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Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales

Review

Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales

Legions of Tamora Pierce fans anticipating the next Beka Cooper entry coming in October will breathe a sigh of relief when they pick up TORTALL AND OTHER LANDS. For 15 years, Pierce has held readers captive waiting for the next installment in a series. She is always forgiven for the pause because her books are worth the endurance it sometimes takes to survive the space between them. This collection of short stories is no exception. It's a prized little jewel of writing sure to calm the panting Pierce fan hungry for her artful way of turning an ordinary creature into a stunning lesson in living.

Most of the tales here have appeared in other volumes. In fact, some readers may have heard Pierce read "Huntress" aloud at a fantasy convention like Confluence in Pittsburgh or read a piece in one of the many short story collections published with other writers. Hearing Pierce read "Huntress" and reading the story yourself are two different sensations but very enjoyable experiences, because she empowers the character with her voice whether reading or writing. In fact, the sense of empowerment --- especially for female heroines, or "sheroes" as she has anointed them --- is the theme running through her new collection of stories. TORTALL AND OTHER LANDS is thick with the ways of women overcoming difficult circumstances to contribute to the legacy, the war, the homework, or the lives of others in the way only females can.

Of course, magic, fantasy and beauty of spirit figure prominently in each story, but strength of character is the underlying message. This is true even in the story of a young woman's ability to withstand the tests she endures when she's hired as a housemother in a home for troubled girls. Many fans are probably aware of Pierce's colorful personal life and know she actually had a job just out of college much like the one described in the short story "Testing." It's prefaced with her comments explaining the real and the fantasized elements between the story and what she experienced, but also how the events formed the kind of writer she is today. It's this personal dialogue Pierce has always shared with readers that contributes to her fan base. "Testing" is a brilliant story of how love and patience are what so many of us are missing in our lives; when someone shows us these things, we are devoted to them for life.

Regardless of the "shero" or the setting or the creature, be it dragon or prophet, Pierce does in TORTALL AND OTHER LANDS what she consistently does best in her books. She shows someone taking a risk to reach out and help another in need and how spiritually rewarding that practice can be. And how necessary it is to the survival of the species, be it human, rock, tree, or otherwise fanciful being. Caring for each other is what keeps the worlds, real or fictional, turning.

Reviewed by Joy Held on February 22, 2011

Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales
by Tamora Pierce