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Trickster's Choice Hardcover – 17 Sep 2004
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A brand new hardback from Tamora Pierce. Alianne has an oppressive heritage. She is the daughter of Alanna, Lady Knight and King's Champion - the foremost warrior of Tortall. (See "Song of the Lioness".) Aly is not a fighter - she hates her mother's obsession, which constantly takes her away from her family and makes her children feel neglected and resentful - especially Aly. After a stormy argument with her mother, Aly runs away to make them sorry. But she gets more than she bargained for when she is kidnapped by pirates, and sold as a slave in the far-off Copper Isles. Aly's future is bleak, but then she finds out that this has all been planned, by a god, no less. Aly is a favourite of the god Kyprioth - she is the Trickster's Choice.
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While there, Aly is visited by a minor God - Kyprioth, who used to be all-powerful to the raka people of the islands. He offers a wager - if Aly keeps the two eldest daughters of the Balitangs family alive til autumn, Kyprioth will return her to her family and speak to George Cooper on her behalf about becoming a spy.
From there, Aly is plunged into a life fraught with dangers, where the mad royal luarin family have reason to see the Balitangs first driven into exile and then attempt murder. Aly comes to see that Sarai, eldest daughter of the Balitangs, has both luarin and raka royal blood and therefore is destined to bring the people of the Copper Isles together.
Surrounded by interesting characters - such as Nawat Crow - Aly is determined to win her wager...
As is her wont, Pierce has once again given us a sassy and fiercely independent young woman, who is prepared to die out of loyalty to friends and who sees men as no more than a pleasant diversion in the pursuit of duty. Aly manages to overcome her title of slave and becomes integral to the lives of the Balitangs, through straight talking and unquenchable spirit.
My one complaint about Aly - who otherwise is a genuinely likeable young heroine - is that she is almost too clever and resourceful. We are given to understand that she has received training and advice from such illustrious personages as George, Alanna, Daine and Thayet (all characters from Pierce's previous novels about Tortall), but Aly still seems to know the answer to everything.
The book is filled with warm and interesting characters. Pierce is able to give us people and animals that we can take easily to our hearts. By the page-turning climax of the book, we care deeply for the people who have crowded the novel with their lively characters, realistic dialogue and genuine motivations.
Enjoyably, Pierce also writes strongly about divisions between the people of a land because of the colour of skin. She explains sensibly (in the words of Aly) that no one should be prejudiced against because they are the wrong colour. It is excellent that such a widely-regarded author is using her work to encourage racial equality and acceptance of the healthy differences between different people. The raka (black) and luarin (white) have both been responsible for atrocities in the past, and now must learn to live together and become simply the people of the Copper Isles.
I very much enjoyed the little details that Pierce embued this novel with to show a different culture to that of Tortall (which is very much based on feudal Europe). The Copper Isles are shown to be rich with exotic wildlife and landscapes, and the fiery food is very different from that Aly is accustomed to eating.
Happily, it is not essential to have read Pierce's other Tortall novels in order to enjoy this one, so new readers to the world can dive right in - however, it is extremely likely that, after enjoying this book, they will rush out and buy the rest. Readers accustomed to Tortall will both enjoy hearing about characters from previous books and be pleased to see this new plucky heroine take her place amongst them.
Pierce offers here a character that, unlike many past heroines who appear confined by a rigidly outlined plot, will bumble along with you. On the first chapters we are greeted by someone that does not yet understand her place in life, and perhaps never will. From there on it seems as if we help her to make the decisions that ultimately decide her future.
The useful skills Pierce has equipped Ali with make for exceptionally interesting reading. For me it wasn't so much a story but a handbook. I'm not sure, and will definitely never try it out, but I think I could possibly be an extremely accomplished spy.
I welcomed this series with open arms. If you're looking for a light, witty and intriguing beginning to a new angle of the Tortall books, or simply something to introduce you to them, then Pierce certainly delivers. My only complaint was the brief nature of some explanations. However with a bit of imagination this really wasn't a problem, and in many ways added to the story.
I enjoyed how the plot was very different to the Knight training and mage training of the previous books.
I love all Pierces book that are centered around Tortall and its neighbours and wasn't disappointed by this new book or its sequel for that matter.
But then it's all a matter of taste. If you are a fan, you will like this, even though it is not set in Tortall. If you haven't read anything from Pierce before: Go for the Lioness quartett. Of all the work I read (Immortals, Protector, this one and one of the Magic Circle) they have the most fire.