Title: Street Magic
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #2, Emelan #6
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Easy reading, Fantasy, Mages
Publisher: Omnibus Books
5th sentence, 74th page: Cutbane, spread neatly over the splits in his left eyebrow and cheek, drove off infection and worked to close the wounds.
Briar is a plant mage – he can distil medicines, grow a garden in the blink of an eye and persuade a tree to trap a criminal. Learning how to channel your power is vital. Briar’s empathy with nature can heal – but it could kill just as easily. Evvy is a street urchin who doesn’t even know she has stone magic, let alone know how to control it, and she doesn’t want to learn anything. But when gang warfare breaks out, Briar and his mage may offer the only protection Evvy can count on…
Briar’s past as a gang member and what that truly means is so beautifully illustrated when he is forced to take on his first student. Evvy is a street kid (as Briar was) but she refuses to join a gang. Her constant, stubborn refusal and her clear-sighted insight into the dangers and perils of this life are kind of dark, but in a great way, they force Briar (and myself as a reader) to look further into what this truly entails for a street kid. The added complexities of stone magic, and a city that breathes exhaustion from its very pores make this a great journey to undertake as Rosethorn and Briar travel further East from Emelan.
Gangs are often toted as the bad aspect of bad neighbourhoods, however, for Briar, they have always just seemed like the best choice for a kid in a bad situation. It isn’t until he is forced to face up to the realities of not only his own actions, but those of the Chammurian gangs that he realises that it is not a good system. The objectification of children (which sadly, happens all over the world) is repeated again and again in front of him until he is forced to admit that everything he ever thought was normal or right was in fact, a gross misuse of his time. It is Evvy’s persistent voice that helps him to see what is so wrong about his past.
Evvy is a great balance to Briar’s nature, and their interactions work beautifully throughout the story. Stone and plant magic is both earth based, yet, this is the last point at which they are similar. Stone is tough and unyielding – stubborn, where plants are flexible and full of life. The way that these characteristics are manifest in these two is a brilliant and often humorous interaction.
The class system of Chammuri is a great reminder of the class system within our own societies – the rich can get away with a lot more than the poor. However, the Lady’s actions do eventually gain justice, and her abuse of the poor is taken into account with her sentencing. It is horrible that such a woman is able to act in such a way though, and it is a reminder that we should care for everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status.