Oh my god I didn't think Pierce had it in her to pull that spoiler. I am gutted. Despite knowing Beka and everything that's come of her and wanting toOh my god I didn't think Pierce had it in her to pull that spoiler. I am gutted. Despite knowing Beka and everything that's come of her and wanting to explode with happiness from how this series wound up. I can't handle that spoiler. Cannot. Just. Shattered.
I kind of wish there'd been a bit more transitional history bits, but possibly I'm just missing memories of the Alanna series. It seems a bit rough that lady knights - Sabine - would go extinct in a mere seventy years. The way this novel addresses slavery makes many of the tensions in the later series (particularly between nobles and commoners, and between certain families of nobles) a great deal clearer. And Beka nicknaming Gareth - oh, my heart.
I also cried harder than I have at any literary death or betrayal with this book, twice over. I am 28 and undone by young adult fantasy police procedurals. I am 28 years old and utterly destroyed by dogs being sweet in books.
I'll take it. Gladly.
Edit a few days later (1/29): This series is also singular among the Tortall books, I think, for the heroine having had multiple, unrestricted relationships of varying seriousness before she meets the man she's going to marry. Alanna's secret-identity gig, and then her singularity among all women, both constricted her romantic potential to "the only one who's known I'm a girl" and "the only one who doesn't treat me like a myth". Daine and Aly both talk about having made out with a few people, but have no serious relationships before endgame. Kel - doesn't. Meanwhile, Beka has at least one ex before the series even starts, a big ol' crush on Rosto when she's 16, a sexy vacationship when she's 17/18 (?), and a serious long-term relationship that ends when she's 20, before endgame even enters the cast of characters. Having, I don't know, paid the f attention when reading the other Tortall books, I'd put good odds on her and Rosto, just because he's present as her friend for whom she feels non-insignificant physical attraction and affection from, what, 20% into Terrier. It was wonderful to be proven wrong.
This is something Pierce has been getting better about over the course of her career - representing varieties of relationships instead of the one-true-love-met-before-brains-finished-forming model. The Emelan books are far stronger in this sense, at least 80% because they start with a younger cast and address societal crises from an ensemble perspective, where even the point-of-view characters fulfill social service roles within larger organizations, whereas the Tortall books tend to follow a single heroine's journey. The reunion books - post-Circle Opens - are particularly good in showing how the different characters have evolved while away from each other, letting each discover the others' shifted priorities or preferences or chosen people.
Like, in each series, whether Tortall or Emelan, Pierce is careful to note that in these worlds, same-sex and nontraditional nonmonogamous relationships are socially accepted to a greater extent than they are in reality, but she only starts depicting those actual relationships - lesbian, gay, poly - in DETAIL in the later series, and I'm pretty sure that Bloodhound had the first actual depiction of a trans*/genderfluid (the character's chosen or desired gender ID isn't fully clear/contains some seeming contradictions to the out-of-universe modern LGBT+ perspective, but this is possibly consistent with the state of in-universe gender politics at the time of the novel) person in her ouvre. Which I was SO HAPPY TO SEE.
(And at the same time, there's a reactionary gendered-division-of-labor movement - I can't say whether it's in-universe "conservative," because, while the perspective character sees it as unprecedented, she's not from a background that would include an overarching understanding of Tortall's sociopoliticotheological history of gender roles - forming within the series. Which Happens, As We Can See, Thanks To Current Events.)
This ramble is mainly intended to say that Pierce has been writing progressive fantasy for 35 years and she hasn't always nailed it but her progress in her own inclusivity is visible and much appreciated by this bi* gender-nonconforming nerd and I love her....more
Like Terrier, this turned out to be a great police procedural in a fully thought out fantasy setting. It's held back a bit by the journal format, althLike Terrier, this turned out to be a great police procedural in a fully thought out fantasy setting. It's held back a bit by the journal format, although Pierce handled that with a bit more care - notes on the long entries acknowledging that they were "written" piecewise, Beka editorializing that her hand is cramping, breaks where she drops off to sleep. Those bits came off sweet instead of stilted for me, but YMMV.
I cannot believe Beka's change in Watch partners but, well, one more to go. Also, Achoo is my favorite lit dog of the moment....more
now that I have slept When I first read the first book, back when it first came out, I was so unimpressed because Aly was soReally solid. I love Dove.
now that I have slept When I first read the first book, back when it first came out, I was so unimpressed because Aly was so perfect but I think a great deal of that was me being an insecure adolescent who projected a lot. Aly is ferociously competent and charismatic, yes, but she's also pretty messed up by her parents' fame, paranoia, and the, you know, being captured by a slave ship and forced by divine powers to orchestrate the culmination of a national revolution.
That's a lot for a sixteen-year-old.
Aly messes up and hates herself for it - in this readthrough, I felt closest to her when she was looking at her own mistakes berating herself for missing some sign that she shouldn't have to be looking for anyway. She gets confused and homesick and exhausted but she knows she can't show any of that, and she has to put on this face for everyone (especially in this book, as opposed to the first), not only to seem reliable but to be reliable. In on-the-ground espionage - and yes, magic can function as high technology, but this is not on the level of breaking encryption systems - her appearance is her reality to her allies.
Meanwhile, the world of the Copper Isles is beautifully drawn and the other characters in here are priceless - Dove is my darling, Sarai is lovely and her subplot brings this sort of Shakespearean tragicomic touch, the raka rebels are individuals with brilliant, clear personalities without losing the nuance of how much they're all holding back on each other, in terms of day-to-day frustrations or personality clashes, because they're all trying to pull off an overthrow of the crown. The dynamic of a group, a huge interconnected mess of cogs and wheels working toward exactly one purpose, comes across very well - I want to compare it to the way Bletchley Park is written about in Cryptonomicon.
The duology doesn't follow the increasingly high-stakes epic feats formula of the Lioness, Immortals, or Protector books, and I think Pierce manages it extraordinarily well. It's all day-to-day ins and outs of spycraft and information management. Yes, there's that battle, but even there, Aly's role is an out-of-the-way facilitator, not a bardic hero. Alanna and Daine and Kel are glorious, necessary heroines, and Aly shows that logistics and info dispersion and being the grease, not the machine, is just as crucial to progress (whether in overturning gender roles, mediating between peoples and species, warcraft, or political reformation). It's a good look. I'm really glad I decided to give the Trickster books another chance - it paid off with interest....more
This was really interesting, as a novel, a novel-within-a-novel, and a snapshot of (very precisely) the YA writing community and how it operated in 20This was really interesting, as a novel, a novel-within-a-novel, and a snapshot of (very precisely) the YA writing community and how it operated in 2012-'13 - the way fame fluctuated, how being name-checked by a Green brother made authors' popularity explode, the insularity of everyone knowing everyone and being at each other's parties and having the same in-jokes on Twitter.
The figures in Darcy's NYC publishing scene were recognizable, without being exact copies (thank god) and enough life and flair of their own to make them interesting and to give some heft to Darcy's responses to them. Her romance was written beautifully, and I'm not just saying that because her first-relationship issues were with her GIRLFRIEND - she reminded me so much of being eighteen and not knowing what the hell was going on but being certain I was doing it wrong, and just as certain that it was preordained to be perfect because five minutes later my partner did something that only they would know I'd appreciate.
Darcy's sexuality isn't a fulcrum for the novel; her relationship with her fellow writer, who's a handful of years older and plagued with her own past and publishing worries and gifted with an absolutely delightful personality, is. The effects her relationship have on her writing are important. The ways she and her girlfriend work together are important (and gorgeously written). It's not a coming-out novel, but I am so grateful that this full-of-other-stuff coming-of-age book contains this beautifully executed girlfriendship.
The internal novel is clever, mainly in the ways you can see/remember how Darcy's new life affects her rewrites. There are a lot of conversations in the odd-number chapters about the first draft, which diverges so much from the even-number chapters it's barely recognizable.
Westerfeld writes solid paranormal fantasy - this is a bit more Peeps than Uglies - and the even-numer chapters add up to a competent, well-formed story. It's not earth-shattering, but it's different enough to get noticed. As one of the characters in the odd-numbered world notes, the protagonist of the even numbers literally pretends herself into a new genre: it starts as a thriller and goes ghostly by her actions at the end of the first chapter. It's a very clever move.
In general, I think this is one of Westerfeld's most complete successes. A lot of his novels have good flash but some crucial error in science or backstory that collapses the setting for me, and others have good characters but obnoxious writing tics (see Peeps), while still others just kind of drop the ball (So Yesterday). This book, even though it's writing about writing, maintains two clear, cohesive, credible storylines with grace and silliness and enough YA-lovers' Easter eggs to add an extra layer of meta-fun....more