Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Review: Trickster's Choice & Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce

Trickster’s Choice:
Alianne has an oppressive heritage. She is the daughter of Alanna, Lady Knight and King's Champion - the foremost warrior of Tortall. After a stormy argument with her mother, Aly runs away, but she gets more than she bargains for when she is kidnapped by pirates and sold as a slave in the Copper Isles.
Trickster’s Queen:
Aly's adventure continues. . . . No longer a slave, Alanna's daughter is now spying as part of an underground rebellion against the colonial rulers of the Copper Isles. The people in the rebellion believe that a prophecy in which a new queen will rise up to take the throne is about to be realized. Aly is busy keeping the potential teenage queen and her younger siblings safe, while also keeping her in the dark about her future. But Aly, who is usually adept at anticipating danger and changes, is in for a few nasty surprises.

I read the two books in this series so quickly one after the other that I don’t really feel like I can split the review into two separate ones, so instead I’m just going to talk about the whole.

I love Tamora Pierce’s books. The first book I ever took out in my secondary school library was ‘In the Hand of the Goddess’ (book two in The Song of the Lioness Quartet, apparently I’m terrible at reading books in order and have no patience to wait for the first book to come back into the library. Shocking I know.) And that book choice (and the subsequent reading of every single Tamora Pierce book I could get my hands on) shaped the rest of my reading from that point on.

It is from her that I gained my love of fantasy, of feisty and strong heroines, of fantastic plots and sword fights with a healthy dose of magic thrown in for good measure. And so when I saw these two new books focusing on Alanna’s daughter I couldn’t resist.

And they are very good examples of why Tamora Pierce remains the queen of high fantasy. They don’t have quite the same magic and appeal as The Song of the Lioness Quartet, and they are a lot heavier going, but they were definitely worth the wait.

Aly was a fascinating character in her own right, never mind that she was the product of one of my favourite fantasy couples of all time. It was fascinating to see the little glimpses we got into George and Alanna’s lives now they’ve grown up and started a family (although the little girl in me really wanted some more of them…) She combines just the right amount of qualities of both her parents with enough individuality to keep her individuality.

Pierce has a formidable array of skills that she utilises in all of her books. Her world building is fantastic. It’s complex and rich, full of vibrancy and life and history and religion and utterly engrossing. There were some aspects that of this that bogged the book down a little in places, which is something I haven’t really experienced with a Pierce back before, but on the whole it was fantastic.

She creates a likeable and realistic heroine, and then surrounds her with equally fascinating and believably secondary characters. Everyone comes alive from the page, whether it’s some of the softer moments with Nawat or conversations with Dove, or the planning with the rest of the rebellion. The only thing that might put a damper on some people's enthusiasm is that like most of Tamora Pierce's heroines, you know that Aly is somehow going to save the day and come out on top, which may ruin some of the intrigue. However despite knowing there was a more than good chance things would end up ok, Pierce still manages to make the plot engaging and twisty so that I really couldn't see how some things would play out, and the emotional impact some of these events may produce.

There’s enough action to keep the whole thing ticking along quite nicely. and enough twists and turns that even I wasn't sure how things might turn out. Admittedly the first book was a lot more about the set up and establishing the characters and situation which meant that it wasn’t as high paced as the second book, but together they still clip along at a good pace.

Everything is believable, right from the characters and world to the motives the politics and the evil schemes that Aly comes up with to strike terror into their enemies. It was fascinating to see the strength of Alanna come through combined with George’s cunning and slyness, and I loved seeing her work as the Spymaster.

The thing that I love most about Peirce’s writing is her romances. They are never forced, there are never any triangles just for the sake of tension, but most of all there is never any insta love. In fact I don’t remember any paragraph where Aly suddenly realizes she’s in love, which is fantastic, because it’s a slow gradual process that is utterly believable. These books that have the sudden realization paragraph make a little bit of my soul die every time I read one, because they usually completely undermine any build up and turn what was progressing quite nicely into a be all and end all relationship. There is none of that here, and yet I completely believe that Aly loves Nawat. I completely believe that they are right for each other and five years down the line she isn’t going to run off with someone else. I completely believe that their commitment is real and durable, and that’s what makes it so special for me.

It isn’t the sort of series to gain the same praise as ‘Song of the Lioness’ but it’s still a very well written fantasy, engaging and fascinating, and a welcome break from the real world into the intrigue and plotting of the Raka revolution. For fans of Tamora Pierces other books, Maria V Snyder and Kristin Cashore, this is a brilliant fantasy series.

1 comment:

  1. I so badly neeed to read something by Tamora Pierce already!