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Review: Street Magic by Tamora Pierce

Thursday, February 21, 2013
5 Stars: Keeper
Series: The Circle Opens #2
Hardback: 300 Pages
Publication: April 1, 2001 by Scholastic

Briar Moss been training four years as a plant mage, but he hasn't put his past behind him. He meets a street girl, Evvy, using powerful magic to polish stones for a merchant, and resolves to find her a teacher. But Briar understands the city's gangs as well as he understands Evvy. When gang warfare breaks out, he discovers that the fiercest gang is seeking a stone mage to lead them to hidden gems. Only Briar and his magic can offer Evvy protection. Swept up in a bloody conflict, Briar must decide if he's ready to make the final step away from his former life as a "street rat".

Enter three of my favorite characters in the series (after Tris because she's so awesome): Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy, in one of my favorite books in the world of Emelan. Chammur is one of the msot fascinating cities I've read about. It is set in a more Asian culture in a city surrounded by rocks and where gangs run rampant on the streets. The people dress differently, they have multiple roads (down in the streets and up on roofs), and they have a strict social hierarchy (from slaves and the poor to mages and the rich). Even the terms used are different with Briar being referred to as a pahan (mage), for example.

I had fun learning about gang culture, primarily because of its connection to Briar's past. With Briar befriending members of the Camelguts, we gets to see more into the gang mentality and how much he has changed since he was last a street rat. Though Briar has lived a comfortable life since Niko found him, it is difficult for him to separate himself from the gang mindset; he and Evvy often have heated exchanges on the topic of gangs.

Evvy. I love that girl to death. She is the perfect foil to Briar's character. On the one hand, we have a charming teenage boy with a gift for smooth language and working with plants. He is a delightful rogue, and I can imagine that it'd be hard to stay mad at him for long; he's such a charmer. Then there is Evvy: practical and down to earth like the rocks she works with. She has sound arguments and rarely speaks up without a cause. She's a sweet girl who hasn't had a proper upbringing; at least, until Briar takes her in. And Rosethorn, with her sharp tongue and warm heart, she is the mentor that Briar needs to keep him in line. It's good that Briar has matured so much over the years. I doubt he can stay in trouble for long with both Rosethorn and Evvy around!

Like Magic Steps, this is a crime novel. More political in nature, this novel has Briar encountering problems with the corrupt nobility and explores how the different classes view each other. Again, the 'criminal' is alluring, but this one is more frightening in a way because of the social power that she wields. More than a professional killer, she is someone who treats life indifferently and will sacrifice people without a care for her personal pleasure. This book gave me chills and thrills in certain scenes, especially when I found out just what can happen when you anger a plant mage!
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