Tamora Pierce’s Cold Fire is the third book in the Circle Opens series (Street Magic is the second). Daja, a smith-mage, is staying in a northern household for the winter and discovers that the family’s twins have magic. She also learns that an arsonist is active in the firetrap city.
I didn’t like this as well as I expected to, precisely because of my expectations. The first thing that wasn’t as I expected: the jacket copy gave me the impression that the arsonist’s identity was going to be a mystery; it’s not. The second: prior books gave me the impression that the students would be at the plot’s center; they’re not. Of these, the first is not a problem, just a surprise, but I’m not sure about the second. As far as I can tell, the twins could be dropped completely without changing the arson plot, which I think causes the book to lose some coherence.
(This book was also less gory than prior books in the series; the deaths from fire are not graphically described, and while there’s one murder that’s implied to be quite gruesome, we’re never told exactly what occurred. No, this didn’t disappoint me, but I did find it interesting.)
One thing I did like about this is the treatment of adults (this is true for Pierce’s other recent books, as well). Many YA books portray adults as either absent, alien, or the enemy; these treat adults as, well, people, and save their scorn for adults who think younger people aren’t—people, that is. (And for the murderers and arsonists, of course.)
Overall, a solid entry, but not the best of the series.