Alanna: The First Adventure

August 23, 2016
Alanna: The First Adventure Book Cover Alanna: The First Adventure
Song of the Lioness, #1
Tamora Pierce
Fantasy
Simon Pulse
January 1st, 2005
Hardback
216
Owned
1983

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: 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.

(via Goodreads)

 

Recently, I read Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce. It was time to return to a favorite author of my childhood. Reading that book only reminded me that I adore Tamora Pierce. As a child, I read The Song of the Lioness quartet repeatedly until the spine of the books broke. At which point, I acquired new books. And the cycle repeated. Re-reading Alanna: The First Adventure 15 years later, I still adore these books, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the quartet again!

Alanna: The First Adventure is an upper-middle-grade fantasy novel. Alanna and her twin brother, Thom,Alanna Alan and Thom are 11-years-old and are about to be sent away from their home of Trebond for their education. The trouble is that Thom wants to be a sorcerer and is being sent off to learn to be a knight. And Alanna wants to be a knight and is being sent off to the covenant to learn to be a Lady. Mournful of their fates, the twins scheme together to trade places– after all, the sorcerers are all trained in the covenant! Alanna renames herself Alan and heads to the castle in Thom’s place. Adventures ensue as “Alan of Trebond” begins her quest to become a knight. Caught in the intrigue of hiding her proper sex as she goes through puberty, as well as learning how to cope with sorcery, Gods, nobles, and thieves — Alanna has more in store for her than she ever expected. But at least she has a plan: Once she turns 18 and has won her shield and knighthood, proven herself to the King and the court, Alan will reveal her true identity. She just had to get through the next 9 years…

Pierce’s first novel is very simply written. It’s a straightforward account of hidden identity, Alanna fan artknightly training, coming-of-age tales, and magic. Checking in at only 216 pages, the brevity of Pierce’s writing shows her restraint. Particularly knowing that she now has a total of 21 books set in this world. Pierce had a plan for Tortall, and a future prepared for this. The world building is minimal, but I enjoy that in this context. Pierce balances what she expects readers to already know about medieval settings with information critical to Alanna’s story. We only are told what is relevant to push the book forward. This ensures the pace is swift. Perfect for the intended age range of 9-12, and a wonderful gateway to more intense fantasy reading in the future.

Alanna is a wonderfully complex and realistic character. She is passionate, angry, determined, loyal, conflicted, excited, hard working, anxious, and headstrong. Alanna is far from perfect, but easy to like. She is not above manipulation and lying on her quest to be the first Lady Knight in generations, but she feels guilty about it. Alanna knows what she wants, and will do everything she has to in order to achieve her dreams. Yet, despite how headstrong and determined she is, Alanna has many flaws.

This book covers Alanna’s years of 11-14, and Pierce describes a very realistic 11 to 14-year-old. Alanna makes assumptions about how the world works and is often proven wrong. She has a temper. She is frequently blind to what is best for her purely because she is stubbornAlanna Squire Besties. My favorite part of her character is how Alanna understands what it means to be a woman, or really, her lack of that understanding. Her mother died after childbirth, and the only woman in Alanna’s life had been limited interactions with the village healer. That said, at 11-years-old, Alanna has had little to no conversation with anyone about what it means to be a woman. All she knew was that noble women are expected to be ladies. When Alanna’s breasts start to grow in, she panics. She completely believes that she can stop it by binding them and going about her daily Page tasks. And I laughed aloud when Alanna received her first period. She panicked and thought she was dying. Why? No one had ever told her about periods or sex or pregnancy. What follows is one of the most practical biological and sex talks ever. George’s mother Eleni, a local healing woman, talks frankly to Alanna about how she can’t just stop her period. When Alanna asks if her period will slow her down, Eleni just laughs and tell her, “Only if you get pregnant!”. Then a conversation about how sex should be a pleasurable experience for both men and women ensues. Just… wear that Pregnancy Charm, Alanna. The poor girl really didn’t know what she was up against biologically when she decided to pretend to be a boy pre-puberty. It will be great watching this unfold.

Obviously, I immediately plan on binge reading the remaining three books. Bring it on!

5 Stars

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