I received a copy from the publisher's. Trust me, this doesn't affect my review in any way because Tamora Pierce is fantastic, has always been fantastic, and will remain fantastic until the end of time.
Goodreads: On their way to the first Circle temple in Gyongxe, mages Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy pay a visit to the emperor's summer palace. Although treated like royalty when they first arrive, the mages soon discover that the emperor plans to invade Gyongxe, posing a fatal threat to the home temple of the Living Circle religion. Accompanied by one of the emperor's prize captives, the three mages rush to Gyongxe to warn its citizens of the impending attack. With the imperials hot on their trail, Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy must quickly help the country prepare for battle. But even with the help of new allies, will their combined forces be enough to fight the imperial army and win the war?
It's pretty clear I love Tamora Pierce. What can I say to convince you that if you aren't reading her that you should be? I've talked over and over about how much she's influenced my life as a person and as a reader. This book only proves everything I've always said about her. Instead of hearing me say it again, feel free to search my blog for any mention of Tamora Pierce (or click those links).
So feel free to assume everything that is magical and amazing about Tamora Pierce's novels also apply to this book. But THIS book in particular, is one that I have been waiting for! I'd say it was for ages (it feels like it!), but if we're going to be honest, I only caught up with the series in December so it would be a lie. Why is this book so special you ask? Well you might remember me mentioning in a review of an earlier book in the series that I felt very confused about parts of Briar's story because it kept referencing things that happened...but we didn't know about said events yet. This is the book that explains it all! We finally get the details of Briar's war experience, of Gyongxe, and what happened that was so terrible. And I have to say, after finishing this, I was not disappointed. It was everything I could have hoped for and more. There's adventure, and dire situations, and you finally get the background on how Evvy met Luvo (which is something I wanted to know about in the second book, so you get answers on that front too!) There's a certain level of graphicness in this series that I don't think is quite at the same level in the Tortall series. It's not over the top (we've discussed how much of a weenie I am before), but it's just enough to really pack a punch. And I LOVE it!
That being said, I have only one criticism of this book, and it's more a criticism of the entire Circle Reforged quartet. If you have not read this series yet (and you really, really, REALLY should!) I would recommend reading this quartet out of order. I would read this book first. Even though it is the third in the quartet, it is referenced so often in the first two books that I think the series would feel more cohesive. I might even read the whole quartet backwards, but I think whether you read the 1st and 2nd book in order doesn't really matter. And in the grand scheme of things, if this is my only criticism of the book...that's NOTHING. So go read this book, and if you're new to the series you are missing out on so much amazingness and you should remedy that. Like. Right now.