In the Revisiting Corus series, I’m rereading all of the published stories that take place in the Tortallan universe prior to the release of the long-anticipated Numair novel, Tempests and Slaughter, in February. This post covers two short stories set in the Tortall universe, “Dragon’s Tale” and “Lost.”
I’ve never read these stories before, so this was an interesting dive into some new material, for me. However, both are relevant to the Immortals quartet I just finished reading; “Dragon’s Tale” is about an adventure Kitten has and “Lost” is a story about some of the darkings.
“Dragon’s Tale” is a story very much in the style of the Immortals quartet stories. It is first and foremost and adventure, wrapped up in clever animals and mages and magical doings. The story is told by Kitten, recounting her adventures as a young dragon, itching to make her voice heard and to assert her independence. She, Daine, and Numair are in Carthak, following Emperor Kaddar as he tours his empire and tries to learn more about the common people, so a lot of the set dressing is very familiar. Kitten speaking for herself is new, but Tamora Pierce seems to relish in bringing new perspectives in her short Tortall stories.
By the way, if you’re doing a first read of the series, I would probably hold of on reading this short story until after you’ve read the Trickster duology, Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen. This story has some very minor spoilers for Daine and Numair’s future, and I didn’t know beforehand that it was set after the Tortall books currently published. So I think, as a first time reader, it might be fun to read it then, and return for a short while to a Daine sort of story.
That said…I didn’t warm up to this one for a while. Tamora Pierce writes this from a childish perspective, and I get it, but I kind of felt it went too far here. Especially in the beginning, it reads like a child’s essay on what they did last summer, and I’m not really looking for that kind of thing when I’m sitting down to read a short story. The voice matures as the story progresses, almost out of necessity in order to tell a complex story, but it lacks much of Tamora Pierce’s talent for subtle writing. It’s still fun, just…not my thing.
“Lost,” however, was very much my thing. “Lost” is about Adria Fairingrove, a girl in Tusaine who is a natural with numbers, living in constant fear of her cruel teacher and overbearing father. She meets a darking named Lost. Look, the darkings are always perfect whenever they show up. Their funny, simple nature is always very well handled by Pierce. Tamora Pierce often does very well contrasting somewhat light elements with a creeping, dark subtext coming up from behind, and this shows her talent with this sort of story. Not to give too much away, but the story just…builds beautifully. It doesn’t take a ton of pages to suck you into Adria’s life and worries. It’s also really nice to hear about a character who is preternaturally talented–except their talent isn’t the magical Gift. Reading this one was similar to my experience with “Hidden Girl”; it’s a very complete, unexpected gem.
How do you feel about the Tortallan short stories? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter.