Sunday, December 7, 2008

Review – “Melting Stones” by Tamora Pierce

Four years have passed since Evvy left the streets of Chammur to begin her training as a stone mage. At fourteen, she's unhappy to be on a new journey with her mentor, prickly green mage Rosethorn, who has been called to the Battle Islands to determine why the plants and animals there are dying. Evvy's job is to listen and learn, but she can't keep quiet and do nothing. With the help of Luvo, the living stone heart of a mountain, Evvy uncovers an important clue. Now, with the island on the brink of disaster, it's up to Evvy to avert the destruction that looms ahead.
Melting Stones is a charming YA fantasy novel, part of the Circle of Magic Universe. I found that while there were references to characters and events from prior books, this book stands well on its own merits. At the heart of this story is Evvy, a 14-year old mage apprentice – a stone mage who can manipulate the very essence of rocks and minerals. Her closest companion is Luvo an entity shaped like a small bear made of stone, but who is an ancient, living embodiment of the consciousness of a mountain. She has accompanied her mentors to assist in unravelling the mystery of a rash of poisoned lakes, and dying plants and animals in the Battle Islands.

The world that Pierce has created is very naturalistic. This is reflected in the mages abilities over such things as water, plants and stone. The populace accepts the presence of magic and mages and rely upon them in their daily affairs. Although few have seen the heart of a mountain (Luvo) he receives only curious acceptance as he travels with Evvy. For mature or adult readers, the nature of the islands problem is likely to be readily evident. The island is threatened by the impending eruption of a volcano. However, Evvy and the mages must unravel the clues step by step before it leads them to this conclusion (the clues are reminiscent of the events in the film Dante’s Inferno).

Volcanoes are birthed from magma and Evvy discovers that like mountains, magma is composed of living, intelligent essences. Despite being the assistant and junior member of her mage party, the likelihood of any solution to save the islands from destruction falls on her shoulders because of her particular abilities.

Evvy’s magic allows her to leave her body in a form of astral travel and interact with the many forms of rocks and minerals, as well as the magma creatures. These sequences are fresh and imaginative as are the many descriptions of the use of her magic and the abundance of geologic tidbits reflected in Evvy’s studies. Pierce portrays Evvy as a not untypical teenager, somewhat self-absorbed, wilful, but highly intelligent, skilled and motivated. Evvy's newfound role, with the ensuing responsibilities, decisions and consequences lead to important personal growth for the mage apprentice.

The Battle Islands are also filled with a host of refreshing secondary characters that assist the mages in their investigation and ultimately in the efforts to evacuate the islands. Melting Stones is a fine magical adventure with an interesting and likeable teenage protagonist. For those needing a break from complex and convoluted fantasy worlds, Melting Stones offers a simpler, enjoyable diversion.


Listen to an audio excerpt from the Fullcast Audio version of the book.

Scholastic, Inc.
Published: October 2008
ISBN #: 9780545052641
Format: Hard cover
YA Age Range: 12 and up
Pages: 312

Circle of Magic Universe Series

  1. The Magic in the Weaving (1997)
  2. The Power in the Storm (1998)
  3. The Fire in the Forging (1998)
  4. The Healing in the Vine (1999)
  5. Magic Steps (2000)
  6. Street Magic (2001)
  7. Cold Fire (2002)
  8. Shatterglass (2003)
  9. The Will of the Empress (2005)
  10. Melting Stones (2007 audio book)

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