Author: Tamora Pierce
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: September 2013
Number of Pages: 440
Series: Emelan Universe (set sometime between Street Magic and The Will of the Empress)
Reason for Discovery: GoodReads First Reads program
I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program. I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
According to GoodReads:
On their way to the first Circle temple in Gyongxe, mages Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy pay a visit to the emperor's summer palace. Although treated like royalty when they first arrive, the mages soon discover that the emperor plans to invade Gyongxe, posing a fatal threat to the home temple of the Living Circle religion. Accompanied by one of the emperor's prize captives, the three mages rush to Gyongxe to warn its citizens of the impending attack. With the imperials hot on their trail, Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy must quickly help the country prepare for battle. But even with the help of new allies, will their combined forces be enough to fight the imperial army and win the war?This is a tricky book to review, because I was not the intended audience. When I saw this book on the GoodReads giveaway site, I got excited, because I have heard great things about Tamora Pierce. Unfortunately, this book was probably not the best place for me to start. This book is set in the middle of a longstanding book series within the Emelan universe. I was already supposed to have a relationship with Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy going into this book. I did not though, because I had not read the other books, so I took a long time to care about these characters. In fact by the end I only really cared about Luvo (a heart of the mountain god that they meet along the way) and Evvy. I am sure that if you are already familiar with these characters, you would have settled more quickly into this book than I did. You probably would have cared more about the rest of the plot too. I just focused on pushing through the book and hoping that I would start to like it better.
Even though the characters and plot were not that interesting to me, I kept reading the book, because the magic and world building were amazing. Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy use ambient magic. According to the Emelan Wikipedia page:
Ambient magic, although it also exists as a potential from birth and cannot be manufactured, operates on a different principle. It is tied to a specific craft, power or raw material, ranging from carpentry to dance to weather. Ambient mages can only work with the craft their magic is tied to. Ambient mages are rarer than academic ones, at a ratio of about one to four. Both the Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens series focus on the mechanics of ambient magic, shifting viewpoints to show several different types.Briar and Rosethorn use plant magic and Evvy uses stone magic. I would be interested in reading other books in this universe to learn about other ambient mages. I feel that this magic system opens up the possibility to all sorts of magic that you don't traditionally see, or at least magic that I typically don't see in books. I would love to see some fiber arts related magic and music magic too. I love the idea that magic can be based on crafts and the environment.
The existence of ambient mages is one of the reasons why magic is such a commonplace thing in the Emelan Universe. It manifests as just another aspect of an artisan's expertise, and exemplifies the philosophy that magic exists in all things, no matter how seemingly mundane. This distinguishes it from other fantastical magic systems, which often manifest as fire or lightning, but rarely as weaving, smithing and other daily crafts.
Note: This book has a brief torture scene involving a child. Additionally, some animals are killed. I understand why these scenes are in the book. They fit in well with showing the cruelty of one of the characters. At the same time, I personally do not like reading torture scenes even if they are brief and "not too awful." I am not sure, if I would have have tried to win this book, if I knew that these things happened in this book. Again, these scenes are not gruesome by any means. I work with people who have experienced abuse in their lives, so I typically do not care to read about it for my fun reading.
This book gets 3 out 5 roses for the amazing magic system.