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Battle Magic Hardcover – September 24, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 147 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the Circle Reforged Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up-Pierce returns to the world of the Winding Circle to relate the events that befell plant mages Briar and Rosethorn and Briar's student, stone mage Evvy, between The Will of the Empress (2005), Street Magic (2001), and Melting Stones (2007, all Scholastic). The book opens in the kingdom of Gyongxe where the trio watches shamans dancing to call forth statues from the mountainside. Soon afterward, an invitation arrives from the Emperor of Yanjing, the powerful nation that borders the mountainous, god-filled Gyongxe. They travel to the emperor's court to view his famous gardens but quickly learn that he is a cruel man who keeps slaves and punishes gardeners and plants alike for perceived failures. Evvy impulsively decides to free Parahan, an enslaved prince, and is assisted by Briar, who, as a former thief, knows how to pick a lock. In return Parahan lets them know that the emperor plans to invade Gyongxe. Rosethorn is bound by her oath as a dedicate of the Winding Circle to return to Gyongxe and warn them of the invasion, and Briar and Evvy refuse to be left behind. The emperor has thousands of troops and mages trained in battle, but the friends can call on the plants and stones and Gyongxe has its own supernatural defenders. Pierce combines wonderful characterization with unique magic, realms, and creatures to create a splendid tale.-Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WIα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Stone magic apprentice Evvy and plant mages Rosethorn and Briar are preparing to return to Emelan from a trip east exploring exotic flora when they are caught in a war between a greedy land-grasping emperor and a gentle god-king. When Rosethorn commits to defending the land of the First Circle Temple, Briar and Evvy refuse to return home without her and each must find their inner warrior mage if they are to survive. Fans of the Circle of Magic and Circle Opens series will delight in this volume, which fills in history between Street Magic (2001) and Cold Fire (2002). Pierce’s inspired world building continues to be remarkable, with stone paintings that tease those who can see them, animal variants that live inside mountains, and shamanistic rituals described to such a degree that readers will believe they have come straight from National Geographic. Though deftly integrated, this amount of background information makes for a meal rather than a snack, and sometimes the characters’ introspections are a bit repetitive. Still, this is a meal to savor. Grades 6-9. --Cindy Welch

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 15 years
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 820L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439842972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439842976
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Ellwood on September 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For the first time, Tammy has messed with her own timeline. Battle Magic takes place 2 years before Melting Stones, but after the events of Street Magic. Here, Briar, Rosethorn, and Briar's student Evvy are on a tour of Gyongxe, a nation that is nearest in the world to the heavens and, therefore, home to many different faiths. They are invited to visit neighboring Yanjing, specifically to see the famed imperial gardens. There, they see the emperor's cruelty firsthand in dealing with a rosebush that had the bad fortune to succumb to mold and in a prince kept chained as a slave and the emperor's pet.

From here we get to experience the war that is mentioned in passing in both Melting Stones and later in The Will of the Empress in the form of Briar's PTSD (or at least the way he deals with it after the fact). Make no mistake about it, this is war. It is bloody and cruel and entirely unrepentant. It's the darkest Tammy has gone down the violence road (though the major conflict in Lady Knight comes close), and it's certainly the most explicit of her books. She isn't gratuitous about it, but she isn't pulling any punches, either, which I appreciated. Because of this, though, it requires a slightly more mature audience. I don't want to say older, necessarily, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to make sure your child (if that's who you're shopping for) is prepared for the level of blood and guts that come with this story. True to form, the conflict in the story echoes some aspect of real world cultures/places/events, and this will seem to some very much an echo of China's aggression toward Tibet, which is something also to be mindful of if you're looking for similar subject matter or ways to tie this in with other interests.
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Format: Hardcover
So, you remember how I said I was excited for this book? Immediately after I posted about it, Gretchen and I got an ARC. We were both extremely excited. But because Gretchen has more ARCs to review than I do, I get to be the one talking about it! (Which in retrospect may have been a bad idea, because I am very sleep-deprived. Bear with me.) Before I do that, here's some quick, spoiler-free context if you haven't read Tammy's Circle books:

Briar started out as a child mage, orphaned and taken in by Rosethorn and her friend/lover Lark, raised alongside three foster-sisters who were also mages. They (accidentally?) did something which made them heaps stronger, which I imagine caused problems for the adults in their lives because they were like eleven. Now Briar's older, and travelling, and this book happens.

I'm summing this up because I often think of the Circle books-the early ones, anyway-as aimed at a younger target audience. Things got a lot more serious in The Will of the Empress [edit: Lauren pointed out that I was referencing the wrong imperially-titled Tammy book. I swear I know what I'm talking about], but I think I've always thought of the Circle books as benign, light reading. I knew this had the potential to be a lot more serious, but I don't think I really believed it until I saw it. This is not a book for kids. She isn't pulling her punches. This is a war, and it's serious, and nobody is safe. She doesn't flinch away from any of it.

So I guess what I'm saying is, just because some of the Circle books are for a younger audience and you may not have read them doesn't mean you should avoid this book. It stands on its own pretty well, and it's a good book.

As always, Tammy is fantastic at setting, both physical and cultural.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Short version: if you're looking for a quick, fun read, you'll like this; if you're a Circle of Magic fan or you like to dig into a story, you'll probably find this a bit lacking.

Let's get this out of the way: Battle Magic is a fun read. It's entertaining, and the world of the book is richly drawn (par for the course for the Circle books). The pace moves right along.

There's something very stilted and off about the book, though. In some ways, the pace is too fast: subplots start and are over very quickly, no one stays in one place long enough to really develop the deep sense of place and character the other Circle books have, and there's no real suspense; what should be some really suspenseful subplots and moments are utterly ruined by the fact that either we the reader know nothing really bad has happened, or they get resolved in just a few pages.


This book doesn't actually fit with any of the previous canon from Will of the Empress or Melting Stones about the war, so if that bothers you, consider yourself warned. It's also very ... perfunctory, when it tries to address the supposed horrors of war - tacking on a typically-happy Circle-esque ending on a book where that undermines the entire plot - and it introduces an active supernatural element that not only really doesn't fit the Circle universe, but retroactively ruins the characters of Evvy and Briar in Will of the Empress and Melting Stones. If you don't like "they all conveniently forget" endings, you really need to skip this book.

The biggest problem, though, is that this book is undeniably racist.
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