As a mental break from everything, I reread The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce, which starts with Alanna: The First Adventure (Young Adult 274 pages).
“‘From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.’ And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. 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. Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.”
I did not actually read this series when I was younger and instead read them first around my undergrad days, I think. I know that one of my roommates gave me The Woman Who Rides Like a Man as a present sometime in my senior year. I also remember looking at the book and thinking about how it was the third book in the series and I’d never read any of the other books. Eventually, I did buy the books and read them all. In fact, I might have purchased them recently in the last five years or less and read them for the first time in the last five years or less. I honestly don’t remember.
This story has a lot of really good aspects to it and a lot of really good internal messages for readers. When Alanna and Thom decide to switch places, it’s done so that both of them can follow their own hearts’ desires. Alanna wants to be a warrior and a knight for the kingdom while Tom wants to be a sorcerer. Neither is suited to where they are each intended to go and so they work together to achieve a mutually beneficial solution.
Alanna, going by Alan and pretending to be a young boy in order to learn how to be a page in the King’s court, winds up bullied by another noble named Ralon. She takes the beating and never tells on him or his activities. To combat this issue, she gets up earlier than the rest of the pages and goes to sleep much later, having Coram, her man-at-arms, teach her boxing and wrestling. When she isn’t making the kind of progress she wanted with her hand-to-hand fighting styles, she even enlisted the aid of George, the King of Thieves. She took every opportunity she could find and sacrificed her own time to learn how to do better and then continued to practice everything she could learn. Alanna did the same thing when it came to learning sword work, starting out with Coram’s sword, a sword larger and heavier than any of her practice blades.
When Prince Jonathan finds out Alanna’s secret, he doesn’t betray her trust, and neither does George. Those who know her secret respect her wishes and many of them show every inclination of being true friends. This book has a lot of really good parts about what it means to be a friend and also what obligation and duty mean. This book really does have a lot of positive aspects.
Overall, I’d say this book is a high three on my rating scale. I’m happy that I own it and I have reread it multiple times and am highly likely to continue rereading it in the future. Alanna is a heroine who works hard for everything she wants and that’s admirable and the other characters in the book are loyal and honest.