I first discovered Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic quartet during the Dark Ages of my local library. Our beloved brick building had been torn down and the library relocated to a former auto shop, where many of the books had to be left in storage because there was simply no room.
Sad as this was, the cozier shelves made the newly narrow choices stand out. I discovered some new favorites I would revisit again and again, including the four young mages of Winding Circle. Following them in their journeys to claim their strange magic, I read Sandry’s Book, Tris’s Book, and Daja’s Book. And until recently, I thought I had read Briar’s Book too.
Thanks to PaperBackSwap, I know better.
I bought the first three books at a used bookstore in my little college town a few years ago, eager to revisit Pierce’s masterfully crafted world. Her worldbuilding is still incredible, reminding me with each little detail of how fully developed these cultures and magics are. The relationships between the four central mages and their teachers were beautiful and believable. All of the kids have understandable abandonment issues, and all of them deal with that in their own ways, from pushing others away to becoming a people-pleaser. I don’t even like all of the kids; Tris annoys me to no end with her so very teenage insistence on knowing best and dismissing authority. And yet they and their world captured my heart so that I remember it well. Revisiting Winding Circle, the temple where they live in a cottage called Discipline and learn their magics, felt like remembering an old song where the lyrics come unbidden as you sing.
Until I finally got Briar’s Book in the mail and began to read.
It turns out, since I have no memory of this plot, I probably never read it before. In all the years of checking out and rereading these books, I never actually finished the quartet. As I got deeper and deeper into the plot, I kept waiting for that sense of familiarity, of buried memory to resurface as it had with the others, but it never did. Vague memories surfaced of three books – not four, how could I not remember that there were only three? – on a library shelf.
Briar’s story is a nice end to the quartet. Instead of exploring their bonds and magic (and bonded magic) as something entirely new, Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar begin to grow into new ways of helping their society. It moves the foursome out of discovery mode and points them toward the future.
But I’m still going to have to go back and reread the whole quartet.