The Cadet of Tildor
by Alex Lidell
Release Date: January 10th, 2013
Release Date: January 10th, 2013
The Cadet of Tildor is pitched as Tamora Pierce meets George R. R. Martin. Now, I haven't read a Tamora Pierce novel since I was about ten, so I can't say if that comparison rings true. But Cadet shares political intrigue similar to that of Martin's beloved A Song of Ice and Fire series. What it lacks that the other has is the ability to push the boundaries -- to truly take us into that "wow" territory, the unthinkable or the "she went there!" moments.
Now, you can argue that Martin's is an adult novel so he has the ability to add sex, drugs and rock & roll (just kidding on that last one), but high fantasies allow for the oppertunities to take greater risks. If I recall correctly, Pierce does so [Dramatic Interlude: Bethany Wiggin's Stung pushes boundaries too, my review to come closer to release date on that one] and she fits under the YA label quite nicely.
Cadet follows mulitple points of view, each one sits under a core set of values that really harks back to the world Lidell created -- one where mages (or magical folk) can control the life force from people. Should mages be registered by society, thus eliminating their free will but also making it safe for non-mages? This question torments our two leads, Renee -- a Cadet who wants nothing more than to serve the Crown and uphold the law. And Alec -- also a Cadet and Renee's best friend who has a secret of his own.
I found the politics, including the mages, intriguing, but most of the plot was straightforward. The terms like Family, really through me off at the beginning. A little more explanation in the first eighty pages would have done a service to the book. What really tripped me up was that "Family" was a name associated with the likes of a mafia. But that word in itself has connotations that really stray from anything dark, so I had trouble understanding what Lidell meant until it became more clear.
What really drove the book was the action and the mystery surrounding Korish Savoy, the Commander of the Seventh (basically like Navy Seals or Recon Marines). He had a student-mentor relationship with Renee for most of the novel, and I was reading in anticipation of whether or not it turned into a romance.
What Lidell does best here is the military aspect of the novel. I've never quite read a high fantasy that executes the bond of the military to this degree. It reminded me of Kristen Cashore's Fire, only everything I wanted that book to be was in this one. So yes, I prefer Cadet a million times to Fire (even if both get the same robot rating from me). The fights were real, pulsing and action-packed. Savoy felt like the true Commander, even at twenty-three. It's with this original and brilliantly executed aspect that I couldn't stop thinking about the novel. Or the last little phrase of dialogue. Hopefully there's a second one in store. I'll be reading it. There's no doubt about that.
I rag on Cadet because I really love it. I enjoyed it so much that I can't stop thinking or talking about it! So even though I picked on Cadet a little, I just want to end by saying that it was a really engrossing high fantasy. One that wasn't perfect -- rarely any book is -- but it was a world worth reading and most definitely one I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys a really strong fantasy. It's not one to pass by.
A military book with an unyielding 23-year-old commander and a teenage cadet willing to do anything to be a Servant of the Crown. Please let there be a sequel!