Okay, so firstly, if I would have read this book first in the series, my reaction would have been something like YEAHHHHHHHHHH. But since it was second and made clear the fact that this series is Pierce’s most formulaic yet, it sort of soured it for me. Individually this book was rock solid.
Briar was such a badass. He’s fourteen now and officially a plant mage. He and Rosethorn are traveling the world seeking out new plants and such. In the city of Chammur, they happen upon a street urchin named Evvy who is an untrained stone mage, and because no stone mage can be found to teach her, Briar as the mage who discovered her is obligated to do the teaching. But he’s not the only interested party in Evvy, as gang warfare actually begins to spring up around her, the gangs thinking they can use her talents to find hidden gems in the stone mazes of the ancient city and profit from her talents. Evvy and Briar have a really nice bond, and their relationship prompts him to finally push back the barrier on his own gang-related past and grow up. The final setpiece with Briar doing all kinds of awesome plant magic to rescue Evvy was seriously so cool, and I wish I could see it on film somehow.
It was soured at first by the fact that Sandry’s book immediately preceding it also featured her finding an untrained mage and conveniently being the only one available to teach that mage. It also featured her coming to terms with being the teacher now instead of the student. It was also markedly inferior to this one. Sandry’s struggles just aren’t as interesting as Briar’s. She’s a noble with almost no personal struggles of her own. I am almost positive that the second and third books will also follow this formula, which is very disappointing. Even if they are great on an individual level, they will be cheapened by this adherence to a formula which Pierce has inexplicably decided to bust out mid-career despite never having written like that previously.
But Briar is still a badass.