Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce.

Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce.
Third in a Quartet, Following the Circle of Magic Quartet
Young Adult-Fantasy, 384 pages
Published March 1, 2003 by Scholastic Paperbacks

Readers who have followed the fortunes of Daja and her foster siblings in Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens sequences will not be disappointed by this continuation of Daja's adventures as a smith-mage. As her foster siblings Sandry and Briar struggle with their reluctant apprentices (Magic Steps, Street Magic), Daja and her teacher, Frostpine, settle into the northern Namorn city of Kugisko for a restful winter break. Not surprisingly, their illusions are promptly shattered, as Daja discovers that the twin daughters of her host have "ambient magic." As the discovering-mage, Daja is obliged to teach the fidgety girls the rudiments of magic. Meanwhile, Kugisko seems to have fallen into the hands of a ruthless arsonist, and Daja is determined to help her new firefighting friend, Bennat Ladradun, get to the bottom of the mystery.

As much as I love/adore/obsess over Tamora Pierce's works, I would be lying if I said that the Circle of Magic series was my favorite. Tortall will always hold a special place in my heart, and it may be because I read Alanna: The First Adventure befor the Circle of Magic quarter. It seems to be that those who read the Circle of Magic first like those better, and vice versa. I wasn't even planning on writing a review for Cold Fire because I didn't write a review for any of the other books, which annoys me (I like to go in order), and because I don't know of anyone who hasn't at least heard of Tamora Pierce that would be reading a book blog. But after I finished this book, I felt compelled to write a review for this one. Because it has to be my favorite of all seven books so far in the Circle of Magic and Circle Opens quartets. I must say that I was completely taken aback by Cold Fire and my own love for it. Daja is for sure, without a doubt, my least favorite among the four mages. Sandry has heart and loyalty, not too mention loves clothing which isn't often seen in Tammy's books. Tris is a spitfire, with wild hair and a wild personality. Briar is the lovable thief with the cute backwards thinking. But Daja... Daja is just kind of there. And Boring with a Capital B.

The Circle Opens quartet follows each of the respective mages while they take their own travels around the world. They haven't seen each other in a while, although they have their teachers along for the ride. Daja and Frostpine have been travelling up north, but they are stuck in the island nation of Kugisko for the long winter. They are staying with a close friend of Frostpine's family. Daja's plan for quiet and hardworking days alone is ruined when she notices that the family's twins have magic. Now she must teach them to meditate and center their magic, and she must find them the right teachers that teach their special brand of magic. Another problem that is ruining her peace is the fires slowly burning up the city, where most of the houses are made from wood. Because her special magic deals with fire, Daja feels she must help in any way she can. A crew of firefighters has been set up by a middle-aged man, who instantly connects with Daja. They both have a respect for fire, while they know that fire can hurt in the worst ways. When Daja learns that the fires are deliberatly being started, the friendship begins to strain while Daja searches for the truth.

When I read the inside flap, I could easily guess who the mysterious arsonist was. It was as plain as day. And Tamora Pierce doesn't try to make this a mystery; she straight out tells you who the person is that is burning these homes up. This makes this book fantastic, because instead of trying to sneakily plant clues that the reader can sniff out from a mile away, she gives an even greater gift in between the pages: understanding. Tamora Pierce gets in to the mind of the arsonist. A few of the chapters are from their perspective, and from this perspective, we learn. We learn that the driving force behind the arsonist's motivations can not be pinpointed into exactly one moment of their life. It is the accumulation of their whole life story, from one tragic moment to the next. I could understand how this person was hanging in between the balance of good and evil and was tipped too far one way. They are necessarily Evil!, and yet they are. There is a fine balance of sympathy and anger at this character. At some points, I almost felt that this wasn't their fault, but then you see that they enjoy this burning and murdering of people. It is a thought-provoking look at criminals who commit unspeakable crimes and the death penalty. In Kugisko, the sentence for arson is to be burned alive. Daja is torn, just like I was, between what could be right and what isn't. The ending sequence is powerful, where Daja makes a decision, of a kind.

The one thing I can't stand about the Circle of Magic stories is the characterization. I feel like, through the eyes of their friends, each has a distinct personality. But when we get to this character's book, we never see this personality. All the characters are mushed into one giant character, who acts the same and likes the same things. Like Tris is supposed to be the one who flies off the handle; that is her characteristic. However in every book, each character has so many moments where they get worked up over some injustic and have to tell someone off. Umm, no. That's not allowed, okay. Not in my world. If someone is calm, I understand they won't be calm all the time. But they aren't all going to chew someone out all the time, either. One thing that Tamora Pierce does fantastically, especially in the Circle Opens, is her worldbuilding. I want to pack up and move to Kugisko. Who cares about a few little fires? They have channels of ice between their islands that they can SKATE on to travel! How amazing and imaginative is that! That's what I love about Tammy.


  1. This sounds good. Despite its few disadvantages. I honestly like the way you review. So detailed on every aspect! :) Keep up the good work.


  2. Thank you! I really want to give an indepth review, not just an "Okay, I liked it. -gushgushgush-" review. I have a problem of ranting (I feel) and of trying NOT to give everything away, haha.



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