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Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales Hardcover – February 22, 2011
"Riders" By Veronica Rossi
A new fantasy adventure from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Veronica Rossi. Learn more
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
My story began as my mother carried me in her belly to the great Nawolu trade fair. Because she was pregnant, our tribe let Mama ride high on the back of our finest camel, which meant she was also lookout for our caravan. It was she who spotted the lion and gave the warning. Our warriors closed in tight around our people to keep them safe, but they were in no danger from the lion.
He was a young male, with no lionesses to guard him as he stalked a young ostrich who strayed from its parents. He drew closer to his intended prey. Its mama and papa raced toward the lion, faster than horses, their large eyes fixed on the threat. The lion was young and ignorant. He snarled as one ostrich kicked him. Then the other did the same. On and on the ostriches kicked the lion until he was a fur sack of bones.
As the ostriches led their children away, my mama said, she felt me kick in her belly for the first time.
If the kicking ostriches were a good omen for our family, they were not for my papa. Two months later he was wounded in the leg in a battle with an enemy tribe. It never healed completely, forcing him to leave the ranks of the warriors and join the ranks of the wood-carvers, though he never complained. Not long after my papa began to walk with a cane, I was born. Papa was sad for a little while, because I was a girl. He would have liked a son to take his place as a warrior, but he always said that when I first smiled at him, he could not be sad anymore.
When I was six years old, I asked my parents if I could learn to go outside the village wall with the animal herds. Who could be happy inside the walls when the world lay outside? My parents spoke to our chief, who agreed that I could learn to watch goats on the rocky edges of the great plains on which the world was born.
Of course, I did not begin alone. My ten-year-old cousin Ogin was appointed to teach me. On that first morning I followed him and his dogs to a grazing place. Once the goats were settled, I asked him, “What must I learn?”
“First, you learn to use the herder’s weapon, the sling,” Ogin said. He was very tall and lean, like a stick with muscles. “You must be able to help the dogs drive off enemies.” He held up a strip of leather.
I practiced the twirl and the release of the stone in the sling until my shoulders were sore. For a change of pace, Ogin taught me the words to name the goats’ marks and parts until I knew them by heart. Once my muscles were relaxed again, I would take up the sling once more.
When it was time to eat our noon food, my cousin took the goats, the dogs, and me up onto a rock outcropping. From there we could see the plain stretch out before us under its veil of dusty air. This was my reward, this long view of the first step to the world. I almost forgot how to eat. Lonely trees fanned their branches out in flat-topped sprays. Vultures roosted in their branches. Veils of tall grass separated the herds of zebra, wildebeest, and gazelle in the distance. Lions waited near a watering hole close to our rocks as giraffes nibbled the leaves of thorny trees on the other side.
Watching it all, I saw movement. I gasped. “Ogin—there! Are those—are they ostriches?”
“You think, because your mama saw them, they are cousins to you?” he teased me. “What is it, Kylaia? Will you grow tail feathers and race them?”
The ostriches were running. They had long, powerful legs. When they ran, they opened their legs up and stretched. They were not delicate like the gazelle, like my older sisters. They ran in long, loping strides. Watching them, I thought, I want to run like that.
For a year I was Ogin’s apprentice. He taught me to keep the goats moving in the lands around the stone lookout place, so there would be grass throughout the year. He was patient and he did not laugh at me as I struggled to learn to be a dead shot with a sling, a careful tracker, and one who understood the ways of the dogs, the goats, and the wild creatures of the plains.
Ogin taught me to run, too, as he and my sisters did, like gazelles, on the balls of their feet. After our noon meals, as Ogin napped, I would practice my ostrich running. I opened up my strides, dug in my feet, and thrust out my chest, imagining myself to be a great bird, eating the ground with my big feet. Each day I ran a little farther and a little faster as Ogin and the dogs slept, and the goats and the birds looked on.
When I had followed Ogin for a year, my uncle the herd chief came out with us. Ogin made me show off my skills with the goats and the dogs.
“Tomorrow morning, come to me,” said my uncle. “You shall have a herd and dogs of your own.”
It was my seventh birthday. I was so proud! I was now a true member of the village with proper work to do. Papa gave me a wooden ball painted with colored stripes. Mama and my sisters had woven me new clothes and a cape for the cold. I ran through the village to show off my ball and to tell my friends that I was now a true worker.
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More About the Author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tamora Pierce was drawn to books from a young age. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, the child of a "long, proud line of hillbillies," her family never had much. "We were poor, but I didn't know it then. We had a garden where my folks grew fruit and vegetables and our water came from a well," she explains. But one thing they did have was plenty of books. So Tamora read.
A self-proclaimed "geek," she devoured fantasy and science fiction novels, and by the age of 12 was mimicking her literary idols and writing her own action-packed stories. It was thanks to her father that Tamora began writing. "He heard me telling myself stories as I did dishes, and he suggested that I try to write some of them down," Pierce says.
But Tamora's novels had one major difference: unlike the books she was reading, her stories featured teenaged girl warriors. "I couldn't understand this lapse of attention on the part of the writers I loved, so until I could talk them into correcting this small problem, I wrote about those girls, the fearless, bold, athletic creatures that I was not, but wanted so badly to be."
Seventeen years later, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, a brief career in teen social work and some time spent writing for radio, Tamora Pierce held true to her childhood crusade, and published Alanna: The First Adventure, the first in a quartet about a valiant, young, female warrior. Pierce's heroine struck a chord with readers across the country and quickly earned her a loyal following.
Pierce is now a #1 New York Times bestselling author and has written twenty-five books, including her newest, BEKA COOPER #2: Bloodhound. "It's a pretty good life, if I do say so myself. Struggling along as a kid and even through my twenties, it's the kind of life I dreamed of but never believed I would get. Yet here I am, after a lot of work, a lot of worry, a lot of care for details, and a massive chunk of luck, the kind that brought me such strong friends and readers. Pretty good for a hillbilly, yes? And I never take it for granted," she says.
Pierce lives in upstate New York with her husband Tim and their three cats and two birds.
"[Tamora Pierce's heroines] faithfully reiterate an ideal of feminine power that relies on brains, not beauty; of feminine attractiveness that relies on competence, not helplessness; and of feminine alliances that grow stronger, not weaker, in the face of conflicts." -The New York Times
BEKA COOPER #1: TERRIER
"With its rollicking adventures [and] appealing characters . . . Terrier will be in strong demand by Pierce's fans. It will keep readers on the edge of their seats." -School Library Journal, Starred
"Memorable characters and well-drawn settings. . . . This timely and appealing anthology will surely help swell the ranks of teenage fantasy readers." -School Library Journal
"The plot sweeps readers along in a whirlwind of court intrigue, deception, murder, and romance. The humor is wicked, and the plot twists will keep the pages turning to the supremely satisfying end. Teens will be inspired by Aly's determination, her resourcefulness, and her heart." -School Library Journal
"Aly arrives fully formed, a snarky, talented uber-heroine. Cameos of old favorites complement a rich cast of new characters. Aly's difficulty with the complexity of colonialism adds surprising, welcome depth." -Kirkus Reviews
"Unrelentingly realistic in its depiction of the horrors of war, this novel draws the reader into a complete and believable fantasy world. Pierce provides exquisite details of the weaponry, topography, and culture of her world, and her control of a voluminous cast of characters is masterful." -Voice of Youth Advocates
Top Customer Reviews
The Dragon's Tale: Daine's dragonling, Kitten, finds a woman living on the edge of society while she is wandering with Daine.
Elder Brother: Do you remember when Numair turned someone into a tree in the Immortals Series? Well, as a repercussion of that big magic, a tree was turned into a human, and this is the story of his first days as one.
The Hidden Girl: A girl in a society which is within the world of Tortall is travelling with her father, who is a wandering priest that preaches forbidden texts of religious law. When her father falls in, it falls to her in this patriarchal society to teach. I liked this one, and it is linked with the Elder Brother story.
Huntress: (from the back) A contemporary teen tries to fit in with the cool group at school, at a terrible price. This one, to be honest, wasn't my favourite. There is a fantastical element to it as well.
Lost: I thought this was a really sweet story. In Tusaine, a girl math genius doubts herself and her abilities due in part to her math teacher who wont believe that she just knows the answers, and her father, who doubts her as well. In it, a darkling helps her realize her potential. I'll say again that I really liked this one.Read more ›
Several of the stories have new characters that we have not met before. In the story "Nawat," readers are reacquainted with Nawat and Aly from Wolf Speaker and the darkings from Trickster's Queen. If you have ever wondered what happens after Trickster's Queen ends, then you will be pleased to find out in the story "Nawat." The story "The Dragon's Tale" brings back Daine and Numair as minor characters in a story that is told from the dragon Kit's point of view.
The majority of the stories in this collection are set in Tortall, but there are a few stories that are in new lands. One story, "Huntress," is even set in present day New York City. Although the majority of the stories are appropriate for preteen readers, "Huntress" has language and content that is on a more mature level. All of the stories are beautifully written in the style that Tamora Pierce fans have come to love and enjoy from her previous works. The dialogue between the characters is believable, and at times quiet humorous. There is even a non-fantasy story, based on events from Tamora Pierce's life, that will have readers captivated.
Before now, there has never been a collection of Tamora Pierce's short stories. This collection of tales is the first of its kind, but I hope it won't be the last.
For me, the best parts about the stories were Tamora's explorations of characters and motivations. My favorite character, Kitten (Skysong) the dragon, has her own story in this book, told from her point of view. She is bored bored bored BORED while on tour in Carthak, so wanders off with Spots the horse to find her own trouble. What she finds is not the usual den of thieves, but a runaway mage hidden by an even more magical secret. That story was a fun romp that focused on the emotions and motivations of a child-aged dragon with nothing to do and no one for playmates besides a too-smart horse.
The harder work as a reader was in the first few stories and the last two. Pierce created and explored a very restrictive, religious society where girls were not educated and most of the population bowed under what could be interpreted as Sharia laws. In both "Elder Brother" and "Hidden Girl", we visit this ignorant society from the point of view of free-thinking young women, and learn about the two very different choices they make for rebelling against that system. In the last two stories, Pierce moves to the current and modern day.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I do not read short fiction as a general rule, much preferring the depth and range of novels. But I had just finished re-reading the first quartet of The Circle series--which I... Read morePublished 11 days ago by plb3
Most of the short stories were quite interesting while some were down right spectacular!!!! Tamora Pierce has a way with the smallest details that just captivate my imagination.Published 2 months ago by Ktrekker
Great short stories! As always Ms Pierce strories flow and before long you are ensnared in the middle, not wanting to do anything else but keep readingPublished 5 months ago by RE
As usual, Tamora Pierce hooks the reader in and keeps you wanting more. I loved all the stories in this collection, but especially enjoyed hearing more about Nawat Crow (from the... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Rachel C Nicholas
This is a collection of 11 short stories by Tamora Pierce. Some are set in the Tortall universe of some of her other books and two are set in our world. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Amanda Marie