TAMORA PIERCEEEE!!! This anthology includes 11 short stories, most of which are AMAZING, some of which are unfortunately not so amazing. Still, this is a great supplement to what I already know about the Tortall universe, although there are stories not set in Tortall that are just as good. However, I know that certain short stories have appeared in other multi-author anthologies, so it kind of sucked when I reread certain stories, especially if they’re ones that I didn’t like as much. I think most (if not all) of the stories made me feel hope and strength, so I’d say it’s typical Tamora Pierce feels for me, haha.
Here’s a rough ranking of the stories, and at the top are stories that I really enjoyed. (I really liked 8/11 of the stories, and I thought the last 3 were okay.) The one-sentence story blurbs are from Goodreads. The rest are just my reactions – apologies in advance for any incoherent squealing and ALL CAPS that comes with me reviewing Tamora Pierce works. You may proceed. 💁
Student of Ostriches. “A young girl fights a proven warrior to protect her sister’s honor.” AWESOME. This is set in Tortall-verse, but any previous knowledge of Tortall is not needed. So much girl power kickassery in this story, and I FELL IN LOVE. This story also appeared in the Young Warriors anthology, which I haven’t read yet.
Elder Brother. “A tree, made human by Numair, must learn the intricacies of being a man.” This story is also set in Tortall, following an incidence in Wolf Speaker in which Numair, a mage, turns a man into a tree – and thus, somewhere else in the world, a tree will undoubtedly turn into a man. This is the story of that man, and as you might expect, the story is an entertaining and eventful one. However, Tammy incorporates various themes in this short work – mainly friendship and discrimination – that makes it more than just a humorous story.
The Hidden Girl. “Despite the laws of her patriarchal society, a girl wants to learn… and teach.” This story follows Teky and her father, who arrive in the town that Elder Brother was set in. I personally thought it to be a heart-wrenching story, although it did make me feel other things as well: hope, disappointment, indignance… but mostly hope.
Nawat. “Nawat the crow-man faces a choice no father wants to make.” Following the Daughter of the Lioness series, this is the story of Nawat and Aly, and tells of what happens after Aly gives birth. IT’S LIKE FANFICTION!!! I always want to read more about Nawat and Aly and their relationship, and although this is a serious story, Nawat – being a crow-man – makes everything hilarious.
Mimic. “Ri helps any wounded creature, no matter how ugly or strange.” Ri saves a strange lizard-thing that has beautiful copper eyes, and names it Mimic because it can mimic other bird-sounds. Little did she know that Mimic will play a very important role in her village. I really liked the ending of this story, as well as Ri’s character development.
The Dragon’s Tale. “Daine’s dragonling, Kitten, helps an outcast from society.” Kitten is an important character from The Immortals series, and I was always disappointed that we wouldn’t get to hear Kitten talk ever because dragons grow up so slowly. This story is written in Kitten’s perspective (SO COOL! FINALLY!) The only aspect of the story that I didn’t like was all the animosity and bullying, but that seems to be the typical obstacle in Tammy’s books.
Lost. “A darking shows a self-doubting math genius how smart she can be.” Darkings come from The Immortals series, and they’re the funniest, cutest blob-creatures ever. The darking of interest is named Lost, and it definitely got lost because it ended up in Tusaine (which is across the river from Tortall) where it meets Adria, our math genius. The story is interesting and powerful, as Tammy uses girl power as her main concept again to empower young female readers.
Plain Magic. “What happens when you lose a lethal lottery?” And the lottery that is mentioned is one that determines who gets fed to the dragon next, so it’s actually pretty important. This story seems to lie at the intersection of Tammy’s two universes – Tortall (because of the dragon) and Emelan (because of the magic). I liked it!
Time of Proving. “Arimu of the Wind People meets a poet from the Veiled City.” This is one of the shortest stories in the anthology, and I wish it was longer so that we get more backstory for the characters. Arimu and Sunflower (the bull-man poet) and their interactions are the only things driving this story, and I wish I knew more about their communities and their goals.
Testing. “When trying out a new housemother, how hard do you push?” Tammy introduced this story with some commentary, and this story stemmed from her personal experiences of being a housemother in a group home. The story’s narrator is a girl in a group home, and we’re introduced to the other girls through her eyes. This story resonated with me because I can definitely relate to what a housemother might have to put up with, and Testing was able to showcase both the girls’ and the housemothers’ reasoning.
Huntress. “A contemporary teen tries to fit in with the cool group at school, at a terrible price.” This is the one story that just didn’t work for me. I read it in the Firebirds Rising anthology a while back and didn’t like it then either. (Or, I guess, “didn’t like it” for a Tamora Pierce book usually means “it’s okay” compared to non-Tamora Pierce stories?) It’s dark and gritty with an uban fantasy feel, but there’s just something weird about it. I think the weirdness of it mostly comes from me not being used to Tamora Pierce writing urban fantasy…