Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Choice (2003). 403 Pages. Random House. $8.95
The Daughter of the Lioness Book 1
I told myself I’d review the Tortall books in order, but clearly that’s not happening. Alianne Cooper’s books (Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen) are the last books set in “present” Tortall; after this, they revert to Beka’s story, which is the Tortall of the past. The reason? Pierce couldn’t bear to think about a world after Alanna’s generation was gone, or even when they were old. I understand completely. However, if you are thinking of just picking up Tamora Pierce books, these are not the ones to start with; they spoil an awful lot of plot points from earlier sets, because these come much later. If you read Tortall, it is best to start with The Song of the Lioness and move forward from there.
It’s not easy being the daughter of legends; her mother is the Lioness, Champion of Tortall, and her father is The Whisper Man, the Tortallan spy-master. Aly’s twin, Alan, is a knight-in training, her older brother, Thom, is a student mage, her adoptive uncles and aunts are the most powerful, and influential people of their generation. It’s no wonder that Aly feels a little lost, and unsure of what she’s going to do with her life. Frustrated by arguments with her parents, Alianne sets out from Pirate’s Swoop to Port Legann, but she never makes it. She is caught by slavers, and shipped off to the Copper Isles.
Determined to make the best of a bad situation, and survive until she can escape, and get home to her family, Aly endures her time as a slave. When she arrives in the Copper Isles, she is purchased by the Balitang family, and then approached by the Trickster, her father’s patron god, and the deposed patron of the Copper Isles. He proposes a wager with Aly, one which will give her a direction, and a goal (at least for the summer), and which will help him. All she has to do is keep the two Balitang daughters alive… how hard could that be?
George Cooper, Baron of Pirate’s Swoop, second in command of his realm’s spies, put his documents aside and surveyed his only daughter as sh e paused by his study door. Alianne– known as Aly to her family and friends– posed there, arms raised in a Player’s dramatic flourish. It seemed that she had enjoyed her month’s stay with her Corus relatives.
I remember reading that the reason Tamora Pierce switched from quartets to pairs was that JK Rowling’s Harry Potter had proven that kids will read long books, so rather than having to force Aly’s story into four separate volumes, it could be split into just two. I am eternally grateful for this, though smaller volumes are much easier to carry around in purses or backpacks.
Aly is disappointingly perfect*. Admittedly, most of the Tortallan women are nearly perfect, but Alianne takes it a step further. Even when raised by brilliant, talented, and gifted parents, it is a little much to accept that she could be as brilliant as she is. The girl is basically a walking spy handbook. It doesn’t get any better, but as you get used to it, it’s possible to focus on other things.
Aly’s story, however, and her supporting cast are interesting enough that she can be forgiven for being too perfect. The Balitang family, and their servants, and the relationship the two have with each other is interesting, given that the context of the Copper Isles is that the two groups (the natives and the colonizers) largely hate each other. The raka– the natives– are thought of as lesser, and are largely subordinates to luarin– the colonizers– with very few exceptions. As an outsider, Aly has no attachment to either group, which both weakens and strengthens her position in the country.
When all is said and done, I do like this series (though it isn’t my favorite), and I think it is worth reading. Trickster’s Choice, the first volume, scores a 4/5.
* I’ve heard people call her a “Mary Sue” and I don’t think I can really argue with that.