BINGO – OLD SERIES (originally published in 2000)
Sandry has been living with her uncle, the Duke of Emelan, ever since he had a heart attack a few months ago. Her teacher is still at Winding Circle, and all of her friends are travelling around the world with their teachers. For the first time since joining Discipline Cottage at Winding Circle Temple, Sandry is without her chosen family. But she has plenty to keep her busy like helping her uncle run the Kingdom in his weakened state and teaching a young mage, Pasco, that she discovered who can dance his magic. To top it all off, there’s a string of murders happening with the aid of a mage who works with unmagic, a rare and barely understand magical working that is the absence of all things: light, matter, even magic itself.
This book feels like an introduction to the rest of the series rather than a book that serves itself. It is clear that in this series titled The Circle Opens each of the four students we grew to know in The Circle of Magic will be discovering young mages who also have ambient magic. And due to the laws that govern mages in this world, the discovering mage must serve as teacher for time. So 14-year-old Sandry becomes a teacher to mage even though she only has two years of experience with magic under her belt. Though she is worried about not being a good teacher, Sandry is a natural right away and barely makes any mistakes. She is dangerously verging on Mary Sue territory. The new student is boring and felt like he was there barely there throughout the story. That Pasco is not as important in a book titled after his magic underscores that setting up a new series was more important that telling a solid story.
Pierce does excel in exploring the capabilities and possibilities of magic. The minor moments of dance magic as well as the depictions of unmagic were the most compelling aspects of the book. Pierce has definitely moved beyond children’s novels into young adult, but some of the gore borders on adult horror. People literally explode and their demise and the aftermath are described in detail. Pierce has never shied away dark moments, it seems she will be continuing and even expanding that tradition in this new series.