Review: Alanna, the First Adventure - Tamora Pierce
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
Series: Song of the Lioness Quartet #1
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on January 1, 2005
Published by Simon Pulse
Read From: 3.6.13 - 3.8.13
"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: Disguised as a girl, 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.
Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna's first adventure begins - one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.
Cover Blurb: Yes or No? My opinion of it is divided. I like the style of the art, but as I have said countless times, I really don’t like character impersonators, and this is no exception. The pony is cute, and the cover definitely screams “fantasy,” but I don’t care for how Alanna is portrayed.
Characters: Alanna, the protagonist, doesn’t really have much of a personality. I suspect that somewhere deep down she does, but it didn’t make itself all that apparent in The First Adventure. Normally, this would be a complaint - one’s protagonist must have a character, - but because Alanna spends so much time trying to prove to herself that she’s as good as the boys at her training, a personality would have turned this into The Attitude. And I would rather deal with a personality-less female protagonist, than one who has a chip on her shoulder. It’s the only thing that saved her. The other pages kind of blended into one, mostly because the story was so fast that I didn’t feel like I really got to know any of them individually. Ralon, the bully, was fun to hate, and Jonathan, I think, will establish a personality as the series progresses, much like I imagine Alanna will. The villain of the piece - and I suspect of the whole series - was too obvious for my liking, though I think he will be an all right villain for the most part.
The Romance: There isn’t any! And hopefully Alanna and Jonathan’s relationship remains what it is right now: a really good camaraderie.
Plot: Alanna: The First Adventure is mostly spent with Alanna learning to be a knight. And yes, it gets boring. This first book of a four-volume series seems to only serve the purpose of establishing how Alanna’s came to be in the situation she’s in, her relationship with people in the castle, and where she got her horse and her snazzy sword that hums and whose pommel-stone glows when there’s danger (sounds a bit familiar; can anyone say Sting from The Lord of the Rings?). Ah, yes, and to introduce the villain. While knight training is interesting enough, I kept waiting for the “adventure” part of the book’s title to step in, and it didn’t until the very last chapter. All of the mini-adventures Alanna has are over within an eye-blink, so they hardly count. In truth, this book reminded me of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion: lots of side quests, haunted ruins with old artifacts, and a super quest that goes largely ignored because short side quests are so much more fun. This is what saved it in my eyes, because I think back on that game with great fondness, so it’s hard to dislike something that reminds me of it.
Believability: The Author seems to have actually done some rather extensive research on knighthood! Yay! Alanna’s fight with Ralon is acceptable from the standpoint that not a lot of detail is given, so one can assume that she relies on swiftness rather than brute strength to win, which she would have to - especially since it reiterated time and again that Alanna is small, and Ralon big. The cavalier fashion which the Author approaches swordsmithing, however, made me cringe. Swordsmithing is an art; it’s not something you can learn overnight if you want a truly serviceable sword.
Writing Style: Tamora Pierce’s writing style is nothing special. It isn’t bad, and I did enjoy some of her descriptions, but in general, I thought it pretty average. Her name choice for Alanna’s sword is going to drive me up a wall for the entirety of the series; I can tell. I could accept Alanna naming her horse Moonlight - only just, but I could accept that. But naming her sword Lightning? Really? There’s nothing mighty in that name, and Alanna gave her horse and sword their titles in a very cavalier fashion.
Content: The Author doesn’t skimp on details when Alanna learns about her women’s cycle. If girl or guys are wondering about it, just read this! I wish Authors would realize that one of the beauties of fiction is little day-to-day inconveniences such as this can just be ignored; they don’t need to be mentioned. Everyone knows that if a girl disguised herself as a boy for any lengthy period of time is going to run into this problem, but Readers will be willing to forget about that.
Conclusion: At last, the “adventure” part of the book’s title comes into play. Though I had to question Jonathan’s intelligence going to the Dark City. Think about this: Jonathan has grown up in a land filled with magic and ghosts and things like that. But he supposes that maybe it’s just an old legend that the Dark City is haunted? Seriously? In any case, it makes for a rather exciting moment, even if it was completely avoidable . . . And then the dramatic climax is completely ruined. The Nameless Ones literally vanish Alanna’s clothes off of her, and I busted out laughing. Vanishing clothes will always make for the most hilarious mental image, and is therefore the quickest way to kill a dramatic moment. When I was about thirteen or so, I picked up Lady Knight, thinking it was a fun medieval-like adventure story. I knew nothing about Tamora Pierce, I had no idea there was magic, and at that time I was totally against anything fantasy. Not to mention that Lady Knight was the fourth book in the Protector of the Small series, which I also didn’t know when I bought it. That experience put Tamora Pierce’s books forever in my “never read” list. At about sixteen, I tried to read Trickster’s Choice, hated the protagonist, and Tamora Pierce remained on the “never read” list. Finally, I decided to try and read at least one of her books straight through, even if it killed me, and I was determined to start from the very beginning. I won’t say that Alanna: The First Adventure has changed my opinion, for I suspect that her female protagonists develop The Attitude as her books progress, but Alanna: The First Adventure, at least, I did genuinely enjoy. Mostly because it reminded me of Oblivion; had it not, I would have been pretty bored. I do, though, that my opinion does change, and I discover that I actually like this Author’s books quite a bit, because I do like to encounter a good fantasy series, and I would like hers to be the next great reads.
Recommended Audience: Girl-read, sixteen-and-up, fantasy fans.
Others in the Song of the Lioness Quartet:
1)Alanna: The First Adventure
2)In the Hand of the Goddess
3)The Woman Who Rides Like a Man