cover image Sandry's Book

Sandry's Book

Tamora Pierce. Scholastic Press, $15.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-590-55356-8

First in a projected series by veteran fantasy writer Pierce (the Song of the Lioness books), this unfocused tale tells of four young mages who discover their magical abilities while living in a strictly disciplined temple community called Winding Circle. Each is from a different social class, and each is associated with one or more of the four elements. Naughty thief Briar, the only boy, has a special connection with plants and earth. Trader Daja is a smith mage, able to manipulate fire and molten ore. The most powerful of them all is homely Tris, a merchant girl, who masters both air and water to create storms and stop tides. Lady Sandry's talent is for needlework and fabrics; she binds the group of friends and weaves their magics together. Pierce's spunky children and their creative sorcery are as engaging as ever, but the story gets off to a shaky start. The narrative shifts the spotlight among each of the four characters (shown in separate environments) in all three of the first chapters, making it hard for the reader to find a through line with any of them. Once they meet, the characters' gradual mutual acceptance is painfully predictable, and the climactic group effort to escape from an underground cave during an earthquake is muddled and lacks drama. The results are less than magical. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)