Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
First in a projected series by veteran fantasy writer Pierce (the Song of the Lioness books), this unfocused tale tells of four young mages who discover their magical abilities while living in a strictly disciplined temple community called Winding Circle. Each is from a different social class, and each is associated with one or more of the four elements. Naughty thief Briar, the only boy, has a special connection with plants and earth. Trader Daja is a smith mage, able to manipulate fire and molten ore. The most powerful of them all is homely Tris, a merchant girl, who masters both air and water to create storms and stop tides. Lady Sandry's talent is for needlework and fabrics; she binds the group of friends and weaves their magics together. Pierce's spunky children and their creative sorcery are as engaging as ever, but the story gets off to a shaky start. The narrative shifts the spotlight among each of the four characters (shown in separate environments) in all three of the first chapters, making it hard for the reader to find a through line with any of them. Once they meet, the characters' gradual mutual acceptance is painfully predictable, and the climactic group effort to escape from an underground cave during an earthquake is muddled and lacks drama. The results are less than magical. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
VOYA - Susan Dunn
At Winding Circle Temple in Emelan, four misfits are gathered by a mysterious mage named Niko. Sandry-Lady Sandrilene fa Toren-is an heiress whose parents recently died of smallpox, and she still wears the colors of mourning. Daja is a Trader grieving the loss of her entire family in a shipwreck. As the only survivor of the accident, she has been banished from her people as trangshi, the worst kind of bad luck. Trisana is not sure if she is "spirit, elemental, or ghost-burdened," but during fits of temper she seems able to make inclement weather occur. No one wants her-even her parents have abandoned her. Alone against the three girls is Briar, a street urchin and branded thief. Niko rescues him from a courtroom and life sentence at the docks. Although all four of the children were previously tested for possessing magic, none of them proved to have any-or so they thought. As it turns out, all are mages with very unusual skills, and it is no accident that Niko arrives just in time to rescue each of them. He had a premonition that children with untapped and undisciplined magic were out there somewhere and needed his help. He brings them to Winding Circle because it is an unusual place itself, one that welcomes those who do not have traditional, university-educated magic. With the help of Niko and two dedicates named Lark and Rosethorn, the four children grow to trust one another and in the powers they have recently learned they possess. A new Tamora Pierce! This is the first in what this reviewer assumes will be a four-book series (one for each child) called Circle of Magic. Pierce can do no wrong, although this book is not as strong as either of her previous series (The Song of the Lioness and The Immortals). With four main characters to follow, plus a host of smaller players and locations with unusual names, it is difficult to keep everything straight. The children are likeable enough, just not as fascinating (yet!) as Daine or Alanna. The climax of the book, when Sandry, Daja, Tris, and Briar have to combine their fledgling magic to survive after an earthquake, just is not that climactic. It does serve, however, to cement what has been a tenuous bond between the young mages-just in time for the book to end and the reader to have to wait for the sequel! Buy this one and know that it will circulate based on Pierce's many fans and her good name. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Four children from different walks of life come to Winding Circle, a temple community where for different reasons they are sent to Discipline, a smaller cottage in which they gradually come to know and trust one another and, more importantly, to know themselves and discover their own magical abilities. Niko teaches them to control their impulses and focus their minds. When the four are trapped in a collapsing cave during an earthquake, they must combine their magic and the concentration Niko taught them to escape. This first book (Scholastic, 1997) of Tamora Pierce's popular Circle of Magic fantasy quartet features The Words Take Wings repertory group reading the dialogue and the author reading the narrative portions of the text. Dramatizing the dialogue makes the story more lively and immediate and will captivate listeners. However, the blend of narration and dramatized dialogue is not always smooth, and often the timing of the transition from actor to narrator seems slightly awkward. Most of the actors do a good job of creating distinct personalities for their characters, but they vary in skill. While Cynthia Bishop as Lark is excellent and her voice is very expressive, the actors playing the children are not as skilled. Pierce's voice lacks expression as the narrator. She is much better in the author interview at the end of the production which adds insight into her work. Technical quality of the production is excellent. While there are no sound effects or background noises to intrude, brief snatches of appropriate music mark plot shifts, a necessity here since the story shifts among the four children. This recording should prove popular where children are reading Pierce's books.-Louise L. Sherman, formerly Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
In a fantasy set in mythical lands surrounding the Pebbled Sea, four young people come to terms with the pain that life has dealt them, the prejudices they've inherited, and the unrecognized magical powers they were born with.
The four come from varying backgrounds, but all have been misfits rankling against the restrictions that class and culture impose. Sandry (Lady Sandrilene fa Toren) feels "Good f'r naught but to be waited on and to marry." She longs to be useful and competent. Daja, the Trader girl, wants to be a metalworker, but making things is forbidden to traders. Briar, a streetwise thief, harbors a special affinity for plants, and Trisana, the Merchant girl, seems to have a direct line to the forces of nature itself. Mage Niklaren Goldeye brings all four to a disciplined temple community where their special gifts can flower. Pierce (Wild Magic, 1992, etc.) employs the trappings of magic, yet never invokes it as a convenient plot device imposed from without. Instead it appears as an inner strength that each of the fully realized, compelling young protagonists must discover and harness. Meditation and the Zen-like practice of hands-on crafts are their tools of mastery. First in a series, this is a rich and satisfying read.
From the Publisher
First in a series, this is a rich and satisfying read.
The action is swift, the fantasy world nicely defined, and the ending will leave readers wanting more. With a multicultural cast and enough gender role-reversal to make a lot of people happy, this is a promising first title in a series.
--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
[T]his is an enjoyable fantasy for middle-grade readers, who will look forward to the next book in the series.
--School Library Journal
Pierce has created an excellent new world where magic is a science
and populated it with a cast of well-realized characters. Teens will eagerly await the planned sequels.