In the Hand of the Goddess is written by Tamora Pierce. It is the second book in the Song of the Lioness quartet. It was published in 1984 by Simon Pulse. Pierce’s website can be found here.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
“Still disguised as a boy, Alanna becomes a squire to none other than the prince of the realm. Prince Jonathan is not only Alanna’s liege lord, he is also her best friend—and one of the few who knows the secret of her true identity. But when a mysterious sorcerer threatens the prince’s life, it will take all of Alanna’s skill, strength, and magical power to protect him—even at the risk of revealing who she really is…”
The Goddess reached into the bed of the fire and drew out a single red-hot coal. “My time with you comes to an end. Take this from my hand.”
Alanna swallowed hard. This was asking a bit much, even for a goddess. He looked up and met the Mothers eyes with her own. Slowly, trembling, she reached out and took the coal.
It was cold! Startled, she nearly dropped it. Looking at it, she saw that the ember seemed to burn within a crystal shell. There was even a tiny loop in the crystal, just big enough to permit a chain to pass through. The ember flickered in its shell, its hot red glare fading to a soft glow.
She drew a deep breath. “Would you teach me how to dress like a girl?”
Mistress Cooper raised her eyebrows. “Now, this is odd,” she said calmly. “Why such a request?”
Alanna made a face. “I don’t know. I just—I see all the queen’s ladies wearing pretty things, and I’ve been thinking lately I like pretty things. I’m going to have to be a girl someday. Why shouldn’t I start practicing now?”
“I thought you weren’t going to be here after all,” she observed, touching the shield with a bandaged hand. “This is beautiful.”
“I was held up because I wanted to make it secretly. Watch this.” Smiling slightly, he passed his hand over the shield’s face. Alanna stared as the black tower faded, leaving instead a great gold cat on its hind legs.
“What is it?” she asked as the cat faded and the tower reappeared
“It’s a lioness rampant, of course. For when you reveal what you really are.”
Warnings: In the words of the book, love affairs
Recommended Age Range: 14+
What I Liked:
Just like in the first book, I liked Alanna’s struggle with her femaleness. The scene with Mistress Cooper and the dressing up was great. A new struggle that I like is Alanna’s confusion about love. Who does she really love and does she really love who she says she loves? What is love? I’m excited to see how that plays out in the next two books.
George is solidifying himself as my favorite character. Like I said in my review of the first book, he’s playing a really obvious role as a sort of foil/rival to Jonathan, but he’s really endearing (unlike Jonathan) so I’m hoping that he’s the winner. Also, I’m glad that George and Jonathan are friends and not “scowl-scowl-I hate you” because they like the same person.
Loved the scene where everyone finds out Alanna’s a girl. I kept forgetting that Roger didn’t know she was a girl and so his reaction was the best.
What I Didn’t Like:
Back cover, why do you fail me again? “Mysterious sorcerer?” He was introduced last book as an antagonist!
I don’t know why, but I can’t stand Jonathan. Not only is he a really cliché love interest (the moment he was introduced I thought, “Yeah, they’re going to be a couple”) but he’s just really annoying for some reason. Thank goodness Alanna is a bit doubtful, at least. Maybe I just don’t like him because I’m totally Team George.
Again, like in the first book, the writing is really not that great to me and the plot is just okay. This book was also a little more boring than the first one. However, I do like the characters (well, I like George. And Alanna most of the time), so I’m not going to stop reading the series or anything. I have read better fantasy, but not only is this a quartet, it also used to be just one book, so I’m reserving my judgment until I read all four books.
In the Hand of the Goddess does some great things with Alanna’s development and personal struggles. As for the rest: George is a gem, Jonathan is annoying, and most of the rest of the characters are a little forgettable. The plot’s pretty straightforward and the writing is, in my opinion, not so great. I’m still not giving up, though!
Coming Up Next: Darke by Angie Sage