Cover of Trickster's Queen: Close up of half of Aly's face, she's wearing a headband

About the Book

Title: Trickster’s Queen (Daughter of the Lioness #2)
Published: 2004
Series: Daughter of the Lioness
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Is That You, Kate?
BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia
Talky Talk: Devil’s In The Details
Bonus Factors: Darkings, World-Building
Relationship Status: Lady’s Maid

Careful, Sweetie: spoilers! This is the second book in the Daughter of the Lioness duology, so if you haven’t read the previous one, Trickster’s Choice, you should probably hop back in the TARDIS and go curl up in the library by the pool with the first book before continuing.

Cover Story: Is That You, Kate?

All I’ve seen for years when I look at this cover is a young Kate Winslet, most likely getting ready for bed by pulling her hair back with a headband as she goes to wash off her makeup. Am I crazy? Does anyone else see this? The font is better here than the previous cover, but overall it’s still nothing to write home about.

The Deal:

Having refused to return to Tortall with her father at the end of Trickster’s Choice, Aly is now deeply entrenched in the task of putting a half-raka, half-luarin Balitang queen on the Copper Isles throne. She’s set herself up as the official spymaster of the raka rebellion, training her army of spies to pass along the information she distills and disseminates to the other leaders of the revolution. Her task becomes all at once infinitely easier and harder when the Balitangs are called back by the new regents from their year-long exile to the capital city.

It is more important than ever for everyone to play their parts perfectly, as every action is being watched. There are more arrests and unrest in the streets, and even the regents don’t trust their own men. Aly alternately spends her days sowing dissent and trying to groom Sarai into being a proper queen for when the time (hopefully) comes. One wrong move could be the difference between success and having your body strung up at the docks, branded as a traitor to the crown.

BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia

BFF charm with Natalie Imbruglia's face.

Because of the height of her position in the revolution versus her young age, Aly has cultivated a persona of quiet power mixed with sly observation, earning her the nickname duani or “boss lady” in raka. She rarely states outright what she wants from her spy network, preferring to casually suggest or wonder aloud and let them infer her meaning. It’s kind of a cool way to lead, allowing people to catch on and come up with their own solutions for things like prison breaks and how to sneak baskets of rats into traitors’ bedrooms. Aly is also never serious, preferring the impudent comment over the restrained every time:

“I am large,” retorted the god. “This is the only part you see. I imbue this palace with my essence, every stone and every drop. My visit will do wonders for the flowers.”
Aly propped her chin on her hand. “So does manure,” she observed.

Sometimes, though, I did get a bit frustrated with how perfect she was. It’s Aly’s job as spymaster to think through everything, sure, but she is literally the most clever person in every room she’s in. At times I wanted less of her spies fawning about how smart and amazing she was and more collaboration and original ideas from her fellow leaders.

Aly is loyal to the people she cares about, but I think it would be very hard to get to know the real her, even as her bestie. Maybe she is just made up of one-liners and faux-innocent grins, and I guess that’s fine, but as the reader privy to her innermost thoughts, I had hoped to see a bit more vulnerability underneath the barrage of charm.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Nawat is struggling with Aly’s hot and cold flirting and finding his place as a man now that they’ve returned to Rajmuat, where his skill as a fletcher is not required. He quickly leaves with some other crows and raka fighters to help the uprisings on the other islands, and Aly is surprised by how much she misses his presence. There’s not a lot of time for romance when you’re trying to inspire a rebellion, but the two share some sweet—and sexy—moments when they can.

Talky Talk: Devil’s In The Details

I’ve often said Tamora Pierce is at her best when she’s detailing the ins and outs of war, and what is spy intrigue but a more subtle version of warfare? The plot gets pulled forward by lots of fleshed-out tidbits detailing who is loyal to whom, who is betraying their friends, who needs to be pushed in the right direction to cause a ruckus. She’s also not afraid to pull punches; the stakes are real and they are high: a few deaths in particular surprised me (as I had completely forgotten about them) and they were intense. Aly is destabilizing a government from the inside out, and it’s so satisfying to see the pieces fall into place.

But because of the virtue of Aly’s position, it became obvious that she needed to keep herself removed from the action in order to effectively manipulate and keep her many, many secrets safe. This had an unintended side effect where all the actual action was recounted through eyewitness accounts or written reports. I didn’t count, but the number of times we followed Aly to her office where she spent the entire day reviewing reports, writing up summaries, and having evening briefings with her household could probably be totaled in the thirties. The actual meat of Aly’s story could be summarized as “Aly sits in an office and does paperwork” which feels very different when compared to Pierce’s other protagonists, all of whom go out and physically effect their change. I’m not saying that Aly’s unique spy position doesn’t have it’s place (not everyone needs to go out and wield a sword), or that this book isn’t exciting, but…once I noticed it, I couldn’t not notice it, you know? 

Bonus Factor: Darkings

painting of a Leaf, a blob with a leaf on its head
photo credit to sakurabatou

Aly encounters a familiar face posing as a Tortallan ambassador in the Copper Isles palace, and they give her a spy’s most prized possession: a gaggle (grouping? pod? network?) of darkings, the shadowy blobs that were created back in The Immortals as a way for the Carthaki king to spy on Daine and her friends, who then defected for the other side because they are awesome. Aly drops them all over the city and keeps a few with her to relay the goss. The darkings’ innocent way of viewing the world makes their matter-of-fact reporting that much more amusing and brings some levity to the proceedings:

“Imajane screaming and throwing things at Rubinyan,” replied Secret. “Bottles, brushes, mirrors. She says Rubin-yan…” It cocked its head as if listening. “She says he is tumbling a lady?”
“Ah,” Aly replied. “It means he is making love with a lady. If Imajane is throwing things, she believes he is love with some other woman. Is she still throwing things?”
“She has nothing to throw unless she picks up chair,” said Trick. “Uh-oh.”
“She picked up chair,” Secret explained.

Bonus Factor: World-Building

Drawn fantasy map of Tortall

In Trickster’s Choice, the Balitang clan was exiled to the sleepy island of Tanair, but in this book it’s all about the bustling sectors of the capital city, Rajmuat, a place that Pierce infuses with sense of life and detail. We go from the Honeypot, a dilapidated, poor man’s area where I think you can guess what goes on, to the spectacle of the royal palace, featuring an outdoor entertaining space called The Pavilion of Delightful Pleasures.

Relationship Status: Lady’s Maid

If I were your lady’s maid, Book, I’d be in the perfect position to have your ear and be right beside you to learn all the good secrets, but I’d still have enough distance to keep myself out of danger—rebellions are messy work, and I don’t think I’m light enough on my feet to be a good spy.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Trickster’s Queen is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.