Scholastic, 2003 (2002)
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Reviewed by Wesley Williamson
is the third volume in the author's
quartet, which itself followed the
quartet. Both describe the adventures of four young people, three girls and one boy, of radically different races, backgrounds and social status. They are drawn together by their common gift for magic, though each has a very different way of using that gift. In the first quartet, the four serve their apprenticeships together at Winding Circle school for mages, and their common adventures make each attuned to some degree to the special magical gifts of the others.
ach volume of
concentrates on one of the four, travelling with a magical mentor to other lands to gain experience in their particular specialty. Daja is a tough-minded, dark-skinned fourteen year old, outcast from her Traders' group when her entire family died in a shipwreck. She is a smith mage, and has been honing her skills at forges ranging from village smithies turning out horseshoes, to goldsmiths' forges working with gold and silver to make works of art. Daja and Frostpine, her mentor, have temporarily settled with a family in Kugisko, a city on the Normanese islands.
t is in the depths of winter, the river is frozen, and Nagisko is built mainly of wood, so it is not surprising that there are many fires. However, Daja, who has used her gifts to rescue some trapped in the fires, reluctantly comes to suspect an arsonist. To add to her worries, she has discovered that the twin daughters of the family she is living with have latent magical abilities, one for cooking and one for carpentry. Since she has uncovered their talents, it is up to her to arrange for their training, with her hands-on help if necessary.
aja makes a very personable heroine, who is strong not only in magic but in character. In some ways this is a dark story, certainly not for children. The arsonist rationalises his murderous crimes in a coldly logical arguement, and Daja's response is honest and measured, but implacable. The usual solid characterisation and exciting action are joined here to a deeper than usual plot which has, essentially, very little to do with magic.
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