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Nerdy Thursdays: “Wild Magic” & “Wolf Speaker”

August 28, 2013
 Nerdy Thursdays is a weekly blog feature.  It is here that I freely indulge my nerdy self and talk about books I’m reading.

Consider The Immortals, a series by Tamora Pierce.  These were the only books of the Tortall universe that I was lucky enough to start on before the age of 14.  So I got into Daine’s story much more than I’ve been able to ever get interested in Alanna’s et al.  From a glance at Goodreads, this phenomenon is apparently the norm.

I read the 1st & 2nd books at age 12.  It was my first trip back into fantasy since age 10.  We read “The Hobbit” as a family.  Then on my own, I started reading “The Fellowship of the Ring.” I got scared of the ring wraiths, stopped reading early on & avoided fantasy.    So jump ahead two years to age 12.  I was spending the weekend with two sisters, who I am still friends with to this day.  I had a wonderful weekend full of horseback riding, delicious food, & evening reading in the living room.  I hadn’t brought books with me so the older sister lent me “Wild Magic” (Book 1 of the Immortal series).  I loved it.  I finished it before my parents arrived to pick me up.  I borrowed book 2 when I went home.  I liked that one too and had every intention of finishing the series.

What happened next was that my parents saw I was reading fantasy again and so we started reading “The Fellowship of the Ring” chapter by chapter in the evenings after family worship.  This time, I fell completely in love with Middle Earth and forgot all about Tortall until just recently.  So what happened is that the 1st two popped up as books I might like on Paperback Swap.  I put in an order for them because I thought it might be fun to do a comparison of my views then as a 12-year-old and now as a twenty-something.  So I’ve finished and here are my thoughts.  Just be warned that there will be spoilers.

On Daine

Me at 12:  I looved that she could talk to animals and forge such a deep empathetic connection with them.  But of course she is amazing at archery and I liked that.  Basically, I wanted to be her.  I liked that she wasn’t described as particularly beautiful.

Me at 26:  Still loved it.  And still loved that she wasn’t described as particularly beautiful just because she gets to exist in her own right and have her own feelings about things, she doesn’t exist just to be attractive to men or to help men on their missions.  She gets her own missions. If I ever have a daughter, I want her to get a chance at Tamora Pierce’s books before age 14 just because of the plucky female protagonists.

LIke a lot of young adult literature, there is a bad case of the Deus ex machina.  Sometimes its with actual gods, or Daine’s rapidly developing abilities, and once in the form of a friendly basilisk (?).  Some say that Daine is a Mary Sue.  I would say that she is no more of a Mary Sue than Harry Potter.  In fact they are pretty comparable.

Harry: Orphaned at a young age, rejected in his world of origin due to early showings of powerful abilities, enters Hogwarts where he is really good at flying on brooms & kicking dark wizards in the tuckus.  Also gets lots of help & approval from powerful players in the world of Hogwarts.  Has a jealous school yard rival named Draco who exists to make Harry more relatable.  Struggles to make moral decisions in an increasingly dangerous world.

Daine:  Orphaned at a young age, rejected in her world of origin due to early showings of powerful abilities, enters Tortall where she is really good at archery & kicking stormwings in the tuckus, Also gets a lot of help & approval from powerful players in the world of Tortall.  Has a jealous school yard rival named Selda (replaced by the top she wolf in the 2nd book) who exists to make Daine more relatable.  Struggles to make moral decisions in an increasingly dangerous world such as her refusing to use her powers to control and call animals when she hunts.

In my closing thoughts on Daine.,  if she is a Mary Sue (& I believe all protagonists are in any enjoyable book.  How can you get into a world if you can’t imagine yourself in it and be allowed to think about what decisions you would make if you were there?)  I would still rather have my daughters or any younger girl I cared about, imagining they were Daine than some other female protagonists I can think of.

On Numair

Me at 12:  I think I was about equally as naive as Daine.  I didn’t really think of Numair as anything but Daine’s teacher!  I think we find out early on that he prefers blondes and she doesn’t think he is as cute as King Jonathan or as charming as George.

Me at 26:   Considering the age difference  and the fact that he is about 6 socio-economic classes above her, I find the sexual tension between them incredibly creepy.   I know the world of Tortall (despite having a king) is a liberal meritocracy.  But I still just can’t quite feel comfortable with it.  I haven’t read the 2nd 2 books but at least it seems like he’s waiting until she is of age before starting a romantic relationship.  He is doing a really good job teaching her how to use her magical abilities and protecting her (even from his own feelings) but it was just not really comfortable to read.

Other Thoughts…

Me at 12: The conflicts with the Stormwings & with the mean girls (Selda (book 1) & the she wolf (book 2)) seemed like such a bigger part of the book and so scary and dangerous.

Me at 26: Minor annoyances, yes, but I was amazed at how inconsequential they seemed.  I guess I’m less freaked out by mean girls now.

Consider the internal conflict between Daine’s ability to hunt and her ability to heal & forge relationships with animals.  And her inner moral code she develops to justify these two aspects of herself.  These aspects were much more interesting to me now.  I thought it was very smart commentary on what it means to be a female.  For me I’ve dealt with this in trying to bring together my sarcasm & competitiveness with my desires to nurture and look pretty into one cohesive woman.

Verdict: Awesome books!!  Pretty much a must read for any young females with liberal female leanings.  For spunky, relatable female protagonist in a glorious universe no one writes it better than Tamora Pierce.

I will be leaving soon for my back packing trips.  So the weekly book reviews will be on hiatus. For my next one (whenever that may be) I plan to read the next 2 books of this series for the first time & share my thoughts.
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