Book Review: Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce

Posted August 31, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: Cold Fire 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.

Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce
Series: ,
Genres: Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Published by Scholastic on April 1, 2002
Pages: 355
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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As her foster siblings, Sandry and Briar, struggle with their reluctant apprentices (Magic Steps, Street Magic), Daja and her teacher, Frostpine, settle into the northern Namornean city of Kugisko for a restful winter break. Not surprisingly, their illusions are promptly shattered, as Daja discovers that the twin daughters of her host have "ambient magic."

As the discovering-mage, Daja is obliged to teach the fidgety girls the rudiments of magic. Meanwhile, Kugisko seems to have fallen into the hands of a ruthless arsonist, and Daja is determined to help her new firefighting friend, Bennat Ladradun, get to the bottom of the mystery.

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

Third in The Circle Opens fantasy series for middle-grade readers and seventh in the Emelan Universe revolving around four magically gifted children. The focus in Cold Fire is on Daja as she travels with Frostpine through the empire of Namorn. They are currently staying in Kugisko on Kadsaep Island.

If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Emelan books on my website.

My Take

It begins with a metaphor: Daja learning to skate. A skill that’s new to her just as learning meditation and magic will be new to Nia and Jory.

I do enjoy Pierce’s writing — I haven’t yet read a book of hers that I didn’t like. Parents will appreciate the moral lessons that Pierce imparts with a very light hand. Kids will appreciate the fun, fantasy, and adventures. Parents of twins may also find this useful as Nia and Jory may look alike but their temperaments and skills are completely different.

Cold Fire involves heroic bad guys as well as good guys and girls. The host family is a treat with Mom and Dad strict yet giving parents. They insist on the children learning, but they are flexible enough to adjust to the potential of their girls.

One of the many positives is Daja’s wanting to create something new. A firesuit that will help Ben battle the fires that crop up around town and allow him to more easily save people. There is one particular incident with Frostpine that will crack up the kids with its absurdity. Poor Frostpine is so cold in Kugisko, that one day he takes off all his clothes and sits in the fire to warm up. Good thing he’s a fire mage!!

On the negative side, it can be a hard story with the deaths the arsonist causes, and the death that awaits the guilty party at the end.

It doesn’t take long to come to the conflict in the story. It is horrible. A firebug who wants praise and goes after it in the most reprehensible way. Glorying in the power of death over life. And Ben’s mother is a NIGHTMARE! I reckon even story parents should be licensed before being able to have babies! Her son goes mute and wooden when she’s around. The servants wear dull garb, get little to eat, and are whipped much too often. She counts out each grain of food and each splinter of wood. She is a master of insulting through supposed compliments.

Cold Fire is a lesson in control, of letting go, of being respectful to others, of acceptance.

“That’s what Traders do — we find roads, and we follow them.
Trader and Bookkeeper keep your balances high and your debts low.”

The Story

Ladradun is a true hero in Daja’s eyes. Brave enough to run into a burning building with no ability other than courage. It’s this intrepid act that inspires Daja to create fire gauntlets and think deep about a firesuit.

That’s the fun part of their stay. The not-so fun is when Daja discovers two young mages and learns she must teach them how to handle their abilities! It’s the price she must pay for being taught her own magic.

The bad is a string of fires that plague Kugisko. Someone is setting bigger and bigger fires, and people are dying.

The Characters

Daja Kisubo is traveling with her mentor, the firemage Frostpine, to learn new techniques — and to take her mind off her friends who are also traveling.

Kolborn, a merchant, and Matazi Bancanor, his wife and a former seamstress, are the family who are hosting Daja and Frostpine. Kol is the head of the Kugisko Goldsmiths’ Guild which controls the city’s banks and one of Frostpine’s friends from school. Niamara and Jorality “Jory” are their twelve-year-old twins who have been told they have no magic. Peigi is the eight-year-old. Eidart is a son. Anyussa is the Bancanor cook. Serg is the footman.

Bennat Ladradun, a non-mage, is one of the island merchants, of House Ladradun. He learned about fire at Godsforge’s knee and, thankfully, has brought firefighting techniques home to the wooden city of Kigusko. Yulanny is one of the Ladradun maids. Kofrinna is the wife who died along with their children. Ravvi Morrachane Ladradun is Ben’s mother and a right bitch. Cheap, mean, and nasty whose mere presence causes those around her to become wooden. The Alakut Island brigade does a terrible job.

The Mages’ Society
Heluda Salt is the magistrate’s mage. Master Northice is the head of the society and thinks all women are beautiful. Camoc Oakborn is a wood- and carpentry-mage with a prosperous woodworking shop. He’s one of those who accepts Daja as a proper mage. Arnen is a senior-mage student. Other carpentry-mages include Ashstaff and Beechbranch. Olennika Potcracker in Blackfly Bog is the best cook-mage (she was once the Empress’ personal cook!) and runs a hospital kitchen — Yogiry’s Hospital — for the poor.

Domanus Moykep is the head of a ship-building family. His youngest son’s boys need wives. It’s their stable that burns down. Gruzha is a blind girl trapped in a burning boardinghouse. Teraud Voskajo may be an ugly man, but he is also the kindest and the leader of the smith’s guild. Nushenya is his wife. Eoban is a very rude guest at a party. Olaksan Jossaryk‘s house also goes up in flames. Lisl is one of the many children there. Olaksan’s wife, Chiora, is Romachko Skuretty’s mistress. Romachko Skuretty is the head of the council who turned down a request for funds.

Pawel Godsforge is a renowned fire-mage. Ambient magic is a magic that is already in things. Viymese is a Namornese term for a female mage. The First Dedicate of the Fire temple in Winding Circle was once a general named Skyfire. It’s his form of meditation that Daja adopts for Jory.

Yogiry is a goddess in Namorn; Griantein is a god of warmth and light. Vrohain the Judge is a god of justice. Qunoc is the mother of the earth and its seed while Baion is the god of killing ice. Eilig is the goddess of spring and freedom.

The Cover and Title

The cover is coolly warm as Daja skates across the gray frozen ice, a fireball in her hand while a fire claims a distant house that night.

The title is a blend of the Namornese winter, Daja’s gift, and the string of arson fires that beset Kugisko that winter in its Cold Fire.

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4 responses to “Book Review: Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce

  1. I need to go back and reread this one. It was one of my least favorite books in the series, but more because I so wanted the four Circle mages back together than because of anything in the story itself. Thanks for the reminder of what was good in the tale, and that I should appreciate it for itself next time!

    • You’re welcome, Lark. I do understand wanting to get through this subseries. I miss the kids being together too! I AM curious as to how things will work with these new apprentices in the series.

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