Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: The Woman Who Rides Like a Man - Tamora Pierce

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce
Series: Song of the Lioness Quartet #3
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on January 6, 2005
Published by Simon Pulse
Pages: 284
Read From: 10.12.13 - 10.13.13

"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, 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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I've never been a big fan of the these covers, because they have character impersonators on them. This may be my least favorite. Is the character impersonator supposed to have jaundice? She doesn't look well at all. The horse is pretty, at least.

Characters: My opinion of Alanna is rather lukewarm; that is, I neither like her nor dislike her. She doesn't exactly have The Attitude, and at times she expresses a very strong and believable personality. But other times, she turns into a puddle of tears for no reason, which totally makes her look pathetic and immature. She wants to be a brave warrior woman and she's crying over a few hurtful words someone threw at her? Sorry, not buying it. Nevertheless, while she's trying to prove something to everyone, she never goes around with a "I have to prove women are equal" attitude, and for this I can at least be thankful. In some ways, Alanna is a believable knightess; in other ways, she seems very young. As soon as Alanna and Jonathan started sleeping together, I lost all respect for them both, but especially Jonathan because he also slept with other court ladies. Whatever sliver of liking I had for him was demolished in this installment entirely. He's rude and chauvinistic and temperamental and assuming and arrogant. It's like he had a complete personality change simply because the Author needed to create a bit of drama between them and give Alanna a reason to refuse his marriage proposal. George is still pretty awesome, though he, too, starts sleeping with Alanna. But I still rather like him. The other characters of this story I didn't care about either way.

The Romance: Jonathan wants to marry Alanna, but Alanna doesn't want to live the life of a courtier, let alone a princess. George is utterly devoted to Alanna, but she's too busy sharing Jonathan's bed to notice, and so he quietly waits. You can tell which guy I'm supporting, can't you? In truth, I don't really care. George is an interesting character, but I mostly like him because I'm desperate to like someone. I can't like Alanna because she's two-dimensional, and Jonathan is a jerk. And once he makes an appearance in the story, the romance takes a pretty prominent place in the plot, which also means Alanna turns into a puddle of tears and storms around and makes stupid mistakes and pouts. At the same time, none of the relationships feel very developed. They're bland.

Plot: Having earned her shield, Alanna has taken to the road to do some questing, to prove to herself and other people that she has every right to carry her rank as a knight of the realm. Her travels take her into the desert, where a nomadic clan takes her in as one of their own. One thing leads to another, and she's soon the clan's shaman as well as one of their warriors. While the plot of The Woman Who Rides Like a Man is a little less meandering than the other two, it still doesn't have much a purpose. Alanna's adoption into the clan, which should be a huge moment in the story, takes place right at the beginning. And her becoming shaman is very anticlimactic. The majority of the book is spent with her learning her shaman duties and training her replacements, as well as casting out the evil in a new magic sword she's found. Oh, and something about Jonathan becoming the next representative of all of the desert tribes. Which, of course, then leads to romantic drama. Alanna spends a lot of time feeling guilty for slaying Duke Roger, even though she totally did the right thing, and then she has hysterical moments when she's quite convinced that she'll never be rid of his memory simply because she sees symbols that are similar to the ones that had been on his staff. Seriously, this book makes the whole battle between Alanna and Duke Roger out to be this huge, epic event that spanned the last two books, which is a gross exaggeration. Duke Roger was hardly important. So yet again, Readers are left with a book that has no definite plot and meanders through one event to another.

Believability: I shouldn't be addressing any form of believability, but there is one thing that kept bothering me: the nomadic peoples treat women totally as second-class citizens, and yet they welcome Alanna into their midst as a fellow warrior with hardly any dither, and they also welcome her endeavors to change the way of things for the women of the tribe. Deep-rooted tradition is not that easy to change; not even in a fantasy land.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. Once more, I am not impressed with this Author's writing style. People praise her world building and descriptions to high heaven, but I haven't seen anything special in it at all. It's not bad exactly, but it's mediocre and not at all what I would expect of someone who gets such high praise for style.

Content: Alanna sleeps with Jonathan, and later George, but Readers are not treated to any details (thank goodness).

Conclusion: Apparently Alanna's twin brother has taken a turn towards arrogance and messing around with dangerous magic. I had no idea he tended towards this. Is everyone getting a personality change? Apparently. There's nothing epic about the end, and therefore there was nothing epic about this book. A bit better than the last one, it was still pretty dull and could have had a lot more happen. More importantly, it could have had an actual plot.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fourteen-and-up, fans of slow fantasy.

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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