Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce

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Circle reforged series, bk 3. Scholastic, 2013. ISBN: 9780439842976.
(Age: 12+) Recommended. War, friendship, fantasy, magic, courage, loyalty, resilience.
While there is endless speculation about the world building of J. K Rowling, Robert Jordan and even George R. R Martin, Tamora Pierce quietly just keeps expanding hers. She writes spin-offs, switches back and forth in time and has evolved one of the strongest canons there is.
She does something quite interesting with Battle Magic. We are taken back two years before Melting Stones, and catch up with Evvy when she is only 12 and first meets Luvo. I wouldn't be surprised if reading Battle Magic sends readers back to Melting Stones to re-connect with an older and wiser Evvy. Because in Battle Magic, she is young, contemptuous and impatient with everything.
Readers are thrown right into the middle of an unfamiliar land, Yanjing. The customs are strange, the shamans make magic inexplicably, and all is not as peaceful as it seems. The evil Emperor, Weishu, is truly wicked, although in outward appearance, he is hospitable and generous. I sometimes felt in previous Pierce books that the main characters have a pretty easy time of getting out of trouble. But here, our little band of heroes really have to struggle to defeat him.
When war threatens the tiny province of Gyongxi, our three mages become entangled with political and social machinations. The narrative is dense and complicated, and there are lots of deaths, mostly minor characters, thankfully. Readers are shown quite clearly how horrible war is, and how greedy people can be. Briar and Rosethorn are wonderful, and we meet a warrior called Parahan who is excellent, as is the young God-King and of course, Luvo.
This is an action-packed story, filled with insight and compassion. Many of us have been reading Pierce books for many years, and it's good to see that she continues to write quality fantasy that depicts strong female characters. Her first books about Alanna are still one of the best ways to introduce younger readers to fantasy, and as the children grow, so too do the newer series, allowing them to consistently find something that suits their maturity level.
Battle Magic will please fans.
Trisha Buckley