Street Magic is the second book in Tamora Pierce’s Circle Opens series. I broke down and ordered this in hardcover, along with the forthcoming third; since this happened to ship first, and since the series consists of the individual stories of emotionally close but currently physically separated friends, I decided to read it by itself.
In this series, the protagonist mages are traveling with their teachers and find themselves with their first students. Briar Moss, a (guess) plant mage, discovers Evvy, a young stone mage, in the city of Chammur. Since Chammur grew out of the surrounding cliffs, stone magic is quite valuable; and since Evvy is a street rat with no one to rely on—until now—she is a prime target for exploitation. While figuring out how to get Evvy the teaching she needs, Briar also has to come to grips with his gang past.
I had the chance to talk with Ms. Pierce at Boskone last month, and she confirmed what I’d suspected, that the move towards a more concrete approach to fantasy was deliberate. It’s most obvious in these books, as their world was constructed later and lacks knights, dragons, or other sword-and-sorcery type trappings—and also lacks, though I don’t know if there’s a connection, the honkin’ big fantasy structure: though the first four books had a very loose arc, these four are all stand-alone, and Ms. Pierce said that only standalone books are being planned in this world (including Tris at Lightsbridge, which made me blurt out “Oh, no” at the gathering; if you’ve read the earlier books, you’ll understand why). I like her other series just fine, mind you, but I find these an enjoyable change of pace, as well as soothing in the way craft-related fiction often is.