Friday, May 24, 2013

PierceFest: The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

In case you need a refresher on what PierceFest, aka the five-month-long celebration of all things related to fantasy writer/goddess Tamora Pierce, is, read all about it here!

The month of May belongs to the series that introduced us to the world of Tortall and Tamora's genius: The Song of the Lioness, starring Alanna, the bravest and best Lady Knight and my childhood hero. If you're a Tamora Pierce newbie, then you should definitely start here, since it was Pierce's first published novel. I've put together some reviews of all the books (as non-spoilery as possible, though there will be mild spoilers) for both the newbies and those who need a refresher. Heck, even for those who read the books a couple weeks ago, like I did.

If you're not a Pierce newbie, and really do want a full plot refresher, the Wikipedia pages have very spoilerrific summaries.

Book Three
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

"Let her prove herself worthy as a man."

Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death -- either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. Although she triumphs, dire challenges lie ahead. As her mythic fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe's first female shaman -- despite the desert dwellers' grave fear of the foreign woman warrior. Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes -- for their sake and for the sake of all Tortall.

Alanna's journey continues...

When I was younger, I always remembered this book in two ways: 1) it's the one in the desert and the shamans and 2) Jon completely sucks and George is awesome. That is basically all most of what you need to know about Book Three in the Song of the Lioness series, which is still totally awesome, especially for those of us on Team George. Obviously, we are all Team Alanna, which is cool, because she continues to grow and strengthen.

When we last saw our favorite Lady Knight, she'd just slain the King's nephew, Duke Roger, most powerful sorceror in all the Eastern Lands, and also the most evil, considering he was plotting to kill pretty much everyone we like. Obviously, killing him was a good thing, but it was also pretty awkward (especially the part where Alanna's secret boobs escaped mid-fight and everybody basically had simultaneous heart attacks). So Alanna has said goodbye to the palace for now, deciding to wait out the scandal by having some adventures in the desert with her trusty manservant Coram.

I'm sorry, what the HECK is this cover?! Since when did this book become the Twilight Saga? Why are George and Jon wearing HOODIES and SCARVES?! Why is Alanna in a t-shirt?!?!

Most of the book focuses on her dealings with the Bazhir, desert tribesmen with a long and bloody history, deep resentment for Tortallans, and some pretty dodgy gender politics. Alanna, obviously, is no stranger to bucking traditional gender role, and through a series of events comes to be the first female shaman of one of the tribes. Which means its her job to train the little someday-shamans. Which means she'd better get over her fear of her own magic fast.

The great thing about this series is how Pierce is able to draw Alanna's growth out so slowly and naturally. She does things in this book she could never have done in the first. She learns to accept her own magic, and the evil magic that is around her. She realizes that she has to learn to tame it, control it, and embrace it, or it will destroy her. Old Alanna, if she didn't like or understand something, usually just ignored it. New Alanna is a mega awesome. Not perfect, obviously, because we don't want our fiery, cantankerous, stubborn girl to suddenly lose everything that makes her interesting, but she still grows.

WHATEVER, let's talk about the romance now. So Jon shows up in the desert chock-full of arrogance and brimming with over-confidence. It is NOT ATTRACTIVE, but it's also understandable in a good-looking and powerful prince. Even though... ugh. Needless to say, Alanna is totally justified in her anger, Jonathan deserves a swift kick or twelve up the derrierre, and George continues to be the light of my life. If I say more, we'll enter a spoiler-y zone, but next week I will be posting ALL my opinions vis-a-vis Alanna's love life. And I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts.

There's also some stuff going on with George's Rogue court, aka his ring of thieves and generally honorably low-lifes. There's a new Rogue in town, one with seriously bad motives. Oh, and Alanna's twin brother, Thom, who is not only not afraid of his own prodigious magic power, but if far too ambitious for his own good is up to... something.

Alanna's snarkiest hits: 

"You ride as a man, you fight as a man, and you think as a man--"
"I think as a human being," she retorted hotly. "Men don't think any differently from women--they just make more noise about being able to."

Alanna pointed to the bodies of the hillmen she and Coram had slain. "They did not think I was a worthy opponent either."

Notable quotables:

"You're brave, to admit you don't know everything and to do something about it."

"Yes, I love him. That's the whole problem."

"Come with me, darlin' girl."

"The Gift only leads to pain and death."

"If I kiss you again now, one thing will lead to another, and this isn't the proper place for that sort of carryin'-on."

"If I'm a demon, why do I have such a headache?"

“There's plenty more fish in the sea than Prince Jonathan. And this particular fish loves you with all his crooked heart."

Next week on #PierceFest, as Alanna month draws to a close: Lioness Rampant, Jon vs. George, and other heroines you'll like if you love Alanna!


  1. That cover is so hilariously bad. Frilly cap sleeves! George giving Jon the side-eye! Which, well, he does kind of deserve.

    When I was a kid I didn't really love WWRLAM; as an adult it's my second-favorite of the quartet. I like how much we see of the Bazhir, especially Kara, Kourrem, and the other women, and I enjoy the burgeoning spy plot and the bits with George.

  2. Ahhh the ROMANCE. The romance in this book (in ALL Tamora Pierce's books) is so fresh and original and non-cliche. I love that Alanna didn't end up with her first and only boyfriend (even though I was definitely a Jonathan fan). The way their relationship panned out is very realistic, and I understand both their actions and behaviours and reactions. So well written. I haven't had time yet but DAMN I have to re-read these books!! I actually started with Protector of the Small, then went backwards, which was fun.

    Go #PierceFest!

  3. This book has some of my favourite Alanna/George moments!

    I was never a big fan of seeing Alanna and Jon together, so I can't say I was hurt over their desert arguments - but it definitely hurt to see Jon be so princely and such an arse. Alanna was always a friend first and one he couldn't just boss around, it's sad that he started to think he'd have a say in how she ruled her life just because they were in love.

    But seeing Alanna FINALLY recognise George as something more to her than just a friend. That's what makes this book so special. He accepted her - and all her craziness and determination - long before anyone else. And they're just so darn cute together! <3



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