Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce

What you need to know:  This collection of short stories, some previously published, expands the Tortall universe, visits some familiar characters, and gives an intriguing look at what else this popular writer is capable of.  

Summary:  In many of these 9 short stories, Pierce revisits Tortall, setting for the Song of the Lioness, The Immortals, and the Protector of the Small.   Some major characters, such as Kitten from The Immortals and Nawat from Trickster's Choice are expanded on, and other characters, such as the Shang Unicorn and the Darklings get spotlight stories. 

What worked:  Although many of these stories have appeared in previous anthologies, it is nice to have them all collected.  There were stories here that I was not aware of, even as a Pierce fan.  

In the Tortall tales, "The Dragon's Tale" told from the POV of the orphan dragon Skysong, was the most surprising story, but fans will probably gravitate to "Nawat", as it continue's Aly's saga from the Trickster books.  Other fantasy stories are set outside of Tortall,  of these,  "Mimic" and "Plain Magic", are particularly well done.  Plain Magic, Pierce's first published story, picks up on the theme of "practical" magic  that she would revisit in the Circle of Magic books and "Mimic" is an engaging take on dragonlore.  

For me, the most intriguing story was "Huntress",  an urban fantasy.  Pierce is so strongly affiliated (in my mind at least) with the high fantasy of Alanna the Lioness that it was shocking to see her take on a contemporary setting.   The story is not perfect, but it does raise interesting questions of faith and answered prayers. 

What Didn't:  The stories "Elder Brother,"and  "The Hidden Girl,"  set in a part of Tortall that has a Taliban-like religion felt a little preachy.  "Testing",  a contemporary story set in a group home, is a fascinating look at Pierce's prior experiences, but says very little new about the setting or the girls who live there.  

Who would I give this book to?  Because more than half of the stories deal with Tortall and its environs, the audience for this book may be limited to Pierce's fans.  

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