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Trickster's Queen    by Tamora Pierce order for
Trickster's Queen
by Tamora Pierce
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the exciting second adventure in the Daughter of the Lionness series. Aly, the only daughter of King's Champion Alanna, is very much her father's daughter and has been well trained by him (dad is spymaster George Cooper, 'the Whisper Man of Tortall'). These skills served her well in Trickster's Choice, in which Trickster god Kyprioth manipulated Aly into slavery in the Copper Isles, and into the household of the Balitangs.

She became part of a struggle between gods, and also between the ruthless luarin Regents and their raka native subjects, who are cruelly treated. Aly's role has been to protect half-raka Sarai and Dove Balitang, who are to fulfill a prophecy. In the first episode, Aly became a key underground leader, running a sophisticated spy network, and fell for shapechanger Nawat. He started life as a crow, and now wants nothing more than to make 'nestlings' with Ali. Fortunately he has 'finally stopped offering her bugs to eat', but Aly doesn't understand why he's become so touchy, and worries when he volunteers for a dangerous duty.

As book 2 begins, the Balitangs have been called back from Tanair to the capital of Rajmuat, and find themselves under the eye of the Regents and their spies. But none of these are a match for Aly's expertise, especially after her family sends a gift via Tkaa the basilisk, of 'darkings'. These are small, intelligent glossy black blobs who can shapechange into objects like beads, and communicate telepathically with each other - perfect, anonymous spies. Aly places them carefully to maximize the intelligence they return. Her 'pack', whom she trained personally, commit various acts of sabotage, as other rebels foment uprisings in the provinces.

All seems to go smoothly (and the Regents' vicious reactions only bring revolution closer) but then come complications. A key player, assisted by a goddess, declines to cooperate, and there is tragedy, a high price paid for the chance to win the god's game. If you haven't tried anything by Tamora Pierce yet, then rush to read one of her entertaining fantasies. This series is great fun, Trickster's Queen ending for Aly with 'Fun, and sparklies, and nestlings, and all the other things that make life interesting.' I wonder what Kyprioth has in store for her next.

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