Trickster’s Choice, by Tamora Pierce (Random House, 2003)

Though Trickster’s Choice is actually the thirteenth book in Tamora Pierce’s popular Tortall setting, all you really need to know is this: Alianne (Aly) is the daughter of Tortall’s most famous hero, the female knight and King’s Champion, Alanna, but Aly wants to take more after her father, the former king of thieves and current royal spymaster, George Cooper. However, her parents both think that spying is no place for their daughter, an opinion which frankly annoys Aly. Clever and headstrong, possessed of all the right talents for undercover work and a certain puckish attitude, she wants nothing more than to make herself useful in the way she sees fit. What she doesn’t know is that someone else has an eye on her and her talents, and is about to make full use of them.

When Aly is kidnaped while on a routine voyage to visit friends, she ends up in slavery, bound for the enigmatic Copper Isles, a land that’s been under considerable strain ever since mainlanders conquered them, destroyed their noble houses, and placed the natives (called raka) into servitude. With a new ruling class formed of the invaders (called luarin) and a serving class dominated by luarin-raka half-breeds, the Copper Isles have maintained a fragile peace, while the raka quietly wait for their patron god, Kyprioth, to fulfill an old promise to restore their freedom.

Guess what mortal has just been chosen as Kyprioth’s instrument of change and chaos? That’s right. Aly’s going to get the chance to prove just how good she can be at staying alive, winning the trust of her new owners, and ultimately bringing change to her new home. But if her family finds her before she’s done, it could ruin everything.

This is easily one of the best in the Tortall saga to date. Aly’s one of the most likable protagonists I’ve run across in a long time, charming and cheerful and resourceful and determined, unwilling to let any setback keep her down for long, and ultimately flexible. I’ve always had a fondness for the trickster figure, and she embodies it to the tee in word and deed. I eagerly await further installments of her tale, and highly recommend Trickster’s Choice to any fantasy-lover.

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