October 15, 2008
By Tamora Pierce
Rosethorn, a dedicate at Winding Circle Temple, has been called to Starns, one of the Battle Islands, because the plants are dying. She brings Evvy along since Briar is in Namorn and Evvy's been getting into trouble, but it turns out to be lucky because the island is suffering from worrying earthquakes. Evvy's rock magic allows her to realize the island is a volcano about to become active again and erupt.
For those familiar with Tamora Pierce's Emelan universe MELTING STONES steps out of the usual pattern. It's told in first person, partially due to its origin as an audiobook. I think the narration worked well in written form as I could easily imagine a voice speaking the words aloud. It's also the first book to not feature Sandry, Tris, Briar, or Daja. The four are mentioned, especially Briar, but this is not their book. It's Evvy's. For those who might not have liked her in STREET MAGIC, this could be a problem. I liked her in her first appearance and enjoyed the trip into her head.
Evvy grew up poor, eventually sold into slavery by her mother. She lived in the slums until Briar recognized her magic - and then the two got caught in the middle of a war, along with Rosethorn. Perhaps the thing I enjoyed most about the book was learning more about Gyongxe, since the war occured between The Circle Opens and THE WILL OF THE EMPRESS. I also enjoyed the reveal of the nature of Luvo, previously known only as Evvy's strange friend.
For those unfamiliar with the 'verse, it might be hard to understand some of Evvy's more callous actions since she has undergone a rise in social status. On the other hand, it's in a fairly new setting with only two recurring characters so there isn't much background explanation needed. (The island is populated with orphans from the destruction of the pirate fleet - a nice exploration of the consequences of Tris's book. It rewards old fans but doesn't need to be explained to new readers.)
The plot moves a bit slower than most of Pierce's novels. She's usually deft in balancing internal and external conflicts, but the internal conflict is far more interesting in MELTING STONES. I wanted to spend less time with Evvy trying to mitigate the volcanic explosion and more with her learning how to interact with humans rather than rocks. It's still a good, quick read, but I can't help but compare it to earlier books in the series.
Melting Stones became available in book form on October 1st. The audiobook is available from Full Cast Audio. Previous novels in the Emelan universe include The Circle of Magic Quartet, The Circle Opens Quartet, and THE WILL OF THE EMPRESS. You can find out more about Tamora Pierce and her novels at her website or eljay. I also recommend a stop by Sheroes Central, the incredible forum Pierce co-founded. Readergirlz is featuring Pierce, among others, on October 16 as part of their Night Bites promotion for YALSA Teen Read Week.