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YMMV / Circleverse
aka: Battle Magic

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  • Accidental Aesop: The story of Yarrun in Daja's Book can be taken for an Objectivist message: there are certain people who are just better than others who deserve all the world's fame, and anyone who doesn't like it is just a jealous asshole.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Did the Trader Council make Daja a trangshi because they actually saw the future and knew it would be much better for the world? After all, without her there the other three would have died in the earthquake and not been there to stop any of the disasters that followed, all so that Daja could live what she quickly comes to realize would have been a far less fulfilling life.
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    • In Cold Fire, exactly how much of Bennat Ladradun's interactions with Daja are deliberate manipulations, as opposed to genuinely wanting her to understand and sympathize with him? This applies especially to his offering a "guess" to the arsonist's motives that makes Daja think he's defending them.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Gudruny Iarun. She spent decades married to a physically and verbally abusive husband (who she never wanted to marry in the first place), was callously refused help by Sandry's mother twice, and finally snuck into Sandry's house and hiding in a desperate attempt to have her marriage annulled. She's described then as looking permanently worn-out and disheveled, naturally, and one would expect that suffering many years of Domestic Abuse would leave her with many emotional issues — nope. As soon as Sandry hires her as a maid, Gudruny turns into a motherly mentor with no apparent ill effects from her mistreatment, with no mention of her having ever visited a mind-healer.note 
    • She might just be a Stepford Smiler and she might have been seeing a mind healer off screen.
      • In which case there would have been no reason not to mention those things because Briar was being a Stepford Smiler (badly) and the girls were trying to get him to visit a mind-healer himself.
  • Author's Saving Throw: To a whole other series. Pierce had gotten a lot of flack for writing a romance between a 30 year old man and his teenage student in the Tortall Universe, and presenting it as nothing but good and desirable. So here she gives us Bennat's creepy obsession with Daja, showing that she fully understands how bad this kind of thing can be.
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  • Base-Breaking Character: Evvy, sort of. While she remains a popular character, fans are also getting a bit restless about her being a Spotlight-Stealing Squad and apparently the only one of the four students from the Opens series that Pierce has any interest in exploring further, to the point that she has her own first person narrated book, the only one the author has ever done.
  • Broken Base:
    • The Circle Opens has some criticism from fans due to the lack of interaction between the four Circle members that made the first series so much fun. Others argue that the characters it adds are just as interesting in their own right and the books open up the world of Emelan similar to the Tortall series.
    • Some fans really weren't happy with the serious divisions in the group from The Will of the Empress, as a large part of the series' appeal is the friendship between the four, and no matter how well justified, seeing them at odds is no fun to read about. Also, some fans take issue with Briar having gone through a major life-changing event between books that goes largely unexplained until two books later, making him harder to empathize with.
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    • After Melting Stones, many fans turned on Rosethorn for being downright emotionally abusive towards Evvy, constantly flip-flopping in what she expects the poor girl to do and telling her outright that it's her fault Meryem ran away from the evacuation when it's demonstrably not. And yet, we're supposed to be on her side through the whole thing and cheer on Evvy ending up crushed under her will.
    • There's a bit of a rift in the fanbase over whether Pierce should have written Battle Magic before the preceding two books, which take place after it. The pro side says that after four books of each main character on their own, it was important to see them all together again in the next one, and that our foreknowledge about what's going to happen in BM greatly adds to the experience. The anti side says that it's irritating to miss such a huge event in Briar and Evvy's lives at first and have no context for the way it changed their personalities, and it doesn't help that Pierce apparently changed her mind on some of the details before writing BM, making some of their recollections about it pretty nonsensical.
    • Battle Magic also has some controversy over the far more prominent role played by gods and spirits, which many fans accuse of clashing with the setting as portrayed up until then, and feeling more like something that belongs in the Tortall series. Some of them also call Unfortunate Implications on this increased exoticism being played in an analogue to southeast Asian countries.
  • Complete Monster: The Circleverse has several monsters in it, particularly in the Circle Opens" books
    • In Street Magic, Lady Zenadia seems at first to be retired and a Cool Old Lady, but is in reality an utterly bored and cruel sadist with no regard for the lives of others. Recruiting a teenaged street gang, she has them engage in deadly street wars for her amusement. Any members who displease her, she strangles and buries in her garden for good fertilizer.
    • In Magic Steps, we have Alzena and Nurhar who murder members of a rival merchant family, the Rokats, getting away with it because they have addicted a mage (by the way, a child mutilated by pirates, possessing a terrifying magical power that has ruined his life before they met him) to a Fantastic Drug so he will be utterly dependent on them. Upon attacking the family, the two make certain they kill the baby first, before killing the little girl, then their rival, then his wife in case she might be pregnant again. Alzena specifically saved Rokat until after he had seen his children die. It made it more fun.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Daja's first appearance has her covered in salt, making her white and sparkling.
  • Idiot Plot: In Melting Stones, Evvy and Rosethorn are given every single clue you could possibly want that a volcano is about to erupt, including what Evvy literally calls volcanic stones where they shouldn't be, but somehow it takes them almost half the book to figure it out, and the reveal is then written in a way to suggest the reader should be just as surprised.
  • Moe: The Japanese book covers, but mostly Tris. Incidentally, Daja seems to have turned into Katara in that last pic.
  • Moment of Awesome: Frequently and awesomely. However, Pierce always chooses to show the characters' remorse over any lives they may have taken, no matter how evil.
  • Narm:
    • The unusually hamfisted foreshadowing for Yali's death in Shatterglass, which may get you wondering why Pierce didn't also go with a flock of buzzards suddenly appearing.
    • Rosethorn's "builders and destroyers" speech in Melting Stones, an absurd piece of Black and White Morality from an author who's usually pretty good at exploring moral gray areas.
    • In Battle Magic, Briar's face is described as turning "the colour of cheese". Um, you might want to be more specific there.
    • At the end of Battle Magic it's explained that Briar, Evvy, and Rosethorn will forget everything about the gods as part of the magical protection around the area. It feels exactly like Pierce reached this point and then suddenly realized how weird it would retroactively make the previous two books for that stuff to never be mentioned, so she spent a couple minutes coming up with an explanation to throw in. And not helping is that she'd already done the exact same thing in the Tortall series' own prequel story Mastiff.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Sandry's thread magic. Goes hand in hand with her whole Heart Is an Awesome Power thing. Mess with her and she could murder you with the clothes on your back.
    • Also, her backstory. She survived the smallpox epidemic because her nurse locked her in a small room, after walking into find her parents dead bodies in their bedroom, alone, in the dark after her oil lamp ran out of oil. She manages to discover her latent magical powers, but by the time she gets out of the room, everyone in the house is dead.
    • Imagine managing to piss off the entire circle as a whole. Suddenly, you can no longer trust metal, thread, fire, plants, or even the air you breathe or the earth under your feet not to attack you.
  • The Scrappy: Lady Zenadia is one of Pierce's least popular villains, thanks to her lack of any motivation for her monstrous actions beyond some vague "rich people are evil" pandering.
  • So Okay, It's Average: The general opinion on Melting Stones, which is seen to suffer from what had by then become an extremely stock plot and characters for Tamora Pierce's writing.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • In Daja's Book, the group meets an academic mage named Yarrun Firetamer who is very resentful of famous mages like Niko. He's obnoxious and refuses to listen to Rosethorn's accurate assessment of the fire danger and dies when he's too proud to accept help when she's proved right, but he has a conversation with Daja in which he complains about how mages who see to "mundane" things like plumbing and food spoilage are scorned in favor of people with unusual or flashy specialties. Yarrun might be a pill but those things are, in fact, very important to society (see how long you let your toilet back up before you call the plumber), and "if other people can work their spells as you do and get the same results" is how scientific research in Real Life actually works. Daja dismisses it as more bitterness.
      • Oddly enough, this is something that Niko tells the four, reversing it by saying that university mages learn to do fantastic things, but nobody can live without clothes, metal, plants, or weather.
      • In her defense, her calling it bitterness came from him saying she and her friends were "fortunate" and she's remembering how each of them had their lives ruined by their magic/in the process of discovering it. Plus, the people who get famous for without reasons aren't to blame for the system anymore than the people who unfairly lack acclaim, so bitterly resenting the famous mages is pretty petty.
      • Briar's Book actually seems to acknowledge it, in a subtle way. The whole plague only comes about because a mage of far lower standing than even Yarrun could hardly afford either food or rent. As such, she reluctantly dumps some magical waste instead of paying the cost for proper disposal, accidentally releasing a magical disease on the land.
    • Briar meets with the mutabir, or head of the City Watch, during Street Magic. We're supposed to hate him, as does Briar, for acting so heartless about the problems of Chammur, and for wanting to use Evvy as a spy in Lady Zenadia's house. The thing is, everything the mutabir says is absolutely correct. For all Briar and Rosethorn may have saved one girl from poverty, there are thousands more they didn't, and no-one can save them all. If he gets rid of the current gangs, more will rise to take their places, as has always happened. He really can't pin a few murders of beggars and street orphans on one of the most powerful people in the city. And he is genuinely trying to clean up the corruption in the city; while using a child as a double agent in such a dangerous household is morally reprehensible, from his position it is the only way he can nail Zenadia for her crimes.
    • During the final battle in The Will of the Empress, Ishabal Ladyhammer taunts Sandry, Briar and Daja with "You cannot be so foolish as to think the powers of the world might allow you to pursue your own selfish desires all your days. Wake up, children. It is time to learn to live in the real world". The characters are not inclined to listen (especially as she is the one who cursed Tris and dismiss her as haughty, too cynical and ignorant of Power of Friendship, and narratively, them subsequently beating Ishabal and (temporarily) depowering her seems to prove them right, painting her as a classical This Cannot Be! villain. But ultimately her taunting is correct: no matter how powerful the Circle is, they cannot take on the whole Namorn Empire. Sandry being forced to sign over her lands, thus guaranteeing that the money from them stays in Namorn is indicative of this.
  • Tear Jerker: One at the end of Briar's Book when Rosethorn dies, and Briar follows her with all three girls providing an anchor at their own risk.
    • Tris and Keth in Shatterglass being brought before and shown Yali's corpse. Even Chime cried!
      • Followed up with the scene where Tris holds the now-orphaned Glaki as she cries, because she has no one else, and Tris remembers what that's like.
    • In The Will of the Empress, Rizu refuses to leave Namorn and come with Daja, thus breaking Daja's heart. Comparing the state Daja was left in with how happy she was with Rizu is enough to make anyone tear up.
    • The deaths of Evvy's cats in Battle Magic.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Tris' Book teases us with her getting to confront her family for abandoning her, after discovering the truth about her magic, but the story about her father being about to die was a lie. And she never does get to do it.
    • The crew of Third Ship Kisubo were Daja's immediate family, and she's the sole survivor, but other Kisubo ships with other family members exist, and relatives too old or young to go to sea are on the land. But even when her trangshi status is revoked she doesn't so much as think of contacting them.
    • Rosethorn's subplot in Battle Magic to protect the greatest treasures of the Winding Circle has a hell of a build-up, but then we hardly get to see any of it and it doesn't seem to have any impact on the battle. It mostly just comes off as a cheap excuse to have Rosethorn not be there to protect Evvy during the battle.
    • In Daja's Book, one of the important subplots concerns the protagonists' magics becoming so entangled that they've started displaying others' magics (as shown by Briar accidentally burning saffron with lightning and Sandry accidentally melting a metal thread in a jacket). By the end of the book, the four's magics have been separated, but it's explicitly stated that they still have traces' of the others' magic in them. But apart from being able to see magic (and draw heat, in Daja's case), all of them stick with the same powers they had at the start- there's no scenes where Daja has plant powers, or Tris has metal powers, or Sandry has lightning powers, or Briar has thread powers.
    • In The Will of the Empress Briar's flashbacks and partial accounts of his, Rosethorn's, and Evvy's time in Gyongxe suggest a much, much more dire experience than is actually shown in Battle Magic, which has some very dark moments but nothing that should have Briar telling Tris that if she'd been there with him the war would have gone differently.
    • During Battle Magic it's explained that what makes shamans different from other mages is that each shaman was trained from an early age to work closely with several others so they can combine their power. This sounds vaguely like what the Circle four have.
  • Unfortunate Implications: As discussed here, Heluda’s statement in Cold Fire that children who are abused will inevitably grow up to be evil really could have stood to be more challenged by the narrative.
  • Values Dissonance: In Cold Fire, the wearing of fur. Tamora Pierce herself wrote a note found at the end of the book explaining why the fur-wearing was necessary and reassuring her fans that in Real Life, she's very against the wearing of fur since we have much better ways to keep warm in modern times.
    • Tris thinking that monarchy is preferably to any other forms of leadership in Shatterglass. Granted, the only alternative she knows of is a "democracy" where only rich people have a say, bit still.
  • Villain Has a Point: Dimiter fer Holm, a noble who first attempts to force Sandry into marriage during The Will of the Empress. He is a horrible person and a sore loser, but when he points out that the great mages at the Empress' court could easily bind Sandry's magic powers, he is right. Two of them succeed at it during two separate abduction attempts, and in both cases (especially the first one) Sandry needs her friends' help to escape.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Granted, she was in the midst of her First Love and the realization of her sexuality, but Daja expecting Rizu to drop her high-status position in the court of an Empress she feels a deep personal sense of love and gratitude towards, for a person she's known for about a month, is pretty silly.
    • Okay, Jak, you want to tell Sandry how truly sorry you are for her mistreatment at the hands of your countrymen and how you so very much disagree with the abduction-marriage tradition. Drawing your sword to force your way into the house very shortly after she's just escaped from one such attempt is, perhaps, not the best gesture of good faith?
  • What Measure Is a Non-Badass?: Although Pierce goes out of her way to deconstruct the Real Women Don't Wear Dresses trope, that doesn't stop fans from believing in it. Sandry, being the "girliest" protagonist (because Textile Work Is Feminine, she loves fashion, and she's a countess), tends to get a lot of flak from the readers who don't think she's as cool as the other three despite her own numerous displays of badassery.
  • The Woobie: Many, many characters have their moments.
    • Right in the first chapter of the first book, Sandry locked in a hidden room alone after her parents die and a mob tears her nursemaid apart right outside the door, watching her lamp flame burn low and being terrified of the dark. She's there for two weeks, long enough that when a rescue party comes she thinks she's hallucinating, long enough that when she sees the light from their lamp she screams with pain. Later we find that she lay in a Heroic BSoD for weeks. For long after, she's afraid of the dark.
      • Before this, her parents travelled around so much she was never in one place long enough to make friends, and any time she tried, local nobles warned their children away from her based on her parents supposed oddity (preferring to travel rather than settle on their lands and attend court), and if she tried to make friedmds with local commoners children also never worked because they were all too suspicious of a noble child trying to befriend commoners. And even when they visited family, she had relatives of her own age, meaning she just got bored in the company of adult nobles. So Sandry pretty much had no real friends or family (emotionally distant parents) until she ended up in Winding Circle. No wonder she insists on seeing Vedris after his heart attack, he’s the only biological relative who was actually kind to her, showed affection for her, and she was actually happy to go live with after her parents died, even if he was happy for her to live and be educated at Winding Circle.
    • Also the first chapter of the first book, Daja Kisubo waking up on the ocean after her family died with the ship. She's remarkably good at holding herself together, but when she unknowingly uses her power to call over a chest with food and water she cries, and the narration baldly states that after all, she is young and doesn't want to die. Then her people cast her out because sole survivors are bad luck.
      • In Cold Fire, she has such hero worship of Ben Ladradun and refuses to think much of the mounting oddities of his situation and involvement with the fires he fights, she makes him fireproof gloves… and then near the end of the book it all comes crashing down in the most painful way as she realizes how misplaced her trust was, and that her beautiful invention, designed to help save lives, was happily used to kill more than thirty people. That entire chapter is just so painful.
    • Lark's backstory is never really laid out in whole, but she was an acrobat in her youth until she got asthma and ended up living in slums for an unknown length of time. She is very aware of the desperation of great poverty. A Noodle Incident possibly tied to that is that she knows what horse urine tastes like.
    • Sweet little Glaki in Shatterglass never had a father. Then she loses both her mother and her adopted mother all in a few weeks. Oh, and she's only five years old at this point. Poor kid.
    • Tris. She was shuffled from relative to relative, who all hated her because of her unidentified magical powers. She was mercilessly bullied by school-mates and family for years. When she went to Winding Circle she was able to find safety, but out of her adopted siblings, parents and teachers, she doesn't seem to have much luck. Apparently her every attempt at dating failed due to people making fun of her due to her looks, and practically every other mage hates her due to her incredible powers. She can't even use her magic for a traditional career, since it would involve ruining weather systems and/or killing huge numbers of people.
    • Evvy, who was sold as a slave because a mere girl took up room and food that could have gone to her brothers. She actually watched her mother sell her. Then she ended up in the middle of a war-zone, suffered heavy PTSD, and lost her oldest friends, her cats.
    • Rosethorn. Horrifically abused by her father, watched her best friend raped and killed by raiders as a teen, contracts the Blue Pox in Briar's Book and dies. Brought back to life but is severely weakened (this is especially obvious in Battle Magic), gets caught up in a war and ends up with severe PTSD. And these are only the more major things.
    • Frostpine relates part of his backstory in Daja's Book. He was born to a poor family, but a local mage could sense the magic in him and paid his parents so he could siphon it away. They lived well after that. Frostpine grew up with the sense that he was somehow incomplete, gravitating towards the forge anyway, and when the mage died when he was fifteen the magic returning to him almost killed him. When he recovered metal sang to him and his tools melted, the smith kicked him out, his life was in ruins and his parents told him they'd sold his magic for his good.

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


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