So over the next few months instead of posting full reviews for these, I will be posting up 'Recs' or recommendations explaining a bit about the book (or series) why I love them so much, who it's suitable for and similar reads.
First up is a series that I first read when I was eleven and manically reading through everything in the school library, and I re-read again (for the hundredth time) just before Christmas - The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. As I'm covering the entire series there will be plot spoilers for the books, although I will try to keep them to a minimum.
What's it about?
Ten year old Alanna doesn't want to learn to be a Lady, she has her heart set on being a Knight. So she and her twin brother Thom trade places - he goes to the convent to learn how to be a mage, and she disguises herself as a boy and heads to the castle to begin her training to be a knight. The series follows the next nine years of Alanna's life as she trains hard, fights harder, and proves to everyone that she is just as good and worthy of being a knight as the other boys around her. She makes friends, enemies and has some incredible adventures along the way as she discovers who she is and what it means to be a Lady Knight.
Break down of the books:
Alanna: The First Adventure
The first book covers Alanna's journey from ten year old determined girl to a fourteen year old who is best friends with Prince Jonathan and on the cusp of being made his squire. She has to navigate the pitfalls of hiding her true self and being a girl in a boys environment.
In the Hand of the Goddess
The second book is all about her journey from squire to knight, as more people are let in on her secret and love blossoms in unexpected places, Alanna has to begin to merge her two selves, both the boy she has pretended to be to get where she is and the girl she has been hiding all along. The book culminates in a truly epic battle against her arch enemy.
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
Book three sees Alanna taking a break from court now that she is a true knight and everyone knows her secret. She travels to the desert and makes her home with a tribe of desert warriors, becoming their shaman and training some new mages. After the fallout from her unmasking as a girl this book is quieter, more about reflection and Alanna's continuing journey to become comfortable with the two halves of herself and the loves of her life.
The final book kicks everything off. Alanna undertakes the biggest quest of them all and makes a band of friends along the way, but it soon is time to return home back to the court and to face the fallout from her unmasking as a girl. But all is not well at the court, an old enemy has returned and the battle that culminates the series is ferocious and terrible.
Why I love them:
Alanna is a wonderful heroine and the books tackle a range of themes that I think are really important for young people (and older alike!) to read. Alanna taught me that you can do anything, regardless of your gender. She taught me that it was ok to love, that sleeping with people did not automatically brand you promiscuous, and that you could love more than one person in your life and that was ok. Reading these books at a young age was incredibly important in the shape that my reading took, and my expectations of the world and myself in it. It formed my love of magic and fantasy lands and strong heroines who know what they want and are damned if they're going to let anyone tell them they can't have it. I also love how Pierce tackles Alanna/Alan and how Alanna has to learn to integrate the two halves of herself into a whole.
Who should read them?
I discovered these at the age of eleven and I loved them. I think they really shaped my love of fantasy, strong heroines and what a woman could do or be, that there should be no limits just because you're a girl. I think these books were incredibly important reading for me at that age, so I would recommend them for anyone 11 and upward. That said, I love them as much now as I did then, so whilst Alanna starts off very young in the first book, her struggles are very accessible for any age.
Read this if you liked:
Any strong fantasy realm or magic books.
The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas
The Study Series by Maria V Snyder
The Seven Kingdoms Series by Kristin Cashore
Other Tamora Pierce books