February 23, 2012

Thursdays with Macky • How Green Things Grow

Briar's Book book cover
Briar's Book by Tamora Pierce
Series: Circle of Magic #4
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: March 1, 2000
Source/Format: Owned || Paperback

Briar, whose magic lies in the realm of plants, finds that a dear friend is suffering from a mysterious illness. Briar and his fellow mages-in-training must bind their magic together to save the person Briar loves best.

Briar’s Book has to be (oddly enough) the most painful book of the series. It ends with the biggest emotional bang. It’s not without its bad points, but overall, it has to be (for me) the most intense.

And what a way to close a quartet! The story picks up almost a year to the day Niklaren Goldeye (that’s Niko to you fans) brought all four young mages to Winding Circle and installed them at Discipline.

What starts out innocently as another jaunt into the city turns into the discovery of a plague that would one again change everything for Daja, Sandry, Tris and most especially Briar.

The Good

The most amazing thing about ALL the Circle of Magic books is that Emmelan has all the things we have in our world, only set up in a time where magic takes the place of technology. In this case, it involves handling an epidemic.

I’m no science buff beyond your average Discovery Channel features, but the way Tamora Pierce weaves a tale of a “plague drama” from both the emotional and “scientific” side is SO FREAKING COOL.

Not to spoil too much of the book, but we really get to see Rosethorn shine in this one. It is not as a great mage of great power, but as an amazing human being. And though Rosie isn’t the only one at the forefront, she’s certainly in the crosshairs from Briar’s point of view because he’s seeing just how great a mage his teacher is.

It’s a plague. It’s an unknown plague and lives are at stake in the race against time while they brew up a cure. As usual, everyone brings their A-game and we see deeper into the relationships and histories of the mage-teachers that have taken on the four kids.

There’s tons of nerdy “anti-plague” and “plague-procedure” stuff that would make any fantasy/science nerd happy. (And apparently, I’m enough of both to have geeked out quite magnificently.)

This book made me want to be a scientist/doctor. Of course, I have an aversion to using my brain and to studying in general. so I felt like I wanted to be a man of medicine for all of eight seconds. The book was that good. It made me want to study… just so I’m useful in a time where a killer plague could sweep the land.

The Whut

Again, you’re gonna have to care about the characters to love this story. This book is the most emotional one of the quartet. They’re up against a plague. It’s not like pirates where you can see them coming and you can fight them. It’s not like a forest fire or an earthquake where Mother Nature roars something fierce and you hope you survive the storm.

A plague is a siege from within and lives are taken one by one for every second that you don’t have a cure.

If you don’t have a heart for the relationships in the circle, chances are you won’t appreciate how deeply this book explores these relationships. This is especially true because at the center of this piece are Rosethorn and Briar. They’re practically the least sentimental of all the characters and yet here they are in the middle of a gut-wrenching drama.

We’ll see Rosie and her boy go through the wringer in this one. Frankly, you’ll either see him as a really big mama’s boy with a tough guy exterior… or you’re going to be crying with them over what this plague will cost them.

What I will always love about Tamora Pierce is that all her stories, though set in a fantasy setting, are all realistic in context. The good guys aren’t always good. The bad guys can sometimes win. Sure good triumphs in the end, but only because the good guys will pay the ultimate price for that victory.

Also, there’s the ending, which is kind of a curve ball, even for me. Objectively speaking, it’s either the best ending for the quartet or the worst. I don’t think you can be on the fence with this ending. You’re either gonna love it or you’ll be “meh”.

The Awesome

Needless to say, I will sing the praises of this quartet while I still draw breath on this earth. Why? Always, it’s the characters and how their journeys intertwine.

Sandry and Lark, ever stalwart in their need to stitch things together. Daja and Frostpine, hard working and strong. Tris and Niko, the odd yet perfect teacher and student pairing. And of course, Rosethorn and Briar.

She’s not his mother. She’s not a lover. He’s not her child, nor is he a little brother either. The relationship is almost too ambiguous for titles. Personally, Briar and Rosethorn are what they are. Kindred. Family. And this book brings out a side of Briar he probably doesn’t even know about himself.

Deeper than devotion and friendship. Stronger than simple loyalty. It’s love for sure. But of what kind? Well, take a good look at Briar and Rosethorn and that’s definition enough. I’m thinking of Eragon and Saphira from the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. It’s the bond of Dragon and Rider. There’s nothing like it and yet, it’s a bond that is as strong and as deep as parent and child, as deep as lovers… as true as friendship… and yet are none of these things. It is however still and always will be love.

And love conquers all indeed. With the three girls to ground Briar, it was his turn to shine in this book. You’ll never see him in the same way after this book. Briar’s no great hero yet. He’ll be a great mage, yes. But he’ll always be Rosethorn’s boy. *sniffles*

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


  1. I know many people who are very big Tamora Pierce fans, so I really need to check out her books!

  2. Great review, Macky! I've never read any books by Tamora but I've seen her name so many times, I feel like I should try one of her books.

  3. I've heard lots of great things about this author but I've never read any of her books I really have to change that! Great review Macky! And cool feature btw :)

  4. You should totally read her books! I suggest starting with "Alanna the Lioness" which Alexa reviewed here: http://www.alexalovesbooks.com/2011/04/review-alanna-first-adventure.html

    that's what got me hooked on Tammy's universes. :D the gateway drug to all things Tortall and Emmelan. :D

  5. hey there. :D we're big Tamora Pierce fans for a reason. :D her characters are memorable, her stories are well written and the lore she makes up is simple yet really really awesome. :D


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