Last time I talked about how rewarding the finale of the Claymore manga was after 27 volumes, instead of the measly 26 episodes of the anime. It’s a similar expression to the feeling I get with the books I finished today, Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen. It’s only the Trickster’s duology by Tamora Pierce, so you wouldn’t think to compare it to an epic finale. Not unless you’re familiar with the series that this comes from, of course.
Tamora Pierce has two main series. That of the Magic Circle, which I cannot stand in the least (and yes, I did try. At one point I had the first quartet and the first book of The Circle Opens and I realized then that I just do not like those books.), and Tortall. I first encountered the latter series when my mom bought me a copy of Alanna: The First Adventure roughly twenty years ago. That would be book one in the Song of the Lioness, the first Tortall book ever written, published back in 1983.
I’m not here to talk about the Lioness quartet or any of the other sets in this series that has steadily grown over the past thirty years, however. The protagonist of the Trickster books is none other than Alliane, known to most as Aly, daughter of Alanna. She’s sixteen in Trickster’s Choice, and these two books are about how she comes into her own place in the world, instead of being overshadowed by her blood and adoptive family.
I hope you can see why this particular set makes me think of finales and fulfillment now.
The world of Tortall is, of course, based on our own. Tortall and its immediate neighbors are based on Western Europe. Scanra, to the north, is clearly Scandinavia, Carthak in the south is definitely Egypt, the Eastern Lands are not especially fleshed out, and then we have the Western islands. The Yamani Islands in the north are Japan and then we move to the focus of these books, the Copper Isles. I’d say these are the Caribbean. After all, we have the brown people (raka) whose land was invaded by white people (luarin) and conquered three hundred years previously. Slavery is most definitely a weapon here, and the climate is a jungle.
Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen are yet another example of the interest in spy books that I’ve seen in my reading. It’s one of the earliest of the current trend, having been published in 2003, five years before Mercedes Lackey started writing about Mags in the Collegium Chronicles. Which is probably part of why it doesn’t annoy me nearly as much as the Herald-Spy books; this duology is older and I was less disposed against spy books when I first read it. Admittedly, part of the problem in this case is that I have the amazing talent to pick out older sci-fi that happens to be along similar lines and read it at a time when I am less than interested in this type of book, but there’s not too much I can do about that. I’d rather move to books I am intrigued to read, even if they’re on a theme that I’m tired of, than force myself to read books I cannot currently muster any interest in.
Another difference is that Tamora Pierce has always written for kids and young adults; that is to say, 12 is a good age to start reading her. If you’re me, you probably started younger, but I’ll say 12 as an average. Of course, it’s never too late to pick up a good author, so there’s that. But because the majority of spy books I’ve read have been written for adults or general audiences, the Trickster books still stand out from them.
There’s also something about these two books that makes their ending seem more satisfying than other parts of the Tortall series. Maybe it’s because these are the most recent books on the timeline; everything else takes place years or centuries earlier. Maybe it’s because there’s only the two books when all the other sets are three or four. Or maybe I just find Aly’s story more engrossing than some of the others. Some of the earlier books can be a bit dry, but it’s only to be expected that Pierce’s writing would improve with time. Regardless, I’m always happy to take the time to reread Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen. Even if the latter is starting to take damage each time I open it up…