Continuing with my mental break, I reread In the Hand of the Goddess (Young Adult Fantasy 264 pages) by Tamora Pierce.
“‘I don’t want to fall in love. I just want to be a warrior maiden.’ 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 … Filled with sword and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s second adventure continues the saga of a girl who dares to follow her dreams – and the magical destiny that awaits her.”
As much as this book has a lot of near-death experiences for Alanna, a good portion of this book is also dedicated to Alanna working to accept all the different aspects of who she is. She starts learning how to dress and act like a lady in secret with the help of George’s mother, a healer in the city.
I think it’s interesting that the men in Alanna’s life interact with her differently as soon as it’s revealed that she is actually a woman and not a man. Jonathan, though he knows who she really is, forces her to dance with ladies at the balls and he alternates between being jealous over the ladies Squire Alan dances with or then forcing Alanna to continue catering to the ladies at court. Alanna even tells Mistress Cooper that she’s frustrated with Jonathan for being hot and then cold and how it was very confusing and frustrating for her. Alanna reiterated repeatedly how she didn’t want anything to do with love and less to do with men because the only thing that mattered to her was earning her shield and going off on adventures. Honestly, I see a lot of myself in that kind of attitude so I understood Alanna’s motivations very well.
Eventually, Alanna does start being intimate with Jonathan and their relationship is treated as a simple fact of life, which I appreciated. Alanna had a charm to prevent pregnancy and she did learn about physical intimacy with Jonathan, but it’s not treated as anything taboo or unnatural. Jonathan doesn’t degrade her for spending her nights with him and he never does anything demeaning towards her because of their physical intimacy. I thought this was a really positive way of addressing sexuality for younger individuals, perhaps presenting the idea that your value as a person is not determined by your sex, or by with whom you sleep, but by your actions and deeds and the content of your character.
Alanna, just as in the previous book, continues to work harder than all those in her own peer group. When finally taken to a war campaign, she still finds ways to be useful, including helping out the healers with those wounded during combat. I think it tells you a lot about a person when they learn that warfare isn’t filled with glory but rather with death and wounds that will never heal. Alanna is scarred by her battles and I think that helps with the reality in this book quite a bit.
Overall, this book is easily a solid three on my rating scale. It’s one of those books I’m happy I own and will continue to reread in the future.
Pierce, Tamora. In the Hand of the Goddess. New York: Simon Pulse, 1994.