Review: Alanna – Song of the Lioness Quartet, by Tamora Pierce

alanna-new-covers

Synopsis: From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.

And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.

But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.

Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.

Title: Alanna: the First Adventure / In the Hands of the Goddess / The Woman who Rides like a Man / Lioness Rampant
Author: Tamora Pierce
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pub Day: 1 January 2005
Pages: 274 / 264 / 284 / 384
ISBN: 9780689878558 / 9780689878565 / 9780689878589 / 9780689878572

Rating: 4stars

When I was young, I didn’t have many books. I was always either in the library taking out as much as I could, or borrowing books from friends. And this is how I was introduced to Tamora Pierce – my friend (and private library) lent me Alanna: the First Adventure. The rest, they say, is history. I sped through the entire quartet and went on to read every single book Pierce ever wrote. When I saw they’d become available on Kindle I bought them straight away to read again.

Written before the YA genre became a thing, I absolutely adored these books. A girl defying convention and chasing her dreams was, for me, awe inspiring. The books packed a punch – they’re fast-paced, humorous, and there was even a love interest.

Reading them again as an adult has, however, changed my opinion of them slightly. There are similarities between this quartet and the YA genre (I so wanted there not to be any!). There is a love triangle … or square… or even pentagon-shaped drama. I also realised how annoying Alanna could be. As a kid, I didn’t understand why her friends got so frustrated with her. As an adult, her stubbornness and insistence on throwing herself into any life-threatening situation was vexing.

But there were also things that I completely missed as a child. Pierce builds a story not about natural talent but about hard work. Too many female protagonists in YA books are just naturally awesome at everything. Sure, Alanna is good at certain things, but she has to work to become exceptional. Even when she is the best, she fights (literally, in her case) to hone her skills.

But mostly, I love the message of these books. As a child, I was told too often how I was meant to look, dress, act, talk etc. I hated it, I didn’t fit the bill and it was only after I started reading these books that I began to realise it was OK not to fit the mould.

Maybe the books aren’t as amazing as I remembered them. Maybe there are other books in the YA genre that do a better job. But The Song of the Lioness will forever be one of my favourite books of all time. I owe too much to this series to ever take it out of the top ten list!

Now all I need is the rest of her quartets to be made into ebooks!

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