I’m reading the 19 Tortall books, as well as Tortall ephemera, before the 20th Tortall novel comes out this February. In this post I’ll be reviewing the second Immortals quartet book, Wolf Speaker.
In reading Alanna’s books, a lot of what I focused on was how Tamora Pierce’s writing and Alanna’s arc grew and matured over the course of the books. This book doesn’t fit that structure.
While it’s a very good book, it’s not really a move forward; it’s simply a very good story in which Daine gains certain powers that she will use later in her stories. In YA fiction, it would be weird for her to gain these powers between books, without us knowing how, so we get this book where Daine’s in a situation that lets them grow organically. Sure, the plot with the Stormwings and Carthak also advances, but this feels more like a side story to Daine’s main tale than it does part of the main thrust. That’s not to say this story isn’t good, it just…feels like an interlude.
That said, this book is very, very good. It introduces some of the more enduring and endearing characters of the Immortals quartet, including Maura, Tkaa, and the wolves of the Long Lake Pack. Cloud stood out in the last book as being the animal with the biggest and best personality; this book goes more into the attitudes of Daine’s animal friends. The effort put into making each animal Daine talks to unique and funny really pays off for this book. It feels more like we are let inside the way Daine must feel every day, how close she must feel to every living creature. Her experiments in riding inside the mind of an animal also really expand the animal world in this book; seeing wolf pack dynamics from the inside feels uniquely lovely. Pierce’s laborious research (mentioned in the Acknowledgments) is almost showy, here, but it still works.
I feel like this book is meant to foreshadow some of the beginning of what Daine and Numair’s relationship becomes, but I also don’t feel that it’s very effective on that front. I think Pierce here struggles between setting up the relationship and also dealing with Daine being fourteen, and pretty darn well outside the age of consent by any standard. It’s weird and creepy for anything to start now, but as a writer, one’s instinct is to set up something like this early so it doesn’t feel sudden. So for now, it just feels…weird.
This is a very good book. It’s fun, the action is dynamic, and the magic and animals make it easy to become engaged. It doesn’t feel essential to the overall story, but that doesn’t mean it ought not be included. I’m happy to read it every time.
What do you think of Wolf Speaker? Let’s discuss it in the comments or on Twitter.