Title: Trickster’s Choice
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: Daughter of the Lioness #1
Sixteen-year-old Aly has no concrete plans for her life. The daughter of Alanna, the realm’s first female knight in over a hundred years, and George, the King of the Rouge, with a bevy of famous figures surrounding her, she’s feeling pressure to not just do something, but do something extraordinary. Unfortunately, the only type of work she wants to do George adamantly refuses—being a spy is dangerous and often deadly work. Then she gets captured and sold as a slave, a god co-opts her for his own games, and she’ll need all of her skills to keep herself and her new masters alive.
I don’t like Aly much as a heroine. She’s a bratty, self-centered teenager at the start, without the drive that has shaped the various protagonists so far. Worse, she’s incredibly skilled pretty much from page one, which leaves her very little room to grow except personality-wise (which never happens). I would be a little more sympathetic to the whole “finding your place in the world” plotline if her character actually changed in a noticeable way. Her best realization is when she figures out her habit of toying with boys because she liked getting kisses (but quickly bored of the boy and moved on) was actually not a great thing.
The plot is somewhat better. Aly, stripped of her homeland, friends, and family, is plotting how to escape when the trickster god Kyprioth makes a wager with her: if she can keep the family who bought her alive for a summer, he’ll return her home. So from then on it’s more about her setting up her own little kingdom, where she’s recruiting members of the household and surrounding country into her cause. But again, because the god meddled, Aly isn’t operating under too many restraints. Her masters allow her to do pretty much anything she wants, since they know she has the backing of a god (even if they are confused about which one).
Nawat is the best part of the book. A crow walking around in human form, he’s got a crow’s way of looking at the world. Which can get really funny when he tries courting Aly with a crow’s methods, like offering to feed her bugs.
I also did like the more delicate spy’s work. Compared to Alanna, who mostly struggled to beat her problems, Aly must approach things from the side, and do much of what she does through other people. The political situation frequently changes, and what it all means to the conspiracy also shifts. As Aly’s new family draws closer to the throne, the plots against them become deadlier and more consequential.
Overall this isn’t bad from a plot perspective but stumbles more on its characters (except Nawat, although even he doesn’t seem to have a reason for being in love with Aly). It was an okay read but I wish Aly was a less perfect character, and that being enslaved actually meant something more than an excuse to keep her from going home. I rate this book Recommended.