioms and expressions with her (there are a few other characters I feel similarly about) but seeing it in this context, as a part of herself that Siuan is reclaiming after having to suppress it as a novice and an Accepted… somehow it makes more sense. That she would keep this part of her former identity on purpose, rather than let training and expectations change her. As she does with her simple aesthetic in clothes and in furnishing the Amyrlin’s chambers. After all, becoming Aes Sedai strips away a fair amount of one’s personal identity. You must adopt the Aes Sedai attitudes and expressions, you must follow the directions of every Aes Sedai who is above you either in position or strength, and you must swear the Three Oaths and give up part of your free will and autonomy.
You know, in Siuan’s position I might find myself clinging to my childhood vocabulary too. But I’m from central Mass originally, so that’s not quite as interesting. It’s mostly just saying “wicked” a lot and calling water fountains “bubblers”.
And then there’s Lan. Jordan is doing a really good job, I think, of driving home just how intense Lan’s dedication to fighting in the Blight is. Moiraine has referenced it before, has come very close to calling it a suicide mission, and we see here exactly what she means. Even Bukama thinks Lan needs to relax a little, and he actually lived in and remembers Malkier. But Lan never intended to get involved in a war between men—he only came to join the fighting when he thought the Aiel were Darkfriends, and only stayed once he realized that they weren’t because he is a man who doesn’t go back on his word. So he has been trapped all this time, and is now finally free.
Free the way Moiraine hopes to be.
I’m really excited for the point where Moiraine and Lan finally meet each other, but I’m also sad to know that I’m seeing the last of Moiraine and Siuan’s close relationship. It’s really beautiful how well they understand and rely on each other, and their mutual admiration for each other shows how strong their bond is. They really love each other, and in short order they will basically be separated for life. Moiraine will exchange her closeness with Siuan for a Warder bond, I suppose. And Siuan will become Amyrlin, a part of all Ajahs and none, and probably pretty dang lonely. I’m on the fence about how I feel about the suggestion that she and Gareth Bryne might fall for each other, but I do think she deserves to have somebody. After everything she’s been through, I want that for her.
But who knows. Maybe Moiraine will come back from the dead, and eventually she and Siuan will be able to pick up their friendship again. They’ll be busy for a while yet, but if the Light prevails at Tarmon Gai’don and Rand survives the battle, many things are going to be different on the other side. Maybe they’ll have time to just be in sync again, the way they were when they came to the Tower. That’d be pretty cool.
Next week we’ll cover Chapters 14 and 15, in which Lan and Moiraine slowly move closer to their fated meeting. Well, it feels fated to me, anyway. But there’s still some rocky road to cover on the way to pond dunking. I can’t wait!
Sylas K Barrett particularly loved the line where Siuan insisted to herself that Moiraine isn’t a pretty little porcelain doll, she’s she’s a beautiful little porcelain doll. Siuan knows Moiraine’s true strength, and that she’s exactly the opposite of breakable. Without thought, she takes a comment meant as an insult and infuses it with her own love for her friend. That’s pretty great.