Shadow Scale (Seraphina, #2) Shadow Scale discussion

"The thing itself plus nothing equals everything."

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Molly Ringle I've finished this book, but it's driving me crazy that I still can't figure out what "The thing itself plus nothing equals everything" means. Someone please help me. (SPOILERS for this book will ensue!)

Rich Mulvey My first thought was that it had something to do with the "Atheists believe that nothing plus nothing equals everything" phrase that was thrown around the net a lot several years ago, but I couldn't figure out how it could reasonably tie in. I eventually concluded that it was a cryptic way of telling Seraphina that the ring is Orma's mind pearl ( i.e. it-the thing-- contains "everything" about him ) and that she didn't have to do anything to activate it... but that's not really satisfying either.

Molly Ringle I assumed the ring is the mind pearl too, but it seemed like it hadn't worked so far. I'm optimistic that they'll hit upon the trigger together before long, at least.

message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 25, 2015 09:42AM) (new)

Here's my theory, and the only thing that makes sense of the ending to me.

There IS NO mind-pearl. Orma sent Seraphina a regular, inert pearl. He did this for three very good reasons. The first to give her the hope she needed to get through the trials ahead, even after she learned Orma had been excised. The second was that he knew no mind-pearl he could create with the limited resources he had would be sufficient. The hint for that theory would be Lalo (p. 303) who was excised, triggered his mind-pearl, and then found that his relationship was still over. When I went to look up the passage just now, I was astonished to find that Hartman requotes "The thing itself plus nothing equals everything" right before it -- with Seraphina's hedged misinterpretation attached. At a time in the book where Seraphina is misinterpreting *everything* -- the nature of her mind, the locked cottage, the garden, Glisselda's worries -- it would be a miracle if she had *this* right.

Fortunately, she didn't *need* to have it right. Reason #3 that Orma sent the inert pearl is that he knew the process Seraphina would go to try to trigger it would also trigger the actual "thing itself." The "thing itself" is the relationship between Orma and Seraphina, which was, in so many ways, founded in music. Orma knew his muscle memory for playing would still be there. Once that was triggered again, they'd have what they needed to start putting the pieces back together. That's why the last word of the book is "remember" -- "we sat together the rest of the afternoon, not talking, but letting our hands walk over the keys and remember." If Seraphina had considered this a dead end of some kind, would she really have spent the whole afternoon playing music with Orma? No, Seraphina recognized that they were restoring the patterns that linked them in the first place.

Remember that one of the last last things Pandowdy says to Seraphina is "you'll measure the world by a different scale now" -- calling back to the double meaning in the title of Shadow Scale. Pandowdy is the most clued-in character in the book, and I don't think he said that by accident. Seraphina will now measure her relationship with Orma not in terms of their shared dragon heritage (the first "scale"), but in terms of the music they share (the second "scale".)

This ending may not be as clean and neat as Seraphina had hoped, but the whole book has been about distilling things to their marrows, and finding what's truly important about them. Having a working, comprehensive mind-pearl fix everything would have been cheap. To me, the ending fits with the process of change and distillation that undergirds the entire book.


Molly Ringle Excellent thoughts, and I am happy to consider this theory as truth! Despite the bittersweetness of Orma's lost memory, I did feel a strong enough hope that Seraphina would forge a new meaningful relationship with him, since she knows him well enough to be able to find a way.

Maggie Loll Isn't it like a metaphor for Orma's mindpearl? I'm not done with the book, but I am loving it!

back to top