In the second chapter of Trickster’s Choice, Aly discovers who has truly been behind the bizarre turn of her life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Trickster’s Choice.
Chapter Two: Trickster
Y’all, this is so different from the other books and my own expectation for Trickster’s Choice based on the first chapter. I mean, there’s so much information provided about the complicated cultural atmosphere in the Copper Isles, though most of it specifically appears in the Balitang household. And then there are nice people? And a god? and WHAT THE HELL IS THIS BOOK.
Oh god, let’s talk about this RIGHT NOW.
The Balitang Household
So, as much as I’m going to talk about how surprising the Balitangs and their servants are, I don’t want to lose sight of one important thing: They still own slaves. Being nice and polite to one’s slaves doesn’t negate the fact that they own slaves. So all of my commentary and analysis is operating under this context. But I also don’t want to ignore how shocked I was by the many ways in which the Balitang House, including the work of Ulasim and Chenaol, purposely went against my own expectations for what Aly would go through as a slave. Even though Aly did what she could to make herself undesirable, I didn’t think she’d come through unscathed. However, it’s not only the head footman and cook who treat Aly well; the very system of treatment of slaves and servants in the household is held to a higher standard than what I imagine is customary for a Copper Isles house of nobility. But that’s generally the case with Duke Mequen, who appears to have distanced himself from the rest of the Rittevon ruling family. His first wife was a full-blood raka, which I’m sure pissed off the rest of the family because RACISM. I’m guessing, then, that this detail, amidst many others, was why King Oron called Mequen’s loyalty into question. He’s strayed too far from the family’s oppressive and racist (and ostensibly classist/xenophobic, I’m guessing) customs. Of course, I can only guess at this point because I don’t have much information at all. I think we’ll have to wait for Mequen’s relocation to the highlands. Instead, a lot more exposition is given to me about the culture of the Balitang household than anything else.
Raka vs luarin
I think that, for the most part, Pierce respects and details the power dynamics in place in the Balitang household without ignoring the fact that in the Copper Isles at large, the raka are an oppressed people. In the specific case of the Balitang house, Aly is surprised to find that slaves and servants are not divided along racial or cultural lines. Generally speaking, there are more full-blood raka who are slaves than not, and most of the servants are raka, too. Still, the disparity is also not as varied as I expected. And there is absolutely no violence whatsoever in this chapter. No manipulation, no threats, no physical attacks, and nothing that I thought would be a part of Aly’s life from here until she was able to escape. Aly also makes an immediate friend and protector in Chenaol, the head chef, who refuses to let anyone bully or pick on Aly, reasoning that the poor girl couldn’t even be sold, so why should she suffer at the hands of the people she works with?
I wonder why this is the case in this household, and I think it would be pretty fantastic if Aly asked Duke Mequen about this. Why even have slaves if you’re going to treat them like this? Why not just free them all? And why did he break from the behavior that was expected of him because of the culture of his country?
Prince Bronau Jimajen
IS REALLY GROSS, HE GROSSES ME OUT, HE’S A HUGE RACIST, AND I HATE THAT I CAN TELL THAT HE’LL SHOW UP AGAIN IN THE BOOK. There’s no way this is the last time we’re going to see him. Just no. NO! I don’t like him at all. His charm doesn’t impress me; it scares me. How many girls Aly’s age (or younger???) has he used his disgusting “charms” on? How many more disgusting statements about the raka am I gonna have to hear from him?
Questioned Loyalty, Trickster Gods, and The Chance To Prove Herself
I cannot believe I didn’t realize that this horrible predicament that Aly was in would provide her with the opportunity to use everything her father had taught her to escape. And yet, even when this became apparent, it still wasn’t the full extent of what Pierce was planning. Aly’s plan to escape in two days time is interrupted by King Oron calling Duke Mequen’s loyalty in question; the Duke will have to sell most of his servants and slaves off and move to the freezing highlands in order to prove himself to the crown. It’s upsetting to the Balitang house because these slaves and servants know they are most likely not going to find the same treatment in other households. Unlike Aly, the possibility of escape is sadly not even an option for most of these people. Even the Duke and Duchess Winnamine are heartbroken by this development. Again, y’all own slaves. Still, many of these people have been in the “family” for a long, long time, and I think the duke and duchess are aware of what horrible treatment might await some of their people.
And so a slave matcher is called into the Balitang to deal with the slaves not going to the highlands. Using his Gift to “read” the slaves and determine their best placement with the slaveowners he knows, the Matcher goes down the line of slaves, inching closer to Aly. Of course, my worry was that he’d be able to figure out that she was planning on escaping, and NOPE. NOT EVEN CLOSE. NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT CLOSE. HOLY SHIT, Y’ALL:
Something changed. Inside his round frame Aly saw another body, compact, lean, wiry. Under his face lay another: square, the strong chin covered in a short beard, a brief nose broad at the tip, sparkling dark eyes, and short hair. This was not an internal aspect of the matcher; this was something else.
Well, well, Aly thought, amazed. I have a god.
Not any god, but the same god who spoke to Aly in her dreams. WHO IS KYPRIOTH. THE KYPRIOTH. Who is the Trickster God. WHO WANTS SOMETHING FROM ALY. And suddenly, this book has a different outlook, a different tone, and a different scope for the story. It’s incredible, y’all! It’s so entertaining to experience Aly’s sassy conversations with a god, especially when Kyprioth reveals why he’s brought Kel to this house:
“I have a small wager for you first. Play this out for me, and I’ll deposit you at the cove at Pirate’s Swoop. I’m the local sea god, among other things.”
And before I get to his wager, I do admit that I don’t know why Kyprioth is so interested in Aly and in protecting the two Balitang children. The wager itself feeds perfectly into Aly’s desire to prove her worth to her father as a spy. And that’s what I meant by not understanding Pierce’s full plan for Aly. Yes, she could use her skills to get home, but now, by accepting Kyprioth’s wager to protect the children of the Balitang family, Kel has a path to convincing her father that she will be a good spy if he’ll just give her a chance. This is such a fascinating development because Aly is doing a good dead solely based out of self-interest. She doesn’t have an emotional attachment to these children at all, so it’s not like she’s doing it as a matter of morality. No, she just desires her father’s blessing so badly that she’ll remain a slave for a few months in order to obtain it.
So why these kids? And why Aly? And why Kyprioth? Won’t Mithros or the Goddess get upset with Aly if they find out what she’s doing? This is already so complex and layered, and it’s only the second chapter. I’M SO UNPREPARED, Y’ALL.
Please note that the original text and the videos include the words “mad” and “insane.”
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