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YMMV / Tortall Universe

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Sarai Balitang invites a lot of it. Would she have still eloped if she'd known about the raka rebellion? Or had she actually figured it out on her own? It gets even murkier when you consider that Pierce originally planned to have her be killed after speaking her mind one too many times, and claims to not have changed her characterization at all during revisions.
    • A minor example with Kel, caused by some vague wording. In Squire, is she deliberately losing a portion of her jousting matches so nobody will suspect cheating, or is she using that as a silver lining to take away the sting of a genuine loss? On the one hand it can easily be read as the former, but the latter is more realistic since she's often going up against experienced knights.
  • Anti-Climax Boss:
    • The fight with Claw, the would-be leader of the Court of the Rogue, and the revelation of his identity, is played this way. It might have been more dramatic if Alanna had been involved, but she was rather busy with the Big Bad at the time.
    • Topabaw, who is The Dreaded spymaster of the Rittevon royals in Trickster's Queen. Everyone is very concerned about getting around his spy network when they return to Rajmuat and wonder how they are possibly going to deal with him, given his reputation. He turns out to be sloppy and stupid and hopelessly outclassed by Aly.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • The creepy romance between Bronau and Sarai in Trickster's Choice definitely feels like an acknowledgement of the issues people had with the series' previous major romances, with Pierce saying she gets why people had problems with them.
      • And she actually wasn't even satisfied with this, and put another such relationship into the book "Cold Fire" in her other series Circle of Magic.
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    • In Bloodhound, Dale is getting very flirty and handsy with Beka. When she protests, he drops it immediately and sincerely tells her that he'll stop if she's not enjoying it, but she says that she likes it, making it clear that their Slap-Slap-Kiss is a consensual game they're playing.
    • Trickster's Choice got a lot of criticism for Aly being a Mighty Whitey, so Queen goes a bit out of its way to make clear that she's only a very small piece of a rebellion that literal generations of work from the raka have gone into.
    • The tendency for May–December Romance gets another hit in Terrier, when Beka chastises Rosto for flirting with her because he's so much older.
    • The notoriously thin character Princess Josiane from Song of the Lioness is given a motivation for her actions three series later, when Daughter of the Lioness shows us the kind of society she came from.
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    • Pierce tried to put in gay characters right from the start of the series, but managed to never actually make it explicit in the text. She very much regretted this by the time of Provost's Dog and made sure to specify that it includes an unquestionably canon gay couple.
  • Anvilicious: The feminist subtext usually does not derail the narrative. Usually. But when it does... Then again, Some Anvils, since some of the books are written in a time when feminism was less accepted.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Keladry is considered by many to be rather lackluster as a protagonist because she lacks magic and the peppery personality of the others, but her fans tend to call her their favorite in the series because she's such an aggressive Badass Normal and find her stoicism in the face of endless frustration quite admirable.
    • Aly is another controversial one, thanks to her story's premise, plus her having by far the easiest time beating her enemies of any heroine of the franchise, to the point where there's hardly any sense of suspense throughout the two books.
    • Farmer Cape of Mastiff is either adorable and perfect for Beka or a walking Ass Pull for both his magic abilities and sudden romance with Beka.
  • Broken Base:
    • Tunstall's betrayal in Mastiff. The fans of it like the well hidden bits of foreshadowing that there's a traitor in the group, but others say it wrecks his character by having a very weak and unbelievable motivation that involves a huge departure from his earlier characterization as a Nice Guy.
    • From the same book, Beka having been in an abusive relationship between books. Fans have pointed out how it makes little sense that she would put up with it to nearly the extent that she apparently did, and also that it adds nothing to the story given that the guy's already dead by the time it starts. It ends up coming off as just a way to make her sudden romance with Farmer go down easier.
  • Captain Obvious Aesop: Mostly averted, with the series focusing on the insidious nature of sexism in both obvious and subtle forms. Which is why it's so jarring when Mastiff goes for nothing more than "Slavery is bad," as if anyone who actually needed to be told that would be reading these books in the first place.
  • Complete Monster: Duke Roger of Conté; Vinson of Genlith & Blayce the Gallan; Imajane Rittevon; Ammon "Crookshank" Lofts & Mistress Deirdry Noll. See those pages for details.
  • Continuity Lock-Out: Averted, when outside of each series itself. Obviously you can't read any quartet from book 3, but each series can stand alone easily.
  • Designated Hero: Nawat and Aly have some human/crow child rearing conflict in the short story bearing his name. The Blue and Orange Morality of crows is a big part of the plot, of course, but even considering that it can be hard to sympathise with his struggles. Nawat is high-handed about everything down to not using diapers (which only works for him because he can crow-sense when the babies need to go) and sneaks around behind Aly's back, then pitches a fit when she expresses valid objections—said objections include that the kid pissed on an ambassador's secretary and that he's using a two-story window. He's painted as being in the right and it's Aly who apologizes for not suggesting a compromise in spite of not knowing he was continuing to do this. In his later struggle over whether to kill Ochobai for her dwarfism he's still acting without considering Aly's wishes at all in spite of learning to compromise earlier. Instead he laments how it's difficult to lie to her; not because he shouldn't lie to his wife, but because her Sight makes it physically difficult.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Despite being an uncompromisingly misogynistic asshole who even threatens that he'll try to kill Keladry once they're both knights, Joren has a lot of fans. Even fans who ship him and Kel. (For bonus points, his physical description is actually similar to Draco's: delicate good looks and white-blond hair.) It's probably helped by Lioness having featured a very '80s case of Stalking Is Love.
  • Ending Fatigue: The climax of Bloodhound goes on rather longer than it needs to, with Beka repeatedly entering and leaving the sewers with no appreciable forward progress. It's even highlighted by her journal entries pausing several times as she's too tired to write any more.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Duke Roger. Delia of Eldorne tries to be this but usually fails thanks to her bitchiness and petulance.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Mastiff. The whole Corus crew disappearing? Tunstall going traitor? Beka not ending up with Rosto? It never happened!
  • Fan Nickname: To be honest, the only place you're likely to see Aly's books actually referred to as Daughter of the Lioness is on TV Tropes. Everyone just calls them the "Trickster books" or "Trickster duet."
  • Fan-Preferred Couple:
    • The official couple of the Protector of the Small books is there is no official couple and Kel is happy with not having anyone right now. Many fans assume, however, that she will end up with Dom sometime in the near future, whether as casual lovers or something more serious.
    • Played straight with Beka and Rosto, as she ends up marrying Farmer, who didn't appear in the first two books.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Neal laying a magic on Alvik the innkeeper in Lady Knight, admittedly with the best of intentions (keeping him from abusing his servants) but taking full advantage of Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! because it's highly illegal. In Bloodhound, commoner Beka is magicked by Sir Lionel of Trebond, and she's apoplectic with rage over the violation of being magicked almost as much as the fact that he's doing it to have her "disappeared".
    • Goodwin's warning to Tunstall not to get involved with nobility. Mastiff sees him betraying the realm so he can feel worth of Lady Sabine, although Lady Sabine herself said there was no need for it.
    • In Squire, Jon mentions how the kingdom's various groups would rebel against him if he tried to make too many changes too quickly and says he'll leave it to Kel's imagination as to what the mages would do. We find out what they did do once in Mastiff, and it is not pretty.
    • At the end of Mastiff George Cooper is warned that he will come to deeply regret the path he's chosen. A year later the series began to be covered on Mark Does Stuff, and the horrified reaction of him and most of the commenters toward George and Alanna's Stalking Is Love romance caused Pierce to indeed deeply regret that she'd written the story that way.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: Kel disobeys direct orders in Lady Knight, as do many of her friends, with the assumption that they'll be executed on Traitor's Hill. In Mastiff, we find out that the typical traitor is drawn, quartered, and hanged—just being decapitated is getting off lightly. That Keladry and her yearmates don't even hesitate to rescue her refugees anyway speaks volumes.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In the first chapter of Trickster's Choice, Daine is pregnant with a shapeshifting baby, which forces her to shift along with it so it doesn't rip her apart. Too bad someone else didn't have that ability.
  • "Holy Shit!" Quotient: The climax of "Nawat." The conflict revolves around Nawat (and his warriors) being shunned by crows for becoming too human, and very concerned that they have do prove they're real crows through practices like "culling" disabled offspring. When Nawat realizes his daughter has dwarfism, he actually gets to the point of holding her out the window before changing his mind.
  • It Was His Sled: Since the series go in chronological order until the latest two, when Pierce jumps back to earlier points of Tortall's history, it's common to learn the major plot points of earlier series by starting with a later one. (For example, the events of The Immortals come up as classroom lessons in Protector of the Small.)
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Kel, since she has a few crushes but no overall romance arc. Kel/Neal and Kel/Dom are both pretty popular.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Duke Roger. While plotting to regain the throne, he managed to portray himself as the Cool Uncle while making several creditable attempts to kill off Jon (and then "Alan") and used a fairly simple but highly effective magic construct to keep anyone from suspecting.
    • Aly spends much of the series lying to everyone about everything. Still a heroic character, though.
    • Ozorne. In Emperor Mage he tells Daine, cool as you please, that he plans to have her teacher executed while she's succumbing to the drug he slipped into her drink so he can abduct her and use her disappearance to set off a war. And after she'd been nice enough to take care of his birds! He even turns his forced Stormwing transformation into an advantage.
    • Joren is another. And in Lady Knight, Kel is disappointed when Blayce turns out not to be this, but rather a scrawny, inept, vulgar little man.
  • Memetic Mutation: Calling the Provost's Dog trilogy "the doggy books."
  • Moral Event Horizon: Imajane and Rubinyan have Dunevon and Elsren assassinated. Granted, Kyprioth gave them the idea, but they went through with it all on their own. And then they had the gall to pretend sympathy.
  • Narm:
    • It can be pretty hard to take Blayce seriously when you find out Pierce based his appearance on Woody Allen.
    • Aly's capture in the first chapter of Trickster's Choice is portrayed in such a detached, rushed fashion that it's more likely to jar a laugh out of you than shock.
    • Aly suggesting the Balitangs deal with a group of robbers by sneaking up behind them, which everyone reacts to like it's an utterly brilliant idea no one else could have possibly thought of.
    • The Provost Dogs take their name a bit too far, coming up with a dog-related term for almost everything they do.
    • The villains' motives in Mastiff sound like talking points from Fox News. Maybe it's a case of Values Dissonance, but it's hard to justify that many people willing to commit high treason over a sales tax.
    • In Terrier, Beka gets the titular nickname for her persistence in chasing people down. In Bloodhound, it's because she's paired with a scent dog and also shows good investigative skills. In Mastiff... she's cheered with the name at the end, for no apparent reason. It seriously comes off like everyone somehow knows the title of the book they're in. (Possibly because mastiffs aren't as well known for their purpose as big game hunting dogs nowadays.)
    • The occasional realistic touches to the journal gimmick in Provost's Dog really don't do enough to offset how absurdly detailed Beka's journal entries usually are, to the point that we might as well just be reading standard narration. And then there's the epilogue of Mastiff, where we're very awkwardly taken out of the journal into regular narration twice, for the only time in the series.
    • In the Mastiff epilogue, Pounce/Faithful removes George's memory of his purple eyes, as a hasty explanation of why George doesn't recognize him in Song of the Lioness.
  • Never Live It Down: The major romance of The Immortals. Pierce was asked/flaked about this so much she said future couples would have a smaller age gap. It's about Daine and Numair and how they hook up when they're 16 and 30 respectively. Plus Numair had been Daine's teacher not long before. Song of the Lioness was able to get away with a similar age gap marriage both because it didn't become official until both were adults, plus people weren't on the lookout for this sort of thing as much in the '80s. By the time Daine and Numair got together it was 1996, and times had changed enough for many people to have a problem with it. He also steals a lock of her hair after Emperor Mage to use as a focus, which even people who support the pairing tend to find creepy.
  • Relationship Writing Fumble: The idea with Aly and Nawat is supposed to be that Nawat's early flirtations are just regular crow ideas about sex, and he has to develop into a true human before he's worthy to be with Aly. Trouble is, every single bit of that development happens offpage, and when he finally returns we just have to take the narration's word for it, with no evidence in his behavior. Plus, Aly is very abruptly pregnant in the epilogue, when she spent the entire two books insisting to him that she didn't want kids. Luckily, the novella "Nawat" is told from his point of view and goes a long way to rectifying this.
  • Romantic Plot Tumor: In Bloodhound, Beka has a lot of UST and romantic bickering with Dale Rowan, which some people find far less interesting than the undercover investigation she's actually there for.
  • Shocking Swerve: Tunstall's Face–Heel Turn in Mastiff. It does work well within the book itself as there's lots of subtle foreshadowing to it, but some fans cried foul given what we'd seen in the first two books, feeling that it went completely against established characterization. Basically, Pierce set up a twist that had no good resolution possible; either Farmer could be the traitor, which would be absurdly obvious with him being a newly introduced character, a mage, and having easily the most opportunities to pull something without being noticed, or Tunstall or Sabine, which would make no sense with all we know about them from the last two books.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped:
    • Women are people who should be able to pursue their dreams and desires (including romantic and sexual ones) without being shamed or forced to hide who they are. Also, Real Women Don't Wear Dresses is a bullshit idea—mothers and seamstresses and Proper Ladies aren't automatically weak or shallow just for being traditionally feminine. These points come up in various ways in every series with varying levels of force.
    • Joren's single-minded obsession with hating Keladry can seem unrealistic to the point of Narm, but look in the comment section of articles about feminismnote  and you can find numerous people who sound a lot like him. Yes, he's absurd, but he has plenty of Real Life counterparts.
  • Squick: Aly and Nawat, for some people. Daine and Numair, for others. 14 year age gap and relative social status is often quoted as the reason.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Beka and Farmer are a Type 3, and possibly a Type 2 as well, depending on one's interpretation. About 400 pages of no romantic hints... and then suddenly she notices what broad shoulders he has. And then they're declaring their love for each other and promising marriage while they're in a jail cell, after being tortured, and at a time when Beka still doesn't know for sure who the group traitor is.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Onua in "The Immortals." In book one she's a major character and becomes one of Daine's best friends, and has an interesting backstory of being left to die by her abusive husband. Then she's completely absent from books two and three and only makes a fleeting appearance in book four, thanks to the story moving in a direction that made it awkward to include her.
    • All of Terrier's supporting cast. They're all set up as important, being Beka's fellow Dogs and a few Dating Catwoman situations with her criminal friends, along with Rosto becoming Rogue at the end. But in the next two books, Beka hardly spends any time at all in Corus, meaning that only she and Goodwin do much that's relevant to the plot (in Bloodhound) and Mastiff has hardly anyone from the original crew.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Although it wouldn't have been fun to see Beka in an abusive relationship, it could have been an important lesson for readers to recognize what it looked like and portray how easy it is to get ensnared in one and how hard it is to get out of it even when, from the outside, the toxicity is obvious. Instead, Holborn is a Posthumous Character whose main purpose is to make Beka angst from time to time.
    • After Tunstall is revealed as a traitor in Mastiff, Beka is told that one day she'll also face a decision where the morality of betraying her oath won't seem as clear cut. She dismisses it as a cheap excuse, and since this is the end of her story, we never find out if it happened.
  • Too Cool to Live: Rikash Moonsword from The Immortals.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Some readers of the Trickster books have noted the Mighty Whitey issues therein, with white Aly being the only one who can catalyze the brown-skinned raka into open rebellion. Although it's made clear (particularly in the second book) that plans have been going on for years and she's one part of a big picture, her being treated as a priceless spying genius in Book 1 when she makes some big blunders (like trying to blend in with "brownface" and being found out immediately) make this harder to swallow.
  • The Un-Twist:
    • In Protector of the Small, Alanna is the one sending Kel all her gear. Some fans were surprised to realize this was even supposed to be a twist. Who else would be doing it?
    • In Bloodhound, Beka learns early on that a man named Hanse is part of the cole operation. Then she meets a man from Port Caynn named Hanse, but somehow fails to make the connection, and the inevitable reveal that he's the Hanse is played like it's supposed to be a surprise. Although we're told that Hanse is a common name, One Steve Limit is in play, so it would have worked better if it was a name readers themselves recognized as common.
    • In Provost's Dog, Pounce is the same being as Faithful from Song of the Lioness. Any longtime reader of Tortall knows right away and there's no attempt made to conceal it; the identifying features of purple eyes, choosing who can understand his meows as speech, and the absence of the Cat constellation are all included. The only reason it might look like a twist is because of the third book's Distant Finale, which is the only place where it's directly stated that Pounce = Faithful and vice versa (as it's the only time there's a human who's familiar with both incarnations), if it's so obvious that you think it's a Red Herring, or if you start at the Beka books to read the series in chronological order.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Pierce has admitted that these days, George telling a teenaged Alanna that they're obvious soul mates and destined to be together comes off as far creepier than it did in the '80s. It also hurts that Alanna herself thinks of his actions as "stalking" and he drugs her at one point, even though the latter was just to help her sleep when she was anxious.
    • She got hit harder by it after hooking up 16-year-old Daine and 30-year-old Numair in the final book of The Immortals. By the time this book came out, the Squick reaction was fully in force, and resulted in such a backlash that Pierce promised never to include such a wide age gap again.
  • Wangst:
    • Aly whining about Nawat being sent away to serve a more useful purpose, despite Nawat himself clearly being unhappy where he was and wanting to be more useful. She realizes how ridiculous it is later.
    • Beka's moping over Holborn in Mastiff. Even before we find out he's seriously not worth it, it can be pretty annoying seeing a character we never actually met being treated as such an important part of Beka's life.

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