Cover of Wild Magic: a herd of horses while Daine rides one surrounded by other animals.

About the Book

Title: Wild Magic (The Immortals #1)
Published: 1992
Series: The Immortals
Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Cover StoryAce Ventura: Pet Detective
BFF Charm: Heck Yes!
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:

Ace Ventura kneeling in his apartment with animals all around him.

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!

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

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

A shaggy pony in a field.

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

Rocky raising his fists on the steps of the Philly Museum of Art.

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

Black outline of a unicorn

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

Drawn fantasy map of Tortall

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?

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 (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.