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THE CADET OF TILDOR, Alex Lidell's debut novel, was everything I hoped for and more. When I first heard about the publishing deal, I was intrigued. Tamora Pierce meets G.R.R. Martin, really? I'm not sure that it's too similar to Martin, but there are strong threads tying Lidell to Pierce, and I mean that in the best way possible. In high school, two of my all-time favorite series were the Song of the Lioness quartet and the Protector of the Small quartet. In both, Pierce creates strong female heroines who stand alone among boys as they go through school to become knights and serve their kingdoms. Pierce's heroines Alanna of Trebond and Keladry of Mindelan would be great friends were they to come across Lidell's Renee de Winter, and rightfully so. If you're a fan of Pierce, and especially of these two series, you will absolutely adore CADET.
Unlike Pierce, who takes readers on adventures from the very first year of training, Lidell drops in on senior year. Renee used to be at the top of her class, but now, she's fallen to the bottom, no longer as strong as the boys. She wants nothing more than to become a Servant and serve the Crown, making sure to train extra hard to build her endurance. Her father tries to keep her home where she "belongs," but Renee defies him, cutting family ties in order to return to school. When she finds out that her new instructor is none other than Commander Savoy, one of her role models, she's excited and idolizes him, but traumatized to realize that he sees her as weaker than her peers. As a plot against the kingdom unfurls, Renee must come to terms with her own limitations while still paving her own way and attempting to achieve her dreams.
There is so much to love about CADET, which reminds me of why I love this sub-genre of fantasy so much. Fantasy doesn't have to be about sappy romance and eye-rolling love triangles, which I seem to have forgotten after all the like-minded YA novels crowding the genre these last few years. There are so many layers to CADET that each layer pulls back like an onion, revealing something deeper and truer at its core. Renee is so blinded by her dreams and her wants that she's unable to see the reality of the way things are. She'll never excel in life if she can't come to terms with her own limitations and learn to work with them, not against them. She grows in so many ways over the course of the novel, and I truly became invested in her plight.
There are so many characters and settings that on the surface, it seems as though it would be easy to become overwhelmed. In reality, however, everything is well-crafted and bonds together to form a fascinating, gritty story at the underbelly of a kingdom in need of saving. Lidell seamlessly blends right and wrong to the point where readers are constantly guessing and wondering which characters can actually be trusted. It's hard to talk much about the intricacies without giving much away, but I truly love the way this book unfurled. Whenever little things came together, whether I saw them coming or not, they managed to slip into place like a well-greased cog. Even character development was superbly brought out.
While I was always rooting for our underdog Renee, there were characters I went from liking to disliking, and others I had an on-again, off-again relationship with. Definitely on-again by the end, however, and I want more books from Lidell! While CADET easily stands alone, it ends in such a way that more adventures are sure to be had, especially after reading the novel's final line (perhaps one of my favorite lines in the novel, and one I can't share for obvious reasons. It is, after all, the final line!) I'm seriously hoping that Lidell brings us more books in this world and returns all of her characters to us. I wonder if one character will be a villain, if another will become something more, if a third is destined for greatness. Etc, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed CADET and now want to go back and re-read other books with female knights at their core to keep this feeling close to my chest. What a great debut!
And now, a giveaway!
Enter to win...
$20 Amazon Gift Card, PLUS a copy of THE CADET OF TILDOR with swag – US
$20 Book Depository Gift Card – International
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