Sunday, March 6, 2011

Review of Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce

Pierce, Tamora.  Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales.  Random House, 2011.

Half of these 11 stories take place in or near Tortall, the kingdom that fans of Pierce have come to know well, but four of them are non-Tortall fantasies and one of them is not a fantasy at all. 

Strange to say, but though I have read both Beka Cooper books, all four of the Protector of the Small quartet, the Circle of Magic quartet, AND the Circle Opens quartet, I have never read either the Immortals or Song of the Lioness quartets.  Weird, huh? 

However, it does put me in a good position to tell you that no familiarity of those last two quartets (or indeed, any of Pierce's books) is needed to thoroughly enjoy this collection of stories.  Certainly, fans will recognize themes from Pierce's work.  Girls and women in these stories use inner strength and any available resources to overcome obstacles placed in their way by society, religion, their families, or their own fears.  There is plenty of Girl Power here, shining from almost every page.

Folks who have read all the Tortall books will no doubt recognize some familiar characters - I didn't, needless to say.  But I did fall in love with the blobby, adaptable creatures called Darkings, and would love to read more about them.  And Nawat (a crow who takes human form) won my heart, with his loyal, loving, and birdlike approach to his human wife Aly and their three new triplets.  There are parallels to the Taliban and Islam, and several powerful stories that take place in dry, desolate places where self-reliance must be cultivated.  The two modern stories (one a rather intense urban fantasy thriller and the other about girls in a group home trying - and failing - to "test" a new housemother) did not appeal to me nearly as much.  Although they do show Pierce's range, her world-building is one of my favorite things about her writing.

Included is a snippet of the third Beka Cooper novel, to come out later this year.  I can't wait!

Recommended for fans ages of Tamora Pierce ages 12 and up, and also for readers who have enjoyed Ursula Le Guin's story collection Tales from Earthsea.

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