The Circle Opens Book 2: Street Magic

This book had lots of things going for it! One, it’s about Briar! He is my second favorite Circleteer! I realized last night that I pretty much like them in order of bitchiness because it seems more realistic to me. Like the first book in this new, more badass Circleteer series, it also has actual bad guys! A lot of them! And, like Sandry, Briar finds a young kid with strange magic and is forced by the “He who smelt it dealt it” law of mage-finding to be her teacher! Also, Briar gets back to his street rat roots with some gang warfare! Exciting!

The cover on the left makes Briar really look like a creeper

Briar and his teacher Rosethorn are traveling to the far off land of Yanjing, which seems to be fantasy-medieval Japan if their penchant for Bonsai trees is any indication. On the way they stop in the dusty, ancient city of Chammur, somewhere in fantasy-medieval Arabia. I would be cool with this change of scene, except that there is absolutely NOTHING good about fantasy-medieval Arabia! Everyone is a jerk or some kind of criminal, the land is constantly described as “tired” and too old to function, and Briar and Rosethorn pretty much can’t wait to get away. Chammur has, literally, no redeeming qualities. Briar meets no nice people besides foriegners who are equally attempting to escape, discovers no natural beauty, interesting customs, or anything to be happy about at all. The moral of the story apparently is that Islamic countries suck, and you should do everything within your power to escape them before you are trapped forever in this scorching, corrupt cesspit with no redeeming features.
So… kind of an interesting stance for a children’s book.

Awards

Best New Character: Lady Zenadia doa Atteneh
Okay, there weren’t a lot of likable new characters to choose from because, as I’ve said, Chammur is the worst place ever, and Lady Z is kind of annoying and not really developed. BUT she’s a fancy rich lady who decides to sponsor a street gang because she’s bored. And then dispenses swift, languid murder when they don’t do as she says. Way to commit to your hobby, Lady Z.

Returning Character Honorable Mention: Briar
Briar and Rosethorn are the only two returning characters, and Rosethorn spends most of the book on some kind of farm field trip despite the fact that Briar and Evvy are almost murdered by street children like every day.

Briar’s Improvement Score: -7%= 89/100
What happened to you, Briar, you used to be cool! Unfortunately, Briar has left his past as a wise-talking street urchin behind him, so much so that he forgets to protect his valuables in public and glamorizes gang life. He keeps pressuring Evvy to join a gang, even though gangs have caused pretty much all this book’s problems. He’s still my second fave, but I was sad to see that he’s grown more responsible and less funny.

Thing I Most Wish Was Real: Magical Bonsai Trees
Bonsai trees are already amazing in the normal world, so I can only assume adding magic would make them even better!

The Play-by-Play

Chapter one
Being back in the big city makes Briar think back to his street rat days a lot. As he’s wandering the market he sees a girl polishing some stones at a gem merchant’s stall. He notices that she’s putting magic into them or something and asks her about it. She freaks out and runs away. Some kids his age with fancy nose ring bling try to rough him up for being on Viper territory! Briar insists he’s not in a gang. The Vipers are apparently funded by fancy Lady Z, who is now interested in Evvy! Since apparently stone mages are really useful? I must assume so, since this is basically the plot of the rest of the book.

Chapter two
Rosethorn explains the rules of finding mages to Briar, who grumbles, realizing he’ll have to find Evvy again. This leads to a chase across the rooftops because we are apparently in the movie Aladdin.

Chapter three
Briar bribes Evvy to come over to his rooftop by leaving food for her like a stray cat. He tries to talk to her about learning to control her magic, but she just steals the food and runs. Briar decides to go talk to the one other stone mage in the city, but on the way he feels Evvy freaking out and using magic! Some Vipers tried to kidnap her and she hurls burning stones at them! Briar finds her and demands she meet him tomorrow, and also that she take a bath.

Chapter four
The Camelguts are another local gang, and they ask Briar to help their wounded leader, but he is too hurt and ends up dying. More Camelguts come in injured, claiming Vipers jumped them. The Viper in charge of grabbing Evvy reports back to Lady Z, who punishes failure with murder! Evvy shows up as promised at the same time as the Camelguts come asking for more medical help, since now they are pretty much all wounded.

Chapter five
Briar spends all day caring for them, and Evvy helps by making stones light up and making stones warm. Another of the Camelguts dies, and the rest have a conference about what to do, since the Vipers have offered to let them join their gang. They decide to do it, and Briar thinks they are cowardly wimps.

Chapter six
Evvy is suspicious about why Briar is helping her, but he assures her by telling him “I like them prettier, fatter, and older.” Evvy talks about how her parents sold her into slavery when they were stopped here on their journey from Yanjing, her original home, and how she escaped.

Chapter seven
Briar goes to meet the stone mage who lives in the palace, but he’s a jerk.

Chapter eight
Briar teaches Evvy to meditate, but still insists that the stone mage will eventually be her real teacher when Rosethorn verbally beats him up. Lady Z kills another gang member for getting cheeky.

Chapter nine
Briar is selling his tiny Bonsai trees in the market! Lady Z decides to get Evvy by sucking up to Briar, so she buys one of his trees and offers Evvy a chance to come and live with her, but Evvy says no.

Chapter ten
Bitchy stone mage arrives, having been harassed by Rosethorn into meeting Evvy. He tests her, and harrumphs a lot because she’s more powerful than him. He grudgingly agrees to teach her, but Evvy refuses to go with him because he’s mean, and Briar is secretly glad. Rosethorn is cool with Evvy moving in with them.

Chapter eleven
Briar and Evvy go to get Evvy’s cats. She lives in a small cave inside a cliff that is made entirely of tunnels and secret passages where all the city’s poor live. She doesn’t mind because the stone protects her from things. She has seven cats, and I’m really grossed out, even though I think I’m supposed to think they’re cute. Briar goes to install his tiny bonsai at Lady Z’s house. Her gardens seem really nice… too nice. Once again Lady Z tries to get him to give her Evvy, but he refuses.

Chapter twelve
On his way home some policemen who are watching the house question him about it since they are suspicious of Lady Z and think she has been killing policemen. Briar tells them her gardens are suspiciously nice. Just when I think we’ve met some okay characters, the police start being jerks and want Briar to give Evvy to Lady Z to be a spy. Briar tells them to shut it off and leaves.

Chapter thirteen
Rosethorn is going on a farm-inspecting field trip for a few days, leaving Briar and Evvy without adult supervision which seems really smart. Briar starts teaching Evvy how to read, using rocks as motivation. One of the former Camelguts comes begging Briar to help her friend who was badly beaten in a fight. She acts really sorry that she ever joined the Vipers. Briar puts wards on all the doors and windows and then leaves to help the friend. She is super beat up, and something is keeping her from talking! Also, the original girl has disappeared! Briar breaks the spell on her tongue and the girl tells him it was really the Vipers that beat her up!!! Oh noes!!!! Plus, he forgot to ward the roof trap door so Evvy totes gets kidnapped.

Chapter fourteen
Briar can sense where Evvy is, so he follows her across the city, remeeting a series of people who remain jerks, including the police. Oh well, he’ll just have to get the job done himself. He gets into Lady Z’s gardens and sees a bunch of human bones and a dead body!!! OMG!!! That’s what she’s been feeding the plants!! Her murder victims!! Gross gross gross.

Chapter fifteen
With the help of his plant friends, Briar defeats all of Lady Z’s guards. Meanwhile, Evvy has tried to escape by calling on her stone powers to wreck up the place. The policemen whom Briar reported this to on the way have apparently decided to do something for once and are trying to get in the house. At first Lady Z is like “Whatevs, no one will care that I murdered a bunch of street children” but Briar points out the policemen will care about their missing spies. Then she poisons herself. When Rosethorn gets back she finds Briar and Evvy have been kicked out of the city. They all are super grateful to leave!

Previously: The Circle Opens Book 1: Magic Steps
Next: The Circle Opens Book 3: Cold Fire

2 responses to “The Circle Opens Book 2: Street Magic”

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