Sandry’s Book is the first book of Tamora Pierce’s I’ve read that wasn’t set in Tortall, and I enjoyed it very much. It was a compact, precise little book all about people coming together. And, you know, magic and stuff.
Fair warning, though. My reading of the book probably suffered because it was my second book in the 24 Hour Readathon a couple of weeks ago. I was highly buzzed on coffee for the first half of the book, and during the second I was so hungry I thought I was going to fall over, die, and then my head would cave in. I also read it much faster than I normally would have.
Sandry’s Book (also known as Magic in the Weaving) is the first book of the Circle of Magic series, which follows four kids who live the fictional land of Emelan, where magic is real. Each book centers on one of the kids. Obviously, this time around it’s Sandry. This book also introduces us not only to the world, but to where the kids come from and how they all ended up at the Winding Circle temple, a place where they can learn to use their magic. It’s sort of a magic school novel in that way, but Winding Circle isn’t as much a school as it is a retreat from the world.
Speaking of the kids, they’re the best part of the book. Sandry is actually Sandrilene fa Toren, an orphaned noble whose parents died in a smallpox outbreak. She discovered her magic while locked in a closet for days, hiding from a mob–she spun light into yarn she was holding so she wouldn’t have to be in the dark. She is taken to Winding Circle by a mysterious man named Nico soon after. Briar (a former thief with an affinity for plants), Daja (a Trader whose entire family was killed in a shipwreck), and Tris (whose moods manifest themselves in the weather, and who can hear voices) find themselves arriving at Winding Circle in a similar manner. It seems all four have been brought there because their magic is different than traditional sorcery, it’s more practical, and based in the real world (weaving, plants, metals, weather). The author’s endnote states that Pierce was inspired by watching her sister and mother knit things, and how the act of creating something beautiful with your hands is its own kind of magic.
I liked that the four of them weren’t friends right away, or even most of the way through the novel. They all had too many issues they had to work out on their own first. And work they do. But it’s a pleasure to watch the kids change and grow into being friends with one another. Pierce, as always, makes her world feel ridiculously real by not ignoring issues of class or race or cultural differences. All those things have a prominent place in the story.
I think this was geared towards a younger audience than I was expecting (the kids are all around age eleven), but I ended up liking it. I do think all four of these books were mistitled. The secondary titles are much better, and not only because calling a book Sandry’s Book or Tris’s Book is boring, but because this isn’t really Sandry’s book. Sure there’s that thing that happens at the end, but Briar and Tris and even Daja get more play in this book than Sandry, the title character, does.
I’m definitely checking out the other books in this series. I think I may even end up liking it better than some of the earlier Tortall books.