The Circle of Magic Series by Tamora Pierce.
Scholastic Press: NY.

Sandry's Book 1997
Tris's Book 1998
Daja's Book 1998
Briar's Book 1999

The Circle Opens
Magic Steps 2000
Street Magic 2001
Cold Fire 2002
Shatterglass 2003

The Will of the Empress 2005
   BookAdvice Book of the Month Nov 2006

The Circle of Magic Series explores the concept of trade magic. The books are fascinating and well-planned. RL=5th-8th

Sandry's Book is primarily an introduction to the series. The mage Niklaren Goldeye gathers 4 young people (Sandry, Daja, Tris, and Briar) with unusual qualities to teach them to understand and use their abilities.The magic of natural things is explored-textiles, weather, metalsmithing and plants.

In Tris's Book, Winding Circle Temple is at risk by a pirate attack. The four young mages assist in defending the city. They have found they can communicate telepathically with each other, and they explore their own abilities as well as combine their magic for a stronger effect.

In Daja's Book, the apprentices' abilities are being transferred to each other uncontrollably. They are challenged to discover more about how they are connected and learn to manage their skills better instead of going wherever the magic leads.

in Briar's Book, an epidemic is attacking the city. One of Briar's street friends asks for his help. He soon learns that the disease is beyond Rosethorn's healing abilities. Each member of Winding Circle is enlisted in the fight against the disease according to their abilities. Briar will prove his worth in the process and move finally beyond the status of street urchin and thief.

The Circle Opens books are for more advanced readers. They are more complex than the earlier Circle of Magic books, and they have more violence than the earlier books. The books are captivating and explore the mages' abilities in detail. The nuances are intriguing, and the there is mystery, adventure, and drama in all of them. However, I would not recommend for young readers. RL=7th-YA

In Magic Steps, Sandrilene has found a young mage with a more unusual ability than hers-dancing. As their is no one available with the training to teach him, the responsibility falls on her as the discoverer of his powers. First she must convince him and his family of the necessity of training him.

There are invisible killers loose in Emelan taking vengeance on one particular family. As their vengeance continues, Sandry and her student are drawn into the mystery. Their particular talents may be the key to stopping the killers.

Street Magic takes place in the city of Chammur. Briar spies a street urchin polishing rocks in the marketplace. The seller knows the rocks she touches sell better, but all she knows is that certain rocks call to her. When he approaches her, she runs, and Briar plays a cat and mouse game trying to convince her she needs a teacher. They both run afoul of the street gangs in the city-especially one controlled by a wealthy widow. When the gang learns of Evvy's ability, they try to lure and then capture her to work for them-not knowing the devastating consequences of crossing a mage as powerful as Briar (and even Evvy) even though he is only 14. The story is less about magic than it is about gangs and street life plus the intrigue of the wealthy widow.

In Cold Fire, Daja and Frostpine are staying in Namorn with old friends of Frostpine. Daja finds that the twin daughters of the family have ambient magic (as she does). She recruits a teacher for each according to her ability, but she has to train them in meditation-each in a different way to suit her personality. Their training interrupts her own projects. There has been a rash of fires set in the island region. She is drawn into helping to control them and tracking the arsonist. She is also attempting to design clothing for the leader of the fire brigades since he is personally involved in every firefight.

There are clues from the beginning about who sets the fires, but there is still suspense about why and how he will be caught. The story is a little dark and sad. But it is captivating, and the concepts are thought-provoking.
related-fire prevention and protection against fire, cooking, woodworking, arson, abuse, hospital, ice skating, metalworking, twins, forms of meditation

In Shatterglass, Niko and Tris have travelled to Tharios for a huge conference for mages. As Tris explores the glass shops, she meets Keth who has blown a living dragon of glass. He tries to demolish the dragon as it was an accident, and she saves it from him. She learns that he is a lightening mage with no knowledge of his power, and so he becomes her responsibility.

In exploring the city, she also learns of the class system in which prathmuni are untouchables because the handle all wastes of the city (including the dead) and of the deaths of the yaskesdasi that no one cares about because they are only poor, wanton street performers. That is, they don't care until they are left by the murderer in public places to defile the cleanliness of the city. Naturally, Tris and Keth become involved in the case.

In The Will of the Empress, Daja, Briar, and Tris come home to Emelan from their travels. They each return with dark secrets wondering if they will still be accepted and unwilling to open up their mental connection to each other. Though bickering as a result of their disconnection, Duke Vedris asks the 3 to accompany Sandry to her family's home in Namorn as Sandry's cousin, the Empress of Namorn, is demanding her presence. They know right away the Empress wants to keep Sandry there (by force if necessary), but they soon learn that she wants all of them to stay. Their connection is evetually reforged and strengthened by the conflicts with the Namornese which they face.

For me, there was a little too much court nonsense in the story, and the middle dragged as a result (maybe because Pierce's dealing with 4 people's reactions to court life). The excitement level does, however, pick up in the second half of the book. With the Namornese kidnapping law, it resembles a Victorian novel at times with the damsel in distress situation. It is handled fairly well, and there is a point to it. As usual the mages' abilities lend complexity to the story. Those enjoying the story will be thrilled.
related-courts and courtiers, rulers, friendship

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