“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.” (Goodreads summary)
Alex Lidell’s Cadet of Tildor is an action-focused medieval whirlwind. The protagonist, Renee de Winter is a cadet of the armed forces and a lady of the court; she’s two parts Joan of Arc, one part Mulan, with just a dash of Merlin for good measure. Korish Savoy, on the other hand, is a sharp-tongued, brusque military leader constantly teetering on the edge of danger. The potential for romance between these two is there, but it never comes to fruition. Instead, the two opt for mutual respect and admiration, a professional friendship built on ties of loyalty.
This is a longer book that inspires contemplation, asking the hard questions: Can one break the law and still be right? Is a woman physically capable of keeping up with the men? Is law more important than life? Which is more important: loyalty to country or loyalty to people? Not to mention Renee’s more mundane struggles with right and wrong, and what to do when she discovers that her best friend is taking an illegal drug for medicinal purposes.
Lidell (who is, by the way, a woman) pays expert attention to backstory, deploying details at all the right moments, yet still managing to spread them out enough to torture us with curiosity. She also employs a bit of visual imagery, assigning certain groups their own colors–for example, Mages are blue, while supporters of the Viper gang wear green. The story is, at times, exposition heavy, but the witty dialogue evens things out in its time. The ending is strong; it left me satisfied, but still hoping for more.