Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce
09 . 24 . 2013
I can still remember exactly which book it was that sparked my love of reading. I was in the fifth grade, it was Christmas morning, and I was opening my presents by the tree. I ripped the paper off my last gift and looked down incredulously at a book. I remember reading the cover of Alanna the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce and telling my poor mother and father that it was the worst present ever. My parents begged me to give it a try– and I promised I would, if only to show them how much I was NOT going to like that book. I made a great show of sitting in bed that night and grimacing as I read the first pages…and that was the first night I stayed up all night to finish a book. My parents were thrilled…until I made them go out the next day to buy In the Hand of the Goddess, the next book in the Song of the Lionness Quartet. Hundreds of books, thousands of dollars later, and one English Major later, I wonder if they ever regret the monster they created that Christmas.
Every year, I reread that series– and all the other books by Tamora Pierce, who has been one of my favorite authors since. This newest book is part of the story of Sandry, Briar, Daja, and Tris, four young orphans who discover that they have magic. The series Circle of Magic follows them as they learn to live with their gifts and become family. The next series The Circle Opens and the single volume The Will of the Empress continues their journey as they begin to make a place for themselves in the world. This newest book, Battle Magic, takes place between the last books in The Circle Opens and The Will of the Empress. It tells the story of Briar, his student Evvy, and his teacher Rosethorn as they are pulled into the middle of a vicious war. The greed of an Emperor imperils their friends; as they fight to save the people they care about they learn exactly how much a powerful tyrant can destroy.
As usual, Pierce creates an incredible story. Pierce’s book are not good simply because readers become enthralled in the plot and tied to the characters, but because she is able to incorporate a greater message into her novels. (For example, the book Wolf Speaker explores the importance in caring for the environment.) In Battle Magic, the message is clearly that war is not glorious or glamorous. War is exhausting, unfair, and heartbreaking. With this book, Pierce departs from her usual fantasy plot where the heroes, driven by righteousness, clearly and easily dispatch the evil villains. This time, good and evil are much more evenly matched; both fighters and innocents suffer the consequences of battle. Though this is an important message and a more realistic view of war than I have seen in many books, this is not the type of book that I would generally read. I, admittedly, prefer to read books as an escape from every day life. I enjoy a good fantasy, preferably with a romantic subplot, that will take my mind off of work, school, and real world issues.
That preference aside, the book was filled with action, magic, and obscure gods. Pierce hooked me into the story quickly, as usual, and though I knew how it ended, I still could not put the book down. A few parts of the story were odd — even for a book about fantasy and magic, but overall the story was really good.
Therefore, the final verdict is: though this book is a bit harsher in its realism than I would have liked, I do recommend it, along with the other books from the Circle of Magic series…especially if you have been missing books about young students learning magic since you finished the last Harry Potter book.