March 1, 2012

Thursdays with Macky • The Circle of Magic... Opens

Hey, hi and a half dear book-blogosphere-ians! (If that word sucks, I blame the negative effects of media on my brain and if it catches on, you saw it here first!) We are just about done with the Circle of Magic quartet! For those of you who posted on any of the reviews, you have gratified my not-too-obvious-but-very-existent narcissism. Also you have met my need to be validated as a (wannabe) book blogger. Thank you.

But more important than my need for validation is perhaps the off chance that you’ve picked up some of these books. I must have read this series more than ten times in the last ten years. And by series, I don’t mean just the first four books. To date, there are ten books out there on Sandry, Tris, Daja and Briar. I cannot get enough of them.

So what is this post about, apart from the rantings of a Tamora Pierce fan? Well, I feel this “review” is a necessary "rest stop" in between quartets, if only because this is where die-hard fans and not so die-hard fans could part ways.

Circle Opens - Tamora Pierce
Magic Steps / Street Magic / Cold Fire / Shatterglass by Tamora Pierce
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: November 15, 2006
Source/Format: Borrowed from Macky || e-books

The next four-book cycle is aptly dubbed “The Circle Opens”. This next cycle picks up when they’re all fourteen years old. Each book is dedicated to one character as per usual, but they’re on their own with just their teachers. Sandry in Magic Steps stayed in Emelan and stumbles onto a series of magic-assisted assassinations that only her special brand of thread magic can help stop. In Street Magic, Briar is in Chammur where his past as a gang member gets brought up when he finds himself inextricably caught up in some local gang troubles. Daja’s story peaks in Cold Fire, set in Sandry’s chilly home country of Namorn, where an arsonist starts making lots of trouble in a city made completely out of wood. The last book, Shatterglass, finds Tris in the country of Tharios where a serial killer wreaks havoc and makes the mistake of murdering people important to her.

Of Ambient Magic, Students, and Drama in Real Life

The coolest part is that each one of them finds others that have a completely different kind of ambient magic. Now I won’t spoil any more than that but suffice to say this whole non-conformist magical abilities thing is just too awesome. I mean… other ambient mages. It’s just really geeky fun how Tammy goes into how ambient magic can be found in say… carpentry, or dancing, or stones… even glass.

All of this “growing up” is framed in the backdrop of real world threats and how our four young mages are always caught in the middle of it all. There’s no hint of some greater destiny or purpose. Not like with the Tortall Books.

It’s just four young people with extraordinary abilities doing the best that they can to find their place in the world. Like real life. Everyone has something extraordinary about them. They just don’t know it or don’t know how it can be brought out of them. And the four mages get to pay the favor they were done forward.

If I didn’t love these kids so much, the books would have maybe bored the hell out of me. That’s an honest opinion. Even something well written (which the books are) can bore somebody to death if they don’t care. So props to Tammy for writing brilliantly as usual, but I’m in it for the love.

Why I Read This Series At Least Once A Year

“That is the definition of family." – Joss Whedon on the Avengers

This is a family piece. These four are the siblings you never asked for but never knew you always wanted. The family you would live, fight and die for. That’s why I keep coming back to this story. It’s fiction sure, but there’s something real about their relationships and circumstance that speaks to me.

Joss Whedon, when asked to write and direct a script that would feature Superhero heavy hitters like Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk discovered for himself the kind of story he wanted to tell. Joss said “These people shouldn’t even be in the same room let alone on the same team – and that is the definition of family.”

Personally, I believe that’s both a realistic albeit glass-half-full take on what a family really is. You can’t pick them. You can’t kill them. You’re so the same and so different in all the right and wrong places you may as well take a sledgehammer to one of them or to your own head to put somebody (anybody) out of their misery… you’ve no choice.

But I personally believe that if every family worked hard, decided to make things work, put some pride and biases down, gave and took in equal and fair proportions, the people you’re “saddled with” ought to have been the best people you could have hoped for in your life.

These four got a hard reset of their family lives. But even if they found themselves stuck with the last people they ever wanted to be stuck with, the subtle, unseen hand of destiny in the Emmelan universe stepped in and forged them into a full circle.

Nothing like extreme situations that whittle you down to your core and reveal who you really are. When push came to shove (and it did in each book), they ended up sticking out for each other. They didn’t have to. But they did. And seeing how they come together has spoken greatly to me. Kinda gives you hope that if a bunch of strangers can set differences aside and grow/adjust to each other while rallying around a cause greater than their own, then maybe any family can do that.

Being human of course we just mess that chance up big time and cause way too much irreparable damage to our own flesh and blood, it’s a wonder there aren’t any more sledgehammer deaths reported in local obituaries.

Tying Up Loose Ends

Heroes are the kinds of people who don’t accept the world for what it is but instead fight for what it should be. It’d be sad if we kept our lives full of stories about heroes and none of it rubbed off on us.

Seeing these four kids grow up, make mistakes, fail, and save the day feels a lot like growing up with them. The Circle of Magic Quartet ends with them forged as one. The Circle Opens quartet take the journey further. They’ve been so defined by each other and their collective magic for so long. Now it’s time for them to stand on their own to discover who they are. Tune in for the next few weeks as we go all over the world with these four young mages. We’ll start with Emmelan, then head to Chammur, then go up north all the way to Namorn and end with Tharios. We’ll see more kinds of ambient magic and see Sandry, Briar, Tris and Daja shine like never before!


  1. What a great write-up! I have to look into these, I haven't read a single one.


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