Thirteen-year-old Daine has always had a knack with animals, but it's not until she's forced to leave home that she realizes it's more than a knack -- it's magic. With this wild magic, not only can Daine speak to animals, but also she can make them obey her. Daine takes a job handling horses for the Queen's Riders, where she meets the master mage Numair and becomes his student.
Under Numair's guidance, Daine explores the scope of her magic. But she begins to sense other beings too: immortals. These bloodthirsty monsters have been imprisoned in the Divine Realms for the past four hundred years, but now someone has broken the barrier. It's up to Daine and her friends to defend their world from an immortal attack.
This was my very first Tamora Pierce book! I’ve been wanting to read one of her Tortall books for years and years now, but I was never sure where I should start. It’s such a big decision! Whichever book I picked was going to be my introduction to the rest of her works, and since I really wanted to like them I needed to pick one that’d be good.
Eventually I found a post which helpfully laid out the different first books I could start with. I ended up going with (duh) Wild Magic. According to that post, Wild Magic is a good intro book because you can learn about Tortall alongside the protagonist; if you’ve never read a Tortall book before, and want a good base to start from, Wild Magic is the book for you.
Well, maybe. It might be for you. It wasn’t really for me.
Warning: lots of complaining in this post, though I ultimately ended up liking the book more than it might seem from how I’m talking about it.
Unfortunately, Wild Magic and I had a rocky start. The protagonist, Daine, is one of those characters who is good at everything and she’s super strong magically and physically and she can talk to animals and she saves everyone, including major characters like the king and queen and Alanna. She’s a little TOO perfect, and it’s kinda annoying.
Perfect protagonists have nothing to work towards. Daine practices her magic, but she’s so good at it that there were no doubts she’d become a master at it quickly. She has some emotional trauma, but the universe provided her with another family so quickly that I had no doubts she’d be fine. When another country attacked, I had no doubts that she’d save everyone.
I had NO DOUBTS AT ALL about ANYTHING and that’s kind of a bad thing because it means there’s no reason to worry about anyone OR to cheer for them. Half the excitement of a book is watching the character grow as a person; Daine has nowhere to go, up or down.
Daine is in danger? She’ll be fine, because she’s already a perfect warrior and mage at age 13. Someone else is in danger? They’ll be fine because a) Daine will save them for sure and b) they’re major characters in their own series and no way any of them would die in this sequel series.
Which brings me to another problem: Wild Magic takes place after other major series every other character but Daine is in, which means that every time another character from one of those series showed up it felt very much like a cameo. Eventually, too many cameos starts to feel intrusive. Oh, look, it’s another major character from some other series come to gawk at the new girl. I just. idk.
I kinda had this problem with the Howl’s Moving Castle series, though at least in those sequels the characters were allowed to have lives of their own that only marginally involved Howl/Sophie.
Daine doesn’t get any room to maneuver in her own book. She’s surrounded by protagonists of other books who welcome her as a fellow protagonist. It’s the growth problem again. She’s perfect, they recognize her as perfect, and it all ends up being boring when it SHOULD be exciting.
They’re all automatically best friends! They love Daine and she loves them! I’m sure they’re lovely people, but they’re so automatically familiar and friendly with Daine that it comes off as fake. For example, she’s 13 and they’re, what, in their 30s? Would they really treat her as an equal when they’ve got kids her age?
No doubt whenever I actually DO get to those other series I’ll feel differently. I’ll be familiar with Alanna and co. as individual characters instead of a horde of heroes, and cameos and crossovers and etc. will be an exciting thing instead of claustrophobic.1
Anyway, despite my problems with Daine and the people surrounding her, I DID like the actual plot. Once I let myself stop worrying about character growth and overcrowding character line-ups, I very much enjoyed the rest of the book. Conspiracies and talking badgers and horses and dragons are super fun!
Also, despite her perfectness, I liked Daine. She doesn’t realize she’s perfect, which helps, and she’s kind and courageous and can talk to animals, which is pretty cool.
I may regret starting with Wild Magic, but I don’t regret trying a Tamora Pierce book out. I’m definitely going to try an Alanna book next, though. Start with the beginning, not with a sequel! Sigh.
Read: October 31-November 2, 2014
- Spoiler: I read the first Alanna book and I was right! I do like her better in her own series. ↩