Release Date ~ January 10, 2013
Dial ~ Penguin
ARC received from author for review
Tamora Pierce meets George R. R. Martin in this smart, political, medieval fantasy-thriller.
There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, angling to exploit the young Crown's inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.
Growing up, one of my favourite authors was Tamora Pierce (she is still one of my preferred authors). I loved reading about the characters and worlds she had created, and I believe she's one of the best YA authors out there right now. It isn't surprising then that when I first heard of The Cadet of Tildor that I knew right away that I would want to read it after hearing it likened to Tamora Pierce's work.
As excited as I was, I also knew I wanted Cadet to be different from the Tortall books. Thankfully Cadet is an extremely strong debut from Alex Lidell, who is able to showcase her talent as a writer in a beloved genre among many other talented authors and still shine all on her own.
- Complex struggles:
In a few of my reviews I've mentioned how much I love the story of Antigone (a Greek tragedy written by Sophocles) and her struggle between what she sees as her public duty to the king/state and her private duty to her family. I found this to be one of the key themes running through The Cadet of Tildor as well, as Renee begins to realize that her choices and life direction aren't as simple as she would like them to be. This is something everyone comes to recognize in their life at one point or another, and it's a struggle that I think will resonate with many readers. Because sometimes right and wrong just isn't so black and white. There are so many characters in this book that honestly believe they're doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing, and it's interesting how well Alex is able to highlight that even if these characters are antagonizing each other, they're staying true to their personal beliefs - which ends up being a very effective portrayal of subjectivity.
- A heroine who constantly pushes herself:
There is so much to admire in Renee de Winter, even in the very small mundane activities she does. I found myself in awe of her again and again as she continually strived to be the very best that she could be. She has plenty of flaws, it's true, but it's remarkable how much effort she puts into the work she does and I appreciate seeing a heroine who is known for this, rather than any innate talent or attribute.
- A world on the brisk of upheaval:
There is so much political intrigue in Cadet, but not in the usual way. I thought it was fascinating how Alex included political struggles but they were internal disputes rather than external ones. You can sense that Tildor is at the cusp of great change, and the hostility between the different criminal groups, class factions, and nobility was extremely well portrayed. It added a level of complexity rarely seen in the worlds created for YA books.
I only wished that there had been a bit more flow to the story, overall because some parts of it felt disjointed to me. There were times when the scenes didn't mesh as well together as I would have liked, partly because there wasn't enough ambience for me to truly immerse myself in the setting. For example, some of the fight scenes failed to grab my attention and create a sense of excitement and danger I long for in an action sequence. There were also one or two characters who seemed to change rather drastically without much lead up, although they were the exception to the rule.
But overall, The Cadet of Tildor is an extraordinarily strong story; one that is reminiscent of old favourites with its strong characters and world building, yet creates its own strong foundation by including a thoughtful response to struggles familiar to any reader and leaving readers with plenty to ponder over long after the book is finished.