Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursdays with Macky • Street Rat? I Don't Buy That

Street Magic book cover
Street Magic by Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #2
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: November 15, 2006
Source/Format: Owned || Paperback

Briar Moss been training four years as a plant mage, but he hasn't put his past behind him. He meets a street girl, Evvy, using powerful magic to polish stones for a merchant, and resolves to find her a teacher. But Briar understands the city's gangs as well as he understands Evvy. When gang warfare breaks out, he discovers that the fiercest gang is seeking a stone mage to lead them to hidden gems. Only Briar and his magic can offer Evvy protection. Swept up in a bloody conflict, Briar must decide if he's ready to make the final step away from his former life as a "street rat".


The ballad of Rosie and her boy continue on in Street Magic. Last we saw Briar and Rosethorn, it was during the most recent Emmelan plague. We find them two years later in the country of Chammur. It’s very Middle Eastern, what with the souks and the rocky terrain. Briar gets involved in gang wars and finds a young ambient stone mage named Evvy. She’s smarter than he was at that age, choosing not to be “ganged up”. In this story, we see “Roach from Sotat” die completely to make room for Briar Moss, accredited mage of Winding Circle Temple, tocome fully alive.

This isn’t a mother and son tale. Tammy’s already done that in Briar’s Book. However, the dynamic between Briar and Rosethorn is still all too fun and very much alive in this book. Like Sandry had to with Lark, Briar struggles with Rosethorn about the accountabilities of being a Winding Circle mage. And then after that, Rosethorn makes an exit and leaves center stage to Briar, who shares it with Evvy.

This book is all Briar with just enough of Evvy to really nail the whole “street rat drama” home. It’s very poignant. Briar, once off the streets, finds an ambient mage off the streets much in the way Niko (Niklaren Goldeye, to you Circle Junkies) found him. It’s as much Briar’s coming to terms with who he’s turning out to be than it is being embroiled in some local gang problems.

The Good

I love how this book is an allusion to real life gang situations. There are many places in the world that are a breeding ground for gangs and all the nasty things that come with gang life. It’s a commentary about how young people can literally waste their lives away in a gang for rewards that are so fleeting and temporary.

It’s another fantasy-science fiction drama. Former gang member finds girl on street and does good by her they way he had been picked up off the streets himself. Very basic plot. But what makes the story compelling is the fact that these gang fights, casualties and turf wars are real.

I’ve zero experience of gangs in real life. I bet their lives are worse than what this book depicts. But to get that insight into gang life from Briar's point of view, from Evvy’s resolve never to be ganged up and from the unfolding of events in the story is award-winning writing.

The Whut?

Briar’s a plant mage. Unlike Tris’s adventures where you get around scholarly types, you don’t so much delve into the depths of “high magic” and its finer workings. There is no “swamp-thing” vibe where “the green” needs a champion against some blighted menace. The gang wars are fuelled by a rich woman with too much time and money. It’s not fantastical or whimsical at all. It might as well be a TV drama. But with magic. And not the Lord Voldemort kind of magic either.

There’s a reason I don’t read contemporary fiction. They’re too… real. I don’t watch shows like CSI or ER or any of the real life drama stuff. I watched Buffy, Angel, Supernatural, The Secret Circle (though that show's stocks are plummeting in my book on account of the “Dawson’s Creek-y” teen angst and drama vibe).

Why? Because I like my adventures fantastic. I’m also kind of a comic book nerd so yeah, anything that is hypernatural intrigues me more then the “normal” stuff. Halfway through the book I’m like… wow, this is interesting, but if I wasn’t so invested in Briar and Rosethorn, and if Evvy wasn’t so endearing… I’d have never even bothered to read the book.

The Awesome

I love Briar’s head. I love how Evvy and Briar form a bond. She’s the little sister he never had. And he finds a girl that just may give his foster sisters a run for their money. He’s a mentor to her and she latches on to him. Evvy’s a tough street rat but the streets haven’t removed her ability to be tender. I would love to adopt the kid. But that’s just me wanting to be Briar Moss.

The teacher-student relationship Briar has with Evvy is eclipsed by the family vibe that she gets sucked into. Rosethorn really takes Evvy in (cats and all) which just makes it great fun to have all 3 of them in the same basket. So fun, that it’s probably the reason Tammy wrote “Melting Stones” and will write the book chronicling the devastating ordeal Briar, Evvy and Rosethorn had to go through in Gyonxe.

Heck, string Briar’s Book, Street Magic, Melting Stones, and the future Gyonxe book (please write it soon Tammy!!!) and you have the Briar(Evvy) and Rosethorn quartet! I can see the box set now. Also I can see myself shameless emptying my wallet for it.

These three are my favourite group in the Emmelan universe, next to the original four of course. But we won’t see them reunited until Will of the Empress. That’s two books away kids! At least in publishing order. Chronologically, after we do the next two books, I could do a review on Melting Stones.

Eitherway, I wanna end this review by saying a good series gets people invested in the lives and journeys of the characters. Characters that don’t just seem real but are real to you. Rosethorn, Briar and Evvy are so real to me it’s just so engrossing to read about them. They’re going to go through much in the years to come. I just hope Tamora Pierce writes more. She’s got a ton of stories left in her yet. And I cannot wait to read them all.
Thursdays with Macky is a weekly feature on the blog where my boyfriend Macky posts his thoughts on some of his favorite reads.

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