Alanna: The First Adventure is written by Tamora Pierce. It is the first book in the Song of the Lioness quartet. It is Pierce’s first novel. It was published in 1983 by Simon Pulse. Pierce’s website can be found here.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
“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: Disguised as a girl, 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.”
“You’re here, Alan of Trebond, to learn what it is to be a kinght and a noble of Tortall. It’s not easy. You must learn to defend the weak, to obey your overlord, to champion the cause of right. Someday you may even be able to tell what right is.” It was impossible to tell if he was joking, and Alanna decided not to ask.
“Until you are fourteen, you will be a page,” the Duke went on. “You will wait on table at the evening meal. You will run errands for any lord or lady who asks you. Half your day will be spent learning fighting arts. The other half you will spend with books, in the hope that we can teach you how to think.
“If your masters think you are ready, you will be made squire when you are fourteen. Perhaps a knight will choose you as his body squire. If so, you’ll tend your master’s belongings, run his errands, protect his interests. Your other lessons will continue—they’ll be harder, of course.
‘When you are eighteen, you’ll undergo the Ordeal of Knighthood. If you survive, you will be a Knight of Tortall. Not everyone survives.”
Her essence, the stuff that made her Alanna, streamed out through her palms. She was dissolving into the fire; she was the fire. Then she uttered the spell Maude told her to use only when nothing else was left.
“Dark Goddess, Great Mother, show me the way. Open the gates to me. Guide me, Mother of mountains and mares—”
The fire roared up with a sound like a thunderclap. Alanna’s body jerked, but she couldn’t move away from the hearth. The fire filled her eyes. She saw countless gates and doors opening in front of her. Suddenly—there it was: the city, the city carved in black, glossy stone, the one she had seen in Maude’s fireplace. The sun beat down on her. She was very warm. The city called to her, its beautiful towers and shining streets singing in her brain.
Warnings: Uh, puberty? And violence.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
What I Liked:
I’m really liking the struggle Alanna is having with her female side. It’s like she’s afraid of it or doesn’t want it and it keeps coming back to remind her that, yes, you’re a female, not a male, no matter how much you want to be a knight. I think as she grows older Pierce will emphasize this a little more and I look forward to it.
George is great. It’s kind of obvious what role he’ll play in later books, but he’s still a fabulous character.
I love fantasy so, so much. It’s always different every time I read it, even if the same tropes are used again and again.
What I Didn’t Like:
Ok, what book did the person who wrote the summary on the back read? Thom does not disguise himself as a girl! That…would actually have made some things far more interesting.
So this is Pierce’s first novel, and it really shows. It’s also an ‘80s novel, which also shows. Maybe I’ve read far too many books, or maybe I’m completely wrong, but books written in the ‘80s have completely different styles to them than books nowadays. I think it’s mostly the writing; it’s not what I’m used to reading so it was a bit off-putting for me. If it was written by anybody other than Tamora Pierce, I wouldn’t finish the series. But it’s Tamora Pierce, who is awesome. Plus it’s her first (‘80s) book series, so I’ll cut her some slack. Before anybody gets upset and ranting about how great this book is, let me just say that I really think it’s the fact of when it was published rather than any fault of the book itself. Writing has changed a lot, and what editors are looking for in terms of writing and plot has changed a lot. I recently read some short fantasy stories that were from the early to mid-1900s (these were even revolutionary fantasy stories, like Conan the Barbarian and whatever) and despised them. They were overbearingly flowery and dramatic, horribly cliché, and just not very good. But that’s me in my 21st century mindset. The mindset of the early 1900s in terms of writing and plot were completely different. Therefore, don’t put too much weight in my opinion. I just noticed the writing was different and I didn’t like it much. There’s still some fantastic things going on in the book.
This is obviously a first book and it’s obviously an older one, but it’s still got some great charm to it. George in particular is wonderful, and I like where Alanna’s inner struggles seem to be heading. Also, Tamora Pierce is one of the goddesses of fantasy writing and it will be great to see this series and her writing evolve as she evolves as a writer.
Coming Up Next: Compromised by Heidi Ayarbe