‘Alanna: The First Adventure’ by Tamora Pierce



Genres: Fantasy, YA, Sword and Sorcery, Classic Fantasy

Similar books:

Previous books by the author/in the series: Tempests and Slaughter Sandry’s Book Briar’s Book Tortall: A Spy’s Guide Battle Magic Tris’s Book Daja’s Book Melting Stones

Rating: Recommended YA Fantasy with a Charismatic POV

Here’s the TL;DR for my review (SPOILERS!):

  • Pros
    • Alanna as a protagonist had agency in spades. She didn’t passively become a lady; she actively sought out to become a knight even though she lived in a world which women aren’t expected to step out of their gender norms. This gave her an underdog aspect which made it easy for me to root for her.
    • This book is probably the most classic inversion of the ‘standard misogenistic classic fantasy setting’ possible. There are gender norms, women are not allowed to fight. In short, this book was inverting tropes long before the modern day practice of inverting tropes became the Fantasy Genre industry standard. (Aka Feminism, if that’s your wont.)
    • Despite this one inversion of tropes, the author treats the Medieval setting with respect. Horses need to be taken care of, soldiers have to take care of their equipment, and pages must do their mathematics homework. The author did a good job of bringing a boring normality to this supernatural setting, making this setting all the more believable.
  • Mixed
    • The side characters were a bit hit and miss. I liked some of them, but didn’t like others. Jonathan the prince was a bit bland to be honest, his personality being ‘nice, reasonable and competent.’ Ralon was a two dimensional ‘Draco Malfoy’ type. On the other hand I liked her man-at-arms Coram and the Rogue-King George.
  • Cons
    • The plot was all over the place. The book seemed to be made up of one plot arc after another, instead of a single plot arc which begins with the beginning of the book and ends at the end of it. This made the book feel episodic, and not in a good way.
      • To explain, the book started with a ‘going to knight-school’ plot arc, then a ‘first days at school’ plot arc, then a ‘bullying’ plot arc… The list goes on. The book finishes in a Fantasy Arabia with Alanna fighting demons, something which isn’t foreshadowed at the beginning of the book.

I’m read this (really, really, really, really) late for the r/fantasy Classic Book of the Month Book Club.

This is a re-read for me. I didn’t love it when I read it when I was ~12 or so, but now as an adult I can respect this. It’s not perfect, but I can see why this is so influential amongst female fantasy fans. Alanna is a compelling protagonist. I just wish the book as a whole had a single plot arc, instead of so many small plot arcs

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