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Circle of Magic #4

Briar's Book

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There is an alternate cover edition of this book here.

Former "street rat" Briar leads a comfortable life at Winding Circle Temple, learning plant magic from Rosethorn. But street kids are still his friends, and when one of them gets sick, she turns to Briar for help. When her disease proves beyond even Rosethorn's power, Briar realizes that all of Summersea is in danger.

As the mysterious illness spreads, Sandry, Daja, and Tris join Briar and their teachers to fight the epidemic. But just as the situation improves, the unthinkable happens. Will Briar be able to save what he loves most?

258 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published April 1, 1999

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About the author

Tamora Pierce

91 books83.1k followers
Hey, folks! I just discovered that apparently I have given some very popular books single-star ratings--except I haven't. How do I know I haven't? Because I haven't read those books at all. So before you go getting all hacked off at me for trashing your favorites, know that I've written GoodReads to find out what's going on.

I return to my regularly scheduled profile:
Though I would love to join groups, I'm going to turn them all down. I just don't have the time to take part, so please don't be offended if I don't join your group or accept an invitation. I'm not snooty--I'm just up to my eyeballs in work and appearances!

Also, don't be alarmed by the number of books I've read. When I get bored, I go through the different lists and rediscover books I've read in the past. It's a very evil way to use up time when I should be doing other things. Obviously, I've read a lot of books in 54 years!

I was born in South Connellsville, PA. My mother wanted to name me "Tamara" but the nurse who filled out my birth certificate misspelled it as "Tamora". When I was 8 my family moved to California, where we lived for 6 years on both sides of the San Francisco peninsula.

I started writing stories in 6th grade. My interest in fantasy and science fiction began when I was introduced to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J. R. R. Tolkien and so I started to write the kind of books that I was reading. After my parents divorced, my mother took my sisters and me back to Pennsylvania in 1969. There I went to Albert Gallatin Senior High for 2 years and Uniontown Area Senior High School for my senior year.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, I wrote the book that became The Song of the Lioness fantasy quartet. I sold some articles and 2 short stories and wrote reviews for a martial arts movie magazine. At last the first book of the quartet, Alanna: The First Adventure was published by Atheneum Books in 1983.

Tim Liebe, who became my Spouse-Creature, and I lived in New York City with assorted cats and two parakeets from 1982 - 2006. In 2006 we moved to Syracuse, New York, where we live now with assorted cats, a number of squirrels, birds, raccoons, skunks, opossums, and woodchucks visiting our very small yard. As of 2011, I have 27 novels in print, one short story collection, one comic book arc ("White Tiger: A Hero's Compulsion") co-written with Tim, and a short story anthology co-editing credit. There's more to come, including a companion book to the Tortall `verse. So stay tuned!

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 579 reviews
Profile Image for Meagan.
192 reviews6 followers
August 17, 2020
A plague hits different in 2020.

I've never felt closer to understanding Briar and Rosethorn's quarantine life than I have in this re-read.
Profile Image for Rasmus Skovdal.
156 reviews22 followers
February 12, 2014
This review is for the first four books, ’Circle of Magic.’

An overall four stars, with the individual ratings as follows:

Sandry’s Book: 4

Tris’s Book: 4

Daja’s Book: 3

Briar’s Book: 4

This is, shortly, an excellent YA/children’s series. The books are short, but never feel rushed. They are simple, but never simplistic. Each book has a strong moral core, and they each contain messages, but this is never pushed (at least not strongly) on the reader. They are essentially very good examples of how to speak to children – honestly, and without condescension.

The books, perhaps especially the fourth one, do not shy away from dealing with unpleasant or serious topics, but rarely linger on them for the sake of drama. Things happen mostly in the open, but there are little hints of things (relationships, events) hovering at the edges.

The primary characters are mostly likeable - or not, when required. There are out-and-out villains, but certain adversaries are shown to be more complex, or at least shown to be human.

The books are, for lack of a better term, predictable – but not in a negative sense. You’ll see where things are going. You are given the information to figure it out, and those things then play out mostly as expected, but the pacing is good and the characters are good company, so rather than a chore it becomes a very pleasant experience to watch events unfold.

I liked the fourth one best, slightly ahead of one and two (the fourth book being basically The Andromeda Strain - with wizards!), mostly because Briar is a somewhat more interesting character, even if he is perhaps also the most familiar character to fantasy readers. I suspect that all readers will have a favourite of their own from the core group, for various reasons. Of course, we all know that overall, Frostpine is totally the best, right?

The ‘Circle of Magic’ proved to be a very charming experience, so here’s hoping that the next four will be equally enjoyable.
Profile Image for Beth.
1,138 reviews110 followers
September 27, 2021
September 2021:
“…You know why I hate plagues?”

The girl hesitated, confused by the abrupt change of subject. That was the fever, she realized. It made Rosethorn’s mind skip about. “Why?” Daja asked.

“Most disasters are fast, and big. You can see everyone else’s life got overturned when yours did. Houses are smashed, livestock’s dead. But plagues isolate people. They shut themselves inside while disease takes a life at a time, day after day. It adds up. Whole cities break under the load of what was lost. People stop trusting each other, because you don’t know who’s sick.”
This entire book is a more difficult reread than I expected… but this part really hit hard.

December 2015: I forgot how good this is. It is. Really. Particularly the parts where they're all working in Crane's workroom. The idea that you still need to research magic, and that diseases have to be distilled down to keys which then can be combined multiple ways for a cure - it's interesting and smart and cool to read about.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,600 reviews1,669 followers
July 30, 2015
Briar's Book is the final book in Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic quartet, which of course is ending just as I'm getting used to the format Pierce wrote them in. Naturally, it focuses on Briar, the former thief and street rat, now plant-mage of Winding Circle Temple. He and the three girls are now a year older than they were in the first book, but still quite young. They've adjusted to their new lives and are learning in heaps and loads. For Briar, a large part of this book involves him interacting with bits and pieces of his old life and coming to terms with what it means for him now that heidentifies so strongly with groups of people he used to feel so far above him when he was living on the streets.

That's the underlying stuff, though. The main plot involves an outbreak of a mysterious new disease that has turned into an epidemic in the Summersea area. The first victim is Briar's street friend Flick, which is how he and Rosethorn end up in quarantine when they should be helping to find a cure.

As always, Pierce stealthily uses her plots to examine not only characters and the ways they see the world, but to lay out a world where people interact in complex ways and power dynamics. This wasn't as big of a focus as in previous books, though, because it's Briar's book (doi) and the main thing he has grown to care about, even over his three magically entwined friends, is his relationship with his teacher, Rosethorn, whom he sees as a surrogate mother. Their interactions and his feelings about her are the heart of this book.

Overall, I've really enjoyed this series, but I will be excited to move on in the Emelan world to a time when these characters are a bit older and their stories will be suitably more complex.
Profile Image for Kaylee.
253 reviews5 followers
May 28, 2020
Briar's Book was great for helping my kids process what's going on because of the corona virus. It's set in a magical fantasy world during an epidemic. After an hour or two of listening, my eight-year-old and my ten-year-old both independently remarked about how similar the story in the book was to what was happening right now, since we've been in quarantine for a few months. I asked them if they wanted to keep listening, or if it was too much. Both were enthusiastic about continuing. One kid said: "Briar is brave, and that helps me to be brave too."

Tamora Pierce did her research for this book, and it shows particularly well now that we've got modern experience to compare it to. Things in this book that really resonate: shortage of masks and gowns, the necessity of high quality masks for people on the front line, shortage of test kit supplies, poverty and preexisting conditions being risk factors, quarantine being boring, the hard and exhausting work being done by nurses and doctors, burnout, the careful and complicated work required to find a cure, it's okay that scientists argue with each other, some people being overworked while others don't have much to do, the fear of losing loved ones. There was a line in the book about being grateful the fictional disease wasn't transmitted by air. That hit home.

I loved that this story was simple enough for my kids to understand, but still engaging. It tackled some big concepts. While this book was helpful for my kids, I think the ending could be pretty intense for kids who have lost someone close to them because of the corona virus.

This is book four of a series (which is how we stumbled upon it), but it can be read as a stand-alone book.
910 reviews256 followers
December 22, 2019
Again, the Full Cast Audio team have made an outstanding production. This was never my favourite of the first four stories - the focus on illness as a story-telling device is commendable, but always made me just that little bit too sad, and I prefer these stories when the relationship between the four young mages is explored. This barely happened here - the three girls feel like background characters the entire time, and I wish that wasn't so.

Still - Rosethorn! Lark!
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,418 reviews537 followers
April 30, 2012
Briar escaped life as a homeless young thief when his magic was discovered. Since then, he has renamed himself and, to a certain extent, reinvented himself. He realizes how much he's changed in skills, outlook and assumptions (like trusting authorities, or actually *wanting* to be clean) when one of his street-rat friends falls ill. And as the illness spreads, and plague envelops the city, Briar is forced to come to terms with his new destiny.

This book is basically everything I have ever wanted in fiction. Outbreak investigation AND structural inequalities of health AND magic? It is like Tamora Pierce wrote this book just for me. So I can't pretend to be even partially objective or trustworthy about this novel, except to say that I am so, so thankful that someone is actually writing this kind of story in a fantasy setting. The plot involves garbage collection, waste disposal, differential health care access, medical resources rationing--all the dirty, earthy, banal things that get ignored in traditional sf/f (and, to be fair, most fiction regardless of genre). But it's not without wonder, either; Pierce describes magic in a way that thrills me to my core. You might not assume that plant magic could be written in a way that makes your heart beat faster, but Pierce can do it. The characters in this series have grown far richer since their unsubtle introductions. (And astonishingly, Pierce accomplishes this without making them all assholes, or giving them increasingly unlikely traumatic pasts. Take note, modern grimdark fantasy novelists--it can be done!)

I love that Pierce chose to step outside the easy plots of human antagonists. It opened her plots up to include all sorts of events most authors never get to grapple with, like natural disasters and resource admininstration. In this world, even magic isn't limitless, and magicians need to be wise in their use of it. And they can't do everything--the best way to weave is still to do it by hand, and not all fires can be stopped. That was another aspect of this series that I loved: the acknowledgment that not everything can be fully understood or controlled. Even the most powerful wizard in Pierce's world can't stop the tides, and even if she could, it would lead to even greater disasters. Trying to control too much is actually a serious flaw, which is a fantastically novel viewpoint to find in a sf/f story. I think I'm starting to babble here, but I really just loved everything about this series. It's written for a younger audience, so the writing isn't that sophisticated (except for the descriptions of magic use, which are seriously the most enthralling things ever), but the ideas are. I can't think of another fantasy series that looks at classism, the limitations of a humanist worldview, and the necessity of hard work--all in the midst of a truly entertaining adventure.

Apparently the next series, The Circle Opens, is even better. omg how can this beeee?
Profile Image for Jace.
8 reviews2 followers
July 9, 2008
This is probably my favourite of all of Pierce's fine books for young adults. It's touching, heart-wrenching (yes, Rosethorn is my favourite character) and pretty darn meaningful. I've always loved the books that take place in this world more than those from Tortall because this world had (has) so much more room for innovations beyond the safe formula of your standard fantasy novel. And the series does live up to expectations - it develops and fleshes out these four young people in four eventful novels, and portrays their ever changing and growing relationships in a realistic and pretty heart-warming way. But it doesn't end there. Pierce strays from the traditional safe approach, as I mentioned earlier, by exploring themes not normally seen in YA fantasy novels. Racism (Daja). Classism (Briar, Tris). Ageism. And the most shocking and endeared? Homophobia. I won't spoil The Will of the Empress for anyone who hasn't read it, but it's been implied and confirmed that Rosethorn and Lark, bless their fictional hearts, are lovers. And there is absolutely no drama concerning them. And I love that. The end.

In other words? Pick up this book, the rest of the series, the sequel quartet and then the rest of Pierce's books.

...I'm just waiting for her to realize than transphobia is as real an issue as any of the others she's explored. (But for that, check of Lynn Flewelling's books.)
Profile Image for Fuchsia Rascal.
129 reviews17 followers
April 23, 2012
What a great finish to this series! Instead of having a human enemy to fight against, our young mages have to deal with a plague that's spreading rapidly through Summersea. For most of the book, Briar and Rosethorn are separated from the rest of their housemates, nursing the sick in quarantine because they were exposed to the disease. It's a huge change from the previous books, where the four young mages and their teachers were always together. I love how they work together, but separating them was a surprisingly refreshing change. Due to quarantine, we see much different aspects of Rosethorn and Briar's characters than we're used to. As the book [and the disease] progresses, we see more and more of Rosethorn's layered personality, and I love it.

Having a disease just be a disease, not something that was created by a malicious mage trying to wipe out a certain population for nefarious gains, is something that is rarely done in fantasy novels. It's not just a matter of tracking down the mage and stopping the spell. This was a true disease that needed a medical cure. It required long, hard hours of studying the disease and a scientific approach towards finding a cure. It was a joy to read something so true to life in a fantasy novel while still, of course, retaining its fantasy aspects.
Profile Image for Abi (The Knights Who Say Book).
624 reviews94 followers
August 22, 2020
2020 Review: You'd think reading this book during a pandemic would strike too close to home, but honestly... what struck me about the book is how much faster theirs is. They find one case of the disease and immediately begin isolating and preparing (a huge burn on the American government, btw). Briar and Rosethorn are in quarantine for 2 weeks, at the end of which time a test to see if someone has the disease has been devised. They return home and start helping with the experiments to find a cure. That takes... a few weeks? And then they have the cure and it begins to be mass-produced. You know it's fantasy and that it's paced this way to make for a good story, not to be realistic, but damn if it isn't depressing.

Anyway. Now that I've read the Circle Opens series, I find it interesting how this book sort of leads up to the kids separating and having individual adventures next time, even though it has this nice ending that emphasizes their bond. We started Circle of Magic with Sandry's Book, which is very much about all four of them. Tris's Book and Daja's book each have a focus on their title character, but have big roles for all the kids. And then Briar's Book is almost entirely Briar. Scenes with just the other kids are pretty brief. It makes sense that from here, we move on to books that are just about one of them.

Finally, Briar's love and admiration for Rosethorn is still my entire world.

2018 Review: So, a quick applause for me finally reading this whole series? Thanks I'm proud too.

Anyway as you can see from the rating, I think this book was my favorite of the series (although that may just come from the sappiness of that ending. I definitely got emotional over them looking back of their year together of becoming mages and a family. But the whole book was very good!)

First of all, Briar's love and admiration for Rosethorn, come on. It's the cutest thing, he has so much respect for her and underneath all her prickliness she loves him too and no offense but I'm crying about it.

There was less of all the kids together since Briar was the very clear focus of the book (I know each kid has their own book, but not all of them have so tight a focus on that one kid as this one does), which was a shame, but we still got some good high quality Circle Time at the end so I was satisfied.

Also, the development of Crane from "that grumpy mean old man we don't like" to "the same grumpy mean old man but we sort of like him now" was truly great. It was reminiscent of what Tamora Pierce did with Yarrun in Daja's Book, which was taking what might be a very cliché minor enemy character in any other book and making him a little more sympathetic and understandable. Also I'm all about the way Crane was forced to acknowledge how smart Tris is because that's my girl!!

But back to Briar I guess because it's his book? Says so in the title? I love how even though so much plot has passed between this book and the beginning, Tamora Pierce wasn't afraid of tacking all of Briar's development throughout the series in this one book. We see how his childhood on the streets affected him and how he has been struggling with whether he is Briar or Roach this entire time. Tris is still My Girl but Briar's great too.

Soooooo... I guess now I go figure out the spin off series?

(My reviews of Sandry's Book, Tris's Book, and Daja's Book.)
Profile Image for laurel [the suspected bibliophile].
1,370 reviews376 followers
November 6, 2018
3.5 stars

I think the key to reading the Circle of Magic and Circle Opens books has got to be audiobooks.

I slogged through the first three in Circle of Magic. They are good, but just missing some of the magic in Pierce's Tortall series (minus Tempests and Slaughter, which was detail-filled but um, lacking in plot or point).

But the audiobooks are done in with a full cast and music, which I normally don't like but this was very well done.

I was swept into all of the emotions of the epidemic, the panic and fear and boredom and pain of waiting and watching your friends get sick and powerless to stop it, and I enjoyed Briar's continuing understanding of his magical gift. And his relationship with his prickly mentor, Rosethorn.

Plus, I love Lark and Rosethorn's relationship. They are 100%, totally gay (although it is never explicitly remarked upon, there are so many very heavy hints) and I love it.
Profile Image for Andy.
2,360 reviews185 followers
September 1, 2018
I feel like I really got to know Rosethorn in this book. I've been her fan since 75% through book 1, but I loved the interactions she had with the kids and seeing more of her magic in a real life situation so to speak. The funniest part of this book was when Crane tells the kids their masters are great mages and their reaction is

I think the kids have definitely grown a lot since book 1, even if they are still immature at times. I mean they're like 14 max at this point. I liked that Briar picked his birthday by the end of this. Definitely will check out the continuation series of this at some point.

Profile Image for hedgehog.
216 reviews32 followers
May 27, 2021
I had to listen to this veeeeeeryyyy sloooooowly because the plot is about an epidemic of a new disease that hits Summersea, and boy if that doesn't hit different in 2020/21... but this book has it all: plague! The importance of hygiene! Contract tracing! PPE shortages! Caretaker burnout and survivor's guilt! Discussions about infrastructure, how economic differences contribute to health, class consciousness, (magical...) laboratory safety and biohazard disposal, oh, and this is a fantasy series, so you know, just a good ol' fashioned jaunt into the afterlife, nbd. These four books sort of meander but this last entry in the quartet takes everything that came before and dials it up to eleven, and I love it. It's so good. I dunno, man, how many fantasy books are there where the plot hinges around "welp, if we only followed magical OSHA guidelines I guess this shit wouldn't have happened"? Glorious.

(Okay, probably a lot. What is the Lord of the Rings trilogy except a failure to properly dispose of hazardous waste and then dealing with the fallout....)

Audiobook: Except for Daja, all the other kids were recast (due to aging out/moving away, I gather). After spending 3 books with the same voice actors, I thought listening to a new cast would be more of an adjustment, but they did a great job matching the previous voices. Briar was a little bit hard to listen to because he spoke at 0.5x speed and over-enunciated, which didn't fit the character, but I eventually adjusted and didn't hate it overall.

Ranking: From favorite to least favorite, I'd rank the books as #1, #4, and then #2 and #3 are tied. But it's like picking a favorite child, don't make me do it really.

They ran out of money after recording the second book in the Circle Opens quartet and I don't have the same nostalgic fondness for any of the sequels, so I think this is where my reread/audiobook journey ends. OTOH I've never read Battle Magic in print form, and that is available on audiobook, albeit with a single narrator, so... idk, watch this space.
Profile Image for Brittany (Britt's Book Blurbs).
609 reviews138 followers
January 19, 2022
My favourite character and favourite book in the Circle of Magic series, Briar's Book is definitely a standout. It seems as if the four young protagonists have settled into life in Winding Circle. They each study their own disciplines, have their own interests and hobbies, and are still connected through their magic and shared experience. Less than one year since they all moved into Discipline, they've come to see it as home and are ready to protect it from anyone or anything that may try to take their new sense of family and safety away.

Briar's Book almost feels like an instalment from a different series, it's so different from the first three books. It feels more mature and serious. I know we've been working towards this the whole series but after Daja's Book , this was a flying leap forward. It's also been the most interesting premise so far and I couldn't put it down. It was like a roller coaster of fear, worry, and relief. For less than 300 pages, it covered a lot of ground without feeling shallow or rushed.

I really don't want to give anything away, because the story is too good to spoil any of it, but the ending is heartbreaking and sweet and perfect. Briar will always be my favourite because of his loyalty and his sense of right and wrong. He drives this story with his persistence to do the right thing and take care of the people he loves. I'm so used to the Tortall universe and how magic and healing works there, and even their mythology and gods. I really appreciated this entirely different approach in the Emelan universe, especially towards disease and healing and cures.

Other books in the Circle of Magic series:
#1: Sandry’s Book ⭐⭐⭐
#2: Tris’s Book ⭐⭐⭐
#3: Daja’s Book ⭐⭐⭐

Other books in the Emelan Universe:
#1: Sandry’s Book ⭐⭐⭐
#2: Tris’s Book ⭐⭐⭐
#3: Daja’s Book ⭐⭐⭐
#5: Magic Steps ⭐⭐
#6: Street Magic ⭐⭐⭐
#7 Cold Fire ⭐⭐
#8: Shatterglass ⭐⭐⭐⭐
#9: The Will of the Empress ⭐⭐⭐⭐
#10: Melting Stones ⭐⭐
#11: Battle Magic ⭐⭐⭐
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Profile Image for Katie.
739 reviews
July 20, 2020
When I was reading these books for the first time, this was my least favorite of the quartet. As I'm revisiting them I was actually a lot more invested than I remember. Briar's story is definitely very emotional. It focuses on the strength of the relationships that he's built, and the risks that he's willing to take in order to protect them.
Profile Image for Natalie.
797 reviews48 followers
September 4, 2018
I think of the four in the Circle of Magic quartet, this novel definitely hit me the hardest of the lot - but in the best way.

In this novel, a sudden epidemic of the "blue pox" is discovered when Briar and Rosethorn go to assist with what is essentially a "free health clinic" in the Mire (slums), and Briar finds that one of his friends has come down with a mysterious illness. After informing Rosethorn of this, they do their best to keep the illness contained before it can turn into an epidemic but unfortunately have zero luck and soon the entire city is under threat from the plague.

I felt for Briar SO MUCH in this book and I was pretty close to actual tears a few time, both when and when . I absolutely loved every moment of this (despite MY HEART, DAMMIT) and thought it was a brilliant ending to the Circle of Magic quartet.

...but I need more :|

Good thing there's a sequel quartet to this one ;D
Profile Image for Kathy Davie.
4,656 reviews702 followers
March 3, 2015
Fourth in the Circle of Magic fantasy series for young middle-grade readers and revolving around four very supportive friends. It's also fourth in the overall Emelan series.

Visit KD Did It Takes on Books for a chronological listing of the books in the Circle of Magic series.

My Take
It's a fun combination of magic, science, and medicine. Pierce has blended this so well, that it feels perfectly normal.

I like how Pierce uses the concept of birthdays to provide this back history about Briar, the former Roach, a street rat who got lucky.

Pierce dribbles out more back history. It comes out that Lark knows what it's like to be so poor you can't afford food and shelter at the same time. There's a brief description of the struggle involved in finding a way to more safely test possible cures, and the names of the dedicates who gave up their lives in this battle.

Aww, poor Tris is having to give up being mean to people. Niko says she's making enemies. It's probably her biggest challenge, lol. Nor do the challenges stop with Tris as Briar has to examine his own dichotomy, his life before and the one he has now. To learn who he is. And he has to work with Crane in his private workshop! The man hates Briar for stealing his shakkan.

It is a good opportunity for Briar and Tris to learn more about Crane as a scientist and as a man.

One lesson for the kids is learned when they track the source of the plague, and the spell shows them how careless the mage was. Another is why people need to rest even when the need to work is so great.

This installment, Pierce specifically states that Rosethorn, Lark, Frostpine, and Crane are great mages. We also learn more about the start of Rosethorn and Crane's self-involved game of competition that began their enmity. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum!

The Story
Briar has been helping Rosethorn deliver medications to Urda's House, a place of healing, and with the free time Rosethorn leaves him, he's made a friend. One who's in trouble and presages a disaster in the making.

It'll take the talents of all four to help all of Emelan get through this.

The Characters
Winding Circle temple is…
…renowned for its learning and magic.

The magic of these four became entwined in Sandry's Circle , 1, and it's been a very useful — and lifesaving — sharing of abilities.

Briar Moss is passionate about his ability with plants, and he's about to learn how much more is involved with them. Lady Sandrilene "Sandry" fa Toren is the young mage who wove the four of them together. It makes sense since she does have an affinity for weaving and spinning. Trisana "Tris" Chandler is a mage with an ability for weather. Daja Kisubo has a gift for fire and has apprenticed with a fire mage, Frostpine. Little Bear is their dog.

Rosethorn (her pre-Temple name was Niva) is a plant-mage while Lark is a thread-mage, and both live together in Discipline Cottage where our four young mages live. Rosethorn is instructing Briar in gardening and herbal remedies. Niklaren "Niko" Goldeye is a famous and important mage who is instructing the four. Dedicate Frostpine of the Fire Temple is a master smith-mage and Daja is his apprentice. Dedicate Gorse is the chief cook. Superior Dedicate Moonstream is their leader. Dedicate Sealwort is in a great deal of trouble.

Dedicate Crane (his pre-Temple name was Isis) is Rosethorn's rival and the head of the Air Temple. Osprey is Crane's apprentice. Peachleaf, the best midwife in Winding Circle, is the quaking dedicate who takes notes as Crane works. Dedicate Acacia. Dedicate Cloudgold is a librarian coopted into helping in the lab.

Duke Vedris IV is the ruler of Emelan and Sandry's great-uncle. Flick is a street rat and a thief here in Summersea. Alleypup is part of her gang. North Mire, a slum area, is where the first victims are found. Eilisa Pearldrop was an irresponsible mage seeking a quick cure.

Urda's House
Jokubas Atwater runs the House. Dedicate Henna is from the Water Temple and well-known for her nursing skills.

New patients are Yuvosh and the uncooperative Orji.

The Cover and Title
The cover is blocks of color surrounding a round inset with a delicate scalloped border of interlocking green half circle outlines and a rosette where every other hoop intersects. The central image is of Briar stepping up from the sewer with a light in his hand, finding Flick lying ill in the cavern the street rats created as a haven.

The title is where the focus is and Briar's Book is his story.
Profile Image for Natalie Fry.
74 reviews
March 20, 2021
Really surreal experience reading about the breakout of an epidemic this deep into Covid. I loved that this kids book really explicitly addressed poverty in a nuanced way, though it was heartbreaking when Flick died and I wish some of those characters from the Mire could have been included in the main story/group rather than just being a part of Briar's past. I also thought it was neat as an SLP that Rosethorn had aphasia in the end. Sweet how this series has always been about a group of people caring for each other and the magic that results from that.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sophie.
440 reviews159 followers
April 25, 2017
Now that's what I'm talking about. This is the best of the first four Circle books, I think. Briar is the best, and the plot is juicy and suspenseful, and it's all held up by the strong emotional core of Briar's relationships with those around him. I love that these books are all about friendship.
Profile Image for Kimikimi.
426 reviews7 followers
December 9, 2015
This is the last book in this quartet and it's suppoded to feel like the end (although she did end up writing more about them later). This last book deals with Briar and a magical plaugue. I think one of the main themes in this is finaly opening up to people after being hurt for so long, and how to someone jaded that might seem like a stupid thing to do but it's actually nessecary. So I guess this book is about growing up (of course) and about choosing who you want to be as an adult.

I'm not as certain what Briar brings to the quartet as I am for the others. He's certainly got street smarts, but I'm not sure what he has that they need. I think Briar might be stability, because he changes but always stays himself. He's also a boy when the others aren't but I know there's more to it then that so I'll have to think on it.

So this book brings the danger right home to roost for the four protagonists. In fact because of his connections with the street kids of the city Briar is the first to find and report a victim of this plague. That first victim is his friend and he spends most of the book caring for one person after another as the entire city slowly succums to the disease. Briar's book feels the most personal because his enemy is something he can't see or fight, but that kills people he's close to. Briar isn't one for feeling helpless, and so for most of this book he's forced into a kind of numb idleness of working on something that doesn't really help solve the problem but is also vitally necessary. In the end it's the four's unwillingness to give up that saves the day and ends the series on a great note.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Marina.
909 reviews167 followers
January 20, 2015
Gosh darn it this pulled on my heart-strings and I think I spent the later half of it in tears.

I think overall this series is great, but I would have liked there to be a little more character development. While each of the leading characters of the book did face a personal struggle that they overcome, it didn't necessarily make them a better person. Granted the entire series takes place over just one year and these kids have faced an earthquake, pirate attack/battle, forest fires, and a freaken plague. The last book, while emotional and has a satisfactory ending, doesn't really tie the series together. It's very open ended.

But I do love the series. I love the characters and how original the setting is, while I think Tamora's Tortall books have more interesting plotlines, Emelan definitely wins the setting and diversity trophies.

Greatly recommend to anyone who loves Pierce's Tortall book.

Just keep in mind that these are written for younger teens.
Profile Image for Liza.
38 reviews2 followers
September 18, 2012
Every book in this series became less and less exciting as I became a master of predicting what-will-happen-next. How can I predict the plot? Easy, because it's the same plot in every book. The only thing that changes is the central character whose name appears on the cover. So reading all four in a row was like eating four pints of ice cream in different flavors. By the time you get to the last pint you want to barf no matter how much you like ice cream. That being said I've decided I'm not going to finish it and consider it read. Anyways, I'm trying to watch my figure.
Profile Image for Ai Miller.
576 reviews35 followers
September 29, 2020
FOLKS. THIS BOOK. NOT GREAT TO READ IN A PANDEMIC. But also it feels like everything comes so full circle (lol) here in such amazing and powerful ways. I just love these characters so much and every book it has felt like the stakes get a little bit higher and a little bit higher. Some of it was predictable to some extent but I don't think that predictability hurt the book in any way--if anything, it made the tension of it all greater.

I can't wait to read the next series, but this was such an amazing end that deeply highlighted the growth of all the characters, loved it so much.
Profile Image for Dalen.
459 reviews4 followers
March 31, 2021
I thought this book brought a very nice conclusion to this series, covering roughly a year's worth of time in-universe in the span of four books. The themes in this book really resonate, the isolation and panic of a pandemic, the micro-focus on individual humans in the face of suffering, the pragmatic choices that have to be made, and the bond of community shared by the main cast of characters. Briar's struggle with his past resonated with me more than the other three characters, and his care for Flick was a powerful message.
Profile Image for Emma.
61 reviews2 followers
April 11, 2018
The series became dull by this book...which was sad because I was hoping for more out of Briars book...more of his backstory and his friends...mostly the book is about an epidemic that hits the area around the Circle...so I’m not absolutely thrilled with the storyline...but it had some moments between the teachers and students that are important for the series plot line...
I think that I will try to read the next portion of this series...we will see how that goes.
Profile Image for Ashley (Tiny Navajo Reads).
620 reviews15 followers
January 20, 2022
Rereading this coming into our nearly third year of COVID-19 pandemic, it hits a bit differently to know there is a pandemic in this book as well. The magic and world works quickly to solve the plague in order to not only save those who were afflicted, but Rosethorn as well. And what Briar wouldn’t do to save his beloved teacher?
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