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 orwall, just to show they could do it. She had never seen anything 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.
Table of Contents
Reading Group Guide
Tamora Pierce's first book, Alanna: The First Adventure, was published in 1983. In the twenty years since, she has gathered a legion of diverse fans, all awaiting Trickster's Choice with bated breath. Why? Not just because it is another Tamora Pierce novel filled with adventure, magic, drama, fighting, strong girls, sexy boys, fabulous creatures, sly humor, and an exciting hint of romance. But also because this is the story of Alanna's daughter, Alianne (known as Aly) who is ready to start on her own path to glory in ways her legendary mother never would have.
1. In the first pages of Trickster's Choice, Aly's mother, Alanna, accuses Aly of "not wanting to do anything." On the same page Aly says to someone else: "You try being the daughter of a legend. It's a great deal of work." How do these two statements relate to each other? When Aly is separated from her family, how does it change both her and her mother? Could these changes happen in a contemporary setting?
2. "This is going to be my greatest trick ever, pulled off under the noses of mortals and gods alike," Kyprioth tells Aly. What trick is he talking about?
3. Aly keeps her true identity a secret in the Copper Isles. Why?
4. How are the Balitangs different from other slave owners? Does it make a difference in their relationships with slaves? How are slaves and servants different in the Copper Isles?
5. Kyprioth remarks that Aly is "marked by fate from birth, just like her parents." What characteristics does Aly share with her parents? Which characteristics are unique to her?
6. How are the morals of the people in Tortall different from those in the Copper Isles? How are the raka and luarin different? Tamora Pierce is inspired by both history and current events. Can you think of specific times, places, or events that might have inspired her when she wrote Trickster's Choice?
7. Why do the Balitang's raka slaves and servants protect Sarai and Dove? What does it mean for the raka people?
8. "It isn't just children who need heroes. Don't you see what she's done for women, for all women?" Dove asks Aly when inquiring about the Lioness. Whom does each of the characters in the novel look up to?
9. To survive as a slave and a spy, Aly has to use what she has learned from her father and others. What are some examples of what she has learned? How has she put that knowledge to use?
10. Why is Nawat the only crow to turn himself into a human? Why does Aly resist falling in love with him? Is she only afraid to be vulnerable, or is it something more?
11. What is Bronau's interest in Sarai? Why doesn't he ask her father's permission to court her? What was his relationship with Winnamine, Sarai's stepmother? Who do you think understands Bronau's motivations best?
12. How is Aly's family like and unlike the Balitang family? How do those two families compare to the royal family of the Copper Isles? Do you think the families in this fantasy setting reflect the relationships in families today?
13. If you could be like any of the characters in Trickster's Choice, whom would you choose? Why? Are you already similar to any of the characters? If so, How?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A fantastic book that coincides well with her other books that deal with this world. I'm excited for the next book, but disappointed that there are only two books about the character Aly and her interesting adventures involving a god of tricks and a crow turned human.