(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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!