Title: Student of Ostriches
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: Song of the Lioness Quartet #0.5, Tortall #4
In: Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection (Tamora Pierce)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Easy reading, Medieval fantasy, Strong women
Format: Short story
5th sentence, 74th page: “I believe they will take an old woman with your unusual skills,” the Falcon said to me.
The story is about a girl, Kylaia al Jmaa, who must fight for her sister’s honor in a duel. She learned to fight by watching the animals of the savanna, namely the ostrich as it kicked. Joesh Valany, a Shang warrior from the north, was so impressed that he took her on as his student.
I’ve loved the idea of Shang warriors since the first moment they were mentioned in Alanna: The First Adventure, so finally finding a story about one… indescribable! Kylaia is briefly mentioned in the Song of the Lionness series, and it was difficult to imagine how a woman would become a master of her own body, to the point that she is able to kill a man with her bare hands. It is easy to understand how the rest of the Tortall women choose to pursue their destinies – their parents were involved in wars, they fell into the situation, or they are stubborn nobles who decide to forge a slightly unique path. Yet, the idea of someone becoming so honed in their body that they are chosen for the Shang way of life… it finally makes sense!
Kylaia uses the animals and surrounding nature to teach her how to not only fight, but also to live her life. Running, climbing, breathing is all inspired by the natural world around her. The fact that this natural world happens to be based upon the idea of tribal Africa… it just makes the story ten times better. For someone like me who is already obsessed with these animals, it is incredibly easy, and plausible to see how they can be the inspiration for certain ways of fighting. And the strength and morality which Kylaia shows throughout this story, whilst not necessarily inspired by the animals’ presence, feels so in-kind to the rest of her actions. Animals don’t lie and cheat, people do.
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