In the first chapter of Trickster’s Choice, the daughter of George Cooper and Alanna of Trebond longs for a chance to be a spy under her father’s employ, but is met with stiff criticism at the suggestion. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start Trickster’s Choice.
OH MY GOD SO UNPREPARED.
Chapter One: Parents
NO ONE SPOILED THIS FOR ME AND IT WAS GREAT AND THEN oh my god what the fuck just happened???
Freaking out will happen, I promise y’all. It’s just that there is so much else that I learn before that thing happens. IN THE FIRST CHAPTER, MIND YOU. But there’s also an element of joyous surprise to this book if you go into like I did, without any spoilers, because GEORGE COOPER and then HIS DAUGHTER ALIANNE and oh my god this book is about them. And yet, that’s not even why this is so fascinating. It’s one of the reasons, yes, but it was a delight to discover just when this book was set. Immediately, I could see how fascinating it might be to see the Scanran War from the perspective of other people in Tortall, especially those who might not necessarily be fighting in the war. George’s and Myles’s network of spies are busier than ever, and this first chapters serves as a great reminder that despite that Lady Knight focuses on Scanra, Tortall still had to worry about the nations that surrounded it.
And that’s one of the reasons I think the “prologue” of Trickster’s Choice, as strange as it is for a Tortall book, is absolutely vital to the story. I’m thankful for the context, not only to understand what’s happening in this world at the current time, but to get a historical explanation for how slavery has worked in this fictional universe. What was most shocking to me, though, was the blatant colonialist themes presented to me in this history lesson. It was, quite literally, white people raiding and killing the dark-skinned people of the Copper Isles (then called the Kyprish Isles) and immediately enslaving them. Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen slavery in the Tortall books, but it’s never been presented so in-your-face as it is here. The raka people were oppressed and thrown into slavery if they chose that option over death. And this went on for seven years. At the end of this, the raka, having had their land stripped from them and their people murdered and enslaved, believed that the gods were somehow responsible for their misfortune. And this is not a case of Tamora Pierce trying to make commentary on religion or spirituality. We know that the gods in the Divine Realms are real, and we know that they can affect what happens in the human world. So, I don’t think I’m going to discount the raka legend that aims to explain what happened tot hem. It’s entirely possible that Kyprioth’s brother and sister, Mithros and the Goddess, overthrew him, and this directly affected the luarin assault on Kyprish.
Which… holy shit, this is already so messed up. Granted, this commentary relies on my knowledge of what happens to Aly in the last third of chapter one, but everything is already a mess. And it seemingly has nothing to do with the Scanran war!!!
But I’m jumping ahead again. (Sorry, it’s so hard not to because shit got real in the first chapter.) I really do want to talk about the family that we finally get to examine in this novel. Alanna has appeared in all the series after her own, but this is the first chance we get to spend a significant time with her and her husband, George. The pair’s three children – Thom, and Alianne and Alan, twins!!!!! I AM A TWIN OH THIS IS GONNA BE GREAT – all have a lot to live up to given who their mother is, and that plays a very particular part in Aly’s life. Unlike Alanna, Daine, or Kel, Aly isn’t presented to us as a heroine with a special power or with an extraordinary desire/goal in her life. Well, she does want to work as a spy for her father, but she’s had to navigate a life knowing that her parents never want her to do such a thing. George is convinced it’s too dangerous (but being a knight isn’t???) and Alanna believes it’s somewhat beneath Aly’s noble blood. And at the same time, both her parents are desperate for their sixteen-year-old daughter to choose her life’s path. That sort of pressure is deeply frustrating! You can see that Aly is determined to win the validation of both of her parents in this chapter, and it just makes me so sad because I know from personal experience how devastating it can feel to believe that you’re disappointing your parents. I know that has to be hard for Aly because she clearly loves and adores her parents, especially her father. She wants his acceptance more than anything! And wouldn’t being a spy under his employ be a great chance to get that?
I got the sense that George was certainly proud of his daughter’s ability to decode from memory, but his concern stems from the “crooked” lives that his spies lead. So I’m thinking that his refusal to let her become a spy stems from this idea that he needs to protect her from this part of the world. He doesn’t want Aly to sully her life with this work, despite that she’s got a knack for it. But when it comes to Alanna, Aly has a much different relationship with her mother. Here, Tamora Pierce explores what life as the King’s Champion is like for the Champion’s family. For the most part, Alanna hasn’t been in her children’s lives. I don’t know that Aly resents it so much as she… she wants more. It’s not easy for Aly, given that Alanna is such a forceful and stubborn person. Again, I can’t forget that both her parents are putting pressure on her to figure out the rest of her life as soon as possible, so that puts Aly’s dinner with Alanna into context. Her mother’s “project” isn’t the same as her mother being around all the time like a “normal” mother. She knows Alanna will be obsessive and frustrating to be around, so that informs why Aly decides to sail down to Port Legann. Well, not just that! She also knows that her father and mother haven’t spent much time together, so she wants to give them privacy as well. That’s why I can’t claim that Aly resents her mother. No, she clearly cares for her. It’s just a complicated situation!
And then, in just two paragraphs, this whole book is upended. I cannot believe how quickly the narrative is shaken up and set off on a horrifying journey. PAGE 22. THAT’S ALL IT TOOK FOR THIS TO HAPPEN:
By midmorning a mage was stitching a leather slave collar around her neck.
YEAH, ALY IS KIDNAPPED AND IS SENT TO THE CAPITAL OF THE COPPER ISLES TO BE A SLAVE. Oh my god, what the hell?!?!?!? And this is relentlessly uncomfortable; Pierce routinely addresses the vicious and brutal realities of the slave trade. In the first chapter. Aly’s head is shaved, she’s beaten multiple times, though mostly by other slaves and on purpose. It’s so that she won’t be bought to be someone’s sex slave. Coming off of Lady Knight, I shouldn’t be surprised that Pierce is willing to talk about such scary, upsetting things, but I still couldn’t help it.
I admit that I do need to see more of this because I think it’s a bit too white savior-y for my tastes that we’re dealing with the historical slavery of people of color in the Kyprish Isles, and now we’re reading it all from the perspective of a white half-noble girl. Which is not to deny that slavery in this fictional universe has evolved to affect people of any racial background within these worlds! I understood that slavery was happening in multiple countries based on George’s letter at the end of the chapter. I also have no goddamn clue where this is going because…. HOW WAS I EVER SUPPOSED TO GUESS THAT THIS WOULD HAPPEN? So I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt for the time being. I’d love to see more of a historical focus on where slavery in the Copper Isles came from and who it affects more. Like I said, I know very little at this point, so I’ll hold my thoughts for the most part.
Y’all, I just can’t believe that this is where this book starts! Hey, welcome to Trickster’s Choice, here’s Alanna’s daughter, AND GOODBYE, SHE’S NOT A SLAVE. Actually, a slave who has a god interested in her. WHO THE HELL IS THAT? And why show her glimpses of home? What does that reference to the letters mean? And was your heart obliterated once you realized that Alanna doesn’t even know her daughter has been kidnapped? Emotional devastation in the first chapter. Thanks, Tamora Pierce. THANKS.
Please note that the original text and the videos below contain multiple uses of the word “mad.”
Mark Links Stuff
– If you would like to support this website and keep Mark Does Stuff running, I’ve put up a detailed post explaining how you can!
– Please check out the MarkDoesStuff.com. All Mark Watches videos for past shows/season are now archived there!
– I will be traveling for many events! Check the Tour Dates/Appearances page for up-to-date tour events.