A unique twist on what I’ve come to expect in the Tortall Universe. Aly is the daughter of George Cooper and Alanna the Lioness and all she’s ever wanted is to follow in her father’s (and grandfather’s) footsteps and become a spy. She’s been drilled on all the tricks needed to survive in the world of lies and duplicity, can crack codes with barely any effort, and is always planning several steps ahead. However, as the daughter of nobles, even those as unusual as her parents, there are certain expectations. Unable to pursue her dream, and with no drive to pursue any other career paths or options, she feels in constant conflict with her mother who can’t understand her lack of ambition, especially considering what Alanna’s overcome and accomplished in her life.
When Aly gets a chance to prove herself, it’s very sudden and unexpected, causing a lot of family drama. Although reluctant at first, Aly quickly starts to make plans, almost subconsciously, and is very quickly drawn into her new mission. She has a lot of very interesting allies and something that at first seems simple becomes incredibly complicated with a lot of moving factions.
The very best person in this book is Nawat. I know he’s weird and it’s a preposterous and possibly problematic scenario, but his naivety and charm totally make the whole book for me. Aly is great, she’s cunning and quick on her feet, but she’s just a little too perfect. She never makes a mistake, never makes the wrong move, and never trusts the wrong person. She’d be a bit more believable, and likeable, if she messed up every once in a while. Sarai and Dove, as sisters, are two very different people. Sarai is headstrong and brave, an incredible horsewoman and good with a sword. She’s also incredibly beautiful, which may contribute to her flightiness and foolhardiness. No matter how many red flags someone is giving off she’s still very eager to follow her heart or succumb to flirtations. Dove, on the other hand, is wise beyond her years, probably helped by watching all the mistakes Sarai has made. Dove seems to have Aly’s trick of seeing a few steps ahead of everyone else and knowing what needs to be done. After Nawat, she’s my next favourite; I just wish she was more involved in Trickster’s Choice and less of a sidekick for Aly or Sarai.
The sticky wicket here is the introduction of a historical race war in the Tortall universe. I do believe that Pierce has navigated it well, but any book that was written almost 18 years ago is going to stumble a little in this area. If you’re looking for political correctness, you’ll likely struggle here (for example, if you’re someone who was triggered by the Bazhir storylines in the Song of the Lioness series, you may want to give this one a pass). I’m most definitely not trying to excuse any behaviour here, but I do think it is difficult to draw conclusions or point criticism at a fictional historical world. Sure, it mirrors some of our world’s worst historical travesties, but in the end, the goal does seem to be a tale of redemption and vengeance, not glorifying slavery or genocide. And an angle that could be considered is the impact that a fictional novel geared towards young adults about this subject matter could have. Maybe idealistic, but not impossible.
Overall, I enjoyed Trickster’s Choice. It’s a good introduction to the Copper Isles, its luarin and raka history, its banished trickster god Kyprioth, and the possible uprising and chaos to come in Trickster’s Queen. I’m hoping Aly makes a few mistakes, starts to appreciate Nawat more, and that Dove gets to be a little more involved in the next book.