Gr 6 Up-This novel begins two years after the "Circle of Magic" and "The Circle Opens" series. Readers are reintroduced to the four characters who made the other series so popular: Sandry, who has worked at her uncle's these past two years; Tris, who has developed a new power that she is afraid to share; Daja, who immediately renews her link with Sandry; and Briar, who is afraid to open up because of his memories of the war. Sandry still holds the circle that binds these four individuals together, creating a strong whole out of four very diverse parts. When the book opens, they refuse to reopen the link that has made them stronger due to changes in their lives. Sandry discovers that the lands she holds for the Empress will be given away unless she returns home. Her uncle talks her friends into accompanying her. She hopes to visit her lands and leave by fall, but the Empress has other plans for her, including marriage. After the Empress meets her friends, she devises plans to keep them all. Readers will enjoy being reacquainted with these older but still very well-developed characters. This book stands alone, but readers unfamiliar with the earlier books will be asking for them after finishing this one.-June H. Keuhn, Corning East High School, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Tris, Sandry, Briar and Daja return in the latest Circle book, but their formerly close friendship has weakened as they've grown apart on their separate adventures. Once closer than siblings, the four no longer understand one another. Nonetheless, when Sandry is summoned to her ancestral lands in Namorn at Empress Berenene's whim, only her friends-all supremely powerful mages-can protect her from political machinations. Berenene wants Sandry to stay, though Namorn's unpleasant and misogynistic legal system revolts the quartet. Sandry finds herself wooed by Berenene's courtiers, while practical Tris is tempted with education and Briar with the palace's extensive gardens. Daja, meanwhile, finds love with one of Berenene's ladies. The four come to terms with one another's passages to adulthood in this surprisingly rich adventure. Main characters all get satisfactory depth, although much development is left tantalizingly unresolved for future offerings. When Pierce first began writing longer books, her pacing was shaky; she's settled into the length quite well. Satisfying. (Fantasy. 12-14)
Young mages and foster siblings Sandry, Briar, Daja, and Tris suffer a bumpy reunion after traveling independently of one another for a year. When Sandry's noble uncle requests that the others accompany her on a journey to visit her properties in neighboring Namorm, they rediscover their affinities and learn how their unique powers complement one another. Sandry's empress cousin wishes to keep Sandry and her inheritance in the country and plots at every opportunity to marry her to a Namornese nobleman, leading to some action-packed showdowns between the characters with magical abilities.
This lengthy novel is full of journeys, adventure, and court life, but its strength lies in its complex characters and solid incorporation of social issues into the tale: Namorn has a long-standing tradition of kidnapping and forced marriage for its girls, which the mages work against politically. Sandry reflects in the qualities of a good leader and returns to issues of class and social justice time and time again, and one of the mages comes out as a lesbian. Fans of the four mages will enjoy this continuation of their story, but the book stands on its own. Readers will find this feminist tale thought provoking, and it might provide enough material for a good classroom discussion.
HB Nov/Dec 05
Tamora Pierce The Will of the Empress
539 pp. Scholastic 11/05 isbn 0-439-44171-4 $17.99 g
Now sixteen and beginning to think of their futures, the four mages of Pierce's Circle Quartet are reunited after their separate travels (recounted in the Circle Opens series). Briar, Tris, and Daja escort Sandry on a visit to her estates in Namorn, but the powerful empress of Namorn has plans to make all four of them remain there under her control -- and she's not used to taking no for an answer. As the court intrigue unfolds (the empress sics several suitors on Sandry in order to keep her in Namorn; Daja surprises herself by falling in love with the empress's wardrobe mistress), the familiar characters demonstrate why they're so popular with tween readers: gruff exteriors invariably hide tender hearts; strays are always collected and cared for; friendship and loyalty triumph over riches and position (but riches and position come along anyway). Although the foursome's eventual escape is never in doubt, Pierce has some fresh surprises regarding each mage's powers, and through danger and repose she keeps the story rolling merrily along. anita l. burkam
Booklist 11/1/05 Starred
Gr. 811. How well word-mage Pierce understands what her audience wants, and how ably she provides it in this epic postscript to her two Circle quartets. Powers in full flush after stints of wayfaring, precocious ambient mages Daja, Briar, and Tris have finally reunited with left-behind Sandry. But nothing is quite what it was, and the 16-year-olds begin to question their telepathic connection: “As adults, we keep our minds and our secrets hidden, and our wounds. It's safer.” It will take a common foe to shake the cobwebs from this partnership. Pierce provides a formidable one in Namorn's charismatic empress, who does battle with silken weapons of courtly politics to compel the mages to live and serve in Sandry's native land. Subplots deepen characterizations in ways reflective of the teens' increasing maturity: Daja discovers she is a “woman who loves women”; Sandry must confront her high-born heritage and stave off forced marriage by means of an archaic bride-stealing custom. A few threads seem to dangle in ways that cloth-mage Sandry would scorn, but little will deter readers from reveling in the elemental magics, or from sympathizing with the prickly young adults' nostalgia for the easy companionships of childhood. A standalone tour de force, this will gratify series devotees and ensnare new readers for the series. Jennifer Mattson