Review of The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell
The Cadet of Tildor is a new Penguin teen fantasy book which came out January 10, 2013.
This is a teen coming-of-age tale featuring a female military academy cadet named Renee de Winter. She is a nobleman’s daughter who wants to prove her place is with the elite soldiers, she tries her hardest to survive to graduation even when downgraded on her fighting skills. Will she be one of the two cadets cut at the end of the term?
Renee is a small, quick female warrior who at the beginning of the story tries to use strength and power to overcome opponents, as she did when she and the male cadets were younger and closer to the same size. Now that they are all almost to adulthood, this tactic does not work. A new instructor makes her see she must adjust to the new size differences with a change in tactics, although at first even though she can execute the moves, she does not see it as a proper way to win because she misunderstands the purpose of the student battles: it is not about physical power but about using your head to win. It takes some time and some maturity gained through some actual combat to get the concept through Renee’s head. Her relationship with the new instructor is a complex one, and there are hints that, perhaps when there is no longer a student/teacher taboo, things might take a romantic turn.
The fight sequences are detailed enough to make them believable without appearing over-researched. The different fighters use styles which strongly reflect their personalities, and Renee is shown to be able to read them all well enough to guess her opponent’s tactics in most cases. This should be the case with fighters who have trained frequently for several years together, but many books don’t contain this idea, so kudos to Lidell for well-done training group relationships.
The universe Lidell has depicted has tight constraints on magic because mages are born not made and untrained ones are rather wild and destructive until they can contain their magic. The requirement that all mages register by the age of thirteen is, however, a point of contention in Tildor and finding unregistered mages who do not fit the destructive image portrayed by the government puts her in a moral quandary. Should she turn unregistered mages in if they are helping the community, pose no danger and are trying to train others to not be dangerous either?
Lidell used her horseback riding and first aid knowledge to good effect without too much detail to distract readers, but enough that the horses have their own personalities in some cases and that the very injured act appropriately.
For lovers of a good warrior’s tale this is a good read for adults or teens. Some of the physical and ethical dilemmas faced by the characters would certainly make this book an interesting one for group or family discussions. This is an excellent first novel and hopefully we will see more from Alex Lidell.
Content note for parents: This teen book has slavery, torture and fight scenes which might upset a sensitive reader.