The Story’s the Thing: Tamora Pierce’s “Alanna the Lioness” Quartet
We all know and love the power of story, and there’s nothing better than finding new ones to lose yourself in. Check back on the blog every Wednesday for an eclectic smattering of the blogger’s favorite stories of all kinds. We hope you’ll discover new worlds, friends, and adventures–and maybe get re-acquainted with some old ones! Tell us what you think, and leave your own story suggestions in the comments.
I first stumbled across Tamora Pierce’s novels on a rainy day in Harper’s Ferry, WV. My family had ducked into a used bookstore to escape the rain, and I immediately went upstairs to the fantasy section. In a small corner on a short bookcase, I found books about a young girl disguising herself as a boy, fighting to become a knight at a time when all noble girls were made to become ladies, nothing more. I curled up in the corner of that cozy, used bookstore for over an hour, the rain outside pounding at the window beside me, and escaped into a new world.
This first quartet by Tamora Pierce is called “Song of the Lioness” and follows Alanna of Trebond, a petulant ten-year-old girl at the offset of the series. She comes up with a scheme that will allow both her and her twin brother Thom to follow their dreams, which do not align with the commands of their father, the Lord of Trebond. Alanna wishes to become the first female knight of their generation, while her brother’s desire is to become a great mage and not be forced to hit people with sticks and swords for eight years. They disguise themselves as one another and set off on their own personal quests.
Alanna spends the next eight years training with the noble boys, befriending the crown prince, Jonathan, and fighting bullies who would think to destroy her position and the kingdom she loves, all the while hiding her gender from everyone she knows. The story is one of self-discovery and realization that there can be more to one’s life than the specific goals a person sets out to do.
At the beginning of the quartet, Alanna fears her magic and the training she requires to master it, but comes to understand the necessity of wielding all of the tools she has been given expertly. This point comes to a head when Alanna is faced with the Sweating Sickness that sweeps through the kingdom and threatens to kill Prince Jonathan, who has become an extremely close friend to the would-be lady knight.
These novels by Tamora Pierce are engaging, funny and heart-wrenching. This quartet was one the author had originally written as a single adult book, but at the suggestion of a professor, she split it into four young adult novels. Because of this, there are some realistic themes, such as the facts of women’s health and the portrayal of the relationship between lovers, that would not normally have been seen in young adult novels at the time these books were written. I believe that it is the better for it, because Ms. Pierce allowed herself to fully explore the world that she was writing without having to worry about restricting herself.
Overall, I highly recommend all of Tamora Pierce’s novels to nearly any age, as they involve themes and stories that anyone can appreciate and understand.