Why is Siobhan so obsessed with learning magic?

Back in Chapter 151 – One Hundred Ways to Die – Azalea Ellis we have this passage:

His efforts, however, did lead to a wave of popularity among the wealthy and influential, who began cursing their “lazy” children with a much milder compulsion to make them more driven to practice. This was, of course, still accompanied by all the associated negative side effects, including debilitating Will-strain, and thankfully outlawed with the fall of the Third Empire and the rise of the Thirteen Crowns.

Siobhan’s grandfather, of course, had rather different attitudes about the Third Empire than the Thirteen Crowns now have. And he wanted Siobhan to master magic.

Did he cast a mild compulsion on Siobhan to push her to master magic? Does this help explain why she is obviously so much more dedicated to study than those around her?

It’s a minor plot point either way. But I thought that others might find it an interesting idea to think about.

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Follow-up thought. From the beginning, Siobhan has exceptional clarity of will. It is remarked up a number of times. Including by Liza, who at one point is surprised that her divination artifact registered Siobhan breaking a ward as Siobhan actively casting a spell.

It is easy to think of this clarity as just a natural ability. But given the direction of the Third Empire’s experiments, how natural is it? And is this clarity helpful in Siobhan learning how to split her will?

Speaking of will-splitting, we know that Siobhan can split her will in 2. But is 2 her actual limit? Has she tried 3 yet?

If her family blood line is my guess that her family is a family of Nulls that the blood emperor turned into magic users

It could just be a natural compulsion of needing to learn, needing to do better.

I imagine it’s been over 300 years of her family being tampered with,

Also, think about this, her will is so clear, how was she raised? Between her mother and grandfather, they had been raising her to be a strong magic user, and again, if my theory is correct and grandpa is the blood emperor then he prob knows the best way to encourage a clear and strong mind

Where aa everybody else in the country isn’t taught since birth all the stuff she has. They also didn’t teach her some of the limiting stuff that everybody else has been

She hasn’t been tampered with, so she’s more pure, more clear.

You can see in the books where she will think about something and have no problems

But then try to do it with education that is either a lie because that is what the leaders in that country do, or just otherwise conflicting with her original beliefs and now casing is a bit of a struggle.

I agree that he knew the best ways to encourage a clear and strong mind.

But given what we are told above about the techniques of the Blood Empire, strengthening and focusing desire with compulsion is likely to be part of what he knew.

I dont think Grandfather cast a compulsion on her - even the mild ones are shown to have devastating side effects. i think it’s more about her trauma, and the young age she started learning magic.

She watched her mom turn into a flesh-casting addict (and possibly Aberrant), and found her Grandfather dead. She had to learn more magic in drips and drabs while traveling with a con artist, after spending several months (or years) homeless.

i don’t remember if it’s actually stated how young she was taught how to cast, but it seems like she was taught when she was younger than Nat and Theo. Which would put her as a thaumaterge for over half her life when she’s barely 20.

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Actually it is stated in Chapter 61 – To Slumber but not Rest – Azalea Ellis.

Siobhan herself had cast her first spell at the age of eleven, a simple levitation spell on an acorn, under the watchful eye of her grandfather. It had been a bit early, but he was insistent that only stupid, immature children needed to wait till the traditional age of thirteen to begin an apprenticeship. It was lucky, because if she had waited, she might never have had the chance to learn from him at all.

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Thank you, all i remembered was that she was “younger than normal” to be taught.

But look at the phrasing - “stupid, immature children” - Siobhan isn’t even a teenager yet, her grandfather is using emotionally charged phrases sure to push her towards greater efforts because she doesn’t want to let him down. That doesn’t require a compulsion spell or geas, just regular emotional manipulation from her parental figure.


Siobhan has taken steps that would make her resistant to compulsions, including her gradual process with light refinement, and thus far hasn’t noticed any difference in her drive.

I like the possible theme of questioning at what point something you were compelled to do becomes habit or part of your identity, but I doubt that’s what is going on here.

I think the issue is more just that she knows both real power (via her mother and grandfather) and what it is like to be desperate and hungry, and magic is really the only way she knows to keep herself from poverty. That and she kind of wants to uphold the legacy they left her.


In my experience, a truly competent manipulator layers a variety of techniques on top of each other. Since we’re assuming that grandfather is competent, the use of one manipulation technique in no way rules out another.

This does not, however, hold for most people. Most of us hide from ourselves the fact that we even manipulate. The Subtle Art of Verbal Self-Defense goes into how we hide it, and how making someone aware of it can stop them.

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Maybe she actually has channeled magic through her body before, and, while she’s resistant to the madness, she’s solidly addicted? She had a distressingly hard time going a week or two while only casting one or two spells a day, and is now casting for ten hours a day. Her mood swings seemed worse than the beamshell cravings - and we only got her perspective, which as we know, usually minimizes or glosses over all of her negative behavior. She may have been significantly worse than just cranky, and everyone probably chalked it up to the concussion.

Someone else suggested this a while back. I think @JKlarinet ? It’s not my original idea, but it’s been brewing in my head as a possibility.


I was wondering about this

I wonder if it’s why grandfather started teaching her so young, she casted through her body and he did his very best to nip it in the bud

With some forms of manipulation, I agree. I best a handful deliberately, a few because he honestly cared and was trying to protect her

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Have you ever met a professional musician that grew up poor? Like really poor? You’ll notice that they work unbelievably hard. They’d sacrifice quite a lot to be a success, because they can’t go back. It’s make it, or bust. This, I think, is Siobhan’s principle motivation.

And yes, one possibly for the thing in S.’ head may be that she lost control of the shadow familiar spell and she’s part aberrant. Either because Grandfather pushed her into it (it might be some sort of repeatable aberration) or because he shouldn’t have been teaching an 11 year old.


That’s a very good point. Extremely good. Particularly when I pull up Chapter 29 – Kindred Spirits – Azalea Ellis and read Newton’s whole speech. It starts at,

“You’re not like a lot of the students here,” Newton eventually said.

It goes on for close to 500 words, but it absolutely fits with your point about motivation coming from growing up poor.

As Rincewind from Pratchett’s Discworld series would say, the most important thing about running is knowing what you’re running from. People who grew up poor, never forget what they are running from. (I certainly never have.)

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