Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce
Trickster’s Choice is the first of a series about Aly, the daughter of Alanna, protagonist of the Song of the Lioness series. It’s longer and more complex than the Alanna novels were, full of political intrigue. Aly wants to be a spy, but her parents don’t like that idea, so she runs away, but is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Luckily, the trickster god Kyprioth singles her out for a special mission, keeping her safe from the worst dangers of the slave market and steering her toward a noble household where slaves are well-treated. Aly’s task is to keep the children of this house safe through a politically turbulent season. She uses her spy skills to uncover the mystery about why these particular children are special and figure out how to use the people around her to help accomplish her mission. She has some magical help from Kyprioth and his minions, the crows. One of the crows turns into a man and courts Aly in a sweet, earnest, but clueless way.
The gender issues that took center stage in the Alanna books take a backseat here, in favor of focusing on racial and colonial issues. The book’s setting is a multiracial colonial society in which lighter skinned “luarin” people dominate darker-skinned native “raka” people. Pierce has invented a world in which fiction reflects historical reality fairly closely. The racial politics of this colonial society are fairly complex, and both sides are given a voice and are shown to be human and flawed. Aly and her allies are hoping to peacefully end the colonial domination of the raka through helping a girl of mixed blood to become queen. The two most problematic things about the book for me was the discussion of the noble family as “good” slaveowners, and the incident where Aly uses blackface as a disguise. I would love to know what someone who’s more familiar with postcolonial theory would think of this book.