Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, Book 1) is the first book in the series written by Tamara Pierce, published by Simon Pulse. The targeted age group is 9 to 12 and the date of first publication: 1983 (240 pages). Publisher set digital price at $5.99 (print: $6.99).
This series and this author seems to be well loved by many. Two reasons for me picking up this book: first, Trisha recommended her to me a few years ago and second, curiosity. I’m a big fan of YA fantasy. Story’s narrative is in third person. Minor spoilers ahead.
I’m happy to say that this story didn’t quite disappoint in introducing a strong, stubborn yet confident young woman who badly wants to be a knight. She faces many trials and tribulations in order to do so, too. Despite her young age, she manages to carry this story and make a believer out of me in thinking that she has what it takes to be a damn good warrior maiden.
Alanna of Trebond and her twin brother, Thom, open the story with them both plotting their futures behind their father’s back. The twins are essentially growing up by themselves. Their mother died at childbirth and their father ignores them. He devotes all of his time to his scholarly pursuits.
Taking advantage of their father’s absence and indifference, Alanna decides to disguise herself as a boy so that she can train at court as a knight while her brother travels to the City of the Gods to learn sorcery. Of course they find two people to help them and off they ride to fulfill their dreams.
Alanna manages to fit herself in nicely at the royal palace as a page, passing herself off as a young boy named Alan of Trebond. She may be the smallest boy there, but every ounce of her is determined to be a swordsman. She makes friends with everyone except Ralon, a squire boy with a grudge. Ralon with his bullying helps Alanna hone her fighting skills and gain the respect of the other young men around her.
The suspense is inched up a notch when the Sweating Fever arrives. The fever is rumored to be powered by some dark magic that has claimed lives and drained the healers. One of Alanna’s friends happens to be Prince Jonathan. He is the sole heir to his father’s kingdom. He gets struck by the fever after many of the healers have died. Coincidence?
Alanna has what they call, the Gift. She has the power of healing. It’s not until Jonathan is struck with the deadly fever that she feels compelled to use it. She’d ignored that part of her heritage because her father had forbidden the twins from using magic. But a healer taught her enough to scrape by.
The story finally got going when a somewhat shadowy character is introduced. His name? Prince Jonathan’s delightful cousin, Duke Roger of Conté. He’s there to teach the “gifted” kids sorcery. Alanna is put off with him from the outset and she has good reason: he may be up to something deceitful.
The story is full of swordplay & dark magic. What’s good fantasy without ancient artifacts prefaced with legends & ghost stories? Prince Jonathan’s life might be in some danger and with Alanna’s wicked skills as a swordsman, vouched by the head of the Palace Guard himself, she might be the only thing standing between him and whatever evil that wants a piece of him. Is she up for the job? I’d say hell yes.
I can’t help but compare Tamora Pierce to Megan Whalen Turner. Sorry! No surprise I find the latter just a tad bit more compelling writing wise. The ending of this story held no surprises but revealed quite a lot to move the story forward though. I didn’t close the book with that anxious need to read the sequel but I will.
Alanna’s tough and believable. I liked her a lot. Another character I liked a lot, well, there were several but I liked George, who’s a thief by trade. He labels himself The Thief King. He’s the one who secretly trains Alanna to fight. He’s the only one Alanna trusts, too. Is there a romance in here? I’m unsure if there is one in this series but I can see the possibilities but otherwise, no. Maybe later?
What to grade? I believe this is Ms. Pierce’s first published work. I can tell. My reaction to the ending? I might have had a hint of a smile with a kernel of interest in what happens next. I can see why a lot of readers love this story but as an adult, I didn’t find Alanna: The First Adventure all that compelling. But I am curious to see how well she improves with the second book, however.
Alanna made this story for me. She’s intelligent, intense, hard working and stubborn. Can’t show weakness if your goal is to be one of the few women warriors. She has the bruises to prove it, too. Uneven pace, interesting characters, B read for me. So there it is, my contribution to this month’s TBR Challenge (from last week).