In the third chapter of Trickster’s Choice, Aly begins to make friendships as she discovers there’s more to the family she is to protect than she originally thought. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Trickster’s Choice.
Chapter Three: The Raka
There is just SO MUCH HERE TO DISCUSS. How is this barely the third chapter? I’m so viciously unprepared for this book.
I feel like Tamora Pierce does a fine job conveying just how creepy and unsettling it is for the Balitangs to be exiled in this way, especially since King Oron is so finicky and paranoid. The threat of being accused of treason is so real, and it’s persistent throughout this chapter. Numerous times, people on this ship have to warn others that even though THEY ARE LITERALLY ON A BOAT WITH AN EXILED FAMILY, they still have to be careful of what they say about King Oron. That’s especially the case for Dove and Sarai, whose dual heritage makes things even more complicated for them. It’s the ubiquitous dread that hangs over this whole chapter, and I think it’s done brilliantly.
Aly as a Caretaker
There’s an unexpected dynamic that pops up here as Aly does her best to integrate herself in this community: She’s actually really good at taking care of people. Initially, she’s tasked with caring for Elsren and Petranne, who, understandably, want nothing to do with her. She does her best to warm them over, not just because she’s talented. It’s in her best interest to be as believable as humanly possible. And I’ll address Aly as a spy later on, but it’s fascinating to see how she has to constantly have this internal conversation about how to act at any given moment.
That’s how I was able to pick up on this natural skill of hers. She doesn’t ever seem to question how to behave towards these people, even if she is the Balitang’s slave. She speaks to Dove and Sarai with respect, and I imagine that if she wasn’t a slave, she’d still speak to them the same way. I mean, then there’s that awesome scene where she gets the girls to obey Winnamine, who is also quite familiar with people disliking her on sight. (MY HEART.) I think that speaks more to Aly than anything else, and it’s so rad to see what a natural she is at all of this.
JUST…. THE SCENE WAS TOO MUCH. I guess I never really thought about how well known people like Alanna would be in places outside of Tortall, but it makes total sense. But Pierce does something more than just make Aly squirm while Dove and Sarai quiz her about the Lioness. I mean, that alone is worth it because OH MY GOD IT’S SO STRANGE AND I LOVE IT. But through this, Dove and Sarai (particularly Sarai) communicate their desire for something more. Now, pair this up with the raka’s very bizarre interest in these two, and you can see why Winnamine is incredibly worried about the attention these two are drawing to one another. Even Aly realizes they’re special, but not in that sense of them having SUPER SECRET POWERS or anything:
It was such a waste, keeping fiery girls like this in the background, not letting them forge their own path in the world. She’d like to see what these two would accomplish.
YES, I AGREE. WHOLEHEARTEDLY. And that’s not a surprising message from Pierce, but it’s so neat that this is brought out through the topic of Aly’s mother. On top of this, Aly realizes that her own treatment of the Lioness was due to the fact that she “lived in the shadow” of a “respected woman.” Still, she’s able to see what it’s like to be on the receiving end of such behavior when Dove and Sarai disobey Winnamine. There’s just so much character development already! This book is satisfying in the third chapter. Bless!
For the most part, though, Pierce spends chapter three worldbuilding. There’s a lot of information conveyed to us about raka culture, and that’s because of what the raka do in this chapter: They silently watch the duke’s ship pass by, their attention almost entirely on Dove and Sarai. I learn what kind of clothes they traditionally wear, how their ideas of nobility have changed since they became oppressed by the luarin, and the sort of ongoing dynamic they have with the luarin. All of this is rendered beautifully, with an implicit understand of racial power dynamics that, frankly, I just don’t see from white authors. For real:
“The luarin get uneasy when the raka do things they don’t understand.”
Granted, I am writing this a week before it goes up, so it’s not quite as timely, but this was my experience when trying to explain why Dia de los Muertos is not for everyone. It makes people uncomfortable when they find out that other cultures don’t want people appropriating their customs all willy-nilly. I think you could find a ton of real-life comparisons for this single line, so I kind of adore it. But perhaps not more than this line:
I suppose I’d best remember what the Bazhir at home endure, she thought, before I go looking down my nose at the luarin. You really should have a clean house at home before you start picking at the way your neighbor does the dusting.
YES. YES. And I love this deliberate act on Pierce’s part to remind us that Tortall is not a realm of perfection, free from oppression. The Bazhir themselves are subject to some of the more egregious examples of in-world racism in Tortall. And, of course, once you think about this in terms of American-centric ideologies, you can have a whole lot of fun analyzing how often people in this country do exactly what Pierce is talking about here.
I guess that, ultimately, I enjoy the fact that this experience is rooted in understanding another culture, by surrounding Aly with so many of people of color who don’t live like she does, and that through all of this, Aly doesn’t forget that she’s white. I think that’s most important in the final scene of the chapter, where Aly sits around with the rest of the crew/staff/slaves at a communal supper on the beach. She recognizes her place, and she doesn’t try to step out of it. Which brings me to my last point:
Aly as a Spy
Okay, this is just terribly exciting. Aly’s growth as a spy is being tested constantly as she tries to figure out why Kyprioth is interested in the Balitangs for only a few months. It’s true that every god that’s become interested in a mortal has done so for life. So why must Aly watch Dove and Sarai until the end of summer? Why not longer? Plus, the appearance of the raka in droves at the cliffside and in the endless stream of colorful boats must have something to do with the “secret” that the raka are keeping from Aly. However, Aly isn’t exactly free to be who she normally is, and that’s part of her transformation. She’s got to navigate her role as a slave and use that to obtain information about the task Kyprioth has set for her. It’s fascinating to see how Aly tries to assimilate herself within this culture because if you put aside her aspirations for being a spy, she’d have to assimilate into this group regardless. She’s a slave! She’s been forced to be here.
So what the hell is so unique about Dove and Sarai’s mother? What are these people hiding? Aly’s training helps her figure out that she’s being lied to, but I admit that this is as far as I’ve gotten myself. The raka know that these two girls are a big deal, but I can’t figure out why. Who was Sarugani? AHHH, I WANT TO KNOW.
Please note that the word “madness” appears in the original text and the video below.
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