Book Review: Briar’s Book by Tamora Pierce

Posted April 27, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: Briar’s Book by Tamora Pierce

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Briar's Book by Tamora Pierce
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Published by Scholastic Press on April 1, 1999
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library


As a strange plague settles over the land and threatens their very existence, Briar, Daja, Sandry, and Tris must use their magic to find the source of the

Also by this author: Terrier, Bloodhound, Mastiff, Sandry's Book, Tris's Book, Daja's Book, Magic Steps, Street Magic, Cold Fire

Fourth in the Circle of Magic fantasy series for young middle-grade readers and revolving around four very supportive friends. It’s also fourth in the overall Emelan series.

Visit KD Did It Takes on Books for a chronological listing of the books in the Circle of Magic series.

My Take

It’s a fun combination of magic, science, and medicine. Pierce has blended this so well, that it feels perfectly normal.

I like how Pierce uses the concept of birthdays to provide this back history about Briar, the former Roach, a street rat who got lucky.

Pierce dribbles out more back history. It comes out that Lark knows what it’s like to be so poor you can’t afford food and shelter at the same time. There’s a brief description of the struggle involved in finding a way to more safely test possible cures, and the names of the dedicates who gave up their lives in this battle.

Aww, poor Tris is having to give up being mean to people. Niko says she’s making enemies. It’s probably her biggest challenge, lol. Nor do the challenges stop with Tris as Briar has to examine his own dichotomy, his life before and the one he has now. To learn who he is. And he has to work with Crane in his private workshop! The man hates Briar for stealing his shakkan.

It is a good opportunity for Briar and Tris to learn more about Crane as a scientist and as a man.

One lesson for the kids is learned when they track the source of the plague, and the spell shows them how careless the mage was. Another is why people need to rest even when the need to work is so great.

This installment, Pierce specifically states that Rosethorn, Lark, Frostpine, and Crane are great mages. We also learn more about the start of Rosethorn and Crane’s self-involved game of competition that began their enmity. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum!

The Story

Briar has been helping Rosethorn deliver medications to Urda’s House, a place of healing, and with the free time Rosethorn leaves him, he’s made a friend. One who’s in trouble and presages a disaster in the making.

It’ll take the talents of all four to help all of Emelan get through this.

The Characters


Winding Circle temple is…
…renowned for its learning and magic. It’s also where the magic of these four became entwined in Sandry’s Circle, 1, and it’s been a very useful — and lifesaving — sharing of abilities.

Briar Moss is passionate about his ability with plants, and he’s about to learn how much more is involved with them. Lady Sandrilene “Sandry” fa Toren is the young mage who wove the four of them together. It makes sense since she does have an affinity for weaving and spinning. Trisana “Tris” Chandler is a mage with an ability for weather. Daja Kisubo has a gift for fire and has apprenticed with a fire mage, Frostpine. Little Bear is their dog.

Rosethorn (her pre-Temple name was Niva) is a plant-mage while Lark is a thread-mage, and both live together in Discipline Cottage where our four young mages live. Rosethorn is instructing Briar in gardening and herbal remedies. Niklaren “Niko” Goldeye is a famous and important mage who is instructing the four. Dedicate Frostpine of the Fire Temple is a master smith-mage and Daja is his apprentice. Dedicate Gorse is the chief cook. Superior Dedicate Moonstream is their leader. Dedicate Sealwort is in a great deal of trouble.

Dedicate Crane (his pre-Temple name was Isis) is Rosethorn’s rival and the head of the Air Temple. Osprey is Crane’s apprentice. Peachleaf, the best midwife in Winding Circle, is the quaking dedicate who takes notes as Crane works. Dedicate Acacia. Dedicate Cloudgold is a librarian coopted into helping in the lab.

Duke Vedris IV is the ruler of Emelan and Sandry’s great-uncle. Flick is a street rat and a thief here in Summersea. Alleypup is part of her gang. North Mire, a slum area, is where the first victims are found. Eilisa Pearldrop was an irresponsible mage seeking a quick cure.

Urda’s House
Jokubas Atwater runs the House. Dedicate Henna is from the Water Temple and well-known for her nursing skills.

New patients are Yuvosh and the uncooperative Orji.

The Cover and Title

The cover is blocks of color surrounding a round inset with a delicate scalloped border of interlocking green half circle outlines and a rosette where every other hoop intersects. The central image is of Briar stepping up from the sewer with a light in his hand, finding Flick lying ill in the cavern the street rats created as a haven.

The title is where the focus is and Briar’s Book is his story.

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4 responses to “Book Review: Briar’s Book by Tamora Pierce

    • Thanks, Laura. I’ve been working on telling about the story rather than telling the story. I want to intrigue (or warn!) readers and point out the good and the bad techniques the author has used.

    • It is good, Missie. Teamwork, loyalty, friendship. All in a fantasy setting in an alternate world. There’s a medieval + equality feel to it, and I love that it has three girl heroines and one boy who all work together. They all value each other. All the books that Pierce has written have been great. I’d recommend them for everyone — kids and adults.

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