Yesterday, I both started and finished the fourth and final book in the Circle of Magic series with Briar’s Book (Young Adult 258 pages) by Tamora Pierce.
“Former ‘street rat’ Briar leads a comfortable life at Winding Circle Temple, learning plant magic from Rosethorn. But street kids are still his friends, and when one of them gets sick, she turns to Briar for help. When her disease proves beyond even Rosethorn’s power, Briar realizes that all of Summersea is in danger. As the mysterious illness spreads, Sandry, Daja, and Tris join Briar and their teachers to fight the epidemic. But just as the situation improves, the unthinkable happens. Will Briar be able to save what he loves most?”
This was an interesting conclusion to the Circle of Magic quartet. The quartet was done in such a way that each book’s hero was obviously going to be the main title character for that book. I think it’s an interesting way of setting up a world and of creating characters that all get a perfect amount of focus.
While this story belonged to Briar, I really enjoyed Tris’s role in the book and how she found a way to help with the Blue Pox by using her academic strengths. Watching her interactions with Crane and how smart and thorough she was during the experimental time in the lab was a great way to show more of her positive attributes that create her as a person. She was the only one in this book that wasn’t using her magic to help defeat the Blue Pox. Sandry used her magic to weave protective garments, Daja used her magic to make protective boxes for scientific samples, and Briar used his magic to reinvigorate the plants and seeds used in medicines to help the sick. While Tris did attempt once to change the storms and once in the sewers to keep the water away from them, her entire contribution to helping find a cure for the Blue Pox was completely academic. She took notes and actively paid attention to which combinations had already been tried. She was patient with Crane; an elder, a great mage, and someone the four mages-in-training didn’t think very highly of. I think it was motivational to see this aspect of the story because all of them saved as many as they could and they did it in a very quiet, non-obvious way. Most people didn’t even know their role in things and most people also didn’t realize how so many small things could add up to saving hundreds or thousands of lives.
The biggest impact of this particular novel in the series to me is easily that the small heroes are the most important by far. Those who do everything in their power to serve others and give back to their communities are the biggest heroes out there. The citizens of Summersea don’t know that there are groups of people doing everything they can to save everyone else, like the mages working to find a cure, the mages working to weave protective clothing, the guards working to prevent the spread of the disease, the healers working to save as many as they can, and the thankless jobs of collecting/removing the dead, then disposing of them. The biggest heroes are those who aren’t defeating their enemies through glorious combat; it’s those who are working to make the world a better place, through all the small gestures and deeds.
Obviously, I enjoyed this book greatly. I have to say that it was probably the most suspenseful out of the four and it definitely created the strongest emotional reaction towards the end of the book as I struggled with what I would understand the author doing with the characters and why and hoping beyond hope that the positive outcomes of the previous books in the series would hold true in this book, even though there was every indication that it would not be the case.
Overall, this book is a solid three on my rating scale and I really do need to find good copies of the entire quartet, or even better, a single, compiled edition printed on the small hardback format I’m working to convert my library to. I am highly like to reread this book and this series again in the future and I look forward to owning my own copies.
Pierce, Tamora. Circle of Magic: Briar’s Book. Scholastic Press: New York, 1999.