One more book brining me one step closer to reading all of Tamora Pierce’s books! This is the last installment in The Circle Opens quartet, and it focuses on Tris’s journey with her teacher Niko. You might know from a previous review that I’m not the biggest fan of Tris (she was a bit too whiny and stubborn for me in her Circle of Magic book) but I didn’t mind her so much in Shatterglass.
Like her foster-sisters and brother in the past books, Tris finds herself the teacher of a mage. There is a different dynamic to this paring though because her student is a grown man. Tension and a butting of heads ensues of course. But I enjoyed this particular pairing because it serves as a reminder that kids are not always to be dismissed. They have a wisdom and insight of their own that adults tend to forget or overlook.
Class structure is a big theme in this book. The city of Tharios, where the novel takes place, is strictly divided by its different classes of people, the lowest being those who clean up rubbish and dispose of the dead. The rulers of the city of course insist this division is what allows the city to thrive, but Tris and her friends don’t agree, and it causes many frustrations for them. It begs the question, is a society really perfect if some of it citizens are treated so poorly?
I’ve said before that I appreciate Pierce for not shying away from big topics like the one mentioned above. Often we give young people much less credit than they deserve, so it is nice to see an author who doesn’t talk down to her readers simply because they are young. I did feel this book dragged on a bit too long, but I was still sufficiently engaged to get to the end without any major griping. I was curious to understand more about why Keth’s globes showed images of the murder, but that’s a very minor complaint.
I seem to be reading a lot of teen books about suicide lately. Which doesn’t make me worry about myself but more about teenagers these days. Are you guys okay? Please be good to yourselves and each other. As much as I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve been reading, it has nothing to do with the suicide part. I’m in no way an expert on teen suicide rates or anything, but the arts tend to reflect events in society so…yeah. I’ll move on from this now before I get myself into trouble.
A lot of books involving teen suicide usually try to shed a light on mental illness and how we need to better handle it in our society. Obviously I don’t know if Jay Asher wrote the character of Hannah Baker thinking she was suffering from mental illness (depression, anxiety, what have you), he may have, but the way it comes across in the books is that Hannah is really just the victim of people being shitty, which they often are.
This opens the book up to make a much broader statement. It’s not just saying we need to pay more attention to mental illness and the effects it can have on people, it also says, “Hey, think about how your words or actions could affect another person.” A lesson many of us were probably taught in kindergarten. In other words, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.
Several times throughout reading the book, I did worry it was leaning a bit too strongly on the blame game element. Hannah sends out these tapes to people she claims are the “reasons” she killed herself. Which is a totally acceptable way to feel, but it also set Hannah up to be a hypocrite. She was pushed down a bad road because people said or did terrible things to her, and now she is forcing these other people to listen to horrible things that might seriously mess them up and send them down a bad road, and the cycle continues. It’s a very complex mess full of he-said/she-saids, pointed fingers, and hurt feelings.
And that’s just how life is sometimes. But in the end, Hannah does absolve herself a bit in my eyes. She acknowledges that the people she is talking about on the tapes aren’t really to blame. But her message is one worth bearing in mind. Words have power. And even if you don’t mean any harm when you say them, other people might interpret them and twist them to mean something entirely different. Now we can’t consider every single possible outcome before we say something, but I think Thirteen Reasons Why is at least trying to remind us to try, and is a reminder that sticks and stones may break bones, but words can hurt forever. (I totally stole that from Scrubs, BTW.)
An overused joke, to be sure, but is sometimes appropriate. Like now. I have returned home to my beloved CO! Let us all rejoice and drink copious amounts of delicious craft beer! (Seriously, there are like, 10 new breweries in my town since I’ve left.)
While I have returned home, the New Zealand adventures are not yet at an end (at least for blogging purposes). My last two weeks in the lovely land of Kiwis was filled with fun as my mother and brother had come down to visit before we all flew home together.
So! In a short while the blog will be resurrected from its short-lived slumber and we will all get our last dose of NZ epicness. Be prepared, my dear travelers. The adventure’s not over yet…
I continue to read The Circle of Magic/Circle Opens books in a very bizarre order, but I can at least tell any interested readers that it is not super duper necessary to read them in order. I would definitely say start with Sandry’s Book/Magic in the Weaving because it sets everything up. But Pierce does a very good job of letting the stories stand on their own, and any mentions of things that have happened previously are explained enough that you can understand what’s happening at the present. Moving on.
A plague has struck Summersea and we see the young thief-turned-mage Briar thrust into a role of responsibility. This book, like Street Magic sees Briar questioning who he is, and sees him growing and learning a lot about himself in a short period of time. I think of the four young mages Briar is one of my favorites.
Briar’s relationship with his teacher, Rosethorn, really flourishes in this book. Or at least we see just how much Briar cares for his teacher. SPOILER! I mean, he freaking brings her back from death (with the help of his foster siblings, of course). I think I have a soft spot for lovable misfits and severe, emotionally reserved people. When these types of characters form meaningful relationships, it always warms my heart. Yay! They have some one to love and who loves them!
I didn’t expect the cause of the plague to be what it was. But I think it sends a good message. Carelessness can lead to terrible things, even if a lack of action seems inconsequential. It’s important to think about what you’re doing and how it may affect people. Remember that.
After reading the second installment in The Circle of Magic books, I see that they aren’t chronological. The simply follow the four heroes introduced in the first quartet as they go on new adventures. They all seem to take place roughly four years after the events in The Circle of Magic books.
Street Magic follows Briar, the plant-mage. He and his teacher have gone to a distant land to help the farmers with their crops. While they are there, Briar discovers a young stone mage. He also gets wrapped up in a gang war. Since Briar himself was once part of a gang, it causes him to reflect on who he was and who he is now, something that we also saw him struggling with back in the first quartet.
Tamora Pierce always gives her characters very intriguing back stories. Evvy, the stone mage Briar encounters, has her own sad history. I liked that she defied Briar’s expectations. She may be a street rat like he was but she never joined a gang like he did. It helps him to dismiss the sort of romanticized idea he had of gangs. Being responsible for Evvy also forces Briar to grow as a person. He was so defiant about teaching her at first but as the book progresses we see he is actually rather good at it.
I rather like Briar. He is a bit rough and stuck in what today would be a somewhat sexist mind set. But being surrounded by strong women has proven good for him as a character. He continues to tease his foster sisters, but he also knows what they are capable of, and he works hard to make sure Evvy will reach her full potential as well.