Tag Archives: shapeshifters

Trickster’s Queen (Daughter of the Lioness #2)

Title: Trickster’s Queen

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: Daughter of the Lioness #2

Aly has chosen to stay with the family who bought her and freed her. But the Copper Isles are uneasy. Sarai and Dove and the twice-royal spoken of in ancient prophecy, and the raka mean to rise to put them on the throne. The current regents don’t know the full story, but they can see the attention the girls are getting from the raka, and they don’t like it. With the political situation rapidly deteriorating, Aly will need all of her skills to push the revolution into a path that will not only succeed, but won’t rip apart the Isles in the process . . .

I liked this one better than the previous. Aly’s skills are still sharp, but not quite so oversized, and the Trickster isn’t meddling in such annoying ways anymore. Also, with an entire island chain to destabilize, Aly’s finding herself in more of a position of desk work than field work. She has to direct the rebels who have trained for this and teach them the best ways to go after their targets.

There’s also some dissension in her camps. Nawat, tired of his uselessness in a city compared to the country, leaves for other islands where the crows can do more to help. Aly tries not to let his loss shake her, but she’s frustrated with him and herself.

I liked Taybur Sibigat. He’s not exactly on Aly’s side, but he’s not exactly an enemy either. He’s sworn to protect the four-year-old king. Since Aly’s plans involve deposing said king so the country can get rid of his regents, she’s uncertain what to do about him long-term. But her plans involve far more than the little monarch. They have a weird sort of rivalry going that’s a lot of fun to watch.

The plotting takes a long time to bear its ultimate fruit, with several surprises along the way. I rate this book Recommended.

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Trickster’s Choice (Daughter of the Lioness #1)

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.

The Realms of the Gods (The Immortals #4)

Title: The Realms of the Gods

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: The Immortals #4

When Daine and Numair head out to fight an unknown creature wrecking the nearby villages, they end up in the realms of the gods. There Daine finally gets to meet her father, the hunting god Weiryn, and her mother, who is herself now a minor goddess. But Tortall is under attack from a near-constant onslaught of immortals, pirates, and bandits. So Daine and Numair set off to find a way to get back to their own world before all is lost.

This is my second-favorite Daine book, because the gods’ realms are a lot of fun. The landscape changes, the various creatures like the sunbirds and dragons, and even the chaos vents mean it’s impossible to predict what they’ll run into next.

It’s also got a number of fun fights, big and small, and of course the almost requisite gigantic series finale battle for the end. I really like seeing how the various immortals contribute to the strategy, whether that’s for or against Tortall. And Daine being Daine, her animal-sense can be a critical strategy, which is why the opponents go as far as they did to take her out. That’s actually another nice thing here—Daine’s animal senses are basically useless up with the gods, since her powers relate to mortals, not gods.

I’m not as fond of Numair’s affections finally being noticed—and reciprocated—by Daine. At least this book tones his stupidity down.

Overall this is a good cap on the series. Like before, there’s some loss and some victory, and a bright future ahead. I rate this book Recommended.

Emperor Mage (The Immortals #3)

Title: Emperor Mage

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: The Immortals #3

Daine has been invited to the Cathak Empire itself to treat the Emperor’s songbirds, who have fallen ill with a mysterious disease. It’s a dangerous place to be, as the Emperor has all but declared war on Tortall, and no one is sure if the peace talks will work out. But the gods are angry at Cathak, and making their displeasure increasingly known . . .

This is interesting because it marks the first time we’ve gotten an extended look at another kingdom, and this one happens to be Tortall’s enemy in all but declaration. The Egyptian-influenced Cathak holds to a number of customs the Tortallians find offensive, like slavery.

They also have a number of animals Daine has never seen before. She picks up a number of new friends, like Zek the marmoset. I like the hyenas, who are cool and collected and bloodthirsty. Daine is also introduced to fossils, so there are even a few dinosaurs.

I also like the new characters, like Lindell, who taught Numair and shares his love of knowledge. The prince is also interesting, as Daine confounds his expectations and starts to draw out the young man behind the political posturing.

I’m not as fond of Numair. He starts acting like a jealous lover, which really doesn’t suit him or his position, and is absolutely inappropriate for this venue (and he has to be smart enough to know that acting out like that is only going to put Daine in MORE danger from the emperor, not less). I don’t mind age gap romances, except this one is all sorts of wrong. Daine is his student, she’s HALF his age, and she’s barely 16. If you want to date someone AFTER you’ve graduated them and are no longer in a position of authority over them, be my guest. But I would still find her very young for him.

The conclusion is a lot of fun. Daine angry is a force to be reckoned with. And angry Daine blessed (temporarily) by another set of unusual powers leads to all sorts of havoc above and beyond her usual capabilities.

Overall, apart from Numair’s insanity, this is a fun next chapter in Daine’s saga. I rate this book Recommended.

Wolf-Speaker (The Immortals #2)

Title: Wolf-Speaker

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: The Immortals #2

When the wolves who once sheltered Daine send to her for help, she heads out at once to see what’s wrong. Humans are cutting down trees and spoiling the land in Dunlath Valley, and these wolves want her to stop it. Her old pack is much smarter than they should be: if she won’t stop the damage, they will.

This is a solid story, but for whatever reason it just fails to grab me the way the first one did.

Daine is neck-deep in trouble again. The wolf pack that once sheltered her is a lot of fun. Brokefang is the alpha male who is uncomfortable with all the new types of thoughts that have been in his head since Daine last impacted his life. That doesn’t stop him from using them for his own ends, resulting in a lot of people who are disturbed by just how un-wolflike these wolves are acting. And Daine feels guilty because she knows it’s her influence that has brought these changes to her friends.

Even without Numair for most of the book, Daine continues to grow her skills. I like the direction her sympathy with animals takes as she grows that connection. And it’s also interesting that the story challenges her classifying immortals by species as good or bad. Anything with human levels of intelligence should be more nuanced.

Overall this was a good continuation of the story. Enough hints have been dropped by this point that the reader should have a pretty good inkling of who Daine’s father actually is, which will lead to some interesting complications. I rate this book Recommended.

Wild Magic (The Immortals #1)

Title: Wild Magic

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: The Immortals #1

Daine has nothing but her horse and a few supplies after bandits killed her only relatives and burned their home. Thankfully, she finds a job with Onua, who is bringing horses to the capital. It’s a chance to start over, to have her abilities with animals put to good use. That is, if no one ever learns her secret . . .

This is an excellent book. Daine may have a lot to learn about the wild magic inside of her, but some uses come naturally. Like talking to her horse, Cloud. I love the glimpses from the point of view of the animals, whether it’s a dog’s sigh because there’s no one to play fetch with him or Cloud’s contrary attitude. I love the curious ways Daine’s power works—not at all like the Gift of Alanna or Numair, but similar in some ways. It’s still something she can learn, can harness, but it’s also something that others can trigger in her.

I like the range of characters here too. For those familiar with Tortall already from Alanna’s books, a number of familiar faces appear. It’s been about ten years since Lioness Rampant, and several of those characters are now married with children, and others get a brief mention. But there’s also plenty of newcomers, from Onua, who purchases horses for the Queen’s Riders, to the sorcerer Numair, to various Rider trainees that Daine encounters. And, of course, all the animals that Daine befriends. (I adore how she’ll always sleep with at least one fuzzy companion. Way better than stuffed animals.)

Plot wise this is a fast moving book, too. The weight of Daine’s secret, and her recent tragedy, give her depth right from the start. The jobs she takes are never as straightforward as they first appear. And the presence of various mythological beings hints that life is about to get far more exiting than any of them wish.

Overall this is a very strong book with an ending that both ties things up and makes it hard to stop here. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #10 (Light Novel)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero #10

Author: Aneko Yusagi

Format: Light Novel

The recovery of the Spirit Tortoise’s energy has given Naofumi a whole three and a half months to rest. And he’ll need it, as he, Raphtalia, and Filo are suffering the effects of his latest use of his Wrath shield. In the meantime, Naofumi turns his thoughts towards training an army to help him out, and he has just the place (and people) in mind.

This volume unfortunately slides back into a lot of the antics that I really hate. The whole scene with Keel felt unnecessary (and really, WHY did we have to go in this direction?). Instead of making Keel a girl and awkwardly making comments on sexual preferences to someone who is mentally still about 10 (and the incredibly stupid pronouncement forbidding relationships that follows), I would’ve preferred some actual character development and not a rehash of the same kind of shticks that show up in countless anime/manga/light novels.

Besides, the cast is desperately in need of males who aren’t stupid. Right now only the weapon shop owner qualifies (I’d give L’Arc more credit if he was a local, but we’re not likely to see him again for a while). I had been hoping Keel could grow up to be the male equivalent of Raphtalia, someone Naofumi can speak frankly with as more of a peer, without the romantic angle. Instead we get Keel as a girl, and the end of the book has yet another girl joining the party (and one who’s not at all shy about making her intentions known).

I did like that the immediate focus is more on rebuilding. The Coliseum ensures there will still be interesting fights even as the quieter work of setting up a new home begins. Naofumi hasn’t really had any place in this world to call home before now. Even now he’s more considering this territory a place to raise an army than a place to live, but I suspect once he has a home the way Kizuna did his attitude will start to change. The little touches of longing visible when he considered her home imply he really wants that kind of a place for himself.

The whole slavery angle is also a mixed bag. Naofumi is doing good things in questionable ways, which is kind of how he’s operated all along. Even though he’s correct that his bonuses will help everyone level better as slaves, he’s never been willing to consider releasing Raphtalia or Filo from the spells that he could use to control them. He’s likely to make excuses about releasing the others too, even though they aren’t as close. And Naofumi’s actions prop up the slave market, making him responsible for the kind of demand that caused Raphtalia to get kidnapped into slavery in the first place.

It was funny what Naofumi considers an appropriate punishment for the people who caused so much trouble to Raphtalia and her village in the first place. It is entirely fitting—those who were only concerned about the money ran into someone using their own values against them.

I also liked the small twists on the whole Coliseum trope—Naofumi’s just in this to get rich quick. Betting on his own party and then sweeping a tournament seems like the best way to get a massive return on his investment. His interactions with Nadia help expose that this isn’t going to be quite as simple as he was expecting, but it’s too late to back out.

Overall this is a quieter book, but the main reason I feel it’s a step back from the stronger arc recently is the focus on really stereotypical harem antics. If you’ve followed the series up until this point, the last book wouldn’t be a bad place to stop, at least until the current arc can prove if it’s going to get back on track. I rate this book Neutral.