In the ninth chapter of Trickster’s Choice, Aly risks her own life to get more information, and wow, things get real uncomfortable there for a moment. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Trickster’s Choice.
Chapter Nine: Learning the Ground
Oh lord, theres a lot to cover here, so BUCKLE IN.
Holy shit, so many knives. The conspirators make good on their promise to provide Aly with weapons, and they do so BY GIVING HER SIX SUPER CONCEALABLE KNIVES. Holy shit, what does the rest of the armory look like if this is the case? That’s unreal, y’all. UNREAL. But this was my favorite part about the opening scene:
The raka conspirators had revealed more with this gift of weaponry than perhaps they intended her to know. They were desperate for help. They knew they were unused to the world of armies, spies, and nobles.
While I will bring up something that bothered me in a later section, I did love this idea. The conspirators are aware of their shortcomings, and this allows Aly to be a part of the narrative in a way that’s not condescending. Aly has a very specific set of skills, one that Kyprioth made notice of, and so she was brought to the Isles to help these people overthrow their oppressive royalty. That doesn’t mean they’re lesser characters; they’re just aware of how their opppressed status has left them limited in how they can get Sarai on the throne. Why not use every resource they have at their disposal, even if that comes in the form of Aly?
Needs to stop immediately or I’m going to explode. HE OFFERS ALY GRUBS. HE SAVED THE BEST OF HIM FOR HER. Oh my god, I am well aware of how fucking strange this is because I don’t know whether to think of Nawat as a crow or a human? And what if his status as a human is only temporary? How is Aly going to deal with this subtle attraction she has to him? Also, how can he expect anyone to act coherent around him when he’s so fucking adorable? That’s just rude, Nawat. RUDE.
I do enjoy what he represents to the raka, though. And I refuse to think there will be any better imagery than Nawat, running down the road Tanair, joyously accepting the goose feathers that his crows have brought him.
“This place gets stranger every day.”
AND I LOVE IT.
WHY HELLO, MY NEW FAVORITE CHARACTER. Oh my god, is all right if I just imagine that Junai looks like Lan Fan from Fullmetal Alchemist? Yes? GOOD, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I’M DOING. Y’all, she is so intense and I seriously think she could give Alanna and Aly a run for their money, and I don’t even know what kind of money I’m talking about! Here’s a character who appears completely unafraid of anything, and she’s so unlike anyone else we’ve ever met. I love how casually she informs Aly that the raka mage hates luarin so much that she’ll burn Aly’s face off on sight. I ACTUALLY FEEL LIKE THIS IS BARELY A THREAT AND MORE A PRONOUNCEMENT OF REALITY. Ugh, I am already emotionally attached to Junai and she’s barely spent any time in this book.
Okay, can like… is there a way Sarai and Dove can rule as a team??? I know that Sarai is the one that the raka are looking towards as queen, but I love the idea that these sisters represent half of a whole, that together, you’ve got someone as fierce and well-informed about social affairs as Sarai, but can be tempered with the calculating political observations of Dove. Dual queens? Two queens on the Iron Throne??? Wait, can we make it three and just add Sansa to the mix because I’m pretty sure these three young women would adore one another??? HOW MANY RHETORICAL QUESTIONS CAN I ASK IN ONE PARAGRAPH?
All right, seriously, I’m loving the way that Aly is discovering that there’s more to Dove than she’s ever let on before. Her observational skills would make her an excellent candidate for a spy-in-training and – OH MY GOD, CAN THIS HAPPEN, TOO? WHAT IF ALY TAKES HER UNDER HER WING? Wait, is that metaphor strange now that Nawat is around? Nevermind, not the point. The point is that there is so much potential in Dove, and I want to see it developed. I need more of this:
“I don’t trust anyone who feels you should like them because they love themselves so much.”
Dove said that. I could barely string coherent sentences together at her age. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it’s striking to see just how perceptive she is. I think that ties in to what we’ve seen regarding Aly’s training, though. Dove is very aware of how “ignored” she is when compared to Sarai, and she uses this as her advantage to hear and see things she otherwise might not.
God, now I can’t get it out of my head. Aly and Dove, spy team extraordinaire.
The journey to Pohon
Oh lord, I have a lot to say about this. Initially, I was excited that including Dove in Aly’s plans had given way to this: Winnamine had invited Aly along with them to Pohon. The fact that all these people are communicating with one another more openly makes me feel confident that they they’ll be able to handle possible disasters better. Plus, friendship! And Nawat awkwardly asking about bride prices? I can’t talk about him right now, so I’m moving on. Let’s talk about Bronau because ONE BILLION TIMES NO.
“Murky stuff,” he whispered to Sarai in Common, his eyes dancing merrily. “Do you suppose they scooped it from a swamp? Perhaps we’d best check for slugs and salamanders. They eat anything that doesn’t eat them first, these wild folk.”
I… okay. Okay. Let’s first discuss the context of this: BRONAU IS ESSENTIALLY HITTING ON SARAI BY INSULTING HER CULTURE’S TEA MAKING. Here’s the thing, y’all. Tamora Pierce did not just invent this to make Bronau into a total asshole. I have lost count of how many times white men have hit on me by insulting my Latino heritage, or saying that “I’m not like other Mexicans” or that I’m so “well-spoken and mature” for someone like me. I… I can’t. But as the characters try to get this jerkface to stop openly insulting the raka, Bronau only gets worse and worse. Winnamine – bless her heart – tries to tell him how the raka could view his refusal to drink their tea as a sleight, and GOOD GODS:
“I would have insulted my belly even more,” Bronau said with a grin. “Just because I keep pigs doesn’t mean I eat their slop.”
Where’s Numair? Open the earth and gobble this piece of shit up. Do it now, and I will feel no remorse. Again, he is trying to charm Sarai. THIS IS HOW HE THINKS SHE’LL BE IMPRESSED. But you also have to think about how openly racist he’s being here, and I’m sure he’s used to being amidst people who believe it’s perfectly fine to say such things. This is what results from systemic racism, y’all: An atmosphere exists where people believe that there will never be repercussions for the horrible, inhuman things that they say.
This, however, is precisely why the next big scene is just so jarring.
Aly seeks out the mage
So, let me put this in context for you, first in terms of the raka culture in this book, and then the larger implications of what Aly does here, and I hope this will explain why I don’t like Aly’s actions at all. Imagine, as best as you can, that you are a minority oppressed through a violent imperialist war, and that the people who stole your country from you also stole your land, killed your family and friends, forced you to work for them on land that was once yours, and you aren’t paid for it at all. You’ve lost your home, your culture is constantly under threat of extinction because of assimilation, and every day, about a million things remind you that because you’re not a luarin, you have a lesser lot in life, and there’s almost nothing you can do about it. Now, imagine a young white girl comes sneaking into your village, and she has painted her skin in a grotesque attempt at blending in, and when you confront her for this, she beats you up and your friends, and then lectures you for attacking her, despite that you’ve never met her and she’s not given you a single reason why SHE IS WEARING YOUR PEOPLE’S SKIN TONE AS PAINT.
See, I think I wouldn’t feel as bad about this if Aly, when confronted, was even the tiniest bit honest about what she was doing. This is especially the case when they find out she’s Kyprioth’s chosen one. They know who she is, loosely so, so a quick moment where she’s can communicate that she’s sorry to have imitated an oppressed people would have been nice. Instead, SHE LECTURES ONE OF THE RAKA MEN ABOUT HOW TO HOLD A WEAPON. Okay, I love Aly’s sass as much as the next person, but what the fuck are you doing? No! No no no no no no no. This is so gratuitous to me! I get that Aly’s wager with Kyprioth is to protect the two sisters, but that doesn’t mean she has to treat other people – who have every right to despise a luarin on sight – with such contempt.
The process of wearing another race’s skin through makeup, whether blackface, brownface, yellowface, etc., has a long history in my country. And every Halloween, I have to wait with dread to see how many people still think it’s great to darken their skin or wear stereotypes for Halloween, all of which they get to take off the next day. I have to be around cosplayers with wary because some folks think that if it’s done in the name of a costume, it’s totally fine to do shit like this. Movies like Cloud Atlas will make white people into Koreans instead of hiring actual Koreans has a history rooted in Hollywood’s refusal to cast diverse casts. Now, obviously I’m talking about a context outside of the book, but it’s because I want to explain that this act isn’t a singular, rare thing. It’s frighteningly ubiquitous, and to present it in the book without any sort of in-text criticism or perspective is, as I said, jarring. It took me out of the book in a heartbeat! So yeah, no thank you.
Pierce drops a bombshell in this chapter: Mequen is extremely close to King Oron in the line of succession. Only Hazarin and Dunevon are ahead of him, and given that Bronau is trying as hard as he can to ally himself with the right people, I would not be surprised if he was trying to set himself up to rule by proxy. It has to be the reason he’s pursuing Sarai so dilligently! (Also: EW STOP IT.) Oh god, is this how the raka conspirators are going to get Sarai or Dove in power? IT’S A POSSIBILITY.
IS THE MAGE. OH. OH THAT EXPLAINS A WHOLE LOT, DOESN’T IT. I just… I need so much more! What exactly happened? What kind of magic can Ochobu do??? Oh god, I can already see why Ulasim got cast out. He chose to be with a (mostly) luarin family over his own. JESUS, THIS IS SO FASCINATING. Where is Ulasim’s flashback? I NEED THIS MORE THAN I NEED MOST THINGS.
Aly’s next dream
100000000% unfair on every level, I have never been so oppressed by a scene in this whole series except for all of The Immortals because CUTE ANIMAL CONVERSATIONS. This is the kind of reunion that I should celebrate with joy, but the entire thing has a deeply bittersweet air to it precisely because Aly is so far away from home. And you know, I actually appreciate that Tamora Pierce does this because it’s a necessary reminder that while this is all a fun “vacation” of sorts for Aly, her family is being torn apart by her absence. How are George and Alanna going to react to her return, especially if Aly tells them that she willingly stayed in the Isles? Is she going to share the fact that she had these dreams with her parents?
So, yes, this all hurts once you get to the end. But I also can’t ignore that EVERYONE EVER IS HERE. Tkaa. The Stormwings. Cloud??? MARMOSETS. Zek??? Zek???!?!?!?! CORAM AND RISPAH AND LINDHALL AND BONEDANCER AND ONUA AND BURI AND RAOUL PLEASE STOP IT MY HEART IS GOING TO BURST. Wyldon. Eleni. DAINE AND NUMAIR’S REALLY WEIRD BABY. (Seriously, what a weird kid. I can’t wait to be their best friend.) And then SARRA AND WEIRYN and the trumpets blared from heaven because THIS IS SO AMAZING.
Right, still sad because Aly wasn’t actually there. And we didn’t find out the baby’s name! I’d name them Beyonce. Perfection.
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