In the tenth chapter of Trickster’s Choice, TOO MUCH JUST HAPPENED AND I AM OVERWHELMED. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to continue to be unprepared for Trickster’s Choice.
Chapter Ten: Assassins
WELL, HOLY SHIT, A LOT JUST HAPPENED.
- Just as a small aside to start things off, I actually wanted to hear about Winnamine’s country upbringing myself. I’d like to know that!
- I would have also enjoyed the chance to read Aly’s conversation with the raka who inquired about Dove and Sarai. Alas, I can’t have everything, but it’s one of many small details that I enjoyed in this chapter. For the raka, this is the first sign of real, true hope, and I think it’s smart that Pierce included this brief moment where they questioned whether their chance to overthrow their oppressors was going to be entrusted to two young women who might not support them. And it makes sense in the context of the raka characterization we’ve seen in this series. (Well, and as a person of color myself, I can also vouch for this same phenomenon. A lot of PoC can’t afford to just outright trust everyone they meet, you know?)
- I admit that even with hindsight, I’m still confused by the behavior of the young raka who attacks Aly in the beginning of the chapter. Junai confirms to him that Aly is the one, butâ€¦ what was he doing? Was his intent malicious or was heâ€¦ I don’t know, excited to see her??? You know, mobbing her like she’s a celebrity! omg i bet he posts in her tag on Tumblr.
- Okay, enough with that ridiculous thought. Going back through this chapter with full knowledge of how it ends, it’s astounding to me just how right Aly was about all of this. It’s not that I doubted her or anything! She’s proven herself time and time again over the last ten chapters. It’s just that it’s so cool to see how spot-on she was about the group of merchants and the assassins. That didn’t make me prepared for anything to come, of course. When does it ever?
- Let’s talk about suspense. Because this is ridiculous. Just a few pages into chapter ten and everything feels chaotic, despite that Aly and the conspirators have a firm grip on the situation. That’s one of the more incredible feats pulled off in this chapter. From my perspective, this is horrifying. HOW COULD YOU DO THIS. It’s so scary to me! And yet, these people planned for this. They assumed that someone would send spies their way, they assumed that eventually, King Oron would tire of the Balitangs, and assassins would try to kill them. So, while I spent most of this chapter in tense fear about what would happen to these people, the conspirators and the raka masterfully take down A TON OF SPIES AND ASSASSINS. It’s not even the five Aly was able to identify initially. IT’S SO MANY MORE. And it’s so impressive to me, y’all!
- Anyway, there’s a lot of talk of talk of logistics during the opening sequences once Aly’s identified the assassins. I don’t feel a need to provide commentary on that because I don’t know that there’s much that I can say aside from holy cow everyone has their shit together. Aly’s a natural leader, and as we learn later, the raka are INCREDIBLE fighters. Well, and one other person, but we’ll get there.
- SUPPER. THE UNBEARABLE PAIN OF WAITING. The waiting was the worst part of this chapter, and it only got worse once the truth was spilled out in the open. Initially, Tamora Pierce describes a sort of nervous energy that filled the dining hall that made me feel awful. The people there, even if they don’t know why everything feels wrong, are able to tell that everything is wrong. And then Aly has to somehow get the Balitangs into a different room without rousing suspicion, and WINNAMINE IS MY FAVORITE. Ugh, I’m really beginning to like her a lot, y’all.
- Casual reminder that Chenaol insisted that after “the fighting’s done,” Aly should come down to eat supper, and that Chenaol lived up to her word. Bless her sense of priority.
- HOW UNNERVING WAS IT WHEN ALY WALKED THE THIRD FLOOR AND ULASIM AND FESGAO ARE JUST HIDING IN THE SHADOWS? Seriously, this is so brilliantly full of dread, and I adore it.
- I also have to admit that it is getting increasingly difficult for Aly to be able to perform her role without suspicion. I noticed that multiple times in this chapter, characters briefly (or sometimes much more directly) suspect that there’s more to Aly than she’s revealing. That’s certainly the case for Ulasim, Bronau, and Mequen. The problem is that as she puts herself in charge of these situations, she’s got to navigate the details of her appearance, too. For example! She has to help the Balitangs here without raising Bronau’s suspicion of her, and that’s damn hard, y’all. The layers that Aly deals with are ridiculous, and while she does make a few missteps here, I still think she’s able to pull this off brilliantly. (And recognizing those mistakes is a big deal, too.)
- CASUAL REMINDER THAT WHILE THESE PEOPLE ARE WAITING TO FIND OUT IF THE RAKA ARE GOING TO KILL THE ASSASSINS AND NO ONE KNOWS IF THEY’RE GOING TO DIE, BRONAU DECIDES TO HIT ON SARAI AGAIN BY BELITTLING HER DESIRE TO WIELD A SWORD. There is absolutely nothing about this man that is all right, and I think this may be the best demonstration of how he is the worst. He’s the worst, I swear!
- OH GOD, THEN THE FIGHTING. Tamora Pierce, narrating this scene through a fucking keyhole is terrifying. NO. NO DON’T DO THAT TO ME AGAIN.Â
- Y’all, I thought that was going to be the only scary scene. Y’all, I thought I was going to be okay. no.
- ULASIM CALLING VERON OUT AS A SPY. HOLY SHIT, I DID NOT EXPECT THAT. OH MY GOD, AND THEN VERON READILY ADMITS TO IT.Â !!!!!!! WHAT IS THIS CHAPTER?????
- But nothing in this whole chapter would top what followed this. I was busy loving the fact that Sarai was demonstrating that she knew how to hold a sword and that this surprised Bronau because he’s such a gross misogynist he probably didn’t even think women could hold swords correctly. And this whole scene really is designed to distract us. So when the red-haired assassin popped out from behind a curtain, I was already not okay. I was scared as hell, convinced she was going to kill Mequen right before out eyes.
- “But Sarai, the killer’s weapon still in her hand, lunged across the gap. Her arm stretched out in a long, ferocious thrust that pierced the woman through. Swiftly she braved a foot against the assassin’s body and freed her sword, then cut the woman’s throat, just to be sure.”
- YOU DID IT. YOU DID THE THING.
- And, like Tamora Pierce has done in the past, she shows us how emotionally draining it must be to take another human life, even if it was the life of someone who was going to kill Sarai’s father. In Sarai’s case, she faints upon realizing what she’s done, and it’s such a real and visceral thing to have happen, but it fits. For Sarai, violence hasn’t ever been this literal or this bloody, and now she’s killed someone in a moment ofâ€¦ clarity, I guess? I mean, her reaction here seemed so clear and certain. It was instinct, and obviously she’s got a natural talent. Still, I did love that Winnamine realized the value of allowing her stepdaughters (and possibly herself) to take lessons in weaponry and self-defense. Plus, it’s a way for Sarai to grow closer to her step-mother, you know?
- But back to the idea that killing someone just became real for Sarai. How devastating is that moment where she turns to Aly, tears in her eyes, and asks if she did the right thing? NO YOU PRECIOUS BABY STARFISH, LET ME HUG YOU FOREVER.
- Aly operates in this fascinating mixture of sass and wit and humility. She can be feisty and snappy when she wants, but she’s not quick to take credit. After helping the raka and the Balitangs, Ulasim compliments Aly, who isn’t eager to accept his kindness. Except he’s trying to thank her for saving everyone, SINCE KING ORON WOULD HAVE KILLED ALL THE RAKA IN TANAIR VILLAGE IF THE ASSASSINS HAD SUCCEEDED. As I mentioned in the video, this piece of law works to systemically oppress the raka. “It’s how they broke the spine of the raka rebellion,” Ulasim explains. And that’s precisely how a lot of racism shows up in institutions in my country’s government: It was designed to break the spirit of people of color. My god, I HATE ORON. And Bronau. BUT RIGHT NOW, ORON.
- OH, SHIT, THE ASSASSIN IS DEAD BECAUSE OF MAGIC. I swear, every time I thought this super long chapter was over, NOPE. Queen Tammy had another vicious plot twist waiting for me. Now, I can see why Aly is hard on herself. Normally, I’d mention something about perspective and appreciating what one does get done, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that Aly and the Balitangs don’t have the luxury of miscalculations or distractions. Aly is quick to figure out where she went wrong â€“ not entering the Balitangs bedroom first, not checking for counter spells on the assassin â€“ and blame herself for the mistakes. She is a challenge to herself, but I loved the idea that she was so dedicated to this wager that she’d be willing to almost immediately engage with her flaws and failures. That is how she’s going to grow as a spy.
- CASUAL REMINDER THAT NAWAT SNAPPED THE NECKS OF TWO WOULD-BE MOBBERS AND THEN KICKED THE LIFE OUT OF THEM IN MIDAIR.
- THAT IS A THING THAT HAPPENED IN THIS BOOK.
- ALSO, NAWAT IS BEING CUTE AGAIN.
- I THOUGHT I TOLD HIM TO STOP.
- DAMN IT.
- I really do wonder if Aly will ever tell the truth about who she really is by the end of this book. Perhaps she’ll do it before Kyprioth sends her home, but even then, that might be a risk. Clearly, Mequen has figured out a lot on his own, but Dove’s the same way, too. I’m expecting a scene that parallels this one at some point in the future. Dove’s curiosity is going to get the best of her, you know? For the time being, however, I think Mequen isn’t going to look the gift horse in the mouth. Aly and her leadership helped save the Balitang family. Sure, Mequen’s not going to forget his interrogative conversation with Aly, but he’s also not going to forget what Aly did for him and his family.
Please note that the original text contains the words “idiot,” “insane,” “mad,” and “stupid.”
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