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! đŸŒ± 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*)

2016 Read Tamora Pierce Challenge (FANGIRL ALERT!)

Tamora Pierce ChallengeI’ve ranted about my love for TP before (but in a more philosophical way), so imagine my utter joy when I found out that there are other TP fans in the online book community! Nori, another huge TP fan, is doing a Read Tamora Pierce Challenge in 2016, and she has kindly shared her challenge with the rest of us Internet dwellers. What this means is that there will be a good amount of Tamora Pierce here over the next few months, starting this month. TP fans, come forth and celebrate with me! 🎉🎉🎉

My personal goal for this challenge is to review all major Tamora Pierce books by the end of 2016. I’ll update this post with my progress. I also want to generate some TP-related discussion (but not necessarily TP-centric), such as what constitutes good heroines in fiction, imaginary casting for TP movie adaptations, fanart(!!!), if-you-like-TP-books-you’ll-also-like-these-other-books, etc. etc. etc.

PROGRESS

TORTALL
☐ Beka Cooper trilogy
☑ Song of the Lioness quartet
☐ The Immortals quartet
☑ Protector of the Small quartet
☐ Daughter of the Lioness series
☑ Tortall and Other Lands anthology

EMELAN
☑ Circle of Magic quartet
☑ The Circle Opens quartet
☐ The Circle Reforged series

For new TP readers – welcome! Please join Nori’s challenge and get ready for some potentially life-changing moments! Here are some Tamora Pierce resources for you to get started:

For old TP readers – Goddess bless you all! If you aren’t already aware of TP fanart or other unofficial TP stuff… HERE YOU GO. But I’ll let you find the fanfiction on your own.

What are you waiting for? Go read TP!

Review: Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce

Tortall and Other Lands

TAMORA PIERCEEEE!!! This anthology includes 11 short stories, most of which are AMAZING, some of which are unfortunately not so amazing. Still, this is a great supplement to what I already know about the Tortall universe, although there are stories not set in Tortall that are just as good. However, I know that certain short stories have appeared in other multi-author anthologies, so it kind of sucked when I reread certain stories, especially if they’re ones that I didn’t like as much. I think most (if not all) of the stories made me feel hope and strength, so I’d say it’s typical Tamora Pierce feels for me, haha.Read More »

Mini Reviews: The Circle of Magic Quartet by Tamora Pierce

I’m the happiest thing on two feet right now. And when I’m feeling good, I want to review good books. SO YAY TAMORA PIERCE (again)!!!! 😀 The Circle of Magic is set in a universe as cool and amazing as Tortall-verse – this time, Tammy brings out the magic of everyday crafts (ambient magic), like gardening, knitting, and metalworking. I’m totally in love with the characters, the world, and the simple and strong storylines throughout this quartet. I think 4X the main characters means 4X the emotions, because I’m so invested in all of them, despite (or because of) the Fearsome Foursome’s different personalities and beliefs. Also included here is awesome fanart because urghhh too awesome.

The Winding Circle kids: Daja, Sandry, Tris, and Briar, via Nest of Straight Lines.

To commemorate yet another TP series review, I shall henceforth weave poetic praise for The Circle of Magic. Literally. Because I have nothing better to do and because I love TP. SORRY FOR THE BAD POETRY.
Sandry's Book

The Winding Circle gets new students
With stronger ambient magic than ever seen before.
The story of these four, I’ll never get bored of –
These child-mages are ones I will always adore!

The button-nosed noble who makes thread glow;
The merchant girl who makes the winds blow;
The Trader outcast who works hot iron with bare hands;
And also, the thief who has a soft spot for plants.

At ten years of age, these young’uns are left torn
By devastating natural and man-made disasters,
And it’s only through Winding Circle that they are reborn
And woven together tightly like brother and sisters.

Tris's Book

Title: Tris’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #2
Publication Date: April 1, 1998
Genre: (Middle Grade) Fantasy

But it seems that the weaving was too tight
And their magics were too tangled,
So amidst pirate season, the four try
To save Emelan and also get de-tangled.

Seeing the Fearsome Foursome grow
In magic and into their own selves, I’d
Say I’ve grown to care for them all, although
At the top, Tris and Briar are almost tied!

Daja's Book

Title: Daja’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #3
Publication Date: October 1, 1998
Genre: (Middle Grade) Fantasy

Tying for second place isn’t bad either,
And Daja is just as strong as the others.
Tammy’s great at putting these four
In situations that bring out their best and truest colors.

The underestimated and overpowered
Are often children, outcasts, and commoners.
But Daja is obviously no coward, and
She wins me over with her resilience and honor.

Briar's Book

Title: Briar’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #4
Publication Date: April 1, 1999
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

As with most Tamora Pierce quartets,
(Except for The Immortals) this last book is my favorite –
So much friendshipping involved #noregrets
And now I reread from Sandry’s Book, I’m elated!

Quiet place, via minuiko.

Is there a book friendship that makes you squeal with glee?
If you had ambient magic, what form would yours be?

(Oh look, even my questions rhymed! #naturalpoet 😋)

Mini Reviews: The Protector of the Small Quartet by Tamora Pierce

This is only like my FAVORITE TAMORA PIERCE SERIES EVER, no big deal. I feel like it’s so hard to explain why I love this series so much – I kind of just want to say JUST READ IT AND YOU’LL UNDERSTAND! And sometimes I don’t know why I love certain books when there are probably similar books out there, but The Protector of the Small is The One for me. I reread it almost every year, and when I want comfort books, this is the series I turn to.

When I was in high school, I went to the library almost everyday after school to volunteer, and during my downtime, I’d inevitably turn to the Fantasy section and walk straight towards the “P” section for all the Pierce books. (Pros: Gail Carson Levine and Philip Pullman were also close by!) There were these wonderful shiny hardcover copies of Squire and Lady Knight that I would just claim for as long as I could, and I’M JUST IN LOVE. (So all my Tamora Pierce reviews are less of reviews and more of me ranting about my life, sorry in advance, haha.)

First Test

Long story short, the realm of Tortall is finally accepting its first girl into the knighthood training program in a hundred years (Alanna didn’t count since she hid that she was a girl), and ten-year-old Keladry of Mindelan stepped up at the chance. However, she’s been put on probation by the training master, and has to handle bullying from the boys and being at a physical disadvantage. Kel is determined to show everyone that she can make it, and in the process, gains some valuable friends and makes some enemies too. I fell in love with Kel and her gang in this book – Kel is so different compared to Alanna in that Kel is quieter and more “average” in terms of looks, so maybe that’s why I could relate with her more. Her tenacity and firm belief in doing the right thing particularly stand out in my mind, since the plotline allows those characteristics to shine through. This first book in the quartet has plenty of action and adventure, and allows us to revisit good ol’ Tortall while getting us familiar with the new characters.

Page

Title: Page
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Protector of the Small #2
Publication Date: May 23, 2000
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy / Magic / Adventure

Ta-dah! Kel’s made it through probation! (Oops, was that a spoiler? You kind of expected it, right? Since she’s the heroine and all and the story can’t go on without her?) The knighthood training consists of four years as a page (modern translation: middle school), four years as a squire (high school, shadowing teachers/employed professionals), and pass the Ordeal of Knighthood (yay job!). This book details Kel’s next three years as a page. Life as a page isn’t easy, and Kel continues to try to balance her studies with her extracurriculars (ex. going on an anti-bullying campaign, essentially) and her developments into womanhood. Tammy always manages to fit so much time into one book without making it boring, and I was totally engrossed in seemingly mundane things. Also, more animals in this book!

Kel and her menagerie, via minuiko.

Squire

Title: Squire
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Protector of the Small #3
Publication Date: May 1, 2001
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy / Magic / Adventure

Kel has survived four years as a page, and is moving on to being a squire under either an active duty knight or a desk knight in the palace. After facing prejudice and resistance as The Girl for four years, Kel faces new problems as she starts to become exposed to the rest of the world. She makes new friends and new enemies, and learns how to be a great leader in the process. She also (unfortunately?) gets stuck with a baby griffin (as you can see from the cover), which sounds like an awesome experience… but it’s not. I like how nothing is idealized or sugarcoated in this series (as well as other Tammy books) – if something sucky happens, it happens and becomes a learning experience. That said, bad things (ex. character death) doesn’t happen for no reason. Kel’s “high school” years are so much more exciting than mine, and maybe that’s why Squire is the book I read most often from this series when I was in high school, haha. 😄

Lady Knight

My favorite book in this series, if I had to choose. Kel becomes a full-fledged knight, but is disappointed when she’s put in charge of a refugee camp instead of being out in combat. However, fate has more in store for her than just that… this is the culmination of all things great about The Protector of the Small series: great friendships, great plot, amazing characters. SO MUCH LOVE FOR LADY KNIGHT!!!

Lady knight, via minuiko.

Altogether, The Protector of the Small quartet is AWESOME on so many levels. We get to see nine years’ worth of character development, and Tammy doesn’t disappoint. There’s never a dull moment, and every character contributes to the plot. Another amazing thing about this quartet is that there’s so much political and historical development, although unlike the previous Tortall heroines who were placed at critical moments of history being rewritten, Kel was not. It’s like discovering a new part of the world – the picture of Tortall in my head just got a lot more colorful and a lot bigger after these books!

Also, I AM IN LOVE WITH TORTALL FANART! I especially love minuiko’s depictions of the Tortallan heroines, and her Kel art is just amazing… she’s a big Kel fan too! The Tortall Comics Project is where the cool kids hang out, so that’s where I’ve quenched my PotS needs.

Squire, via JWHamer.

Mini Reviews: The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Okay, let’s see if I can get through this without fangirling or squeeing or hyperventilating too much OMG I’M FINALLY REVIEWING TAMORA PIERCE OMGOMGOMG!!! And The Song of the Lioness isn’t even my favorite series, so imagine how excited I’ll get when I review the others! 😍

I’ve mentioned that Tamora Pierce is my favorite author before, and throughout my reviews (now and forthcoming), I hope I can show you why her books are pure awesomeness. The Song of the Lioness quartet is the second series I read that’s set in the world of Tortall – the Tortallan universe is amazingly intricate, and this quartet just shows you the tip of the iceberg, really. I won’t belabor the point, but #justreadit. And I’m totally in love with the covers from the 2002 Simon & Schuster edition, so here they are!

Alanna: The First Adventure

Alanna of Trebond wants to be a knight of the realm of Tortall, while her twin brother, Thom, wants to learn magic. So when their father decides to send Thom to the palace of King Roald and Alanna to the convent, the twins decide to switch places. Alanna disguises herself as a boy and takes on the name “Alan.” This first book details Alanna’s adventures throughout the three years that she trains as a page, and it’s a wonderful journey as we’re introduced to the various characters, such as Jonathan, the heir apparent; George Cooper, the King of Thieves; Ralon of Melvin, a fellow page who bullies Alanna because of her small size; and many others. We get a feel of who might be the enemy in later books, but there’s still a bit a suspense near the end of the book. Alanna: The First Adventure is fast-paced and exciting, and it’s an adventure like no other!

In the Hand of the Goddess

In the second book, Alanna is now a squire, and is progressing into knighthood. As her identity is slowly revealed to her closer friends, Alanna is also becoming more aware of her femininity. In addition, Prince Jonathan and the king and queen are being threatened by a mysterious sorceror, and Alanna finally meets her enemy. But this is also the book where I start to lose interest because, oh, there’s a love triangle! I don’t think the romance in any of Tamora Pierce’s books is done particularly well, but hey, the action is still there. Alanna also attains a faithful and sassy companion in this book, so all’s well. In the Hand of the Goddess shows more intricate world-building – such as the Tortallan religions – and really pumped me up for the next book, when Alanna leaves the palace in search for more adventure.

The Woman Who Rides Like A Man

The newly knighted Alanna wanders into the vast deserts of Tortall where the Bazhir – who had been in war with Tortall in the past – make their home. There, she becomes the first female shaman, and plays an important role in fostering the relationship between the Bahzir and Tortall. This third book is key in the world-building of Tortall, because the Bahzir (who are based off of the medieval Middle East) have a presence in almost all of the Tortall books. However, this was my least favorite book of the four, mainly because of the romance (again!). I just have a set OTP in my mind that doesn’t work with what’s happening in this book, haha.

Lioness Rampant

Alanna – having already established a reputation for herself – is now set on finding the Dominion Jewel, a legendary stone with great powers. In the process, she meets new characters (some of whom will play important roles in other Tortall books) and meets her old archenemy. After Book 3, I was surprised by how riled up Book 4 could still get me – and boy, was this a dramatic ending! I love that the cast of this last book introduced more strong heroines, and that my OTP happened, so YAY!

Overall, The Song of the Lioness quartet is a lot of world-building and adventure. I really liked how more of the Tortallan universe gets revealed with each book, and yet Tamora Pierce still has time and effort to infuse so much action and so many characters into the storyline. Moreover, the impact that Alanna has on this world is ENORMOUS, and it’s just amazing how characters can change the world, what! Alanna is such a kickass protagonist (and I love how all of the Tortallan heroines are so different!) with a sharp temper and a kind heart, and even though I whined so much about the romance, it’s nice that Alanna, as a character, is free to try out different relationships before she got her ONE TRUE LOVE. 😉 She has flaws, but that’s what makes her real and relatable.

And I’d totally LOVE to see Tammy’s books on the big screen, but that will probably not happen for several reasons and blah blah boo hoo hoo, so I’ll stick with imagining out all the books in my head, which is still awesome! There’s also tons of fanart out there that I’m super excited about, and it’s interesting to see how similar the artworks turn out for a single character, which must mean that Tamora Pierce is a superb and super-detailed character creator!

Have you read Tamora Pierce’s books?
(If not, JUST DO IT.)

Fairy Tale Book Tag: True Love, Princesses, and Midnight Magic

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What better way to start February, the month of LURRRVE, with a fairy tale book tag? (Because Valentine’s Day actually lasts the entire month, FYI.) I was super excited for Mel’s fairytale survey when she created it last year, and bided my time for the perfect moment (and the perfect graphics!) to unleash my answers. Aaand going along with my new year’s resolutions of putting myself out there, this list includes some guilty pleasures, confessions, and some maybe surprises. 😉

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Nalini Singh’s Angels’ Blood. Sooo not sure if it counts as lying, but I basically don’t talk about my guilty pleasures, aka paranormal romance. I had this phase a while ago where I’d go crazy over these mainstream adult romance books and OMG so much smutty goodness!!! I’ve been trying to keep Paper Breathers somewhat PG-ish (except for this teensy little bit), but I might start talking more about adult romance at some point in the very far future.

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Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game. Like, really? All of the four-or-so covers for this book suck. Big time. I want something modern and charming, preferably with Turtle on the cover, kthxbye. 🐱

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Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers. Seriously, I blame the shiny spine. I can never resist the books that have shimmery text on the cover, sigh… not sure if this one is for me though. I happen to own a lot of Alice Hoffman books, and yet the only ones I’ve read are Aquamarine and Indigo. And that was when Scholastic was offering a deal where I could get both of them AND two pretty friendship bracelets made of aquamarine-colored beads.

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Lucy Maud Montgomery’s The Blue Castle. This book was like my version of The Notebook that I just read over and over again, from cover to cover. Valancy Stirling and Barney Snaith have that kind of comfortableness and contentment that just works, with none of that drama or flair.

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Cesar Millan’s How to Raise the Perfect Dog. I don’t own a dog, so…Â đŸ¶ I’ve been watching Dog Whisperer for a while, which is why I picked up Cesar’s book. And it was really good! If I ever get a dog (which I will one day, mark my words!) I will read this book again.

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Tamora Pierce’s Lady Knight. Powered through this quartet like a beast. Tammy’s books are just AMAZING and this series, in particular, is SPECTACULAR. INSPIRING. RIVETING. Okay okay, I’ll stop. But OMG. 💕

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Katie Heaney’s Never Have I Ever. Biggest disappointment ever, ’nuff said.

Did any particular books come to mind when you went through this list?
Which book tags have you enjoyed doing?

The Thing About Having a Favorite Author

breaks

If you ask me who my favorite author is, I’d say Tamora Pierce without a second thought. I can tell you when I first discovered her books (fourth grade), where I found them (I can picture the exact shelf I found Wild Magic at that library book sale), why I loved them (medieval female heroines!), and why I love Tamora Pierce (I call her Tammy in my infatuated mind). Sure, I have backup favorite authors for when I need to sound smart at college interviews and for talking with friends who like to read other genres, but Tamora Pierce was my first author love.

And therefore, I didn’t realize that there were flaws in my favorite author’s writing style or character development until I stumbled upon The Reviews – as in, any review that doesn’t speak well of her works. I like to think that Tammy’s books are perfection, but these are books that I’ve read over and over again throughout the years, so my ability to truly analyze her works may be debatable.

That’s when I noticed that I tend to clutch onto the title of “favorite author” like a security blanket, something that I can fall back on in awkward breaks in conversations and moments of soul-searching. I fall back on my favorite author when I need to define myself. I do the same thing with my favorite color, my favorite musician and favorite band, my favorite food, et cetera. Even when I don’t have just one favorite thing, I spend more time than I need to just trying to think of something so that I can say, “This is who I am! This is what I like!”

Having a favorite author (or a favorite anything) gives me a sense of security and stability, and even though I might like other things more than my favorites, I’d like to think that my favorites make me who I am today after many years of self-discovery. I’m the type of person who needs a strong sense of self (possibly typical of an INFP) and shouting out Tamora Pierce’s name makes me happy and confident.

Do you have a favorite author? What’s your take on having favorites?

Friday Finds (1)

FRIDAY FINDS, hosted by MizB at Should be Reading, showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list
 whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

I think the Friday Finds meme is kind of like a catch-22 – you want to finish all the books on your TBR list, but it will never happen because you keep adding more and more books to the list each week. I don’t know if I should be overjoyed or depressed that my TBR list is getting longer, so I’ll try to limit myself to three “finds” per week.

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  1. Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce. Tamora Pierce is only MY MOST FAVORITE AUTHOR EVER WJ:ETOI@#*, no big deal… I was already giddy a month ago when I heard about this book. You can probably imagine my reaction last Tuesday when it came out. #fangirllinglikeitsmyjob
  2. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. (My review) I saw this one at the bookstore and picked it up because of the cute lobsters on the cover. In my mind, I classify books like this one under “lots of characters” (like Addled or The Last Time I Saw You, if anyone has read those?), although I think A Game of Thrones wins the award for having lots of characters die. I’ll give it a try!
  3. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. SQUEE! I wholeheartedly support my Canadian authors, and Gladwell’s books were what got me into reading more nonfiction books.

And I already found another book that I want to add to this list! Bah, I have no self-control whatsoever… I’ll save that one for next week then.

Have you read any of these books? What books did you find this week? Let me know so that I can check them out!