Author: Tamora Pierce
Originally Published in December 1992
Review by Miriam Atkinson
Wild Magic is the first book in Tamora Pierce’s series: The Immortals Quartet. The story takes place in the fantasy world of Tortall and is set a few years after the events of Pierce’s previous quartet: Song of the Lioness.
Wild Magic follows young teenager Daine and her loyal pony Cloud as together they try to find a place in the world where they might belong after their families (human and horse) are killed. Daine gains employment with Oona, the Horsemistress who trains new recruits for the Queen’s Riders (a group of mounted soldiers). On her journey, Daine battles against Stormwings and Spidrens and other monstrous beasts known as Immortals which plague the kingdom. Daine also struggles to hide that her magic and magical connection to animals goes far deeper than any of her new friends realise.
As a heroine, Daine is utterly engaging. She displays strength and bravery through her archery skills and fearlessness when fighting the Stormwings. She is intelligent and eager to learn about magic and healing yet on occasion would rather spend more time enjoying herself than doing lessons – a recognisable trait to any student. Despite this Daine is also vulnerable. She gets upset when forced to confront her past and scared at the thought of being alone and losing her new friends. Daine is a fully three-dimensional character whose strengths and weaknesses are both believable and relatable, which is wonderful to see as a reader. I also believe it is important for young readers to be able to read about a young female protagonist who shows them that a person can be strong and vulnerable, intelligent and still have fun, as so often characters in children’s and young adult fiction are stereotyped into a specific category.
I was unfamiliar with Pierce’s kingdom of Tortall before reading Wild Magic but new readers like me don’t need to be familiar with the previous Lioness Quartet to be able to understand and enjoy what is happening. Daine is our guide through the story as the kingdom, wild magic and the various creatures are new experiences to her just as much as they are to first time readers. Although there aren’t pages and pages of description, there is certainly enough to be able to picture this world and its inhabitants. And for fans of Pierce’s original work – fear not as the knight Alanna does make an appearance in this novel.
Readers are introduced to a vibrant array of supporting characters. In addition to Oona and Alanna we also meet characters such as: Numair – one of Tortall’s most powerful mages; Sarge – the no-nonsense commander who helps Oona train the new recruits; and Miri and Evan – two recruits who quickly become friends with Daine. No matter who your favourites are, everyone gets a moment to shine within the story as the characters come together to try and defeat the Immortal threat.
A key plot point is Daine’s magical connection which allows her communicate with animals. Her relationship with animals is just as important as her human connections. This is most clearly shown through the dynamic of Daine and Cloud’s relationship. Despite being human and pony the pair considers each other to be family and their bond is the closest out of all the characters. As a reader it was endearing to see their friendship and protection of each other mixed in with moments of amusement when Cloud adopts an exasperated parental role towards Daine whenever she feels her human friend is being silly or unreasonable.
This review would be incomplete without mentioning more about the villains of the story – the Immortals. So what are Immortals? All have silver claws (and silver wings for those that can fly) and many are creatures readers will recognise from mythology, such as griffins and dragons, whilst others are new creatures created by Pierce. The first Immortals we encounter are Spidrens – giant black spiders with human heads. I personally thought the Spidrens had a lot of potential as a creature and my one small disappointment with the novel is that the Spidrens only appeared in the first half the book. But Wild Magic’s main villains are the Stormwings – harpy-like creatures with blue scales and human faces. They are led by Queen Zannah Bitterclaws who pursues our heroes throughout the novel and joins forces with human pirates and mages in the novel’s epic conclusion. Although Zannah is not given as much depth as the protagonists, for a first novel she still serves as a great introduction for the reader as to what me might expect moving forwards in the series.
Wild Magic is a book that I have adored since I was young and it is my favourite of The Immortals Quartet. It is full of exciting characters, heart-warming friendships, as well as plenty of action and adventure. Although it falls into the children’s and young adult category, I fully believe that Wild Magic is a book that can be enjoyed by everyone.