In this short chapter, Alexandra returns to Charmbridge, tells her friends what happened over Christmas, gets lectured by Anna, gets lectured by the Pritchards, and then gets lectured by Dean Grimm.
Mr. Thiel, Mr. Journey's "assistant," appears in this chapter, and Alexandra learns that Governor-General Hucksteen will be coming to Charmbridge, an event that as of yet doesn't seem that important to her. I revealed a little bit about how the government works by mentioning that Hucksteen has been in office for thirteen years.
But the most important event in this chapter was, of course, Alexandra directly confronting Ms. Grimm with all of her suspicions... and Ms. Grimm lies to her face. Not just a bit of dissembling and hiding facts, but she tells Alexandra a big, fat whopper.
The scroll began moving, the spools spinning by themselves, and Alexandra saw names flash by, decades of Charmbridge students, until finally the parchment was nearly at its end, and between 'Carol Olivia Queen' and 'Sonja Rackham' was her name: 'Alexandra Octavia Quick.'
“That is the name the Registrar's Scroll recorded. Alexandra Quick, not Alexandra Thorn,” Ms. Grimm said. Alexandra stared at the dark freshly scripted letters, and felt an inexplicable pang of disappointment.
“But the locket,” she said.
Ms. Grimm rolled up the scroll, and sat back down at her desk. She regarded Alexandra very seriously for several minutes.
“Alexandra,” she said finally, and her voice was almost gentle. “I truly do not know how your mother came by that locket. But I suspect your earlier theory may well be true. It is entirely possible that your father was one of the Thorn Circle. Perhaps the locket with Abraham Thorn's cameo was something they used to communicate amongst themselves. Perhaps it was a keepsake. Without being able to examine it, I can only guess. Did some of them go into hiding among Muggles, and even take Muggle wives? It's possible.”
She steepled her fingers. “Your desire to find out about your father is natural. Your intense curiosity is understandable. But it is quite dangerous for you to be telling other people that your father might have been one of the Thorn Circle, let alone getting it into your head that your father was Abraham Thorn himself. Do you see how this preoccupation of yours has blinded you to the consequences of your own actions? Oh yes, it is possible that someone might wish to harm you if your paternity became public knowledge.”
Now, being very generous to Ms. Grimm, she never actually says "No, Abraham Thorn is not your father." I mean, if you take her above statements absolutely literally, you could even say that technically, nothing she said was untrue.
But very clearly, Ms. Grimm is misleading and deceiving Alexandra in a big, big way. She's lying in every way that matters, and not about small things, either. She's doing it for (as she sees it) Alex's own good. But if I were to point at any one thing Dean Grimm has done over the course of the series that was unquestionably wrong and bad and just a big, big mistake, it's not the times she has lost her temper or inflicted excessive punishments - it's this moment, right here, which Alexandra will not forget when she learns the truth. It's this moment more than any other that cements in Alexandra's mind the idea that Lilith Grimm (and by extension, all adults) are liars who cannot be trusted.
When she learns about her "mother's" big lie in book four, it's not so much a shock to her that her own mother would do that to her as confirmation of what she's always known.
Ms. Grimm then proceeds to hand-wave away all the attempts on Alexandra's life. If you, the reader, thought some of her explanations a bit sketchy, well, that didn't bother me, because they were sketchy. Ms. Grimm only had to cast doubt in the mind of an eleven-year-old. Once again, she was lying to Alex for her own good.
And then she lightens up and plays "good cop" to her own "bad cop," leaving Alexandra hopelessly confused.
Alexandra left the Dean's office feeling as if she'd been spun around and around and then sent staggering off in a new direction. Everything she had been certain of was now thrown into doubt. And she could never quite pinpoint what had happened, but she could not deny that she felt as if a burden had been taken from her. Maybe it was better to concentrate on learning proper magic and adapting to the wizarding world. She had all the time in the world to find out about her father.
Dean Grimm meant well. And sometimes she has been justified in hiding things from Alex; often enough, Alexandra would get into even worse trouble if she knew the truth. But in this chapter, Lilith did irrevocable harm to her relationship with her niece. If you asked Alexandra, she'd probably shrug it off and express more resentment about the hand-whipping or one of the other punishments. But if Lilith had decided that this was the time to sit Alex down and tell her the truth (which, in fairness, she didn't do partly because she was respecting Claudia's wishes on the matter), the next three books would probably have gone very differently.
Writing in this chapter: so-so. There is a whole lot of telling and the dialog isn't great. It's very noticeable how much the Ozarkers' dialect has changed since the first book. So while I consider this is a pivotal chapter in one sense, there really isn't a lot else to say about it, other than that it also contains the first mention of Sonja Rackham (who I always pictured as an exuberant red-head, but just didn't get around to actually using as a character until book four).