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Sandrilene (Sandry) fa Toren

A young noblewoman, and the great-niece of Duke Vedris. Sandry's lineage makes her nearly royalty, but she prefers not to show off her noble status unless necessary. She is a "stitch-witch", having ambient magic with thread. After her parents died in a plague, her nurse hid her underground in a cellar, until she was discovered by Niko and brought to Winding Circle.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: In a particularly awesome fashion, the reason she can use magic like she does thread is because no one told her she couldn't. This is very good as her first use of that ability saved her and the rest of the Circle's lives.
  • Asexual: Sandry is this, as confirmed by Word of God.
  • Bad Dreams: She sometimes has nightmares related to the plague that killed her parents and the events in the books themselves.
  • Badass Boast: After another girl says that if Daja is a lady, then she is a cat:
    "I am Sandrilene fa Toren, daughter of Count Mattin fer Toren and his countess Amiliane fa Landreg. I am the great-niece of his grace, Duke Vedris of this realm of Emelan, and cousin of her Imperial Highness, Empress Berenene of the Namorn Empire. You are Esmelle ei Pragin, daughter of Baron Witten en Pragin and his lady Colledia of House Weelwright- a merchant house. If I tell you my friend is a lady, then you"-carefully she poured milk into Esmelle's plate- "you had best start lapping, kitty."
  • Badass Teacher: "I tore three people to pieces to save the life of my student."
  • Broken Pedestal: The Will of the Empress has her bitterly realize her tragically dead parents were actually quite aloof from the peasants under their care, and they left quite a mess for her to clean up.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin':
    • Sandry, the most dutiful and altruistic of the four, gets a scolding from her uncle, the Duke, at the start of The Will of the Empress. He guilt-trips her because she doesn't immediately start reading reports from her cousin in Namorn. Bear in mind that she always reads the reports - she's just a little slower to do so than she is to attend to matters in Emelan, and she has taken over most of Vedris' workload at this point to boot. Not to mention that the extent of Ambros' cry for help is sending her accountbooks (in the hopes she'll pick up on the implications of the expenses) rather than any direct statement. Also, she gets this lecture on her birthday.
    • She also gets sternly told off whenever she's less than sweet or starts (very much against her will) crying during an argument. Sometimes by Tris, of all people.
  • Determinator: Once Sandry has her mind made up to do something, she will not let it go until it's done or she's dead. Half the reason the Circle became who they were is that Sandry decided to make them her friends, whether they wanted it or not, and the other half was because she decided to weave their spirits together by sheer force of will. Whether it's holding her uncle's soul to his body or just flat out refusing to give up until the enemy's down no matter how exhausted or outnumbered she is, Sandry will never give up a fight.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": Insists upon people calling her just "Sandry" instead of "Lady Sandrilene fa Toren" or even "Lady Sandrilene" unless there's a specific reason for being formal.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Threads. How lame… wait a minute. What's made of thread? Clothes… upholstery… blankets… bandages… saddles and boots are held together by thread… and she can control all of this… and make it all come undone if she wants… or move… or unweave itself and reweave itself in whatever shape she wants… including trussing you up like a turkey… And it can extend to treating other things as thread: light, magic itself, human skin… Okay; not lame! Not lame!
    • When her uncle was having a heart attack, his guards tried to keep her from getting to him. It took hours to cut them out of the thread cocoons she created around them, since the damned things kept trying to reweave themselves, and after that the Duke's Guard knew better than to argue when Sandry was in a mood.
    • There's also a passing mention of her using her power to "stitch" the Duke's soul to his body and keep him alive until the healers could get to him.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: How Sandry has to operate in Magic Steps to weave a net of unmagic.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: 'My name is Lady Sandrilene fa Toren, daughter of Count Mattin fer Toren and his Countess Amiliane fa Landreg. I am great-niece to His Grace Duke Vedris IV of Emelan, and cousin to Her Imperial Highness Empress Berenene of Namorn…'
  • Leeroy Jenkins: As a child, her extreme bravery and determination led to her sometimes picking any fight at all if she thought it was right, regardless of whether she could win that fight or not. She grows wiser through the series, but still bites off more than she can chew sometimes.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Before she came to Winding Circle. The children of commoners didn't want to play with a noble girl, and the nobles she met thought their children would get strange ideas from her due to her parents being Idle Rich, leaving Sandry to make friends with anyone who she could (slowly) win over.
  • Misery Poker: The other three initially resent her for being rich and noble until they find out about the smallpox. In Empress they resent her again until it becomes clear that her heiress status puts her in grave danger and that staying in Summersea didn't keep save her from the kind of trauma they went through abroad.
  • Modest Royalty: Modest Nobility. Despite being closely related to royalty in two powerful nations and being vastly wealthy, she hates veils and jewellery, and prefers to dress simply when she's not at important functions. She is, however, not opposed to dressing up for the odd family lunch because her uncle likes to see her dressed to her station from time to time.
  • Nice Girl: Easily the most kindhearted out of the four members of the circle, sometimes to the point of being overbearing or letting herself get taken advantage of; Daja even says she has "too good a heart".
  • Nice to the Waiter: Firmly believes that nobles don't have the right to be rude to commoners because their station and education mean that they are supposed to know better.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Nobles Who Actually Do Something. She had a front row seat and was a key participator battling various perils that befell Summersea including the earthquake, pirate attack, forest fire, and epidemic. As a teenager she assists her uncle with the practicalities of ruling a realm.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Her railing at Tris for the way she saved the caravan in Empress. It's supposed to show how much they've drifted apart, but it's strange for a person who was always described as kind and sympathetic—to the point where Briar thought of her as "too understanding"—to a) be mad at Tris for acting as she did in a situation where there was obviously no time for niceties and b) not notice that Tris is woozy even though all of them have had personal experience with the effects of using big magic. Of course Sandry is lately dealing with a lot of stress and feels horrible once she realizes what she's done.
  • Parental Abandonment: Via smallpox epidemic. She was raised by a pair of Idle Rich parents for her first ten years and wanted for nothing (except friends) until the smallpox that killed them.
  • Proper Lady: Most of the time. She's much more noble than her friends by birth and can play the part quite well, but she prefers to be somewhat informal.
  • Shipper on Deck: Encourages a romance between Duke Vedris and Yazmín Hebet in Magic Steps.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: A rather literal instance. Sandry is friendly, polite, and would like nothing better than to talk to you about fashion and textile work for hours. But threaten her or hers, and she'll do everything in her considerable ability to stop you.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Sandry get this fairly often from people in universe through a combination of being a noble, a girl, and having thread magic. She has very little patience for that attitude and isn't shy about telling people to get bent when they try to tell her so. If they try to push it, it doesn't end well. A fair amount of those who tried end up cocooned in their own clothes.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: She ends up having to do some fairly nasty things as a teenager, and grows up a lot.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Afraid of the dark thanks to the aftermath of said smallpox epidemic (she was locked away in a small room so she wouldn't catch the smallpox or be killed by the riot, but the woman who locked her away was killed, and her light source ran out, leaving her with nothing to do but try to make light from thread).
  • Wrong Context Magic: In addition to her thread magic, she can manipulate magic itself by visualizing it as thread. It's stated on multiple occasions that no other mage is known to be able to do something like that.

Trisana (Tris) Chandler

The daughter of a merchant family, known for her temper. Tris' powers caused the weather to change around her and brought distant voices to her on the wind, but when she was tested for magic, none was detected. Believing her to be possessed, she was shifted around from family member to family member until Niko met her and brought her to Winding Circle. Tris' ambient power is with weather, particularly lightning, and also extending to geothermal events like earthquakes and volcanoes and natural forces like the tides.
  • Author Avatar: Pierce isn't afraid to admit this herself. May possibly be why she's so hard on poor Tris…
  • Badass Bookworm: She loves libraries and learning new things.
  • Bad Dreams: After becoming aware that she accidentally drowned several ships full of innocent slaves, she dreamed about the incident repeatedly, in graphic detail.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: She could cause enormous amounts of damage (and has - she took out part of a pirate fleet by herself) with her powers, but she refuses to use them for bad purposes.
  • Black Mage: And she hates it. She's been offered jobs by multiple rulers, but while they may start off as simple positions as a weather mage, they always eventually come down to 'kill people with lightning for me'. She wants to learn magical healing, but her control is nowhere near fine enough for the job.
  • Blessed with Suck: Being quite possibly one of the most powerful mages in the world has its downsides, to say the least. She can't make a living with her powers unless she wants to be a battlemage or cause weather disasters in other places, which she emphatically does not. The reputation about her abilities makes other mages view her as either a braggart, a liar, and/or terrifying rather than a potential friend. Once she learns wind scrying, the previous problem magnifies tenfold, plus she now gets migraines until she learns how to block out the images. Oh, and because her magic works with incredibly powerful forces of nature, overusing it just a little leaves her Asleep for Days at best.
  • Blow You Away: She has some natural control over the wind early on. In her later appearances, she's refined it so far that loyal breezes flutter around her like attendants to keep her cool in hot weather, and she keeps a little bit of a hurricane bound up in her hair.
  • Combo Platter Powers: Her magic is over elemental energy that comes in waves or currents, so wind, lightning, tectonic, heat, lava flows, the tides and rain. It makes her one of the most powerful mages of her generation.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: She frequently notes that she had to learn iron-hard control and a sense of responsibility faster than her foster-siblings because her powers are so potentially destructive and, after killing numerous slaves in the process of sinking a pirate fleet, she refuses to hurt anyone but her intended targets. She also refuses to alter weather for anything other than minor purposes or correcting what other mages have done because weather moves in a complex, interconnected pattern and it will ruin someone's day eventually.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Heavy on the deadpan, also on the snarking. You could even consider her at The Snark Knight status.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Particularly in Will of the Empress. When Daja—now rich—offers her a place in her house, Tris immediately declares that she'll be a maid rather than live on Daja's charity.
  • Elemental Eye Colors: Her gray eyes match her weather magic.
  • Fiery Redhead: Lightning redhead, once she starts using her hair as her mage-kit.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Why she helps save Little Bear the dog. She also adopts a starling named Shriek and immediately lays claim to Chime. Better with animals than people, though.
  • Friend to All Children: She is pretty good with kids, often treating them with thoughtfulness. She also doesn't approve of dumbing things down when talking to them. The mistreatment she endured from her relatives makes her determined to treat other kids better.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Even Lampshaded by her student. While Tris has a good heart, she is generally difficult to get along with. In Briar's Book, while stressed over Briar's quarantine, she has an outburst where she derides Briar for hanging out with street kids and says "Everyone knows the poor breed disease!" Not only was that part of required charity work for the temple, but Briar grew up in the slums and those were his other friends. She also offends Lark, who was homeless for a while, but she takes Lark's admonishment to heart and tries to be more sensitive later. Also, she tends to be very snappish. Justified by the way she was treated by her family.
  • Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?: When the blue pox breaks out in Summersea and quarantines Briar and Rosethorn in a charity hospital, Tris says that it's the poor people's fault for living in a slum. She apologizes after Lark rebukes her.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: At the beginning of Empress, Tris wants to study at Lightsbridge, be a normal mage, do normal mage things. It makes a good deal of sense for her; unlike her friends, she can't do "everyday" things like simple protective charms, because her natural magic works on such a grand scale.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In her first appearances she's very hostile even to people like Niko and Sandry who are trying to make friends. She warms to them and her other housemates and teachers but still comes off as very self-absorbed and disinterested in most people and their welfare. Under the surface she does care. During Briar's Book she and Niko have to go into some sewers. Tris freaks out and complains constantly until realizing that this is even worse for Niko, who's trying to keep it together because this is important. After that she refocuses her attention and is kinder. The Time Skip reveals a Tris that has mellowed out. In Shatterglass she's still slow to make friends and has a temper, but she's much less hostile and far quicker to care about people, and doesn't take slights and insults as personally.
  • Keeping the Handicap: When Ishabal brings up the possibility of Tris using her magic to correct her vision at need:
    Ishabal: If you may correct your vision as you like, why do you wear spectacles?
    Tris: Because I like them. Because I have better things to do with my magic than fixing my vision when ordinary glass will do.
  • Minored In Ass Kicking: She is first and foremost a mage and scholar, but Briar and Daja taught her a number of useful fighting techniques.
  • Neat Freak: After being used as a free maid by several of her relatives, Tris takes great pride in her cleaning abilities and can't abide a messy space. She has a habit of pitching in to help the staff of whatever household she's a guest in.
  • Parental Abandonment: Gave her up because they were afraid of her, as did just about every other member of her family.
  • Power Incontinence: Oh, so very much. She wears her hair short in Daja's and Briar's books because after her own she started breeding baby thunderstorms in her hair whenever she got upset.
  • Quirky Curls: Lightning tends to accumulate in them. Eventually she takes advantage of this and uses a complicated pattern of braids to store her magic.
  • Redheads Are Uncool: Tris has curly red hair (her friend Briar calls her "Coppercurls"), gray eyes, and wears spectacles. She believes herself to be fat and is called "Fatty" a few times by some of the series' crueler characters. Before she learned control over her magic, strange things would happen when she got angry or emotional, such as causing it to hail indoors or to strike lightning nearby.
  • Shock and Awe: Her weather magic allows her to attract, create, and control lightning.
  • Superpower Lottery: She seems to have a measure of power in every force of nature, from weather to geology. This is due to her ability to control energy that comes in currents or waves: tides in water, electrical currents, seismic movements, convection currents and air currents.
  • Take a Third Option: In the very first book, she's too scared to join Sandry, Daja, and Briar in fighting some bullies, but she doesn't want to run away either—so she conjures up a waterspout.
  • Town Girls: The Neither to Sandry's Femme and Daja's Butch.
  • Tsundere: Tris is more snappish when young but even mellower is a mild case. She claims that showing her softer side makes her glasses fog up.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: When Keth asks why she doesn't return to the Chandlers, Tris says that her accreditation is the only reason they'd want her back, and she has no fond memories of them.

Daja Kisubo

A young Trader (a heavily ostracized merchant race). Daja's family ship sank, leaving her the only survivor. As a result, she was declared unlucky by all other Traders, and became an outcast. Niko took her to Winding Circle Temple, where she quickly became friends with Sandry. Daja is an ambient smith-mage, which also grants her immunity to fire.

  • All of the Other Reindeer: Traders are an outcast race who keep to themselves. Many believe that they steal from others and kill others for their own profit. When Daja first comes to Winding Circle, the other children frequently attack her because of this prejudice. To make it even worse, she also gets this from other Traders because they believe she carries bad luck and even talking to her will cause her it to rub off. At the end of Daja's Book, Tenth Caravan Idaram declares her not trangshi anymore because she saves them from wildfires.
  • Butch Lesbian: As revealed in ''The Will of the Empress"'.
  • The Blacksmith: She has power over metal and makes a tidy living for herself at it.
    • Ultimate Blacksmith: Daja is one of the few metal mages who have power over all metal. Frostpine is one of the only others, and had apparently been searching for a very long time for a student with the same abilities.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Daja is the most physically powerful of the group and has formal training in staffwork thanks to being a Trader. She carries her Trader staff wherever she goes.
  • Companion Cube: The suraku (survival box) from her ship, which she calls to her by the metal in it and becomes attached to before her rescue. She later turns it into her mage kit.
  • Doom Magnet: Because she was the only survivor of her family's shipwreck, the Traders diagnose her as this and cast her out accordingly.
  • Green Rocks: The living metal of her hand is very useful for magical workings, although it does have limitations. It grows slowly, apparently using minerals from her body, and she keeps a jar in it in her mage's kit, which she can apparently "feed" with scrap brass and her own blood when she needs more than she can grow naturally.
  • God Guise: Unintentionally. In Cold Fire, Ben Ladradun's POV of her initially has him thinking she's some sort of goddess.
  • Going Native: Averted. Daja hasn't lived with Traders since Third Ship Kisubo sank, but she refuses to set aside her culture.
  • Honor Before Reason: When dealing with the Trader Polyam, who is at the bottom of her caravan's pecking order. Daja bends over backwards to make sure their deal increases Polyam's stock with them, to Polyam's bewilderment.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In Cold Fire after she learns that Ben, the man she made fireproof gloves for, is the arsonist.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: She designs a pair of fireproof gloves for a firefighter who has no magic of any sort to protect him. All well and good, except that he's actually an arsonist and she just handed him a tool that lets him kill dozens of people. She's horrified when she finds out.
  • Parental Abandonment: Died in a shipwreck.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Fire/heat resistance, some resistance to smoke in the air, though too much still makes her sick. She also seems to pick up the ability to manipulate heat and flame directly through magic, although this seems to be something of Tris's she picked up from when their powers bled together, as it's one of the only powers she doesn't share with Frostpine.
  • Simple Staff: She carries one around. Traders carve/attach designs to the caps on the staves so they tell the holder's story, and show where the holder lives/is from. Hers are blank because she's an exile until the end of Daja's Book, when she gets un-exiled and starts decorating them.
  • Sole Survivor: Her backstory. Traders consider this to be the absolute worst of bad luck.
  • So Happy Together: She hooks up with Rizu, her first love, and they spend a summer in perfect bliss… until Sandry gets abducted and freed, and the Circle decides to go home. Rizu picks the Empress, who did her many kindnesses, over Daja; Daja refuses to pick the Empress, even for Rizu. Neither takes it well.
  • The Stoic
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The Tomboy to Sandry's Girly Girl.
  • Town Girls: The Butch to Sandry's Femme and Tris's Neither.
  • Unperson: Declared such by her entire race. Other Traders pretend she isn't there and will only speak to her through another, with the hypothetical assumption that there is a trangshi in the room.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Daja was keenly interested in smithing from a young age. Her family was always quick to remind her (sometimes physically) that a Trader can never be lugsha.note 

Briar Moss

Beginning his life as a street-rat named Roach, this young man was caught stealing three times, which meant he was sentenced to a hard life working on the docks. Niko found him being sentenced, and seeing the ambient magic in him, decided to take him to Winding Circle. Because he needed a new name, and liked plants, he chose the name Briar Moss. Briar's power, naturally, is with plants.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Justified since he's an orphan. Briar is described as darker-skinned. From his description, he probably meant to be of Asian or Mediterranean descent.
  • Animated Tattoo: To hide the two X tattoos that means he's been arrested twice, he decided to tattoo vines over them with vegetable dyes. His magic over plants plus the fact that he used the needles from Sandry's sewing basket, which also doubles as her mage kit, turned the vines into living ones that move around his hands.
  • The Artful Dodger: Was a street thief under the leadership of an older boy before his discovery.
  • Bad Dreams:
    • From Empress onward. It's implied (though not outright stated) that he's suffering from PTSD.
    • Also after he goes through Lady Zenadia's house and finds all the corpses of everyone she had murdered and thrown into the ground, without even a funeral. He's perplexed by these dreams, because he didn't kill any of them, and he never dreams about the mute, who he did kill.
  • Big Brother Mentor: To Evvy.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Fast-growing thornbushes? Check. Creeping vines for restraints? Check. Poison? Check. Knives? Check, check, check, check… In Street Magic, he realizes one attacker has hay fever and incapacitates her with blooming roses.
  • Criminal: How Niko found him.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Against Lady Zenadia's mute assassin.
  • Deadly Doctor: A heroic example. He knows pressure points and nerve clusters from his studies of anatomy, which he absolutely will target in a fight.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Debt Detester: The first book mentions him as being one.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: His double X's meant he got caught twice. Trying to hide them gave him a new kind of embarrassing tattoo: living vines.
  • Friend to All Living Things: With plants instead of animals.
  • Green Thumb: This is the foundation of his magic; in prison he unknowingly uses his power to tend a patch of moss.
  • Honor Among Thieves: Briar's moral system clearly revolves around gang mentality rather than society as a whole, leaving him ill at ease with authority and law but devoted and honorable to those he considers his mates.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's had the roughest upbringing of the four of them and snarks at them frequently, but he's a good friend and hates seeing people abused as much as they do.
  • Knife Nut: His weapon of choice.
  • Loveable Rogue: Although he doesn't actually steal anymore, he's still got the attitude.
  • Meaningful Rename: His original name is unknown; his name as a street thief was Roach. Briar Moss is the name he chose for himself when he came to Winding Circle, and having a new name reflects the new beginning for him. He chose "briar" because of his experiences of being scarred by thorns: he wanted people to know not to mess with him, and "moss" because he felt a connection to it in his jail cell.
  • The Medic: Not quite a healer, but good with herbal medicines. Infused with his power, they're about as good as you can get without true magical healing.
  • Never Learned to Read: Until he 'fesses up to Tris. And years later, he pays it forward by teaching Evvy to read.
  • Omniglot: He appears to be able to speak and understand a little of everything, especially if it's for insults.
  • The One Guy: Out of the four in the circle.
  • Parental Abandonment: His mom was killed when he was little. His dad isn't really mentioned.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: He does this.
    "Girls," Briar said with disgust. "Aggrimentatious, argufying…"
    "Is it that you learned too many languages, and so you must mangle the ones you have?" Sandry asked, curious.
  • Really Gets Around: As of Will of the Empress. Deconstructed slightly as this isn't treated as being manly; rather it's treated as him being deeply damaged.
  • Satisfied Street Rat: But the girls soften him up and Rosethorn is enough to stop him from getting into too much trouble.
  • Sex for Solace: Again, Empress. In this case, it's not necessarily about the sex so much as he gets trauma-induced nightmares if he sleeps alone.
  • Snooping Little Kid: Notably around Dedicate Crane's plants in the first book and in Aymery's belongings in the second book.
  • Street Urchin: Until Niko found him.
  • Survivor Guilt: By Will of the Empress.

     In Summersea And Winding Circle 


A dedicate at Winding Circle, and an ambient plant mage; she acts as a "mother" to Discipline Cottage. She is known for her sharp temper. Briar becomes her student, and later on she takes on the teaching of Evvy, Briar's student.
  • Abusive Parents: Revealed in Battle Magic to have been physically and emotionally abused by her father.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: She falls on her knees to beg Emperor Weishu not to burn his rose garden.
  • Back from the Dead: In Briar's Book she actually dies, but Briar and the others are able to bring her back.
  • Badass Teacher: For Briar.
  • Big Sister Instinct: To Briar.
  • Cynical Mentor: Mostly to Briar.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Ethical Slut: She and Lark have an open relationship, and she has casual sex with Parahan in Battle Magic.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: Evvy is used to being called "Evumeimei" by Luvo, but when Rosethorn uses both Evvy's full first name and last name, Evvy knows she's in trouble.
  • Green Thumb: She's a powerful plant mage.
  • Good Is Not Nice: She will help people in need and cares about the kids, but she's not going to give anyone an easy time about it unless they're victims of plague. Rosethorn hates nursing over all else but is truly dedicated and still feels for people in a bad situation.
  • Hates Being Touched: At least as a means of waking her up, since after the war she reacts violently.
  • If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You: Big fan of this trope in her herbal medicines. Her version of smelling salts follows a similar mindset, carrying a startling potency that matches her distaste for pointless hysterics.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: In Briar's Book. After recovering from the virus, she comes down with pneumonia.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She acts very abrasively, but when someone's sick or genuinely in a bad position, she'll do anything to help them.
  • Meaningful Rename: Her childhood name was Nivalin Greenhow, though she went by the more informal 'Niva'. She chose "Rosethorn" on taking her vows, reflecting both her Green Thumb powers and her personality.
  • Knight In Sour Armor: She always does her best to help people in accordance with her vows, but that doesn't stop her from complaining about them when they irritate her.
  • The Medic: As with Briar above, plant mages tend to be good with herbal medicines and can boost their power, but sadly, they have no healing magic themselves, so if their medicines can't heal a patient, then that's all they can do.
  • Misery Builds Character: Enjoys inflicting this on Briar (and Evvy).
  • Mundane Afterlife: In Briar's Book. Tending to an overgrown garden for the rest of eternity isn't a bad way to spend your afterlife, especially when you enjoy plants and challenging work.
  • Not Good with People: And she really doesn't give a damn.
  • Opposites Attract: Formerly Rich Bitch to Lark's saintly personality. Even Crane makes more sense than Lark, initially.
  • Parental Substitute: Mostly to Briar. It especially shows in Briar's Book.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: What happened to her hometown.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Mentioned to intentionally keep from tanning, and possesses dark chestnut hair, cropped short.
  • Riches to Rags: Her parents were incredibly wealthy farmers thanks to her gift, but then her hometown got razed and her family killed.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: While she doesn't seem to be as bad as Briar, she still will attack anyone who wakes her up suddenly.
  • Significant Birth Date: Born in the dead of winter, but celebrates her birthday during the midsummer solstice.
  • Speech Impediment: Speaks slowly and with a slight slur after Briar's Book, and is suggested in Street Magic and confirmed in Battle Magic to have other physical impediments as a result of what happened to her.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: She's a nice person underneath all the prickles.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The tomboy half on a personality level, with Lark serving as the girly girl.
  • Tsundere: With a side of the aforementioned Sugar-and-Ice Personality.


An ambient thread mage. She is a dedicate at Winding Circle and serves as the other "mother" to Discipline Cottage. She is known for being kindhearted. She becomes Sandry's teacher.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Described as having a skin tone similar to Briar's.
  • Berserk Button: She doesn't go 'berserk' as such, but she does get extremely disappointed with Tris saying that 'everyone knows the poor breed disease' and that Rosethorn and Briar can only blame themselves for getting stuck in an epidemic.
  • Cool Big Sis / Cool Teacher: To all of the children but especially Sandry. She's very patient, motherly, and encouraging towards them.
  • Lipstick Lesbian
  • Nice Girl: She's an extremely kind and patient teacher to Sandry and very motherly to the other kids. She also tries repeatedly to help and soothe Yarrun Firetamer, though she gets cross when he brushes her off.
  • Opposites Attract: Formerly dirt-poor, yet saintly. Likely comes off as No Accounting for Taste to people who haven't seen Rosethorn's very subtle nice side.
  • Parental Substitute: Mostly to Sandry, but she acts motherly to all the children. As Discipline Cottage was an established place for children who don't fit in in the dormitories even before the four arrived, and as she takes in a painfully shy new boy in Magic Steps, she's willing to take on this role a lot.
  • Rags to Riches: A milder, zig-zagging example. She started out as a travelling dancer and was likely middle-class to fairly comfortable, then contracted asthma and had to live in the slums, then eventually settled down in Winding Circle Temple, which was definitely better but not Riches.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: She tends toward quiet-spoken and kind words, but most people learn pretty quickly that Lark is not one to be pushed around.
  • Team Mom: To the kids, when they're ten or so. Invoked when they arrive at Discipline, as Rosethorn announces that Lark is the one who likes children.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Girly girl, with Rosethorn serving as the tomboy half.

Niklaren (Niko) Goldeye

A famous mage, Niko has seeing powers. He discovers the power of the main characters, and serves as Tris' teacher.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Probably a large part of why he chose it.
  • Cool Teacher: Mainly to Tris, but he teaches all of the kids.
  • The Dandy: Likes to wear nice and stylish clothes, and takes great care of them.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He is one.
    "I can't think of the last time I held dragon vomit in my hand," Niko remarked, his voice dry. "Why, never, in fact. There are no such things as dragons. Need I also point out there are no such things as living glass dragons?"
    • He's noted as snarking "dryly" sometimes, but you know he's being especially snarky when it notes his voice as being "very dry".
  • Living Lie Detector: One of his powers is a near-infallible truth spell. He's never even been suggested as being close to wrong, and even circumstances like Keth's uncontrolled lightning magic don't faze him.
  • Meaningful Rename: Like most secular mages, he chose his last name himself, describing his powers as a Seer.
  • Neat Freak: He likes things to stay tidy, particularly his clothes.
  • Not So Above It All: When he and Tris have to go into the sewers, she realizes that he's probably freaking out more than she is at their disgusting surroundings.
  • Really Gets Around: Is having affairs with both Honoured Moonstream and Jumshida Dawnspeaker.
  • Seer: While avoiding all associated tropes, though a character or two have suggested that they think he has shades of Mad Oracle.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: While not as irritable as Rosethorn, Niko is quite aloof and unapproachable at first, and only really opens up to close friends.


A well-known ambient smith-mage and dedicate of Winding Circle. He becomes Daja's teacher.
  • Berserk Button: Giving one's magic to someone else. It's because his parents allowed the village shaman to use his powers (without his consent) from when he was born until he was a teenager; the day he found out he had magic was the day the shaman died, and Frostpine found that his magic was so out-of-control he couldn't even pick up a smith's hammer without melting it.
  • The Blacksmith: Quite possibly the greatest smith-mage in the world. He and Daja are the only two smith-mages known to have an affinity for all types of metal.
  • Cool Teacher Again, this time for Daja.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: His family sold his magic to the village shaman to get out of poverty. Because of this, he always felt like something was missing, and although he loved smithing, it also frustrated him. When the shaman died, Frostpine's power came back- and it was so out of control that he melted the tools he picked up and was ordered out of the smithy. He no longer communicates with his family (except his youngest sister) because of how hurt he was by this betrayal.
  • Gentle Giant: He raises his voice about twice in the first series.
  • Meaningful Rename: Subverted. Like all dedicates, he took a new name when he took his vows, but he chose it because he thought frostpines were pretty trees. Later in life, he discovered that he hated the climate that went with them.
  • Naked People Are Funny: There's a scene in Cold Fire where he's caught meditating in a fire, having removed his clothes so they wouldn't burn. The maids were not warned and were mildly hysterical about finding a naked man in the blazing kitchen hearth.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Frostpine is very mellow and easygoing, and willing to joke around. When he's irritable or angry, it means something.
  • Papa Wolf: Can be vicious if you pose any kind of threat to his student.
  • Really Gets Around: Once had an affair with Matazi Bancanor, hits on Matazi's cook, and Matazi also mentions that he once seduced a married queen.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Fire/heat resistance. (This isn't universal for smith-mages, but it is very useful.) Normal fires and red-hot metal don't even faze him, and like Daja, the only danger a burning house presents to him is being crushed under something that collapses.
  • Scary Black Man: Subverted, since he's one of the nicest characters in the series.
    • That said, when he does get angry, he can and will dip into this trope.
  • The Talk: Gives a talk to Daja about sex and romance. It's actually pretty sensible.

Dedicate Crane

A dedicate at Winding Circle Temple. He is a plant-mage. He is known for being stubborn and having a temper, but he is an expert in healing and discovering cures for diseases, and is willing to give respect where it is due.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He doesn't like trespassers in his greenhouse and bickers with Rosethorn, but when the epidemic strikes he's working as hard as anyone else to find a cure.
    • He develops a soft spot for Tris and Briar during the epidemic in Briar's Book, and in the Circle Opens Quartet is stated to be their "sometimes teacher".
  • Meaningful Rename: His childhood name was Isas; he chose the name Crane upon becoming a dedicate.
  • Properly Paranoid: When researching the cure for a deadly plague, Crane is absolutely ruthless to his staff, hammering them for the smallest mistake. If everything is not done perfectly, he is liable to kick the worker off the team entirely. He is proven entirely correct about this when one "smallest mistake" nearly kills Rosethorn. When it comes to medical research and virulently contagious diseases, there is no margin for error.
  • The Rival: To Rosethorn.
  • Rich Bastard: Briar immediately identifies him as a "Bag"- Money-Bag, or rich person- for his haughty bearing and expensive taste in clothes.
  • The Smart Guy: He and Rosethorn have done a lot of work on diseases together, and they were part of a team that devised 'human essence', which allowed them to test potential cures without potentially hurting the test subjects.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky

Dedicate Gorse

The chef of Winding Circle Temple. Not much is known about him, but there is generally nothing that happens in his kitchens without his knowledge.
  • Chef of Iron: Makes delicious food and knows how to (physically) discourage his help from harassing his guests.
  • Nice Guy: Insists that nobody go from one end of his kitchen to the other without getting something to eat, and seems to have a special soft spot for people like Briar who have known starvation in their lives.
  • Supreme Chef

Duke Vedris IV

Sandry's great-uncle, and the ruler of Emelan.

     Students in The Circle Opens 

Pasco Acalon

Pasco Acalon is a twelve-year-old from Summersea. He has ambient dance magic, though his family wishes him to become a police officer ("harrier"). Sandry discovers his magic and becomes his teacher.
  • The Chew Toy: His family view him as a dreamer and a weakling who spends time dreaming of dancers when he should be practicing his fighting skills, and his cousin beats him up for any offence, imagined or real.
  • Distressed Dude: In the climax of the book he decides to stay behind to watch, wards himself to invisibility, and hangs out in the pantry, which he knows is the most likely route for the enemy to take... at which point he decides to munch on some cake, which gets him seen, taken hostage, and rendered completely helpless for the rest of the book.
  • Dance Magic: He's already dancing good-luck spells over fishermen's nets when Sandry finds him.
  • Meddling Parents: His family thought that he should be sent to Lightsbridge to study proper harrier magic. Sandry had to get cross with them.
  • Perception Filter: He invents a spell that causes others to ignore him. It works fine, until the unmagic assassins catch him grabbing a snack while invisible.

Evumeimei (Evvy) Dingzai

A ten-year-old from Yanjing. Her parents sold her into slavery; eventually she escaped and became a street-rat in Chammur. Briar discovered that Evvy is an ambient stone mage, and he became her first teacher. At Winding Circle, she was able to be trained by stone mages. After Briar went to Namorn with Sandry, Daja and Tris, Rosethorn took Evvy with her to the Battle Islands to investigate the dying plant life.
  • Breakout Character: So far we haven't seen the other Circle Opens students, but Evvy is the protagonist of one followup book and tritagonist in another.
  • Break the Cutie: As if being sold for a slave by her own parents wasn't enough, she's tortured in Battle Magic and her cats are killed as a part of it.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin'': When trying to redirect a massive volcanic eruption, she snaps at a little girl for distracting her. Rosethorn accuses her of following the path of a "destroyer" and when Evvy nearly kills herself saving the girl, the girl's guardian rips into Evvy because now their house has ash all over it and it's all Evvy's fault (rather than her own for losing track of the kid). Evvy accepts this as just consequence.
  • Character Development: She spends most of Melting Stones being rude and uncaring to everyone, to the point that once she convinces them that the island is an active volcano that's due to erupt, she wants to take Rosethorn and Myrrhtide and leave the islanders to get themselves out. At the end of the book, she realizes that she came too close to giving up her humanity altogether, and decides to become an initiate when she gets back.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: When you're not part of a gang, cats are the best sources for companionship. She brings all seven of them on the trip to Gyongxe and Yanjing with various magic leashes.
  • Crocodile Tears: Can force herself to cry on cue… by remembering her mother's face as she told the slavemasters to sell Evvy for as much as possible.
  • Dishing Out Dirt: As a stone mage, she throws superheated rocks at her enemies or just pulls the walls down on them
  • Hates Being Touched: Especially after her experiences in war; if someone grabs her unexpectedly, she'll attack them.
  • Moral Dissonance: Throughout Street Magic, she criticizes Briar for repeatedly asking her what gang she's with and being surprised when she says that she's not in one, even when he tells her that he was in a gang himself. She's right that gangs can make life shorter, but she doesn't seem to realize that the only reason she never ended up in a gang is because she has magic, so she really doesn't have room to act as though only a certain kind of moron would ever join one.
  • Never Learned to Read: Briar teaches her with a "stone alphabet." A for Amethyst, etcetera. It's one of her most prized possessions.
  • Not Good with People: She even gets a filibuster about it in Melting Stones. Rosethorn realizes that this is because of her upbringing; during the years when she was supposed to be learning to how to relate to people and form normal social connections, she was scrambling and scraping to survive on the streets.
  • Parental Abandonment: They sold her into slavery.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Rosethorn has to point out to Myrrhtide that when she told him not to touch her to wake her, he respected her wishes, but he has to remember that Evvy was in the same war as Rosethorn, and she's only a child.
  • Street Urchin: Although she's able to avoid being forced into a gang, she still has to pick through garbage for her meals and lives in the oldest slum in Chammur's caves.
  • Taking the Veil: Decides to become a novice in the Living Circle religion at the end of Melting Stones; not precisely out of a vocation to serve their gods, but because she believes in their philosophy and wants to be a better person.

Niamara (Nia) and Jorality (Jory) Bancanor

A pair of twins from a well-to-do family. Daja discovers that they both have ambient magic: Nia has woodworking magic, while Jory has cooking magic. Nia is soft-spoken and shy, while Jory is outgoing and constantly moving. Daja is able to find suitable teachers for both of them, but still must teach the two meditation.
  • Bad Dreams: Nia has bad dreams about fire. Daja explains that it'll get better with more training once Nia can seal herself off from her magic and thus stop thinking like she's made of wood.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Nia is the quieter twin, while Jory is more outgoing.
  • Real Women Never Wear Dresses: There's got to be some kind of subversion in the fact that the outspoken, brash, and just plain more physical Jory has cooking magic, while Nia the shy has woodworking magic, which should be "manlier."
    • Considering the personality type which fares best in the hustle and bustle of a kitchen the size of Olennika Potcracker's, and the type of person who can happily spend hours sanding and days applying incredibly thin layers of stain and varnish, this may be less a subversion than Reality Is Unrealistic.
    • Nia initially is upset about having wood magic, believing it would seem 'unladylike' and would make her less attractive as a bride. Her parents point out that the various shipbuilding clans would pay her weight in gold for a daughter-in-law who can instantly detect wood rot in a ship.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Jory has heat resistance, enough that when Daja puts enough heat in her hands to burn cloth or boil water, Jory just thinks it's warm.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang
  • Took a Level in Badass: By the end of the book, Nia runs into a house that she knows is on fire to save her adopted aunt, while Jory helps out when the hospital she works at is on fire.
  • Twin Telepathy: They always know where the other one is, and if the other one is in danger of some sort. It isn't connected to their magic, since other twins they know can do the same.

Kethlun (Keth) Warder

A twenty-year-old glassmaker. Keth was skilled at his craft until he was struck by lightning, making many physical actions difficult for him for a while, and imbuing him with lightning magic in addition to his ambient glass magic. Tris discovers his magic after he accidentally creates Chime, a glass dragon, and serves as his teacher.
  • The Ace: Before the lightning strike, he was a genius at making glass, to the point that he never even needed to measure his colouring agents, he just knew.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: After creating Chime, he chases it around the shop and then vehemently argues with Tris when she tries talking to him about the magic he doesn't think he has. Also, see the trope above; he had ambient type glass magic the whole time (though most likely so little it didn't need more training than what he went through to be a glassmaker).
  • Black Sheep: A minor case, Keth's family (many being glass mages) would often bemoan the fact that he had very little magic himself. He did point out however that while he lacked much magic, he had considerable talent and that did seem to satisfy them. As it turns out, he always did have magic, just not their kind.
  • Big Brother Instinct: He's very good with little Glaki and even has a kind of relationship with Tris, when he's not treating her like his Annoying Younger Sibling that is.
  • Combo Platter Powers: Because he has ambient glass magic, he has a measure of power over earth, air and fire, since those are the elements that go into making glass. He got lightning magic after he was struck by lightning, which made his power stronger but also less predictable.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Because of his lightning magic, when he gets emotional, upset or angry, sparks of electricity appear in his eyes.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: When he gets lightning in his glassblowing, it reveals murder victims.
  • Nice Guy: Yali and Tris both notice this. Yali even tells him so, Tris… not so much.
  • Not What It Looks Like: He's briefly held for suspicion of murder, thanks to the lightning glass. The fact that he was friends with one victim and knew the other doesn't help him either.
  • Not Good with People: Not nearly as bad as his teacher though. In fact, he's rather cheery and pleasant by comparison.
  • Only Sane Man: He, Tris and Niko often feel like they're the only sane people in Tharios, as they're all outsiders.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Whether due to his glass magic, his lightning magic, or both, he has no trouble handling hot glass.
  • Speech Impediment: Speaks very slowly, occasionally with a stutter, since the lightning strike.

     Other Circle Opens Characters 

Alzena and Nurhar Dihanur

Two members of the Dihanur clan (trading family with a monopoly on frankincense) sent to wipe out their rivals, the Rokats. They do this because they have the help of a mage with the power of Unmagic, who is addicted to dragonsalt and aids them in return for a steady supply of it. They make liberal use of his power to get past guards and warding spells, not realizing that unmagic has... shall we say, side effects...

  • Asshole Victim: The Rokats are robber barons who are more mafia than merchant, but it's not like the Dihanurs are any better.
  • Ax-Crazy: Early in the book Alzena, the Dihanur who's given some POV sections, is 'giddy with blood' after murdering a target. As unmagic exposure eats away at her she reflects that she'd been worried about killing a child but feels nothing now, not even anticipation at the family's pleasure in her work. She wonders what's the point, if she feels nothing?
  • Decapitation Presentation: In another country, when a Dihanur shoved in front of a Rokat to get into a temple the Rokats responded by beheading the Dihanur patriarch and prominently displaying his head. Specifically in response these two Dihanurs go out of their way to do something similar to the heads of powerful Rokats.
  • Fantastic Drug: They use dragonsalt to control the salt mage, and eventually start taking it themselves to offset the side effects of unmagic overuse. It makes mages euphoric and 'useless' and seems to be an amphetamine to non-mages.
  • Hostage Situation: They nab Pasco on the way to the climax of the book. This forces Sandry to functionally Shoot the Hostage Taker; her trap would have harmlessly kept them in place, but as is she's forced to resort to plan B.
  • Lack of Empathy: They had a little originally, but what little shreds of compassion they had left dissolve over the course of the book from unmagic overuse. Even before that they were remarkably indifferent to the salt mage, seeing him and his unmagic as a convenient murder tool, but Alzena and Nurhar used to love each other once.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Sandry catches them by weaving an unmagic net and having Pasco perform a dance to attract unmagic to it (originally meant to attract fish into regular nets). Once they encounter the net they're held in place, which was the end of her part of Plan A, but Pasco decided to watch and they grabbed him on the way. So Sandry draws the net, along with all unmagic in the room, onto her spindle. The salt mage has very little of his original self left, so he is drawn into the spindle with the rest of the magic, but Alzena and Nurhar are only veined with it- meaning the spell took the unmagic-corrupted bits and left the rest behind.
  • Motive Decay: Actually Lampshaded, when Alzena's internal monologue notes that she used to love Nurhar and care for the Dihanurs, before the unmagic started in on her. Unfortunately, by the time she notices this she's way beyond saving.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Alzena is the faster one, usually the one who assassinates targets. In a situation where she's lying facedown under a blanket with someone besides her and he's standing right next to someone else, he's nearly as fast as she is. Usually Nurhar helps set things up for her, clears obstacles, talks to people, and treats any injuries she takes. In the climax of the book, it's also Nurhar who pleads for their lives.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: It's fairly clear early on that the Dihanurs were behind the Rokat murders and were using unmagic to do it, which is confirmed by several sections from Alzena's POV. The problem is catching them, since unmagic is uniquely suited to sneaking around without leaving a trace.
  • The Sociopath: Alzena actually notices that they're becoming this due to unmagic corruption. She had earlier been worried about killing a pair of children, and their motive for doing this in the first place was the approval of their family, but when the time came she did not hesitate and is briefly glad to have killed a child before the father's eyes. Leaving the scene she felt nothing about it and didn't even anticipate the family's response.
  • Stopped Caring: Early in the book killing one of their targets gives Alzena brief satisfaction, but it's ebbed by the end of the scene and it becomes harder and harder for her and her husband to care about anything, even their mission. By the end they're both taking dragonsalt, which rouses them from apathy even if it makes them irritable.
    She fought to go on - why? Was there a point? Yes, she remembered dully, the killing to come. Once it was done, she could stop. She could do nothing. No one would insist that she get up, walk about, eat, dress. They would leave her alone. That would be good.

The Salt Mage

An unnamed child mage who has the extraordinarily rare power of unmagic. Unfortunately for the poor kid, there are a lot of very unsavory people who want his power for their own criminal uses (Unmagic being very good for that sort of thing), and since he's always at the center of his unmagic casting, he gets the worst of the side effects. He's addicted to dragonsalt in an attempt to manage the latter, and as for the former, that's why he has no legs and is in the book's plot to begin with.

  • Addled Addict: Alzena and Nurhar keep him very minimally functional in order to control him. It's at a point where just an hour after coming down he's hurting and has to be force-fed painkillers to be able to work, and force-fed in general so he doesn't outright die. When he encounters Sandry and helps the assassins escape he's left alone with her for a second, and there's the suggestion that he could have left them, but he says "They have the salt" and follows.
  • Anti-Magic: Unmagic is a mix of this, The Power of the Void, and The Corruption.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Over the course of the book darkness spreads and spreads in his eyes until no pupil, iris, or white remains.
  • Child Mage: Skilled and apparently self-taught, which is unusual in this setting. Multiple characters talking about untaught mages insist magic goes awry - the salt mage's life has gone very wrong and his unmagic has been eating him, but his magic wasn't shown lashing out unpredictably.
  • Children Forced to Kill: He didn't have to do any killing himself, but he was forced to help the Dihanurs in their attempt to murder all the Rokats.
  • The Corruption: He has it the worst, since he's the one actually casting the unmagic, and has been forced to since early childhood.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Unmagic is not a good thing to have for someone who wants a normal life. There's a reason he's crippled and addicted to a nasty Fantastic Drug.
  • Disappears into Light: Creepy example at the climax of Magic Steps. When Sandry spins up the unmagic net while he's stuck to it, he's been so thoroughly subsumed by the unmagic that he simply evaporates.
  • Invisibility: Part of why unmagic is so useful to criminals and murderers such as the Dihanurs- if you're under a veil of unmagic, you can walk through the most alert sentries without anyone noticing you.
  • No Name Given: In the audiobook for Magic Steps he's credited as 'the salt mage', which is as close to a name as he ever gets.
  • No-Sell: Unmagic allows anyone enchanted by it to walk right through any warding spells- something incredibly useful when you want to kill off rich and paranoid merchants like the Rokats.
  • The Ophelia: Isn't quite all there- physically and mentally.
  • The Power of the Void: Unmagic is described as being based on this.
  • The Reveal: He is a child. The Dihanurs never think of him as one. Alzena notes that his lack of legs and his drug-induced thinness makes him easy to carry, and once mockingly calls him 'Grandfather'. After taking dragonsalt he giggles and hums nursery songs, but that could be seen as an effect of the drug. When Sandry finally gets a good look at him, she realizes in horror that he's about twelve.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Yet another use of unmagic the Dihanurs exploit is the ability to 'collapse' distances and basically teleport oneself. When Winding Circle mages talk about unmagic they mention an account of a man who used it to teleport thousands of miles and then spent a year raving because all his senses had shut down. This doesn't seem to be a problem for the salt mage and the assassins who control him.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: He doesn't blink, his one desire in life seems to be dragonsalt, in his very first scene he says "I'm ready to die", and he's very cynical that his captors will do as they say and reward him with salt for helping them.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: There's a suggestion that the Dihanurs as a family view him as this. They lost people 'saving' him from the pirate who cut off his legs, and apparently he wouldn't 'stay grateful' and help them kill their rivals until they hooked him on dragonsalt.


A glass dragon accidentally created by Kethlun Warder, and who was subsequently adopted and is cared for by Tris.
  • Big Eater: Constantly tastes new substances.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: This one's made from glass. According to Niko, dragons are as mythical in their world as they are in the real one.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: She's able to charm almost everyone she meets.
  • Solid Gold Poop: Or rather, colored glass poop, influenced by the things she eats. It also works with her other excretions; she likes eating colored sand because it lets her blow colored flames (which solidify instantly), and she's also been known to eat herself sick and vomit up glass.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Subverted. She doesn't have any evident genitalianote  but Niko calls her a "she" because she's too beautiful and graceful to be considered male.

Lady Zenadia

A very rich lady of Chammur, and the aunt of the city's amir. She is the sponsor and Man Behind the Man to the Viper gang.
  • Bad Boss: She's big on You Have Outlived Your Usefulness and You Have Failed Me. Vipers who fail her are strangled by her mute.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: She looks like an ordinary, well-off noblewoman. She's one of the cruelest characters in the series.
  • Child Soldiers: She takes on several street gangs of children for fun - hers, not theirs, because she doesn't get hurt by any of their fights.
  • Bare Your Midriff: One of her outfits is described as such.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed / Driven to Suicide: She poisons herself rather than be captured by the authorities.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: She asks Briar if he really believed that he could just trash her house and expect that she'd be arrested, because nobody cares about the people she killed and her family are very powerful. Briar and Evvy dismantle that belief by pointing out that yes, people would care, and no, her family would not protect her, because she'd gone too far by killing street children, the mutabir (police chief)'s spies, and using their bodies as fertilizer.
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: She wears a lot of jewelry.
  • The Fagin: To the Vipers. She provides them with jewelry (which they use as their gang mark), weaponry, and strategic advice.
  • Faux Affably Evil: She acts the very picture of a dignified Chammur noblewoman, but has no problem strangling Vipers who fail her and using their corpses as fertilizer.
  • Green Thumb: Her garden is quite beautiful, lush, and well-tended. Though on second thought, it's no wonder- she's fertilizing it with the bodies of her victims.
  • Human Resources: Her garden is so beautiful and lush because she uses the bodies of those she's had killed as fertilizer.
  • Rich Bitch: Just look at all the other tropes in her section.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money! / Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: A major plot point of the book is that she's above legal investigation because of her connections to the ruling family, even though law enforcement suspects something is up and are trying to spy on her. Eventually, as the mutabir tells Briar and Briar and Evvy tell Zenadia, she's gone too far and her family won't want to be associated with her, especially because her actions may well end up sparking riots.
  • Serial Killer: She doesn't do any of the killing directly, but she orders the deaths of several Vipers who failed in some task, the spies the mutabir sent, and some others, who she used as fertilizer for her garden.
  • Silver Vixen: It's mentioned every time she is described that she is around fifty, and very attractive.
  • Villainous Breakdown: A rather understated one at the end after Briar breaks into her house to get Evvy back and tells her that she's gone too far and Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! won't work for her any more. She ends up killing herself to avoid being executed.

The Mute

A mute slave of Lady Zenadia's. He's with her at almost all times, and carries out her dirty work.

  • Empty Eyes: They freak Briar out.
  • Lack of Empathy: Shows no emotion towards the people he kills.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: His job is just to kill people for his mistress, and he gets no characterization aside from being the sort of person who's willing to do this.
  • Satellite Character: He doesn't speak and has very few scenes without Lady Zenadia.
  • The Voiceless: The people who made him a slave also cut out his tongue (to make him more attractive to people who have secrets to keep). He can still scream, though.

Bennat (Ben) Ladradun

A firefighter in Kugisko. After his wife and children are killed in a fire, he goes to live with his witch of a mother, and organizes fire brigades to fight the city's fires, despite not having any magic.
  • Badass Normal: He fights fires without so much as a drop of magic to help or protect him. Daja quite openly admires him for this.
  • Evil Feels Good: At first, he ensures that the buildings he targets are empty of people, even worrying when someone doesn't get out on her own. But one night he finds out a homeless person and one of his firefighters died fighting one of his fires. The realization that he has killed a person gives him such a thrill that he starts setting fire to populated buildings deliberately.
  • Freudian Excuse: His wife and children died in a fire, and his mother is an A-grade bitch.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: He's in his 30's, Daja's about fourteen. They get along quite well... before the whole arson thing comes out.
  • Karmic Death: Because he was an arsonist, the manner of his death sentence was that he would be burned alive at the site of one of his worst crimes.
  • Manly Tears: When he sees victims of a fire. They're tears of joy.
  • Mercy Kill: All the fire-capable mages present at his execution decide to make his death quick, rather than letting him suffer as the fire slowly, painfully consumed him.
  • Mommy Issues: He's under the heel of his verbally (and previously physically) abusive mother after his family dies.
  • Pyromaniac: It gets exponentially worse after he accidentally kills someone.
  • Stalker with a Crush: For Daja. Her control over fire is fascinating to him, and his POV chapters indicate that he sees her like a goddess, not as the person she actually is.
  • Walking Spoiler
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Started as one, and frequently justifies his arson to himself this way. It's somewhat justified in that the people of Kugisko refused to take his warnings about fire to heart, and it's only when he started setting fires that they actually formed some kind of fire-fighting team. He loses the good intentions after he accidentally kills a homeless woman and stops making any effort to set fires that will only burn property.

Olennika Potcracker

An ambient cooking mage - one of the best. She cooked for the Empress before working for a hospital in Kugisko and setting up a soup kitchen.
  • Badass Teacher / Retired Badass
  • Cool Teacher / Cool Old Lady
  • Famed in Story: She cooked for the Empress until she got said Empress and some of her nobles to fund a hospital/food kitchen in the slums of Kugisko, and she has other soup kitchens all around Namorn. Someone made a play about why and how this happened.
  • Good Is Not Nice: She does her work for charity, but if you can't keep up with her she will kick you out.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold
  • Never Mess with Granny: She retired from making poison-detecting food for the Empress only to take over a hospital kitchen. When the hospital is attacked by an arsonist, she stays in there to control the blaze as long as possible.
  • The Nose Knows: While some mages can see magic, Olennika can smell it. It's nearly impossible to identify ambient magical talent unless mages train specifically for it, but Olennika identifies Jory as a novice and Daja as a great mage the instant they step into her kitchen.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Fire resistance and control, similar to Daja's. She doesn't seem to share Daja's resistance to smoke inhalation, though; since she's left with a seemingly-permanent rasp to her voice after helping to hold back the Yorgiry's Hospital fire.
  • Secret Test of Character: She publicly refuses to take students, so the rare students she does train are the ones who can put up with a heavy work schedule and refuse to take "no" for an answer. In addition, nothing in her personal storeroom is labeled, so cooking magic is required to fetch supplies from it.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: If you're in her kitchen, you're there to cook, dammit! And even if you can't cook, you'll damn well carry things! Do you want sick people to starve? Go!

     In the Later Books 

Berenene dor Ocmore

The Empress of Namorn, and one of Sandry's cousins.
  • The Chessmaster: It's noted that she hasn't stayed in power for as long as she has by being stupid.
  • Christmas Cake: Has pretty much an entire court in love with her and she's old enough to be the mother of many of them.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: According to Fin, though at least some of this was just a dig at Rizu.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Her character is inspired by Catherine the Great of Russia.
  • Real Women Never Wear Dresses: Exhibits this attitude in-universe. Get kidnapped and forced into marriage? Why, you must have deserved it for not being strong enough to escape.
    • Deconstructed further when it's noted that she was probably given the chances to escape when she was kidnapped, which most such brides are not. Sandry certainly wasn't, and even she points out that she was probably would have been treated worse had she not been an Imperial cousin.
  • Silk Hiding Steel


A man who was formally a patient at Yorgiry Hospital in Kugisko, only to escape from the mental ward with Daja's help when it was set on fire. He sees and hears things on the winds, and these uncontrolled visions, in addition to the healers' "helpful" potions, have convinced everyone, including himself, that he is crazy.
  • Blessed with Suck: He was born with power that roughly only one person per generation is able to learn. Too bad he can't control it.
  • Cassandra Truth: He kept telling his traveling companions that there were Imperial soldiers after them…
  • Chekhov's Gunman / Early-Bird Cameo: His appearance in Cold Fire as an unnamed, unusually lucid mental patient who helps Daja evacuate the burning hospital.
  • Fainting Seer
  • Mad Oracle
  • Medicate the Medium: Nobody realized that his visions are a result of the phenomenally rare talent to scry the winds.


The living heart of a mountain. Luvo met Rosethorn, Evvy, and Briar on their travels through Yanjing. He is thousands of years old, wise, and patient. He is shaped like a bear and is made out of crystals.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: He's basically a sentient rock. You could make a drinking game out of the number of times characters call him a "talking rock".
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: He says he's powerless to do anything with the volcano spirits, since they'd melt him. That might be true, but his voice alone is enough to scare the bejeesus out of them. Evvy is pretty disgruntled with him.
  • Full-Name Basis: Insists on not using nicknames. It even takes him some convincing for him to not use Evvy's last name.
  • Insistent Terminology: He prefers to call everyone by their full first name rather than their nickname.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Thousands of years old, though he never came out from underground until Evvy was nearby.
  • The Smart Guy
  • The Unpronounceable: His full name. "Luvo" is the only part Evvy can pronounce.

Dedicate Myrrhtide

A water-mage and dedicate of Winding Circle, he goes with Rosethorn and Evvy to the Battle Islands to discover why plants are dying.
  • Commander Contrarian
  • Jerkass: He's quite rude and abrasive to Evvy (who he knows only as a pet of Rosethorn who delights in being rude to people), and lords it over the people of Starns. At least some of this is justified in that most mages of Evvy's age really aren't that powerful; and unlike Rosethorn, Myrrhtide likely never met the Circle and would have no idea of what they were capable of; so once Evvy actually proved her worth, he was much less bitchy. Also, he and Evvy have naturally conflicting personalities.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: After Evvy discovers that the volcano is due to erupt he becomes much less rude to her, standing up for her at the council, agreeing with her assessment of the situation and telling her not to get herself killed because she is 'beginning to grow on [him]'.
    • Not to mention, he's a lot happier when in non-contaminated water, as opposed to the poisoned, acidic water on Starns.
  • Smug Super: Give him his due, he is actually a decent water-mage, and when the emergency becomes clear, he does everything he can to help.

The God-King of Gyongxe


A court slave of Emperor Weishu. He meets Evvy, Rosethorn, and Briar when they travel to Weishu's palace.
  • Made a Slave: His uncle sold him to the Emperor, where he's humiliated by being kept on a leash and forced to sleep in a golden cage.
  • Rebel Prince: Says he was reckless and wild before his uncle sold him.
  • Warrior Prince: He was a general in Kombanpur. When he's freed and joins up with the Gyongxin army, he gets a command again.

Emperor Weishu of Yanjing

The Emperor of Yanjing.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He's very charming at first, but he uses Evvy to humiliate one of his generals in front of the entire court which ends up scaring her too. That's before we learn what he does to gardeners who allow any kind of blemish on the roses.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Burns a rose garden and the gardeners in it because there was a tiny patch of mold on one plant.
  • The Emperor: The malevolent, grasping conqueror sort.
  • It's All About Me: He invades Gyongxe just to improve his considerable power and reputation and cares little for even his own armies.
  • The Rival: He's got a longstanding diplomatic feud with Empress Berenene and Namorn.


Parahan's twin sister, a Banpuri princess.

Alternative Title(s): Circle Of Magic, The Circle Opens, The Will Of The Empress, Melting Stones, Battle Magic


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