Friday, August 14, 2009

BR: Trickster's Choice

by Tamora Pierce

Okay, I've been wanting to read this for a while, especially since one of my friends recommended it (she has the same reading taste), and because I loved Pierce's quartet, Song of the Lioness (with Alanna). The summary is weird, and very long, thus taking up 3 paragraphs.

Trickster's Choice follows Aly, who is Alanna and George Cooper's daughter. She wants to be a spy for her father, and has learned a lot from him (pickpocketing, lockbreaking, sneaking around, decoding, fighting with daggers, all those thieving/spy things) but her father doesn't want to risk his daughter getting hurt. She feels she can never live up to Alanna (who can?) and hasn't been very 'productive' with her life, seems to be just going along. After an argument about her future, Aly decides to leave her home and travel to a family friend's place, to get away from her mother. Travelling by herself, she is intercepted by pirates and sold as a slave at the Copper Isles (an island close to Tortall).

As a slave, she is sold to a nice, noble, fair family called the Balitangs. Here comes an onslaught of weird names: Kyprioth is the Trickster God, and makes a deal with Aly. If Aly protects the Balitang family, she will be granted a safe passage home in autumn (it's June right now, btw), and she agrees. Kyprioth is using Aly as a part of a greater political scheme, to restore power to the 'raka', natives of the Copper Isles. Currently, white-skinned 'laurins' rule the island, and raka are treated as slaves. Kyprioth is the raka patron, and wants a raka to rule the throne.

Also, Kyprioth sends help and guidance at times to Aly, along with the help of crows. Nawat is a crow-man, a bit naive, but devoted to Aly. He's a crow who shape-shifted into a man. Aly does her best to advise the Balitang family she has sworn to protect, using her skills learned from her father, while disguising herself as a slave. Hopefully, she be able to protect the children through summer in order to return home.

Phew, what a summary, which is seriously just the tip of the iceberg. I liked the book at parts, disliked it at parts, liked the writing, disliked the writing, liked the plot, disliked the plot. I was all over the map for this one. I'll try and give some reasons.

First, it was hard for me to get engaged in the novel. The beginning (well kinda beginning, after becoming a slave that is) was hard to follow. I think this was especially because of all the new names introduced so quickly, and Aly's comments that were sometimes unneeded (like she would sometimes talk about 'investigating' this or that suspicious person, but never really does it if he seems harmless). The names were hard to remember, and their positions in the castle as well. I recommend you guys to read the bit carefully; there were all these names like: Chenaol, Sarai, Menquen, Lokeij, Veron, Ulasim, Kyprioth, Fesgao, Bronau, Junai. Like seriously?? And these aren't traditional names so I would completely forget them when they turned up again. Then I would have no idea what if the person was a chef, maid, or a footsoldier.

Also, I felt the plot really dragged in places, especially the middle. I couldn't read the whole book at once, it was getting boring and just dragged. Sure, things were happening, but I felt that the action, or maybe the writing could have been better. It took me a few days to read it, which is unusual for me. The ending was better-paced, but not necessarily amazing or mindblowing, just a bit more attention-grabbing than the rest. The story idea itself wasn't bad, and it was nice to 'revisit' the Tortall world (even though it wasn't even set in Tortall).

I really wished the writing was a bit more captivating, especially since it's a long book, but I thought it was only okay.

I liked some characters, but didn't like others. Dove was a bit nosy at times, but she turns out good. I felt that Winnamine was a bit flat, she was just a 'kind' character. Mequen was a bit ideal, but fair. Aly was a bit 'perfect' but not over-the-top. I liked Nawat, he was cute, and would say the most weirdest things that totally worked (since he used to be a crow). Lines like:
"I will not bother [kudarang] if Aly says not to", added Nawat. To her he whispered, "Not until we have enough nestlings of our own to mob them back."
It made me crack up, to see him use 'crowish' phrases like that. Added a bit of humor to the story, to see him talk about 'mating' with Aly.

I liked the idea with the raka/luarin political 'game' that Kyprioth was playing, it was very interesting to see the kings, dukes, and princes, either power-hungry or not interested at all.

7.6/10 - because I actually really wanted to like it, but it was only okay. It was hard to read, a bit boring, it dragged at parts, and the characterizations weren't stellar. The people and place names were confusing and forgettable, which kind of further confused the plot for me. Maybe if I had read it slower, it might have been better, but I feel if I did that, it would be wasting my time (gasp, reading doesn't waste time!). I will read the sequel, Trickster's Queen, though, just to see what happens (I haven't read a single spoiler for it!). If you liked other Tamora Pierce books, give this a try, it's similar. A strong female character, a cool setting, swordfighting, cultures, a bit of magic; it's all there. The reviews on Amazon are all really positive, so that means that this probably appeals to many readers. I guess it just wasn't perfect for me.


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