- Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce
In this standalone companion to her Circle of Magic series, Pierce chronicles the beginning of the war between the small mountain country of Gyonxe and the colonizing Yanjing, as referenced in The Will of the Empress (BCCB 1/06) and Melting Stones. Sixteen-year-old Briar, a renowned plant mage, and his mentor, the irascible Rosethorn, are joined by their twelve-year-old charge, Evvy, a spunky but powerful stone mage, as they journey to visit the famed gardens of the emperor of Yanjing. Once there, they realize the rumors of the emperor’s cruelty don’t do justice to the true ruthlessness of the man himself. After freeing one of his prisoners and tricking his guard, the three magicians flee the palace and travel to warn their friend, the God-King of Gyonxe, of the emperor’s plans to invade the GodKing’s mountainous homeland. Despite the constant threats to the trio’s safety, the initial pace here is actually quite languid, allowing readers—particularly those unfamiliar with the other books in the series—to become immersed in the world and the various rules and religions that govern it. Evvy’s capture and interrogation [End Page 232] by the emperor’s troops amp up the tension considerably and dramatically alter the emotional dynamic among the friends; suddenly, these three peace-loving magic wielders are consumed with vengeance and must balance their own desire for revenge with the responsibilities that their magic, and by extension the gods they believe in, force upon them. Indeed, faith and compassion are major themes here, set against a compelling war story that manages to capture the violence without glorifying it. Both familiar fans and readers just approaching Pierce’s canon will find this a satisfying, thought-provoking read.