Rosethorn, Briar, and Briar's study Evvy are traveling in the land of Gyongxe when they receive an invitation from the Emperor of Yanjing to visit him and see his worlds famous gardens. It is an offer that they are reluctant to ignore, especially when the honour is bestowed on so few people, but they quickly discover that there is a rotten core at the heart of the glittering empire. The Emperor is a cruel and heartless leader, who leads his people through pure power - both the power of his throne, and the power of the mages who control his people through fear and deadly magic. The Emperor is also very good at finding out what people love and using that knowledge to bend them to his will, using them up and spitting them out in the constant move for more land, more subjects, and more power.
Sickened by a display of power and control, the trio take leave of the Emperor and his court and start out on their return journey to Emelan - but their plans change when they learn that the Emperor plans to invade Gyongxe. Making the decision to warn the God-King in Gyongxe automatically makes them the enemies of the Emperor, who will see the move as an act of betrayal, but none of them can stand by and watch as their friends in Gyongxe face war. As enemies of the Emperor Rosethorn, Briar, and Evvy have a price on their heads which will only make their tasks harder when they are separated to complete their own tasks - tasks that will change them forever.
Battle magic sits in the world of Emelan, and while there are details that would make it okay to read on its own, it really does pay to have read the Circle of magic and Circle opens quartets so you have an understanding of who Rosethorn, Briar, and Evvy are. Luckily I have recently read the first book of the Circle of magic series so the characters were quite fresh in my mind, and I have read both Melting stones and the Will of the Empress so it was somewhat satisfying to read Battle magic and fill in some of the gaps of why Briar was so shell shocked from the events that happened in Gyongxe.
While the earlier books set in the Emelan world are aimed at 'tweens (9 years plus) Battle magic has more of a teen feel - while there is no gratuitous violence, the themes are more realistic for a teens audience, or at least a 'tweens audience with adult support if they have questions. Some reviews have criticised Pierce for glossing over some of the details, or feeling that the events described in Battle magic fail to explain the PTSD symptoms that Briar displays in the Will of the Empress - but I don't feel the same way - I do feel that the story should have maybe been on a larger scale, but the story fits the "feel" of the Emelan books.
I did take longer to read Battle magic than I expected as I kept putting it down, but that may be more a me thing than the book thing as there has been a lot going on around me and I didn't get as much chance to read the book in my breaks at work so it possibly took longer for that reason rather than as a lack of connection to the characters. Another addition to the Pierce library for fans of this talented author.
If you like this book then try:
- Melting stones by Tamora Pierce
- The will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce
- Winter of fire by Sherryl Jordan
- The halfmen of O by Maurice Gee
- Crown duel by Sherwood Smith
- Throne of glass by Sarah J. Maas
- Graceling by Kristine Cashore
- The girl of fire and thorns by Rae Carson
- Grave mercy by Robin LaFevers
Reviewed by Brilla