Pierce continues to fill gaps in her Circle of Magic sequence—here sending three of her mages eastward to defend the (Tibet-ish) land of Gyongxe against an invasion from (China-esque) Yanjing.
Falling chronologically between the events in Street Magic (2001) and Melting Stones (2008), the tale focuses on plant mages Rosethorn and Briar and stone mage Evumeimei. They travel from small but mountainous Gyongxe to the rich palace of Emperor Weishu in Evvy’s adjacent homeland and then back in a series of battles and tests of both magic and character. Though the popular author’s prose and pacing are as fluent as ever, her efforts to elaborate on or at least disguise her cultural models are, at best, cursory, and her plotting is likewise paint-by-numbers. Having trotted from pillar to post, the central trio splits up at the story’s exact center so that Evvy can go off to a first meeting with the animate mountain’s heart that will be her traveling companion in later adventures, while Rosethorn and Briar essentially march in place, from a narrative standpoint anyway. The three reunite in time to see Weishu and his teeming armies engage Gyongxe’s many major and minor gods in a climactic battle.
Pierce herself has teeming armies of fans, guaranteeing that this routine, cozily predictable outing will be a huge seller. (map, glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)