Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Literary PSA: So You Want to Read Tamora Pierce

Long ago I decided to start a NEW THING: Literary Public Service Announcements. Essentially, I'm going to pimp a book that I read before I started blogging, but that I want to foist upon the world due to its high levels of sheer awesomeness for the good of the public and all that jazz. Instead of me just telling people over and over that they should read something "JUST BECAUSE!!!1!", I've decided to actually explain in a more eloquent fashion just why my favorite books are my favorites.

Last time on Literary Public Service Announcements: The Mediator series by Meg Cabot

I was inspired to toss this post together because Angie started reading The Song of the Lioness quartet after many years of me bellowing about Tamora Pierce and TO MY UTTER GLEE she got completely into it and yelled at me about her feelings and asked which Tamora Pierce series she should read next.

I have very definitely opinions about the order in which Tamora Pierce series should be read.
I do want to preface this with the disclaimer that I am not the great authority in all things, no matter how much I wish that were true. This is not like Buzzfeed; there will be no tossing around of the word "definitive", because this is a categorically not definitive post. It's just a Gillian's opinion post, which you can take with either a grain or a mountain of salt.

Tamora Pierce is one of the most seminal authors for me. I discovered Alanna when I was about ten or eleven, and reading about kickass fantasy warrior ladies changed my life. I managed to get my tiny hands on all the rest of Tamora Pierce's Tortall series, and they all imprinted on me in permanent and wonderful ways. Tamora Pierce is one of the cornerstones of modern fantasy. She's daring, she's important, she's all about Ladies Doing Things, and glorious ships, and LADIES, and battles and magic and dragons and sword fights and ALL AROUND AWESOME THINGS.

Without further ado, here is the order in which I recommend reading Tamora Pierce:

The Song of the Lioness Quartet

The background: I read Alanna: The First Adventure first. This was pure kismet, but it was also the best thing ever, because Alanna comes first chronologically. Pretty sure my mom bought me all four mass markets when I was a wee thing. I would love to ask her why she felt compelled to by this series for me specifically, but I SURE AM GLAD SHE DID.

It was also the first series Tamora Pierce ever published, so it's definitely the least mature, but it'll always have a special place in my heart. The first book came out in 1984 which in YA terms is like the prehistoric age, and every warrior girl fantasy you've ever read (Graceling, Throne of Glass, etc) owes a debt of gratitude to the magnificent Alanna. All four books were originally written as one megabook, until Tammy was advised to chop it up and publish it as four books for kids, since YA did not exist yet. AND LO, A LEGEND WAS BORN.

These will always be the original and true covers to me. MY NINETIES MASS MARKETS.

The deets: The Song of the Lioness quartet chronicles the life and adventures of Alanna, a noble girl who wants to be a knight. Only boys are allowed to live in the palace and train to be knights, so Alanna--beginning a most glorious fantasy tradition of gender-bending--disguises herself as a boy named Alan and goes to the capital. The series follows her adventures as a page, and then a squire, and then, eventually, a knight. It's about her friendship with Prince Jonathan, dark-haired hot as fuck motherfucking prince, and George Cooper, king of thieves, my future husband. Alanna fights against evil dukes, ancient gods, and her own frightening magical powers. Also has a shit ton of casual sex because she is a BAD ASS BITCH YES SHE IS. Ahem.

The books: Alanna: The First Adventure; In the Hand of the Goddess; The Woman Who Rides Like a Man; Lioness Rampant.

The opinions: Alanna is queen of all the TP heroines for me. I would follow her to the ends of the earth. I do think this series suffers from being her first in small ways--the world building takes a while to really develop into something great, and it's written more MG to start--but there is no denying that Alanna, and Jon, and George, and Gary and Raoul and Alex and FAITHFUL and Thayet and Myles, are just SO IMPORTANT AND YOU SHOULD READ IT AND MEET THEM FIRST. This is the gateway series to Tortall, and the only way to start, in my opinion, is to start with Alanna.

This is also the series that really got me to start writing with any sort of focus or drive in about seventh grade, when I started a heinous but epic Alanna rip off that was essentially fan fiction without me knowing it.

 The Immortals Quartet

The background: I picked up Wild Magic nearly right after I finished Lioness Rampant because I was JUST THAT OBSESSED with this world. It takes place about ten or fifteen years after Alanna's series wraps up and feaures a lot of the same characters, but through the perspective of a new heroine. Which is why you should read Alanna first so you can a) not be spoiled and b) feel attached to the past characters and have the background on the world and the history.

Related: Literary PSA: The Immortals by Tamora Pierce

My original covers again <3333 (I just realized the graphic is in the wrong order PRETEND IT'S NOT)
The deets: The Immortals quartet chronicles the teenage years of Daine, an orphaned girl from a snowy village who has a magical affinity with animals. She has the ability to talk to them and, eventually, to morph into them. Tortall is in grave danger; strange immortal creatures are popping up all over the land, and it just might take a girl with wild magic to save the day. Good thing she has friends like Alanna, lady knight, and NUMAIR, a mage of great power and my other future husband I <3 you Numair CALL ME

The books: Wild Magic; Wolf Speaker; Emperor Mage; The Realms of the Gods.

The opinions: O. T. P. OTP. OTP. This is the series that taught me to ship. Yes, Alanna taught me that too, but it was such a rollercoaster of ship emotions that it mostly taught me that READING LIFE IS PAIN, HIGHNESS. But Daine. This series. My heart. The feels. There's a scene in TRotG that I've reread so many times that my copy automatically falls open to that page. There are also DRAGONS and wolves and mages and evil emperors from desert lands and immortal creatures with metal wings and battles and awesome worldbuiling but also SHIPSHIPSHIP.

Well these are hilariously terrible. The badger one looks like an awkward family photo

This is also the first series I ever wrote fan fiction for. Eighth grade, Numair and Daine, OTP. Also this series has DINOSAURS. I shit you not, dinosaurs.


The Protector of the Small Quartet

The background: There was a small gap in time between me reading Daine and me reading Kel, aka the Protector of the Small quartet. Kel really showcases TP's developing skills and her excellence at crafting different female characters who are all awesome and determine their own storylines and worth. For personal reasons, it's probably my least favorite of the Tortall series, but it's still cramazing.

The books: First Test; Page; Squire; Lady Knight

The deets: Like Alanna before her, Kel is determined to become a lady knight. Unlike Arianna, Kel does it as herself: namely, as a girl. She's the first girl since Alanna to train as a page, and she meets with ferocious opposition and sexism. Kel's a boss ass bitch, though, and plows through it like a champ. WOO FOR LADIES DOING THINGS. It also features a lot of the characters from Alanna and Daine, taking place well after both series, which is why I recommend this order.

My original covers

The opinions: Like I said, Kel's quartet is my least favorite and least reread purely for personal ship reasons, since I'm garbage and 95% of why I read is for ships #noshame. But I really adore Kel as a heroine. She's very different from feisty, stubborn, cranky Alanna, different from occasionally naive, magical Daine. Kel is quiet and strong, both confident and unsure of herself, and I love her journey. Even if it could do with more kissing I mean what

Well these are dreadful

The Daughter of the Lioness Duology

The background: I was fifteen or sixteen when I picked up the Daughter of the Lioness duology. Actually, I think my mom gave it to me as a present, because I didn't know it existed because this was back in the stone age before Goodreads and I KNEW NOTHING. (Though I was writing a crap ton of Alanna and Daine fan fiction, yes I was.)

The deets: The Daughter of the Lioness is, non-surprisingly, about the daughter of Alanna, the lioness, a stubborn and almost stupidly brave girl named Aly. Obviously, this series is CHOCKFULL of spoilers for Alanna and Daine and somewhat for Kel. It takes place 24 years after Lioness Rampant. But anyway, Aly clashes quite a bit with her mother, wanting a very different life for herself than the one Alanna wants for her. In anger, Aly makes a rash choice, and that leads to her being captured by pirates and becoming a slave in the Copper Isles. Her fate intertwines with that of the throne of the Copper Isles and a plot being hatched by Kyprioth, the Trickster God. There is also a ship of dreams.

The books: Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen

The opinions: NAWAT NAWAT NAWAT I meeeean okay, these books are not all ships. Just because I read this as a hormonal teen girl and spent most of my time flailing over Aly and Nawat does not mean that this isn't the best of Tamora Pierce's series in terms of world-building, plot, and diversity. It takes place in an archipelago inspired by South East Asian, specifically Indonesian, culture. It has pirates and men that turn into ravens and lying gods and spies and revolutions and queens and ships and PURE, PURE AWESOME.

I stand by the belief that Aly's duology represent Tamora Pierce at her finest, even though Alanna and Daine will always hold my heart for being the first series to ever make me completely batshit crazy about about characters and ships, obsessively reread to the point where the books fell apart.

Case in point:

the cover fell off and is repaired with TAPE

The only reread book I have in worse condition is my original OotP hardback which SPLIT IN HALF because cracking open and flipping through an 870 page BRICK over and over is logistically a poor plan

The Beka Cooper Trilogy

The background: And then we get to Beka, which I read last (as it was published last) but which probably can be read at any point past Alanna. This series is also GREAT and represents mature Tammy nearly as well as Aly does. It's technically a prequel series, taking place in Corus, the capital of Tortall, 200 years before Alanna, but it positively must be read after Alanna for SPOILER reasons. Okay, cat reasons. For cat-related reasons. Also George Cooper reasons.

The books: Terrior, Bloodhound, Mastiff

The deets: Beka is a trainee, a "dog", in the pseudo police force, the Provost's Guard, of the capital. It's the first of the series told in first person: from Beka's point of view, specifically her diary. Beka is ferocious and brave and gritty, coming from the lower neighborhoods of Corus, the capital city.

This is also a series that confused and broke and messed with my shipper heart but that I desperately need to reread, since I've only read it once. Which for me and TP is basically unheard of, and makes no sense because I LOVE this series. The world building and the characters are AMAZING, unsurprisingly, and I need to go back. Definitely don't skip Beka just because she doesn't line up in the chronology of the other Tortall heroines.

The bonus: Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales

I recommend reading this after Aly. It features a few characters from Daine specifically in one story and one of the stories is about Aly, and they'll both spoil those series. The other stories are just set in the universe and expand the world building (and, obvs, are just pretty great reads).

Then there's Pierce's books set in Emelan, aka the Circle books, which have no connection or overlap with her Tortall universe. Confession: I haven't read them, but I'll get to them one day. I'm a bad fangirl, but I didn't even know Emelan existed until I became a blogger two and a half years ago. WHAT DID WE DO BEFORE GOODREADS?? I MEAN REALLY.

Okay. That was a lot of typing and words and covers and words. TL;DR my recommended Tamora Pierce series order:

The Song of the Lioness (Alanna)
The Immortals (Daine)
The Protector of the Small (Kel)
The Daughter of the Lioness (Aly)
Beka Cooper

PHEW THAT WAS EXHAUSTING sorry if that was a lot of words and a lot of foisting my opinions on you but GO OUT AND READ TAMORA PIERCE YAYYYY


  1. I love Tamora Pierce!! Thank you for this!

  2. TAMORA PIERCE <3 I now want to write a post about why everyone should also read the Emelan series (which I love). But I love this post because YESSSSS to Tortall and all the stories of the fab, fierce ladies from there ;)

  3. My only experience with Pierce is half of the first book in the Protector of the Small series! I wish I had kept them, because I feel like I would appreciate them a lot more now. Maybe I'll grab the first book in the Song of the Lioness series - thanks for this helpful layout :D

  4. ...and the internet just deleted my comment instead of posting it. Drat it all!!!

    Anyway take two: I heart Tamora Pierce so SO much. Her books are on the short list of those that had to move with me from four different cities over the years. That and I've had to replace copies due to running out of tape and now actually have all of them in both ebook and physical forms LOL.

    I definitely recommend the Circle series - they really are a lot of fun. Definitely more MG than YA until the standalone Will of the Empress, but still rich in world building, diversity in both race and sexuality, and culture. Just so much love for everything she writes.

    Oh! BTW, apparently there were reasons that the shipping faded in Beka - I don't know for sure so don't quote me, but another reliable author friend of mine told me Ms. Pierce was actually robbed at some point during writing the trilogy, and it put her off the idea of "lovable rogues" which.. yeah, it would put me off too in that situation.

  5. I've not read any Pierce, but I'd love to! Did she write a book called Terrier?

    The Alanna series sounds A++. I'll be on the look out for it!

  6. This is the best! I love Pierce and this post brought back so many memories of reading those books for the first time. I love this post! I'm fangirling so hard right now!!!

  7. so I guess i need to read these?! haha!

  8. I've never read Tamora Pierce, but I've been told by all and sundry that I should do so. So: This post is very, very helpful. I have bookmarked your tweet to come back to after I read Alanna (and want to know what comes next).

    I had an experience with an author(s) like you had with Pierce (girls DOING THINGS!), but it was with Robin McKinley and Patricia C. Wrede. OMG I read my mass market copies of their books to DEATH and now own them in various shapes and formats. I think the fantasy we read when we are teens is so important, and it's great that it stays with us ever after, eh?

    All that to say: WONDERFUL POST THANK YOU I SHALL BE BACK. *grin*

  9. I LOVE THIS POST. Alanna was basically my gateway to fantasy and is probably the reason why fantasy is my favorite genre. That series will always have a special place in my heart. And The Immortals...ugh I just love those books so much. That was the series that taught me to ship as well, before I ever knew what shipping was. DAINE AND NUMAIR 4E.

  10. The third set is so sexy, I can't even stand it. I need to finish the Alanna series. I read the first two books, but I was sidetracked and never got to the next two. I have the entire series in one novel, so that might help me pick it back up.

    I freaking love these PSAs!!

  11. had me at "casual sex." But I kept reading, and you got me again at "dinosaurs." WHAT?!?!!?!? Then...."pirates"!!?!?!?!? I think I need these books in my life. For serious.

  12. Totally bookmarking this post for when I start reading Tamora Pierce which I think should be really really soon!!

  13. WHAAAAT OMG Alanna had a daughter?!?! I don't recall this. Seriously after your post I'm jumping on a reread SOON-ish. I have 2 out of the 4 original covers for Kel's quartet. Now I need to complete the set.

    What are your thoughts about The Circle of Magic/The Circle Opens? I remember liking the first quartet and couldn't get into the second.

  14. OH MY GOD YOU'VE READ THE BEKKA COOPER SERIES. I am still SO. UPSET. I mean TP is Queen of All and I love her and she can do no wrong...but I can only continue to believe this if I pretend the third book doesn't exist. BECAUSE IT DOESN'T EXIST. I REFUSE TO BELIEVE OTHERWISE. Seriously though, I had a total angsty melt down about certain THINGS in this book. About a certain CHARACTER whose name may or may not begin with the letter T. I've finally come to the conclusion that I will still buy this series and my Tortall collection will remain complete. (Because the third book DOESN'T EXIST. And therefore does not need to be bought and is not leaving me with an incomplete collection. Because it doesn't exist. Did I mention that already?)

  15. I already told you how much I loved this post, but I thought a comment would make it official! I included this is my July recap because seriously I NEEDED THIS SO MUCH. I was very late to fantasy -- including Harry Potter (read them all in 2011) -- so I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do! I bought Alanna: The First Adventure when it was a Kindle deal recently, and I've been meaning to get around to it. Well, you just gave me that much more motivation to dive in! This sounds excellent, and I can't wait to continue reading from there.

  16. So it wasn't until recently that I realized I had read the Song of the Lioness Quartet when I was a kid growing up. I really wish we'd had goodreads back then or I had been better at writing down what I was reading, since my summers consisted of going to the library every week & getting a stack of books! I had no idea Tamora Pierce had continued on in the world either! I'm glad you wrote a recommended reading list! Adding Tamora Pierce's catalog to my TBR! :)


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