The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

October 10, 2016
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man Book Cover The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
Song of the Lioness, #3
Tamora Pierce
Simon Pulse
January 6th, 2005

"Let her prove herself worthy as a man."

Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death -- either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. Although she triumphs, dire challenges lie ahead. As her mythic fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe's first female shaman -- despite the desert dwellers' grave fear of the foreign woman warrior. Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes -- for their sake and for the sake of all Tortall.

Alanna's journey continues...

(Via Goodreads)


(This post will feature covers from the different publications of this book. Most of them are terrible. You have been warned.)

(…Also, that’s why I picked them. NEVER judge a book by its cover. …But it’s okay to laugh at them.)


Alanna kicks butt. Magic. Sweet horse. Ginger. Knight. <3

The third book in the Song of the Lioness quartet, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man picks up shortly after book two. Alanna, now a full knight, rides off to seek adventure. Being the Mother Goddess’s chosen, she will obviously run into all sorts of trouble. Another great book from Pierce, The Woman Who Rides Like A Man isn’t quite as forceful as the first two books. The first three-quarters of this book tell a wonderful story about Alanna trying to discover who she really is, but the last quarter is just setting us up for the final book. Overall, still a wonderful tale.

No can always be changed to yes, but it’s very hard to change yes to no.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man is frequently touted as the weakest book in this series. I believe there are a fair number of reasons for this. First of all, the pacing slows down quite a bit. As mentioned in my review for In the Hand of the Goddess, Pierce saw a firm had in editing this series (who would want to read high fantasy featuring a woman?! Pft). It’s my belief that 3 years after the first book in this series was published, Pierce was finally given a little more breathing room. This is speculation, but still possible in my eye. The slower pace of the narrative doesn’t diminish the book in any way for me, however. If anything, this allows our characters more space to develop.


I sorta get this one. I guess? At least we get Faithful on the cover.

Secondly, the majority of this book involve Alanna exploring the Bazhir people. These desert tribes were originally met, albeit briefly, in the first book when Prince Jonathan and Alanna went to the Black City. This means the majority of the book is set in a single place. After our wars, visitations, tours, etc. in the previous books, things feel a bit slower. But I also like this, as Alanna is trying to figure out who she is. Wandering in the desert seems like a classic way to find that information.

“You ride as a man, fight as a man, and you think as a man–“

“I think as a human being,” she reorted hotly. “Men don’t think any different from women — they just make more fuss about being able to.”

Things I adore: Watching Alanna come to terms with who she is. She finally completed the Ordeal in the previous book and became a full knight. She thought that once she achieved that goal, everything would be perfect. But it was just another step in her journey. She doesn’t know how she feels about being “out” as a woman. It’s obvious that some people of the court think this is funny, some are offended, and some don’t care. But all those opinions affect Alanna.

She is also coping with the death of Roger, Duke of Conte. Yes, she killed him to protect Jonathan and the King. But Alanna is starting to question her understanding of right and wrong. Was that murder? She doesn’t know what to do now that her biggest nemesis is out of the picture. It’s like she has no purpose any longer.

Watching Alanna travel the desert trying to find herself is strangely beautiful. Being with the Bazhir challenges her in a way she never expected. She suddenly has to learn to accept her magic. She has children to watch over. Heck, a whole tribe of people. She needs to come to terms with the woman she is and decide the woman she wants to be. There is less action, but much more character development.

You are brave, to admit you don’t know everything and then do something about it.


I saved the best cover for last! Moonlight has more armor than she does. WTF?

And then, there are the boys. Obviously. I just can’t imagine going through puberty denying everything you want regarding sex while two very attractive men are fighting for your hand. Just saying. The best part of this book from a feminist perspective is the Jon-Asks-Alanna-To-Marry-Him subplot. What is her response? “Let me think about it.” Done. Then Jon acts like a spoiled prince who is really struggling with his lack of freedom. Like a normal person, Alanna talks to those who are important to her about this and learns a lot about the freedom she will lose in this exchange, and how she will be expected to produce an heir immediately… Still needs time to think. When it’s time for the Prince to leave, he just packs up all her stuff without telling her they are leaving and expects her to follow one morning. You can guess how that ended. It was so brutally realistic (if you can ignore the Prince/Knight thing)– Alanna didn’t say yes, he assumed, she got mad at the patriarchy, he got mad at her lack of femininity – it was perfect. The two had a huge fight and both ran other directions. Kudos to Alanna for sticking to her guns and knowing what she wants out of life enough to solve for this concern. You go girl.

It does not hurt men to know women have power too.

The last quarter or so of the book things do feel like they change. We get introduced to new characters and some pretty big new things are happening. We even get a new narrator voice introduced, which is interesting and slightly distracting. Typically, when a new voice is introduced later in a series, I get annoyed, but this one didn’t bother me that much. The end of the book fell a tad flat. It suffers from that “middle movie” issue we often see. I finished wanting to continue reading, but not as much as the previous books had driven me. BUT! The first three-quarters of this novel were enjoyable enough that this was a mere blip on my radar. This is mostly negligable in the context of the series as a whole.

On to the final book! Come on, Alanna, fulfill your destiny!!!

4 stars


  • Brendon October 10, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    “Never EVER judge a book by its cover.” I laughed pretty hard at the cover. Classic ’80s.

    This sounds like a great series that subverts the traditional plot of knights and fantasy! Thank you for sharing (and sharing all the covers :))

    • Jackie B October 14, 2016 at 10:28 am

      Some of these covers are RIDICULOUS. But, that’s pretty normal for 80’s fantasy.
      I really love this series. It challenges a lot of gender stereotypes and unconscious bias without being too overt. As a young girl, I read this series and I had no idea that it helped mold me until re-reading these as an adult. But, hindsight is 20/20. 🙂

  • Jasmine October 11, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    I like that quote about men making more fuss about being able to ride.. hehe.. I have noticed you read many books that are not so well-known, at least, I don’t recognize them.. haha.. besides fantasy, are they middle grade? And you’re right.. these covers.. really doesn’t grab my attention or make me want to read! haha.. I do judge a book by its cover, unfortunately.

    • Jackie B October 14, 2016 at 11:45 am

      The reason you probably don’t recognize many of the books I read is that I tend to avoid well-hyped books. I like to let the hype die down and forget everything I’ve heard about them. I am in two kids-lit books clubs, so I read a lot of YA and MG level literature. But, I like to keep my reading diverse. I’m writing a review for a cookbook right now! 🙂

      • Jasmine October 14, 2016 at 12:00 pm

        That is diverse hehe.. my diversion is memoir and self-help books haha..

  • Read Diverse Books October 12, 2016 at 12:10 am

    I am familiar with Tamora Pierce as an author, meaning I know she is one. :p But I am not familiar with this series, lol oops. I actually love the covers, though!They’re such classic 80s covers that there’s a certain charm to them. 🙂 Not a fan of the title, to be honest. But I understand what it means and in the 80s especially, it was important to have stories of women thriving in patriarchal societies. Hope you enjoy the last book in the series!

    • Jackie B October 14, 2016 at 10:34 am

      This book tends to dip into the Noble Savage trope a bit, which is where the title really comes from. That’s now the Bazir people all refer to Alanna. It’s… obviously flawed. But, for the 1980’s, it’s not too harsh. It’s obvious that Tamora Pierce’s heart was in the right place.
      I look forward to hearing what you think of Pierce’s work someday.

  • Anne October 12, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Haha! First thing I thought when I saw the cover was…*pulls up nose*. I’ve never read anything by Tamora Pierce yet, but this will change! Fantastic review! The title suggests either feminism or the opposite which is why it’s funny that you mention the editing business. I have no doubts this was the case if you can see such a clear difference.

    Love the way you can blur the text for the spoiler bits! See, we can’t do that over at .com! 😉

    • Jackie B October 14, 2016 at 10:39 am

      Right?! Some of these covers are TERRIBLE. But, I love them just the same. It really shows how the culture around books and the expectation around readership has changed (Oooh. Now that’s a good idea for a future blog post…Noted). I hope that you read Pierce’s work someday– I’d love to hear your opinions, as well. Sometimes, I wonder how much of my love from these books comes from behind rose-tinted glasses…

      Yes! I love my spoiler blurring. I feel like everything I want to write about is a spoiler, so this lets me get that fix without ruining things for others. I also FINALLY got my WP button on the home page, thanks to help from Naz. Baby steps.

      • Anne October 14, 2016 at 2:57 pm

        It most definitely has changed! From no illustrations on the covers to crappy art to high expectations of it! Her books have been on my TBR ever since I created my Goodreads account *blushes*. Haha, well, we’re all a bit subjective here (or biased even) and I think that’s just great because you can see the same book from many different angles. One of them maybe being rose-tinted glasses ;).

        W00t! And it works!

        • Jackie B October 16, 2016 at 5:30 pm

          I think that the phrase, “Never judge a book by its cover” should be a mantra of all avid readers– yet people always stop and grab the shiniest, prettiest cover they see at the bookstore. It might be silly, but it works as far as buying books are concerned. I’m always surprised when I find a terrible modern cover for a book. The marketing team failed in that case.

          And YAY! I’m so glad it works!!

          • Anne October 17, 2016 at 6:51 am

            It should be! But alas, I’m also guilty of being an extreme cover whore :(. Though I definitely know better than that! Yeah, you see it a lot with self-published books, sadly.

          • Jackie B October 17, 2016 at 8:54 am

            As long as you recognize it. I will certainly pass over books I haven’t heard of due to bad covers, but once I get a solid recommendation (or two or three…) I will reach for even the ugliest covers.
            …It’s amazing how terrible some of them can be.

Participate in the discussion!

%d bloggers like this: