Briar’s Book is the final book in Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic quartet, which of course is ending just as I’m getting used to the format Pierce wrote them in. Naturally, it focuses on Briar, the former thief and street rat, now plant-mage of Winding Circle Temple. He and the three girls are now a year older than they were in the first book, but still quite young. They’ve adjusted to their new lives and are learning in heaps and loads. For Briar, a large part of this book involves him interacting with bits and pieces of his old life and coming to terms with what it means for him now that heidentifies so strongly with groups of people he used to feel so far above him when he was living on the streets.
That’s the underlying stuff, though. The main plot involves an outbreak of a mysterious new disease that has turned into an epidemic in the Summersea area. The first victim is Briar’s street friend Flick, which is how he and Rosethorn end up in quarantine when they should be helping to find a cure.
As always, Pierce stealthily uses her plots to examine not only characters and the ways they see the world, but to lay out a world where people interact in complex ways and power dynamics. This wasn’t as big of a focus as in previous books, though, because it’s Briar’s book (doi) and the main thing he has grown to care about, even over his three magically entwined friends, is his relationship with his teacher, Rosethorn, whom he sees as a surrogate mother. Their interactions and his feelings about her are the heart of this book.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed this series, but I will be excited to move on in the Emelan world to a time when these characters are a bit older and their stories will be suitably more complex.