I've just had something akin to a Tamora Pierce Read-A-Thon. I read the series Circle of Magic which consists of 4 books about 4 young mages age 10-11. Really, the books are also aimed for that age group, but I still greatly enjoy reading them.
Pierce is a master in her field and the characters are and their achievements magical. I can't press enough how much I wish for all youngsters to read these books, they are a big part of what really sparked my joy in reading when I was a kid. This however is a review of the book that comes after those 4 AND the 4 that came after those (The Circle Opens).
The four mages of Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens books are together again, but things aren't what they used to be. Daja, Briar, Tris and Sandry have grown up and grown apart since their days together at Winding Circle, and Sandry's especially disappointed with the change. When Sandry's uncle requests that her three old friends accompany her on a visit to Sandry's vast lands within the Empire of Namorn, the young mages discover that they've landed in a trap. Namorn's iron-willed Empress has plans for Sandry and her companions, and she has wily and powerful mages to help her. But so, of course, does Sandry - if only she can get them to work together...
I've read The Will of the Empress once before and back then I wasn't all that impressed with it. Sandry, Daja, Tris and Briar are now 18 years old and full of anger, angst and general grouchiness. The 3 others return to Emelan, which Sandry never left and they've all grown up and seen and done things they would have rather been without. Soon after though they set off to Namorn together where Sandry is in fact a duchess (or something like that, I forget the details).
The empress, Sandry's cousin, turns out to be a ruler you're not supposed to cross and she wants to press the 4 mages into her service. Obviously they aren't having any of that and thus things turn bad. The book also deals with several issues such as women being forced into marriage and mistreated as well as homosexual love. In the previous books it's been hinted that a couple of characters were gay, but only in this one is it full out described as being such (nothing erotic, simply a matter of feelings and acceptance). It's as such a really good book, and though I quickly got annoyed with their inability to talk to their supposedly very best friends about their issues, I really enjoyed reading about them all again and I think I understood it better this time (I was too young to fully grasp it, the first time around). However the book lacks the more innocent and the more aw inspiring magical touch the story has in the first four books. Now they're all pretty much invincible and you never really feel even remotely worried for them.
560 pages / published in 2006
Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2011