|A Novel of the Emelan|
|Setting||Battle Islands: Starns|
|Cover Artist||Jerry Russell|
|Release Date||October 2007|
|UK Release Date||October 2008|
|Series||The Circle Reforged|
|Preceded by||Will of the Empress|
|Followed by||Battle Magic|
Melting Stones is the tenth book of the Circle Universe and the second stand-alone after The Will of the Empress. The book follows Evumeimei Dingzai after she returned from the Gyongxin War with Briar Moss and Rosethorn. She and Rosethorn go to the Battle Islands where they investigate a new extremely dangerous threat.
Melting Stones was the first of Tamora Pierce's texts to be released as an audiobook before a publicly available written text was produced. The release of the audiobook occurred in October 2007, with the hardback due for release in October 2008. The audiobook is a Full Cast Audio production, narrated by Evvy (spoken by Grace Kelly), with different voice actors portraying each character. As is usual for Full Cast Audio productions of Tamora Pierce books, Tim Liebe and Tamora pierce both portrayed characters.
This release was, like Will of the Empress, covered events that happened after Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy experienced traumatic things during a war. Eventually a book covering the war will be released, however neither Melting Stones or Will of the Empress go into depth about those happenings, leaving some readers confused about the timeline. Instead these events leading up to are detailed in Battle Magic.
Spoiler Alert: The following section contains spoilers about Melting Stones.
Evvy has developed a more pessimistic view of humans since we last saw her, and after beating some bully boys to an unnecessary extent she is sent with Rosethorn and fussy Dedicate Myrrhtide to Starns, an island in need. The problems there are actually caused by magma spirits trying to break to the surface, and after negotiation and trickery are unsuccessful, the island has to be evacuated. Evvy stays behind because she got mad at a little girl named Meryem, who then ran away, and she wants to stop the volcano. She is unsuccessful, but her friend Luvo manages to convince the hearts of the mountains/islands to stand against the magma spirits. The magma spirits are sent farther off shore to erupt, and after spending three days in recovery and a further two and a half navigating ruined roads, Evvy gets to the town inn and finds that Meryem, Nori, and Jayat (who had gone after Meryem) are all safe. Evvy realises how bad it was to think of herself as superior to other people because they weren't rocks, and furthermore she loved feeling good because she had helped others. She decides to become a dedicate, like Rosethorn.
The events in this book occur concurrently with Will of the Empress, after Briar, Daja, Sandry, and Trisana have left for Namorn. Due to having fought with other young residents at Winding Circle, Evumeimei Dingzai was given the ultimatum by Rosethorn that she either accompany Rosethorn and Dedicate Myrrhtide to Starns, or be confined to Discipline cottage. The dedicates had been called to Starns as trees were dying there without reason and water was turning bad. Starns is part of the Battle Islands, however the cluster of islands is no longer refuge for pirates as it had been cleared out by Duke Vedris years before.
After the relatively simple village of Starns sent to Winding Circle for help, Rosethorn and the irritating Dedicate Myrrhtide are sent to help. Evvy, who had recently beaten some rich boys in a fight was sent away until the boys' parents could calm down. The journey to Starns is boring and somewhat torturous for Evvy, who can't stand sailing in deep water because she can't feel any rocks. On the way there both Evvy and Dedicate Myrrhtide, a water mage, feel tremors in the ground and water (respectively). This sets the mood for the rest of the book, as small quakes and ripples occur throughout it. Along with the unexplainable death of trees, water sources turning acidic, and the magical lines of power that the Starns mages draw power from disappearing.
The reason for the recent curiosities is not easily established by the Dedicates, who are lead around the island by Oswin (an inventor and problem-solver of sorts, who operates his home much like an orphanage) and Jayatin (a young academic mage under the tutorage of Starns's only other mage), who are both residents of the island. While exploring the rocks beneath the surface, Evvy meets two spirits that she names Flare and Carnelian. These spirits are very hot and excitable, and almost kill Evvy with their proximity until she manages to lose them. Evvy has more meetings with the spirits who, along with thousands of other like apparations, make up magma beneath the island. Later it is established that the tremors are because the magma is getting ready to burst to the surface and erupt in a volcano. Luvo realises that the cooling of magma is how mountains are created, and the humans decide to evacuate the island.
Added to the conflict the excitement that the magma is making Evvy feel, she has an additional problem where Dedicate Myrrhtide (unaffectionately called Dedicate Fusspot by Evvy) is reminding Evvy that just because she was travelling with Briar Moss and Rosethorn, she isn't untouchable and will be thrown out of Winding Circle at sixteen, unless she takes her vows and means them. However rude these interjections are, they have an element of truth, and they make Evvy hate Myrrhtide even more. Evvy's behaviour contrasts with her want to melt into magma, and her referring to humans as 'meat-creatures'. It is made obvious that she distances herself from humans, and is bitter about her past experiences.
Evvy decides to try and convince the spirits to wait, and after that fails she traps them in a mobius of quartz. This traps Flare and Carnelian for a while, but also makes them more powerful when they finally break free. By that time the rest of the magma is ready to follow them out, they just have to make their way out. This intensifies the humans' need to evacuate offshore, but there is very little time. In the evacuation Evvy managed to yell at and upset the six-year-old Meryem, who had taken a liking to Evvy. The girl was the child of pirates and an orphan from the attacks by Duke Vedris on the pirates. Like other pirate orphan children Meryem lived in Oswin's house and in the chaos it took to ensure such a large household with only one adult was evacuated, she managed to escape back to Oswin's house without anyone the wiser. Nori and Jayatin follow Meryem, however the rest of the island (apart from undesirables who intend to loot houses) manage to evacuate to another island.
The stone mage realises that she should have been patient and more persistant with the magma, and stayed with them long enough to send them out to the sea where they would do less damage. However, five miles out of the islands and directly below the evacuating fleet the magma swell and become stronger. Evvy comes to the realisation that people don't always get what they want in life, showing that she has matured since the beginning of the book. Furthermore, she regrets the impersonal and obnoxious way that she referred to humans as 'meat-creatures', because though they are temporary, she is temporary too. When Evvy is almost certain that she will die, Luvo interrupts with the voices of the other islands, who together force the magma to go farther out where they will not kill the other islands. This the volcano spirits do, and they will eventually become an island themselves.
The conclusion of the book sees Evvy exhausted and fending for herself for three days in an abandoned farm, while earthquakes and ash rain down on Starns. After that time, she finds two mules to take her back to the ruined town and its inn (a journey that takes two and a half days) where she finds Nori, Jayatin and Meryem. She reflects upon how it feels good to have been helpful, to have given back to her fellow humans. The realisations that she made while helping Starns result in Evvy deciding to become a novice, and eventually a dedicate. The closing lines see Evvy being offered a kitten from Meryem, and considering it because novices are allowed a pet. This is perhaps symbolic of Evvy accepting what happened to her in Yanjing, as she had cats when leaving Chammur.
Due to the nature of Evvy's ambient magic with stones, and Luvo's being the heart of a mountain, rocks and land masses are able to communicate to them and are therefore considered as characters. The list below is not all of the characters, but is the list of which we can currently be certain of the spelling.
Residents of Winding Circle
Residents of Starns
- Friendly Crystal
- Housekeeper Crystal
- Old Crystal
- The Sea
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
In Melting Stones we learn that the travelling mages attempted to persuade the temples to believe that the Emperor would soon invade, but they were ignored. In the time of the war, Evvy also found herself separated from Rosethorn and Briar and was tortured for knowledge that she had about their location. Methods include flaying Evvy's feet, and they are still scarred. In the earlier parts of the text Evvy punches Dedicate Myrrhtide, thinking that he is a Yanjing soldier when he touches her unexpectedly. Rosethorn announces that she had warned Myrrhtide, and that Evvy was justified in the punch because she had been in the war. She also reminds Myrrhtide that for the same reason, she told him not to touch her. From this we know that Briar is not the only one of the three to suffer PTSD.