Hello!! I’m so glad you’ve found your way to this post! I’m hoping it will be as informative as possible for those of you interested in diving into the world of Tamora Pierce!
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been asked the question: Which Tamora Pierce book should I pick up first? And after my last post, I got asked to make a spreadsheet of how to read her books in order. So…I decided the best way to do this would be to write a blog post! Don’t worry, I will include a spreadsheet at the very end 🙂
1. WHO IS TAMORA PIERCE?
While you can easily Google this and find her website, I thought I’d say a little bit about the author herself. Most of you have probably never heard of her. Tammy started writing in the 80s, so most of us weren’t even born yet. I like to consider her as one of the OG YA (Young Adult) authors. She pretty much kicked off the whole genre with her books. On top of that, I feel like she’s also one of the first authors who started writing strong, independent, confident female main characters. While those kinds of characters are very common these days, they weren’t back in the 80s, so Tammy has done a lot for the world of fantasy and writing in general!
2. THE TWO WORLDS
First things first, I wanted to talk about the two different worlds.
While the majority of the books in this world are set in Tortall, many of the characters either travel to or interact with people from the neighbouring lands. I love the diversity of the Tortall Universe. Many of these lands are inspired by countries, cultures, and belief systems that we are probably somewhat familiar with.
The Tortall realm is composed of multiple series, each following a different main character.
These are the books in chronological order by time, NOT PUBLICATION. So…Beka Cooper takes place 200 years before the start of The Song of the Lioness. The Numair Chronicles, TP’s newest trilogy (the first book is set to be released in February 2018), takes place before the events in Immortals, but after the events in Song of the Lioness and so on… One of the exciting things about this world is that many of the earlier characters show up in the later books as side characters!
The Emelan/Circle universe is a bit different. It follows four children as they learn to accept, control and harness their magic. So instead of the characters changing series to series, they stay mostly the same. Another point I should add is that the magic system is different from that in Tortall. I personally found it to be a little harder to imagine in my head, but this will probably vary person to person.
The Circle of Magic series takes place mainly in the land of Emelan. But The Circle Opens, and Circle Reforged, mostly take place in the neighbouring kingdoms. The Emelan Universe is as diverse as the Tortall one in this case. However, I find that the main characters in this world are waaay more diverse in terms of race, sexuality, body type, etc. So that is something to take into consideration when picking where to start
3. WHERE DO I BEGIN?
It’s really up to you in the end. I discovered the Tortall universe first, so it will always have a special place in my heart. One thing to remember is that The Song of the Lioness is Tammy’s first book series. So it’s a good starting point especially if you want to see how Tammy’s writing progresses as the world is expanded. However, personally for me, I found the Circle Universe to be more diverse. If that’s what you’re looking for, then maybe the Circle Universe is a good place to start.
One last thing I’d like to mention is this…Tammy has an interesting way of writing. She starts off her characters quite young – anywhere between 10-13 years of age – and then as the books continue, the characters grow older and the tone of the book changes and becomes more mature. So in a way, her books go from MG (Middle Grade) to YA. Despite the younger characters in the beginning, I didn’t find the books any less relatable or enjoyable. All of Tammy’s characters are so well-developed and thought out and I’m pretty sure they would resonate with anyone of any age!
Okay…so now that you have an idea of what each world is like, I’m going to talk about the order you should read the books within each Universe. I’m going to include a little summary of the first book in every series (unless it’s spoilery), so you have an idea what they’re about if you still can’t decide where you want to start.
4. TORTALL UNIVERSE
Now there are two main starting points when it comes to the Tortall Universe. I’m going to mention both, then tell you which one I recommend personally 🙂
The first option is going in chronological order by date. So since Beka Cooper takes place 200 years before, you can start by reading those first, then Song of the Lioness and so on…
The second option is to read them in order of publication date*. The main reason I recommend this option is because Beka Cooper has a lot of little Easter eggs that will make any fan of the previous books really, really excited!! Also, Beka Cooper happens to have one of the weaker endings to a trilogy, so I suggest reading it last.
As you might be able to tell, I recommend the second option over the first! Mostly because by reading the series in publication order, you get to see how Tamora Pierce’s writing style and plot complexity evolves as she grows and develops as a writer. If you read Beka Cooper first, then picked up Song of the Lioness, the differences between the two might be a bit jarring. While both series are amazing, you’ll definitely enjoy the whole world as a whole by doing it this way!
*Now the reason The Numair Chronicles is starred is because this series isn’t out yet. The first book, Tempests and Slaughter, is coming out in February of 2018. So it is really up to the reader how they want to read it.
You may have noticed that the order is also switched under the two options. The reason is because the first option is in order of events. And since Numair’s story happens before Daine’s (Immortals), you should technically read it before. HOWEVER…I think reading Numair’s series after Immortals is better because you’re already introduced to some of the characters that will show up, plus you’re more aware of the setting it takes place in. Also, if you’re a fan of the series, I think you’ll agree that after the end of Immortals, you just want more! So I would recommend stretching out this new series. I mean, it isn’t even released yet, so you have a lot of time. After reading the first book in February of 2018, you can go ahead and read the rest of Tamora Pierce’s works and then just read the books as they are released!
>>> I should also add…Tammy has said in her newsletter that Tempests and Slaughters can be read without having read any of her books. So if you’re not sure, or if you’re like me and you’re waiting for the new covers to be introduced, you can always start with this one and see what you think!
TERRIER (#1 Beka Cooper)
Synopsis: Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost’s Guard, commonly known as “the Provost’s Dogs,” in Corus, the capital city of Tortall. To the surprise of both the veteran “Dogs” and her fellow “puppies,” Beka requests duty in the Lower City. The Lower City is a tough beat. But it’s also where Beka was born, and she’s comfortable there.
Beka gets her wish. She’s assigned to work with Mattes and Clary, famed veterans among the Provost’s Dogs. They’re tough, they’re capable, and they’re none too happy about the indignity of being saddled with a puppy for the first time in years. What they don’t know is that Beka has something unique to offer. Never much of a talker, Beka is a good listener. So good, in fact, that she hears things that Mattes and Clary never could – information that is passed in murmurs when flocks of pigeons gather … murmurs that are the words of the dead.
In this way, Beka learns of someone in the Lower City who has overturned the power structure of the underworld and is terrorizing its citizens into submission and silence. Beka’s magical listening talent is the only way for the Provost’s Dogs to find out the identity of this brutal new underlord, for the dead are beyond fear. And the ranks of the dead will be growing if the Dogs can’t stop a crime wave the likes of which has never been seen. Luckily for the people of the Lower City, the new puppy is a true terrier!
ALANNA: THE FIRST ADVENTURE (#1 Song of the Lioness)
Synopsis: From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.
And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.
But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.
Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.
WILD MAGIC (#1 Immortals)
Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Daine has always had a special connection with animals, but only when she s forced to leave home does she realize it s more than a knack it s magic. With this wild magic, not only can Daine speak to animals, but she can also 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 encounters other beings, too, who are not so gentle. These terrifying creatures, called Immortals, have been imprisoned in the Divine Realms for the past four hundred years but now someone has broken the barrier. And it s up to Daine and her friends to defend their world from an Immortal attack.
TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER (#1 Numair Chronicles)
Synopsis: Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.
FIRST TEST (#1 Protector of the Small)
Synopsis: Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood. Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces only one real roadblock: Lord Wyldon, the training master of pages and squires. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. So while he is forced to train her, Wyldon puts her on probation for one year. It is a trial period that no male page has ever had to endure and one that separates the good natured Kel even more from her fellow trainees during the tough first year. But Kel Is not a girl to underestimate, as everyone is about to find out…
TRICKSTER’S CHOICE (#1 Daughter of the Lioness)
Synopsis: Alianne is the teenage daughter of the famed Alanna, the Lioness of Tortall. Aly is bold and brave like her mother, but she has no wish to become a knight.
After a furious argument Aly runs away, with disastrous consequences. Captured and sold as a slave in the Copper Isles, she discovers that this whole nightmare has not come about by chance – the Trickster God, Kyprioth, has plans for her…
Before moving on to the next section. I want to talk about two companion novels.
The book on the left is a bunch of short stories following some familiar characters and some new ones too! I recommend reading this after you’ve read all the books in the Tortall Universe. The book on the right, is set to be released on October 31st, 2017. I also recommend reading this after you’ve read the other books set in this world. Tortall: A Spy’s Guide is more of a guidebook to the world of Tortall, so if you want to learn more about the world, definitely pick it up!
5. EMELAN UNIVERSE
The Emelan Universe is pretty easy to follow. You want to begin with The Circle of Magic series. There are four books in this series, and each one is dedicated to one of the main characters – Sandry, Tris, Briar, or Daja. The other three characters also play a huge role in each book, but the story arc is focused on the one main character.
SANDRY’S BOOK (#1 Circle of Magic)
Synopsis: With her gift of weaving silk thread and creating light, Sandry is brought to the Winding Circle community. There she meets Briar, a former thief who has a way with plants; Daja, an outcast gifted at metalcraft; and Tris, whose connection with the weather unsettles everyone, including herself. At Winding Circle, the four misfits are taught how to use their magic – and to trust one another. But then disaster strikes their new home. Can Sandry weave together four kinds of magical power and save herself, her friends, and the one place where they’ve ever been accepted?
The Circle Opens takes place four years after the end of Circle of Magic, and like the first series, each book focuses on one of the main characters. However, in this series, the characters are no longer together, but go off on their own with their individual instructors.
MAGIC STEPS (#1 The Circle Opens)
Synopsis: Lady Sandrilene fa Toren knows all about unusual magic – she herself spins and weaves it like thread. But when she witnessed a boy dancing a spell, even she is confounded. To her dismay, Sandry learns that as the mage who discovered the power of the young dancer, she must be his teacher. Before lessons can begin, however, Sandry and her uncle, Duke Vedris, get news of a mysterious murderer stalking a clan of local merchants. The killer employs the strangest magic of all: the ability to reduce essence to nothingness. As the murders mount and the killer grows bolder, Sandry’s teaching takes on a grave purpose. For it becomes clear to everyone that the killings can only be stopped by the combined workings of two people: the young teacher and her even younger student.
Circle Reforged is not exactly a trilogy, but consists of three companion novels to the Emelan Universe. Goodreads has this trilogy organized by year of publication, but I actually don’t recommend reading it in that order. Here’s how to read the books in chronological order based on when the books take place.
BATTLE MAGIC (#1 Circle Reforged)
Synopsis: While visiting the God-King and the First Circle temple in Gyongxe, mages Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy are invited to visit 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?
Battle Magic occurs first chronologically. So I highly recommend reading this first because there are small things mentioned in the other two books that’ll have more context if you’ve read this one.
After Battle Magic, you can either read Melting Stones first or The Will of the Empress. I would recommend reading Melting Stones first because while I did enjoy it, it doesn’t follow the four main characters from this world, but a side character. Personally, I think it’s waaay better to end a series on a high note, so read The Will of the Empress last!
MELTING STONES (#2 Circle Reforged)
Synopsis: Residents on one of the islands south of Emelan have sent a call for help to Winding Circle temple: Their plants and trees and the animals that live around them are mysteriously dying.
From Winding Circle come two familiar figures: prickly green mage Rosethorn, whose plant magic will help her decipher what’s ailing the plant life, and Briar’s former student, the stone mage Evvy. With them comes the eager, nervous Dedicate Initiate Myrrhflower and Luvo, a being best described as a walking, intelligent rock. All are pulled into the island’s mystery when Evvy is caught up by the wild spirits loose in an immense bubble of molten rock. Can they evacuate the island in time–or will they try to shift a volcano?
THE WILL OF THE EMPRESS (#2 Circle Reforged)
Synopsis: For years the Empress of Namorn has pressed her young cousin, Lady Sandrilene fa Toren, to visit her vast lands within the Empire’s borders. Sandry has avoided the invitation for as long as it was possible. Now, listening to her guilty conscience, Sandry has agreed to pay that overdue visit.
Sandry’s uncle promises guards to accompany her. But they’re hardly a group of warriors! They’re her old friends from Winding Circle: Daja, Tris, and Briar. Sandry hardly knows them now. They’ve grown up and grown apart. Sandry isn’t sure they’ll ever find their old connection again – or if she even wants them to.
When they arrive at the palace, it slowly dawns on Sandry why the Empress has really brought her to Namorn. She’s set a cunning trap to keep Sandry in the brutal Empire forever.
The Empress has wily and powerful mages on her side. But so, of course, does Sandry…if she can get them to work together.
(Also…I like to consider this a million times better version of what ACOTAR was supposed to be. So just keep that in mind 😉)
Okay…so there it is! Now I mentioned above that I’d make a spreadsheet for this as well, but this post is long enough as it is. If you guys still want a spreadsheet, let me know and I’ll make one and either add it here, or link it on my social media!
I hope this helps out those of you starting off on your Tamora Pierce journey! If anything doesn’t make sense or you have questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments! If I can convert any of you into becoming hardcore Tamora Pierce fans, I’ll probably just retire and live happily for the rest of my life 😂