Title: The Cadet of Tildor
Author: Alex Lidell
Genre: Fantasy YA
Release date: January 10. 2013
Summary: 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.
I think that I’ve mentioned before that I am always, ALWAYS on the lookout for new fantasy. It’s one of my favorite genres, no question. I love the sword-fighting, castle-dwelling, rushes-on-the-floor, warring countries, drama of it. THE CADET OF TILDOR by Alex Lidell is a debut that I enjoyed immensely, even if it did have just a few debut hang-ups. Alex Lidell‘s book was fast-paced and action-packed, had great characters whom I was invested in, and world-building that intrigued me. I read this 400-page book in no time.
So basically THE CADET OF TILDOR is about Renee de Winter, who is the daughter of a widowed nobelman of Tildor. Instead of getting married and keeping the family’s lands, she wants nothing more than to go the Academy and train to be a soldier and fight for her realm and her king. Her father has basically said that, if she fails out–which is kind of likely because, as a girl, she’s smaller and not a strong as the other students and has a steeper hill to climb–she won’t be welcome at her home anymore. When she gets to the Academy and meets up with her friend, Alec, they realize that they are going to be taught by one of the greatest Academy graduates EVER: the gruff, prickly, HOT leader of an elite military unit, Korish Savoy. Friends, Renee and Savoy do not start out on a great foot. He picks on her and humiliates her in front of her classmates because he doesn’t think she can cut it. Then, things kind of go bananas, and a TON of CRAZY stuff happens–maybe too much stuff–and there’s gladiators, mob families, magical drama, kidnapping, death, and political scheming. WHEW!
I have to say right away that all of this “de Winter can’t cut it at the Academy because she’s a girl” business could have been more bothersome, but Alex Lidell handles it really well, mostly by making Renee determined, strong, resilient, and brave. Hearing all of these naysayers makes Renee doubt herself, but then it makes her even more eager to GET SOME and kick everyone ass. It’s one of those fist-pumping “get it, girl!” things. She really proves her worth in THE CADET OF TILDOR, even after people, including Savoy, knock her down. It’s awesome.
It’s a good thing that Renee is all BAMFy because, friends, Tildor is basically run by two warring gangs. Well, no. It’s the mob. THE FREAKING MOB. In a fantasy. I DIE FOREVER. I love the mob. I especially love encountering it and all the drama and danger it brings in environments I don’t expect to find it. So pretty much, Tildor has these two families who are trying to muscle each other out and gain power in Tildor: one of them is old-school and likes to scheme and try to get the throne in its debt and controls the drug trade (they are literally called the Family), and one of them is under new leadership, and is ruthless and cruel (the Vipers) and runs an underground fighting ring. Also related to this, Tildor has mages. Once a mage presents themselves by manifesting their gifts, they have to register with the government, which lots of mages hate, so not all of them follow the law. With all these rogue mages running around, the Vipers take them all in and let them get their nasty magic on in their battle against the Family and the crown. Obviously, the newly crowned king of Tildor wants to give ALL of the mobsters the heave-ho, so they all hate each other. It’s into THIS web of backstabbing, illegal activity, treason, danger, murder, lies, and betrayal that Savoy and Renee find themselves. It’s kind of the forever best.
Speaking of Savoy and Renee, they are basically the King and Queen of the slow burn. There isn’t your typical swoonytimes in THE CADET OF TILDOR, but you get to see these two crazy kids develop this great connection and friendship. It’s just as satisfying as if there was more romantic action. They challenge each other, fight each other, and make each other angry all while putting themselves in danger for each other, looking out for one another, and learning to trust one another. The foundation they are building is amazing. It’s THE BOMB. Honestly. The best part of the book, hands down. I can’t wait to see their relationship grow.
If there was one thing about THE CADET OF TILDOR that I didn’t think did the story any favors, it’s definitely this: There seems to be this CRAZY overload of THINGS HAPPENING. Like, one increasingly melodramatic thing after another. It got to be too much at times, and it got to be a little jarring, too. Which is a real shame, friends, because Alex Lidell has a really great story here, and I didn’t feel like she needed all those things going on. They certainly contributed to the drama and the pace, but there’s a fine line, you know? And sometimes THE CADET OF TILDOR crossed it.
The bottom line, though, is that THE CADET OF TILDOR is a pretty impressive debut. I really enjoyed the world-building and the drama. There’s definitely things brewing with the mages that I’m really intrigued by, the mob angle is legit, the new king seems like a stand-up but complex young guy (I hope we get to see more of him). And of course, there’s Savoy and Renee. I know that Alex Lidell is writing more books in this world, and I am DYING to read more. THE CADET OF TILDOR is enjoyable and well-written. More please!