BINGO – Gateway – author Tamora Pierce and children’s novels
Sandry is the sole survivor of a pox outbreak that killed her entire family; she carries with her the trauma of that loss and being locked in a dark room for months to be safe from marauders. Briar is a street boy with no home who has been caught stealing three times; his options are going to a temple or going to work hard labor at the docks or the mines. Daja is a trader and sole survivor of a shipwreck that killed her entire family; her people see her as bad luck and cast her out from their community. Tris is from a merchant family who gets moved from family member to family member, house to house because things always seem to go wrong wherever she is; she’s never known what it’s like to have a real family nor consistency. They are all found one by one by Niko Goldeneye and brought to Discipline Cottage in the Winding Circle Temple. These four children are special: they are natural born mages who are able to work magic through specific mediums which is a very rare skill. Sandry works with thread and needlework; Tris, the weather; Daja, smithing and metalwork; and Briar, plants. Together, they learn how to control their magic and live together despite their backgrounds. All the while, worrying tremors are getting stronger around Winding Circle threatening to do immense damage to all.
What I love about this book (and the entire series, as this is reread) is how nuanced Pierce writes these children for children. I often hear that people don’t enjoy reading young adult stories because they’re too easy or basic. The language may be so, but Pierce knows how to write complicated characters. They have highs and lows like children. They lash out and are easily hurt since they can’t yet control or understand their own emotions fully. They fall victim to the prejudices they were taught by their families and communities but demonstrate that beautiful ability of children to learn and grow and change when what they see in world doesn’t match with what they know to be right and good. And the process of the four children becoming friends is wonderfully paced. Making new friends at any age takes time, and there are going to be bumps along that path. Pierce never rushes the process.
Pierce deepens the complexity with the world building. She does not hold back with creating a rich world with various kingdoms and rulers. She’s created stratified social structures of nobles, traders, merchants, and mages. Though this is a children’s novel, Pierce uses this world building to tackle big themes of classism.
I checked this audiobook out from the library. The production was done by Full Cast Audio. The narration was read by author Tamora Pierce, but every character was voiced by their own voice actor. It was very strange at first, and not my first choice of listening to an audiobook. I eventually settled into it though.