Mark Reads ‘Trickster’s Queen’: Chapter 21

In the twenty-first and final chapter of Trickster’s Queen, the raka conspirators prepare to meet their fate. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Trickster’s Queen.

Chapter Twenty-one: Work

That was exhausting.

So much of this chapter feels inevitable and poetic, and I don’t mind admitting that I’m just plain emotionally overwhelmed. Things happen so quickly, but that’s the point. After spending hundreds of pages dramatically building up to this final battle, Pierce shows us that the fight to reclaim the Isles hinges on a fight that lasts maybe an hour at this point. Well, yes, there’s clearly a long-standing escalation up to this moment, but the storm of the Grey Palace happens so much faster than I thought it would.

I think that’s partially because of the scope of all of this. I mentioned (IN A MOMENT OF GRIEF) in the first video that Aly is removed from most of the action. Her role as spymaster means that she’s meant to oversee everything without getting involved. Not that she doesn’t, of course, because there’s that incredible scene at the beginning where she compels a number of luarin to surrender. Gods, I love what she says: “Do you really want to die for the Rittevons?” BECAUSE RIGHT? After all they’ve done to the people of Rajmuat in recent months, is that really a good idea? It was fascinating to see how rapidly many of the luarin soldiers put their hands up and surrendered, you know? I imagine some of them must have been thinking THANK MITHROS FOR THIS, I HATE THOSE PEOPLE.

Of course, that’s a reductive look at this fight, and Tamora Pierce doesn’t make this easier for the reader. There is a vested interest on the part of the luarin in keeping power in the hands of their group, and that means that this is still deeply, deeply vicious. Even if the raka and their allies have the upper hand, they still must make sacrifices along the way in order to win. I’m still in shock over the deaths in this chapter, not just because there are so many. I just… I COULDN’T FEEL ANYTHING BUT RAGE. But I did reflect on that the mother-son pairing that this series gave us, and it is incredibly meaningful that both Ochobu and Ulasim died to guarantee that Dove would sit on the throne. Ochobu took five luarin mages with her as they struggled to defeat her, and it was her sacrifice that allowed Ysul to brilliantly destroy the Gate of Victory. (That alone was a symbolic moment in the fight.)

Moments later, Ulasim, who had been working most of his life to end luarin rule, was the one to run his sword through Rubinyan. Again, it’s highly symbolic that the son of the greatest raka mage was the one to end part of the Rittevon line, but THEN HE HAD TO DIE, TOO, AND HE SAYS THIS RIGHT BEFORE HE DIES AND IT’S WAY TOO CRUEL:

“Look!” Ulasim bellowed, pointing up to her. His voice rang over the clash of weapons and shrieks of warriors and Stormwings. “Look at her! There! See our future? See how we can be great?”

It’s just so fucking heartbreaking, because to Ulasim and many of the raka, Dove represents possibility fulfilled. She is precisely the thing that the luarin have been repressing for centuries. It’s with Ulasim and Ochobu’s death, though, that the torch is passed, not just to Dove. Fesgao takes command immediately. Ysul is the one to step in for Ochobu. And then one of the biggest surprises proves his alliance:

Aly stepped up to them and put a hand on each man’s arm. When they looked at her, their eyes reddened from the dust, she pointed to the wall. Taybur Sibigat stood there at parade rest, hands clasped behind his back. He looked down at them and nodded, his face expressionless.

Slowly the gate to the Gray Palace swung open. Soldiers in the black clothes and mail of the King’s Guard, all of whom looked the worse for heavy fighting, lined the flagstone road that led to the residence with dead men all around them. It was four of the Guard who had opened the gate.

HE DID IT. OH MY GOD. I love it, and I love how it’s also representative of how the world is changing rapidly. But nothing was more powerful than the entire party kneeling before Dovasary Balitang as she stood before the Gate of Victory. It’s happening. IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING. The moment is marred by horrifying suicide of Imajane, though once I thought about it, Imajane would rather be dead than live under another’s rule. If she was willing to kill Dunevon to rule, killing herself wouldn’t exactly be out of the question. And just like that, the Rittevon line has gave way to Dove.

They fucking did it.

Sort of. Again, this isn’t ending like a fairly tell where everyone lives happily ever after. There’s a lot of deaths on both sides, and I am particularly NOT OKAY with the death of Junai. JUNAI? REALLY? How the hell did someone like her die? UGH, THIS ISN’T FAIR. Seven of Aly’s pack are dead. So are some of the luarin nobility, and practically everyone is injured in some significant way. It’s at this point that Aly must begin the work referenced in the chapter title, and the new government is hastily assembled. Dove’s advisors initially are Chenaol, Winnamine, Quedanga, Ysul, and Duke Nomru, and I love that these are the people helping her out, you know? Plus, then we’ve got Taybur Sibigat, who Dove refuses to take a blood oath from because SHE GETS WHY HE BETRAYED THE PREVIOUS MONARCHS. That’s part of the reason why she’ll be a good ruler and why Taybur was so ready to turn over power to her. Dove does not want a rule in the Isles where trust and loyalty is treated as the Rittevons treated it.

Granted, there’s not a lot of specific talk of post-revolution plans. We learn that there will be a redistribution of property and wealth, WHICH I AM SO THANKFUL FOR. It would not have been enough to merely swap rulers out; the luarin had stolen land and wealth from the raka, so those who have a claim to lands should get some of them back. There’s pushback against it, but Dove and her advisors are prepared for it, and Fesgao and Nomru are sent out into the Isles to quell unrest and resistance. Again, it’s work. It’s not flashy, it’s not easy, but it’s necessary if these people are going to do things right.

Which leaves on thing left unresolved: What the hell is Aly going to do now? When does she leave? When will Kyprioth release her from her wager? It’s Dove, weeks after the Palace was taken, who finally brings this up, and the conversation is uncomfortable, to say the least. BECAUSE I DON’T WANT THIS TO END. And it’s going to have to end, isn’t it? How can Aly stay as spymaster when she’s… well, who she is? I always wondered if she’d admit her identity to these people or simply leave the mystery with them forever.

Thankfully, Kyprioth, in all his ridiculous glory, shows up and gives Aly permission to tell the truth about who she is. And while I don’t blame her for being nervous, I really didn’t think she had anything to be nervous about! It’s not like she sabotaged the raka’s efforts to get Dove on the throne. Aly was indispensable to the revolution, so I expected them to trust her implicitly. Still, it was only a matter of time before people who recognized Aly were going to be in Rajmuat anyway, so it was necessary that she sit everyone down to tell them who she really was. BLESS CHENAOL’S REACTION:

For a very long moment, much too long for Aly’s taste, no one spoke or moved. Then Chenaol hoisted herself to her feet. “If that’s all, I’ve got two wagonloads of flour coming from Digger Brothers’ mill. I want them to explain how I found gravel stitched into the bottoms of the bags last time. Then I need to decide how much I’ll take out of them in blood.”

BECAUSE CHENAOL HAS MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO THAN CARE ABOUT ALY’S ALLEGIANCES. Not one of these people doubted her or will continue to doubt her dedication or loyalty, and I love it. But this is important because it opens a door that I thought was always closed: ALY CAN REMAIN IN RAJMUAT AND BE DOVE’S SPYMASTER. OH. OH MY GOD. I DIDN’T THINK THIS WAS POSSIBLE. But it is, and y’all, it makes me so happy. Sure, Aly will miss home, but she gets to make her own home here in the Isles. With Nawat! OH, NAWAT.

I’m pleased, then, that this chapter ends with the crowning ceremony. After all this work, Dove and her conspirator friends get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. They’ve fulfilled the prophecy and put a twice-royal queen on the throne. They did it. I’M SO HAPPY.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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