A huge thank you to all of you wonderful Champions for taking the time to fill out the reader survey! We got some great feedback, and it helped us clarify a few plans for the future, so I really appreciate the time you took to fill it out, and I hope you enjoyed the character interview!
Now, let’s jump back to the events of Trial of Magic! This post is where I’m going to state my case that Angelique is the strongest of any heroine I’ve ever written…because she had an entire organization doing everything they could to break her, make her doubt herself, to drag her away from her morals, to kill her, and she never broke.
That’s not to say she didn’t feel pain, or buckled, but she never gave in, she never stopped looking for Evariste, and–most important of all–she never stopped helping others. (Warning: Here there be spoilers for Trial of Magic! Don’t read if you haven’t read that book yet!)
To start off, we have to acknowledge that Angelique’s life started being manipulated the instant the Chosen/Veneno Conclave found out she had a lot of power. That was when the teachers started getting on her case, that was when they made her take extra ethics classes, that was when they started teaching everyone to react in fear to her.
The extra ethics classes were the Chosen’s way of testing her to see if she could be turned to their side. When it became obvious she wouldn’t drop her morals, they turned to manipulation tactics. The headmaster–wrapping his instructions up as being ‘diligent,’ basically gave teachers like Madame Quarrelous permission to try and break Angelique all for the sake of ‘diligence’.
Angelique was endlessly hounded about her magic–which, shocker, hadn’t been at all dangerous until the strength of her magic was tested–and told time and time again that she was a dangerous monster.
In the meantime, since the Chosen knew they couldn’t have her, they decided to seal her magic to protect their interests in the future. (Because an enchantress who could take out hoards of goblins by herself was not going to bode well for them.) But when they were thwarted by Evariste, they knew they had to use their backup plan and make everyone fear Angelique.
Fear makes people unpredictable in many ways, but they weren’t trying to control every mage–they were trying to control Angelique and keep her from acting in a way that would ruin their work. To do that, all they had to do was twist her so badly that she was convinced her own magic was evil (thank you, academy instructors) and have everyone react so over the top that finding friends/emotional supports would be impossible.
The Chosen controlled how Angelique was viewed by carefully using their people–who were partnered specifically with mages who weren’t black mages for the use of general manipulations already–to poison the rest of the Conclave against her. One of the best examples of this manipulation in action is Blanche and Rein. As we now know, Blanche–a weather mage–belonged to the Chosen while her partner, Rein, did not.
Blanche’s overly dramatic reactions to Angelique are what sparks Rein’s dislike of her. Blanche whimpers and acts frightened when Angelique offers to accompany them to Ringstead. Given that Blanche is Rein’s close friend, he naturally sides with her and doesn’t want Angelique’s help either.
Blanche’s manipulation of Rein means she can achieve goals for the Chosen (like freeing Carabosso when they were supposed to transport him to the Conclave) and she can keep other mages fearing Angelique, with the idea that if Angelique feels like a monster she won’t improve in her magic.
Of course, another byproduct of this plan meant Angelique was always extremely reluctant to use her magic–everyone except for Evariste acted like she’d immediately turn into serial killer if she used even a fleck of her core magic. But it also meant Angelique was incredibly isolated. Because of the fear and scorn the Chosen showered on her, and the way they manipulated their collogues, it isn’t until Evariste comes around that Angelique has an actual friend, and by then she’s so screwed up that she thinks she has to trick Evariste into liking her and she’s terrified of disappointing him.
You can also see how this plan of fear/isolation crumbles in Trial of Magic when Angelique no longer cares what Blanche thinks of her and is more irritated that they let Carabosso go than hurt by Blanche’s antics. Blanche freaks out a bit because she is legit scared of Angelique because she knows the threat Angelique is to the Chosen, and she recognizes that they won’t be able to control her through fear anymore.
You can see that in the way the Council try to warmly welcome Angelique back–with the exception of Tristisim and Felicienne who, because they aren’t Chosen mages, are more stuck on rules than they are on trying to manipulate Angelique–when she returns with Evariste.
You can also see the lack of manipulation in the students Clovicus takes on. I purposely brought them in when Angelique is initially leaving Verglas during the events of Rumpelstiltskin, because you can see how they react to Clovicus’ lack of fear of Angelique. They accept it and move on. They’re still fairly young, so the Chosen haven’t been able to infect them yet, and in Tristisim’s insistence on punishing Clovicus with more teaching time, you can see how those students act differently as a result.
The Chosen also attempt to manipulate Angelique by questioning every good thing she’s ever done. In Curse of Magic, the Council spends the majority of the time nitpicking all the wonderful things Angelique has done, and go through extremes to try and discourage her from future action.
Mix all of this into the knowledge that Angelique is an orphan–her parents died minutes before her magic was discovered–and that she was already older than the other students given that she’d been found late, and you have a dumpster fire of a life that normally would have turned a character into a villain.
Instead, once confronted with another unexpected tragedy–Evariste’s capture–Angelique fights back against years of conditioning, against scorn, threats, and disdain, and sets out to help him–saving the continent in the process.
Angelique isn’t powerful because of the near limitless strength of her magic. She’s powerful because after everything the Chosen did to her, she still helped. When she faced a cursed Severin, she tried to help–just as she aided Dylan, Elise, Gabrielle, and more. Yes, she needed a whole lot of character growth through the process, but she has a pretty tragic story–one filled with years of isolation, manipulation so she feared her own magic and herself, and a lot of emotional suffering.
And yet! Despite everything done to her, Angelique retained a desire to help people and do what is right. And that is why she’s my strongest heroine ever. That’s why she alone could take on the Chosen, and scare them so badly they gave up centuries of planning and ran. Because they knew…they were never going to break her, and she’d overcome everything they’d done to her and now had her sights set on them.
What do you think, Champions? I hope I’ve convinced you! 😉 I could go into even more detail, but this post is already pretty long. Regardless, have a splendid day, and thank you for all the love and support you’ve shown Angelique and Trial of magic!