Tamora Pierce,
Circle of Magic: Daja's Book
(Scholastic, 1998)

Tamora Pierce turns her attention to the Trader girl, Daja, whose affinity lies with fire and smithcraft in Circle of Magic: Daja's Book.

Daja and her three mage-in-training friends, Sandry, Tris and Briar, as well as their teachers, journey to the Gold Mountains, north of Winding Circle Temple. They are accompanying Sandry's uncle, Duke Vedris, ruler of Emelan, as he surveys the impact of a drought. The whole area is literally like a huge pile of tinder waiting for a spark.

While making nails to occupy her time, Daja accidentally creates an unusual living metal vine. The vine attracts the attention of a nearby Trader caravan, but they don't want to deal with Daja. She is trangshi, outcast from the Traders as an embodiment of bad luck, since she was the sole survivor of the shipwreck that destroyed her family and their ships.

The Traders find a way around the taboo, and begin negotiations with Daja, who finds she has mixed feelings about the Traders. She is still resentful and bitter about being outcast, but she also longs for her people and their familiar traditions.

Meanwhile, Daja and the others are experiencing bursts of each others' powers, but without any control -- a potentially dangerous situation. The only solution is to turn over their power to Sandry in hopes that she can untangle the threads of their respective magics.

As grass fires smolder all around them, the Winding Circle folk are increasingly anxious about the abilities of the chief mage, Yarrun Firetamer. Bent on proving his worth, but lacking self esteem, Yarrun is stretching himself dangerously beyond his limits. When disaster strikes, it is up to the students of Winding Circle to save the day -- fast.

Daja is a sympathetic character facing a difficult dilemma, and readers will identify with her as she grapples with the definitions of "home" and "family" as life goes on around her. The other characters continue to grow and develop as well.

With strong, appealing characters and a tight, believable plot, Daja's Book doesn't disappoint.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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