After a furious argument Aly runs away, with disastrous consequences. Captured and sold as a slave in the Copper Isles, she discovers that this whole nightmare has not come about by chance – the Trickster God, Kyprioth, has plans for her…
Aly: no longer just a master spy, but a master of spies. Can she balance her passion for justice and her compassion for others, and at what cost?
Sarai: beautiful, dramatic, and rash – will she fulfill the role chosen for her by destiny?
Dove: she has always stood in Sarai’s shadow. Can she prove to the world that she herself is a force to be reckoned with?
Nawat: half crow, half man. He wants Aly for his life mate, but will the revolution make that impossible as they step into new roles to change the future?
I first read these books about 4 years ago (feels like a lifetime!). I ADORE the spy-craft-related plots, so I originally gave these both 5-star ratings, even though I didn’t actually write reviews at the time. I will share that upon re-reading (and maturing as a reader), I’m revising that assessment to an overall series rating of 4 stars.
Some background info:
This duology technically takes place after most of the other Tortall-related books (Song of the Lioness, The Immortals, and Protector of the Small). As with all of the other quartets, this can be read out of context without missing too much. There are references to characters (and occasionally plot-bits) from the other books, but nothing that would spoil them or take away from the Daughter of the Lioness duology.
Aliana has grown up among legends and is eager to not only prove herself, but also to prove to the world that she is formidable at what she loves: spying. In the process of running away from home to give her reunited parents some space, she finds herself caught up in an elaborate game staged by one of the Trickster gods, Kyprioth.
Now, if you’ve spent any time at all reading some of my more recent reviews or posts here at FaerieFits, it will come as NO surprise to you that I rather like Tricksters. They’re always scheming and are typically less than honest or forthcoming. Which makes them a LOT of fun to work with in a book setting if it’s done well.
Kyprioth, in my opinion, is very nicely handled. His morals are grey, he’s a big tease, and he loves a good wager. Better yet, he gets more than he gambled for by moving the right pieces at the right time — a classic Trickster maneuver.
I actually decided to re-read these books BECAUSE of the spying. My WIP that I’m working on for Camp NaNoWriMo has a bit of spycraft involved, and I wanted some inspiration.
What amazes me about these books is the way that little bits of information come together one piece at a time and form something massive. It’s like building a rebellion out of puzzle pieces, and Aly is SO GOOD AT IT! But it doesn’t feel forced, either. The way she gathers info, synthesizes it, and deploys it into tactics felt perfectly believable. I didn’t view all of this through a lens of skepticism or anything.
Aly has a bunch of assistants helping her out, and I love them all! In the first book, Kyprioth recruits the crows to her cause, and Aly even makes a comment to the effect of “At least I’ll be able to tell Mother I learned a new language over the summer.” That’s right! She is taught how to speak crow. Nawat in particular added a LOT of comedic relief. He became so infatuated with Aly that he turned into a man so he could help her better. Not only did this resonate with a LOT of folklore concepts, but Nawat’s quirks as he learns about all the differences between humans and crows was a LOT of fun.
In the second book, she gains the help of creatures called darkings (no, Bardugo fans, not darklings). They’re little blobs that can split as needed and change shape to disguise themselves or fit into tight spaces. And “Whatever one darking knows, all darkings know!” They’re very useful as a result, and they each have their own personality!
Dealing with racism
No review of a Pierce book would be complete without talking about the parallels to real world issues. The biggest problem tackled by this duo is racisim. It’s a theme that really slaps you in the face — not by going “racisim is bad” over and over, but by illustrating the wrongness of it and by having characters set a better example. One of the things that I liked in particular was that part of the plot was not just “how do we free the slaves” but also “how do we keep them from lashing back out.” It was about viewing EVERYONE as equals, not one race overtaking the other.
The Pacing was hit or miss
I personally didn’t mind the pacing in these books, but it might not be for everyone. The first book goes at a pretty constant pace. The second book, however, has some VERY slow patches. It’s kind of like a slow-burn plot, where it takes a while to get all of the information together and everyone is just biding their time. Once the action starts, it REALLY goes. I personally like that sort of thing, so it didn’t bother me at all — as I mentioned above, it was like building a rebellion out of puzzle pieces. But if you’re not into that, it might feel a bit bland.
My one real criticism
This is just something that personally started to bother me quite a bit. Every female who ended up in a relationship at ALL ended up pregnant. Pierce even threw in an epilogue to explicitly make mention of pregnancy. This bugged me because it felt like the message was “Once you have a man, start popping out babies right away.” I don’t think that was intentional at all — I truly think it was intended as a way to express happiness. But it felt weird to me. Maybe I’m projecting my own discomfort throughout pregnancy, but I do NOT envision that as evidence of marital bliss. Kids, sure. Pregnancy? Nope.
Have you read either or both of these books? What did you think? Are you a fan of Tamora Pierce?