THE CADET OF TILDOR by Alex Lidell.
Don't let yourself be fooled by the cover copy. This is not another tough-chick-kicks-boys'-butts book. And that's probably one of the things I loved about it the most. The main character, Renee de Winter, struggles to keep up with the boys. Learning how to fight like a girl -- and that doesn't mean losing in combat -- is a fantastic theme throughout the entire novel.
So let's break this down into categories of awesome:
Characters: The cast is large; the characters are diverse and beautifully developed. Renee is an MC that you cheer for through the story. She's a loyal friend, a devoted student, and a brave soldier, but that doesn't mean she's perfect. In fact, she lets herself become enamored with one of her teachers, the uber-hot Korish Savoy, and some of the decisions she makes are not wise ones.
And while we're on the subject of Savoy, can I just say yum-to-the-nth degree? He's complicated and a little off-putting, but that doesn't diminish his bad boy appeal. Except that he's not bad. He's good and talented and smart and a great leader, all wrapped in a package of lean muscle.
Tension: Alex Lidell makes every paragraph drip with tension. There is conflict between characters, there is conflict between factions (the world is divided into three very distinct groups with conflicting interests), there is a delicious moral conflict. The book is long (I think it's over 430 pages), but you never feel bogged down. You want to know what happens next. You have to turn the page.
Plot: As mentioned above there is a LOT going on -- this isn't a simple story of a girl finding her way in a male-dominated profession. Yes, that's how the story starts but there are so many other layers. There is also a lot of misdirection and intrigue. You wonder, along with the characters, who is worthy of your trust and none of the issues are clearly delineated by good vs bad.
World-building: There is a magical element to The Cadet of Tildor, but it's understated until the second half of the book. I think that will appeal to readers who don't necessarily love high-high fantasy elements. It is well-explained and does play a relevant part of the story, but this isn't a magic story. It's a story with magical elements.
My only complaint, and it's a very, very small one, is that I wanted more right away. I wanted to see if there was any hope for romance between two specific characters. And after visiting the author's website, I'm not positive if there is a sequel planned. Hmpf.
Soooo...if you like Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series or Robin LaFever's Grave Mercy, then you will probably enjoy The Cadet of Tildor.
I certainly did.
In other news, KATE SCOTT is the winner of the entire POSSESSION trilogy. Congrats Kate! I'm sure you'll love it! To redeem your prize, please email me at becky (underscore) vallett (at) hotmail (dot) com by July 10, 2013. Thanks for participating.
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