Circle of Magic Book 4: Briar’s Book

Finally I’ve reached the last book in the Circle of Magic series!! There are more books about our friends, the Circleteers, but I’m hoping they take place when the Circleteers are older and therefore ready to have ridiculous romantic drama. Once again, the main antagonist in this book is NATURE, this time in the form of an epidemic called Blue Pox which no one has ever seen before. Briar is the main character since 1) one of his street urchin friends contracted one of the first cases and 2) plant magic is ALL ABOUT finding cures for stuff since all medicine is made from plants. Most of this book is descriptions of sick people and Briar trying to help them, which was not really enjoyable since it made me vaguely queasy. I also realized for the first time that Briar’s teacher, Dedicate Rosethorn, is not an old lady, since a bunch of people remark upon her beauty and call her “young lady”. This discovery makes me wonder how old she really is, and whether or not this heralds a Daine/Numairesque relationship between them. The truth is anyone’s guess, since I also suspect that Dedicates Rosethorn and Lark are already in a secret relationship with each other.

The problem with these books is that all the characters love each other so much it’s impossible to tell if there’s supposed to be subtext or just “EVERYONE IS BFF WITH EVERYONE ELSE.” That is, except Dedicate Crane, Rosethorn’s chief rival and the guy in charge of finding a cure. He’s totally devoted to his work, but also totally grumpy and annoyed with every other character. Much like Tris, towards whom he is relatively cordial. Needless to say, Crane is my new second favorite character, and I secretly hope he and Tris get together later, leaving Winding Circle and its insufferably self-righteous spirit forever.

The other funny part of this book is how much of the plot is furthered by the simple truth that the Water Temple and its dedicates are apparently way stupid. Other books have included people remarking in passing about how everyone in Water Temple is an airhead and causes extra work, but in this book pretty much everything that goes wrong does so because someone at the Water Temple screwed up. There’s only one Water Temple dedicate portrayed as competent, but then she uses too much of her healing power and dies.

Briar’s Book by Tamora Pierce

The Play-by-Play

Chapter one
Briar and Rosethorn are going to the slums! Rosethorn is going to give medicines to the free clinic and Briar is going to hang with his streetrat friends! Alleypup leads Briar into the sewers where his friend Flick is totally sick with blue spots.

Chapter two
Sandry’s appraisal of Tris: still fat and a bitch, but at least now she’s wearing nice clothes. Rosethorn, Briar, and Flick all go into quarantine because blue spots are an unknown illness! Usually during an epidemic, Rosethorn and her chief rival Crane work together to find a cure, but now she’s in quarantine!

Chapter three
Of course the stupid Water Temple is low on metal sample boxes so Daja and Frostpine go into box-making frenzy. Also, they’re low on magical gauze masks and gloves, so Lark and Sandry weave up a storm.

Chapter four
A few more people are brought to quarantine! Plus, Henna, the one competent person from the Water Temple, comes to help Rosethorn and Briar nurse. Lots more sick people are being found, mostly in the slums. Henna explains to Briar that if he’s not a healer he can’t use his powers to heal. All of the free clinic is now in quarantine since there are so many sick people!

Chapter five
Niko asks Tris to make the rain stop, because apparently WATER is spreading the disease! Tris points out that he has spent the last three books telling her not to mess with nature, but he pretends that this time is totally, totally different. She uses her Dopler 90000 powers to tell him that there is a 100% chance of rain for the rest of the book and there’s nothing she can do. Also, the Blue Pox has spread outside the slums!

Chapter six
Apparently someone who used to work at the free clinic sold all the useful medicine, so Rosethorn and Briar have to use their plant magic to make the remaining medicine not-expired! The whole city is contaminated, but Briar still can’t go home because there’s no sickness in the temple complex yet.

Chapter seven
Frostpine and Daja find time to help Frostpine’s apprentice find love. Rosethorn puts a thumbprint on Briar’s forehead that stays red, which means that he isn’t carrying the disease, and they can go home! Flick has conveniently died during the night, so he doesn’t even feel guilty. Everyone is super happy to see them and acts like everything is going to be fine even though the book is only half over.

Chapter eight
I swear Tris and Dedicate Crane are flirting in a improbable romantic comedy hate-turns-to-love kind of way! Crane has come to ask Rosethorn to get her butt into his greenhouse workshop to help him find a cure. He has to tell her how awesome she is before she will agree, which I totally get since I make people go through the same thing before I do them favors. Briar gets to work in the greenhouse too! All the assistants make bets about how long each other will last since Crane tells people to leave for reasons like “dropped something” and “don’t like his face”. Crane is my favorite character, hands down.

Chapter nine
Some Water Temple lady is supposed to be taking notes for Crane, but of course they are all out of order and terrible. Briar thinks he’s sees a glimmer of magic in the samples of the pure disease, but isn’t sure. Apparently no one else can see magic except him, Tris, and Niko, so when Crane finally gets fed up with his secretary’s inability to spell, Briar suggests Tris as replacement. Tris is the best secretary ever because she actually thinks about what Crane is telling her, and reminds him when he’s trying something he already tried before etc. Tris, of course, sees the magic just like Briar, but unlike Briar does not mind telling Crane the sitch because she is awesome.

Chapter ten
Niko wants Tris to come into the city with them so they can do their “past seeing” spell and figure out how the magical disease got started. Crane refuses to let her go because Tris is the best secretary ever. Tris is super nonchalant about how older men are vying for her attentions. Finally, Niko wins, which sucks because it means a gross field trip into the sewers. They end up in an apartment with a mage corpse. They look into the past and see the mage doing failed experiments with bacon, then throwing them into the sewer instead of disposing of them the right way! Also, some Water Temple dope spills some Blue Pox serum on Rosethorn! But her magical thumbprint is still red so it’s okay?

Chapter eleven
Apparently that mage was trying to invent a weight loss potion! Then it morphed in the sewers and created the blue pox! Oh noes Rosethorn’s thumbprint turns white!!! Sickness!!!!! Lark takes her back to the cottage to nurse her.

Chapter twelve
Everyone works extra hard because Rosethorn is sick! They are on their way to success, but Rosethorn makes Daja promise to look after Briar when she’s gone. This quote is kind of great:

Daja was a Trader: they held it was mad to argue when the sick thought that Death approached. Denials only told Death here was someone who would be missed, Death’s favorite kind of victim

Crane finally finds a cure and gives it to Rosethorn!!!

Chapter thirteen
There’s still work to do since the cure doesn’t work for all ages. Rosethorn’s cough hasn’t gone away! Lark goes to find a healer that isn’t totally tired to deal with Rosethorn’s pneumonia, telling the Circleteers that if Rosethorn goes, they shouldn’t try to use magic to save her since it is completely impossible. Of course, that is exactly what happens. Everyone is freaking out that they brought Rosethorn back from the dead, and then decide never to speak of it again. The end!!

Book 1: Sandry’s Book
Book 2: Tris’s Book
Book 3: Daja’s Book

Next up: Circleteers second series, The Circle Opens! Book One, Magic Steps

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