Melting Stones comes after the Circle Opens trilogy which was originally released as an audiobook. It is the first of the Circle books to be written in the first person, so that the actress reading Evvy’s part could also narrate, and I intend to find a copy of the full cast audio as listening to it as I would like to listen to it as it was first intended to be interpreted.
As a first in Pierce’s world, the external problem is one which is morally neutral, even if likely to cause violent deaths to the local population. Instead whilst there are powers which would threaten them all, the main moral problem is one faced by Evvy herself. The land the Winding Circle mages have travelled to is poor and recovering from years of ill-use by pirates. Unlike many of the other worlds the poor do not live alongside the rich, instead there are struggling orphans and an island which is forced to depend on help from the temple community rather than pay for a mage.
Evvy feels she has been sent purely as a punishment and resents the trip, but soon makes friends with their hosts. She is only on this journey due to her inability to judge how to handle other people. She has been sent with prickly Rosethorn who may be the best person to explain how to handle your temper in the face of behaviour which is irritating or frustrating.
Pierce always handles transformations in character well, and this book is no exception. Despite the absence of the four circle characters, Rosethorn is still much the same, if a little more tired, slow and damaged by her travels with Briar. This ties the book well to the rest of those set in this universe.