Review by Pica, avid bookworm
Of the four Circle of Magic books, Sandry's Book is the one I had the most and fondest memories of when rereading this series for the first time since middle school. Sandry's Book, more than any other book in the quartet, focuses on the characters more than the actual events that take place. In the other Circle of Magic books, there is one central goal throughout the book. In Sandry's Book, however, the focus is on each of the four characters' development individually and as a group.
Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar are four children who come from very different backgrounds, but each for some reason or another find themselves alone. Sandry comes from a noble family, hidden away when sickness (a pox, I think) strikes the family, and a mob takes over the estate, leaving her orphaned. Tris, a merchant's daughter, is considered by her family to be unnatural and possibly possesed because of the strange things that happen, such as lightning striking without warning when she is upset, and is sent away from home. Daja is a Trader, the only survivor of a shipwreck. When she is rescued, she is deemed trangshi, bad luck, and therefore is forbidden to have contact with any other Traders. Briar, called Roach at the beginning of the book, is a "street rat" who burgles and picks pockets for a living. He has been caught a third time and is about to be sentenced to life's labor at the docks. They are each discovered by the mage Niklaren Goldeye, or Niko, as he is called, and taken to the Winding Circle temple, where they learn magic based on ordinary skills. Sandry's magic has to do with weaving and threadwork, Tris is a weather mage, Daja works with metals, and Briar has plant magic.
Pierce used Sandry's Book to really get to know the characters before diving into the crises of the other books. It may seem like an odd choice to have little intense action, but it works perfectly in the context of the series as the four main characters must come together to overcome all of the challenges they face. As a character person (well, I'm an everything person, but I like strongly developed characters), Sandry's book and the series as a whole was refreshingly character-centered.
Within the book, the story switches between the four, which may frustrate some (although it stays in third person), but it was one of my favorite parts. The secondary characters, such as Niko or their guardians at Discipline (where they live within Winding Circle), Lark and Rosethorn, are all well developed, one of Pierce's obvious strengths.
Sandry's book was written for a middle grade audience. The books are not overly complex, but they are well-written and fun to read. They not nearly as intense as many YA books, and although intense, high-speed, plot-based books are often fantastic, it's nice to have a break. And although I feel like I'm contradicting myself, I have to mention that they're not overly light and fluffy. Although they're not books that keep you from sleeping until you finish, they have complex characters with struggles of their own, and not everything ties up nicely, just as it doesn't in life. Recommended for Middle Grade readers.
A good opening to the series. Very character driven. No set goal established at the beginning of the book - the characters need to find each other before they can work together. A strong MG.