Penguin Group (USA) LLC
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The Cadet of Tildor Kindle Edition
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One thing I need to gush about - there is no romance in this book, no big hookup and I LOVE THAT. There is a faint, underlying chemistry and a hint of possible things to come, and you know what, it's enough. Even more satisfying to me is the friendship that develops and grows, based upon real mutual respect and a willingness to support each other.
Although I enjoyed this book a lot, there were some issues with it that just wouldn't let me give it 5 stars. For one thing, the author is a little too heavy handed with the foreshadowing. Either that or I'm super super smart cuz I figured out all the mysteries and twists way before they were revealed. Or maybe the author means for the reader to do this? But then all that does is make Renee seem frustratingly slow on the uptake. The delay time for the light bulb going off for her was a bit too long. **SPOILERS** Also, the story doesn't flow well in certain areas (for instance, the abrupt end of Renee's academy life to her journey with Alec happened so suddenly that it took awhile for my brain to get on track with the totally new direction of the story). Some coincidences were a bit too far fetched (like the fact that the Vipers consist of hundreds upon hundreds of members and the ONE member who tried to bribe Fitzer to take down Savoy just HAPPENS to be Den? Really?) and some things and situations just plain don't make any sense (like how the Madam is supposed to be this savvy, ruthless leader who does not hesitate to kill her own men who fail her, but when she has the perfect opportunity to kill Renee, her ENEMY, she just knocks her unconscious instead? uh, okay...)*END SPOILERS*
In the end though, I was extremely satisfied with this book. Full of action and adventure and centered around a GREAT heroine, this is everything a YA fantasy novel should be. The potential for a really great series is here, and I can't wait to see where this author takes us.
So basically THE CADET OF TILDOR is about Renee de Winter, who is the daughter of a widowed nobelman of Tildor. Instead of getting married and keeping the family's lands, she wants nothing more than to go the Academy and train to be a soldier and fight for her realm and her king. Her father has basically said that, if she fails out-which is kind of likely because, as a girl, she's smaller and not a strong as the other students and has a steeper hill to climb-she won't be welcome at her home anymore. When she gets to the Academy and meets up with her friend, Alec, they realize that they are going to be taught by one of the greatest Academy graduates EVER: the gruff, prickly, HOT leader of an elite military unit, Korish Savoy. Friends, Renee and Savoy do not start out on a great foot. He picks on her and humiliates her in front of her classmates because he doesn't think she can cut it. Then, things kind of go bananas, and a TON of CRAZY stuff happens-maybe too much stuff-and there's gladiators, mob families, magical drama, kidnapping, death, and political scheming. WHEW!
I have to say right away that all of this "de Winter can't cut it at the Academy because she's a girl" business could have been more bothersome, but Alex Lidell handles it really well, mostly by making Renee determined, strong, resilient, and brave. Hearing all of these naysayers makes Renee doubt herself, but then it makes her even more eager to GET SOME and kick everyone ass. It's one of those fist-pumping "get it, girl!" things. She really proves her worth in THE CADET OF TILDOR, even after people, including Savoy, knock her down. It's awesome.
It's a good thing that Renee is all BAMFy because, friends, Tildor is basically run by two warring gangs. Well, no. It's the mob. THE FREAKING MOB. In a fantasy. I DIE FOREVER. I love the mob. I especially love encountering it and all the drama and danger it brings in environments I don't expect to find it. So pretty much, Tildor has these two families who are trying to muscle each other out and gain power in Tildor: one of them is old-school and likes to scheme and try to get the throne in its debt and controls the drug trade (they are literally called the Family), and one of them is under new leadership, and is ruthless and cruel (the Vipers) and runs an underground fighting ring. Also related to this, Tildor has mages. Once a mage presents themselves by manifesting their gifts, they have to register with the government, which lots of mages hate, so not all of them follow the law. With all these rogue mages running around, the Vipers take them all in and let them get their nasty magic on in their battle against the Family and the crown. Obviously, the newly crowned king of Tildor wants to give ALL of the mobsters the heave-ho, so they all hate each other. It's into THIS web of backstabbing, illegal activity, treason, danger, murder, lies, and betrayal that Savoy and Renee find themselves. It's kind of the forever best.
Speaking of Savoy and Renee, they are basically the King and Queen of the slow burn. There isn't your typical swoonytimes in THE CADET OF TILDOR, but you get to see these two crazy kids develop this great connection and friendship. It's just as satisfying as if there was more romantic action. They challenge each other, fight each other, and make each other angry all while putting themselves in danger for each other, looking out for one another, and learning to trust one another. The foundation they are building is amazing. It's THE BOMB. Honestly. The best part of the book, hands down. I can't wait to see their relationship grow.
If there was one thing about THE CADET OF TILDOR that I didn't think did the story any favors, it's definitely this: There seems to be this CRAZY overload of THINGS HAPPENING. Like, one increasingly melodramatic thing after another. It got to be too much at times, and it got to be a little jarring, too. Which is a real shame, friends, because Alex Lidell has a really great story here, and I didn't feel like she needed all those things going on. They certainly contributed to the drama and the pace, but there's a fine line, you know? And sometimes THE CADET OF TILDOR crossed it.
The bottom line, though, is that THE CADET OF TILDOR is a pretty impressive debut. I really enjoyed the world-building and the drama. There's definitely things brewing with the mages that I'm really intrigued by, the mob angle is legit, the new king seems like a stand-up but complex young guy (I hope we get to see more of him). And of course, there's Savoy and Renee. I know that Alex Lidell is writing more books in this world, and I am DYING to read more. THE CADET OF TILDOR is enjoyable and well-written. More please!