My love for Kel and Aly, let me tell you about it
I am really excited for when Mark gets to Protector of the Small and Daughter of the Lioness. Like, ridiculously excited. Those are my two favorite Pierce series, and they both deal with such awesome topics in really great ways.
Under a cut because the whole thing is a lot of tl;dr
The thing I really love about Kel and her story is that it could just as easily be taking place in the real world. Kel is just a normal girl, she doesn’t have some great destiny to fulfill (unless you count the mission given to her by the Chamber, and I see that more as a “this job needs to be done, and you are the best person available” sort of thing), and she has to fight tooth and nail to earn everything. Kel facing sexism and having people deliberately raise the requirements for her because she’s female? Every woman I know has to deal with that. The Mindelan family supposedly being of a relatively high social class, but not actually having much money? That was my family all through middle and high school (being the poor kid at the rich high school sucked). Hell, the whole series keeps bringing classism up again and again, and I love it. I love that Kel is the fantasy equivalent of a social justice activist (she straight up tells the king to his face that his laws are wrong. How awesome is that?).
Then there’s the characters, especially Kel herself. She’s so steadfast and true to her ideals and determined and I just love her, okay? I love characters that have to work for everything, and are good, idealistic people working in a flawed system. And how great is it to have a fantasy heroine who doesn’t end her series with a significant other?
And Kel’s supporting cast is so so wonderful. Neal and Owen are perfect, Raoul is the best knight mentor of all time, and Wyldon gets some of the best character development of any of Pierce’s secondary characters. Also, Lalasa is one of those lovely Pierce characters that are there to be all ~feminine isn’t anti-feminist~.
Okay, so anyone who knows me and has read the Aly books should know why I love them so much. A fantasy book series about how much colonialism sucks, where the protagonist is actually a deconstruction of the white savior trope and it’s also an espionage thriller? Just let me embrace you to my bossom.
I really side-eyed the books for a while when I thought it might play the white savior trope straight, but then it made it clear that while Aly’s skills (which the narrative acknowledges she only has due to her privileged background) are useful, the revolution would have survived without her. It might have taken longer, and been bloodier, but they still would have probably won in the end because the Raka were totally prepared. (One of my favorite scenes in the series is when Aly finally sees the whole scope of what the conspirators have arranged, and just sits back like “damn, what do you even need me for?”)
How much do I love that, with the exception of like two characters, almost every one of the good guys in this series is either a lady or a poc? I love it so much. Also, I love that Aly is our protagonist, but she does some questionable shit in the service of the revolution. I love that it makes her uncomfortable and upsets her, but she does it anyways. I love that she can be mean and vindictive. I love that she doesn’t judge the Raka for how they fight their revolution, and generally avoids derailing bullshit (I really love the part where she’s impressed by the Raka revolutionary working in the palace and she’s all “it must take a lot of hate to spend your life serving your enemy just in the hope of being able to kill them one day”).
Dear lord do I love the rest of the cast in this series. Dove and Sarai are so wonderful in so many ways (and if you talk trash about Sarai I will side-eye you so hard), and the way they subvert the traditional sibling roles in literature is so great. All of the conspirators are amazing, and I especially love that Ochobu fucking hates white people and the fact that she has to work with them at all, and Ulasim is like “I know mom, but we can’t kill all of them, it’s impractical”. Ugh, and Taybur, you charming, clever, heartbreaking asshole.
Okay, I’m gonna stop before I go into how Kel and Aly are the equivalent of legacy characters, because that is a whole other essay.