Title: Tortall and Other Lands
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Random House, 2011
Source: Provo Library
I love me some Tamora Pierce. When I was in middle school, I read all her books. Over the last year, I have begun to reread some of her books, as well as read the books she's published since I was in middle school. I still love her, even though I'm not really into fantasy novels anymore and I'm not part of the YA target audience. I was really excited to read this collection, especially because I love short stories.
Six of the eleven short stories are set in Tortall, four more are also fantasy, set in various places, including contemporary New York, and one is contemporary, non-fantasy, set in Idaho (where I grew up... yay for Idaho!).
I really enjoyed getting glimpses of lands that I was less familiar with in the Tortall novels. Tamora Pierce has created a world, with multiple countries, political systems, gods, and politicians, and her stories read like snapshots from that world instead of constructions that she is adding to it. In "Student of Ostriches" we learn more about the Shang Unicorn, a person lightly mentioned in the fourth Alanna book, Lioness Rampant. The story "Nawat" gives us some insight into the strange and mysterious Nawat, a character I am becoming acquainted with in the novel Trickster's Choice, which I am currently listening to on audiobook. "The Dragon's Tale" lets us into Kitten's mind, instead of describing events from the point of view of Daine, the main character in the Immortals quartet.
We also get something a little different with the two contemporary tales, "Huntress" and "Testing." "Huntress" takes place in contemporary New York, but is still a fantasy tale. It was the most disturbing and violent of anything I've read by Tamora Pierce, perhaps because it was in a contemporary setting and involved a world I could envision and relate to. I didn't like reading it - when I finished I felt disturbed, but at the same time I was impressed with the inventiveness and originality of the story. I'd never read anything like it. "Testing" is a story told out of an experience in Pierce's life, working as a housemother in a home for troubled teen girls. It was interesting to read something that wasn't fantasy, although it didn't have as much appeal for me as the other fantasy stories in the collection.
I think my favorite story in the collection was "Lost," the story of an abused teenage math genius afraid to assert herself and get the education she needs and pines for. Adria meets a darking, a strange little creature that I haven't experienced yet in any other Pierce book that seems to be a black blob with a quirky, helpful personality. The darking, named Lost, helps Adria have more self-confidence and convinces her to reach out to people who can help her.
This was a fun book to read, but I think it will mostly appeal to previous fans of Tamora Pierce. Part of the charm of the collection was that it gave further insights into a world I had already come to love. I think if I had been completely unfamiliar with that world, the stories may have confused me. They are individual stories - you don't have to have a knowledge of Tortall to follow the plot, but the reason they were enjoyable to me was because of the connections I already had to them. So, if you are a fan of Tamora Pierce, I think you will enjoy these stories. If not, read Alanna: The First Adventure first, and then pick this one up. :)