The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 408 pages
Release date: January 10, 2013
Reviewed by: Stéphanie
Source: Personal Shelf
For fans of Tamora Pierce and George R. R. Martin comes a gritty, complex debut that’s not to be missed.
Having already survived six years at the Tildor’s top military academy, Sixteen-year-old Renee De Winter is determined to graduate, training day and night to compete with her male classmates. When the boys overpower her parries, she works harder. When a bully sabotages her gear, she fights without it. But when an underground crime group captures her mentor for its illegal gladiatorial games, she must choose between her career and her conscience. Determined to penetrate the group’s inner circles, Renee will leap from academia to the crime filled streets, pick up a sword, and weigh law against loyalty.
CADET OF TILDOR, then called SERVICE OF THE CROWN, was a finalist in Amazon’s Breakout Novel Awards 2010 competition.
Let me start off by saying that this book was amazing! Since I’m a big fan of the genre, I expected to like the book but I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Not only was the story and the setting amazing, I think what made the book so amazing is the great storytelling. The story came together so beautifully that you would never be able to guess that the book was the author’s debut.
The summary of the book compares it to George R. R. Martin’s books (A Song of Ice and Fire) but I wouldn’t say THE CADET OF TILDOR is as epic as his books. The genres are, however, similar since both are fantasy and both have war brewing in every corner of the story. While Martin’s books follow a multitude of characters, Lidell focuses mostly on Renee’s point of view. While the comparison might be somewhat false, I think anyone that enjoyed Martin’s work will enjoy THE CADET OF TILDOR.
In my opinion, Renee is a great main character because she feels genuine and authentic. She’s not the best at everything. She’s not the brightest of her class, or the strongest. On the contrary, she’s almost failing her year at Cadet School and risks being kicked out the program. She was raised as a lady but has her sights on becoming Servant of the Crown. As a warrior, it’s a highly wanted position and Renee has had the same goal ever since her mother and brother’s death. The fact that only boys usually graduate from the program doesn’t deter her. She is a strong-willed character but isn’t physically strong, which is very disadvantageous in her case.
I think what is most surprising about the book is when Renee’s friend’s brother is kidnapped and she immediately sets off to help find him, even if that means losing her spot as a cadet.That’s when we realize how important her friends are to her, even more important than her future as a Servant of the Crown. Her quest to find the missing child leads her to an enemy ruled city where gladiator games are at the center of the city’s economy and where her friend ends up being forced to fight. Since no one will help her, mostly for political reasons, she’s determined to help free everyone in the gladiator games even if she has to do it on her own.
I really enjoyed the chemistry between Renee and Savoy. As her teacher and her commander, Savoy tries to distance himself from Renee, but the more time they spend together training and fighting, the more the chemistry builds. At sixteen, she might be a little too young for a romantic relationship with the young man of twenty three but their friendship, if you want to call it that, is very entertaining. I think Renee looks up to him more than anything since he’s considered the highest ranked soldier and one of the best swordsman there is. His ability to see Renee burgeoning talents leads him to tutor her in combat skills in hope to make her a better fighter.
The fantasy setting is what attracted me to the book but I ended up enjoying it more than I thought possible. The fact that magic is present in the book but doesn’t overpower the story is very smart on Lidell’s part. I think it’s very original how anyone yielding magic is more or less a slave to the crown if, of course, they register themselves.
I really hope that the author writes a sequel. While the story feels finished, I definitively see the potential for a series. This debut author really has a lot of talent and whether she writes a sequel or not, I’m definitively looking forward to anything she writes.