The Circle Opens Book 3: Cold Fire

You could maybe tell from the title of this book that it’s about Daja, who has metal and smith powers! I’ve never had anything against Daja, except her moping through two Circle of Magic books before realizing that the Circleteers were really her friends. But that all got cleared up in Daja’s Book when she stopped a forest fire. This book is also about Daja stopping fires, perhaps because Tamora Pierce has a hard time thinking of ways for her to save the day with metal? Once again, Daja has to use her powers to try to save lives when fire gets out of control, only this time she’s up against an arsonist instead of the forces of nature! And you know I love when there’s a bad guy!

Daja and her teacher Frostpine are staying the winter in a medieval-fantasy version of Denmark? Maybe? It’s really cold and everyone gets around by ice-skating the frozen canals. As in the first two books in the series, Daja notices that the twin daughters of the family they’re staying with have special, previously-undetected magic with cooking and carpentry. Unlike the other two books, the city is apparently full of cooking-mages and carpentry-mages, so Daja is able to pawn the girls off onto better-suited teachers fairly quickly, leaving most of the story devoted to catching the arsonist who is hiding in their midst! Not-even-a-spoiler alert: it’s the guy in charge of fire brigades. This would be a huge shocker if we didn’t get whole passages from his point of view plotting to set things on fire fairly early on, making all the “No… IT CAN’T BE!” moments at the end kind of tiring.

Awards

Best New Character Award: It’s a tie between Heluda Salt, Police Mage, and Olennika Potcracker, Kitchen Mage. But I like them both for the same reason: being tough kickass women! Olennika doesn’t attend mage banquets because she’s “referred publicly to the richer of our members as parasites”(203). Heluda responds that she’s probably being too generous since at least real parasites feed other creatures so they can be good for something. Rock on, Lady Mages!

Returning Character Honorable Mention: Frostpine!
I’ve never really noticed Daja’s teacher before, except once when some other adult hints that he was (is?) a total, total player, but he is actually pretty funny. I like how he acts casually protective around Daja at times (like when BOYS are involved), but also casually gives her a lot of freedom to experiment and screw up. Plus, he sits naked in the kitchen fire.

Daja’s Improvement Score: +10% =85/100
Previously Daja has been a C-student for me. She’s not bad by any means, and I sometimes really like her stoic nature. She was about average as a main character in the first series, and luckily she has improved somewhat in this one! Congrats, Daja, you’re a B-student now! Without her friends to help her, Daja has to do more talking and standing up for herself, which she does pretty well! I don’t know if she’ll ever be my fave, but I wouldn’t mind hanging out with her.

Thing I Most Wish Was Real: Cooking magic! I think I’ve finally found the Circleeter-world magic that is for me! Now I guess I just have to wait for one of these wandering teen-mages to discover me and be forced to become my teacher!

The Play-by-Play

Chapter one
Daja and Frostpine are staying with Frostpine’s friends in the Frozen North! He has a bunch of daughters, but only two important ones, twins named Nia and Jory. Daja sees Jory put some magic into something she’s mixing in the kitchen. FIRE! Everyone runs outside and forms efficient bucket chains to put out the fire. Ben, a local merchant/expert in fire prevention, taught everyone how to handle fires because the whole city is made of wood. Daja is mad impressed that he can do all that without any magic, and he is mad impressed that Daja can command fire.

Chapter two
Frostpine bitches about being cold, as he will for the entire book. He explains that Daja has to help the twins with their magic, and that if one twin has magic, the other will too. It’s the first law of twins. Daja talks to Nia and Jory’s parents, who are happy their daughters have magic, but also annoyed that it will apparently ruin marriage negotiations. No one wants a headstrong mage wife!

Chapter three
Their mom writes up a list of carpentry and cooking mages for Daja to visit to see who would be the best teachers. Daja grumbles about it, even though this seems way easier than being stuck with the kid for good like Sandry and Briar. On her way back she sees a fire! She runs inside to help a blind girl get out! Then we get Ben’s point of view later, revealing that he started the fire because he thought his fire brigades were getting too complacent. Also that he thinks Daja is some kind of goddess. Yay, a crazy supervillain!

Chapter four
Ben lost his wife and children in a fire, which is what inspired him to go off and study fire and then come back and help others! Ben’s mom is a complete bitch to both him and Daja! I assume it’s because she knows her son is a crazy person. Also, Ben keeps creepy mementos from fires? One of them is a skeleton hand?? DAJA WHY ARE YOU NOT MAD SUSPICIOUS!?

Chapter five
Jory and Nia find teachers, but Daja still has to teach them how to meditate. Also, Jory’s teacher works in a hospital kitchen in a bad part of town which is a SCANDAL.

Chapter six
Jory is terrible at meditation because she can’t sit still. So Daja decides to teach the girls some kind of fighting/meditation hybrid with staffs. Of course, Nia is bad at that. Frostpine really wants to get warm, so he sits naked in the kitchen fire place. Surprise, kitchen maids!

Chapter seven
Daja works with some smiths around town, some of whom seem to be suspicious of Ben and why he would want to be all about fire after it killed his family. Then they talk about what a bitch his mom is and how she beats her servants. Daja still thinks Ben is a hero and decides to make magical fire-proof gauntlets for him to use.

Chapter eight
Daja finally realizes that, though twins, Nia and Jory are not the same, and need different teaching. She uses quiet normal meditation with Nia and movement meditation with Jory. The second law of twins is that they always know where each other is! Daja fails at Magical Fire Gauntlets and is pissed. For some reason she blames Frostpine for not “warning her about pride”. Luckily Frostpine is having none of that, because he is awesome.

Chapter nine
Ben’s mom: still a bitch! Daja is mad that his mom is so mean about Ben, and I hope soon the truth will be revealed and the mom will be proved right that he is terrible. Ben starts a fire, then runs home gleefully to wait for them to summon him. But they don’t! Finally they come get him, saying they thought they could handle it without him, but some people die of smoke inhalation. He visits them in the hospital, and is so happy about his power over life and death that he starts crying.

Chapter ten
Daja and Frostpine head to one of the city’s mage banquets. Most of them are rich and fancy. Daja tries to talk to the apprentice carpenter-mage who’s been helping Nia, but his friends make fun of her for being 14. She shows them her mage qualification medallion and they freak out. On their way home, they see a huge fire at a fancy house! Ben is there, and for some reason seems annoyed to see them.

Chapter eleven
Both Frostpine and Daja run inside the burning building to help! Daja ends up hurrying children and servants out of the nursery, but some of them die anyway. She and Frostpine use up all their magic. Heluda comes by and says it’s a weird coincidence that the burning house belonged to a councillman’s mistress, the same councillman that recently refused Ben more fire-fighting-funding! But what could that mean? Daja has NO idea!

Chapter twelve
Ben comes to visit Daja and they have a weird conversation about whether or not they’re friends, and Ben begs Daja not to give up on him for being weird. Daja thinks the person that’s starting fires on purpose is evil and Ben disagrees. DAJA YOU ARE LIKE THE LEAST OBSERVANT PERSON EVER.

Chapter thirteen
Ben is so happy with the gloves Daja finished for him! He leaves her alone in his parlor while he tries them in the kitchen fire. She notices there are more creepy fire mementos on his shelf! Suspicious? NAH IT’S FINE. Later Ben comes over to her place so she can measure him for a full suit made of magical fire-proof metal. Teen girl measuring older man’s body? Awkward? Yes. Frostpine comes in to meet Ben and later tells Daja Ben’s mom started a rumor that Daja is a gold digger trying to marry Ben and his money.

Chapter fourteen
Ben is going away for two weeks, so now is the perfect time to start a huge fire on his way out of town. Using the magical gloves, he’s able to put some exploding powder (“boom dust”) into the furnace of a big bathhouse. It explodes later on and he is gleeful. Lots of people die! Later, Heluda comes and hands Daja this iron bar that was touched with her magic! What? How can that be???? Daja asks the iron bar to tell its story and she sees Ben doing his crazy thing. Heluda has had her suspicions, and she blames his mom for being such a bitch. Poor Ben’s Mom, I don’t think she’s going to get her redemption at the end. Heluda will arrest him when he comes back to town.

Chapter fifteen
Ben’s trip gets cut short because of weather. He notices some of his creepy fire mementos have been moved and he has a note from Heluda asking to see him. He gets suspicious and decides to cut and run. Later Nia tells Daja she thinks Ben’s house is on fire! They break in to try to rescue Ben’s mom, but find Ben has already gruesomely murdered her. They put the fire out, but Nia knows that Jory is in trouble!! Third law of twins!! Daja races towards the hospital, which is, of course, on fire.

Chapter sixteen
Ben is at the hospital helping get people out, but then he maybe dies when the roof falls? Daja has to go in and get the people in the insane ward out, by tying them together and leading them like horses. Daja doesn’t believe Ben is dead. It was all part of his plan to fake his death and go on starting fires elsewhere. She follows him and traps him for justice!

Previously: The Circle Opens Book 2: Street Magic
Next: The Circle Opens Book 4: Shatterglass

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