Growing up, there were a few series of books I read until the spines broke: Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, Tales of Magic by Edward Eagar, and most importantly The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce. (Well, most importantly, Harry Potter, but that series extended long past my childhood days…). These books defined my literary formative years, and discovering Trickster’s Choice thrust me back into those beautiful worlds. This newer work by Tamora Pierce reminded me why I loved her Song of the Lioness quartet so much. Trickster’s Choice is intelligent, beautiful, powerful, and of course, features a strong female protagonist.
I accidentally found Alanna: The First Adventure, the first book in the Song of the Lioness quartet, during a book fair in my elementary school. I picked it up, fascinated by the premise of a girl pretending to be a boy so she can train to become a knight. The librarian saw me holding it and said, “If you want that book, you should get all four. I know you’ll read them all this weekend.”
And I did.
Fast forward two and a half decades, and here I am, as an adult, astounded that I never thought to look beyond that quartet. As it happens, Tamora Pierce has 19 published novels, with three more slated to come out over the next two years. All set in the same world with characters that criss-cross; sharing bloodlines, friends, ethics, magic systems, and more. My eyes have been opened and my universe expanded! Obviously, I must read them all now. Immediately.
Starting with Trickster’s Choice.
Why, I’m just as true and honest as dirt. And I’m even more charming than dirt.
Alianne is the only daughter of Alanna (the Lioness, First Lady Knight, powerful mage, and King’s Champion) and George (head of Royal Spymasters) Cooper— and she has some big shoes to fill. However, Aly isn’t interested in courting men and managing an estate, nor is she interested in becoming a lady knight like her mother. Instead, Aly wants to be part of her father’s network of spies. At 16 years old, she is expected to find a job, a passion, something. But spy work is deemed inappropriate and far too deadly for their daughter so Aly just wastes away her days with every growing disapproval from her family and their friends.
Marriage is for noblewomen with nothing else to do.
One day, Aly is captured by pirates and sold, seemingly at random, as a slave to a noble family of the Copper Isles, the Balitangs. Thrust into a political quagmire, Aly soon learns that her presence with this family is quite intentional. The trickster god of the Copper Isles, the seas, and the raka, Kyprioth appears to Aly and makes her a wager: Keep the Balitang eldest daughters alive to the autumn equinox, and he will safely return Aly to her family. He will even convince Aly’s parents that she should be given a role in George’s spy work. Aly agrees, and our adventure truly begins.
With natural cleverness and years of training on weapons and spymaster tricks, Aly plunges headfirst into the politics surrounding the Balitangs. She deals in spy games, assassination plots, royal politics, matters of race and so much more. Aly quickly proves to the reader that she is no copy of Alanna reborn in a new generation. Instead of a driven, passionate woman who has to push hard earn anything like her mother, Aly is a naturally talented woman with no real goals or driving force in her life. This makes Aly a very unique, smart, compelling heroine (and for those already familiar with the Tortall books of Pierce, she is also very different from the other female protagonists featured in other books. You never read the same story over and over with Pierce’s novels).
At long last she had a real challenge, and she meant to enjoy every moment of it.
The most brilliant part of this book is an attempt to tell a different story. We don’t run into tropes or clichés. Instead, we have a thickly layered collection of plots and themes. When it’s hard to pin the plot of the book into a single paragraph, you know you’re on the right track. We have a young woman seeking her independence, a prophecy to be fulfilled, a complicated political history of colonialism and how it is changing, court intrigues, and the mechanizations of the gods.
She silently wished them a dangerous voyage and death at sea, then took her goats on to graze.
With everything around privilege and race echoing in society right now, I found those themes to be the most striking part of this book, and what I found myself reflecting the most upon.
If you’ve a good story, make sure it’s a whole one, with details close to hand. It’s the difference between a good lie and getting caught.
A wonderful book that I couldn’t put down, I have (in my brain) given this book on 4.5 stars. I’m rounding up for the sake of the rating system, but I sometimes found that I got bored with the descriptions of how people looked, or their clothing styles. A small price to pay for a well-crafted story that made me think critically of the world I live in.
I can’t wait for the next book!