Tag Archives: Song of the Lioness

Lioness Rampant

Pierce, Tamora. Lioness Rampant (2005 ed.).  400 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

Song of the Lioness: Book Four

Tamora Pierce wrote quartets, until (as she said) Harry Potter taught publishers that children would read longer volumes. I’ve read this series many times over the years, and this volume is both my favorite and my least favorite. It’s sad, and it’s triumphant, and things are dramatic and terrifying, but they also end well. Alanna is a strong protagonist, and she’s really finished growing up at the end of this novel, becoming the legend which we know she will be.

Alanna of Trebond and Olau is on an adventure to retrieve the Dominion Jewel. They’re in Maren, on the trail of the jewel, and their journey is just beginning. In Berat, Alanna meets Liam Ironarm, the Shang Dragon; “People like you change the world; a smart man keeps track of such folk” (12) he says. Shortly after meeting Liam, Alanna has her second encounter with the Great Mother Goddess, who presents her with the question “who will you be, Alanna?” (19). Unfortunately, Alanna doesn’t know who she will be, or what she wants, or even what she is truly capable of (not yet, anyway). All she knows is that she has a map that needs to be translated, and a need to be somewhere, anywhere besides Tortall.

Before she knows it, she’s on a great adventure, one that takes her through war-torn Sarain to the Roof of the World. By retrieving the Jewel, Alanna hopes to prove to the world that she’s a warrior in her own right, that she never used her Gift to cheat her way to her shield, that she is truly a force to be reckoned with. So, armed with a map, and her knightly skills, leading her motley troop of herself, Coram, Faithful, and Liam Ironarm, she heads through Sarain where she picks up even more strays.

Alanna’s strays are Princess Thayet and Buriram Tourokom, who are fleeing from Thayet’s father, the Warlord of Sarain. They decide to join forces with Alanna, and follow her to Chitral’s Pass, where the Dominion Jewel is supposedly held.

Of course, there’s more going on than Alanna’s quest. In Corus, much is going on; Queen Lianne has died, and King Roald died not long after. Jonathan is King, but has not been crowned yet. Thom has gotten himself into more trouble than he can handle, and is dying. The people are convinced that Jonathan’s reign is cursed– there has been famine and plague since Alanna left Corus. George is struggling with issues of his own, and there is a plot against Jonathan within the palace. Things go a little sideways, toward the end. There is a huge battle, and many characters are left dead. The ending, despite the deaths, is hopeful.

The Series as a Whole:

This was my first Tamora Pierce series, back when I was in middle school. My friends and I read it, and traded it and read it again until all of our books were worn thin, and we all knew the stories by heart. It really is ideal for middle schoolers, but it manages to be a book which adults can enjoy as well. It’s hard to outgrow a series like this, and because of its enduring re-readability, it gets a 4.5/5.

The Quick Version:

Alanna really comes into her own in this book. She finishes growing up, goes on a great adventure, and learns to balance Woman and Warrior. She makes a name for herself, and she changes the world. This is my very favorite from the series, and scores a 5 out of 5, because I love it so very much (even if I always cry at the end).

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On other notes, as I was flipping through my book, looking for the bibliographic information, I learned that it’s an autographed copy (which is way more exciting than I ever expected, even considering that it’s signed to “Kelli” and not to me). I got it second-hand though Swaptree not too long ago, and though I don’t think I got it from the Kelli it was signed to, it’s still pretty sweet. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get one signed to me, and I’ll be the happiest book nerd ever.

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The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

Pierce, Tamora. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (2005 ed.) 304 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

Song of the Lioness: Book Three

Alanna of Trebond may have won her shield, but after everything she went through, she needs to get out of Corus for a while. With the paint on her shield still wet, she sets out for adventure. Having never been one to enjoy the cold, it’s not surprising that Alanna chooses to spend the winter down south in the Bazhir desert where it’s nice and warm. Well, she doesn’t exactly choose winter in the desert; she was aiming for Tyra and got waylaid.

To get to Tyra from Corus, it’s necessary to go through the Bazhir desert. Of course, with only half the Bazhir tribes recognizing the Tortallan king, and many of the desert’s residents being lawless hillmen, it’s a dangrous trip even for seasoned warriors. Unfortunately for Alanna, she and Coram are attacked by a group of hillmen who have a magical sword (which glows orange with the late Duke Roger’s magic) that breaks Lightning, leaving Alanna sad and swordless. The hillmen are attacked in turn by the Bloody Hawk Bazhir tribe, who take Alanna and Coram back to their camp.

At the Bloody Hawk camp, Alanna is recognized as the “Burning Brightly One” who helped defeat the Ysandir– she is now a legend to the Bazhir. However, the shaman is crazed, and claims that she is a liar (along with some other fun names). This culminates in a fight between Alanna and the shaman (Ibn Nazzir) where Alanna kills the man. Because of Bazhir law, the one who kills the shaman must become the shaman (at least until they can train a suitable replacement), so Alanna finds herself tied to a tribe when all she really wants to do is go on an adventure. There are three gifted teens in the camp- Ishtak, Kara, and Kourrem- who have never been trained to control their gift. Recognizing that untrained gifted teens could spell disaster for everyone in the tribe, Alanna declares them her successors and begins their training.

Jonathan and Sir Myles visit Alanna while she’s with the Bloody Hawk, and several things happen. Jonathan and Alanna renew (and end) their relationship. Sir Myles adopts Alanna, and Jon becomes The Voice of the Tribes. As soon as this is completed, Alanna flees the desert, heading to Port Caynn where she spends the summer avoiding Corus and Jonathan, instead focusing on George.

The end of the book sets us up for Lioness Rampant, as Alanna decides to go find the Dominion Jewel to save Tortall.

The Quick Version:

Like so many third-in-a-set-of-four novels, this book feels a bit like a bridge. A lot happens, and Alanna makes huge steps toward becoming the champion she is destined to be. She continues to grow in her sense of self, and her womanhood, and begins to truly embrace herself here. It’s a solid adventure, and it makes you want more. It gets a 4/5.

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In the Hand of the Goddess

Pierce, Tamora. In the Hand of the Goddess (2005 ed). 288 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

Song of the Lioness: Book Two

Alanna of Trebond returns, this time as the squire of Prince Jonathan of Tortall- one of the few people who know her true gender. She’s well on her way to becoming a knight, and she’s just found out that the Great Mother Goddess has plans for her. She meets Faithful for the first time (though depending on which order you’ve read the Tortall books in you might know him by another name).

Sure, she’s kicking a lot of butt, but sometimes a girl just wants to be a girl. Alanna is slowly learning that being a knight doesn’t mean she has to neglect being a woman, and being strong doesn’t mean rejecting love. She’s also learning that her magic is not such a bad thing, and that she has quite the healing gift. First George, then Jonathan express interest in Alanna as more than just a comrade, and she doesn’t really know what to make of it. Eventually, she and Jonathan become more than just friends– which is really the start of Alanna as a woman who has sex (gasp!).

Of course, growing up isn’t hard enough for our lady-knight-in-training; she’s got political intrigue to deal with. As Tortall marches for war with Tusaine, Duke Gareth the older is injured, and Duke Roger ends up in charge of the troops. Alanna is unhappy about it, but doesn’t have any proof that Roger has done anything. Then she and Jon get caught up in a plot which puts them both in danger (and gets Alanna kidnapped). Then, abruptly, the war with Tusaine reaches a tenuous treaty, and everyone heads back to Corus.

This particular book climaxes with Alanna’s Ordeal of Knighthood and the circumstances which lead to her revealing her gender to the court. In the end, Alanna is a Lady Knight, and she is ready for adventure.

The Quick Version:

The story in this volume is very fast paced; Tusaine and Tortall go to war and resolve their differences rapidly. Alanna and Jon get romantically entangled, Duke Roger is Evil, and Alanna becomes a Knight. It’s setting the stage for the next two books rather than attempting to be a complete story on its own. It gets a 4/5, because Alanna is slower on the uptake than the reader as far as Duke Roger’s plot goes.

Pick it up from Amazon or Swaptree.

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Alanna: The First Adventure

Pierce, Tamora. Alanna: The First Adventure (2005 ed). 240 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

Song of the Lioness: Book One

This is one of those books which is older than I am, but is still in print, which is a sure mark of a good story. I originally owned the 1989 paperback, but since it’s in a box somewhere, I’ve got a new copy of the 2005 printing. Every couple years (or sometimes only a few months apart) I re-read this series, and I enjoy it every time.

Alanna and Thom of Trebond- nearly identical twins- are both dissatisfied with the futures their father has chosen for him. Alanna dreams of being a lady knight, not a lady stuck in a convent. Thom wants to be a sorcerer instead of a knight. The ten-year-olds come up with a potentially brilliant plan; they’ll trade places. Alanna will pose as Alan, and Thom will start his sorcerer training at the convent (where young boys learn basic magic).

“Alan” arrives at the palace a few short weeks later, eager to start as a page. Despite being a bit clumsy at first, Alanna proves to be one of the best pages of her year, excelling in nearly all of her lessons and putting in extra hours of training. The other pages- and even some squires- are impressed by “Alan,” who becomes one of Prince Jonathan’s most trusted friends.

Alanna must make several ethical decisions; she hates and fears her magic, but to continue denying it will cost her friend his life. She is haunted by images of a dark city, and somehow feels drawn to it, but knows it is incredibly dangerous. As much as she trusts her friends, is it safe to let any of them know  her secret?

The Song of the Lioness series is one of my favorites, and I really love all of the books set in Tortall. That said, having read Ms. Pierce’s more recent work, it is clear she has really grown as an author since she wrote this book nearly 30 years ago. It deals with some mature themes- Alanna gets her period, and there are some sexual references- but I feel that children can handle this*. It was originally targeted at higher-elementary, I believe.

The characters are fun, but take a long time to develop. Alanna grows up, but it happens in leaps and bounds; months disappear, days are stretched into several chapters, and time does not flow smoothly. However, the mundane does not make a good story, so it’s understandable that the boring, routine days are cut out.

As far as publishing goes, I’m surprised there is not an omnibus edition**; Ms Pierce herself has said that J.K. Rowling taught her that kids will read long books***, so it surprises me that they remain in individual volumes.

The Quick Version:

With a strong female lead, and a plot which starts at the beginning, this book opens the series well. It is not my favorite; I prefer older Alanna, but issues which real girls face are dealt with fairly well. The adventure itself is fun, and at times even a bit scary. The drama of the climax grabs and doesn’t let go until everything is over. It gets a 4/5, because it’s good, but the books later in the series are better.

Want it? Pick it up on Amazon, or get it through Swaptree.

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*I spent a lot of time arguing in a children’s literature class about whether kids can handle this sort of thing. I’m a strong supporter of letting the child decide, and while I could handle this at 8 years old, not every child will be able to. It takes on new meaning when you reach the “young adult” demographic- girls who have experienced puberty are more likely to understand and sympathize with what is going on with Alanna.

** Like the Chronicles of Chrestomanci, which were released in individual volumes and then combined into Omnibus editions.

*** Apparently nobody had considered how much children like bragging about having read a 700+ page book… (Also, on a Harry Potter note, I don’t believe I’ll review them any time soon. I’m still angry about the end.)

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