Backlist Bonus: Alanna – The First Adventure

alannaby Tamora Pierce
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: September 1, 1983

My childhood followed many predictable phases. The I-must-own-a-horse phase. The unicorns-are-better-than-horses phase. The (ongoing) Harry Potter phase. This book began my (ongoing) girls-who-kick-ass phase. Even if I was not allowed to say “ass” at the time!

Alanna and her twin brother want each other’s jobs, so Thom goes to sorcery school pretending to be a girl, while Alanna pretends to be a boy and goes to the king to become a knight. (Come to think of it, I don’t remember what happened when the nuns discovered Thom’s identity…) Alanna disguises herself and goes through all the grueling training, bullying, and lessons of knighthood. She makes a lot of enemies, but a few good friends too, and her no-holds-barred attitude towards achieving her goal was so awesome to me as a kid. Alanna became my standard for Coolest Characters Ever. Then along came Sabriel, Lyra from The Golden Compass, Aerin from The Hero and the Crown, Hermione…and I’ve never looked back!

Although the quartet starts almost middle-grade it transitions to YA by the second book. Alanna’s trials for knighthood are interwoven with a sinister plot for the king’s throne and interesting encounters with George, the King of Thieves, who quickly realizes “Alan” has a secret. Alanna has to figure out who to trust and how to save the king, even as her own secret identity and dreams are at stake. This quartet is classic fantasy and Pierce’s characters are well-drawn and lovable. It was very progressive for its time and the first two books especially hold a dear place in my heart. Visit Tortall for a few hours—the books are short and worth it!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Alanna: The First Adventure is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce – Set in the same world, Daine’s gift with horses gets her a job in the royal stables. But Daine slowly realizes the gift she tries to hide is actually magical, and to control it she must face her past. (I know, the only thing better than having your own horse as a girl is being able to magically speak to the horse. You’re welcome, every horse-loving girl out there!)
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard – The world-building and tone of this YA book strongly reminds me of Pierce’s work. Safi and Iseult are fierce friends facing a lot of trouble. Safi’s ability to tell truth from lies has her wanted by everyone who suspects her secret. Iseult’s inability to master her Threadwitch apprenticeship makes her a threat to her tribe. When the girls’ pasts begin to catch up with them, mayhem ensues. See my review here.
  • The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol. 1 by Diana Wynne Jones – Jones and Pierce are inextricably intertwined in my mind. They are both amazing fantasy writers with vivid worlds and complex systems of magic that have enthralled me for years. This features two stories about the Chrestomanci (the sorcerer with 9 lives entrusted with keeping order and balance within the Twelve Related Worlds). Both of these manage to be amusing and dark in equal parts and aren’t to be missed.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn | To Live a Thousand Lives
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