In the seventh chapter of Trickster’s Choice, a visitor to Tanair brings complicated news to Aly and the duke and duchess. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Trickster’s Choice.
Chapter Seven: Conversations
OH. OH OKAY. This book has had so many little plot twists and unexpected turns already, and it’s not lost on me that The Broken Kingdoms is also busy turning my brain to mush. What has fate wrought upon me? Let’s talk about all the endlessly fascinating conversations Aly has in this chapter.
With Dove and Sarai
Well, my suspicions that Dove knows more than she’s letting on are pretty much confirmed:
“Has this got anything to do with Papa and the duchess’s talking to you every night behind closed doors?” asked Dove.
Goddamn, Dove, you are so observant. But this is actually an ongoing quality of hers; we’ve seen it before, and it helps to give the two half-raka daughters distinct personalities. Holy shit, Dove, with the proper training, might make an excellent spy, right? Or maybe a diplomat. Either way, her interest in politics and international affairs is undeniable, but it’s her thirst for knowledge – and the curiosity that comes with it – that strikes me as the most important aspect of her character. Multiple times throughout this chapter, Dove is VERY OBVIOUSLY spying on her parents and on Aly. She’s not content to let the world pass her by; she wants to know everything happening in Tanair, and Aly LOVES IT. I love it, too, and I think that’s going to play into her role in the Copper Isles in the distant future, whenever she and Sarai are thrust into the national spotlight.
With Duchess Winnamine
Oh, I like her, y’all. One of my favorite things about Tamora Pierce is how well she develops the side characters, especially the women. Here, we get a lot more insight into Winnamine as a character, especially how she views those around her. It’s obvious that Mequen and Winnamine take Mithros’s appearance seriously, and it’s clear that they also are willing to trust Aly in ways that are unconventional. Hell, I’d say that this family is unconventional in a lot of ways, but I’ll touch on that in more detail at the end of the chapter. As it turns out, their trust in Aly isn’t due to the gods’ desires, though. It’s born out of desperation. Both Winnamine and Mequen are terribly aware of the mental fragility of their King, whose paranoia has deadly consequences, given that Winnamine reveals that King Oron once CRUCIFIED HIS OWN SON AND HIS SON’S HOUSEHOLD BECAUSE OF A DREAM. A DREAM. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it is uncomfortable to have one of the first characters with a very obvious mental disability be represented this way. It’s not an uncommon trope either, the “mad” king. While it’s usually intended as a commentary on power, sometimes it feels as if it’s used to paint mental disability as an impossible thing to live with. I don’t know if that is the case here because… well, we know so little of King Oron. I’m hoping that his portrayal in the later parts of this book is a lot more like Pierce’s portrayal of Emperor Ozorne, who at least becomes a whole person instead of a stereotype.
All of this informs how Winnamine views the current situation, and I do love that Pierce puts Winnamine front and center here. She’s the one who makes the decision to place Aly within the same room as Bronau, and even if it’s great for Aly, I read it as an example of how important Winnamine was to the narrative. She has agency, she’s the one choosing to break protocol to make Aly a maidservant in order to keep her family safe. And I think that’s awesome.
Eavesdropping on Bronau and Mequen
WELL, EVERYTHING IS MORE DISTURBING THAN I THOUGHT IT WAS. While Aly’s role here is merely to listen, she is also able to determine whether Prince Bronau is telling the truth. Which means that Bronau isn’t lying. And while I still don’t trust him, it’s scary to think that even Prince Bronau isn’t safe from Oron’s paranoia. Granted, he has his own interests in mind; he’s worried about other members of Mequen’s family turning against him by the time King Oron does pass away. Still, how safe is anyone at this point?
With the Duke and Duchess
I love when Aly does her thing to make sure no one is spying on them. SHE IS SO BRILLIANT. Anyway, it’s kind of surreal to read how casual the duke and duchess are with Aly, as it signals that they are becoming more and more comfortable not only with her presence but her role in keeping their family safe and informed. However, I was most shocked by this part:
“Truly, Your Grace, why fidget over what use the god makes of insignificant me?”
“Because I receive better service from someone who is happy,” replied Mequen. “Because you are not insignificant, however much you may jest about it.”
These people have a startling amount of affection towards their help, and it makes me wonder why people who clearly understand the value of good servants still have slaves. Are they afraid to buck tradition because it’ll attract attention? If they stop buying slaves, would they earn the wrath of King Oron? Or is this an issue of them just having different opinions than most regarding a cultural tradition? I mean, Chenaol very proudly speaks of how loyal most of the raka slaves are towards the family because they know they’ll be treated better, so I don’t want to ignore that. I’m wondering if Aly will ever muster the courage to ask these people why they still have slaves.
IT SHOULD BE CRIMINAL TO BE AS GODDAMN ADORABLE AS NAWAT CROW. I don’t understand. I don’t understand how this works so well, but it does. He is so genuine, so silly, and so sincere, and I should not have so many feelings for him, and yet, HERE THEY ARE. I mean, he so easily moves between being serious and being humorous, and I cannot deal with it. Someone make him stop.
With Bronau and the Balitangs
Remember I said that I didn’t trust Bronau? Yeah, despite how genuinely frightened is by Oron, I DON’T LIKE HIM TOUCHING SARAI. I mean, we already knew that he was fairly manipulative, so it’s not surprising that he’d turn on his charm in the presence of the Balitangs. However, it’s his particular attention to Sarai that sets off Aly’s alarms. And Dove’s. AND MEQUEN AND WINNAMINE. I don’t like it. I DON’T LIKE IT AT ALL. What does he know? WHAT IS HE TRYING TO DO?
With Chenaol and Kyprioth
Okay, y’all, I am SO INTO what Tamora Pierce does here. A great deal of the tension in Aly’s circumstance is due to the fact that she’s got to put on a face for everyone. Not one person, except Nawat, is aware of who she really is. (And even then, I suspect Nawat might not know that Aly is from Tortall or that she is Alanna’s daughter, and even if he did, that might not mean much to him anyway.) She has a delicate and challenging journey ahead of her because of it. As I’d said earlier, part of that difficultly comes from the fact that Aly can’t quite tell what Chenaol and her people think of her, despite that they all seem to like her. Plus, Aly is technically on their side, though she can’t convey that to them.
It’s all a confusing mess by design, and Aly has to do her best to keep everyone happy and minimally suspicious of her. And yet, she takes a huge risk with Chenaol by demonstrating that she knows far more about Dove and Sarai than she’s let on, and Chenaol responds by threatening to kill Chenaol. Can we acknowledge that upon having a knife held to her throat, Aly’s immediate reaction is admiration towards Chenaol for how quickly she was able to palm a knife and bring it to Aly’s flesh? THAT’S AMAZING.
I was, understandably so, INCREDIBLY SHOCKED when Kyprioth FROZE TIME to appear in front of Aly and Chenaol. Like I said, the tension between Aly and her possible allies made up part of the thrill of this novel, so it was incredibly risky for Pierce to deflate that through Kyprioth. He shows up to let Chenaol know that Aly is his spy, not a royal one. I LOVE IT. I love what this does for the story, and I love the potential created with just one scene. Now Chenaol knows. How much more honest can Aly be about who she is? I don’t think she’ll reveal all her secrets (she did learn from the best spies, after all), but now Chenaol and Ulasim and Lokeij and the others can help her. Actually, that’s mutual, too. They can help each other. Oh, I can’t wait to see where this goes next.
With Sarai and Dove
It’s a little sad to hear Sarai talk about her mother because she speaks of her with such admiration. I can’t blame these two girls for feeling like Winnamine “replaced” her, even if that wasn’t necessarily the case. Visibly, these two girls are far more raka than they are luarin, and Sarugani allowed them to feel closer to their culture. Plus, they have no idea how important they are to the raka people; their mother remains their closest connection to an entire world, and she’s no longer around.
It’s not lost on me, then, that when Aly is asked about her mother, she quickly concocts a story about a traveling musician who is largely absent from her life. Even while lying, Aly is telling the truth: Her mother simply wasn’t around that much. Wow, UNFAIR EMOTIONS, y’all. And how about that brief moment where Sarai insists that she and her sister don’t have the right to pry into Aly’s life just because she’s their slave? HOPE. I HAVE HOPE THAT SHE AND DOVE CAN DISMANTLE THIS WHOLE THING.
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