Melting Stones is the most recent addition to Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic world, which started with the Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens quartets, and was continued later on with The Will of the Empress. I have to admit first and foremost that I’m not wildly crazy over any of those nine books.
The series is about four young friends who learn they each have a certain kind of power (one has it in weaving, one in plants, one in metalwork and one in weather) and follows them as they grow up and face challenges with their powers. While the concepts are pretty awesome, I really don’t like the way the characters are handled for the most part. I don’t know what it is specifically, something about the writing style and the way the characters are handled just doesn’t jive with me. The books get a really formulaic feeling to them if you read them all in a row as I did, and each book is through the perspective of one of the four kids—so if you don’t like one’s narrative over another, as I didn’t, then some of the books are really difficult to get through.
Why then, did I go on to read Melting Stones? Well, it interested me for a few reasons. Firstly—and I know, I know, but this really was a factor—the cover is simply gorgeous. Pretty Asian girls are going to draw me in, I admit it. And secondly this book is the first that’s not centered around the four original characters, it’s centered around Evvy, a student of one of the four, and she was a character I remember from the earlier novels and really enjoyed. Her magic is, in case you didn’t get it from the title, in stones. And that’s another reason I was interested—I’ve always thought rocks were pretty cool.
In reality, this follows a very similar formula as the original books—visits a new place in trouble, happens to figure out what the problem is, has to prove self to the local color and authority figures, ends up saving the day. But maybe because it’s been a while since I read the others, this wasn’t as tiresome to me here as it was earlier… or maybe I just liked Evvy more. It’s still a little stiff in the handling of the character—we see maybe a seventeen/eighteen year old girl on the cover, but the Evvy in the narrative is definitely and stubbornly a kid, with a kid’s views, short-sightedness, and prejudices, which makes for a bit of a bore because it’s stuff we’ve seen in the Circle books before over and over again. And it continues a theme that I personally find disturbing of the main characters finding it fitting and almost enjoyable for their enemies to suffer violently if they were given the chance to repent of their ways and refused.
I have to admit, though, that this book was definitely my favorite of the series so far. I especially liked Luvo, Evvy’s friend who’s a small living rock, the heart of a mountain (you can see him riding tucked into her back there, that purple-green rock thing). Luvo was a fantastic character, with the wisdom of ages—and yet some really endearing shortcomings. Seriously, this book is worth reading for the talking rock alone.
And Evvy isn’t quite as hard-boiled as she makes herself out to be, which is something Pierce executes better in this book than in any of the previous Circle books, in my personal opinion. It ends with some really encouraging signs that she’s learning and growing.
So all in all, I give this about a B+. A high B+.