So You Want to Be a Wizard – Diane Duane

Nita is a stereotypical YA heroine. Chased by bullies, she seeks sanctuary in the library (because what else would appeal to bookworms). But there she finds a book to change her life, amongst the career advice she finds “So You Want to Be a Wizard“.

Of course, it is simply that book that enables her to change her life. To move into a previously unseen world where magic is real and there is a steady battle against evil entropy and death. It is a pleasingly modern urban fantasy world, where the settings are merely a step sideways from the world we know.

Its a well-paced book, ramping the tension up effectively to a satisfying end. Despite this, it leaves things sufficiently open to allow the series to continue. My only quibble is that I don’t like characters instantly becoming super-powered. Some development time and time for mistakes and weakness is good, especially for a book which is part of a longer series.

I’ll pick up the next and see how it goes…


The Will of the Empress – Tamora Pierce

I love this out of all the post-Circle Opens books (I refuse to try and claim the three belong together).

The four are back together and have grown up and apart. So now its time to face a new foe and work out what family means now they are adults. Daja and Tris are hurt and feeling like they don’t have a home, Briar seems to have PTSD and Sandry is heartbroken that they are no longer one.

But of course its time for a crisis, where they all travel together to meet a new challenge and explore yet another new country (spoilers below the cut).

Continue reading “The Will of the Empress – Tamora Pierce”

The Circle Opens Quartet

In the background I’m still following Mark Reads, and we have just finished the Circle Opens quartet. I’ve loved the new journeys with the Circle of Magic characters, who are refreshingly committed to their own development and friendships, and being fourteen.

Circle of Magic

Time being what it is, the first few books are less fresh in my mind, and all I can think of is Shatterglass with Tris’s journey to become a mage-teacher, and take on adult responsibilites by choice.

If she had a motto it was “New learning couldn’t hurt anyone”

She of course finds the perfect student to tackle her own stubborness and we see how she has grown as a person from the Magic in the Weaving. She still has that hurt deep inside, but she has learnt what she can do in the world, and made a family of choosing to compensate for her earlier suffering.

“…My family deals in all kind of goods.” She smiled crookedly. “Except defective ones. Those they don’t handle very well”

The idea that a child left feeling such a way makes the progress Tris did is inspiring. That she is fictional just sets a template for others to follow.

Of course this book is primarily a murder mystery and about untangling Keth’s life, and letting him work out what his power permits. So there is glass magic, and playing with lightning and the odd new mage disaster. All the things I needed this book to be.

Niko is there too, being himself in the background. Not practical, but loving and supporting Tris as she develops a plan for who she will be as an adult.

When I first read them I was disappointed that the Circle kids were apart for the quartet. Now I understand just how perfect it is that they get the chance to find their own places in the world, safe in the knowledge that for each other they will always be home.

Beka Cooper: The Doggy Books- Tamora Pierce

TerrierMark Reads is at the end of Tortall! Its been quite a two years, reading them along and listening to Mark Read to laugh at his unpreparedness. We finished on the Doggy Books as they are now known, and full circle back to the start of Alanna: the first adventure.

The Beka Cooper books are about the making of a Provost Dog: an early police force in the fantasy world/country of Tortall. Beka is a girl who was plucked from the poorest district of pseudo-medieval Corus by a man who becomes her mentor in her journey become a Dog.

MastiffFor those who have read the other Tortall books its an interesting examination of how history isn’t always linear progress, and as the protaganist is for the first time not one of the ruling elite, its an interesting looks at the impact those with even a Bloodhoundlittle power can have on those who have none.

The magic in this books is of a different flavour to the others as well, which is a refreshing change. That and the spiritual development of Beka and how she develops a circle of trusted friends and associates aroudn herself. OEO, pelvat sberire.

Trickster’s Duology – Tamora Pierce

Tricksters ChoiceAnother Mark Reads project which ends today! Whilst I’m very familiar with these books, the chapter-by chapter discussion has made me consider them in an entirely different fashion.

This is a well-crafted pair of books, not a quartet as Harry Potter had shown publishers that YA fiction did not have to be under 200 pages a book. Writing the “Daughter of the Lioness” books and not making them very like any of the prior series was impressive.Tricksters Queen

It is another coming of age story, and we start with a bit of teenage rebellion as Aly who has been trained all her life as a spy in the fantasy setting of Tortall isn’t being permitted to make that her career by the newly cautious and protective George Cooper. Instead she runs away, is captured and ends up in the divided county of the Copper Isles, enslaved and trying to work out how to survive and prove herself to take advantage of the circumstances.

I had never before considered the problematic issues that Nawat has with consent, pushing Aly’s boundaries and ignoring what she says. Or how Aly never stops to consider that her attitude to life comes in part from being brought up by Tortall’s elite who changed their country for the better in a generation. Of course Alanna had had to fight such restraints a generation earlier though.

That said, I still enjoy these books for what they are: a spy drama and a reclaiming of a native land by an oppressed people. With magic and gods and immortals obviously.

Protector of The Small Quartet – Tamora Pierce

OK, cheating with this one, but I have been discussing each chapter of each book over on Mark Reads. I’ve enjoyed reading this quartet this way, despite it being one of my favourite series to re-read I have discovered details that I had never noticed before.

This is the story about how a fairly ordinary, unGifted, but very talented and determined girl decides she will be the first openly female page because she feels she has a duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves (“The Small”).  I want to be her when I grow up, that level of determination and persistance even in the face of impossible obstacles would be fabulous. But its remarkably different from the Song of the Lioness when the basic premise is so similar.

There is also so much friendship. Winning people’s respect and then friendship generally the hard way, and them backing her up, even when it meant treason and a risk of losing their own heads.

I also like that the book doesn’t close on her settling down with her one true love (TM) but instead confidently forging a career with the respect of her peers, superiors and the people she is in command of. That’s what Kel wanted from life, and she got it.

Battle Magic – Tamora Pierce

This is the 9th book in Pierce’s Circleverse sequence (in book time) set between the Circle Opens  quartet and the books Will of The Empress and Melting Stones. Because of this a lot of  major plot points are already known for those  reading in publication order.

Briar is travelling with his student Every and  teacher Rosethorn through distant lands. They  have made more friends in the temples they  visit and the three of them are very close, with  Rosethorn quietly taking a mothering responsibility  for the two young people,

As the title suggests, the three end up getting  caught in a war, using their ambient magic, to  assist in the defence of Gyongxe , a mountain  country, against the Yanxing Emperor. His a  David and Goliath war, but Gyongxe has a few  tricks.

I like the Circleverse because although there  are religious orders for the most part those gods  worshipped have little supporting evidence. This is  a strong contrast to Tortall where many of the  protagonists are ‘God-touched’. Because of this I’m  not sure I like how ‘alive’ the gods are in this book.

in Gyongxe or the ‘excuse’ for why this wasn’t  already known because people who leave the high  mountains forget the living supernatural beings.  Or why they let so many people be slaughtered  before they interfered to protect the country.

It also makes it harder to see how Briar ‘gave up  Envy when they reached Winding Circle. Although she  was still with Rosethorn, he considered her his  responsibility so much in this book, reading the  next one’s where she is still in need of a teacher  and he has left doesn’t feel right,

But this is all nit-picking, and by my level of involvement with the characters I know I still love these  books,

Thanks also to Anna C for a loan of her ARC (and the rest of the Mark Reads Tortall community: I love the trust and good faith which allowed that to be passed around) giving me time to have all these thoughts before my  hardback copy arrived.