February 16, 2012

Thursdays with Macky • The Way Fire Burns

Daja's Book book cover
Daja's Book by Tamora Pierce
Series: Circle of Magic #3
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: June 24, 2006
Source/Format: Owned || Paperback

Outcast Trader Daja, along with her fellow mages-in-training, journeys from Winding Circle to the Gold Ridge Mountains, where drought threatens widespread famine. There, Daja creates an astonishing object: a living metal vine. A caravan of Traders covets the vine, and Daja's dealings with her former people reawaken a longing for familiar ways. Daja must choose--should she return to the Traders or remain with the Winding Circle folk who have become her family?

Daja’s story picks up a few weeks after the great earthquake and the pirate raids and I must say, I’m starting to see a “pattern in the weaving” here, at least for this quartet.

It’s fun how there’s one of the foster siblings being focused on per book but you get some pretty good insight into the other three characters.

Sandry, weaving raw power and still doing her best to keep all things together. Briar and his genuine love for green things and his devotion to Rosethorn. Tris, resident book-nerd and powerhouse doing the best that she can with her lot in life and her place in the circle.

And then there’s Daja. Her status among her race of people is still zero because of the “bad luck she carries” as the only survivor of her family shipwreck. She’s a prisoner of her culture and it’s harsh racism and classism. But since it’s all she’s ever known, her “trangshi” status tears at her heart knowing as far as her people are concerned she does not exist. Worse than a plague carrier or criminal, she carries enough bad luck to kill an entire clan.

And then to stumble onto some Traders only a few months after her personal tragedy… Well, the wounds are still unhealed and very deep.

The Good

Set against the backdrop of a trip to a very parched and dry northern Emmelan with Duke Vedris, we have Daja’s personal drama on one hand, and a haughty fire mage renowned for stopping brush fires on the other.

Cue Rosethorn and her “Mother Nature is Angry” vibe scolding this academic mage about how the land needs fire to burn through dead wood. Apparently, stopping all manner of fires for 30 years means dead wood and such can collect to up to a foot deep everywhere. Throw in a drought and you have yourself a predictable firestorm waiting to happen.

You’d think that the possibility of a firestorm wouldn’t have anything to do with Daja. But oh contrivance upon contrivance, what a story it is that Tammy weaves.

I love how seemingly unrelated events cause ripples and domino effects and suddenly everything comes to a head and we find out something so crucial about Daja’s power that I’m only now realizing. More on that later but I must say, the story is so well crafted.

The Whut?

Again, I cannot keep stressing that you have to care about the characters to enjoy this story. And truth be told Daja’s the one I feel I’m not too close to. She’s a smith mage and a Trader. Business, family tradition and metal magic that has to do with the crafting of metal.

And this story centers around her pain as trangshi. She’s the Typhoid Mary of the Trader world if typhoid was bad luck enough to kill an entire clan and if Typhoid Mary was still alive.
Traders are like a hodge podge of many current world cultures but to the “extreme”. And the things that stick out is their xenophobia, their built in racism, the fact that as business people they… well… trade. Not do. And as a smith mage, Daja would have been forbidden to touch any crafts tools.

If you don’t care about Daja’s pain, or if you don’t like stories that explore how culture and the people that have it break free or compromise or get crushed… chances are, the awesome geeky nerdy magic stuff that happens in this book will be all you’ll have going for you.

And if you’re not so much into the “awesomeness” of ambient magic and the even greater oddity that is the fusion of the four kinds of ambient magic Daja, Tris, Briar and Sandry have… Well, you’re on your own.

The Awesome

That having been said, I suddenly recall how much I actually do care about Daja.

Tammy uses the constrictive Trader culture as a way to bring the best out of Daja who has known nothing but that culture. Here’s a girl who once had purpose and knew only one way to view the world. All of that gets taken away in one day and suddenly she finds herself needing to accept a new culture and a new way to look at the world because her old world won’t even let her back in.

Daja is torn. On the one hand, there’s the life she lost and can never have. Traders did not disappear from the face of the earth when 5th Ship Kisubo sank. They’re around. And they consider her “invisible”.

And then, on the other hand, there’s this new life with people she didn’t even consider, people who love her more than the ones she used to be part of. Worse yet, they acknowledge her love for metal work and have helped develop her ambient magic.

The book isn’t so much a setup of which life should Daja embrace because at this point, after everything she’s been through and everything she wants to do in life, going back was never an option.

What makes this book magnificent is the way events managed to orchestrate themselves and define Daja’s character forever. It’s less about the life she ought to live, but the kind of person she really is. Daja’s a hero. And I had forgotten that I have loved her as deeply as I love the other three.

I’d forgotten that she can be tender and vulnerable. I’d forgotten that she had the courage and strength of a raging fire and a heart so pure and resilient. She doesn’t even know she’s a hero. But she lives her life the way heroes do. All four of them are heroes in their own right. But it’s Daja’s turn to shine. And she’s magnificent.

Thursdays with Macky is a weekly feature on the blog where my boyfriend Macky posts his thoughts on some of his favorite reads.


  1. Melissa @ i swim for oceansFebruary 16, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    I love this review - simple, succinct and really gets to the point. I'm adding this to my TBR because of this review :)

  2. I love Tamora Pierce something fierce. Having said that, the circle books are my least favorite and Daja is my least favorite of them. I still enjoy the story but agree with the whole you really have to care thing. Or you have to be a total fan like me. I would read Tamora's grocery lists!

  3. Macky was the one who introduced me to Tamora Pierce and I absolutely LOVE her and her writing. Like you, I would read anything she wrote. Personally, my favorite series is The Immortals!

  4. Lora @ Crazy Book ReviewsFebruary 17, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    I love your review style!! Great review!!

    Here from the Lova A Thon :)

  5. Thanks so much! do give it a shot! But like Heidi said, you really gotta care to stick it out with these characters. there's a reason her Tortall books have a seemingly larger following than these books (though i could be wrong)...

  6. I would read anything Tamora wrote! haha... Daja's my least favorite too. But I'm the kinda guy that if I love someone I wanna love everything about them. and if these characters matter to Tammy.. well... they deserve and objective shoutout. :D hahaha.. I'm more of an Alianne of Pirate's Swoop and Olau fan. :D But mostly I love Daine.


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