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Street Magic    by Tamora Pierce order for
Street Magic
by Tamora Pierce
Order:  USA  Can
Scholastic, 2001 (2001)
* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

This is the second book in The Circle Opens quartet, Magic Steps being the first. It starred a young fourteen year old heroine, and spinner and weaver of magic, Lady Sandrilene Fa Toren, who also appeared with three other apprentice mages in a previous quartet, The Circle of Magic. This new volume features another of the apprentice mages, the only boy, Briar Moss, who is travelling with his teacher, Dedicate Rosethorn of Winding Circle temple, to distant Yanjing on a mission to learn more of the world and its magics. Sandrilene should have travelled on a similar mission, but decided it was her duty to stay and take care of her uncle, Duke Vedris, who had almost died after a heart attack.

Briar and Rosethorn came to fabled Chammur on their way to Yanjing, and stayed longer than they had originally intended, receiving many requests for their green magic skills with plants, herbs and medicines. Now, Brian at least has finished his task, after six weeks of intense magical labour, of fully replenishing the stocks of herbs and medicines in the Water Temple, and feels that he owes himself a treat. He decides to visit Chammur's wealthiest marketplace, the Golden House, where he intends to set up a stall to sell his miniature trees, which are not only works of art but shaped to draw particular magical influences to a home.

Here he encounters a very young and very scruffy girl whom he detects using magic on semi-precious stones to help their owner sell them, but she runs away before he can talk to her. Then he is challenged by members of a street gang, the Vipers, but is able, partly by showing his hidden knives and readiness to fight, to leave peacefully. Brian understands gangs since he was once a member and has prison tattoos on his hands (though now disguised) to prove it.

However, after Briar tells Rosethorn about the girl, Evvy, she shocks him by telling him that he must make himself responsible for Evvy's proper training as a stone mage. He must find her a teacher, or alternatively, teach her himself. Reluctantly, Briar traces Evvy and persuades her to let him help her, but is caught up in gang warfare. One of the gangs is being manipulated by a bored and unscrupulous noblewoman, who decides she can make use of Evvy's talents, and tries to recruit her into the Vipers' gang. Brian and Evvy are entangled in a bloody conflict, and it requires the ruthless use of both their magical talents to save their lives and end the warfare.

Tamora Pierce has established a near monopoly for fantasies directed specifically at young girls, and has a great and deserved reputation for fast-paced action and adventure combined with excellent characterisation. These make her books good reading for any age group, male or female. Street Magic is somewhat atypical in its boy hero, though the girl mage Evvy is equally well drawn. This episode is well up to standard, and highly recommended.

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