Trickster's Choice (Trickster Series #1) by Tamora Pierce, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Trickster's Choice (Trickster Series #1)

Trickster's Choice (Trickster Series #1)

4.5 410
by Tamora Pierce

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Aly: a slave with the talents of a master spy, a fabled lineage she must conceal, and the dubious blessing of a trickster god. Sarai: a passionate, charming teenage noblewoman who, according to prophecy, will bring an end to a cruel dynasty. Dove: the younger sister of Sarai; she has a calculating mind and hidden depths that have yet to be plumbed. Dawat: a magical


Aly: a slave with the talents of a master spy, a fabled lineage she must conceal, and the dubious blessing of a trickster god. Sarai: a passionate, charming teenage noblewoman who, according to prophecy, will bring an end to a cruel dynasty. Dove: the younger sister of Sarai; she has a calculating mind and hidden depths that have yet to be plumbed. Dawat: a magical young man with a strangely innocent outlook and an even stranger past; Aly's one true friend in a world where trust can cost you your life.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
The lure of the Tortall heroines is not in their infinite variety nor is it in their verisimilitude. Rather, they faithfully reiterate an ideal -- of feminine power that relies on brains, not beauty; of feminine attractiveness that relies on competence, not helplessness; and of feminine alliances that grow stronger, not weaker, in the face of conflicts. Given the utopian quality of that ideal, is it surprising that Pierce needs magical creatures and mythical gods to bring it to literary life? — Elizabeth Devereaux
Publishers Weekly
This launch novel in a new series stars the 16-year-old daughter of Pierce's first novel, Alanna. According to PW, "The climax is worth the wait, and ably sets up a framework for future adventures of this very likable new heroine." Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
With this novel, Pierce begins a series featuring Alianne Cooper, daughter of Alanna, the heroine in the Song of the Lioness Quartet. Sixteen-year-old Alianne, or Aly, wishes to become a spy like her father, but neither parent supports her dangerous aspirations. When Aly is captured by slave traders in the Copper Isles, she fulfills her desire in unexpected ways. Making a wager with the Trickster god, Kyprioth, Aly contracts to safeguard two girls who are related to the current luarin royal dynasty as well as the dispossessed raka rulers. Aly must create a secret spy network and fighting force to defend her charges from royal assassins, bringing hopeful raka slaves and haughty luarin nobles under her command. Expect teens to snatch this book the very second it hits the shelves. Pierce delivers not only the continuation of her beloved Alanna series but also creates a smart, sassy heroine whose struggles to escape her parents' expectations and find her own niche will resonate with teens. Furthermore, no reader will forget Aly's love interest. Transformed from a crow, Nawat's devotion consists of offers to "mob" Aly's enemies and feed her fresh bugs. Pierce melds political intrigue, interfering gods, and memorable mortals to fashion a powerful story line with humorous undertones, marred occasionally by plot contrivances inserted to prevent Aly's family from intervening. Nevertheless, this series opener is packed with Pierce's alluring mix of fantasy, adventure, romance, and humor, making the book an essential purchase for school and public libraries. VOYA Codes: 4Q 5P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday; MiddleSchool, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Random House, 446p,
— Caitlin Augusta
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, November 2003: It's not easy being the daughter of a legend. Aly's mother is the bold and brave Alanna (heroine of Pierce's The Song of the Lioness quartet), but Aly doesn't aspire to be a knight like her. Instead the 16-year-old dreams of helping her country, the magical kingdom of Tortall, by serving as a spy, though her parents worry that it is too dangerous. Aly gets a chance to prove her worth as an undercover agent when she is captured by pirates and sold as a slave in another land. A trickster god named Kyprioth intervenes in her fate, promising to return her to her home and to convince her parents to let her become a spy if she will safeguard her master's children through the summer. The master and his family are out of favor with the king, and they have been exiled to a remote tropical island. Aly accompanies them there, and gets involved in politics, murderous plots, the machinations of the gods, and racial issues, too. A raven-turned-boy comes to her aid, and offers some romantic interest as well in this adventure-filled, well-plotted tale. Pierce is particularly good at creating strong female characters, and fantasy fans both young and old will enjoy her imaginative and engrossing tales. Readers will eagerly await the next volume in this exciting new series. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) KLIATT Codes: JSA*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Random House, 422p. maps., Ages 12 to adult.
—Paula Rohrlick
Children's Literature
Pierce is back, with a handsome upscale cover, for the continuation of her Kingdom of Tortall fantasy saga. This entry smoothly segues into the story of Aly, the sixteen-year-old dilettante daughter of Alanna the Lioness, the King's Champion. After an adolescent spat with her formidable mother, Aly sails off for some breathing time—to be promptly seized by pirates and sold into slavery in the Copper Isles. Aly, being her parents' daughter (her father is spymaster to the king) accepts this as an opportunity and promptly insinuates herself into a royal family and their political problems, with a little nudge from the local trickster god, Kyprioth. Following Aly and her new masters into exile, Pierce overcomes her former over-emphasis on magic and allows the non-gifted Aly to solve each challenge through sheer intelligence alone (mostly). This refreshing change turns the story into a non-stop adventure that could be taking place in any medieval empire . . . well, any medieval empire that contains a cast including a charming man-crow who adds a new touch to romance scenes by preening the heroine's hair! Pierce's dedicatory offer of thanks for editorial advice to "read aloud" is well given. Her writing style has improved by degrees. The result is the usual Tamora Pierce page-turner that's also a pleasure to read. Aly herself grows from merely trying to win a wager with an unprincipled god akin to the Navajos' Coyote—into a young woman of mission who cares deeply for her charges. Bring on the sequel! 2003, Random House, Ages 10 to 14.
— Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 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 Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The new Tortall page-turner will delight existing fans and create many more. Alanna’s daughter, Aly, is a rogue like her father, the former thief who’s made legions of Pierce’s girl fans swoon. At 16, Aly’s an accomplished flirt--and brilliant at the intelligence work learned from her spymaster father. Her parents demand she pick any career but her beloved spying. After a fight with her mother--"try being the daughter of a legend"--Aly sails off in a snit, is captured by pirates, and sold as a slave in the Copper Isles. A bet with a local trickster god plunges her into a simmering race war, court intrigue surrounding a mad king, and a centuries-old conflict between gods. Winning will take all her diplomatic and spying talents. Unlike Pierce’s earlier protagonists, Aly arrives fully formed, a snarky, talented uber-heroine. Cameos of old favorites complement a rich cast of new characters. Aly’s difficulty with the complexity of colonialism adds surprising, welcome depth. A ripping good yarn that introduces a new series. (glossary, cast of characters) (Fiction. 10-15)
From the Publisher
“Aly arrives fully formed, a snarky, talented uber-heroine. Cameos of old favorites complement a rich cast of new characters. Aly’s difficulty with the complexity of colonialism adds surprising, welcome depth.”—Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Trickster Series, #1
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.93(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Nawat stood against the wall, relaxed and alert. Before him two men-at-arms were preparing to shoot. Dove stood behind one archer with a handful of arrows, while the duchess held arrows for the second archer. Aly's mind told her that the duchess would hardly consent to murder just as the first man shot. The second man shot immediately after him. Then both set fresh arrows to the string and shot steadily, arrow after arrow, one at a time, until they had exhausted all the extras held by the duchess and her stepdaughter.

Nawat caught them all with grace and ease, snatching the arrows from the air as if he had all day to do so. When the archers finished, he gathered the heap of arrows at his feet and carried them back to their owners.

He's so fast, Aly thought in awe. I couldn't do it, and I'm no slouch! She sighed, wishing Da were here to see it. He'd taught her to catch daggers in midair, but this game was much more hazardous.

The game was not done. The men-at-arms repeated the experiment with javelins, then hunting and combat spears. Nawat caught them all, moving so fast Aly couldn't follow his hands. She cheered him and the men-at-arms on.

When the bell rang to remind the household it was nearly time for supper, he looked up at the applauding Aly and waved. “This is my favorite game,” he called to her. “Do you want to play?”

“I wouldn't dare!” she cried, laughing, before she retreated into the room. She'd seen men catch knives before. She had seen the finest archers in the Queen's Riders draw an outline in arrows of someone positioned against a wooden fence or wall, just to show they could do it. She had never seenanything like this.

Sarai and Dove ran in. Sarai smiled at Aly. “You should have seen your face! Did you know he could do that?” she asked as she collapsed on her bed.

Dove unstrung her bow, shaking her head. “He's amazing,” she said, coiling her bowstring.

“You know, maybe this horrible old place isn't so bad,” Sarai told the ceiling. “Not if these wonderful men keep showing up.”

Aly raised an eyebrow at her. “I wouldn't try kissing him,” she warned. “It wouldn't be what you expect.”

Sarai wrinkled her nose. “Aly!” she complained. “I found out he eats bugs! I'm not kissing a man with bug breath!”

Aly blinked. I don't remember him tasting of bugs when he kissed me, she thought. I'd better pay more attention next time.

Her mind promptly reined her up. This was highly improper. There would be no next time. Her task was looking after the Balitang children, not mooning over someone, particularly not a crow turned man.

Even if he could pluck arrows from the air.

The next morning Aly, still on a goatherd's hours, walked out of the keep into the dawn. The sun had just cleared the walls to light the inner courtyard and the young man who straddled a bench there. Aly stopped to watch him carefully glue pieces of feather onto the wooden shaft.

Nawat looked up at her with a smile that lit his eyes. “You are beautiful in the new light,” he told her. “If I were the Dawn Crow, I would bring you the sun to hatch as our first nestling.”

Aly blinked at him. Her heart felt strangely squeezed by some powerful emotion. She bit her lip to distract herself from a feeling that made her horribly unsure. “Have you been kissing anybody?” she asked without meaning to, and gasped. She had let words out of her mouth without thinking, which was not like her! Worse, they were such personal words, ones he might feel meant personal feelings she did not have! This was the kind of thing that other girls said, those girls who were not bored by all the young men who had courted them. How many handsome fellows had sighed compliments to Aly while, unconcerned, she had mentally wrestled with breaking a new code? At home she never cared about her suitors enough to worry if they kissed other girls. She scrambled to blot out what she'd said. “Not that it's any of my business, but you should understand, people have a way of kissing for fun, without it meaning anything serious, and I'd hate for you to think someone wanted you to mate-feed them just because they're kissing—” Stop babbling, her mind ordered. Aly stopped.

Nawat's smile broadened. That disturbing light in his eyes deepened. “I have kissed no one but you, Aly,” he assured her, serious. “Why should I kiss anyone else?”

Aly gulped. You can continue this conversation, or you can talk about something less . . . giddy, she told herself. Less frightening. “You know I won't always be around,” she said abruptly. “I don't belong here, really.”

“Then I will go with you,” Nawat said. “I belong with you.”

He doesn't know what he's saying, Aly told herself. He doesn't know what that means.

She looked at him, arms folded, trying to keep any extra feelings from leaping out. “What are you doing?” she asked, to change the subject to anything less dangerous. Then she grimaced. He was fletching arrows, as always.

She glanced at his bench, then bent down. He was fletching, but these arrows were heavier, and the feathers he used were not bird feathers, but Stormwing. “How did you cut them up?” she wanted to know, genuinely curious. More scraps of cut-up steel feathers lay on the bench.

Nawat pointed to a long piece of what looked like black, chipped glass. “Shiny volcano rock,” he told Aly. “Chip the edge until it is sharp. That cuts Stormwing feathers. They come from the heat of the place where Stormwings were born.”

Aly touched the glassy blade. “Obsidian,” she said. “That's its name.”

“Yes,” Nawat replied. “Shiny volcano rock.” He set a length of steel feather into a thin groove filled with glue and held it in place.

Aly didn't see a single cut on his hands, though the feathers were lethally sharp. “Won't they be too heavy for the glue?” she asked.

“I shaped the glue. It holds Stormwing feathers,” Nawat answered.

“Stormwings really are born in volcanoes?” Aly inquired, curious.

“In the beginning time, when they were first dreamed,” replied Nawat, setting another piece of steel feather in its slot. “Now, if carrying an egg does not kill the mother, they are born from steel eggs.” He looked at Aly and sighed, his dark eyes wistful. “The eggs are too heavy for a crow to take.”

“You've already taken enough from Stormwings,” Aly told him, pointing to the small pile of glinting feathers beside his bench. “You could have been killed.”

“There is a trick to it,” he replied, and blew lightly on his fletchings. Holding the arrow shaft before one eye, he squinted down its length. “Perfect,” he declared, and set the arrow down.

“It seems like a lot of trouble and risk when goose feathers are safer to work with,” Aly remarked. “What is a Stormwing-fletched arrow for, anyway?”

“They are mage killers,” replied Nawat. “No matter if the mage is powerful, if he has great spells to protect him. A Stormwing arrow will cut through illusion and magic.”

Aly whistled softly, impressed. “Take very good care of those, then,” she told Nawat. “We might find a use for them.”

“I made them for you,” Nawat said, giving her that radiant, innocent smile. “They are yours, for a day when they will help you.” He offered a finished arrow shaft to her.

Aly smiled at him despite the goose bumps that rippled along her skin. “Keep them until they're needed, please,” she told him. “My archery skills aren't very good.”

“You could practice,” Nawat pointed out.

“I'm a slave,” Aly explained. “Slaves who are caught with weapons are killed.”

“Then do not be a slave,” he said matter-of-factly. “Fly free.”

“Not just yet,” she replied. “I'll see the summer out first.”

From the Hardcover edition.

Copyright© 2003 by Tamora Pierce

Meet the Author

Tamora Pierce’s fast-paced, suspenseful writing and strong, believable heroines have won her much praise and a large, devoted fan following. She lives in Syracuse, New York, with her husband, Tim, five cats, two birds, and various freeloading wildlife. Visit her online at

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