This blog usually covers the new things I read, my library picks and theatre I go to see. But on World Book Day I want to tell you about my favourite books, Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series.
“Why do boys say someone acts like a girl as if it were an insult?”
Since being a teenage I have loved fantasy novels, starting as we all did, with Harry Potter. But it was Pierce’s Alanna that changed my world. It didn’t pretend to happen in the real world, but set aside its own world, where magic could be real. And even better than that, here was a girl who wanted to choose her own path, and is prepared to break rules to get there.
There was even just enough light romance for a middle-teenager.
“Lord Raoul asked me to tell you that if you get yourself killed, he will never speak to you again.”
Then there were the Protector of the Small books, better again as Kel is the determined working one. Taking on the same world, but as herself, not disguised as a boy. She takes on bullies, struggles to make friends and to learn how to survive on her own terms.
This is the best series I own, and well into adulthood I am still rereading regularly. Reading again with Mark Reads was one of my most fun online time.
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”
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.
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.
Mark 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.
For 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 little 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.
Another 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the latest of the Circle of Magic books. It certainly feels like the last book with the four original characters as they become adults in this book in a way which they hadn’t in the previous eight.
In the opening of the book the four have pushed each other away in their travels, and need to find a way to rebuild their friendship and magical circle. They are asked to travel together to a distant country with a hostile empress, and have to face their responsibilities to each other and the outside world.
This book is stuffed full of magic, political intrigue, friendships, secrets and love. Pierce doesn’t avoid tricky topics and handles mental trauma and discovering homosexuality along with the standard fantasy material of mages fighting against a cruel ruler.
Unlike the earlier books, the more adult themes mean that this doesn’t read like a book for teenagers at all with the exception of the soft-focus attitude to developing relationships. Instead it looks at how a group of young adults all of whom are very accomplished might establish themselves in the world without their teachers at their sides.
I love Pierce’s novels, and although I prefer the Tortall world, the central group in the Circle of Magic series are more fun characters to observe interacting. This series also has there are more books focusing on the same characters, looking at each other from different viewpoints, there is more clear overarching character development.