Reviews provided by Syndetics
School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-8-In this second book of the quartet, 14-year-old Briar leaves Winding Circle with his teacher Rosethorn to take magical plant lore to farmers and folks in other areas. During an extended stay in Chammur, he meets a young "street rat" named Evvy, who unknowingly possesses strong stone magic. While trying to find a proper mage for her, Briar runs afoul not only of the many street gangs in the city, but of a powerful and evil rich woman as well. Briar, one of the four children featured in "The Circle of Magic" quartet, is a likable, streetwise kid. His magical link with plants is so strong that all green things literally reach out to him as he goes by; even tattoos he created on his hands with vegetable dye tend to take on a life of their own. Evvy's magic isn't explored in as much detail, but readers will still be fascinated by her ability to manipulate rocks and minerals. Lady Zenadia, who manipulates and kills young street gang members, is a much less successful character; her motivation is unclear, which makes every grisly scene with her seem unnecessary and even gratuitous. Chammur, which has the ambience of an ancient Arabic city, makes for a vivid, exotic setting and adds zest to Briar's adventures. A solid addition to this enthralling series.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 5^-9. After years of training, 14-year-old Briar Moss, a reformed street-gang member, is now an accredited mage. While in the city of Chammur, he meets Evvy, a street urchin unknowingly gifted with powerful stone magic. Evvy needs a mentor, as well as protection from a local gang seeking to exploit her talents. Reluctantly, Briar becomes her teacher and guardian and soon finds himself caught between warring gangs whose violent lifestyles will lead to continuing tragedy unless he intervenes. The second title in the Circle Opens series, which will stand well on its own, is rich in descriptive, inviting prose and inventive detail. Pierce's exotic, imaginary settings, intricate plots, and dimensional characters provide entertaining reading, as well as an unusual backdrop for exploring social concerns--in this case, gang culture. Briar is a likable, compelling character, an ecoactivist whose past and present challenges are sympathetically portrayed, and his endeavors are sure to satisfy Pierce's fans and gain new ones. --Shelle Rosenfeld
Horn Book Review
(Intermediate, Middle School) Although the newest book in Pierce's popular The Circle Opens series has the same premise as its predecessor-a mage from Winding Circle discovers and must train a younger teen with an unrealized magical talent-there are enough twists and turns to provide fans with another exciting read. Briar Moss, whose green magic gives him a unique influence over plants, is abroad with his teacher Rosethorn when he finds a street urchin in a bazaar, polishing stones with magic. At first he tries to pass off the responsibility of teaching Evvy, but when she gets pulled into a local gang war, stirred up by a wealthy, dangerous noblewoman with designs on Evvy's stone magic, the two mages grow into a solid teacher-student team. As Sandry did in Magic Steps (rev. 5/00), Briar struggles with his role as teacher, receiving little adult guidance, and he and his student must solve a grisly mystery. However, Briar's self-confidence and Evvy's spunky determination to take care of herself give the reader assurance that the two young mages have the power to overcome their adversaries. Set in fictional Chammur, reminiscent of a Turkish outpost along an ancient spice route, the novel emphasizes the exotic and unusual elements of the city, but the main characters have universal appeal, and the scenarios regarding gang life ring true. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
Pierce ( Magic Steps , 2000, etc.) continues to individually develop her quartet of adolescent mages. Former street rat Briar Moss, now 14 and a fully certified Mage, visits the distant city of Chammur with his mentor Rosethorn, in order to use their plant magic to replenish its depleted soil. While sightseeing, Briar discovers the homeless waif Evvy leaking stone magic. Reluctantly tutoring her in the control of her incipient powers, he becomes embroiled in a gang war, as the Vipers, prodded by a bored noblewoman, seek to profit by Evvy's talents. While retaining his most appealing traitshis affectionate bond with plant life, his jaundiced skepticism towards authority, and the prickly sarcasm disguising his deep love for his teacher and foster sistersBriar also matures through the rewards and frustrations of teaching; and the threat to his protégé forces him to confront his romanticized ambivalence toward his own childhood gang. Strong-willed Evvy is a delightful addition to Pierce's mostly female cast, and the villainous Lady Zenadia oozes serpentine menace. Most fascinating is rose-red Chammur itself, with its timeworn stones, bustling bazaars, dusty rooftop roads, and cool, shaded palaces. Ancient, arid, elegant, sinister, sophisticated, weary, and cruel, Chammur drips with an exotic atmosphere clearly inspired by (if uncomfortably close to stereotyping) classical Arab culture. A must for Pierce's many fans, and a solid choice for those interested in a different take on gangs, faraway lands, or just good imaginative fantasy. (Fiction. 9-14)