Trickster’s Queen: Proves that Pierce is the master of YA fantasy

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Trickster's Queen Daughter of the LionessTrickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce

Trickster’s Queen is the sequel to Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Choice and (so far) the first set of books that are not quartets, but a simple duet. It is also by far her longest book, and in her acknowledgements she credits that to J.K. Rowling due to the fact that the Harry Potter books are so thick. Both books take place in Pierce’s Tortall universe, though are situated on the Copper Isles rather than Tortall as in the Alanna, Immortals, and Protector of the Small quartets — which I recommend you read before tackling these books just to have the proper background and history of Pierce’s characters and worlds (these two books are also the only books to contain a glossary and cast of characters — proof of how complicated they’re getting).

Beginning where the first book ended, we are once more introduced to Aly of Tortall, the daughter of Alanna the King’s Champion and George Cooper the King’s Spymaster, who has been chosen by the trickster god Kyprioth to aid a rebellion in the Copper Isles for the oppressed dark-skinned raka against the white-skinned luarin; in particular the ruthless Rittevon regents. Aly is situated in the Balitang household with Lady Saraiya and Dovasary, two ‘twice-royal’ young women who are considered the prophesied queen that will reclaim the throne for its original people. Building up a network of spies around her, Aly begins to plan revolution against the ruthless Rubinyan and Imajane, helped with the god Kyprioth himself and his crow minions — including the crow-turned-man Nawat whom she harbors romantic feelings for.

As mentioned, Trickster’s Queen is Tamora Pierce’s longest and most complicated book — it is immensely difficult to keep track of the vast range of characters, most with unpronounceable names. There are some portions that drag, and the tension is not quite as high (for me anyway) as the situations found in the Alanna and Immortals books. But for the first time we have a protagonist that is easy-going and laid back rather than focused and driven, and Aly is a loveable, enjoyable heroine, and definitely the product of Alanna and George: with her mother’s determination and steel and her father’s wit and cunning. Likewise the Balitang family: Winnamine, her aunt Nuritin, and Sarai and Dove are interesting, realistic characters that make us care about them and their situations, and Nawat (who had finally stopped trying to feed Aly bugs) is adorably sweet.

The story once again proves that Pierce is one of the masters of both YA and fantasy books as she creates an exotic tropical world (far from the usual medieval horses-and-swords environment of other fantasy novels) and finding the shades of grey in what could be a very black and white battle between good and evil. Tamora Pierce tends to concentrate on the human elements of her stories rather than the magical ones, and throughout the book many difficult choices are made that test the moral standards of her characters. Should justice and revolution result in the death of the child king? Should a young noblewoman follow her heart or live for her kingdom? Should a leader stay behind for the greater good whilst they send others out to fight? These are but some of the issues that Pierce raises in a story that does not glamorize or glorify death or battle.

If you are fans of the previous books then you will be treated to cameo appearances from Tkaa the basilisk, the Graveyard Hag and the odd creatures known as darkings last seen in Realms of the Gods, who come in extremely handy for Aly’s spy games. Furthermore, there is a fun reunion at the conclusion of the book, and anyone who has read the Immortals quartet may feel immensely touched at the names Daine and Numair have chosen for their children (who hopefully will end up as protagonists in later Tortall books).

All in all, this is an essential read for the Pierce fan, though not one I would recommend for the newcomer to Pierce’s writings — start back at her earlier works. Pierce obviously did her research in terms of spy-craft and political maneuvering, and Trickster’s Queen may very well be considered her most sophisticated and complex novel.


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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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