A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that much of this book deals with a custom that allows men to kidnap women and force them to marry, essentially tantamount to rape. It's not described and is strongly disapproved of by the major characters. Also, one teen character has a lesbian affair, which is portrayed as perfectly normal.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Sandry, a stitch witch, reunites with her childhood friends and fellow mages from The Circle of Magic Quartet and The Circle Opens Quartet: Tris (a weather mage), Briar (a plant mage), and Daja (a smith mage). She is disappointed to find that they are unwilling to reform the mental links they enjoyed in their youth, but they agree to accompany her when she is forced to visit her inherited landholdings in the Empire of Namorn.
There she is subjected to the schemes and machinations of the Empress, her cousin Berenene, who is determined to keep all of them from leaving Namorn, through bribery, charm, and marriage if possible; by force if necessary. But though Berenene is informed by the best spies, and attended by some of the most powerful mages known, she hasn't reckoned on their unusual powers, their now near-total command of them, or their ability to merge their powers.
Is it any good?
This book is a gift to author Tamora Pierce's legions of fans. Its pleasures derive from knowing the characters and enjoying seeing them reunited and in command of (and showing off) their considerable powers. Those who have not read the previous two quartets (see Related Books below) will be able to follow along, but will miss many of the allusions and may wonder what the fuss is all about.
This very long book is not a grand fantasy -- no battles, no good vs. evil, not even any deaths. It's more of a humorous lark: the first hundred pages consist mainly of the main characters bickering, the second and third hundred mainly flirting, royal entertainments, and some devious manipulations by the empress. The real story, such as it is, doesn't even get moving until the second half, when the heroes get to show off their intriguing powers a bit, though they are never in serious danger. Fans will eat it all up, newcomers are advised to read the quartets first.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the varying customs around marriage in our world, including arranged marriages, dowries, marriage as a business or political arrangement uniting families, as well as the relatively modern invention of marrying for love. What is the purpose of marriage -- in this book, in our culture, and in others? Another topic could be the reluctance of the major characters to reforge their mental links. Why might older people be less willing to open their minds to others?