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You guys. You guys. You guys. We’ve made it to one of my FAVORITE books written by Tamora Pierce. Well, one of my favorite Tortall books. But we’ll get to Shatterglass in like six months when I start reviewing the Circle of Magic. ANYWAY.

The Plot: It’s been three years since the “Immortals War” has begun. It’s not officially a war, of course, but that doesn’t stop Jonathan and Thayet from sending a peace delegation to Carthak–the empire across the sea–to negotiate peace talks. Among the delegates are Alanna, Numair, and Daine (who was invited to heal the Emperor’s sick birds). Numair was friends with the emperor, many years ago, until he had to flee for his life. The already tense peace talks are made more interesting when a mysterious goddess loses patience with the godless emperor… and decides to use Daine as her messenger.

The Good: Part of the reason this is my favorite book is because of Carthak. I like to compare the cultures and languages of the countries in this world to the countries we know today–Tortall is England, the Great Southern Desert is the Middle East, the Yamani Islands are Japan, Scanra is the Netherlands (or Germany, depending on your taste). Carthak is definitely Egypt. It’s a hot, desert country ruled by a man who expects his subjects to treat him like a god. The scenery and the animals Daine encounters is rich and beautiful.

I also love this book because a main plot point are the fossilized dinosaur and mammoth bones the emperor displays in the Hall of Bones. I can’t say much more than that without spoiling the book, but trust me. It’s pretty awesome.

Slavery is something that Pierce explores in much more depth in her Trickster’s Choice series, so I won’t get into it here, but she handles it with a deft touch.

Rikash also makes another appearance, thus solidifying his place in both my heart and Daine’s as the only Stormwing either of us really like. He’s snarky, he’s sassy, and he still smells gross, but he’s awesome anyway.

A couple new characters are introduced, including Kaddar, the emperor’s nephew and heir. Most of the nobles in Tortall are very casual and peerless, which always kind of bugged me. They’re nobles. They have servants. It’s okay. Kaddar walks the fine line between being a 17-year-old boy and being kind of a spoiled brat. At one point he asks Daine “why would I care about any slave, young or old?” to which Daine replies “because I thought you were a decent human being.” The exchange is honest and it makes Kaddar a more believable character–after all, he’s spent his entire life surrounded by slaves and fawning subjects.

ALSO: Hyenas. Daine meets some hyenas at the Imperial Menagerie, and they are essentially the best animal companions she has. Better than Cloud. Better than Zek the adorable marmoset. Better than the wolves. Better… even… than Kitten. I know. I just blew your mind.

The Bad: I think the only bad thing I can say about this book is that the climax of the book is entirely built on the fact that Numair neglected to tell Daine something, thus resulting in a disastrous misunderstanding. I mean, the climax would still have occurred if Daine had been kept in the loop, but the emotional drive wouldn’t be there. And I’m serious: it’s 100% because Numair forgot to include Daine in on his plans. It always annoyed me, because the climax is an excellent section of the book, and it’s based on a very flimsy set-up.

The Verdict: If you couldn’t tell by the fact that I had to get nit-picky in my “bad” section or the fact that I preluded this review by telling you that this is one of my top 3 Tamora Pierce books… I love this book. It’s fun, it’s beautiful and it’s adventurous. And really, what more can you ask for from a fantasy novel?