Tag Archives: Tortall


Pierce, Tamora. Mastiff: The Legend of Beka Cooper #3 (2011). 608 Pages. Random House. $18.99

Beka Cooper | Book Three

Please be aware of two things:

1) This is the third book in a series. It may contain spoilers for the first two Beka Cooper books, though I have done my best to avoid spoilers for this book.

2) This review of Mastiff is pre-release, based upon a galley. I did not receive it personally from the publisher*, but it is a galley nonetheless. The book is due out October 25, 2011, which gives you plenty of time to go buy and read the first two books (Terrier, and Bloodhound) so go buy them. Because this is an un-edited, pre-release galley, some details may change.

On that note, I’ve put the entire post behind a “more” tag, because there is no way to even give a synopsis without sharing details of the other books. If you’d like the short version? I feel that with every book she publishes, Tamora Pierce grows as an author, and Mastiff is no exception. It was brilliant, and managed to be all I had hoped for and more. I look forward to reading the published volume.

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Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Tortall and Other Lands (Anthology)

Pierce, Tamora. Tortall and Other Lands (2011). 369 Pages. Random House. $18.99

Tortall and Other Lands CoverI pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard it was being written. Then, the day I got it, I tore through it. Way too much fun to read this particular anthology. It was made even more bittersweet by the fact that it had a teaser for Mastiff in the back.

For Pierce fans, there are a few old, familiar characters. You might remember Aly and Nawat (Trickster’s Choice & Trickster’s Queen) and Daine & Numair (Wild Magic, Wolf Speaker, etc.)*. There are cameos of characters who you might not remember at first, because they weren’t huge, but they were cool.

So, onto brief summaries and story-specific comments. I’ll try to keep them spoiler-free.

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Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Trickster’s Queen

Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Queen (2004). 444 Pages. Random House. $8.95

Daughter of the Lioness Book 2

I actually own two copies of this book; a hardcover copy, because I could not wait for it to come out in paperback, and a paperback copy, because I hate having part of a series in paperback, and part in hardcover. It has to be all the same, for the sake of my shelving system; hardcovers go on the top shelf, paperbacks go on the lower shelves and series are grouped, so when I have to either put paperbacks on the hardcover shelf, or hardcovers on the paperback shelf, I get a bit grumpy.

Anyway, Trickster’s Queen is a continuation of Trickster’s Choice,which opens in Spring, with Aly and the Balitangs returning to Rajmuat, the capital of the Copper Isles. With the death of Duke Mequen Balitang, as well as King Oron and Prince Bronau at the end of the preceding volume, the political environment of the Copper Isles has been transformed. It is a country on the verge of revolution, or civil war, a country ready for a new queen from an old royal family; Sarai Balitang.

Alianne Cooper, daughter of legends, spymistress for the Balitang household, Duani of the raka revolution has come into her own. She is done living in her parent’s shadow, and has become irreversibly entangled in the conflict in the Copper Isles. This book takes off, with rapid pacing, drama, conflict, surprises, and battle. It is the climax which Trickster’s Choice was building toward, and sets up a very interesting finale.

First Lines

As the ship Gwenna glided through the entrance of Rajmuat harbor, a young woman of seventeen years leaned against the bow rail, taking in her surroundings through green-hazel eyes. Despite her white skin, she was dressed like a native raka in sarong, sash, and wrapped jacket.


In the first volume, each chapter was preceded by an excerpt from things Aly read, or conversations Aly had with family members while growing up. For example, Chapter 10 is prefaced with:

Assassins approach a problem differently from soldiers, you see. They can’t lay siege, they can’t offer an honorable fight. In their trade numbers are dangerous. An assassin’s advantage lies in folk missing him when he’s about. He hits hard and fast, then goes. Once you’ve tried to kill the first time, the target has the wind up. Failure the first time means it’ll be that much harder to get close a second time. – Told to Aly when she was eleven, in a conversation with her father*

These excerpts from Aly’s life made it more acceptable for her to know so much about spy work, because she had been trained from childhood. Having an idea of where she had received her knowledge (from her father, grandfather, mother, etc.) made a difference as well. It was a nice touch, which helped to ground Aly, and round out her story. These bits are lacking from Trickster’s Queen, which is unfortunate, because I really appreciated them.

This volume takes off, picking up speed rapidly, and racing toward the conclusion. Aly has grown up quite a bit since she left Pirate’s Swoop in a huff. She is not alone, others have grown, and are growing up with her, though much of it happens off-page. There is some unexpected character development, and a few unpleasant surprises for Aly. (There are pleasant surprises, too.)

It is almost a pity to leave Aly and the Copper Isles; there is still a lot to be said about the islands and their new queen. (Though it has been said that there will be a set of books dedicated to her, later.) It is also very, very fun to get to read about the children of some old favorites (Daine and Numair’s new baby, for example), and it is clear that Pierce has grown as a story teller since she first put Alanna’s story on paper.

The volume gets a 4.5/5, and the series gets a 5/5. If you are a fan of Tortall, you will most likely enjoy this series.


* From Trickster’s Choice, Page 232.

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Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

Trickster’s Choice

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?

First Lines

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.


Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult Fiction


Pierce, Tamora. Wolf Speaker (2008 ed). 344 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

The Immortals: Book Two

From the back cover:

When Daine is summoned by the wolf pack that saved her life a year earlier, she and Numair travel to Dunlath Valley to answer the call. But when they arrive, Daine realizes with a shoc kthat it’s not just the animals whose lives are threatened; people are in danger too. Dunlath’s rulers have discovered black opals in their valley and are dead set on mining the magic these stones embody. Daine learns that Dunlath’s lord and lady plan to use this power to overthrow King Jonathan– even if it means irreversibly damaging te land and killing their workers.

Daine has to master her wild magic in order to save both her animal friends and her human ones.

I do like Daine, a lot. I love the idea of being able to speak to animals, or transform. Her adventures in Dunlath, however, are not my favorites. I do really like Maura of Dunlath*, and some really cool magic is used. This plot really throws you into the middle of things, which is fine if you’re familiar with Tortall, less fine if you’re picking it up for the first time. I’d strongly suggest starting with Alanna’s series, because the realm and culture are much better explained.

As much as I love Daine, I feel like her story might be one of the weakest in the series. She’s fascinating, and the plot is clever, but it’s clear that Pierce becomes a stronger writer in her later series.

In Conclusion:

This particular review has been brief, because it’s really a bridging-book. Daine learns more about herself and her powers, and we’re taught a lesson about how humans can be more horrible than real monsters. Characters and situations are set up for the plot in books 3 and 4. This book gets a 3.5/5– I really liked it, but it’s the weakest book in the series. (Books 1 and 4 are my favorites.)


*Per Tammy’s website, Maura is likely getting her own series down the line. (Slated for 2015.)


Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Why I Need a Time Machine

We all have them, books we know are coming, which we can’t help longing for, though we know we’ll be waiting. There are a few that I’m dying for, that I can’t wait to get, and some which I’ve even pre-ordered. I’ve gone so far as to sketch my plan for stealing the TARDIS so I can get all of these books now, instead of having to wait.

1. Pegasus by Robin McKinley (Out November 2, 2010)

It was announced a while ago, and I’ve been reading bits and pieces about it on her blog. I even made the mistake of reading the three-chapter teaser she’s released, which made the wait all the worse, because I can’t wait to find out what’s next. And to make it more painful, she’s gone and warned us it will be a cliffhanger! Will that stop me from devouring it the day I get my hands on it and lamenting about the wait for part 2? No, it will not. Despite the warning, I will be a silly girl who reads her pre-ordered book the day it arrives and freaks out when she hits the cliffhanger she was warned about in advance.

2. Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales by Tamora Pierce (Out February 22, 2011)

I haven’t heard a lot about this one, but I grew up reading Tortall, and I haven’t not-loved a single book. Sure, I’ve loved some less than others (the Trickster pair, for example. Alianne was a little too Mary-Sue for me), but I know I’ll love this book, too. I love short stories, I love Tortall, and all the memories it evokes. A lot of my love-affair with Tortallan books is that I have memories of sitting with my friends (in bedrooms, on porches, in yards, on busses, in classrooms reading beneath the desks, to name a few places) and enjoying her books, and giggling together about how great they were and how cool it would be if we, too could speak to animals.

3. Mastiff by Tamora Pierce (Out Mid-2011?)

There’s no cover picture yet, and the publishing date keeps getting pushed back, and I’m agonizing over the chance to read more. I mean, I’ve even stooped to reading Beka Cooper fanfiction, which concerns me a little, because it takes a lot for me to hit that point. That being said, it’s the last book in Beka’s series, so it makes me a bit sad, though I’m sure I’ll love it. Oh but the anticipation is so agonizingly sweet.

4. River Marked by Patricia Briggs (Out January 25, 2011)

Mercy Thompson is back again (in the sixth installment, actually), still tattooed and sexy on her cover. (Which as I think I’ve said before, is funny to me because she’s not into provocative dress, and her only tattoo is the paw print.) Anyway, Mercy finally gets to meet some of her own kind, as they work together to defeat an evil thing from the river. I don’t know a lot of the details yet, but that’s fine by me, as Patricia Briggs hasn’t disappointed me yet. Interested? I’ve reviewed Moon Called, the first book in this series. I’d suggest this series to anyone who likes werewolves, ass-kicking females, and romance.

5. Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance (Out June 2011)

There are two parallel series set in one universe– Dorina Basarab and Cassandra Palmer move within the same world, and know many of the same people without knowing each other really– and the next book announced in their world is Hunt the Moon, which is distant enough that there is not yet a cover. I can’t wait to read it, because I love the way Karen Chance manages to make her vampires both human and inhuman.

6. The Unbearable Lightness of Dragons by Katie MacAlister (Out… ?)

If Katie’s trend holds, she’ll be releasing her book in November. I devoured all of her Dragon Septs books, back to back until there were no more to read. It will be exciting when this comes out (though it may be a while.) Thanks to silly facebook hijinks (that is, from the Baltic and Jim pages) I know a few plot points, but not a lot. The story revolves around Baltic and Ysolde, the Light Dragons. Someone dies. There is drama and intrigue and Ysolde wants to know about Baltic’s past. No more is known until the official blurb is released. As it is, this cover art is “subject to change,” but I get the feeling the only thing changing will be the tag-line (if it changes at all). (Thanks to Cover Lover for the image)

That’s all I’ve got for this issue of “Books I can’t wait for, and am making plans to steal the TARDIS so I can read NOW!” What books are you looking forward to?


Filed under Not a Book Review

Wild Magic

Pierce, Tamora. Wild Magic (2005 ed). 362 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

The Immortals: Book One

Like so many other books I’ve reviewed, I’ve had this since I was a kid. I really enjoy Tamora Pierce’s work, and The Immortals was the last Tortall series which was complete before I started reading it. I hate waiting for books, so I’m glad when I pick up a series and find out it’s already complete.

Anyway, The Immortals series is about Veralidaine Sarrasri and her Wild Magic. She’s a solid heroine, one who has to grow up abruptly because there is no childhood in war. The details of her past, and her present are slowly revealed to us, as she learns to trust some familiar faces, and as she gains more confidence in herself. I think the slow revelation of details helps to make her a richer character, and it makes her feel more real.

The series starts at a horse-fair in Galla, where Ouna is looking for some fresh new ponies to take back to Tortall for Thayet’s Riders. Ouna is a bit dismayed when she finds herself in charge of thirteen year-old Daine, but figures the girl knows horses, and will be helpful. Daine more than earns her way when they come across Stormwings– human/bird hybrids which are intelligent, but crude, smelly, and more than a little evil. The Stormwings are after a large, black bird which is not what it seems, and it is by using her untrained magic that Daine manages to locate the confused animal.

Eventually, Daine finds herself working for the Queen’s Riders, and studying magic with the mage Numair Salamin. In Tortall, she meets nobles who aren’t “proper” (Alanna, George, Thayet, Jon), and a lot of Rider trainees. She learns to speak to animals, to control them, and even to heal. But this isn’t without a lot of difficulty. Stormwings attack more than once, Daine nearly kills herself, she gets lectured by an angry Badger, is terrified by a Dragon, and brings a Kraken down upon Pirate’s Swoop.

It’s the start to a great adventure, as Daine gets involved in Tortall, and the Immortals War.

The Quick Version:

I was thrilled when Alanna made an appearance; she’s married, and she’s the mother of three excellent children. Thayet, too, shows up, and proves to be an awesome queen, and a good mother. (Motherhood suits these women, proving that just because you have children doesn’t mean you can’t kick ass.*) Of course, this series is about Daine, a character who frustrated me a lot in this particular volume. I like her better later, when she becomes more confident in herself and her abilities. This volume gets a 4/5, because Daine’s story has not even really begun.


* a la Molly Weasley.


Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Lioness Rampant

Pierce, Tamora. Lioness Rampant (2005 ed.).  400 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

Song of the Lioness: Book Four

Tamora Pierce wrote quartets, until (as she said) Harry Potter taught publishers that children would read longer volumes. I’ve read this series many times over the years, and this volume is both my favorite and my least favorite. It’s sad, and it’s triumphant, and things are dramatic and terrifying, but they also end well. Alanna is a strong protagonist, and she’s really finished growing up at the end of this novel, becoming the legend which we know she will be.

Alanna of Trebond and Olau is on an adventure to retrieve the Dominion Jewel. They’re in Maren, on the trail of the jewel, and their journey is just beginning. In Berat, Alanna meets Liam Ironarm, the Shang Dragon; “People like you change the world; a smart man keeps track of such folk” (12) he says. Shortly after meeting Liam, Alanna has her second encounter with the Great Mother Goddess, who presents her with the question “who will you be, Alanna?” (19). Unfortunately, Alanna doesn’t know who she will be, or what she wants, or even what she is truly capable of (not yet, anyway). All she knows is that she has a map that needs to be translated, and a need to be somewhere, anywhere besides Tortall.

Before she knows it, she’s on a great adventure, one that takes her through war-torn Sarain to the Roof of the World. By retrieving the Jewel, Alanna hopes to prove to the world that she’s a warrior in her own right, that she never used her Gift to cheat her way to her shield, that she is truly a force to be reckoned with. So, armed with a map, and her knightly skills, leading her motley troop of herself, Coram, Faithful, and Liam Ironarm, she heads through Sarain where she picks up even more strays.

Alanna’s strays are Princess Thayet and Buriram Tourokom, who are fleeing from Thayet’s father, the Warlord of Sarain. They decide to join forces with Alanna, and follow her to Chitral’s Pass, where the Dominion Jewel is supposedly held.

Of course, there’s more going on than Alanna’s quest. In Corus, much is going on; Queen Lianne has died, and King Roald died not long after. Jonathan is King, but has not been crowned yet. Thom has gotten himself into more trouble than he can handle, and is dying. The people are convinced that Jonathan’s reign is cursed– there has been famine and plague since Alanna left Corus. George is struggling with issues of his own, and there is a plot against Jonathan within the palace. Things go a little sideways, toward the end. There is a huge battle, and many characters are left dead. The ending, despite the deaths, is hopeful.

The Series as a Whole:

This was my first Tamora Pierce series, back when I was in middle school. My friends and I read it, and traded it and read it again until all of our books were worn thin, and we all knew the stories by heart. It really is ideal for middle schoolers, but it manages to be a book which adults can enjoy as well. It’s hard to outgrow a series like this, and because of its enduring re-readability, it gets a 4.5/5.

The Quick Version:

Alanna really comes into her own in this book. She finishes growing up, goes on a great adventure, and learns to balance Woman and Warrior. She makes a name for herself, and she changes the world. This is my very favorite from the series, and scores a 5 out of 5, because I love it so very much (even if I always cry at the end).


On other notes, as I was flipping through my book, looking for the bibliographic information, I learned that it’s an autographed copy (which is way more exciting than I ever expected, even considering that it’s signed to “Kelli” and not to me). I got it second-hand though Swaptree not too long ago, and though I don’t think I got it from the Kelli it was signed to, it’s still pretty sweet. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get one signed to me, and I’ll be the happiest book nerd ever.


Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

Pierce, Tamora. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (2005 ed.) 304 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

Song of the Lioness: Book Three

Alanna of Trebond may have won her shield, but after everything she went through, she needs to get out of Corus for a while. With the paint on her shield still wet, she sets out for adventure. Having never been one to enjoy the cold, it’s not surprising that Alanna chooses to spend the winter down south in the Bazhir desert where it’s nice and warm. Well, she doesn’t exactly choose winter in the desert; she was aiming for Tyra and got waylaid.

To get to Tyra from Corus, it’s necessary to go through the Bazhir desert. Of course, with only half the Bazhir tribes recognizing the Tortallan king, and many of the desert’s residents being lawless hillmen, it’s a dangrous trip even for seasoned warriors. Unfortunately for Alanna, she and Coram are attacked by a group of hillmen who have a magical sword (which glows orange with the late Duke Roger’s magic) that breaks Lightning, leaving Alanna sad and swordless. The hillmen are attacked in turn by the Bloody Hawk Bazhir tribe, who take Alanna and Coram back to their camp.

At the Bloody Hawk camp, Alanna is recognized as the “Burning Brightly One” who helped defeat the Ysandir– she is now a legend to the Bazhir. However, the shaman is crazed, and claims that she is a liar (along with some other fun names). This culminates in a fight between Alanna and the shaman (Ibn Nazzir) where Alanna kills the man. Because of Bazhir law, the one who kills the shaman must become the shaman (at least until they can train a suitable replacement), so Alanna finds herself tied to a tribe when all she really wants to do is go on an adventure. There are three gifted teens in the camp- Ishtak, Kara, and Kourrem- who have never been trained to control their gift. Recognizing that untrained gifted teens could spell disaster for everyone in the tribe, Alanna declares them her successors and begins their training.

Jonathan and Sir Myles visit Alanna while she’s with the Bloody Hawk, and several things happen. Jonathan and Alanna renew (and end) their relationship. Sir Myles adopts Alanna, and Jon becomes The Voice of the Tribes. As soon as this is completed, Alanna flees the desert, heading to Port Caynn where she spends the summer avoiding Corus and Jonathan, instead focusing on George.

The end of the book sets us up for Lioness Rampant, as Alanna decides to go find the Dominion Jewel to save Tortall.

The Quick Version:

Like so many third-in-a-set-of-four novels, this book feels a bit like a bridge. A lot happens, and Alanna makes huge steps toward becoming the champion she is destined to be. She continues to grow in her sense of self, and her womanhood, and begins to truly embrace herself here. It’s a solid adventure, and it makes you want more. It gets a 4/5.


Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

In the Hand of the Goddess

Pierce, Tamora. In the Hand of the Goddess (2005 ed). 288 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

Song of the Lioness: Book Two

Alanna of Trebond returns, this time as the squire of Prince Jonathan of Tortall- one of the few people who know her true gender. She’s well on her way to becoming a knight, and she’s just found out that the Great Mother Goddess has plans for her. She meets Faithful for the first time (though depending on which order you’ve read the Tortall books in you might know him by another name).

Sure, she’s kicking a lot of butt, but sometimes a girl just wants to be a girl. Alanna is slowly learning that being a knight doesn’t mean she has to neglect being a woman, and being strong doesn’t mean rejecting love. She’s also learning that her magic is not such a bad thing, and that she has quite the healing gift. First George, then Jonathan express interest in Alanna as more than just a comrade, and she doesn’t really know what to make of it. Eventually, she and Jonathan become more than just friends– which is really the start of Alanna as a woman who has sex (gasp!).

Of course, growing up isn’t hard enough for our lady-knight-in-training; she’s got political intrigue to deal with. As Tortall marches for war with Tusaine, Duke Gareth the older is injured, and Duke Roger ends up in charge of the troops. Alanna is unhappy about it, but doesn’t have any proof that Roger has done anything. Then she and Jon get caught up in a plot which puts them both in danger (and gets Alanna kidnapped). Then, abruptly, the war with Tusaine reaches a tenuous treaty, and everyone heads back to Corus.

This particular book climaxes with Alanna’s Ordeal of Knighthood and the circumstances which lead to her revealing her gender to the court. In the end, Alanna is a Lady Knight, and she is ready for adventure.

The Quick Version:

The story in this volume is very fast paced; Tusaine and Tortall go to war and resolve their differences rapidly. Alanna and Jon get romantically entangled, Duke Roger is Evil, and Alanna becomes a Knight. It’s setting the stage for the next two books rather than attempting to be a complete story on its own. It gets a 4/5, because Alanna is slower on the uptake than the reader as far as Duke Roger’s plot goes.

Pick it up from Amazon or Swaptree.

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