Mini Reviews: The Circle Opens Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Another amazing series from Tamora Pierce, in which all of my favorite characters grow up. *wipes away tears* (Well, okay, they’re still only fourteen, but THEY GROW UP TOO FAST!) This time, Tris, Briar, Sandry, and Daja are off traveling with their teachers (except for Sandry, who remains in Emelan). They’re about to meet their own students, ahhhhh!

The Winding Circle kids all grown up, via minuiko.

Magic Steps
 

Title: Magic Steps
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #1
Publication Date: March 1, 2000
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
Sandry meets Pasco, a young dancer who comes from a family of Harriers (otherwise known as the Provost’s Guard, basically policemen… who thinking dancing is no big deal), and takes him in as her student since she was the one who discovered his magic. A murderer is also in town, and Sandry is multitasking with trying to catch the murderer and teach the impatient Pasco. TP’s writing is effortless as always, and I can get the sense of Sandry’s own youthfulness despite her powers. It’s amusing to watch her try to teach Pasco, when he’s not that much younger than her. There are also a lot of funny moments in Magic Steps amidst the seriousness of the murderer situation.

Street Magic
 

Title: Street Magic
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #2
Publication Date: April 1, 2001
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
There are cats in this one! (I love reading about horses and cats!) Briar and his mentor, Rosethorn, travel east of Emelan to the hot and dry city of Chammur where Briar discovers a young stone mage, Evvy, owner of a gazillion cats. There’s a gang war going on in the city that sucks both Briar and Evvy into its mix, and it’s interesting to learn about the culture of Chammur through it. Briar and Rosethorn’s magic is my favorite (most of the time) because they’re plant mages, so I love seeing them talk to plants! 🌱 The finale of this book is also very refreshing, as Briar gets to show off his true powers. (I really like it when the four Winding Circle kids use big magic!) We’ll see this trio more in the Circle Reforged series, but I like them as they are here a lot more.

Cold Fire
 

Title: Cold Fire
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #3
Publication Date: April 1, 2002
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
Daja always gets the short end of the stick. She and her teacher, Frostpine, travel to the empire of Namorn, wayyy north of Emelan. (There’s something hilarious about smith mages going into the cold…) There, Daja makes friends with a firefighter, and also discovers not one, but TWO mages in need of a teacher. Luckily, it’s Daja and not one of the other three, so she’s patient and mature and willing to look after them, despite some rough times. One thing that I liked about this series is that there are more narrative shifts, where we get to follow the story through someone else rather than the Fearsome Foursome.

Shatterglass
 

Title: Shatterglass
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #4
Publication Date: January 1, 2003
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
Aaaand of course Tris would get an older student who can’t handle her age nor her lightning-based magic! Tris and her teacher, Niko, travel wayyyy south to the city of Tharios, where there is a caste system among other differences that irk Tris. (I also love seeing the different cultures from all the places that the Winding Circle kids travel to!) One rule in Tharios is that anything that touches a corpse needs to be cleansed immediately, which makes catching criminals very difficult. Tris and her student, Keth – along with the glass dragon that Keth accidentally created – must try to control Keth’s magic while providing tools needed to capture the latest murderer. It’s interesting how the setup is the same as that of Sandry and her student’s, but they’re two completely different stories.

In all four of the Circle Opens series, I really enjoyed seeing the relationships between the new students and new teachers develop. There’s so much humor in TP’s books despite the serious plotlines, and the worldbuilding is detailed and diverse. How many TP books do I have left to review? I feel like I’m mentioning the same things over and over again, yet I’m not bored yet! (I hope you’re not either… *gulps*)

Mini Reviews: The Books of Bayern Series by Shannon Hale

THESE are the types of Shannon Hale books that I like! (I had a bad experience with her recent one, bah.) Fairy tale retellings that allow us to connect with the young protagonists, with a mix of magic and adventure that feels very natural. However, I feel that the first book is still the best, and the ones that follow are not as engrossing.

The Goose Girl

 
Hale’s The Goose Girl follows the classic Grimm version of the goose girl story fairly closely, except for the magic (which is actually the part that I liked most!). Ani, our goose girl, learns to speak with animals at a very young age, and it’s interesting to see that her magic is part of a bigger system of magic that becomes more clear throughout this story, along with the sequels. Overall, solid retelling, and I liked how it both followed and deviated from the classic version.

Enna Burning

Title: Enna Burning
Author: Shannon Hale
Series: The Books of Bayern #2
Publication Date: September 15, 2004
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
Another aspect of this series that I enjoyed was that supporting characters get a chance to play a lead role in later books. In Enna Burning, Enna – who appears in The Goose Girl – gets some magic of her own. I didn’t like this book as much as the first one, maybe because it is no longer a retelling; the magic from the first book is now the centerpiece for the rest of the series, and I find the magic in the book not as appealing as that of the previous one. There’s only so much you can do with fire (versus speaking to animals!), and the story veers off to a more romance- and politics-based plotline that I couldn’t really get into.

River Secrets

Title: River Secrets
Author: Shannon Hale
Series: The Books of Bayern #3
Publication Date: January 1, 2006
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
River Secrets is essentially the same as Enna Burning, except with a more entertaining protagonist. Razo is like the third wheel in all the stories so far, so it’s nice to see through his eyes in this story and understand that although he thinks of himself as average or unskilled, that’s not how others see him. There are a couple more twists and turns in this story compared to the other ones, so there is hope for the finale yet!
Forest Born

Title: Forest Born
Author: Shannon Hale
Series: The Books of Bayern #4
Publication Date: September 15, 2009
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
I love how all the old characters keep coming back again and again, and it’s nice to see that they’re doing well throughout the series! Out of all the characters, Rin is the one that I can relate to the most. She’s a quieter and more sensitive protagonist than the others, who seemed more determined to get things done. Rin, on the other hand, has vague feelings of “wrongness” and very unclear motives. Her story is actually a really fascinating ending to the series, as it brings together several aspects of the previous books that I really liked – the magic, the relationships, and self-discovery.

The Books of Bayern series starts off as a classic fairy tale retelling, and cleverly spins off into a tale of its own. I really enjoyed the magic, as well as following protagonists who take the time to examine their own thoughts and identity. Although I didn’t like the second book as much as the others, I still think this is a solid fantasy series and a fun read. 🌼

Have you read the Books of Bayern?
Do you keep reading a series if you run into a book you didn’t like?

Review: Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon

WOOHOO, this is the last book to complete my Winter Wonderland Bingo!!! It only took like, what, a little over a year and a half? 😅 I had a hard time finding a “book with elves” to read, but Eragon is the perfect choice. Eragon is a wonderful high fantasy adventure full of dragons, heroes, monsters, and magic. It’s set up with a cliffhanger and has lots of foreshadowing throughout the book that never leads to anything conclusive, which is unforgivable, but DRAGONS! 🐲 HEROES! MONSTERS! MAGIC!Read More »

Mini Reviews: Brian’s Return & Brian’s Hunt by Gary Paulsen

Ahhhh, it’s the end of Brian’s Saga! 😦 I’ll never get tired of the way Paulsen describes the food and nature scenes, and even though I’m sad that these are the last two books in the series, I’m excited to read Paulsen’s Guts in which he tells the true events that inspired this series. I also can’t wait to read Paulsen’s other works – his writing style is simple, yet powerful, and I still want more of it!

Brian's Return
 

Title: Brian’s Return
Author: Gary Paulsen
Series: Brian’s Saga #4
Publication Date: January 12, 1999
Category: (Middle Grade) Survival / Adventure

 
After reading Brian’s Winter, this sequel felt too short yet again. Brian’s Return is a continuation of The River – after Brian returns home, he is once again uncomfortable in his old environment. He loses interest in hanging out with his friends and watching TV, and ends up accidentally reverting back to wilderness mode in public after being in a “threatening” situation. After being forced go to counseling sessions, Brian realizes that he has to go back to the wilderness. No surprises in Brian’s Return, just a sense of rightness after Brian returns to the place where he feels he belongs. But I wanted more! I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading about Brian, and I’m so sad that there’s only one more book left in the series.
 
Brian's Hunt

Title: Brian’s Hunt
Author: Gary Paulsen
Series: Brian’s Saga #5
Publication Date: December 23, 2003
Category: (Middle Grade) Survival / Adventure

 
 
 
If this book was combined with Brian’s Return, I would’ve enjoyed the latter better. Brian’s Hunt continues off from where we left Brian, who was on his way to the Cree trapping family he met in Brian’s Winter. He meets an injured dog along the way, and witnesses a cruel and disturbing scene that leads Brian to The Hunt. In this last (for now) book in the Brian’s Saga series, Paulsen shows us a harshness of nature that is not present in the previous books. The one thing I didn’t like about this book was the addition of the Cree family’s daughter, who is around Brian’s age. Paulsen tempts us with a potential romance but doesn’t deliver – she’s a necessary (but minor) installment in this story, but Brian’s thoughts about her made it seem like she has a bigger role. (See, I stop understanding Brian when he starts turning into a teenager.) But nevertheless, this book is intense and captivating, and has a powerful message that is driven by vivid imagery and suspenseful scenes.

Canadian