Book Review – Battle Magic

Title: Battle Magic

Author: Tamora Pierce

Format: Hardback

Year Published: 2013

Battle Magic is set in Tamora Pierce’s Emelan world, set after The Circle Opens quartet, but before The Circle Reforged. Though it was written after The Will of the Empress and Melting Stones, fans of the series will lose nothing by reading the book in the chronological order that it occurs in (i.e., sometime after Street Magic and before The Will of the Empress) and might, in fact, enjoy it more, as there are some minor spoilers in the later books.

The book follows Briar, Evvy, and Rosethorn as they continue on their travels through foreign lands. The three are invited to visit the famed gardens of the Yanjing, and accept. While they are there, they see what the Emperor’s true personality is (hint: viciously cruel). The scene with the gardeners will probably stick in my head for a while. Then they discover that the Emperor plans to march on his neighbors, including those that shelter the Temples that Rosethorn has sworn her life to.

While the three of them go on this journey to warn the Temples together, they soon split into their own separate stories. While the original Circle of Magic books had rotating POVs between the four mages, the later books (except for The Will of the Empress, as that has the four of them back together again) have maintained one or two POVs, typically leaving the teachers out. Battle Magic adds Rosethorn in, and while I did enjoy reading her POV, I also missed some of the mystery that surrounded her prior to getting into her head.

(This might be a good time to mention that Evvy is probably my least-favorite character in the Emelan books. I did not enjoy Melting Stones very much, and not all of that can be laid at the feet of the first-person POV [my views of which are well-known to my friends]. In many ways, she is the least-relatable of the characters for me, and I find her attitude grating. That said, by the end of this book, she’d definitely grown on me, and I plan to go back and re-read Melting Stones.)

Battle Magic is much darker in tone and material than any of the previous Circle books, up to and including very graphic descriptions of battle and torture. Despite that, it caught and held my attention very well. While I knew that (SPOILER!) all three survived, because I had read The Will of the Empress and Melting Stones, you can never be sure about other characters. The bad guys were fleshed out – we were shown their human sides first, and then shown the evil – and the good guys dipped into some darker parts of their nature. And while not an actual part of the book, the later books in the series show that the three did not escape this without lasting damage.

On the whole, a solid addition to the Emelan world. 3/5 pages

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BITB Best Books of 2014

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It’s amazing to me how long the blog has been going.  I have our loyal readers to thank for that.  I know that we don’t always get a post every day, but we do try to bring the best reviews we can.  This year had some issues, too.  Illness (we’re better now), new jobs, moving, etc, but we managed to get past all of that and have brought in another new blogger for your enjoyment.

But onto the books.  As you know, Book in the Bag features regular posts from our panel of reviewers.  We all bring with us different backgrounds, experiences, tastes, etc.  The first time I did this, it seemed like the only books we liked were in German or were geared towards kids under eight.   The next year, we were into graphic novels, young adult, and tried-and-true favorites.  This year, it might be a little different – hell, it might surprise even us.

To be considered a top book of 2014, the book had to be given a five out of five review from someone on our panel of important people (ie, our staff reviewers).  The books are:

  • Big Appetites – Christopher Boffoli
  • The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind – William Kamkwabama
  • Invincible: The Ultimate Collection 1 – Robert Kirkman, Corey Walker, Ryan Ottley
  • Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey – Emma Rowley
  • Matilda – Roald Dahl
  • Proud Too Be Weirrd – Ralph STEADman
  • The Gurkah’s Daughter – Prajwal Parajuly
  • Mr. Wuffles – David Weisner
  • Thor, God of Thunder – Jason Aaron
  • Choose Your Own Autobiography – Neil Patrick Harris

Phew.  It looks like we were a tough crowd this year.  Hopefully we’ll find more enjoyable reading next year!

But what about you guys?  What were your favorite books to read in 2014?

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