Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Magic in the Weaving

Sandry's Book
~Sandry's Book~
Circle of Magic
Book 1
By Tamora Pierce
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

With her gift of weaving silk thread and creating light, Sandry is brought to the Winding Circle community. There she meets Briar, a former thief who has a way with plants; Daja, an outcast gifted with metalcraft; and Tris, whose connection with the weather unsettles everyone, including herself. At Winding Circle, the four misfits are taught how to use their magic—and to trust each other.

But then disaster strikes their new home. Can Sandry weave together four kinds of magical power and save herself, her friends, and the one place they have ever been accepted?

Though the story is titled Sandry's Book in the US, I kinda prefer the UK title, The Magic in the Weaving, because, well, this book isn't just about Sandry. All four of the children star in nearly every chapter, and the story is more about each of them finding acceptance than any one of them. Still, Sandry's skill is the weaving, which does assume an important role in the story, so titling the book after her isn't completely out of place.

But yeah, back to the characters. Sandry is very outgoing and inclusive of others. She doesn't care about your background or what you look like, so long as she can evoke a smile from you, she's happy. Daja is tough and hard-working, but a little on the quiet side. She's not the kind to back down from a challenge, though she's not the type to issue one. Briar's the tough-talking smart-aleck. He may know when he should keep his mouth shut, but that doesn't mean he does so. And Tris can seem a bit stuck-up at times, but she's really more of a self-conscious intellectual. She likes to put up a hard front for outsiders, but inside she's often self-depreciative.

Each of them seems to have a reason they shouldn't be friends with the others, and yet, they turn out to have a lot in common. All outcast in one way or another, it takes a little while to open up again, let alone try to make friends with people they've been raised to despise. But if a Noble, Trader, Merchant, and Thief can get along, who can't?

The Magic of this world is very intricate and unique, more of which will be explored in the rest of the series. There seem to be two 'types' of Magic working here. Some mages are born with an affinity toward magic in general, which is then worked through runes and spells to shape it to whatever task is at hand. Other mages are born with an affinity toward a specialized magic. Thread-working, weather, metal-smithing, gardening...dancing, gemstones, carpentry, cooking, glasswork... Imagine the possibilities if magic was everywhere, even in the plain, everyday things we do.

It's interesting comparing this (written in the late 1990's) to her later books, which have taken full advantage of the increased length allowance/expectation. You can tell there's a lot of information bulging at the seams, screaming to be told, but with a limited word-count much of it is only hinted at. And still we have a fully-formed world, layered characters, personal journeys, and even foreign languages, woven together succinctly, effortlessly, magically.

Overall I'd say this is a wonderful start to an amazing series. The pre-teen-aged (10-12) characters and the lack of violence, language or sex make it suitable for Middle-Grade readers. However, there's not a lot of action until about three-quarters of the way through, so it may be better for more patient (possibly older) readers. A story of fantasy, friendship, and overcoming prejudice, Sandry's Book is sure to open up a new realm of possibilities to readers young and old and leave them hungry for more.

Approximate Reading Time: 3 hours

Whisper Stories in My Ear

Read by Tamora Pierce, Bruce Coville & Full Cast Audio
(click for cast names)
Length: 5.8 Hours
Listened at 1.8x Speed

If you have not yet listened to a Full Cast Audio recording, you haven't yet heard audiobooks as they were meant to be. Each character has his or her own voice actor, reading the lines of dialogue or thoughts as if they were in the story itself. Tamora Pierce has been most supportive of the FCA style of work, reading as narrator for not only her own books, but in other casts as well.

Reading along with these works is made slightly more difficult with the skipping of dialogue tags (she said/growled/asked, etc.) unless accompanied by an action, but the whole experience is made more seamless by it. Each voice is distinct and seems appropriately aged for the young characters. Bruce Coville (renowned children's author and founder of FCA) even provides the voice of Niko!

Also be sure to stay tuned after the end of the novel! Following the voice credits there is a short interview of Tamora Pierce about the inspiration behind the Circle of Magic series. Ever wonder where the idea for sewing magic came from? Wonder no more!