Battle Magic

464p. glossary. Scholastic. Oct. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-439-84297-6; ebook $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-52035-5. LC 2013013175.
Gr 7 Up—Pierce returns to the world of the Winding Circle to relate the events that befell plant mages Briar and Rosethorn and Briar's student, stone mage Evvy, between The Will of the Empress (2005), Street Magic (2001), and Melting Stones (2007, all Scholastic). The book opens in the kingdom of Gyongxe where the trio watches shamans dancing to call forth statues from the mountainside. Soon afterward, an invitation arrives from the Emperor of Yanjing, the powerful nation that borders the mountainous, god-filled Gyongxe. They travel to the emperor's court to view his famous gardens but quickly learn that he is a cruel man who keeps slaves and punishes gardeners and plants alike for perceived failures. Evvy impulsively decides to free Parahan, an enslaved prince, and is assisted by Briar, who, as a former thief, knows how to pick a lock. In return Parahan lets them know that the emperor plans to invade Gyongxe. Rosethorn is bound by her oath as a dedicate of the Winding Circle to return to Gyongxe and warn them of the invasion, and Briar and Evvy refuse to be left behind. The emperor has thousands of troops and mages trained in battle, but the friends can call on the plants and stones and Gyongxe has its own supernatural defenders. Pierce combines wonderful characterization with unique magic, realms, and creatures to create a splendid tale.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Briar Moss (the plant mage of Pierce's Circle Quartet books), his mentor Rosethorn, and his protege Evvy are traveling through Gyongxe when they receive an invitation to tour Emperor Weishu's private gardens in neighboring Yanjing. Although the Imperial hospitality is bountiful, the three can't help but notice the Emperor's cruel streak. When they leave, Evvy and Briar aid in the escape of the Emperor's most valuable captive, Parahan, the exiled prince of Kombanpur, then flee back to Gyongxe ahead of the Emperor's invading army. Parahan helps lead the Gyongxe defense, but Rosethorn must decide how to protect Briar and Evvy in what is rapidly becoming a war zone. Pierce achieves an epic sweep of cultures and intrigue in this wide-ranging volume, constructing her world with painstaking detail (for example, the ceremonies that take place within the Imperial palace and the wall icons that turn into the lively gods of Gyongxe). But the three mages' powers, their loyalties to one another, and their testing under the rigors of combat are the real draw here. Evvy in particular has a rough time, surviving torture, near-death, and the loss of her beloved feline companions, but she still comes back strong in the battle scenes. Add in the author's signature wry humor, and the result is another winning companion to Pierce's highly successful Circle Quartet and Circle Opens fantasy franchises. anita l. burkam

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