It’s always a good sign when your buying a book and a cashier–not even your own but one from the counter over–spots it and tells you how much she liked it. The last of the Tortall novels (until Mastiff comes out next year), this one tells the story of Aly Cooper, daughter of George Cooper and Alanna the Lioness, taking place a few years after after the Protector of the Small series. It’s not easy to be the daughter of the one time King of Thieves and the King’s Champion. Her parents want her to find her own cause, and she knows what she wants to do: be a spy. Her parents refuse to let. When she runs away from home in a sulk after arguing with her mother, she is captured by pirates and told into slavery in the Copper Isles where slavery rules and hate between the races there rule. There she is recruited by Kyprioth, the Trickster god, to protect two noble born girls of mixed race who have an important role in the country’s future.
This series highlights once again how much better Pierce is with the space to write out her stories. With the added pages, Pierce created a likable, deep character in Aly who is believable (her skills come from likely sources and they are explained so that we don’t just have to believe without the information to back it up) and is easy to root for. Her character arc is solid and realistic.
The tension between the luarin (whites) and raka (blacks) is palpable though it could have used some more background. It may not be the most unique plot line, but I think Pierce tackled it in a new, different way, allowing us to feel engrossed in the world of spies without losing the heart of the story. The best part of it is the realization that it is only in unity that they can take back the kingdom.
For fans of the Tortall series overall, you get glimpses of all of your favorite characters and have an idea of where their lives have gone since we last heard from them. (Would have been nice to see a bit more of Kel, but I’m glad she made an appearance and I’m always interested in more Alanna stories.)
This is one of Pierce’s most complex and intricate plots yet. You never quite knew who would be the final bad guy and who was the worst person to suspect and definitely one of my favorite books of hers yet. I can only hope we revisit Aly again.