I listened to all four audiobooks in this series in rapid succession right before signing up for CBR4, so I will treat them as one review since I can't really separate them completely in my memory now.
The Circle of Magic series begins with Sandry's Book, with the individual stories of four lonely, outsider children. Each is from a very different background (noble, merchant, trader and thief) and has either been abandoned or orphaned in some way. Each is found by a kind man, and taken to a private school of sorts. There each finds their way to a teacher and mentor who turns out to be a mage in a special kind of magic - a different kind than is well-known in this world. Given the title of the series and hints along the way, it is no surprise to anyone except the children's characters that each posses their own rare kind of magic (weaving, weather, metal and plant).
As you can tell by the book titles, each of the four books, is from the point of view of one of the children (3 girls and 1 boy), but all four are still main characters in each book. The first book, Sandry's Book is rather slow to get started as it introduces all the characters and locations and really is more about setting up the rest of the series. The four children are getting to know each other and figuring out their new lives. There is finally some real action with the group of four at the end which ends up binding them in a way that is important for the rest of the series. Together they form a completely unique magic which keeps changing and surprising them in the later books.
Surprisingly, since I read a lot of young adult fantasy, this was the first Tamora Pierce book I've read! I was a good, average, juvenile-young adult fantasy book that interested me enough to continue to the next in the series, Tris's Book.
Tris's Book begins soon after Sandry's Book ends. The children are now bonded both my magic and by growing friendship. They are learning more about their abilities and how to control their magic, but still have a long way to go. However, there is a pirate attack on the way, before they are prepared. These are not the “nice” pirates of some stories, but the ruthless kind.
For me, Tris's Book was the weak one in the series. I found it predictable and emotionally flat. It also depended more than I liked on the cliche of children not listening to what they are told to do and getting into trouble when they should have known better. However, by then I was invested enough in the characters to want to continue to the third book, and I'm glad that I did.
Daja's Book, is the third in the series. By now the children are very good friends and are taking their magic for granted at times, while they still have things to learn and discover about it. Daja is from the most unique culture, with a different sense of honour and duty that we come to better understand through this book. An accident with her metal magic produces something that interested my artistic sense and I enjoyed that unexpected aspect of her blacksmithing talent.
In Daja's Book, the children also learn more about the serious consequences and responsibilities of magic, for themselves and for other mages as they travel with their teachers. Through this they start to show more maturity. Fire and drought provide the scene for more physical adventures that are more compelling than the previous book, so I happily proceeded to the fourth book.
Book four is, Briar's Book - Briar being the only boy in the group of four. Despite being the boy, he is one of the more sensitive of the group, but hides it well in a non-wimpy way. As a gardener myself, I enjoyed his work with plants throughout the series. This books gives us a much more emotional view into Briar's past and current life.
The children have now learned and matured enough to be doing some work on their own, but are still connected through their magical bond and friendships. In contrast to the physical adventures of the previous book, Briar's Book, deals more with the internal fears of illness, separation and death within their current lives which also brings up past trauma for those who had lost friends and family before.
I enjoyed this book the most out of the series because of this emotional component and maturity. However, it wouldn't have near as much impact as a stand-alone book and I would still recommend reading the series in order to watch the characters grow and develop.
Overall, I enjoyed the series and the characters. The overall message of tolerance and respect for other cultures and non-stereotyping of genders was not presented in the gimmicky way that has bothered me in other books before. Anyone who has felt like an outsider can probably relate to at least one of the children, if not more.
I enjoyed the quality of this series as audiobooks, read by Tamora Pierce and a full cast of voice actors. I will definitely be looking for more audiobooks published by Full Cast Audio, which also specializes in family-friendly books. This series is recommended for ages 10 and up. I look forward to reading the sequel series, Circle of Magic: The Circle Opens and Tamora Piece's many other books in the future.
Circle of Magic Series
Author: Tamora Pierce
Read by: Tamora Pierce and Full Cast
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Circle of Magic Series, Book 1
Duration: 5 hours, 49 minutes
Release date: Nov 02, 2002
Circle of Magic Series, Book 2
Duration: 5 hours, 37 minutes
Release date: Dec 31, 2003
Circle of Magic Series, Book 3
Duration: 5 hours, 25 minutes
Release date: Dec 31, 2003Briar'sBook (UK title The Healing in the Vine )
Circle of Magic Series, Book 4
Duration: 6 hours, 32 minutes
Release date: Jun 01, 2004