When I first heard of The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell I was intrigued. I love political intrigue fantasy and this seemed to have all that. When my library got a copy I put it on hold straight away.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
There is a new king on
the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as
two warring crime families seek power, angling to exploit the young
Crown's inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for
elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male
peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active
duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator
games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a
world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and
struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.
The plot is even more complex than the synopsis gives it credit for. There are a lot of layers and depth to all of the conspiracies, who is cheating who, and what is at stake. This is a story that is full of shades of gray, making it clear that few important decisions are black and white. I appreciate the realism of this. I was able to understand why the characters were doing what they were even if I didn't always agree. So many different loyalties are at play here. Loyalty to law, loyalty to justice, loyalty to government, loyalty to family, and loyalty to friends-which is the most important? And when these loyalties are in conflict with each other, which takes precedence? That is never an easy decision to make, and when the lives of people you love and care about are at stake it is even harder. Weighed against the fate of a nation, what do individual lives matter? These are all interesting concepts explored through the plot, a plot also full of adventure, danger, and magic.
Renee finds herself unwittingly at the center of this conflict and forced to decide which of her loyalties take precedence. It was interesting watching her perception and understanding of the nuances of her world grow. She starts out idealistically wanting to fight for law and country, but soon realizes that they are not always right. The contrast between how she, Savoy (her commander), and Alec respond to these different questions and the choices they make are interesting. In a way every character in the book is forced to make a choice regarding this. It is the driving force of the novel and real food for thought. In addition I really enjoyed both Renee and Savoy as characters. They were simply fun to read about, and I would love to read more about them.
I like that there was no romance in this story. It absolutely does not need it. It had enough going on, and adding that too would have made it too much.
The world building is pretty standard fantasy. There are no new twists or anything particularly special about it. It is comforting in its familiarity for fans of this type of fantasy.
This is a YA novel but can be read by middle school readers looking for meatier fare. I will be recommending it to my students who like these sort of books.