All the orphaned Daine wants when she comes to Tortall is a job. What she finds is magic in many forms, an ongoing war with creatures from legends and nightmares, a new home and, eventually, her unknown father. Hired by the Queen's Riders to help with their horses, she learns her knack with animals is a rare magic which helps her to communicate with the animal kingdom.
With that discovery she becomes the student--then friend and sometimes protector--of the great mage Numair. He also helps her to develop her second magical skill, the ability to sense the presence of the immortals, fabled creatures who have come to mortal lands after a long imprisonment.
All these changes in Daine's life bring her new human friends as well as animal ones: Tortall's rulers, Alanna the Lioness, the heir to the throne of imperial Carthak, a pygmy marmoset, and the badger god. Often she comes into contact--and sometimes conflict--with Stormwings--half human, half steel birds; dragons; spidrens--giant furred spiders with human heads and an appetite for human flesh; griffins; and the clawed, winged horses called hurroks. Daine is kept on the move as she grows into adulthood and her power, coming to terms with her world and her strange, mixed parentage.
Wouldn't it be fun if you could talk to animals? What would you say? What would they say? Better yet, what if you could become an animal? How would it feel if you had the body of a hawk, but you still had your mind? That would be cool. You'd have the keen eyesight of the bird and the ability to fly. What if you could be a wolf? You'd have such a strong sense of smell. What instincts would you feel pulling on you? What would it feel like?
I have loved animals my whole life and I feel a strong connection with them. Animals have always kind of liked me and even generally mean animals will be quite gentle around me. I like to think that animals are a good judge of character and that they know when you are a good person (though they can also smell fear and weakness). Maybe I'm just crazy. I talk to animals as if they were people. My favourite horse out in Jerudong likes that a lot. She is always excited to see me and she'll even nuzzle her face up against my chest as I pet her - it's like she's asking for a hug. It's so weird. Her neck is so soft, but she likes it best when I scratch behind her ears. Horses are amazing! I wish I'd appreciated them more when I had them. My cat, Cha-cha is a lot like a person. He does NOT like to be ignored. When I go out every morning I have to remove him from the hood of my car because he is determined to get at least 30 seconds of my time before I head to work. It's hard to ignore a cat when he is staring in the windshield at you. He's one cool cat with personality plus and a wicked attitude if you do something that annoys him. He's great.
Anyway, last year I came across Tamora Pierce's Immortals Series. If you enjoy the myth-science fiction stuff like Narnia (or the more sophisticated Lord of the Rings), then you should be able to get something out of Wild Magic. Even if you aren't into that type of book, but you like animals, you will still really enjoy it. When I read the book jacket, the idea that a thirteen-year-old girl would discover the magical ability to become animals really caught my attention.
Pierce creates an interesting world and it is fun to join Daine's journey as she discovers her magical abilities. I highly recommend Wild Magic. Read the set in order, though. You'll enjoy them more that way. I donated the entire set to the Reading Room and there are also some older copies in there so you should have a good chance of getting a hold of one. Look under "P" for Pierce.
BTW, I really like the cover art. Isn't it great? It looks so much nicer than the older versions.