BINGO – FREE (Checked out from my local library’s digital audiobook collection)
(This is the start of my second BINGO sheet)
Daja and her three friends find themselves outside of Winding Circle for the first time since they met. They and their teachers along with the Duke of Emelan travel north to Gold Ridge Valley to assist with a drought. Upon arriving, they learn that there hasn’t been a forest fire in the Valley in years due to the efforts of a mage named Firetamer. There is also a caravan of Traders passing through Gold Ridge Valley. This is the first time that Daja has encountered any Traders since she was cast out of the Trader community for being trangshi, or bad luck. Fortunately for Daja, due to the interweaving all four children’s magics, she inadvertently creates a vine of living metal that forces the Traders to interact with her. Meanwhile, the efforts of Mage Firetamer may not have been as successful as he thought.
Leaving Winding Circle was the right choice for this book. In books 1 and 2, Pierce created an intricate and detailed way of life at Winding Circle Temple but little was known about this world outside of the Temple. And Pierce really delivers with explorations of Trader traditions. We learn more of the Trader language, rituals of trade agreements, religious beliefs, and caste systems within Trader communities. There is a lot of information about Traders delivered throughout Daja’s Book, but it never feels like a textbook or exposition dumping. Everything is woven into the fabric of the story seamlessly.
All of this rich history and detailed tradition underscores Daja’s deep longing for her old way of life, for her family and community. She is torn between wanting to return to her people and wanting to stay with her new family that she’s created at Winding Circle. Through all of this, Daja learns what it means to be proud of oneself. She accepts and embraces the parts of herself that others have told her are bad or wrong by understanding that she is the ultimate arbiter of who she is. It’s a powerful message for all young people to read.
A lot of the magic takes a back seat in this book, though we do learn that the children’s magic is even more intertwined than previously thought. This combination of magics is worrying to the adults and children as it’s starting to adversely affect each of them. Normally, I want more and more magic, but Daja’s storyline and the exploration of Trader culture is so rich that I don’t mind magic not being as prominent as the first two books.