December 14, 2009
Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card (1 of Tales of Alvin Maker)
The book is set in an alternate colonial America, where practitioners of magic have been exiled. Alvin Miller is born the seventh son of a seventh son- and thus his family & community expects him to be destined for greatness- that is if he can survive to adulthood. For he seems continually set by accidents. Is someone- or something out to get him?
Yet while a supernatural threat may be looming, religious, political and racial conflicts are closer to home.
I enjoyed the historical scenario, as described and revealed by Card. I was reminded a bit of Little House on the Prairie, despite it being an earlier time period, settling a homestead is much the same.
I might’ve given it more stars but I thought the characters were not very well-developed. This is just the first book of a series, though so I expect Alvin and others will become more fleshed out in later books. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in early American history, folklore and folk magic.
Note: just a warning that the Native Americans are referred to as “Reds”, “savages” etc. which was rather jarring to me. I don’t think (I hope!) Card means to be racist, but rather it’s meant from the settlers’ POV.
April 28, 2008
Street Magic: Book 2 of the Circle Opens Quartet by Tamora Pierce
In the next book in the Circle Opens, Briar and Rosethorn have travelled to the east, to the Near Eastern-style city of Chammur in Sotat. Rosethorn is helping the local farmers, while Briar cultivates plants to sell.
Briar discovers in a chance encounter that Evvy, a street child has a magical gift with stones. As he begins teaching her the basics of meditation and magic, they get caught up in the conflict between street gangs that struggle for control of Chammur. Each of them wants Evvy for their own, to use her to find precious stones.
As with Magic Steps, Street Magic was suspenseful, intrigue-filled adventure.
July 17, 2007
Briar’s Book: Book 4 of the Circle of Magic Quartet by Tamora Pierce
Briar is asked for help by one of his old street kid friends- his friend Flick is sick with an unknown disease. Soon it spreads and Rosethorn and Briar find themselves in quarantine, tending the sick as an epidemic threatens the whole city of Summersea. At Winding Circle healers work furiously trying to find a cure, but how many people will die before then?
I found this the most emotionally gripping of the four books to read, perhaps because to me the epidemic described showed a more severe kind of human suffering than the disasters in the other books. Also, obviously the series has built up to a more severe challenge for the characters to face.
The Circle of Magic quartet ends a year after the four mages first met in Sandry’s Book. We really see the psychological and magical growth of the characters. Their adventures continue in the Circle Opens quartet, Will of the Empress and Melting Stones.
July 6, 2007
Daja’s Book: Book 3 of Circle of Magic Quartet by Tamora Pierce
In the next segment of the Circle of Magic saga, Daja, Tris, Briar and Sandry and their teachers journey to the Golden Ridge mountains of northern Emelan, to help the people there deal with a severe drought.
Meanwhile the four young mage’s powers are combining in unpredictable ways. In one instance, Daja accidentally creates a living metal vine. A passing band of Traders expresses interest in buying it, and spending time with them, Daja becomes homesick for her own people and culture. As the threat of forest fire looms Daja and her friends face the challenge- and Daja also must decide where she belongs- with the Traders or at Winding Circle?
June 26, 2007
Tris’s Book: Book 2 of the Circle of Magic quartet by Tamora Pierce
Tris’ Book takes place just a week or so after Sandry’s Book. The earthquake has weakened Winding Circle’s physical and magical defenses- and on the winds Tris can hear a few suspicious voices planning something. Their teachers- Lark, Rosethorn, Frostpine and Niko challenge the four to further stretch their abilities to assist with rebuilding the Temple’s defenses, while maintaining discipline and control over their powers. But the members of the Circle of Magic begin discovering things on their own and experimenting with their powers. While their elders are beginning to despair, the foursome are determined to save the only home where they’ve truly felt welcome. But stubborn and sensitive Tris wants to act alone- with her powerful and dangerous weather magic, she doesn’t think she needs the others. Can Daja, Sandry and Briar convince her to work together with them?
I think I liked this book better than the first- the characters developed further and it went more into the magic, and the conflict and adventure was more gripping.
This books are fun but quite easy for me to read- right now I’m half-way through Daja’s Book the third one, so before you know it I’ll be done with the quartet!
Sandry’s Book: Book 1 of the Circle of Magic quartet by Tamora Pierce
I have long enjoyed Tamora Pierce’s engaging and valiant heroines and rich, multilayered kingdom of Tortall and surrounding lands. So I was curious to see Tammy’s foray into another world- of Emelan and many other lands bordering the Pebbled Sea- a crossroads of cultures. In this world we meet not one, but four young protagonists from different social backgrounds who’s unique magical abilities are discovered by Niko Goldeye, a wandering mage.
Sandrilene fa Toren- or Sandry is great-niece of Duke Vedris, ruler of Emelan but her noble blood doesn’t save her from being orphaned or being seized by pirates- but her weaving magic does.
Briar Moss is a thief who lives by his wits on the streets- when he is captured on criminal charges he is given the chance at freedom by Niko on the condition that he come to Winding Circle Temple for training. And besides, of what use to a pickpocket is an odd knack for making plants grow?
Trisana Chandler has been shuffled from relative to the next of her merchant family- because somehow, storms and lightning seem to follow her wherever she goes, and that’s just not good for business. Even the priests and magicians of Broken Circle Temple don’t know what to do with her- but Niko does.
Daja Kisubo is perhaps the most unfortunate- as the sole survivor of a shipwreck, she is branded trangshi– outcast by her Trader people. Her connection to metal and the forge saves her- but she’s not sure if living as trangshi is worth it.
Most of the book is introducing the characters and showing their initial development and training of their magical abilities. With clashing personalities and cultures, the four don’t always get along, but slowly they find their place at the temple and as an earthquake looms, they combine their powers to become a Circle of Magic. So begins the quartet.