Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Even if you haven't read the previous books (Will of the Empress and "The Circle of Magic" and "The Circle Reformed" series) you can relatively easily get into this world, but honestly, you really do want to go and read all the "previouslies". Trust me. As always, Pierce deftly creates not just a world but one that works with few (if any) things that seem out of place. And the characters grow, even when they're off-stage you get the sense that they're not just waiting for their next entrance.
So why only four stars? One was disappointment: the moving stone statues/figures sound so fascinating and are so little explored (the tiger excepted). The other was slight annoyance that the world and this war seem to be a fantasy version of Tibet v. China (look at the names... the claim that Gyongxe is so close to the gods because it's so high in the air... the mountains... need I go on?). It just felt a little like cheating in terms of sneaking in a (possibly unintended) political agenda. And finally, the constant change of viewpoints, with Rosethorn disappearing for a while with no explanation of what happened while she was delivering the sacred Treasure (perhaps that will come in another book? I so wanted to know!)
Beyond that, though, this is strong fantasy and the paranormal additions are not vampires or werewolves but true magic. Sorely missed in this current YA environment!