fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Tamora Pierce Circle of Magic: Daja's BookDaja’s Book by Tamora Pierce

Daja’s Book is the third book in Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic series, which has also been published as The Fire In The Forging. The quartet of books centers around the trials and tribulations of four teenage mages, separated for a variety of reasons from their families and brought to live together at Winding Circle in order to control their magic and hone their crafts. With each one roughly collaborating with an element (obviously fire, in this case), the four students form a strong bond together when they find that their unique magics can be combined and unleashed in unexpected ways. It is this extraordinary friendship that emerges between the four impossibly different young people that forms the backbone and major theme of the series.

Sandry, Briar, Tris and Daja (who by now are referring to each other as foster-siblings) have traveled with their teachers to the Gold Ridge Mountains, accompanying Sandry’s uncle Duke Vedris in order to lend aid to the drought-ridden community. As the title suggests, this volume is concerned with Daja (one of the few dark-skinned protagonists to be found in fantasy-fiction — the only other that comes to mind are the characters of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet) and her unenviable position as an outcast from her nomadic and tribe-like people. Before coming to live at Winding Circle, Daja was a member of the Trader people; a community-based but extremely superstitious race of people who shunned Daja as unlucky after her ship sank at sea, leaving her the sole survivor. Since then, Daja has found a new home for herself among her friends and their teachers, but she cannot help but feel a longing for her own people and customs.

This longing is sharpened once Daja accidentally makes a beautiful living tree out of iron, one which is soon coveted by visiting Traders. Feeling homesick for her people, and yet disgusted by their treatment of her, Daja is torn as to how to deal with their attempts to barter with her for the precious tree. Tamora Pierce is at her best in presenting Daja’s inner conflict — her desire to return to her own people, her frustration at her friends for not understanding her culture, and her resentment at the way she’s being treated by the Traders. Unfortunately, I felt that the character of Polyam (the gruff Trader who is sent to deal with Daja) goes through a rather abrupt change in terms of her treatment of Daja, but Pierce is on stronger ground when it comes to the relationships between the four students and their teachers.

It is the strongest portrayal of a non-related “family” that you’ll find outside of a Joss Whedon show, and all eight characters (four students, four teachers) bounce off each other so beautifully that you can only wish you were a part of it. Although each student has a particular bond with their own teacher (Daja and Frostpine are given especial attention here), there is plenty of warmth and affection between all the members of this unusual family to make you smile. Of particular note is the way in which the teenagers know how to deal with one another: whether it’s defending Daja against her own people whilst simultaneously trying to adapt to her beliefs, or goading Daja with insults in order to bring her back to the land of the living. Prepare for a lot of warm-fuzzies when reading this, or any of the other Circle of Magic series.

But Daja’s internal crisis is not the only conflict at work throughout the book, as the main problem revolves around the danger of bush fires that are threatening the community. Although a somewhat pompous mage believes that he has it all under control, the Winding Circle adults (particularly Rosethorn) are not at all convinced that nature can be held back by a single individual. Tamora Pierce has an interesting grasp of the workings of magic in this series, comparing the studies and lessons of a magical university with what is known as “the Living Cycle” which relies on the rhythms of nature in order to regulate a person’s control of magical forces. In saying that though, many of the “outer body experiences” and instances in which the teenagers’ magics are intertwined are described somewhat vaguely and are difficult to grasp — I’m never really sure how Pierce wants us to imagine magic within this world: as energy or spiritualism or something completely different. But also worthy of note is Pierce’s emphasis on discipline when it comes to the students’ grasp of magic, and the importance of working within the rules of etiquette: when the four students are caught eavesdropping they are severely reprimanded and punished. I couldn’t help but compare it favourably to the Harry Potter trio, who get away with endless rule-breaking when it comes to using their magic for unorthodox means.

The Circle of Magic books aren’t quite as action-packed as Pierce’s previous quartets, The Song of the Lioness and The Immortals, concentrating instead on the themes of hard work and friendship. If you’re in the mood for a more easy-going and character-driven book, then this series is perfect.

Circle of Magic  — (1997-1999) Young adult. These books have been released in the UK with different titles: Sandry’s Book is The Magic in the WeavingTris’s Book is The Power in the StormDaja’s Book is The Fire in the ForgingBriar’s Book is The Healing in the Vines. Publisher: This is a story about craft, about work, about magic, and most of all about the pleasure and difficulty of friendship. It begins when four young misfits with a talent for magic (and trouble!) arrive at Winding Circle Temple. Despite their differences, Sandry (the noble), Tris (the merchant girl), Daja (the trader), and Briar (the “streetrat”) find themselves bound together in a Circle of Magic — a circle they will need when they face crushing danger in a white-knuckle climax that will have listeners glued to the edge of their seats.

Tamora Pierce Circle of Magic: 1. Sandry's Book 2. Tris's Book 3. Daja's Book 4. Briar's Book Tamora Pierce Circle of Magic: 1. Sandry's Book 2. Tris's Book 3. Daja's Book 4. Briar's Book Tamora Pierce Circle of Magic: 1. Sandry's Book 2. Tris's Book 3. Daja's Book 4. Briar's Book Tamora Pierce Circle of Magic: 1. Sandry's Book 2. Tris's Book 3. Daja's Book 4. Briar's Book


  • Rebecca Fisher

    REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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