Series: The Song of the Lioness Quartet
Genre: Young adult/fantasy
Publisher: Random House Fantasy
In a medieval world where magic exists and the gods and goddesses still interact, Alanna is just a girl who doesn't like girly things. She wants to be a knight. But women aren't allowed to be knights. So when she and her scholarly twin are sent away, Alanna to a convent to study and her brother to become a knight, they decide to switch places. Along the way, she becomes squire and a good friend to the Prince Heir and meets the and befriends the King of Thieves. What unfolds in the next books are the stories of Alanna's path to knighthood and what happens when her secret is revealed.
Although the Song of the Lioness is not the first series I read by Pierce, it remains one of my favorites. Alanna's story is the great one of a girl who is a tomboy and overcomes the gender barriers to (eventually) become one of the greatest champions Tortall has ever seen. Not only are these books (and truly most of her series) fantastic coming-of-age stories, they're definite examples of girl power, filled with great casts of supporting characters.
Alanna is a solid, relatable character. She has her share of problems associated with being a girl and growing into a woman while posing as a man. She also has typical boy problems (as inevitably, people learn her secret along the way), and some not-so-typical problems. For example, she has magic and I can't readily another character who has had such a distaste for their own abilities. Alanna doesn't want her magic, doesn't like the implication that she's a favored of the Goddess (even if she is) and really struggles to come to terms with the fact that her gift isn't going to go away and that it is a part of her. But she's stubborn, determined and willing to work as hard or harder than anyone around her to accomplish her goals.
I feel like my review just isn't doing this series justice. It is a rare series that I come back to read, time and again because it's that good, that easy, that comfortable. The world is wonderfully built and multifaceted, the characters remain some of my favorite and most-enduring. A series recommended to anyone who enjoys their Sheroes (female heroes, as coined by Tamora Pierce), fantasy and coming-of-age.
"I wish you would thrash him. He deserves it."She looked back at him. "I will one day, sir. I'm getting tired of falling down."--Alanna, Alanna: The First First Adventure
1) Alanna: The First Adventure
2) In the Hand of the Goddess
3) The Woman who Rides like a Man
4) Lioness Rampant
Also set in Tortall:
The Immortals Series (follows Alanna and has cameos)
The Protector of the Small (Kel's story, the first girl to become a knight, following Alanna)
The Trickster Series (About Alianne, Alanna's daughter)