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What Does The Fox Say?

Swan dive back into the magical world of Tortall in Wild Magic, the first book of Tamora Pierce’s second series.

What Does The Fox Say?

BOOK REPORT for Wild Magic (The Immortals #1) by Tamora Pierce

Cover Story: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
BFF Charm: Heck Yes!
Swoonworthy Scale: 1
Talky Talk: Storytelling Pro
Bonus Factors: Sassy Animal Friends, Training Montage, Immortal Creatures, World Building
Relationship Status: Birds of a Feather

A word of warning: This is the second series about the fictional world of Tortall. While it is not a direct continuation of the Song of the Lioness quartet, many previous characters do return, and as such, there are some mild spoilers for that series ahead. I would recommend reading Alanna's books first, but that's not completely necessary to enjoy this series

Cover Story: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

While there have been many cover iterations of this series, thankfully there are no murderous Daine alternatives like we saw with Alanna. I’m focusing on the original covers I grew up seeing on my much worn paperbacks, as I still think they are the least offensive of the bunch (the covers unfortunately got the Big Face makeover in the 2000s).

With all that said, there’s not much to say about this first one. It’s…accurate but bland, since Daine spends a lot of time around a herd of ponies, and a badger and hawk play important roles in the plot. Not the kind of cover that has the power to draw you in on prettiness alone—unless you're a nine-year-old girl obsessed with animals. I did have a giggle as I was reminded of this scene from one of my favorite Jim Carrey movies:

The Deal:

Veralidaine Sarrasi—Daine to her friends, and we totally are—is a thirteen-year-old orphan from a remote mountain village north of Tortall. She survived a bandit raid on her farm that killed her ma and grandda, but now the only family she has left is her loyal but persnickety pony, Cloud. Daine’s innate talent for dealing with animals gets her hired on as a pony herder alongside Onua, the horse mistress for the Queen’s Riders (Queen Thayet’s band of rangers). The most Daine hopes to aspire to is working alongside Onua in the stables, since she’s always felt more comfortable with animals than people.

During their journey to the capital, Onua and Daine encounter unsettling creatures; things that shouldn't exist with monstrous bodies and the heads of humans. There are troubling rumors of them popping up all over Tortall, causing havoc and killing villagers. Daine and Onua also encounter some notorious names from the kingdom, including mage Numair Salmalin. He senses a powerful magic in Daine unlike the typical Gift, but Daine refuses to believe she’s anything special. See, her mom was a small-time hedgewitch who desperately wanted her daughter to have the Gift, but Daine was never able to produce even so much as a candle flame. But despite her denials, with more and more rumors of unrest pouring in from around the countryside, it might be that Daine's peculiar brand of magic is just what her new friends need.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes!

I can’t be objective here; I’m sorry. Daine is my girl, and always will be. She had archery skills down before Katniss was a thought in Suzanne Collins’ brain; she hobnobs with the best and brightest in the kingdom (as much as it bothers her sense of propriety); and she can talk to animals. It was really a toss-up between Heck Yes and Single White Female, because I'm mad jealous of anyone who can converse with our furred friends (what I wouldn’t give to chat with my dog, Winchester. I imagine our discussions would mostly consist of his love of sleeping on pillows and hatred for garbage trucks, but as I also find these things equally awesome and noisy, I've no doubt these convos would be delightful).

But on the other hand, Daine’s only family was murdered, she doesn’t know who her da is, and she’s harboring this worrisome secret that about a horrible period of "madness" she experienced, so her life isn't all pony rides and belly scratches. I also love Daine because she's compassionate, practical, and has no idea how awesome she is. Yet despite her positives, she's still written as a normal teenage girl with fears and bouts of bad temper, making her refreshingly well-rounded.

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

At thirteen, even a mature thirteen, Daine is much more likely to have an otter or a hedgehog as a sleeping companion than a man. After a lifetime of playing adult to her own flighty ma, combined with the trauma she's experienced over the last several months, she may feel old but she’s still easily embarrassed by things like overhearing mating frogs and meeting handsome kings.

Numair becomes an important figure in her life, not only coaching her in her magic but also being a supportive friend. He generally treats her like a peer, but is mindful of her lack in real-world education, so his instincts lean towards protectiveness when things get dangerous. This book is a solid start to their friendship.

Talky Talk: Storytelling Pro

Coming back to Tortall is like a reunion with old friends. You already know the history and the players, so you can jump right into catching up from where you last left off. Tamora gives enough summary for new readers without alienating old ones. I appreciated the continuity from one series to the next, like the Queen’s Riders going from Thayet’s passing idea in the final pages of Lioness Rampant to a driving plot point in this one. This series doesn’t feel quite as hurried as Song of the Lioness, though they still move along at a breezy clip compared to some YA books of today. Pierce's action sequences have only become more nuanced, and are so well-written that you can picture everything playing out like a movie scene.

Bonus Factor: Sassy Animal Friends

This book probably kick-started my love of sassy animal sidekicks. Daine’s got more than enough to go around (um, care to share, lady?). There’s Cloud, her pony, who is rarely impressed with anything and has a general disdain for any human other than Daine (she likes to call Numair “stork-man”). We also have the badger, a mysterious creature who visits Daine in her dreams and pushes her to understand her magic. And I can’t forget Tahoi, a big, loyal sheep dog who herds ponies with Onua and once saved her from domestic abuse. One of my favorite animal friends doesn’t show up until the very end of the book, but she’ll have a large presence in subsequent plots.

Bonus Factor: Training Montage

Daine spends her days helping the trainees learn how to care for their ponies, and her evenings training with Numair to master her magic. I liked learning about the Riders' training procedures and Daine's mental organization (whoever thought reading about meditation would be kind of cool?). She's busier than she thought she'd ever be, but she's also happier than she could’ve ever hoped to be after losing her family in such a brutal way.

Bonus Factor: Immortal Creatures

Some countries are reporting innocuous immortals like unicorns and wood sprites popping up around their villages, but the people in Tortall have been terrorized by things like ogres, spidrens (half-spiders, half-men) and Stormwings (part-vulture, part-human nightmares with razor-sharp metal wings). Someone released these creatures from their cage, and someone may also be controlling them. In a world where magic is commonplace, it’s amusing to see them flummoxed by a griffin or a dragon.

Bonus Factor: World Building

It's rare for an author to have multiple series set in the same world, but it can be a satisfying payoff for loyal readers when it provides an opportunity for deeper and more complex layers of history and political intrigue. And who doesn't love hand-drawn fantasy maps?

Casting Call:

I cast some characters that pop up from the first series here and here.

Real talk: this was one of the hardest castings for me, even harder than Alanna and her friends, because I have read these books so many times and have so finely honed my mental vision of the characters that I could practically draw them into being (if I could draw, which, hahaha, that’s funny. Someone please send a police sketch artist my way). So I had to fall down the Tumblr rabbit hole to find some fan castings, because I was at a loss.

Unfortunately, Tumblr is a scary place and didn’t do much except make me very indecisive. I did appreciate that many people's casting for this series is wonderfully varied and diverse! But to keep it simple, I’m going defer to Ms. Pierce’s inspirations:

Trini Alvarado as Daine

Apparently Trini’s picture was the basis of Daine’s looks, and this was actually the closest photo I found that matches what I envision her to look like.

Jeff Goldblum as Numair

While Jeff Goldblum isn’t exactly my Numair, he’s pretty darn close, and not a bad one to imagine either! Thanks, Tammy! Numair’s casting seems to be the one that gets the widest variety of faces (and the most controversy). I’m curious to know what actors y’all have envisioned for Numair in your fantasies mind’s eye.

Kumiko Konishi as Onua

Onua is Daine’s first friend and gives off a great “big sister” vibe. I feel like her backstory of how to she escaped her abusive past and came to Tortall to become close friends with people like Numair and Alanna is worthy of its own book.

Jonathan Frakes as Adult King Jonathan

So I know I already cast Jonathan way back when, but I realized after starting a rewatch of Star Trek: The Next Generation that, unconsciously, I've always modeled adult King Jonathan after rakish and charming Commander Riker.

Ving Rhames as Sarge

Sarge is one of the trainers of the Queen's Riders. He has a deep, booming voice and refers to his trainees as things like "my lambs" or "my doves" when he mocks them. Sarge is kind of my favorite and thus worthy of casting.

Relationship Status: Birds of a Feather

We were MFEO, Book. You complete me. We had a ton in common when we were younger, and I appreciate you even now (how do you still get me to tear up in all the right places? It’s a gift). I can’t keep your awesomeness to myself, so I hope it’s okay that I’ve introduced you to all my friends. I think you’ll get along swimmingly.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book way back when. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Wild Magic is available now.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.