Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: In the Hand of the Goddess - Tamora Pierce

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
Series: Song of the Lioness Quartet #2
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on Jaunary 1, 2005
Published by Simon Pulse
Pages: 264
Read From: 6.6.13 - 6.6.13

"I don't want to fall in love. I just want to be a warrior maiden." 

Still disguised as a boy, Alanna becomes a squire to none other than the prince of the realm. Prince Jonathan is not only Alanna's liege lord, he is also her best friend - and one of the few who knows the secret of her true identity. But when a mysterious sorcerer threatens the prince's life, it will take all of Alanna's skill, strength, and magical power to protect him - even at the risk of revealing who she really is. . . .


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? The character impersonator simply doesn't look how I imagine Alanna, and if Alanna is supposed to be disguised as a boy in that picture, it's not a very convincing disguise.

Characters: I didn't mind Alanna all that much in the first book. But in this one, its sequel, she began to annoy me. She was constantly grumpy about something, be it the weather, bruises, or being woken up too early. Her "natural humbleness" felt completely contrived, and she was constantly flying off the handle. Somehow, she still managed to not have The Attitude, but I can't say that I like Alanna much, or even a little bit. The other characters were two-dimensional, except George the King of the Thieves; he actually showed a glimmer of personality, though his full potential was never realized. Probably the most disappointing character was Faithful, the strange purple-eyed cat Alanna ends up finding. I am a complete sucker for talking cats - I don't know why, but I am. Faithful was the lamest talking cat I have ever encountered. He had no personality, wasn't sarcastic, and rarely talked at all! And Duke Roger of Conte was too boring to be a good villain. He's supposed to be super clever and evil, but I never saw either quality in him. If he's so powerful, why did his plans always fail?

The Romance: "[George] hadn't kissed her since Jon's birthday almost a year ago; but he let her know - with little touches, with softness in his eyes when he looked at her - that he was stalking her." (page 77). The romantic difficulties Alanna faces in this novel are about as romantic as that sentence: not at all. Unsurprisingly, both George and Jonathan fall for Alanna, and being the female rights activist that she is, Alanna doesn't want to have anything to do with love. At least, that's what she says. George is willing to wait until she grows up (his words, not mine), and all Jonathan wants is to bed Alanna. Now, Alanna spends a great deal of time expressing how much she doesn't want to get involved with either of them. So you would think that when Jonathan approaches Alanna with his "offer," she would give him a good slap and tell him to go dunk his head in a horse trough. Um, no. For someone who is afraid of romance, she jumps into his bed pretty readily and with hardly a thought. And because the Author doesn't spend any time exploring anyone's feelings, the romance comes across as completely shallow - even for George, who I do like.

Plot: Alanna has gone from page to Prince Jonathan's squire. While he knows she's a girl, no one else at the court does. As far as her other friends are concerned, Alanna is Alan of Trebond. But Alanna plans on telling everyone the truth once she wins her shield and becomes a knight. The ever-approaching moment looms over her, and Alanna is dreading it. Meanwhile, Duke Roger of Conte is still scheming to gain his cousin Jonathan's throne, and no one but Alanna realizes it. She has to find proof before it's too late, but Roger is crafty (or so they say). In the Hand of the Goddess has a bit more of a definite plot than Alanna: The First Adventure did, but not much. The book rushes through absolutely everything. A war is begun and ended in one day, Alanna is captured and rescued in practically the same hour, a deadly wolf slaughters village children and is then slaughtered himself within five pages, and Alanna escapes so many near-deaths so quickly that the Reader doesn't even have time to realize that she was in danger. It's like the entire plot is on speed mode, as we scroll through year after year after year with hardly a moment to absorb what's happening. It resulted in a plot that was so dull that I ceased to care about what happened even a little bit.

Believability: Alanna is near sixteen when the book begins, and is eighteen by the end of it. She has successfully hidden her true gender from everyone at the castle all this time. Has no one wondered why "Alan's" voice hasn't changed in all that time?!

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. Quite honestly, I see nothing special in the Author's style. There are no pretty descriptions, her world is flat, and there is positively no life. It trips through events with no consideration and few pauses.

Content: Alanna and Jonathan become lovers, but there are no details.

Conclusion: The cavalier manner in which the plot is treated does not change with the climax: Alanna's face-off with Duke Roger. His exposure is very nonchalant and relaxed, as is the revelation of how he got by with so much without anyone realizing it (note: he actually didn't get by with anything). Alanna's revelation of her true gender was also way too smooth. I didn't expect her lifelong friends to stone her, but I would have expected some form of surprise and disappointment at her years-long fib. Alanna: The First Adventure entertained me because it reminded me of The Elder Scrolls: OblivionIn the Hand of the Goddess didn't, Alanna became annoying, and I got really tired of the overly fast pace of the plot. I wanted more war action! Something to happen when Alanna was captured! Or at least a sense of peril when her life was at risk. I never once got any of that, and this series has finally taken the direction I suspected it would.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fourteen-and-up, good for Tamora Pierce and like-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
4)Lioness Rampant

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