With the Numair Cronicals, Pierce is doing what she does best, and is taking us back to school. But this time we are not learning to hit things with sticks, but Numair is learning how to practise magic. Not only Numair though, we are back with his closest friends, Osborne and Varice.
We don’t start with the fiercely competent Numair from the Daine books, but an awkward Arram Draper, who is sick when watching the gladiator games when his father comes to visit. But we follow him being escalated through the normal classes as an obviously extremely talented student.
“And magic depends on perfection,” Cosmos interputed.
I love that instead of making the teachers difficult people, for the most part Pierce makes them motivated good mentors, who share their research and work with a gifted boy, as long as he works. And work hard is what he does, what all three of them do to work out how to find their own places in the world.
How Ozorne is shaped through this period, instead of being a cruel tyrant this now becomes a tragic story arc to those of us who know its conclusion. His starting place is just to be a boy who wants his own home and a place to practice magic, and he is renowned as the boy who will never get to be emperor. He does not get the same safe supportive mentors as Draper, but instead is manipulated through his grief-stricken state.
I look forward to seeing where Pierce next takes this arc, and the Numair we know is being shaped from the boy Arram.
Despite me doing so, this isn’t really a book to be read in a single sitting. It is a collection of “papers from George’s work” which hang together to build an image of what was going on behind the scenes in Tortall.
But there are gems of worldbuilding in here, and what fan could fail to love the tidbits of information that are sneaked out, including the backstory of why George wouldn’t let Aly do spy work. And how initial treaties with the Immortals were formed.
I also love that for the first time really since the Song of the Lioness, Jon becomes fully human again, a father who could do anything to protect his children, rather than the very distant and responsible figure he became under the Protector of the Small (although Aly knew him as a human, it was an abstract human given her separation from Tortall).
An essential read for any Tortall-world fans, but not a standalone piece of writing.
Mark Reads is at the end of Tortall! Its been quite a two years, reading them along and listening to Mark Read
to laugh at his unpreparedness. We finished on the Doggy Books as they are now known, and full circle back to the start of Alanna: the first adventure.
The Beka Cooper books are about the making of a Provost Dog: an early police force in the fantasy world/country of Tortall. Beka is a girl who was plucked from the poorest district of pseudo-medieval Corus by a man who becomes her mentor in her journey become a Dog.
For those who have read the other Tortall books its an interesting examination of how history isn’t always linear progress, and as the protaganist is for the first time not one of the ruling elite, its an interesting looks at the impact those with even a little power can have on those who have none.
The magic in this books is of a different flavour to the others as well, which is a refreshing change. That and the spiritual development of Beka and how she develops a circle of trusted friends and associates aroudn herself. OEO, pelvat sberire.
Another Mark Reads project which ends today! Whilst I’m very familiar with these books, the chapter-by chapter discussion has made me consider them in an entirely different fashion.
This is a well-crafted pair of books, not a quartet as Harry Potter had shown publishers that YA fiction did not have to be under 200 pages a book. Writing the “Daughter of the Lioness” books and not making them very like any of the prior series was impressive.
It is another coming of age story, and we start with a bit of teenage rebellion as Aly who has been trained all her life as a spy in the fantasy setting of Tortall isn’t being permitted to make that her career by the newly cautious and protective George Cooper. Instead she runs away, is captured and ends up in the divided county of the Copper Isles, enslaved and trying to work out how to survive and prove herself to take advantage of the circumstances.
I had never before considered the problematic issues that Nawat has with consent, pushing Aly’s boundaries and ignoring what she says. Or how Aly never stops to consider that her attitude to life comes in part from being brought up by Tortall’s elite who changed their country for the better in a generation. Of course Alanna had had to fight such restraints a generation earlier though.
That said, I still enjoy these books for what they are: a spy drama and a reclaiming of a native land by an oppressed people. With magic and gods and immortals obviously.
OK, cheating with this one, but I have been discussing each chapter of each book over on Mark Reads. I’ve enjoyed reading this quartet this way, despite it being one of my favourite series to re-read I have discovered details that I had never noticed before.
This is the story about how a fairly ordinary, unGifted, but very talented and determined girl decides she will be the first openly female page because she feels she has a duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves (“The Small”). I want to be her when I grow up, that level of determination and persistance even in the face of impossible obstacles would be fabulous. But its remarkably different from the Song of the Lioness when the basic premise is so similar.
There is also so much friendship. Winning people’s respect and then friendship generally the hard way, and them backing her up, even when it meant treason and a risk of losing their own heads.
I also like that the book doesn’t close on her settling down with her one true love (TM) but instead confidently forging a career with the respect of her peers, superiors and the people she is in command of. That’s what Kel wanted from life, and she got it.