Book Review: Battle Magic (Circle Reforged #3) by Tamora Pierce
PROS:new insight into beloved characters; realistic depiction of war; beautiful, yet simple writing
CONS:an unnecessary subplot distracts from the more compelling aspects of the story
A beautifully written, if flawed, Emelan fantasy that reinforces Tamora Pierce’s talent for brilliant character development.
That’s not to say there wasn’t much to admire in this book, because it IS Tamora Pierce, after all. She once again displays her phenomenal talent for characterization, and a smart, thoughtful treatment of relationships, war, and complex political struggles. We delve into the traumatizing events in Gyongxe that have plagued Briar and Evvy in prior books, and they are as horrifying as you could possibly imagine. Evvy’s experiences especially broke my heart. The Emperor is invading Gyongxe, intent on acquiring the temples and their treasures in the hopes of becoming even more powerful than he already is (and we are shown during a visit to his summer palace that he is nearly unrivaled in the region). None of the scenes of war are candy coated, but they are also not unnecessarily dramatic or maudlin. Pierce has an even-keeled, effortless writing style that makes you feel like war is unfolding around you, and it is unstoppable and brutal as you’d expect, but in a realistic way (as realistic as war involving mages can be, of course). I love the inventive and beautifully rendered magic of Evvy, Briar and Rosethorn, and seeing their relationships develop and strengthen through their trials.
If the plotting and pacing had been a bit tighter I would have adored Battle Magic. Evvy, Briar and Rosethorn spend too much time like war tourists, meandering around, contemplating leaving, arguing about whether to stay and fight a bit longer, and alternately fleeing and fighting the imperial army. Rosethorn also takes a long and distracting side journey to achieve a magical end that seems rather inconsequential in the larger scheme of things.
Overall, in spite of a few distractions that prevented my total love for this book, Battle Magic confirms that Tamora Pierce is still an incredible writing talent, and I can never not read her books.