Tag Archives: Tamora Pierce

Page

Author: Tamora Pierce

Protector of the Small Quartet, vol. 2

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Kel has survived her first probationary year as the first female page in the Tortallan court. Now she only has three more years to make it through as an officially recognized page before she can become a squire–and those three years promise to be grueling, full of hard physical work, intense study, and opposition of her choice to remain coming from all sides it sometimes seems. Not to mention a young maid who’s come under Kel’s protection and a collection of first-years demanding her time and assistance. But Kel is nothing if not stubborn and determined.  And the truth is that she does have friends to support her, from those among the other pages to her growing collection of animal friends to her secret benefactor who keeps on sending her far-too-expensive but always practical gifts. Somehow or another, Kel is determined to stick with it and make it through these three years.

As always, in Page, Tamora Pierce delivers an incredible story full of great characters–including a strong, relatable female lead–moving plot challenges, fantastic animal characters, and a simple, flowing, enjoyable writing style. I basically just love her writing, period. Page is kind of different from some stories in that it doesn’t so much have a huge, overarching plot path–other than the passage of time over the three remaining years of Kel’s page training. Which isn’t to say there isn’t plot; there is, quite a lot in fact. It’s just set up with a more episodic feel, and also in places with the passage of time simply flowing away without much note. I know that doesn’t sound so exciting, but I actually quite enjoyed the way in which it’s written. It explores how much Kel grows up in the course of those years, discovering her own womanhood, exploring how her gender plays a part in who she is and how she lives, her changing feelings over time, her growing as a person and a leader, her developing friendships, and the growth in her character. Page is a different sort of story, but highly recommended still, perhaps even because of that very reason. Plus, you know, Tamora Pierce, always recommended, period.

 

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First Test

Author: Tamora Pierce

Protector of the Small Quartet, vol. 1

My rating: 5 of 5

A decade after the kingdom of Tortall decided to accept girls to train as knights instead of just boys, ten-year-old Kel becomes the first girl to actually apply. Inspired by tales of the Lioness’s valor and already skilled through her training in the Yamani court, Kel is determined to succeed and become a knight of Tortall. But she is shocked when Lord Wyldon, the training master, puts an extra requirement on her that the boys don’t have to fulfill: her first year is a probationary period, and only if she satisfies him at the end of it will she be allowed to stay on as a knight-in-training. Hurt and frustration are barely the beginning of what Kel feels, but her time with the Yamanis has also trained her to hide her emotions and press on through unrealistic expectations, deep-seated prejudice, bullying, and social rejection until she proves herself.

First Test is such a great reminder of just why I love Tamora Pierce’s books so much. It’s this fabulous mix of fantasy and slice-of-life, encompassing bits of school story (the majority of the tale), culture and history, exciting battles, amusing relationships with various animals, and growing friendships among many other things. Plus it’s an excellent look into changing perspectives on what women are capable of and that whole dynamic. Kel is a powerhouse, incredible character–the perfect individual for this particular story. Her story is so similar to and yet so different from Alanna’s in the Song of the Lioness Quartet that it’s quite interesting to compare the two. And knowing that Kel has Alanna’s secret backing is fabulous. But seriously, I love Kel’s stubbornness and determination, the way she works so hard to get where she wants to be. And the way that she’s quiet and feminine–which is partly stubbornness in the face of opposition itself–but is also ready to get into fistfights when necessary also contributes to a richness of character. Plus her friendships with all the various animals and her  intentionality in standing up for those who are weaker and afraid. She’s just a very well-realized and fascinating character, and I love that about her. I also really love her opinionated and chatty mentor Neal as well–also a richly developed and complex character who is quite likeable. It’s been entirely too long since I’ve read these books, and I’m greatly anticipating re-reading the rest of this quartet. I would highly recommend both First Test and the rest of the quartet to . . . well, basically anybody who likes a solid fantasy. As far as appropriate age recommendations, this quartet (like the Song of the Lioness books) is difficult to place, but I would say that First Test at least is appropriate for middle-grade and up (possibly even older elementary). Just be warned that the later books in the quartet grow up as Kel grows up, so there may be some more mature content there.

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Battle Magic

battle magicAuthor: Tamora Pierce

The Circle Reforged, vol. 3

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Sixteen-year-old plant mage Briar Moss, his former teacher and unofficial foster-mother Rosethorn, and his student stone mage Evvy are wrapping up their delightful stay in the kingdom of Gyongxe, a mountainous country where shamans literally dance living statues out of the cliffs and the gods speak through the boy-king they chose to lead the nation. The three mages have made many friends in Gyongxe, but Rosethorn is itching to get her hands into the renowned gardens of the neighboring country of Yangjing–especially since the emperor of Yangjing has extended a special invitation to tour his own personal gardens. When they arrive, Briar and his companions find themselves warmly welcomed with esteem, good food, comfortable rooms . . . and an exhibition of one of the emperor’s multiple armies and a distinct feeling that if they misstep, they may lose their heads. Although they quickly make fast friends with a captive prince named Parahan, it seems most of the people in the palace are completely under the emperor’s thumb. Worse, Evvy finds out that the emperor is planning an all-out attack on Gyongxe. Dangerous as it may be, they decide that they must warn their friends, whatever the cost.

Tamora Pierce is a fast favorite of mine, crafting excellent fantasies and wonderful characters. I happened to find Battle Magic in my local library, and was thrilled to try it. This story fits after Pierce’s Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens quartets, and apparently it’s the third volume in its own quartet, although I didn’t discover this until after I finished reading it. You would probably have better context for the story by reading the first part of this quartet, although it didn’t seem problematic to me to pick up at this place. However, I would definitely recommend reading Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens first, or you’ll be pretty lost on character connections, magic dynamics, etc. As for Battle Magic in particular, it brings back a group of characters I have always loved, Briar Moss in particular. It also introduces a huge cast of other characters, some of whom are amazing (like Parahan) and some of whom are relatively minor. I think one of the downfalls of the book is that it has so many characters, many of whom have really unusual names, that it’s a real job keeping track of everyone. The main cast members don’t have as much of a chance to shine as characters as I would have liked. Still, in the times they are allowed to shine, they are consistently themselves and they are superb. One thing you should know about Battle Magic is that it is (fairly obviously) a war story–so again, huge plot, lots of names, less time for individual characters. I think that’s really where the story . . . didn’t lose me exactly, since I did enjoy it all the way to the end, but became a bit weak in my opinion. It’s a great story, incredible characters, but there was just too much “war story” and too little of the individual. Still, for fans of Tamora Pierce, this is a must-read, and for those who enjoy an exciting fantasy, Battle Magic is still quite a good choice.

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Aurelie: A Faerie Tale

Author: Heather Tomlinsonaurelie

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Once upon a time, four children were the best of friends: three humans, a boy and two girls, and one fae, a drac who loved mischief and gave the other three a salve that allowed them to see the true form of the fae. Years passed, and the four grew apart. Princess Aurelie lost her mother and became caught up in great responsibilities as her country descended into war. Her dear friend Netta was blinded by another fae, angered by her ability to see him truly, and now she refuses to leave her quiet country town. Loic, the drac, is convinced that his friends abandoned him on purpose and has isolated himself in the world of the fae. And Garin has returned to his home country with his parents–a country that is at war with the land of the princess he loves. Yet none of them have forgotten their affection for each other, and as circumstances rage around them, the four find themselves once again drawn together. . . . And just perhaps, the bonds they share will be enough to save them all.

Having never read any of Heather Tomlinson’s work, I was intrigued by the cover and summary of Aurelie, which promised something along the lines of a new fairy tale or maybe a retelling. I really wasn’t expecting the story that unfolded, though–a politically-charged, romantic fantasy along the lines of Tamora Pierce and Megan Whalen Turner’s writing. I loved it! The plot and the prose are tight and sure, making this a short but engaging tale. The multiple perspectives (of all four friends) work very well in this context. I found it particularly intriguing that Tomlinson chose to give first-person perspective to the three “secondary” main characters–Netta, Garin, and Loic–while writing Aurelie’s perspective in third person. It’s unusual, but it works; I actually didn’t notice until a good ways into the story. The slightly French feel to the story gave it an interesting flavor as well, something more along the lines of Perrault’s fairy tales as opposed to the Brothers Grimm, say. Aurelie was exciting and sweet both, full of unexpected turns and great characters, and I would highly recommend this story, especially to those who enjoy the works of authors like Pierce and Turner.

 

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The Realms of the Gods

Author: Tamora Pierce

The Immortals, vol. 4

In spite of the work and sacrifice of many, Daine and Numair not the least, Immortals (monsters from the Divine Realms) have flooded the world following the rupture of the barrier keeping them at bay. While on a mission to deal with some particularly nasty Immortals, the two find themselves whisked (rescued, rather) away to the Divine Realms–by Daine’s parents, no less! Daine finally gets to meet her Da, one of the gods, and finds that her deceased mother is now living in the Divine Realms with him as a lesser goddess. Surprises and happiness all around, especially when the badger shows up for the party as well. But Daine and Numair aren’t the sorts to enjoy leisure and comfort when their friends and country are in danger, and the dark little spies their enemy sends after them even at Daine’s parents’ home are a reminder that they must be getting back. But the only way they can get home is to travel through the Divine Realms (which aren’t  all sunshine and roses) to the Dragonlands and ask the dragons to take them home. . . . And of course, they might eat them before they get the chance to ask.

Tamora Pierce is always a winner with me, especially The Immortals quartet, so I greatly enjoyed The Realms of the Gods. It was packed with all the things that make Pierce’s stories amazing: great characters, huge plot, a great balance between intensity and good humor, and an element of the unexpected. In this particular volume, I did find that the beginning was a bit slow for my taste; however, I think a lot of the problem there was that I was anticipating and worrying about the war back in Tortall. The beginning part was actually quite interesting; a unique look into the home life of the exalted, if you will, and a sweet reunion for Daine and her parents. The romance between Daine and Numair that’s been expectantly brewing for some time finally sparks in this volume, and I love the way it just fits. It’s like, you’ve been expecting them to fall in love for years, and when it finally happens, it just flows naturally without a bunch of weirdness. It’s nice, and it doesn’t overpower the plot. I really love the inclusion of the “darkings” in the story as well. These are small, ink-blobby entities magically formed by the evil Ozorne to do his bidding–bad business to be sure. And initially, they’re all spying and mysterious. But then they realize they are individuals and have control over their choices–then they’re not only cute but brave and pretty amazing. I would highly recommend The Realms of the Gods  to anyone who enjoys a solid, fun fantasy–just read the first three volumes of the quartet first!

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Emperor Mage

Author: Tamora Pierce

The Immortals, vol. 3

After years of tension and threat of war, Carthak’s Emperor Ozorne is finally willing to talk peace with a delegation from Tortall. Lucky Daine gets to go along to heal the emperor’s beloved pet birds as a gesture of good intentions. Now she’s all about taking care of the birds–helping animals is kind of what she does–but being part of all the political talks is not her idea of a good time, especially when it’s with a country that has sent unofficial attacks against her country. But she does go, and she’s surprised to find the emperor’s nothing like what she expected–or rather, in some ways he’s worse and in others he’s remarkably kind and considerate. In any case, all this courtly mumbo-jumbo gets under Daine’s skin, as does the fact that many people in the Carthaki court have a history with her friend and mentor Numair. Not to mention the underlying suspicions that things are not as they seem here what with the involvement of a Carthaki goddess and a number of other rather frightening immortal beings. . . .

I love Tamora Pierce’s writing, and I think The Immortals books are some of my favorites. The characters of Daine and Numair are complex and intriguing–plus I just like them and find their growing friendship to be fun and heartwarming. And all the animal friends Daine makes along the way are charming and entertaining with their quizzically non-human perspectives. I enjoy the balance of intrigue, magic, action, and friendship–everything just flows so nicely to create a story that’s exciting and engaging all the way through. Of particular note in this volume is her development of the Carthaki nation and its culture–it has both an intriguing individuality and a fascinating similarity to that of ancient Egypt. And of course, the inclusion of numerous characters from The Song of the Lioness quartet (Alanna, of note) makes this volume even more fun! Really, Pierce is an excellent writer with a very readable style; I would highly recommend all her books and Emperor Mage in particular.

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Wolf-Speaker

Author: Tamora Pierce

The Immortals, vol. 2

At the request of a wolf pack to whom she owes her life and loyalty, Daine makes the trip to Dunlath Valley accompanied by her friend and mentor, the wizard Numair. Also joining them are Daine’s pony Cloud, a couple horses, and her new charge–a baby dragon that she calls Kitten. The wolves called for her because the humans in the valley are strip mining and dumping waste in the lake, a situation that–if allowed to continue–will drive the animals to find new homes yet again. Upon closer inspection, Daine and Numair find evidence of much deeper problems as well: slavery, dealings with violent immortal beings, and even treachery against King Jonathan. They must call upon all of Numair’s skill, Daine’s still-developing wild magic, and a surprising collection of allies both human and animal . . . and possibly even immortal . . . if they are to prevent this treachery.

In the first volume of The Immortals, Wild Magic, Tamora Pierce created an exciting and engaging tale filled with delightful characters; Wolf-Speaker is the perfect follow-up to that initial volume. The plot complex, building on seeds planted in the first volume of Daine’s story in many regards. And while the characters are absolutely true to themselves (which is vital–I love Daine, Numair, and Cloud, and they aren’t allowed to change), they are also growing and developing in wonderful and unexpected ways. I think the balance of character development, political intrigue, fantasy adventure, and coming-of-age story is perfect, lending a story that is both exciting and enduring. One thing I particularly enjoy about this story is all of the animals and Daine’s interactions with them–as well as the awareness of the changes in the creatures due to their time with Daine. I would recommend Wolf-Speaker (as well as Pierce’s other books) to anyone who enjoys an exciting adventure with an interesting flavor of fantasy.

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