To the great joy of her many fans, Tamora Pierce with this book begins a new saga of Tortall to add to The Song of the Lioness Quartet, the Immortals Quartet, and The Protector of the Small tetralogy. At the center of each of these books is always a strong and resourceful young woman who masters the arts of swordplay and knightly warfare in the magical medieval country of Tortall. Alianne, or Aly, daughter of the warrior queen Alanna the Lioness, has all these skills, but also a delicious sense of humor, which serves her well when she is chosen by the trickster god Kyprioth to serve as his secret agent and a slave for a year in the embattled Copper Isles. There the dark-skinned natives, or raka, have been conquered and crushed by the laurin, light-skinned people from the mainland. The burning raka resentment is fueled by prophecies of a twice royal queen who will free them, aided by the "wise one, the cunning one, the strong one, the warrior, and the crows." Just how each of the colorful characters and Aly herself fit into this prophecy and Kyprioths tricky plan keeps readers guessing. Aly plots to show her skill at spying as she flirts with the god and is courted by Nawat, a crow transformed into a handsome young man, who is puzzled when she rejects his attempts to mate-feed her with grubs and ants.
The pages of this long but fast-paced adventure zip by, enlivened by intrigue, skirmishes, comedy, romance, and lots of dramatic clothes. (Ages 10 to 14) --Patty Campbell
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From School Library Journal
Grade 7-10-Alianne, daughter of Alanna (Alanna: The First Adventure [Random, 1989]), is ready to create her own legend. As the book opens, Aly, 16, longs to follow in her father's footsteps as a spy, but her parents refuse to allow it. Annoyed, she sails off in her boat, only to be captured by pirates and sold into slavery, fortunately to kindly Duke Balitang. She meets Kyprioth, the Trickster, and strikes a bargain: if Aly keeps the Duke and his family safe for the summer, Kyprioth will return her to her family and persuade her parents to let her be a spy. With magic, spells, winged horses that are part human and part metal, crows that take human form (and provide a romance for Aly), brutal fighting, treason, and attempted kidnapping, this fantasy has plenty to hold readers' attention. It also offers an interesting examination of race, as well as a look at an adolescent's finding her independence, an especially difficult task with such a powerful mother. Aly is a strong, intelligent, and resilient feminist who stretches this fantasy to a parable of girl-power. The book at times bogs down in the sheer number of characters and relationships, and in the author's zealous attention to descriptive details, but Pierce's fans will enjoy it.Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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